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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

UPDATE 8/22 - Nightmare alert / Bear rumblings / Pooh goes through the motions / DCA's Looming Lagoon Show / Speaking of hours cut... / Zephyr down again / On the other side of the berm... / "Dark Days" redux / All Regis all the time / We have more Disneyland rehab info for you! / Disney Store honcho on the way out? / A DVD mess-up means you get a freebie / DCA soap star photos


Ok ok - it's been a while - but all those Tokyo DisneySea sections just don't magically create themselves you know. :) Let's get started, shall we?


Bear rumblings

In yesterday's edition of the "Disneyland Line Online" that is emailed to all Resort email accounts, the Country Bear Playhouse was newly listed in the September refurbishment calendar. It simply states that the attraction closes for "refurbishment" on September 10th, with the 9th being it's last day of operation. There is no mention of the Winnie The Pooh replacement, but of course the "refurbishment" will be final for the Bears.

This is the first type of announcement that includes the Bears. Although it doesn't announce the permanent closure or replacement attraction, it at least announces the date of closure. An official announcement can't be far off, but there is now some public acknowledgement. They may not announce Pooh until the final weekend, and use the publicly announced refurbishment as an excuse for giving the guests a "fair warning" that it was closing? Who knows.

We also now wonder how Merchandise Special Events is going to sell the "last day" gimmick to the Conventionears, when the actual "last day" is a day after the convention ends. Interesting. They'll spin it somehow, I'm sure.


Pooh goes through the motions

Fortunately, the "motion base" for the ride vehicles on Disneyland's upcoming Winnie The Pooh attraction has been reinstated to the budget. Earlier, the clever bouncing effect that happens in the WDW Pooh ride as the vehicles go through the Tigger scene had been cut from the budget for the Disneyland version of the Pooh attraction. WDI fought over it fiercely with the accountants and execs who didn't think it was worth the expense, and the modest bouncing show effect has recently been added back into the attraction plans.

Without that fun little touch, the Pooh ride would have been extremely basic, and perhaps even boring for anyone over the age of six. But now that it's back in the plans officially, there is a small bit of magic infused back into the fairly predictable Pooh dark ride.

The info about the bouncing ride vehicles will most likely show up in the pending Pooh press release - probably to prove how "fabulous" this new dark ride will be. To long time observers though, it's amazing how far they are willing to lower the bar, even though Pooh will be the first all-new attraction for Disneyland in 8 years when it opens in '03.

There just isn't much desire to spend big on anything Park related yet, (no matter what Pressler may hint at in any kind of interviews) even with the stunning Disneyland Resort events of the last six months.



DCA's Looming Lagoon Show

DCA's Lumin-aria is moving ahead and Entertainment is rushing to get this show up and running by Thanksgiving weekend. Lumin-aria will take it's cue more from the popular IllumiNations at Epcot, than from Fantasmic! at Disneyland. There will be no live performers or Disney Characters used in the show (despite what the new logo of the show may make you think - it shows a silhouette of the fab five watching the show). Instead, Lumin-aria will use lots of low level pyrotechnics, some water and fire effects, a booming contemporary soundtrack, and some special effects.

The show is currently planned to be presented in three parts, with a different type of special effect featured in each of the three sections. At one point in the show, a giant flame will swirl from the middle of the lagoon, while during another part in the show low level pyro will be shot from the edges of the lagoon and appear to collide in the middle and combust into a spectacular pyro fireball. There are also brand new types of pyrotechnics being used. Some pyro will give the illusion that it is snowing on the lagoon itself for instance. Special lighting and fiber optic type effects will be overlaid onto the buildings and attractions that surround the lagoon, and they will light up with the look of thousands of candles during the grand finale. No word yet if that means lights out for Paradise Pier during the show.

Lumin-aria is being produced by the same group that created the Believe fireworks spectacular at Disneyland last year. Like Believe, Lumin-aria is being designed to play heavily on a plotline and theme of "Christmas in all cultures" that is still in final development, but is supposed to tug at your emotions. The emotional factor is very key to the plotline, and DCA visitors are going to be a part of the grand finale.

Throughout the day at DCA, children will be invited to visit several crafts kiosks set up around the Park and draw their own holiday greeting card. During the Lumin-aria finale, almost 20 big bag like luminaria's will rise up and inflate on the lagoon. On cue, the bags will be illuminated with the flickering images of some of the greeting card images that children had drawn at the kiosks earlier in the day. Each performance of Lumin-aria will feature a different selection of luminaria images drawn by children, so no two shows will be the same. The Christmas music will then swell to a crescendo, the flickering candles will light up all around the lagoon, the flames will rise and the pyro will explode, so that the net effect is to make it a very emotional and impressive show.

The fact that the production team from Believe is a key driver for this show is promising. In addition, the gimmicks used to help present this show address some major problems with the park as far as parents are concerned. By making the DCA visitors, particularly children, a part of things, it is hoped this integral and interactive part in the show's plotline takes a whack at the many complaints that DCA Guest Relations is still getting every day that DCA does not have enough things for kids to do.

The interactive "arts and crafts" angle of this show will also be played on very heavily in the marketing, and the kiosks and crafts tables set up throughout the Park will be hard to miss. It is assumed that there will be lots of adults drawing their own Christmas Cards too, although the show will feature hand selected images that are mainly drawn by children.

There is also currently a plan to include an adult version of the "interactive" segment in the show, where adults can make a "Christmas wish" on a slip of paper and put it in a plastic ball. During one part of the show, hundreds and hundreds of these balls, with a small flickering light effect inside, will be released onto the surface of the lagoon to float and shimmer in the night. The gimmick is that it is "your wish" out there bobbing and flickering to the music. Considering how many thousands of the lighted glow wands that were passed out on New Years Eve 1999, and then were summarily tossed by the thousands into the Rivers of America at midnight by the crowds of giddy Millennium guests, this preplanned Lumin-aria version of that impromptu concept may prove to be as popular.

It will be interesting to see if the team from Entertainment working on this can pull it off with relatively short notice and a tight budget. The funding for this show is being pulled from the old "Resort Five Year Plan" that has been torn apart and rethought by TDA since DCA attendance and per capita guest spending continued to perform way under projections throughout the months of April and May. The first signs that the 5 Year Plan was being thrown out the window came when the Electrical Parade returned to DCA in early July, after it had been pre-planned to return to Disneyland with much fanfare in 2002. DCA was supposed to get a lagoon show under the old Five Year Plan, but it wasn't supposed to open until the summer of 2003.

As regular readers of this column know, the conventional wisdom on how DCA will perform was chucked out the window months ago by both TDA and Burbank. Now they are scrambling to come up with quick and cheap fixes to bolster both the Park's attendance and the weak perception among the paying customers that do show up, particularly the locals paying full fare daily admission who were not impressed with DCA last winter and spring. It's a shame in a way that one opportunity (the return of the Electrical parade) was squandered in the process - they really had a chance there to do something special with it at Disneyland and blew it.

There are bigger DCA fixes coming in the form of new attractions, although they will obviously will take longer to build. Just like they did this past June, TDA is looking to the Entertainment department to come up with quick fixes for the "DCA problem". At this early stage, Lumin-aria could be a much needed Holiday lift for DCA.

TDA is absolutely desperate to get a positive buzz going about this park amongst the SoCal demographic. Just like the new Holiday Believe fireworks with snowy finale did for Disneyland last Christmas, it is very much hoped that Lumin-aria can create a local buzz and get people flocking in to see it. The infrastructure put into place for this Christmas themed extravaganza can also be used to present a new lagoon show at DCA next summer, once the marketing novelty of the Electrical Parade has worn off and it probably moves back to Disneyland.

Stay tuned as this story develops, and they begin testing the new effects on the lagoon this Fall after the Park closes. And since DCA will now be closing at 6 pm on weekdays starting in September, there will be plenty of evening hours available for testing. Customers of the Paradise Pier Hotel will likely get a front row seat for many of the Lumin-aria lagoon rehearsals in November.


Speaking of hours cut...

Have you noticed that DCA cut hours again on Saturdays? After announcing officially that DCA would still stay open until 11 pm on Saturday's, with a 2nd Electrical Parade [DEP] at 10:30 pm, they cut a half an hour off at the last minute.

For the past few weeks, DCA has closed at 10:30 pm on Saturday nights, right when the DEP steps off from Hollywood. The parade passes by closed attractions and stores as it winds towards Paradise Pier at 10:30 pm. The schedules had all been planned weeks earlier for an 11 pm closing time on Saturdays, and Leads and Managers were forced to ask CM's to go home a half hour early to save some labor hours.

They are trying to squeeze every last penny out of DCA as the summer winds down. Unfortunately, all the printed material used to inform visitors of the operating hours stated an 11 pm DCA closing, and many customers were misinformed by well meaning CM's around the Resort about the DCA operating hours. It seems even the CM's that work at DCA can't keep up with the frenzied operational changes by the suits at Team Disney Anaheim [TDA].

The startlingly disappointing spring and summer has TDA in a panic, with slashed ticket prices for locals and an Electrical Parade brought out of mothballs barely slowing the damage these last 6 weeks. If the Millionaire show doesn't hit big with locals, and the holiday lagoon show misses, the cold winds of winter could sweep in quickly at Disney's newest Theme Park.

Meanwhile DCA attendance is sliding back into the low 20's, and it seems that about 5-6,000 a day of the DCA attendance is Park Hoppers who only visit for two or three hours before returning to Disneyland or their hotels. Spending habits at DCA are still abysmal - mostly due to the discounted tickets bringing in a very frugal crowd. Expect to see even the mid-sized DCA stores like Rushin' River Outfitters staffed with just one cash register in the Fall, according to Merchandise scuttlebutt. No word yet on extending the discounts - but that would seem a given at this point considering things.


Zephyr down again

As you can see in the photo taken last week, the problematic Golden Zephyr ride is undergoing yet another overhaul. Could another harrowing 5 MPH windstorm have damaged it?  ;)

Buy something cheap, spend - spend - spend to keep it going, eh Paul?


On the other side of the berm...

Disneyland is planning for big Autumn crowds for the Nightmare Before Christmas version of the Haunted Mansion. New Orleans Square restaurants and stores are planning lots of special Nightmare themed merchandise and food items to sell starting in October.

Let's just hope the new McDonalds being installed in the old Harbour Galley across from the attraction doesn't open until after New Years, so that the unmistakable real-world odor of McDonald's french fries wafting across the Haunted Mansion's front lawn doesn't ruin the spooky Nightmare lighting and sound effects planned for the exterior of the Mansion.

"Dark Days" redux

Speaking of operating hours, the rumors have run rampant about DCA (or even Disneyland) closing one day a week during the slower months ahead. The fact is that this decision hasn't been made yet, however several planning scenario's for 2002 have been formally drafted that include such closures. What is for certain is that operating hours at both DCA and Disneyland will be noticeably less than what they were in 2001.

Disneyland in particular is due for some fairly radical change when it comes to operating hours. Once the busy Christmas weeks pass, Disneyland will also begin closing at 6 pm Monday through Thursday in winter. And even on weekends in the fall, winter and spring, Disneyland will be closing at 11 pm instead of the traditional Midnight. Midnight closings at Disneyland in 2002 will be reserved for summer and major holiday weekends only.

Sunday operating hours will be cut the most, with many more 9 pm closings in the off-season than in the past. An additional change is that Fantasmic! will no longer be performed on Sundays in the off- season. Just like the Believe fireworks, Fantasmic! will be going to a Friday / Saturday only schedule outside of big holiday weekends and the summer months. Rumors still continue it may even end up a seasonal show - running only on holidays and during summer periods.

The change in operating hours is not completely unexpected however, considering what both Parks have to offer in the year ahead. Disneyland hasn't had a major new attraction in almost 5 years, and that last "E Ticket" was the Rocket Rods of all things! DCA has nothing new attractions-wise (Millionaire is really a show, not a ride) coming until early 2003 when the kiddy rides of the "Bug Town" expansion at Bountiful Valley Farm appear. (And if you are looking forward to those kiddy rides and are old enough to read this, you may want to think twice. The attractions hardware that is currently planned to be installed in Bug Town all has maximum height requirements, so parents and adults will be on the sidelines watching the kids go round and round on the fiberglass bugs. Just what inspired Walt to build Disneyland to try and avoid in the first place!)

Tower of Terror will begin construction later this year, and a big chunk of the Timon lot will close. But Tower of Terror won't be opening until early 2004, for a splashy springtime marketing push like Indy received way back in March, 1995. They keep changing their minds about attaching the hotel to it - so we'll see what they end up with.

With the dearth of easily marketable Attractions over the past half decade, attendance at both Disneyland and DCA is now expected to be soft in 2002, regardless of what the economy does. Originally, the working plan used by the executive planners in Burbank and TDA assumed that DCA would be such a huge draw that there would be no need to add anything new during the first two years. Even though Disneyland hadn't seen a major new attraction since the lackluster New Tomorrowland of 1998, it was assumed Disneyland could ride DCA's marketing and attendance coattails until 2003. That didn't happen, and the executive scrambling and back pedaling at TDA have been going on for months now. Everyone, including the rather lost Pressler, is hiding behind the economy.

Maybe someone should let Eisner know you cannot get through to the reservations numbers for Tokyo Disney at all now? I hear they built a park out there too - and people actually want to visit it of all things. ;)

This DCA story will develop further in the months ahead, and it could be entertaining to see what they come up with out of desperation.


All Regis all the time

The signs started going up on the DCA Millionaire building - I wonder if Regis knows just how much they are depending on him?


We have more Disneyland rehab info for you!

Don't blame if you can't get reliable rehab info - they are at the mercy of the park suits in the TDA building out back. So far, the schedule below seems to be the one they are working with.

From October '01 through September '02:

Mr. Toad 10/29 - 11/9
Alice In Wonderland 11/12 - 11/21
Mad Tea Party 11/26 - 12/12
Jungle Cruise 11/26 - 12/12
Haunted Mansion 1/7 - 1/18 (for removal of Nightmare overlay)
Small World 1/7 - 1/23
Splash Mountain 1/14 - 3/22 (a big one it looks like)
Mark Twain 1/21 - 2/13
Pirates of the Caribbean 1/21 - 2/22
Blue Bayou 1/28 - 2/28
Space Mountain 2/25 - 3/22
Small World 4/8 - 6/20 (another big one, let's hope for paint)
Big Thunder 4/8 - 5/3
Gadget's Go Coaster 5/27 - 7/17 (bizarre timing)
Matterhorn 9/4 - Late Fall '02

You all know the routine by now: These dates are not set in stone and may be subject to minor adjustments. But this is fairly solid, and I wouldn't expect major changes, additions or deletions.

Again, not too much happening in the next year to address the many deterioration issues we keep seeing. The big rehab stories are Splash Mountain over the winter, and Small World in the Spring. Those are both lengthy rehabs, stay tuned for what they will accomplish.

This all points to the hypothesis Pressler / Burbank were working with that DCA would be enough product to string Anaheim through the first few years of the decade. Big boo-boo there, as nothing new is planned to come to either Park. 2002 could be the year of the ugly hangover attendance-wise for Anaheim. Too bad the party of 2001 wasn't very good in the first place, and not many even showed up.

(The Go Coaster rehab is odd, since it is always a huge no-no to close anything after Memorial Day. There may be something unique about the contractors or the type of work however. We pray for paint.)


Disney Store honcho out?

Notice all the sudden press and publicity for the head of the Disney Stores lately?

Remember when I told you that when you start to see things like this, it means the execs may be trying to shore up their jobs? And remember when I also mentioned that by the time they start doing things like this it usually is too late?

I hear Eisner has been displeased the stores haven't turned around as fast as he had hoped. Someone should remind him that you need big huge hit movies to help drive character merchandise sales.

It may not be such a Jolly Holiday season for the execs who run the stores.


A DVD mess-up means you get a freebie

Everyone is delighted that you can get your choice of a free DVD with from Disney with a purchase of Snow White on DVD this fall.

What everyone should know though is that this was prompted by some major miscalculations on the part of the company on their first wave of DVD releases.

They got stuck with thousands upon thousands of pieces of stock when "limited issue" titles didn't sell and were returned, (due to an astounding lack of features and a high retail price) and the later release of Fantasia 2000 didn't do the home video numbers they expected (their sales quotas were set too high for it).

Granted, I guess it's sort of clever how they are trying to solve the problem - by giving the excess product away. But it makes you wonder just how much tactics like this devalue important titles such as Lady and the Tramp and The Little Mermaid (the original films, not the sequels).

Looks like making the numbers takes priority over guarding the assets of the company eh?


DCA soap star photos

For those of you who've been following this series of appearances, here is the latest set of Soap Star photos from DCA (Aug. 17th) - all shots courtesy of Disneyland Resort publicity of course:

Promotional photo © Disney Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photos © Disney
Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis Davis on "General Hospital")
and Wally Kurth (Ned Ashton on "General Hospital")

Promotional photo © Disney Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photos © Disney
Kelly Monaco (Livvie Locke on "Port Charles")
and Brian Presley
(Jack Ramsey on "Port Charles")

You have one more Friday left if you want to meet up with any of the upcoming listed actors, since crowds remain modest, this forum could be worth your time. Here's who's left:

August 24 - Marisa Ramirez (Gia Campbell on "General Hospital"), Coltin Scott (Nikolas Cassadine on "General Hospital"), Erin Hershey (Alison Barrington on "Port Charles") and Kiko Ellsworth (Jamal Woods on "Port Charles").


Geeze, where has the time gone? See you at Disneyland - or you'd rather go to DisneySea I guess, since so many of you are letting me know you are booking trips there!

UPDATE 8/7 - Summer's over / More layoffs coming / The DCA fixes continue / Ronald's new home - Rancho del Zocalo's decline / DCA's "Image" problem / Finally! Disneyland rehab info. / Disneyland resort outlook / Bears last day is Sept 8th / Don't tread on him / Upcoming Disneyland resort dates of note / Another misleading DCA ad campaign / DCA Soap photos / E-Ticket Magazine now available via MouseShoppe


Summer's over

As we approach mid-August Disneyland's and especially California Adventure's (DCA) attendance numbers will be dwindling fast. Before Labor Day hits, the resort will be back to small crowds during the weekdays and 8 pm closes. That's a huge drop-off for late August.

Due to the continuing problems, DCA had its Fall hours cut. They will now close at 6 pm on weekdays in September (that's a big change, and a huge loss for dinner sales for the spendy restaurants), and they will shutter as early as 8 pm on some Fridays and Sundays.

The Electrical Parade continues with one weekend performance per night in September, that's *if* the Park is open 8 pm or later. The more popular Disneyland park is unaffected, and will continue to close at 8 pm on September weekdays, and Midnight on September weekends.


More layoffs coming

You may remember us discussing the next round of layoffs that would be coming in September and October. The question has never really been "if" it's just "how many" -

Most of the cuts in Operations will be made from the DCA side this time, obviously. (The last round of layoffs almost exclusively hit TDA and Disneyland Operations.) After the reorganization, several Disneyland managers were shuffled into DCA. When the layoffs come, they will all be from DCA and the new support organization that supports both Parks. Salaried CM's working at Disneyland Park can breathe easy during the next round of firings, but DCA and shared Resort support managers will need to watch their backs this Fall.

In addition, the Hotels will be hit hard with these layoffs as well, after escaping the brunt of the layoffs last time. Biggest change for the customer there will be the level of service they have been delivering at the new Grand Californian - of course prices will probably go up as they cut back - that's the way they've been doing things now for a while.


The DCA fixes continue

I've been observing with some fascination the hurried preparations for the new Christmas lagoon show at DCA. There are some real fears with this thing for a lot of the folks involved - someone was kind enough to fill me in a few weeks ago with the following:

I think you may be missing the boat when you say that nothing is planned for the holidays at DCA. There is a lagoon show on a 100 day completion schedule that is being worked on now. The countdown clock in the Technical Services area of TDA that was counting down the time to the DCA opening is now counting down the time to the lagoon show opening.

It will be an effects show - no actors, singers or dancers - just pyro, music, lighting and projection. Everything will run on wheeled barges that will be launched each night from a new launching ramp. There will be an island in the lagoon that everything will plug into. The show will be controlled from DCA audio central. I hear that there will be lots of pyro.

It should be an interesting 100 days - I imagine they will have to drain the lagoon for some period of time to build the island. I don't know where they will store the barges. Backstage at DCA is terribly impacted by the Electric Parade already and there just isn't any more space.

Another kind soul offered the following:

I can tell you the lagoon show is absolutely green lighted. It is going 2x the speed of light to get it done in time for Christmas (it's a Christmas show) I do know there is a large group "killing" themselves on a VERY short time frame project, seems no one could decide till it was really too late to do it right. Especially since they cut all the lagoon show infrastructure during construction.

It will be called "Luminaria." I think Steve Davidson (seems we hear his name a lot, he's the guy behind the Mansion holiday makeover) came up with the concept. Not really sure if Anne (Hamburger) has anything to do about it.

Generally people either are excited or well..... [it] seems to be a mixed opinion. I can tell you they aren't spending the kind of money they should be, especially for a show with this kind of time line.

If anyone can pull this one off, it's Davidson from what I understand. But the fears are that if it fails, the park will probably never recover from it.

Oh, and before I forget, it seems some of the new shows are being moved around at DCA. The "Chance to Shine" girls (my favorites) may get a better placement in the backlot area, and the Goofy show may move. No word yet if some of the less entertaining shows (the Farmer Mickey thing is just dreadful) may be shuttered.


Ronald's new home - Rancho del Zocalo's decline

As you can see above in a photo from last Sunday, the Harbour Galley in Disneyland is getting its McDonald's makeover - which apparently includes a complete retheming. (I guess selling fries from a ramshackle looking building rubbed the clown the wrong way? Imagine getting a whiff of that greasy menu as you enter / exit the Haunted Mansion - now that's a truly frightening thought.)

Meanwhile your feedback continues to pour in about the Casa Mexicana replacement, Rancho del Zocalo. Basically you all state (rather forcefully I might add) that it is a total failure, and that you've wasted your time dining there. And from what I've heard, the financials are really reflecting that also.

I don't hear of any fixes coming for Zocalo though - the solution seems to be to cut back its operating hours at this point. Too bad, they did a nice job rehabbing it. It's just that the food is now truly awful. (I've also noticed a decline parkwide since foods honcho Mike Berry left.)


DCA's "Image" problem

Word of mouth (see my item below with the reader letters) continues to be bad for the park from visitors - no matter what the expensive new TV ad campaign (with the rave review quotes and inspirational music) tries to imply.

How bad is it you may ask? Apparently bad enough that Disney is now applying corporate pressure to Oriental Land Company to NOT invite the U.S. media to the opening of Tokyo DisneySeas.

Tomorrow, thanks to a very kind source, MousePlanet will begin a photo tour of this rather impressive new park. In already reviewing the photos, I can tell you it is really something special. I can fully understand why they do not want California Adventure compared to it. And I think you will too once you see our preview photos.

It's plain as day that we got half a tortilla here, and they caught the big one there. ;)


Finally! Disneyland rehab info.

They have finally started to lock down some dates - and hopefully this info is now available from the people at the park:

The Splash Mt. rehab has finally, (and thankfully, it needs it) been set, although pushed back to January thru mid-March.

Fantasmic! closes for 6 weeks on Labor Day.

The Believe fireworks show goes to Friday / Saturday performances through October, until Holiday Believe opens. No word yet on whether the Holiday fireworks will be nightly like last year, but it's a good bet since they were so popular. The snow should also be back.

The shabby looking small world facade
The shabby looking small world facade

Small World is scheduled for a big three month rehab in the late Spring '02, but no word yet on if that includes any work to the fading facade. (By the way, thank you all for the email you sent on the piece we did about the ride's future - it really resonated with all of you it seems.)

As you all know by now, the Haunted Mansion closes to become Nightmare on September 9th, after the Disneyana convention leaves town.

The Mouseworks makeover to the Main Street Cinema is also penciled in (again!) for this Fall. It will be a several month changeout to install the new theater.

Also Fantasyland will be undergoing a major repaving project over the winter. It will be handled in phases, on the same scale as last winter's Frontierland repaving project. The Park as a whole is trying to get away from the slurry painted concrete that has been in use since the 1960's, and it's Fantasyland's turn next. Critter Country will get a similar treatment before Pooh opens in '03, and New Orleans Square and the River area is further down the pipeline later this decade.

Farther out, the Rivers of America is scheduled to be drained and cleaned during a multi- month rehab now planned for the winter of 2003. This 3 to 4 month project will be completed however before Pooh opens hopefully in time for Easter vacation, 2003. The River hasn't been drained since Fantasmic! preparations in 1992, and it needs this process badly. Many Facilities CM's wish it was being drained this winter instead of next.

The plans to add some new theming to the River, as was discussed in a past update here apparently have been blown off.

There are no other major rehabs scheduled for 2002 other than the minor painting going on now. A few two week minor rehabs for dark rides, a multi- month rehab for the Matterhorn that starts September '02, a month for Pirates in the Spring, etc.

There is nothing on the horizon in the way of big changeovers like Small World Holiday, Nightmare, Mr. Lincoln, Tarzan's Treehouse, etc.


Disneyland resort outlook

Attractions- wise, there does not seem to be much coming to Disneyland for 2002. Buzz Lightyear's shoot 'em up (which would replace the Rods in Tomorrowland) seems in continuing limbo.

And DCA offers a holiday lagoon show and Millionaire for now, at least officially. (Although I do understand Pressler has seen the Goofy makeover of Superstar Limo.) I can now see some of you jumping up and down out there with your hands up - "What about the Bugstown thing they have planned to replace the farm area?"

Well, I wouldn't count the apparently green- lighted Bug's Town kiddy ride makeover as any kind of significant new attraction. It will be a temporary Camp Snoopy type of set-up, rushed in to buy time while they try to come up with other fixes. Some folks are afraid though that Pressler might adore how inexpensive it all is, and just keep it.

This of course points to the problem that DCA's first sparse two years were originally planned this way. Burbank and TDA thought DCA was really going to be a smash hit, and the crowds would be non-stop during the first 18 to 24 months.



Bears last day is Sept 8th

The official Bears / Pooh announcement may be coming any day now. All parties involved (Imagineering, the suits in Team Disney Anaheim [TDA], Burbank, Foods, Merch., Marketing, etc.) are signing off on the final plan.

The sense of urgency is coming from the fact that TDA wants to include the Disneyana convention in town the first week in September into the closure process. The extension from the day after Labor Day to the following Saturday is completely driven by the Merchandise Special Events plans to woo the Disneyana folks and their dollars during the convention week.

There will be a special Country Bears pin and merchandise available during that week to the convention goers. Merchandise Special Events wants to wring every last cent out of the big spending Disneyana attendees, and hyping the closing of the Bears during the convention week can help increase sales for them.


Don't tread on him

Apparently they got sick and tired of cleaning up parks honcho Paul Pressler's paver out in the esplanade between the two parks. The brick is gone, along with Disneyland President Cynthia Harriss's (which remarkably stayed clean while Pressler's was gunked up). Two plain bricks replaced them.

Hmmm, I wonder if they Scotchguarding™ it? ;)


Upcoming Disneyland resort dates of note

August 22, Pioneer Exhibit in Innoventions opens with press party at 9:30 am. (This has been delayed over 6 weeks, as the original goal was a 4th of July opening) Most of the exhibit has already soft opened. But the "Virtual Suites", where the windows and effects can be changed to look like any location in the world, are coming along. The official opening and press party happens on the 22nd, which isn't any big deal really.

August 23, CM Previews for Millionaire begin, and on August 27, tentative date for Soft Opening of Millionaire for Guests.


Another misleading DCA ad campaign

You've all been writing me about the new California Adventure TV spots (mentioned above) that seem to have been done by the same crack team that put together the Rob Snider "Animal" movie ad campaign. (Where Columbia Pictures was found to have manufactured a critic to give some of their lackluster movies good reviews.)

I've learned in doing this column for the last few years that the feedback here is a very good barometer of what the general public thinks about what is going on at Disneyland. A good part of that may be because we reach out beyond the small fan base to a larger audience than most sites.

The following two letters, which I just got, typify the comments I get about the new park. I think I can safely say that so far my e-mail feedback percentages run about 95% negative, and only about 5% positive.

But don't let me tell you about the problems, read what the recent visitors are saying:

Reader Stew says:

Al, Well, we're back in San Francisco after a week in SoCal. A few comments on our trip. Please note that the "grades" are based on a FAMILY with a 4 year old child being able to do things TOGETHER!

Disneyland : Still the best! Spent almost 5 days here. Were able to "Upgrade" our Hopper Passes to an AP for only $15 each (so we'll be back). I know what they need to do to really spruce the place up (and it wouldn't be too difficult)... They need to have a "Show Quality" position -- this person (or persons) only job is to go around the park noting what needs to be spruced up (light bulbs, paint, general cleanup, attraction maintenance, etc.). This person would be authorized to put together a daily "rap" sheet that would list what and where needed some TLC -- I think they used to have something like this, it would help the overall maintenance of the place.

Overall, I'd rate it at an A- / B+. I just hope they do ANYTHING in Tomorrowland soon. It's pathetic with 3 major attractions closed down.

DCA : Our 4 year old son summed it up well. "It's a pretty place (note -- I Agree -- very appealing), but there's nothing to ride there (for a 4 year old). It's all movies... I'm bored of movies. I want to ride something." (so we rode Superstar Limo and the Carousel -- he doesn't like wild rides).

We'll give this place (and him) a few years to grow up. Then we'll be back (the good things will still be there, the junk will be gone -- we won't miss anything!). Overall grade -- Looks B+, Content C-.

Knott's : Becoming another 6 flags (sad). Either too wild or for the kids. We rode the Trains, and then hit Camp Snoopy for the afternoon. We left at five, taking a chicken dinner back to the hotel.

'Nuff said. Grade -- C.

Universal : NOT A PLACE FOR A 4 YEAR OLD! He rode ET, watched the Stunt Show and Rug Rats. Wanted RIDES, there weren't any that were age appropriate (even the tram tour was a little too intense for him). Better for a family with teenagers (heck, every Adult Admission can bring a child (under 15!) in for FREE--- they know they're geared for the older children).

SO -- another thumbs down. Grade -- C.

Hotel -- We stayed at the Hawthorn Inn and Suites. The bus schedule was awful (2x / hour until 12, 1x / hour until 6, 2x / hour until midnight). Shared route with 3 other Hotels. Too crowded and infrequent. Room wasn't cleaned very well, had to call for towels daily. Nice breakfast -- but it slowed us down TOO MUCH.

All in all, it was an enjoyable trip. A week is a little too long to travel with a 4 year old. Since we now have AP's for DL, we'll be back 2 or 3 times before next August. Each time for 3-4 days. We'll stay back at the DLHotel. OK, we're spoiled, but we just get better service there (and the location is tops with the Monorail and the 5 minute tram service!).

Reader Colin from Detroit says:

Hey Al! I have been reading MousePlanet for a while now and I really enjoy the updates. I just got back from LA and my first trip to Disneyland (I go to Disney World about once a year).

I went to DL on a Monday with my family. We had a very nice time. We rode most of the rides, even though it was crowded. We saw a lot of the things David Koenig talked about in his books. All in all it was a very nice day. Except for the beginning when we had to wait for tickets. There was only one window open on our side and the group standing there could not make up there minds. I would not be surprised to find them still there, trying to get a discount, or whatever they were up to.

We had no plans of going to DCA. However, at the end of our trip (about two weeks after DL), I decided that I should go. I felt that after reading MousePlanet and other coaster websites, that I should see what was going on.

It was a Saturday, I knew it was a busy day but we were leaving that night. We had about five hours to spend there. And in that time I managed to do one ride. That's right one ride. The Screamin coaster. And that was only thanks to a nice family who gave me an extra Fastpass they had.

I did see the "Chance to Shine" street show. It was very nice well acted performance, and I hope Disney realizes what they have. I also went into the Animation exhibit and had a nice time there. I really recommend the "Drawn to Animation" with Mushu. It was quite funny. The actors there did a good job.

The rest of the day was not as fun. I spent most of it walking around in the hot sun. The pavement is reflective and there are not many trees. The Zephyr was closed again. There didn't seem to be any wind at all though.

All in all, I would go back to Disneyland. But they could not pay me (and I'm sure Disney is think about it) to go back to DCA.

Thanks for letting me share.

Tomorrow guys, we start our preview of the wonderful new Disney park that is NOT in California. I'd love to hear what you think of it, as well as from the rest of the readers.

By the way Stew, notice the new ad campaign for Universal? A reader kindly pointed it out to me: "Are you Manic enough?" is the tag line. Guess that's a response to Disney's DCA "Are you Mouse enough?"

Hmmm, maybe they smell blood...  ;)

Meanwhile, they still have some major problems to deal with at DCA, and all I can think of is just how much money all of this will cost to fix. One conservative estimate I got was half a billion dollars over the long run (including both actual new attractions and what the discounting and huge advertising campaign, not to mention low attendance, is costing them in lost profits).

All of which could have been avoided of course if they had kept Pressler and Braverman out of the design process.


DCA Soap photos

This isn't really news, but I thought for all you Soap fans I'd run copies of the park's press photos (which they kindly provided) for last Friday's event. These actors are from General Hospital:

Chad Brannon (Zander Smith) - Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photo © Disney
Chad Brannon (Zander Smith)

Jacob Young (Lucky Spencer) - Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photo © Disney
Jacob Young (Lucky Spencer)

Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth Webber) - Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photo © Disney
Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth Webber)

Jensen Buchanan (Melissa Bedford) - Promotional photo © Disney
Promotional photo © Disney
Jensen Buchanan (Melissa Bedford)

The whole thing seemed a bit quiet from what I was told, (basically no real crowds showed up, ouch) so if you want to meet up with any of the upcoming listed actors, this forum could be worth your time.

Here's who's on the way:

August 24 - Marisa Ramirez (Gia Campbell on "General Hospital"), Coltin Scott (Nikolas Cassadine on "General Hospital"), Erin Hershey (Alison Barrington on "Port Charles") and Kiko Ellsworth (Jamal Woods on "Port Charles").


E-Ticket Magazine now available via MouseShoppe!

Folks, I'm pleased to let you know that the Janzen Brother's wonderful E-Ticket Magazine is now available through MouseShoppe. You simply cannot find a better publication on the history of Disneyland, and it is well worth the effort to order a subscription if you have an interest in the park. If the contents for the new issue, shown above, don't get you drooling, well, maybe you've now qualified as the 1000th resident of the Haunted Mansion!:

The "E" Ticket - Issue #36, Fall 2001 - the Monorail

Table of contents:

* A "futurist" is one who believes in, and works toward, the realization of man's improved tomorrow. In the 1950's and 60's, Walt Disney proved his fascination with mankind's future in a number of ways. Television programs like Man In Space helped launch America's space program, forward-looking exhibits and attractions at Disneyland involved the public in new technologies, and the plans for a "Community of Tomorrow" in Florida became his legacy for later decades. In this issue, we are honored to present two important personal accounts that cover some of this ground, and provide examples of Walt Disney as one of America's most accomplished futurists.

* With his revered science fiction, his work on television, and his personal leadership in the community, author Ray Bradbury is clearly a futurist in his own right. Ray met, and became friends with Walt Disney in 1963. In a series of informal meetings, he had the opportunity to talk with Walt about animation, ride planning, local politics, the Imagineering art, and the monorail as a city-wide transportation solution. Ray has collected some of these invaluable memories and in a new article, Walt Disney and Other Memories of the Future, he shares them with us.

* No single Disney attraction has better symbolized an optimistic future than the Disneyland Monorail. It's been over forty years since the sleek, elevated trains first eased from their Tomorrowland station to glide smoothly and quietly along the concrete beamway. The passing years have dated, even eliminated other forms of Disneyland transportation, but the Monorail retains its "sense of tomorrow," as it carries passengers quickly and silently overhead. Our friend Imagineer Bob Gurr was there with Walt from the Monorail's earliest beginnings. Bob's story is fact-filled, funny, and surprising … and opens a window into that hectic 1959 time period when America's first "highway in the sky" became a technological reality.

* Disneyland's first Monorail system is shown from the air in a spectacular Wings Over Disneyland aerial photo.

* Some rare paper collectibles are featured in the Monorail Magazines segment of Collector's Corner.

* Jed Blaugrund loaned us the superb collection that illustrates the Disneyland Gate Flyers story.

* In Park Snapshots, we visit Disneyland's Print Shop once again.

* And more...

See what I mean? Click on the photo above (or HERE) for ordering information.


Ok, that about wraps it up - by the way, I've been asked by several of you out there if the Sunday meets are still going on.

Of course they are! We meet up at the hub in Disneyland Sundays at noon (as close as we can get to the Goofy bronze), and try to have lunch together (anywhere it seems but the dreaded Rancho del Zocalo).

If you've never stopped by, and are in the park, come join us. It's always fun to meet new folks who are just as interested in the parks as we are. And you never know who you might meet - heck, some folks even get spouses out of the deal.


OK - don't forget the Amazon box below if you found this of worth to you! See you at Disneyland!

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UPDATE 8/22 - Nightmare alert / Bear rumblings / Pooh goes through the motions / DCA's Looming Lagoon Show / Speaking of hours cut... / Zephyr down again / On the other side of the berm... / "Dark Days" redux / All Regis all the time / We have more Disneyland rehab info for you! / Disney Store honcho on the way out? / A DVD mess-up means you get a freebie / DCA soap star photos

DIG Update

UPDATE 8/7 - Summer's over / More layoffs coming / The DCA fixes continue / Ronald's new home - Rancho del Zocalo's decline / DCA's "Image" problem / Finally! Disneyland rehab info. / Disneyland resort outlook / Bears last day is Sept 8th / Don't tread on him / Upcoming Disneyland resort dates of note / Another misleading DCA ad campaign / DCA Soap photos / E-Ticket Magazine now available via MouseShoppe

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