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10/15 - California
Adventure: "That's right, we're in a real mess here folks." /
Want some good news from Disneyland Resort attractions? /
DCA's lagoon show, Luminaria, is being installed / More Disney
corporate cutbacks coming / Universal Update - Security and more
California Adventure: "That's right, we're in a real mess here folks."
Cynthia Harriss's Senior Vice President hosted the informal session this weekend, and he was very blunt. Team Disney Anaheim (TDA - the management suits out back) have finally revised the Resort attendance forecasts for fiscal year 2002 after the September 11th attacks. The Disneyland Resort park attendance for both Disneyland and California Adventure (DCA) combined is now planned to have the same attendance numbers as Disneyland Park had during fiscal year 1986. About fourteen million is what is estimated here.
That means that 1.4 billion dollars later - after a massive expansion and untold tax millions were spent - that the Disneyland Resort as a whole will only be able to maintain past attendance levels - and it will have not grown.
As a regular reader of this column, you are well aware that there are now no new major attractions planned at DCA / Disneyland for 2002, (at DCA only Millionaire, some area entertainment the Electrical Parade and upcoming lagoon show were put in to try and help, Tower of Terror and the kids bug rides now look to be on hold) and there never really were any long range plans in place from the late 1990's.
DCA itself was budgeted and planned to be the big draw for three years that got vacationers and locals alike to Anaheim, and Disneyland was going to stand pat (with possible various lower cost entertainment offerings) through '02 - basically to ride DCA's coattails to attendance health.
Now after the weak attendance suffered in the past few weeks since the attacks, Disneyland itself has pretty much come back up in numbers and held its ground, but DCA continues to weaken even further. The single day admissions are just not there for it. And don't forget, other than a few parades and the holiday hype, Disneyland hasn't had a major new attraction since Indy in 1995, almost 7 years ago.
It was at this point in the meeting, after a few hushed gasps and murmurs, that the Senior Vice President stated "That's right, we're in a real mess here folks." He then continued on and explained how the Resort will be responding to the drastically lowered attendance estimates, and the dramatically lower cash flow that no one in Burbank could have guessed at just a year ago.
Basically here is what they are planning, and what was shared in the meeting:
- The cuts in the Entertainment Department will save a large sum of cash. As you all know, Steps in Time and Animazement are cancelled permanently with no immediate plans for replacement (so it looks like the rumored Steps replacement - Blast may not even make it), and Eureka! and Fantasmic! have been put on hiatus until next June.
(I also received several other reports that the Walt Disney Travel Company is alerting staff / partners that Fantasmic will most likely not return at all - so a 10th anniversary celebration upgrade that was being looked at is now shelved it appears.)
- All Salaried and Hourly hiring has been frozen immediately. For hourly cast members (CM's), there was a Transfer Job Fair held this weekend. DCA Foods and Merchandise are terribly overstaffed in light of the very low DCA attendance and even more disappointing food and merchandise spending patterns there. Those divisions CM's will be encouraged to transfer to the positions currently available in Third Shift Custodial, Security, and Main Entrance Guest Services.
Security and Main Entrance now need many more CM's to help with the increased security measures in place at the Parks. It was explained that they will need to "recast and re-deploy" the labor that was initially hired in to the DCA departments that now have a much lower labor need than previously planned for. Once those hourly transfers and the redeployment have taken place, Casting will reevaluate the labor needs at the Resort and then possibly begin accepting applications for hourly positions closer to the Holidays.
At the present time, people who walk into the Casting Center at TDA asking about jobs are being informed that the Disneyland Resort is not currently hiring for any positions and to check back later in the year. The freeze on salaried hiring is expected to last longer than the freeze on hourly hiring.
- Hourly CMs will be receiving a beefed up perk with their sign- in privileges. Due to the expected soft attendance, hourly CMs may now sign in complimentary guests 16 times per year instead of the standard 12 times. This takes effect immediately, and covers the remaining months of 2001, with an additional 16 sign- ins available for 2002. It will help get bodies into the parks, is basically free for the Company, and is something that may soften the blow of other cuts in CM perks and services that will be coming down the pipeline.
- The management Christmas party, held every year for salaried managers in all departments and divisions, has been cancelled. This apparently was no big loss, as it was an event that never really impressed anyone who was invited. It was downsized during Paul Pressler's tenure from splashy and formal dinner dances with open bars and live bands held at the Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom to light buffet receptions with cheap party food, draft beer and Karaoke contests held at Dave & Buster's at The Block. It won't be missed, and many managers are relieved they have been released from the duty of attending this low-rent "Christmas Party."
Managers were also told to expect smaller budgets for departmental CM appreciation events, although they have hardly been lavishly funded in the recent past. (You may want to read David Koenig's recent column about a recent event.) What will continue is the Company Family Christmas Party just after Thanksgiving. This event is a big draw mainly for Walt Disney Company employees up in Burbank, Glendale and from ABC-TV and other Company media holdings. (Most Disneyland Resort Cast Members don't get too excited about spending the evening at Disneyland and paying for half price churros. Although it should be noted that some Resort Cast Members with children, or those who work in TDA and don't see much of the Parks, do enjoy taking advantage of this special evening.)
What was not mentioned in the presentations to lower and middle management however is the fact that lavish spending for many executive perks will continue.
Vice Presidents and Cynthia Harriss have been taking some time this October picking out their new 2002 Cadillacs and Suburbans that are still given to them each Fall, with gasoline and car washes compliments of the Disneyland Motor Pool facilities behind the northern berm of the Rivers of America. And currently, Cynthia Harriss' office is planning an executive retreat for Vice Presidents and Directors later in the Fall at the Laguna Beach Ritz- Carlton with afternoon sailing excursions and nights out dining in nearby Dana Point restaurants.
It sounds as if the belt tightening only goes so far up the corporate ladder for TDA, doesn't it? Maybe they were taking all those boxes out of TDA by the truckload last Friday for a reason?
- Magic Mornings, the process of letting guests staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotels and Good Neighbor Hotels into Disneyland 90 minutes early on some mornings, will be cut from the operational budget later in the year.
This will take an orchestrated effort from the Walt Disney Travel Company to get the word out to those who have already booked, or may be considering booking, travel packages that had the Magic Morning benefit included in the package.
I would suggest if you have a trip planned in the near future and are expecting this feature, that you will check with your travel agent or Walt Disney Travel for the latest update.
- Park operating hours are also being revised. Disneyland will see many 6 pm closings later this winter. Come spring, Disneyland may not necessarily stay open until Midnight on Friday's and Saturday's as it has in decades past. Expect many 10 pm and 11 pm closing times in place of the Midnight closes. During the Summer of 2002, Disneyland will most likely not open until 9 am, instead of the usual 8 am summer opening time. The decades old policy of keeping Disneyland open until Midnight every summer night (It was regularly 1 am until the Magic Morning concept was started in the 1990's) will also change. Expect many 11 pm Disneyland closings next summer.
DCA will continue with lots of 6 pm closings, and 8 or 9 pm closing times on weekends and in summer in place of the previously planned 10 pm closures.
This should be taken into consideration if you plan to continue with owning an Annual Pass - many passholders are accustomed to being able to drop into the parks after work for example, to grab a bite or do some shopping, this will now be harder to do on weekdays.
- Currently, operational divisions such as Attractions and Foods are looking at ways to save labor from their budgets. Things like the Canoes and the Sailing Ship Columbia could become very rarely operating attractions, and the smaller food locations may be shuttered for long periods of time.
DCA has already seen this in action, as the large Hollywood & Dine food court is now only open on weekends from 11 am to 3 pm, and is now closed during the week. DCA Attractions managers are also now looking at closing attractions like Golden Dreams and MuppetVision before regular Park closing, like Disneyland has been doing with attractions like the Tiki Room and the Mark Twain for years now.
Nothing like making California Adventure even more difficult for visitors to enjoy...
More on other cutbacks that may be affecting the company later on in this update...
Want some good news from Disneyland Resort attractions?
I always try in these updates to note both good and bad. Sometimes that can be hard to do because the good stuff can be in such short supply sometimes. But there are a LOT of people who try very hard at Disneyland to try and improve the experience. Here's some good news for visitors...
Every single day now, both Disneyland and DCA are staffing several "Area Greeters" to roam the Parks. What is an Area Greeter you ask? It is an Attractions Cast Member who wanders through their specific Land all day looking for visitors who may need directions or help with a problem. They are outfitted with Park Maps, birthday stickers, vouchers for complimentary food and merchandise, and Fastpasses and backdoor passes for popular attractions, and are basically walking information centers for the Parks.
These folks are hand picked by the area supervisors as the most friendly and outgoing Attractions Cast Members, and it's quickly become an honor amongst the hourly Cast Members to be picked as an Area Greeter. It is a unique program that is completely centered on the paying visitors, and they are empowered to do just about anything they need to do to make a guests visit enjoyable. They are also allowed to use props or unique costume pieces to help the theme of their areas.
For instance, the Area Greeter in Paradise Pier rides a jaunty beach tricycle up and down the boardwalk, with all of their maps, stickers and supplies loaded in a cooler on the back of the beach bike. The Area Greeter for DCA's Golden State area has a backpack and a carved walking stick, as if they are out hiking the trails and looking for people who need help. It's a great program, and hopefully it will survive the new round of austerity programs being put into place at both Parks.
In other good news, Disneyland is now staffing the Mark Twain until 7 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 10 pm on Friday and Saturday. That is a big improvement over the usual 5:45 pm daily closing time of the past 5 years or so. A big THANK YOU goes out to the folks who worked hard to return this little pleasure back to the park.
DCA's lagoon show, Luminaria, is being installed
Work continues day and night on the new DCA lagoon show - below are photos from this past Sunday...
Below you can see the work on the central part of the show in the middle of the lagoon - they are not draining the water it appears. Divers were spotted just outside the enclosure below and at several of the nearby floats.
They are installing metal frames into the lagoon also (below).
In front of the above installation (on the shore near the Golden Dreams movie theater) you can see earthmoving equipment behind the fences in the area.
It now appears confirmed that some of the show barges may be entering from under this bridge near the Screamin' coaster (below).
Apparently there is also now a preview music clip from the show on www.disneyland.com - keep in mind it's a little hard to judge how good this is without all the other things you will see as part of the show.
More Disney corporate cutbacks coming
The numbers aren't just bad at the Disneyland Resort, they are bad throughout the rest of the company too... and it may mean some very drastic changes are on the way really soon.
At Walt Disney World, which has been able to pull in locals to bolster numbers a bit, the real hit has been taken in loss of hotel stays. They have now put all plans for the new attraction in Animal Kingdom on hold - and they may delay the new Epcot Space attraction too. To make matters worse, it looks like all the 100th celebration events are not pulling in the crowds and bookings they expected. After years and years of no new attractions, and lots of money saving parades and shows, (Paul Pressler's vision here folks) people don't seem to be all that excited to plan a visit to see yet another parade at this time.
(What's also interesting while we're on this subject matter is the recent "dueling media stories" this past weekend - first there was a report from the Knight Ridder papers mentioning the Disney parks were being looked at as targets - then there was a fast follow up story on another syndicate quoting the FBI saying no theme parks were targeted. One person told me that a call went from Disney to Gov. Bush, asking for some kind of relief, whereupon he called Washington. The FBI was asked to "clarify" things and try to clam the potential visitors down a bit via their press contacts. Interesting no?)
Imagineering is being asked to take salary cuts (and more people will lose their jobs - that seems to be a given) - but this increasingly isolated division may suffer even more than that as the suits look yet again seriously at outsourcing the entire segment out. It seems, sad to say, that there are more and more situations now where corporate is discussing new directions and making decisions without WDI's input.
Another arm of the company (besides the still floundering Disney Stores) under intense scrutiny now is the live theatrical segment. It's sort of already been under a more watchful eye since division champion Peter Schneider left the company, and it was felt that Thomas Schumacher sort of was distracted by it during the production of some of the more recent animated features, which haven't done as well as past ones. The huge losses seen as ticket sales dropped right after the attacks hit didn't help bolster the division with the accountants either.
Like Imagineering, the theatrical department could also be shuttered, with current productions farmed out to outside companies - and new properties licensed out as needed. A possible scenario that was given to me was that, oh say, the Disney on Ice people (Feld) could take it over for Disney. People at the Mouse now who currently are involved with this arm would be asked to take new positions with Feld to run / supervise these properties, thereby taking this rather large expense off the books. Disney would still approve and oversee the final product, but all overhead would now be someone else's problem.
Finally, as if they didn't need need yet another headache, word has come to me that Monsters Inc. has had its press screenings delayed - which for many film industry observers seems to indicate some kind of trouble.
There has been little or no advance word of mouth on this movie, which already had many in the media wondering what is going on. (Atlantis for example had poor word of mouth from test screenings early on, Emperor's New Groove went through a period of poor word of mouth when it was Kingdom of the Sun until it got retooled, then word started coming back about how good it was.)
On Monsters there has been literally nothing out there at all as far as buzz. Compared to Harry Potter, which I now have several contacts from people just raving about it, this is interesting to say the least. It should be noted that both Toy Stories and also Bug's Life had very good advance word - but Monsters so far is a real enigma.
It could very well be another smash for Pixar and Disney, but right now, that lack of buzz is what's being talked about. And that is not good, trust me.
Universal Update - Security and more
Since Todd is very very busy lately (poor guy) I'll offer some quick updates here on Universal Studios in Hollywood every couple of weeks. I visited the park last Friday (the 12th), and if you think Disneyland's security is hopped up - wait till you hear what you go through at Uni now.
First up - as you pull up to the parking toll booth area - you are now stopped and they politely ask to search the undercarriage of your vehicle with a mirror. Then you are directed to your parking garage - and after traipsing through CityWalk - you come to the following huge new setup at the main gate area...
...what you see above is a full blown airport security type of set up - with a huge maze leading the crowds into metal detectors, where you are asked to empty your pockets, show that cameras and cell phones turn off and on, and then get questioned further if you set off the alarm.
Once in - what used to be a busy Friday crowd is no longer so...
...it's amazing just how much the numbers have dropped at Universal. That same day they had staff layoffs too (over 80 people the Times reported). Their numbers are hurting due to a rather unique double whammy, possible contamination scares and the fact Universal is an actual working movie studio - the lots have been mentioned in the media as prime targets.
Once inside I noticed something I had never seen before anywhere...
...this security person, and what I would presume is a bomb sniffing dog were positioned just outside the Blues Brothers show - apparently they are stationed throughout the park just in case any packages get left behind.
As I went through the park (and then took the tram tour) I noticed a few changes - they had added all sorts of movie type props (such as lights and reflectors) around everywhere to make it look more like a movie studio. Unlike the props used at DCA in the Hollywood Backlot area which tend to look new, the ones used at Uni look beaten up like the real ones do. I'm sure they are authentic.
On the tour itself, our guide announced he had some special things to note on a "Halloween" edition of the tour - they have new scripts through the 31st that detail even more of Universal's monster / horror history. Plus they have new segments on their tram DVD players which highlight Uni's best known classic horror films. I thought it was a simple, elegant and thoughtful touch to do for the tour - although it seems the new scripts are a bit too wordy. I'm sure the guides will whittle them down to easier to handle mouthfuls in the next few days.
Below for those who asked - is the board they have up telling you what is filming at the lot on that day, this gives you an idea of the activity going on at the studio right now...
The "I Love Lucy" exhibit (remember, the show is celebrating 50 years this month) on the lower lot has been reopened - it had some of its props taken on a tour of state fairs this summer. Although it is not listed in the handout map, they have cleaned and freshened the displays a bit, which was nice to see.
Unfortunately the Lucy themed shop across the way now appears to be shutting down - it was a nice try at least. The upscale Studio Styles clothing shop on the upper lot, near the entryway, also has been overhauled. Now it is full of the cheap Hollywood trinket type of merchandise that tourists seem to adore - again, at least Uni tried to upscale the merchandise in this location, but did not get the sales.
Speaking of shopping, I was VERY impressed by what Universal was doing in the main store (their Emporium) next to the entryway...
...you'll note that their flags are very reasonably priced - and not only do the proceeds from the flag sales go to help the Sept. 11th fund, but most of the red, white and blue merchandise (including quite a few shirts) on a nearby table also had the same sign. This was a great thing for them to do, and I was especially touched by a group of Japanese tourists who were purchasing a lot of the items once their guide explained the money was going to the fund.
Outside the Uni park entryway (before you get searched) Madame Tussaud's Wax Museums had a display up (in association with Uni Home Video) celebrating the Uni classic monsters - they had the new wax figures of Lugosi's Dracula...
...the Karloff Mummy...
...and Karloff's Frankenstein...
...on display for photo taking. The shots here don't really do these figures justice - they are very real looking. The detail on them is really amazing.
They also had a very informative table nearby showing how the figures are created step by step, then they had hand and arm casts, along with some face casts, that you could take closer looks at before they had the makeup applied to them. Visitors were also handed "2 for 1" admission coupons for Tussaud's museums in New York, Las Vegas, London, Hong Kong or Amsterdam. There were no expiration dates on them, so if the exhibit is still up at Uni on your visit, you may want to pick up a couple of coupons for future visits to Tussauds.
On my way out of the Universal lot, I drove by both the Warner Bros. lot (which now has large concrete barricades up at all the gates but two), and Disney Studios, which pretty much looked like business as usual. (The Disney lot has always had somewhat tighter security it should be noted, including special mail rooms and such.) I also drove by Paramount on the way back, which also looked barricaded.
Things have changed.
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UPDATE 10/8 - Security Heightened at Disneyland / Entertainment Slashed / Why Elfman & Burton didn't show up, Mansion Makeover Review / Winery, Avalon Cove update / Think DCA is a challenge, try the new park in Paris! / Parking runaround / Correction & Clarification / MouseAdventure thank yous!
Security Heightened at Disneyland
Apparently word got to local law enforcement quickly as to what was going on overseas on Sunday - as the Disneyland Resort went on a heightened security status. Most notable (besides the parked squad cars in the esplanade area, and very visible Anaheim Police) was the shutting down of the castle about mid day.
You tend to back down after a response like that. Apparently they felt the castle needed to be more carefully watched Sunday as actions began overseas.
First the word to the cast was that Animazement (the Fantasyland stage show, above) was going to be held over another year, maybe two. (They had planned a new show this year, but wanted to save some money.) Some of the performers even went and bought new cars.
But less than a week later they were told the show will shutter on the 28th of this month. The replacement appears to be a smaller scale character show at the Carnation Gardens stage.
The word also is that the truly awful Steps in Time at California Adventure (DCA) will also be killed. A report in Variety has Blast a Broadway *show* (more like a performance piece really) that features band / march music would replace it. (It was very popular at EPCOT.)
The kitschy Eureka! parade will begin performing Monday thru Thursday only on October 18th, with the Electrical Parade performing on Friday thru Sunday - with one performance only when they do run. Eureka! may cease performing on Thanksgiving weekend when the Electrical parade may debut with a Christmas soundtrack borrowed from Paris. Currently, Eureka! is not scheduled to return in January at all, with no word on when or if it will return in 2002 or '03. It may be history also.
Back at Disneyland Fantasmic! is now on hiatus until June, 2002. It will not return for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or Spring Break. It was originally planned to be closed until November 22nd, with nightly performances during the Christmas weeks, but now it's in mothballs until next summer.
Fantasmic! rehearsals were scheduled to begin for new Entertainment CM's on October 10th, but all rehearsals have now been canceled. Facilities CM's have been instructed to finish the maintenance rehab on the show infrastructure, and then ready the equipment and infrastructure for an extended period of non-use.
Currently, there are still plans to run the Believe fireworks every weekend in October, with nightly performances of Holiday Believe beginning in early November. Nightly performances of Luminaria are still scheduled to begin November 9th. The Disneyland Christmas Parade is still scheduled for daily runs beginning Thanksgiving weekend.
All divisions are being asked to make some fairly drastic cuts, and Attractions will also be worth watching. There will be revised operating hours coming out shortly as well. Expect expanded 6 pm closes at Disneyland, and shortened weekend hours at DCA. There will be much fewer midnight closes at Disneyland as well, with lots of 11 pm closes on weekends and many days during the summer and holidays. More on that as it's formalized this upcoming week.
Keep in mind we have already talked about in this column the desire by the suits out back to shelve that very expensive Fantasmic show. It's much cheaper to run the Believe fireworks and pay two or three pyro technicians, than it is to pay the 95 CM's it takes to run Fantasmic!, plus the 60 Attractions CM's to staff the Guest Control for the show.
DCA is hurting the bottom line a lot. (While Disneyland itself have recovered brilliantly from the low attendance as of September 11th.) The problems are very tough in Orlando, where it seems the company is really taking a hit. We won't even talk about the problems with ABC or the consumer products division.
Times are tough at Disney.
Why Elfman & Burton didn't show up, Mansion Makeover Review
Chatting with people, you find out the most interesting things.
Did you know that the reason the moderator may have been so flummoxed at the Mansion / Nightmare Before Christmas event was because apparently until Cynthia Harris announced it from the podium herself, none of the panel guests knew that Elfman and & Burton had backed out of their participation in the show?
It looks like there were two reasons for those not so sudden cancellations (as apparently they had plenty of time to do taped interviews). First was that they both didn't understand the nature of the event - which was really to sell merchandise. That was a no no for them.
Second was actually the most interesting - because Elfman was more than a little confused as to why there was none of his compositions in the ride soundtrack. Yep, even though the live panel show used the movie songs, the actual madeover ride itself doesn't use any of the songs from the film.
To paraphrase a conversation with someone kind enough to chat with me about it:
Apparently Elfman was embarrassed too - being asked to talk about the music in the special show when none of his stuff was used in the ride makeover.
First rule in handling talent guys - don't surprise them with anything. Someone at Disneyland Entertainment should have called Elfman up and chatted with him about it, as a professional courtesy if nothing else.
As a result of barreling though the project like this, it now looks like they may have to scrap the new Mansion Holiday CD they already manufactured - and it may delay the attraction also moving into Tokyo's Haunted Mansion next year (Japan is nuts about this movie, more so that here in the states. They are delighted with this concept.)
The Holiday nightmare attraction itself is really well done, there are some very creative ideas (the new library off the ballroom is wonderful, as is the redo of the graveyard) - and they actually even came up with item placements that use areas of the Mansion that should have had show elements in them before (examples - going up the stairs before the endless hallway, looking up in the hall of doors). My hats off to the crew who worked on this who pulled it off so well.
But you gotta dot those "i's" and cross those "t's" when it comes to all the details, especially when dealing with the talent involved. We may get a new soundtrack next year for it though thanks to all this.
Meanwhile enjoy the newly redone ride folks. They really did do a nice job on it.
And do get some of that merchandise NOW. They have already run out of many key items only one weekend into the run. They will NOT be manufacturing more as it is too late to place any more orders. Shades of Toy Story here...
Winery, Avalon Cove update
Rumors again: The Avalon Cove (former Puck's location) will probably become a character meal restaurant, themed to the Little Mermaid. Look for a duplicate of the Goofy's Kitchen menu here. No word yet if the "King Triton Lounge" is what the name of the upstairs bar will be... ;)
The Deli may be saved over at Mondavi - there appears to be hope for it. The upstairs restaurant may only be used for corporate events. One kind soul (who I always am amazed knows as much as they do) "suggested" the area would "accommodate" a new show building rather nicely.
Think DCA is a challenge? Try the new park in Paris!
From our intrepid MousePlanet reporter in the U.K. - Ian Parkinson:
Less movies type attractions it looks like Ian, but still a dearth of actual rides.
They will probably duplicate what has been going on here at the Disneyland resort - crowds will continue to visit the main park, while the new one sits empty.
They spent the last few weeks sandblasting painted lines off the cement in the new "Mickey & Friends" parking structure (Mickey level) at Disneyland, apparently to change the traffic flow in and out of the building.
Now you have to loop all away around the building to park, and then loop all the way around again to exit.
Guess Michael Eisner didn't quite get the hang of designing parking garages eh?
Correction & Clarification
Sometimes, no matter how many sources you have to check things with, you can miss something. In this case we have a correction / clarification of the "Pressler declines award" item which I detailed in the last update. Several readers wrote in on this, of which one I quote below:
I want to thank everyone who wrote in with this info who are close to the awards. It's important to get these kinds of things correct.
MouseAdventure thank yous!
Wow. Our biggest event ever - so big we sold out this time. Over two hundred people participated in our latest MouseAdventure event on Sunday. Despite all the recent events, we only had three no shows - that is quite a tribute to everyone who showed up and a spirit of continuing on.
It was a pleasure meeting so many of you again and for the first time - all of us at MousePlanet appreciate your continued support and encouragement.
Be sure to read the winners photos we just posted today - including the team photo desktop! We'll have all the team photos up tomorrow, along with the rankings - plus a report on the event.
OK - don't forget the Amazon box below if you found this of worth to you! See you at Disneyland!
The Last Supper: Mondavi & Puck bail out of DCA... more to follow?
Both Mondavi and Wolfgang Puck were released from their agreements for California Adventure (DCA). Avalon Cove employees found out last Wednesday, Mondavi staff got the word on Friday. A chat with the Cove staff revealed that Puck's company worked with them to try and transfer them to other locations, and they did appear to get severance pay. The Mondavi staff were told by Disney they could start all over again and reapply to work in the same location - to which many said "no thanks." Not the best way to treat people who had worked so hard I would think.
Rumor had it that Disney wasn't going to let either restaurant go, and hold them to their contracts, until apparently both of them said they would take the problems with attendance public. Also from what I hear, both felt that Disney had pretty much ignored their concerns. (This has also been a constant complaint heard in the past with Innoventions exhibitors, among others.)
Avalon Cove and the Mondavi Restaurant have now reverted back to Disney as of last night - with the Cove shutting down for now, and Mondavi's fate still being determined - the word is they will continue to operate the winery complex pretty much as is for at least a few weeks. ( I'm sure that Paul Pressler will be holding discussions with McDonalds to turn both locations into french fry emporiums. ;) )
Meanwhile, it is rumored the other park sponsors are just as angry, if not more so, with the low attendance and bad public word of mouth the park keeps getting. (You may remember that we had talked about Puck's & Mondavi's banding together in a past update.) The buzz now is that Boudin, Mission and Caterpillar may also band together to see if they can get out of their agreements.
Thanks to a kind friend, we literally got to be the last diners at Avalon Cove Sunday afternoon - having to pick and choose our lunch among the few entrees left they were still able to prepare. Despite several staff fights the last few days, (including some walk outs we heard) our waiter did a terrific job, and the food was (as was to be expected) of very high quality. The staff that did remain until the very end should have been commended for their efforts to serve customers despite a very difficult situation for them.
Over the next few days, we'll have a report on Mondavi's last dinner, and a photo tour of Avalon Cove so you can follow up on this here on MousePlanet.
We'll also let you know how the rest of the sponsors deal with the news... it should be interesting to say the least.
Fantasyland rehab photos
Three quick shots for you today - first, it appears they are adding a longer queue for small world, most likely to deal with holiday crowds - note they have also painted the railings on the planters - which had been rusting for years now:
And a peek from the Monorail above (thanks to MousePlaneteer David Lane) shows they are refurbishing the teacups all the way down to the turntable underneath them.
A look up from the walkway adjacent to Alice shows the painting and rehab going on to the buildings also.
Pressler declines award
Saturday before last, the 8th annual Themed Entertainment Association Awards (THEA) were held. For the past three years Tom Wilson (the actor who played "Biff" in the Back To The Future movies) was the host, and he began the evening with his traditional monologue about the past year in the themed entertainment industry.
It began with a few funny comments about Legoland, and then Tom took on Sea World, saying how god-awful Cirque De La Mer was, and asking why it would be so impressive to see people doing the same things that seals are doing across from them.
Then Tom went on to the subject matter of "How about DCA"; (keep in mind folks that Paul Pressler, Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, Barry Braverman and all were in the audience.)
His commentary began with "DCA is by far, the best church carnival I've ever seen" and he continued with "But most church carnivals have more rides". "I mean, I have four kids I took there, and they were crying and wanting to go home the whole time, to which I told them 'but honey! it's the world's largest tile mural!"
Tom continued: "Then we went to Downtown Disney, and don't get me wrong, it's a great place, it doesn't have that Blade Runner feeling of Citywalk, but from what I remember we parked in Primm Nevada." Then after a few more verbal salvos, he asked for the lights to be dimmed, and pulled out one of those light up twirly light things and asked angrily "What the hell is this? This is ten bucks and it doesn't do a damn thing, heck- it was broken by the time we got to the car, and with four kids, that's more than it costs to get a kid into DCA!" The Disney folks were stone cold silent.
Right after this the award was presented to Disney for FASTPASS which allows you to "skip right past the expensive and heavily detailed queues". Paul Pressler did not rise to accept the award like he was supposed to. (Tony Baxter was also honored that night, by the way.)
Finally the award for the Men In Black attraction in Universal Orlando was being presented (which by the way, has just been greenlighted for Hollywood, replacing Cinemagic and themed into the sequel) it was said: "At the end of the attraction Will Smith 'zaps' you so you don't remember any of it. Disney, of course, is looking to install the same finale on Superstar Limo".
Word got out that Sklar was furious backstage, "we funnel a lot of money into this organization" he was reputed to have said, and he was demanding that no one be made fun of in future shows, even though apparently the Disney table was in stitches last year during the Universal commentary.
My only comment to the Disney folks here, you reap what you sow guys - you were so touchy about DCA that you didn't notice that nothing was said about DisneySea. Maybe if you hadn't tried to pull the wool over the public's eyes here in Anaheim...
By the way, it isn't just me, or the THEA folks, (and the public it seems) that is so disappointed with the park. Kind reader Richard sent me the following note:
Word is spreading guys... and the numbers continue to plummet, even as Disneyland itself is making a nice recovery from the Sept. 11th incidents.
Just look at the photos below, both taken in the entry esplanade at about 11:30 AM (peak entry time) Sunday:
Disneyland's 50th - What Sklar is proposing
Meanwhile in news for across the esplanade, I was pleasantly surprised at what Marty Sklar was proposing in a recent meeting for Disneyland's 50th.
In one fell swoop, he wants to massively upgrade five major attractions, making for major new ride experiences (and also taking care of the Pressler era neglect at the same time.) Here's what he proposed:
They will re-christen five classic attractions by rebuilding - and it will be a total overhaul, including new scenes, new state of the art effects, new audio animatronics... etc.
And finally, this one is very exciting folks,
It's an admirable plan - the only thing hurting it being that there is no new e-ticket for marketing to sell here (although Space Mt. could fit that bill).
Like I said, what I like about it is that it acknowledges the decline of these attractions under Pressler's watch, addresses them in a stellar fashion, which could make Disneyland again the crown jewel in the chain.
Keep your fingers crossed...
OK - in the next few days we'll have more on the DCA closings, a photo guide to the new patriotic addition to the Believe fireworks show, and so much more...
... so don't forget the Amazon box below if you found this of worth to you! See you at Disneyland!
UPDATE 10/15 - California Adventure: "That's right, we're in a real mess here folks." / Want some good news from Disneyland Resort attractions? / DCA's lagoon show, Luminaria, is being installed / More Disney corporate cutbacks coming / Universal Update - Security and more
UPDATE 10/8 - Security Heightened at Disneyland / Entertainment Slashed / Why Elfman & Burton didn't show up, Mansion Makeover Review / Winery, Avalon Cove update / Think DCA is a challenge, try the new park in Paris! / Parking runaround / Correction & Clarification / MouseAdventure thank yous!
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