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|D-I-G [DL Info Guide] Update 1/26
After my last trip report on Thanksgiving where I talked about how disappointed I was that Town Square was so overwhelmed with vending carts, they did end up reducing them in the area through the rest of the holiday season. One particularly good touch was the combination of a few carts into one area with one or two CMs working them as a group. This reduced clutter and actually was probably much more efficient to run. I'm glad the outdoor vending folks apparently made these changes on their own.
Everyone should note that when the hub was completed with its very attractive new brickwork paving, they also removed the four huge Light Magic light towers that were placed on the street between the Plaza Inn and Pavilion.
Over in Toontown they have shut down Chip and Dale's Acorn Crawl for good. A few ficus trees have been shoved up at the entrance along with a few trashcans to block all access to the area behind the treehouse. I guess they got tired of cleaning up the "accidents" the kids had in the acorns.
Now on to the REAL problematic things...
Mike Berry [the VP of food services] continues to shut down more and more restaurants throughout the park during the weekdays, and early on weekends. We had an AWFUL time on Friday trying to find any place open OTHER than Stage Door, TL Terrace, Carnation Gardens, [all burgers] Plaza Inn [only four items now offered] or Coke Corner [only hot dogs] past 3:30 PM. While waiting for a friend in front of Casa Mexicana we saw over twenty people come to the entrance and get visibly upset it was closed. We got to the point where we began to ask all of them to file written complaints at City Hall on their way out.
A bone to pick about this: Many of you are complaining to me that Guest Relations is discouraging your written complaints about the park upon you visit. I had wondered why if my OWN e-mail indicated that problems with some recent decisions was increasing, why people at City Hall kept insisting that "complaints were down - so we MUST be doing a good job." I saw this demonstrated to me on Friday, a visitor with me tried to file a complaint about the closed food locations and was told that "we already faxed that in, we don't need you to fill this out."
I'd like to see this policy change immediately to where every complaint is documented for at least a three month, maybe even six month period, no matter how trivial it may seem to the Guest Relations people working the counter. From your e-mail feedback to me the current policy seems to be an active discouragement of visitor complaints, and it may be no small wonder that Disneyland suits may think they are doing things that no one cares about, when the feedback indicating otherwise is just being blocked.
I noticed it before, but it was demonstrated very clearly Thanksgiving morning throughout the park, the loss of the leads has made for a lot of line and crowd control problems now early in the day on a regular basis. This morning, two CM's were chatting away about working on the holiday while letting folks climb up the temporary speedramp route on the wrong one - forcing folks to climb back under ropes to get back in the proper queue for Space Mtn. Since neither of them had walked the route to make sure things were set up before opening - things got increasingly messy up at the top where kids and adults were trying to jump back and forth between being in line and not.
This same problem repeats itself on a regular basis all throughout the park in the weekend / busy mornings now. It seems that without a lead around lines end up getting longer than queues, and since no one comes out to re-rope the waiting areas - [since they are shorthanded] - you get folks lined up out into the walkways next to empty queues on a regular basis.
Storybookland Boats in particular suffer from this, as do most of the Fantasyland rides, [which is a real headache since this is such as tight space as it is]. So do the subs, and both Autopias. Basically it's the entire North and East sides of the park that I've really noticed get affected - although Haunted Mansion suffers too occasionally. [For some reason Splash avoids this, they must have a larger line crew to watch over things.]
Here's a few notes about my rainy Sunday visit: The only real problem we had that night was with food service - somehow they had decided to close everything on the west end of the park [Cafe Orleans, French Market, Casa Mexicana] at dinner time and only leave open the Stage Door burger place, Bengal BBQ and River Belle Terrace. All were understaffed, and when we decided to eat at the Terrace, they had only one line open with a crowd snaking all the way out.
On a final note: Casa Mexicana has a wonderful new manager, the gal who used to run some of the Main St. food locations. She impressed a table of us at dinner one night a few weeks ago by introducing herself and asking how we felt about our meals. We told her up front we were passholders and she told us to consider ourselves welcome - since she knew sometimes we may feel otherwise.
She then told us about how she was working on refining the recipes a bit, and then answered my question about drink refills and the ever changing policy they seem to have at all the locations. [She had wondered why I had ordered two drinks - and even kindly offered to give me a free dessert to make up for having to do so. Wow.] All of us were very impressed with her - and we felt that this kind of special interest in doing the job properly is what helps set DL apart from other places. It should be encouraged. When this location is opened more often, we'll make a point of visiting on a regular basis. :)
A few folks wanted me to write up the Train rededication that DL did back on Fri. the 14th of Nov. - so here's a couple of quick notes on it.
They had planned this event to start at 9:30 - so getting to the park early was a must. Arriving just after the park opened, I headed over to the Main St. platform and found a small line starting to attend the event. Unlike the Small World event - this time they had made allowances for the public to also see what was going on - just before the ceremony was to begin they let up 200 of us up on the platform, just behind the fence for the loading area. Press was already set up in front of us - but we could clearly see what was going on, and everyone was appreciative.
The current DL ambassador began the event and introduced Michael Broggie [author of the wonderful book "Walt Disney's Railroad Story"]. Rather than work from a prepared speech, he spoke pretty much on his own about how Walt used to invite him as a kid to help out with the Carolwood Pacific miniature steam train layout at his house. And how then he'd pay him at the end of the day with a custom made ice cream sundae made at the house's private soda fountain. [As he said, "can you imagine Walt Disney making an ice cream sundae for you? It was wonderful!"
Michael commented also about how we got "Walt Weather" that day - since the sun came out for the event just in time just like it was planned for. The band stuck up a tune, then the train rolled in with copies of the new book [now on sale in the Disney Gallery above Pirates] and the fab five [Mickey, Minnie, et all] along with Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson. After presenting copies of the books to them, the train was christened with a bottle of Anaheim's finest water, and the crowd was invited to take a ride along with the VIPs around the park on the train. [Now we understood why they had limited the crowd.]
I thought this was excellent - to let the public also join in - and as we boarded the train we each got a complimentary wooden commemorative train whistle, with the dedication date burned in. As we pulled out of the station, we saw Paul Pressler who had been off to one side during the ceremony, and I have to say I was glad he made the effort and took the time to show up. The nice thing about this trip around was that there were no stops, it was a complete trip around and back to the Main St. station, something few I'm sure have had the opportunity to do.
Later on that afternoon, I was lucky enough to have both Michael Broggie and Sam McKim sign my book and enjoy meeting them - it was overall a very pleasant event, and one that got the fans involved as well as getting the requisite press exposure for the park. [The gallery was also handing out whistles with each book purchase that day too - a very nice bonus touch they didn't have to do.]
NOTE: The problem noted here in this space when this update was first posted on 11/2 (with the DL Hotel NOT honoring New Year's Eve 1999 room pricing for people who had made advance reservations and deposits) has now been corrected. If you've received a registered mail letter demanding a doubling of room price for your already deposit-confirmed reservations, make sure you call the hotel back right away so you can confirm that they will honor the original pricing quoted to you.
Now for some GOOD news, there's a lot of it too! Thanks to everyone's efforts, [from what I understand was due to a terrific amount of feedback from people] it now appears that the Walt Disney Story exhibit in the Opera House on Main St. will NOT be turned into a shop! It looks like the DL collector's shop they had been discussing for that space will now move next door into the Bank of Main St. space, replacing the Annual Passholder Processing Center. [The AP center I have a feeling may make a move back outside the berm, but I can't confirm anything here. That would be a smart move.] I am so very glad to hear that they understand how important it is to keep some kind of display and area dedicated to Walt in the park, and there is still hope that they will enhance this area to make it even more worthy area. Thank you to everyone who sent in an E-mail or fired off a letter to Roy Disney, or took the time to post about it here online. :)
I keep hearing the walkway leading up to Small World and the Fantasyland Theater will lose the grossly huge and out-of-place "Light Magic" lighting towers soon. A quick visit over to the hotel confirmed a giant new sculpture of Mickey has been added at the center of the Marina over the arcade - it's not rendered properly and his ears look a little weird, sort of like a cat's when they get pinned back to hiss at you.
We all had lunch over at the Plaza Inn to enjoy the A/C on this very hot day. Dinner was back over at Cafe Orleans, every single one of us I think ordered Clam Chowder and then complained about the smaller serving. You can avoid this problem by asking for your chowder in a regular bowl - it's only 2.80 that way and you get a larger portion to boot.
I noticed on my last few visits that Carnation Cafe on Main St., despite a menu that still leaves a lot to be desired, is pretty busy during the day. I guess table service restaurants in the park are welcome and needed, despite what the president of the park keeps telling folks, and I'm glad this one is still around. I'd heard a rumor that Carnation Gardens, near the castle, will be getting an area overhaul, to move the stage area over a bit to make better use of backstage space, and overhaul the food service facilities a bit. That should be good news for folks that drop in for the bands that play there.
By return e-mail now the park has been announcing a June 28th start date for fireworks next year, [ending Sept. 6th] completely eliminating the traditional spring weekend shows. [New Year's appears untouched for now.] For many people who planned visits every year just before a more crowded summer this is a major disappointment. How do I know? I get their e-mail telling me so! I'm sure the park will hear it soon with cancellations, if not already.
Last year the reason given for the late start was to try and plan crowd control better between the failed "Light Magic" show and "Fantasmic" - this year the delay appears solely attributable to budget concerns. Although Anaheim residents may be thrilled the "nightly shelling" doesn't run as long, us visitors will just have to make due. Those Pixies are still creating havoc I guess. The same e-mail sent out to folks asking about Fireworks also confirms that there will be a new show in place come June in the Fantasyland Theater.
The Minnie, Merlin, Belle and Gaston Character Breakfast is now held daily at the Disneyland Pacific Hotel's PCH room. I'd written this up before, it's a much better affair than the Goofy's Kitchen one at the Disneyland Hotel, and expanding it to daily operation is a great idea.
As you can imagine, it was very hot today down in Anaheim, and so I kept the visit short: Two weeks running now they have been letting a character [Minnie this week, Goofy the week before] appear to wave traffic in at the parking toll booths off of Harbor. What a great idea, you should see the kids in the cars waving excitedly. Made MY day.
Taking the grand tour, I also noted the following: The DL Band got onto the King Arthur Carousel in Fantasyland for a spin. It's sublime hearing them play the William Tell Overture at full throttle while riding around. The crowd just loved it.
I stopped by the Bakery in the morning, and finally got a CM to let me chat with a manager there about a pet peeve of mine, the lack of availability of blended iced coffee drinks. I love the Café Mochas they offer, but rather than just make a version with ice cubes, I asked her why they couldn't just put in a blender and make them like Starbucks did. She sighed, and explained they had problems finding space on the counters and such for the units, and that it might slow them down.
I was a little taken aback, although she was being honest, this to me at least seemed like an easy thing to consider and get done, especially on hot days when they could sell tons of blended ice coffee drinks. I told her she was missing many sales, but I hoped they would do this. She then brightened up and thanked me for the suggestion. I guess what bothered me what not the immediate thought she should have had, which was to see a problem, rather than look for a good opportunity for the park. She also sounded like she'd heard this a million times.
The CM originally helping me then asked what I wanted and I told her I guess I had to settle for a regular hot Mocha drink, since they couldn't blend them, and she said, "On this hot day?" Then I winked my eye and said, "Well now you understand why a blended ice drink might be a good idea." She smiled as she finally got it, and I think the manager overheard and more clearly understood. Let's hope they offer them in the future.
I was told something involving the California Adventure Park, which gives a little peek into how DL is planning this new park across from DL, and what Pressler has in mind for it. It seems a while back that Disney execs contacted the Director of the Pageant of the Masters [the famous Living Paintings] in Laguna Beach and asked for a meeting - to supposedly wine, dine and discuss the possibility of bringing a companion event to the Walt Disney World complex. Arrangements were made to put her up in the Presidential Suite at the Yacht Club.
Upon arrival she found herself locked into a room with eight to ten Disney execs, and then was bullied for over ten hours because the real reason they wanted to talk to her was to actually move the show from Laguna Beach to the new California Adventure park. Contracts were already prepared and they were demanding she sign, discussing even just how much Disney would pay them in royalties in return, and claiming all merchandise rights of course.
Needless to say she was just overwhelmed with their tactics - and their assumption that she would leave Laguna Beach high and dry to give Disney the event. I could not confirm the following, but I also understood there was an implied threat that if she didn't co-operate with them, she'd find herself with a competing event scheduled at the same time!
Sadly it shows that the new park isn't even really a good idea in the first place since it seems they are just bereft of ideas in how to fill it up. Basically the impression here that it appears to be very entertainment oriented is to save money - with all the attractions planned for it are common off-the-shelf carny type of attractions for the most part, without even the smallest bits of special Disney whimsy - cut out because of costs. Geeze DL management, is this all you are going to offer the public? Don't you guys have any good DISNEY-type ideas of your own? Sigh...
Well - let's talk about my two past visits to the park, one on Thursday this past week, the other on Sunday. Thursday's visit was a rare mid-week visit, prompted by an out-of-town friend [from Rio of all places!] with a limited schedule, that had never been to the park before. I'll refer to events that happened on both days in the account below to keep things moving quickly, with the primary focus on the Thursday visit, since I spent more time actually visiting all the attractions then.
Driving down the I-5 in beautiful weather, [our heat wave finally broke] just before arriving at the Harbor off ramp at about 10:30 AM, we noticed the incredible amount of construction going on all throughout this area. Sadly, instead of removing and relocating some of the large trees adjoining the freeway, and possibly moving them into the new park, they have just bulldozed most of them or chain sawed them down. Depressing, especially considering how many of the trees at the park originally came in because they were removed from freeway construction areas to DL.
Crowds appeared a little busier than normal for a weekday that Thursday - which we then found out later was most probably due to the power failure Knott's had that day, which prevented them opening. We took the new huge new parking lot tram, Tram-zilla, to the main gates and promptly entered to a now sparkling Main St. Ever since Light Magic stopped spewing confetti a couple of weeks ago, it took the park until just the last couple of days to get things really clean looking again. My visitor was very impressed with how well everything looked, as was I after a long summer where the park didn't measure up to the standards set in the past.
Since this was his first, and probably his only visit ever, I decided we needed to do the Grand Tour, and hit as many attractions as we could, easy to do on a weekday with the summer crowds gone. It had been awhile for me to do this, so I looked forward to it as much as he did. First off was Pirates because of the non-existent line.
I was a little surprised upon loading the boat to see a CM with a diet soda can in hand relaxing right up on the left hand side of the boarding area apparently blissfully unaware that this was probably not standard operating procedure. [And no, she wasn't holding it for a visitor, she was just sipping on a soda while working!] I've noticed a lot more of this kind of stuff at the park lately - probably due to the turnover they have been experiencing, along with the loss of the leads who used to keep an eye out for this kind of stuff. VERY UN-Disney. And no, I didn't run screaming to anyone about this. I just let the CM go ahead and make a bad impression on all the boatloads of folks.
Since we were in the proper end of the park, we headed to Splash and found that line moderate, so we queued up for it. We got drenched on the ride, as was expected, and I really enjoyed riding with a novice to it. He had no idea what was going to happen and was just delighted with all the [to him] surprises in it. What he thought was just a log ride turned out to be so much more.
Sadly it appears that they have not been shilling you enough to buy the photos they sell, so now they are installing yet another ugly sign for them, located in the line at the point where you look over the loading area just before you head down into it. So now not only do you have to be shilled the photo at the end of the ride and at the exit in two spots, but in line now too. How gauche. You'd think this was Six Flags or something. But hey, what does Pressler care right? Sigh...
I mentioned to my visitor that we had just covered the major attractions in only one area of the park, and we had several more to hit yet. He was astounded, he thought we had done the whole park already. I told him that due to construction one area [Tomorrowland] would be partially down, but that Fantasyland and ToonTown remained, and they had many other things to see. We put off the Tiki Room until later since we had just missed a show.
We decided to brave the somewhat longer line for Pan - which turned out to be the longest line of the day unbelieveably enough. Pan is still probably the most magical dark ride at the park for me, and it didn't fail to impress my friend either. The trek over Never Never land brought the biggest smile from him. Sadly a woman in front of us kept taking flash pictures all throughout the ride of her kid - where IS Hook when you need him? ;)
We headed over to ToonTown and got in line to take photos with Mickey at his house. They are working the lines for this now much more civilly than before. Basically they let a small group in every few minutes, allowing each to work their way through the house without hurry, to be able to see everything the WDI folks have provided for us. Then when you finally reach the back movie room, just before you enter to see Mickey, you find a very short line before you enter. VERY nice.
Mickey this time around was in his Fantasia outfit - and our small group made sure to get plenty of photos. They do have a DL photog now in each room, but they don't push selling you the photos they make if you have your own camera, and in fact help you out with getting a group photo with your own camera if you want to also be in the shot. I appreciated the no-rush atmosphere which helped make the whole expereince much nicer. This was an excellent idea.
Upon exiting Mickey's house I did notice that ToonTown, although recently spiffed up on some of the most faded trim, still requires quite a bit more maintaince to be done. The fence in front of Mickey's windows was dirty from so many hands rubbing all over it, as were many other ToonTown railings and surfaces.
This is where you can see they've been trying to cut back on maintaince - in the old days touch-up crews ran around with quick drying paint to make sure railings and such were kept up between major rehabs to keep the park looking fresh. Now they don't bother in some areas like ToonTown anymore.
Skipping Roger Rabbit and Gadget's Go Coaster, we then headed over to Small World, and just as we arrived the 4 PM "Hunchback of Notre Dame Topsy Turvey Calvalcade" headed out of the gate. If you haven't seen this yet, it's actually a nice little weekday parade that replaced the "Crusin the Kingdom" character parade this year. The soundtrack is a patchwork of the "Festival of Fools" show, and you finally do get to see gargoyles Hugo, Victor and Laverne on one of the units. It's pleasant, charming and compact, and it's good to see the park is offering something a little more ambitious for the weekday crowds.
The parade shortened the line for Small World, so I told my visitor what a HUGE favor I was doing him by boarding the ride with him, since you all know what a favorite this one is with me. ;) First thing I noticed was that the ride had recently been dusted and cleaned! Finally. [They must want it ready to go when it gets turned into Maines-world soon.] Of course God has seen to it that the one ride I dislike at DL, is of course adored by my friends, and my visitor just fell in love with it. I am being punished, I just know it. ;)
From there we went to Space Mountain, which again thanks to construction, had no lines to speak of. [This was also the rule on Sunday for these attractions, those walls keeps folks away I guess.] He was somewhat afraid of roller coasters he had told me before we planned our visit, but of course I didn't tell him what kind of ride this was going to be. After shouting out a few vivid latin terms at the top of the final lift, he ended up enjoying himself on it.
After hitting the Tomorrowland Autopia, which I was lucky enough to have a great deal of space in front and behind me to enjoy a more leisurely drive, we headed to the DL RR to take a spin around the park. After reading through the book on the DL trains I just got, I really now do appreciate how terrific this attraction is - not to mention that since the PeopleMover closed, it is one of the last places you can just sit down and ride something to relax in at the park.
After a loop around the park, with my visitor marveling at the wonderful scenery along the way, we then disembarked back out in Tomorrowland and finally nearing 5 PM headed to the last attraction of the day for us - the Tiki Room. Sadly the langugae barrier finally hit us here - not understanding the characters made it hard for him to pick up on the show, but he did like the detail.
We headed out down Main St. to let him find a souviner - but alas, Ann Dale has insured that people will always be disappointed DL shoppers. It took over half an hour for him to find a baseball cap he liked, he lamented that there was no other park specific merchandise he could purchase. And folks, I didn't even talk to him about this problem in advance, he pointed it out to me.
The Lion King Celebration videotape is now on sale in all shops at the DL resort for $10 - half price. If you loved the parade, you'll enjoy the tape, even with its washed-out look due to early morning-light filming and the loss of James Earl Jones little speech. [They didn't want to pay him for video rights use.] The *making of* stuff is not very good, but again, you do get a nice remembrance of a very good parade / show.
There's been another round of price increases at the park again on food items - a nickel here, a quarter there, now making for two increases this summer. Some locations the price increase has taken the route of eliminating a previously included item in a meal and charging extra for it, like they did by no longer including bacon with your pancakes at the River Belle Terrace. And the waffles have been eliminated at the River Belle to *streamline* the menu, but you still have to wait awhile to get out while your food gets cold to pay and then find your seating thanks to bare bones staffing.
Also due for compliments - If there has been disappointment in some areas of DL, the character area has managed to continue to succeed and improve, delighting visitors even more each year. This is one division that has thrived and improved an already exemplary part of the park.
I keep thinking and saying that I feel the magic of DL really is in the details. For me at least, there is no greater pleasure than to see conductors on the train making an effort to wave each time they circle around a public area. Or to see a CM in a parade who waves back to a viewer or a CM who takes the time to really help out someone who has a question in the park. THIS is what DL is all about and I continue to be impressed that they have such considerable resources in these areas. Maybe it's time to work with the ones who really stand out to make sure they pass on those special traditions they embody so well to everyone else.
FINALLY: If you Main St. Electrical Parade fans really want to hear the genesis of that wonderful project, you'll be happy to know that Vanguard Records has finally repressed the hard-to-find album "The Essential Perry & Kingsley." It's a CD reissue of their two record retrospective "best of" and track 20 is the original version of "Baroque Hoedown," the Moog ditty that served as inspiration for DL's souped up versions for the parade. [Any Tower or Virgin Records store should have it, probably in the Electronic Music or Classical sections.]
It's funny to hear how much of the original tune was reworked to make it more musical. Even in this first 2:24 minute version you can almost hear the different segments and how they would inspire eventually the different musical bits that were inter-weaved throughout the parade. The stock number is VCD: 71 / 72, and the whole CD runs about 62 minutes long. It also features 25 other tracks that will be familiar to you via their use in old ads and such. You may want to buy it as an oddity, as it may be hard to listen to such primitive electronic music nowadays with our much more sophisticated ears.
New Orleans Square continues it's upgrade, with mostly some very good changes. [But they managed to also add a mime -UGH.] One of the new additions was sound stories to the upper balconies, just like the ones they've had coming from the second story windows on Main St. near the lockers. The first one is located above Pieces of Eight, and you can hear a woman screaming at her birds NOT to sing "Let's all Sing like the Birdies Sing" [a Tiki Room gag]. The second one is located over the former Perfume [now estate jewelry shop], and it involves someone performing a voodoo ceremony.
All around the area they've also added banners and streamers. They make for a more festive look, but I hope they have it in the budget to replace these on a regular basis so they don't get too worn / faded looking. [A similar sprucing up was done on the Frontierland Shooting Arcade for example last year, but the decorations faded and have not been changed since they went up, making it look old and dirty.] All in all an excellent effort to spruce up this wonderful area of the park, and it has been very well done.
As you may have read before, I had a so-so meal the last time I stopped in to the Blue Bayou, so I wasn't expecting too much this time. I avoided ordering the disappointing shrimp dish I had before in favor of the Cajun Prime Rib. My guest chose the steak.
After an unusually long delay, almost half an hour to get our main dishes, we were told the wait was due to the fact they had no clean dishes to serve the food on. Of course they waited to tell us this right as our meal was brought to us - and no apologies were made. Nor did they offer a make good in the form of a comp desert or anything as any other dining establishment would offer. I was disappointed to say the least.
At least both meals were good this time and the portions were excellent. Our bill came out to about $70 with the tip and discount included - and this didn't include dessert. Yes, it was expensive.
On Sunday the 6th I arrived just as the gates opened up at 9 AM. I entered Main St. and then promptly went over to wait at Carnation to see who was going to show up from a.d.d. for breakfast. After half an hour wandering and waiting on Main St. I finally ran into John Frost quietly enjoying his morning coffee from the porch on Main St. and we decided to have our breakfast at Carnation together as we awaited some others to arrive.
I talked about this earlier online - but I'll recap it here: The new breakfast menu [as is the lunch and dinner one] is just awful. The Egg Croissant Sandwich was terrible - the croissant was fresh, but the egg was like a fast food McMuffin type of product, and the ham was just a wisp of the stuff, so thin you could almost see though it.
A sticky bun, although looking very good, was almost totally tasteless - and the cup of sticky sauce that came with it was gritty and also tasteless. Fruit garnish was non-existent. My meal, and John's cereal plate, totaled up to about twenty dollars with tip including the AP discount. Ouch. Service was prompt though - and my tip reflected that. The folks who worked there shouldn't be punished for their bosses' decisions.
We all headed over to ToonTown (after looking at the awful metal forest built for Light Magic in front of Small World) to ride Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin and enjoyed it immensely - this ride is great and it was in tip top shape. We then headed over to Mickey's House to watch the wonderful video presentation they show just before you go in to visit with Mickey. We let folks pass by us while we enjoyed the show - my favorite line's always been: "Watch as Mickey performs the FORBIDDEN FANTAIL DANCE." We skipped meeting the maus and then headed over to the hub for the roughly noontime meet.
At lunch is where we found out about DL's new adjustment to MKC and AP food discounts - the five dollar minimum went up to a ten dollar minimum sometime in the past week. They really do think of us don't they? What this did was affect the few folks in our party who purchased kids meals because either they were on a budget or weren't that hungry.
One CM, who said she was the manager of the place, came to talk to us at the tables and was very nice. We gave her a bunch of good-natured flack and all of us appreciated that she took to the time to say hello to the group. The food as usual was good - the cook at the BBQ made my slightly disappointing day a little better when he threw on an extra rib on my plate because the one he gave me "seemed a little small" to him. This little thing helped make my day much more pleasant.
There's some good stuff, there's a lot of bad stuff, and a little bit of everything else in this trip report. My apologies for a delay in writing it up - I've been busy congratulating a friend who won an Oscar [hooray!].
I want to express my, and I'm sure everyone else's, utter delight at meeting Werner Weiss, David Brady & Sylvia Oliande (on the 15th) and Mama Lani (on the 22nd) - some of the many wonderful personalities we've come to know on alt.disney.disneyland. Although some live, or will live far away, Werner in the Chicago area, Lani in ever exotic Hawaii, Sylvia & David are heading to Orlando, they have a real love of the park. I always look forward to their delightful posts on the newsgroup, which make them seem like old friends among the regulars we've all come to know online and at DL in person.
As you may know, Werner is justly famous for his wonderful Yesterland site - where you can re-visit long gone DL attractions, and Lani was the prime force in creating the wonderful a.d.d. buttons [along with Rich Koster suggesting the motto] we were able to hand out to all the regulars on the day of her visit. [David & Sylvia host the wonderful Sylvia's Magic Kingdom pages.] It's quite interesting to see DL through their eyes - both Werner and Lani pointed out many things that casual visitors may notice and us regulars just glance over on our more frequent visits.
Here's what's been happening at the park on both visits, many folks have already detailed the group visits with their reports, I'll just skim over things I've noticed that may not have made it online yet.
The bakery next door to the Carnation Patio [where the Carnation restaurant used to be] appears to have a great selection of rich rolls and glazed breads. It also offers the identical bizarro sandwiches served next door on the patio. Although the space appears nicely decorated - the huge queue area with its railings reminds one of waiting in line for a ride. It's pretty sad. These endless ride-inspired railings are also duplicated in the new Ice Cream parlor.
In the former Bakery, the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is now in place; expanding via a removed wall back into the former electronic arcade space behind it. They've even brought back the DL Paris rejected acrylic elephant, which has had a broken leg repaired. Some very limited seating is offered in this area - but with the lines here and over in the new bakery you had to wonder where all of these people who vastly outnumbered the tables were going to sit and eat. I guess DL doesn't care - and that the sweepers picking up this mess from the street are going to be the ones that suffer with this.
VERY disappointing to me is what's left of the Penny Arcade. John Frost mentioned to me that with its now ultra garish decor he felt it looked like a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. [Remember them?] I was disappointed to see the huge taffy counter - which by the way remained almost totally unused the two days I saw it in operation - in the middle of the space screwing up traffic flow.
There were only a few of the old antique machines around thrown in here and there to fill in the spaces between the new candy displays. The walls have been pretty much removed from both sides to facilitate access between the food places and the Candy Store - turning the whole area into an extension of the Candy Shop. What a mess.
I rarely visit the park on a Saturday - but thanks to two out-of-town guests I made the trek down mid-afternoon. I was taking a writer friend for a visit, and I was also heading out to meet a new online friend - who heads up all sorts of cool things at Universal Studios in Florida. While my friend picked-up his press pass I headed down the street and met up with my other party at the hub.
We then chatted about the park with our visitor from Orlando. He was most impressed with the quantity of entertainment at the park, and the spit and shine of DL - (he felt that WDW, in particular looked less maintained). This was his second day in the park, and he agreed that many of the concerns we'd expressed in the newsgroups were pretty much legit. It turns out he was a real fan of the Fantasyland rides, so we tackled the Teacups, Alice, and Casey Jr. and I showed him the witches apple at the entrance of the Snow White ride.
After riding the DL RR around the park once, we stayed on so we could arrive into New Orleans Square just as the first Fantasmic! was letting out. It turns out our Orlando guest was the first in the gate that morning and was able to purchase a balcony seat for the show - so after showing him where we were going to sit down below, he headed up to enjoy the show from the Gallery.
I guess millions were watching the Super Bowl today - so to be different (and because I'm not much of a football fan) I and my roommate headed down to DL to meet up with lovely & charming alt.disney.disneyland regular Sue (and her two daughters). We went to enjoy a quiet - slightly drizzly day in the park. You tend to look forward to these off-weather days because of nothing else it provides a break from DL's ever increasing crowds. [Especially since the $26 Local Resident Salute kicked in.] Once inside a spotless DL awaited us and we headed down for a quick lunch at the Plaza Inn off the hub. Food was ok as usual - I tried a Chinese stir-fry with rice that was just fair. The service was [as it continued all day to be] excellent.
After heading over to visit the shops in Toontown we got caught in a downpour and waited it out. [Reminding me of something I learned on my last visit thanks to a kind CM - I had finally found out why the ToonTown paint job has faded so much. It turns out that Sinclair (Disney Co.'s paint supplier) changed the formula of the paint they had been using for years to cheapen it without notifying Disney about it. None of this came to light until ToonTown started looking so poorly and was not standing the test of time - and now Disney has been working with them to assure that special, more durable, paints will be blended especially for them to avoid this in the future. Is this like the most utterly useless trivia you can find in a newsgroup or what? ;) ]
After meeting up with Sue's other daughter, we headed over to the Blue Bayou for Dinner at 5:30. The place was over three quarters deserted - blame it on the Super Bowl I guess - and this was one of the most leisurely and relaxed dinners I'd ever had here thanks to the lower than usual noise level.
Our server was excellent and attentive - but the food was just fair on this visit for my guest and me. I had the BBQ Cajun Shrimp - which for about $24 a serving seemed skimpy from previous visits [about 8 medium sized shrimps on a bed of rice]. My guest had a Prime Rib [which he felt was a better deal - better portion / lower price - back at the hotel].
Sue had a wonderful looking steak and her one daughter had spaghetti. (Forgive me for forgetting what the other daughter had) I was the only one to attempt a dessert, cheesecake on raspberry sauce. The total bill for our group of five [after our 15% AP discount] including beverages and such totaled $110 - plus the tip [which you have to calculate at what the amount was before the discount was taken to be fair to the servers.] It was high even with our discount - if the servings were a little higher quality or just a tad more generous on the BBQ shrimp, I wouldn't have felt it was a bit too much this time.
After Dinner we took advantage of riding the Mark Twain at night around the river - impossible to do now when the park is open late due to Fantasmic! running. It was a lovely quiet, semi-misting trip around. Riding up on the top deck we enjoyed hearing the sound of the steam exhausts into the night air, something the modern world doesn't offer.
This report on visit with many folks from the alt.disney.disneyland group to the final night of Carnation Main St. was directly added to my ARCHIVES section.
Here's a quick trip report for last Sunday - it was a wonderfully un-crowded and squeaky clean day in the park - you'd never know the MSEP was ending the next day. Kudos for the custodial guys - the park has never looked better.
Thanks to the efforts of Sue (a lovely and charming regular here) to get a bunch of people together I finally had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with the illustrious Kenny Cottrell, famous on these groups for his tireless assistance on WDW questions. What a nice person - and someone who cares as much about the Orlando parks as many of you do about the Anaheim one. I still don't know how he does it - I have a big enough load doing the one, he manages to hit his three in a single day. I humbly bow to the REAL master!
After meeting up at the hub at noon, we all went to Cafe Orleans to have lunch because - YES - they got back the real dishes and silverware! You don't know how close this came to being a permanent loss folks - someone was kind enough to tell us that they were in the process of trying to remove the dish washing facilities until the complaint load stopped it.
BTW - At the end of the MSEP parade I got to use the backstage route from Big Thunder Ranch over to Small World. (Wow - I finally got to see Never Never land, where the storybook boats are kept.) They didn't seem to have any problems then with people taking pictures or using camcorders at all here. Sheesh. The evening ended for Sue and me as we bade Kenny farewell on Main St.
Some details / impressions about last night's AP party. I liked some of it, other parts I didn't. Overall on a scale of 10 being best, I rated it a 6, I guess. This is just my 2 cents:
The *gift* given to every AP was a "limited edition AP litho" of the Eliot MSEP float, plussed with gold stamping. I didn't think much of it - but some folks I'm sure will be selling this little item on the NG for $50 this weekend.
I was not pleased to open up the schedule of events for the night to first see a two page spread talking about what to buy - and then looking inside to basically see that no special events or activities other than the parade had been planned (unlike the previous parties).
Some food locations had less expensive food items [$2 and $3 instead of $5] - but most of the shops and many of the restaurants were closed. The AP exclusive merchandise was expensive, $45 sweatshirts, $125 AP only watches, $150 (?) blue-jean jackets. They still see AP's as looting targets I guess...
They went ahead and opened ToonTown (even though they were announcing it would be closed - rode Roger Rabbit three times while staying on) and had what seemed to me to be five times the amount of walk-around characters that they would normally have, which many folks appreciated. For the first time I saw Victor, Hugo and Laverne walk-arounds (from Hunchback). A special note here about the CM's working the event - they were all terrific and some were even letting their hair down with us. Bless em, they ARE the spirit of DL.
They had models of the new park. Every question asked of the CM's was deflected with "well we're not quite sure about this - or this may be changed" though. It was hard to see much of anything though since nothing was lit, we had to wait for CM's to shine flashlights down on the models and concept drawings. The hang-gliding ride was described as actually taking place in front of a large screen - with wind, sound and even scent effects blown at you. Shades of "Back to the Future" ride at Uni.
I would have been more enthusiastic about the whole event if I hadn't seen the flyer that afternoon for the Friday night Saturn owners' party. For the same $25 price they got two Fantasmics, Hunchback shows, a light and projection show in TL, the MSEP of course, plus lots of other entertainment added. I know they were expecting more folks at that event, but I think GM spent some additional money to get some of these events scheduled - something DL should have considered for their "most valuable guests" [their words] the AP's.
The prizes offered at midnight were pretty paltry - a single premium AP, four Halloween tix, and a portrait by Charles Boyer. There was also four tix to the next AP party, a MSEP doll costume (no doll, just a 15" doll size costume - "Barbie is extra fee" I guess), two Ducks jerseys, a MSEP gift basket. A trip to WDW for the 25th or a Saturn car would have made plenty of amends and would have cost them nothing. The presentation itself by the CM's was amateurish and rambling, no time, preparation or showmanship was involved.
I was stunned to get a survey form handed to me as I left - that is the first time ever I saw AP's solicited for their opinions on an event, or anything for that matter.
BTW: I got to the park early in the day, 1 PM or so to go in to take a look around before the event. Within an hour of my arrival, Space, Splash and Pirates were down, with Pirates and Splash down until closing at 6 PM. (Remember on top of this Matterhorn and Big Thunder were down for rehabs too.) Boy I felt bad for the regular paying guests that day, lots of angry folks. [Both Pirates and Splash were up by AP party time.] Splash seemed very serious - all the water was drained out. A CM said, "When you cut back on maintenance budgets - this is what happens."
A talk with a CM revealed that yes, the trash problems we've seen this summer have been directly due to the huge growth of the outdoor vending - more sodas / munchies sold, more trash strewn about. Sweepers are frustrated and are trying to work something out with the vending folks where the vast amounts of extra income generated would allow them to beef up their forces to help keep up with the mess. I guess the continuing problems with departments not working together because they are pitted against one another for results is still the problem here.
ANNUAL PASSHOLDERS - One CM made an interesting comment Sunday - that DL has been overwhelmed by the AP phenomenon, and is at a loss to deal with their feelings regarding changes at the park. It seems that they were unprepared with how vocal APs get with every move by folks now questioned on a regular basis with complaints at City Hall and letters pouring in. The person telling me this was sincere, and hopes to offer their own suggestions on this. But all I can say about current DL management policy is this: if they were more concerned about their legacy themselves, they wouldn't have to deal with this at all.
Also, DL is addressing the problems with mis-behaving APs, they actually have one person working full-time on revoking passes of troublemakers and creating files on them so they can't return to the park. The park is tired of the complaints, both at City Hall and here on the newsgroups, and will continue to follow-up to try and minimize the problems. As a CM explained, it's not something they can really talk about, so they hoped by communicating this info via this posting, people would understand what the real story is. Good to hear.
TRASH CANS - One CM mentioned to me he was told that Pressler doesn't understand why all trash cans at DL can't be all the same. He wants to save all the money spent because the theming of each land required different paint jobs. I know this isn't earth-shattering news, but it sort of points out how basic his mis-understanding of things can be doesn't it?
YOUR FEEDBACK - I got several CMs saying the same thing -- if you complain about something, either on the newsgroups, [which yes do get monitored and copied to Pressler when possible] or via mail or phone -- MAKE SURE YOU MAINTAIN YOUR DECORUM.
If you call someone a name or turn it into an insult-fest, no matter how worthy your complaint is, it will get tossed. Disneyland is a business, and they deal with things in the most businesslike fashion a theme park can manage. So keep those charming, yet sincerely determined cards and letters flowing their way. :)
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