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UPDATE 2/15 - Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dud? - Splash restraints mean delays / Carrousel Rehab Photo / Pooh's Invasion / New Tomorrowland Plaque / Mansion Update / Kid falls off tram / Disneyland's 50th - a possible timeline / Don't bother us kids... / He went that a way... / A Compliment
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dud? - Splash restraints mean delays
First the Haunted Mansion, then King Arthur's Carousel, and now Splash Mountain.
The latest casualty in Disneyland's growing list of attractions that need substantially more time than planned for their refurbishments looks to be Splash Mountain. If the Disney lawyers get their way Splash may not reopen as planned on March 22nd and may remain closed for most of the Spring. And when Splash does open, expect much longer and slower lines, and a vastly different ride experience. Why the delay, and what's going on?
It seems as though the lawyers in Burbank have just decided that the ride vehicles used at the ride since 1989, (the fiberglass boats made up to look like hollowed out logs), are apparently considered unsafe in their present setup. The lawyers have demanded that before the attraction can be reopened it must have the ride vehicles redesigned for greater rider safety. What that means is that the days of the traditional "log ride" at Disneyland have unceremoniously ended.
When Splash Mountain reopens later this year its ride vehicles will likely have a major new rider restraint system in place. Gone are the days when Splash riders sat inline basically unrestrained. When the logs went down Splash's big drops, riders were simply trusted to hang on to the metal bars inside the logs or brace themselves with their legs to keep them in place. Although Disneyland's Splash Mountain has never had a major injury resulting from an unrestrained rider, the free wheeling nature of Splash Mountain and its logs now all seems much too risky for the Disney legal department in these more litigious times. The fact that they just settled the Brandon Zucker case (the child injured in the Roger Rabbit accident) may have freed them to move now also, as it was probably not wise to make major ride safety changes while the case was still being settled.
This plan to include restraint systems for each rider was not planned in advance of this current refurbishment. In fact, the legal folks did not make up their mind about this until late January. However, they have a lot of pull in Burbank, and when they ask for something the theme parks are expected to instantly obey. The process of designing, approving and constructing restraint systems that can be retrofitted into Splash's current fleet of fiberglass logs is a big task, and WDI has just begun on the project. They have already taken several logs up to WDIs staff shops in Tujunga to see what they can do with the logs.
The lawyer's first choice is an over the shoulder restraint system, very similar to California Screamin'. (As modeled by Roy Disney on DCA's opening day above.) This is the most complex system to use operationally however, and the Disneyland operations folks are fighting back on that proposal. They are trying to get the lawyers to consider an automobile style three point seat harness, or a Space Mountain style pull down lap bar. The lawyers however are adamant that the over the shoulder restraint is really the only system they consider acceptable.
I keep wondering why they just can't consider a seatbelt, as is done with the Matterhorn. Not only would it speed up loading, but you have to ask yourself if it is a real good idea to restrain someone into a position in a boat, that due to any unforeseen circumstances, capsize. A seatbelt, as has been shown many times in auto accidents involving water, is something most people can unhook and get free from. An over the shoulder harness would force a rider to be locked down - and quite possibly if the boat flips over (which could happen if one log rams into and under another log) end up holding someone under the water until the log could be righted. Granted, even a seatbelt can be a problem in a freak situation like this, as Six Flags found out on their raft ride not too long ago - but it at least gives the rider an option, the over the shoulder Screamin' type harness simply would not.
Whatever system that is ultimately chosen however, and there is not much time to debate the issue, it is going to dramatically affect the hourly capacity of Splash Mountain itself. The over the shoulder system that the lawyers favor for instance would only allow 5 people to ride in each log. Currently, the Splash Mountain cast members (CMs) allow up to 7 or 8 riders in each log. During busy days, CMs are encouraged by management to fit as many riders as possible into each log since that keeps the lines moving relatively quickly.
The Splash Mountain logs are currently divided up into three seating sections with two riders in the front, two or three riders in the middle, and three or four riders in the back section depending on the size of the riders and / or the size of the party. But with the new restraint systems there will be two or three fewer riders in each log. In addition to the lowered capacity of the logs themselves, it will take additional time for the CMs to get the riders out of the restraint system and log, get new riders into the log and the restraint systems, and then verify that all restraints are properly locked and positioned before the logs can be sent out of the station.
Even an increase of just 5 or 10 seconds with each log dispatch will add up to a huge loss in hourly and daily capacity. The loss of Splash Mountains daily capacity could easily be as much as a third of its present average. Currently Splash Mountain is able to accommodate an average of 1300 riders per hour. That is not very high compared to other Disneyland E Ticket attractions, which explains why Splash Mountain is already one of the longest lines in the Park.
As a comparison to Splash Mountain's 1300 riders per hour average, Pirates of the Caribbean can easily accommodate 2600 riders per hour, the Haunted Mansion can accommodate 2100 riders per hour, and Space Mountain can accommodate 1700 riders per hour. With the restraint systems being proposed, and the extra time loading and unloading riders that the restraint systems will require, Splash Mountain will be losing out on anywhere from 300 to 500 riders per hour. This is going to make the Splash Mountain lines longer and slower than they have been since 1989.
And, get this, since the daily capacity of the attraction will be substantially lower, there will be far fewer Fastpass tickets available to visitors. The Fastpass system at Splash Mountain (shown above) will likely be giving out its last tickets for the day well before lunchtime on busy days and weekends.
But what's of immediate concern for anyone planning a springtime trip to Disneyland is the fact that Splash Mountain will almost certainly NOT be opening on the planned date of March 22nd. Since this monumental change in operation for Splash Mountain was literally dumped in the laps of the Imagineers and the Disneyland Park managers by Burbank without any warning, this will mean a delay of at least a month. If the restraint systems chosen dramatically alter the weight of the vehicles, there could be some major design revisions that need to be made to things in the ride system itself like brakes, conveyor belts, lifts, etc. All of that work could conceivably mean that Splash Mountain may even remain closed until closer to Memorial Day or the vacation months of summer - or if this redo really gets complicated, it may not reopen until next year.
Splash Mountain was planned to have another extensive closure and refurbishment next winter, when all of Critter Country closes again for three months to finish exterior construction on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh attraction. If anyone (or the lawyers) had been willing to plan ahead, Imagineering and Disneyland could have had a whole year to propose ideas and concepts for Splash Mountain that would have increased the safety of the riders without decreasing the attraction capacity too much.
But instead, quite possibly due to the recent (and as I understand quite huge) settlement, the lawyers have suddenly rung all the alarm bells and are demanding that this project be tackled and finished right now, without any prior planning and regardless of things like lengthening the line for paying visitors or keeping a popular E Ticket attraction closed during the busy weeks of Spring Break and the first warm weekends of April and May when Splash Mountain is one of the most popular draws at Disneyland.
There's no word yet as to how this will affect the other Splash Mountains in the other parks - but you can bet if Disneyland's adds the restraints, so will the others. Hopefully if they forge ahead, it can be done more quickly than what may end up happening here.
Stay tuned for further developments. Disneyland has not updated its website to reflect the very real possibility that Splash Mountain will not be reopening on March 22nd, and the Guest Relations folks have no concrete information about this change in plans for Splash Mountain's reopening. When we hear of a firm time frame for how long this project may take we will tell you about it. It could mean anywhere from 30 to 120 additional days to retrofit these major changes into the Splash Mountain logs and its ride system - and that is the optimistic take on things right now.
Carrousel Rehab Photo
David Lane was kind enough to provide a photo of the work on the Carrousel - as you can see (above) it is quite extensive.
Not only is the ride getting fixed, but the walkways are being redone in the area, with Italian rockwork. This had been planned to happen earlier, but when September 11th hit, it delayed shipments of the rock to the park, hence the delay. It will all look terrific (if the samples we've seen so far are any indication).
They have also started building the new Pooh meet 'n greet area directly in front of the old Brer Bar building. That meet 'n greet area will be permanent, and oh so conveniently located right at the exit of the new ride.
Riders leaving their Pooh vehicle will either have to enter the new Pooh store, or get in line for a meet n greet with Pooh with the chance to purchase their picture later at the Plaza Pavilion. (Paul Pressler is ever so ruthless, isn't he?)
There is also now a large Winnie The Pooh sign, with no mention of any upcoming attraction, right next to the Canoe dock. It was installed last week.
Davy Crockett themes well with a doddering British bear, doesn't he?
New Tomorrowland Plaque
They finally replaced the plaque outside of Tomorrowland - but I don't have my hopes up it will last for any amount of time. That's a color printout shown above, under a Plexiglas top. If it doesn't fade right away, it may be scratched up real soon. Sigh. Let's hope it lasts.
The Haunted Mansion has opened and turned out great. The audio is much improved, and lots of lighting is improved too. Many animatronics are tuned up and doing things they haven't done in years. The ravens throughout the ride in particular are actually moving and flapping their wings again. The new carpet is also great, and the smell is gone.
They are also testing new safety spiels in the doombuggies as you leave Load and head up the ramp to the first show scene. They are done by a Paul Frees sound- alike in English and Spanish, and tell you to "keep your hands, arms, legs and feet inside the vehicle, remain seated at all times, and please supervise children". As is very clear when it is played, it was not done by the same guy who did the Holiday soundtrack because he did not want to tamper with the original work of Paul Frees. So they had to get another guy to do it. It's not nearly as dead on as the guy who did the Holiday show. It was interesting to hear that some folks didn't want to tamper with the original show soundtrack.
What was really disturbing though was that the merchandise cart near the Mansion exit didn't have its little lights working that display the merchandise. So do you know what the merchandise department's solution was? They got Facilities to haul out some five foot tall halogen worklights and prop them up in front of the displays. These things were huge, big yellow steel industrial things, like the type you would rent at Home Depot or you might see Caltrans using alongside the freeway at night. They were, to put it kindly here, the ugliest things ever.
Thankfully they later came down after people complained. But sheesh, no T-shirt display is worth this, don'tcha think? By the way, they are apparently still selling Nightmare merchandise, even though the Nightmare holiday overlay is gone. They have Jack Skellington t-shirts and souvenirs on display right next to the regular "Haunted Mansion" stuff.
Kid falls off tram
On February 3rd yet another kid fell off a tram (photo above) - thankfully it wasn't serious from what I could find out. Apparently he was sitting on the end of the bench, despite the many taped warnings not to do that.
Tell me, why can't the cast members who guide the loading of the trams take the extra few moments to check for these kinds of loading situations? Not once have I seen anyone check their section of the tram and ask riders to place the kids on the inside of the bench.
Whether it's a language problem, or the taped spiel is just to hard to hear, a little extra effort here by the park can avoid problems like the above.
Disneyland's 50th - a possible timeline
The rumors about Imagineering's (WDI) plans for Disneyland's Golden Anniversary in 2005 have been steadily increasing online. Marty Sklar, an Imagineer since the 1950s and someone whose name used to roll by on the credits back in the early and mid 60s on the Wonderful World Of Color television program, is heading up the ambitious proposals for Disneyland's 50th birthday. Sklar would desperately like to see 5 of Disneyland's classic "E Ticket" attractions radically updated and freshened for the park's Golden Anniversary.
As was first noted here, the attractions he would like to update are Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, it's a small world, and Space Mountain. The scale and scope of the proposed updates is really something WDI has not attempted before, without simply tearing out an attraction and starting over with a new idea.
For instance, additional rooms could be added to your "tour" on the Haunted Mansion. All new scenes could be added to the Jungle Cruise, with new effects that could make the experience much more interactive. The Imagineers would love to really get some of the animals interacting with the boats. For example, instead of the hippos simply bobbing in the water and flapping their mechanical ears, they would like to get a few of them to lunge forward at the boats and ram the hull with their snouts, causing the boat to rock back and forth and forcing the skipper to hit the accelerator and speed out of the "hippo pool" before capsizing.
Space Mountain would receive an all new ride track that brings that coaster up to the more intense thrill ride expectations of the early 21st century, instead of the tamer and less demanding expectations coaster riders had back in the 1970s. And yes, the rumors still continue that it would be like the Paris version - launching up the side of the building and into the top. At the same time, the Space Mountain special effects would be radically updated and more convincing of a trip into outer space.
The facade on its a small world would finally get the impressive fiber optic treatment that has been proposed for several years now (and we discussed here a while back), and the show building itself may be flooded with water right up to the sets, instead of the boats traveling in that rickety fiberglass flume originally built for the 1964 World's Fair. Other new cutting edge effects and advanced animatronics created and installed for newer attractions at Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea would also now be installed in the original rides throughout the Anaheim park.
But as we have also discussed here before, even last week, the one roadblock to these ambitious and exciting plans is money. There are some execs in Burbank who would like to invest the bare minimum in the theme parks (especially after that corporate retreat where they decided the parks were no longer profitable), and the aging Disneyland in particular is a prime target of theirs.
If (and it is such a BIG if) Sklar and WDI are unable to loosen up the Burbank purse strings just a bit, Disneyland may be faced with a lackluster 50th Anniversary just like it had for its 45th, without any major new rides. Right now however, Burbank and the suits in the Team Disney Anaheim building out back (TDA) seem to be willing to admit that recent new Attractions built and installed at Disneyland have not had nearly the desired effect on visitor attendance and spending patterns. There are some key decision makers who may have finally been convinced that they may have to spend some big money to make some big money. Wow, they finally figured that out. ;)
The planning calendar currently being used by TDA execs on the plans for the 50th has the final and formal spending decisions being made by the beginning of 2003. The initial show and ride design and offsite construction by WDI would commence in mid 2003 and be completed by early 2004. In early 2004 onsite construction and installation of the updated attractions would begin at Disneyland.
The date currently being used by TDA as the goal to have the "Test and Adjust" period completed at the five updated attractions and have the finishing touches installed for the 50th Anniversary celebration is October 4, 2004. This would allow for a long fifteen month celebration and marketing plan that would extend through calendar year 2005. The official date of Disneyland's 50th birthday of course is July 17, 2005, but the "party" and the marketing push touting the radically updated Disneyland attractions would be allowed to last from October, 2004 until December, 2005.
Plans are still being discussed about what part the Disneyland Entertainment department will play in the festivities. The Parade of the Stars is currently scheduled to run through 2004 at Disneyland, before it is shipped to Hong Kong to be Hong Kong Disneyland's debut Character parade at that new parks Grand Opening on October 15, 2005. That would mean that a new day parade would be needed at Disneyland for 05, and an Anniversary theme is a definite option. Or, the 50th Anniversary may be the excuse needed to introduce an all new night parade at Disneyland. Again however, those Entertainment plans are very dependent on how much money Cynthia Harriss is able to wrangle out of Burbank.
Looking ahead to the next few years leading up to the 50th Anniversary, we can look forward to these additions in Anaheim. Flik's Fun Fair opening around Labor Day, 2002. The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh opening around Easter, 2003. A possible new night lagoon show for DCA around Memorial Day, 2003. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opening at DCA around February, 2004. And then Disneyland's Golden Anniversary for 2005.
You should expect to be hearing more solid rumors about the planned updates to Disneyland's 5 E Tickets by the end of this year. And if Sklar can fend off the Accountaneers for the next couple of years, you should expect the official 50th Anniversary celebration to begin at Disneyland in early October, 2004.
Don't bother us kids...
The above rather crude sign greets those who peek into each of the windows at the Radio Disney booth in Tomorrowland. I guess "Web Fingors" (whoever that is) is just much too busy working to wave hello to the fans eh?
Mark and Zippy never treated the kids like this.
He went that a way...
I've been looking for Alice's Cheshire cat - he no longer graces the walkway outside the Alice in Wonderland ride - could it be he's being repainted?
Wonders may never cease...
A few weeks ago, a very nice cast member made my day in a very small way - and showed me despite all the headaches people sometimes have to endure at Disneyland now, there are still those working there who take the old traditions and standards, and the quality the park stands for, very seriously.
Just before noon, I was on my way to the hub in front of the castle, and decided to pick up a box of popcorn. The person at the cart was helping a sweeper - turns out the sweeper had noticed someone had dropped their full box of popcorn due to a gust of wind, and was going ahead and replacing it for them on his own. I smiled at that, as it reminded me of the levels of visitor service the park was famous for. That box of extra popcorn costs Disney very little, yet would help make someone's day more special - and the park would yet again make a little magic for someone.
As I headed back to the meeting spot, low and behold, another gust of wind caught me while I was juggling my box of popcorn and soda, and there went my hot and piping purchase all over the ground. This was my fault I told myself, at least I got one handful out of it, but I was more concerned about the mess I made - which became worse when a character set up a meet and greet right nearby.
I picked up what I could, threw away the box and proceeded to chat with some of the folks there. Not too much longer after that, a very nice sweeper came up and started to clean up. I apologized to her for making the mess - and she asked me if I had gone ahead and asked for another box of popcorn from the cart. "I didn't ask for one since it was my fault really," I mentioned back to her, "Besides, more than a few people had also lost their boxes to the wind, and they had given away enough free popcorn already. It's really no big deal." I smiled back at her.
Well, low and behold, a few minutes later, she had taken it upon herself to get me a fresh box, and asked me to sign a little chit she had to acknowledge I had received it. That little kindness made my day, and I thanked her for doing that on her own.
That's the kind of thoughtful treatment that makes Disneyland so special you know.
OK, See you at Disneyland folks. And by the way, it was nice meeting all the MousePad regulars there last week. They are truly nice folks, stop by some Sunday for breakfast and visit with them won't you?
UPDATE 2/8 - Disappointing Adventure / New Annual Passholder center, guess where? / A Scary Mansion Story / The Carrousel's Dizzying Rehab - Neglect Becomes Expensive / More Layoffs
Fellow webmaster John (Better known online as "Parrothead," who maintains the excellent Walt Disney World Blues site), was kind enough to send me a note about some of the recent spin Disney has been giving out to the media on the underwhelming California Adventure park (on this, its first anniversary):
I too have been rather appalled by the recent spin John - especially since the near constant overhauling the park is undergoing is just plain as day. Eisner and Pressler claim it just needs tweaking, but they've continued to throw out just about every major new and different feature from this park to return to what the public expected of the Walt Disney Company. The costs of those mistakes are staggering.
It's not really (at least in my view) due to the company "not knowing what their guests want" though - watching this mess unfold I see people like Barry Braverman and Paul Pressler willfully ignoring the two very basic tenets people expect of the Disney parks, quality and value. In their total focus on the bottom line (and revenue generation) they blew off / guessed at / assumed what would work, and the public pretty much let them know how wrong they were.
As the new Tokyo DisneySea park proved, which opened to overwhelming critical and fiscal success, if you follow the rules and don't treat your customers with utter contempt (as Disney did here in Anaheim) the audience will come. And will all the management bellyaching I see about "the economy" and "September 11th" (the latter very real problem which should be remembered came very late in an already disappointing year) it should be kept in mind that the hugely successful new Tokyo park opened in what has to be one of the worst economic times Japan has gone through since after the last World War.
I guess when you hear the announcements about the Tower of Terror and the new kid's area (I still can't believe they blew off the kids in DCA!) you should really focus on the millions the company is spending to make these fixes (not to mention the untold additional lost millions from the crowds that didn't show up too).
Yep, the truckloads of money that are now being spent for problems that everyone in the theme park industry (and media) have been discussing since the day the DCA project was announced as a go.
New Annual Passholder center, guess where?
While the PR will be spun on the two new additions to DCA - let's look at what is really continuing to go on over at the Disneyland resort, shall we? I'm sure the items below won't be in any of the press announcements handed out this week. ;)
The EngineEars Toys store at DCA will be closing soon, the latest in the ongoing attempts to keep figuring out DCA's operation. When it reopens, it will no longer be a store however, instead, it will be the new "Annual Passholder (AP) Processing Center" for the entire Resort. The current processing center is at Disneyland's Plaza Pavilion, and previous to that it had been at the Bank of Main Street.
As you may all know, DCA merchandise locations have been severely under performing from their overly optimistic goals since the new Park opened. But EngineEars Toys is one of the least successful merchandise locations in a Park that has had few successful locations at all. So, the store will soon close to undergo a refurbishment into a permanent AP center. Most of the slow selling merchandise at EngineEars Toys will be discontinued, with some of the rest of the stock being absorbed into the other two stores at the DCA Entry Plaza.
It's important to remember however that even Greetings From California, DCA's big "Emporium" type signature store, dumped a lot of the DCA specific merchandise they had opened with in 2001 in favor of "Disneyland" branded clothing and merchandise. Even at DCA, people still want stuff that says "Disneyland" on it instead of "Disney's California Adventure". But you won't find any DCA merchandise at the Emporium or any Disneyland Park store however. Interesting how that works, isn't it?
Once the changeover to the new DCA AP center is finished, the Plaza Pavilion will close for it's own small refurbishment so that it can become the new "photo pickup" location for Disneyland. Currently, that responsibility falls on the smaller Kodak store across Main Street. But as Disney has gotten more and more aggressive with taking and selling pictures of visitors in the Parks, the Kodak store is often overwhelmed when thousands of people return to pick up their photo's on a busy day. The Plaza Pavilion will have more service windows available than the current Kodak store and should help speed up that process. As you can well imagine, the location's days as a food location have been long over.
Moving the AP center over to DCA also fulfills the mandate from Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) management to get as many AP's into that Park as possible for at least the next two years. (Even if they don't really want to go.) Although all Annual Passports were suddenly and rather dramatically changed into two-park media last Fall, the vast majority of AP's are still spending a lot more time at Disneyland than they do at DCA. So TDA will be rolling out all sorts of marketing gimmicks and discount programs later this year to entice the AP holders over to DCA, and leave Disneyland more for the full-fare paying tourists and day tripping locals.
Isn't it hard to believe that it was just one short year ago that TDA suddenly suspended all Annual Passport sales for DCA just a few days before the Grand Opening? At that time they feared that DCA would be so popular and overcrowded with day visitors that the Park would not be able to handle the extra crush of Annual Passholders clamoring to get on Superstar Limo and the Golden Zephyr. Things do change quickly in Anaheim these days, don't they?
Let's just hope the changeover for EngineEars Toys from a merchandise location to an AP center includes taking down the cheap looking facade on that building. The graceful and unique (and more expensive to build) architecture of the Santa Fe Depot style buildings just around the corner should have been continued all the way around to the Golden Gate Bridge monorail beam at DCA's entry. Instead, EngineEars got cheap corrugated metal siding with corny toy store signage worthy of any shopping mall in America. It will be interesting to see if they step up to the plate and fix that cheap mistake. The changeover process from Plaza Pavilion to EngineEars is hoped to be completed before the summer season starts in June.
A Scary Mansion Story
The Haunted Mansion will not be opening on February 8th, as previously planned. The Disneyland.com website and all official sources had the Haunted Mansion returning to service on the 9th, however the attraction was fully staffed to operate on Friday the 8th, and that was the date the contractors and painters were given to be finished by. But now the Haunted Mansion won't be opening until February 15th, a week later. And, when the attraction does finally open on the 15th, expect to see scaffolding and tarps remaining on the sides and back of the manse as painting and repair work continue.
Why the sudden delay in the attraction's return? It turns out that once the contractors started poking and prying at some of the exposed problem areas on the house facade, they found lots and lots of wood rot just underneath the surface. In particular, the southern side of the house had one wall that had almost completely rotted away on the inside and needed to be completely replaced before painting could continue. Add to that the fact that the upper two levels had original paint applied almost 40 years ago that needed to be carefully removed.
Remember, the Haunted Mansion facade itself was built on the banks of the Rivers of America during the winter of 1962. It was the large projects Walt and his Imagineers suddenly found themselves involved with for the 1964 New York World's Fair that put the plans for the Haunted Mansion on hold until the end of the 1960's. But the house itself was built and painted in 1962. The paint that Disneyland used 40 years ago on the Haunted Mansion was lead based, and that poses an environmental risk now that the large mansion needs to be repainted.
But the immense amount of work that needed to be done on this old house
was too much to accomplish in just one month. So, the attraction will have
its reopening delayed by one week. And even when it reopens, there will
still be ongoing painting and repair work being done through February. But
it is hoped by delaying the opening one week that enough can be
accomplished to at least provide Disneyland visitors safe access up on to
the front porch and inside to the foyer where visitors can be loaded into
the two stretching room elevators.
Cynthia instructed her Vice President of Facilities to find extra money in this years budget for a complete rehab for the aging Haunted Mansion. The planned January closure of the Haunted Mansion that was originally planned to take only two weeks to swap out the Holiday show for the original show was suddenly lengthened to one month and contractors were hired to repaint and re carpet the facility. But after years of neglect from Facilities, the old house needs much more than just one month of TLC. If Steve Davison had never laid his eyes on the Haunted Mansion with plans for a Nightmare Before Christmas attraction, none of this much needed TLC would probably be happening. It should almost go unsaid that all of us who have watched the rather sad physical decline of this park classic owe Davison a big thank you.
The "show" and ride itself inside the attraction is all ready to go right now. It took the Disneyland Entertainment department just over two weeks in January to remove the Holiday version decorations and return the Haunted Mansion back to it's 1969 self. Imagineers from Anaheim's WDI office are now tinkering and playing with some of the effects that the original attraction features.
Since the Holiday version upgraded much of the audio and effects equipment thanks to the bigger budget of the Disneyland Entertainment department, the Imagineers are now seeing just what can be achieved with all these new "toys" left over from Christmas. When the attraction does finally open you should expect to hear dramatically better audio tracks, see crisper visual effects (long torn and dirty scrims have been replaced for example), and notice some animatronics that have had their first tune up in years. This newly extended refurbishment will even give these Imagineers an extra week to tinker with things and see what they can find.
So if you were planning on making a special trip to Disneyland this weekend to see the return of the Haunted Mansion, don't plan on it. Wait until next weekend, when the attraction is tentatively scheduled to reopen now. (Stay tuned to this site however, because any further delays will be put online as soon as we learn of them.) Due to all this, of course the Pirates of the Caribbean refurbishment that was scheduled to begin on Monday the 11th has been postponed because of the Haunted Mansion delay. Pirates is now scheduled to close one week later, and remain closed until March 22nd for the start of the busy Easter Vacation period. (Originally Pirates would have reopened on March 15th.)
The Carrousel's Dizzying Rehab - Neglect Becomes Expensive
And the Haunted Mansion is not the only attraction that is having it's refurbishment extended due to the discovery of surprising amounts of decay. King Arthur's Carousel in Fantasyland will not be opening on March 22nd as originally planned. Instead, it will now remain closed until the end of June. The amount of wood rot and problems discovered once the carousel began to be dismantled was startling! The structure will need to be completely replaced and carefully rebuilt from top to bottom. And instead of simply painting the faded and chipped canopy above the carousel, an entirely new canopy is now being designed and built for the attraction. The original canopy simply can not be salvaged, the decay and decline were that dramatic.
There are many locations and attractions around Disneyland that clearly need paint and TLC, as pictures on this site have shown in the past. But when you start to strip away the paint and veneer for a basic refurbishment and paint job, many of these neglected 40+ year old structures that have helped play host to hundreds of millions of people are in desperate need of major and total repair. Can you imagine what they would find if they actually deemed the Tiki Room worthy of a full refurbishment? After the Tiki Room's entrance hut collapsed on itself overnight a while back, it can be scary to think about.
If the current rumors about Disneyland receiving several major refurbishments to E Ticket attractions and lots of Parkwide cleaning and repair work in preparation for the 50th Anniversary in 2005 hold true, the execs at TDA and in Burbank may get much more than they bargained for when the true condition of Disneyland's infrastructure is discovered and the bills start coming in.
Now do you see what I meant last time about some of this stuff for the 50th being so very VERY blue sky? ;)
Another round of layoffs hit the resort this past week (mostly in merchandising - about 25 managers this time), as well as over at the Disney Interactive division. The remaining Merchandise management teams are being streamlined even more, and taking on more responsibilities throughout this winter and spring. All of the Resorts other salaried management, from all departments, were pulled into announcement meetings by their respective Vice President to be told this news last Thursday.
The Merchandise division was the most heavily overstaffed in it's manager ranks, after beefing up much faster than other departments through the late 1990's. Remember, Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harriss both were from the Disney Store originally and have Merchandise backgrounds. They were planning for very big things from the DCA stores, as can be seen in their plethora of locations and lavish theming that outdoes most of the attractions at DCA. DCA attendance was under plan of course, but what few visitors they did get were not spending nearly the amount of money they had planned on.
A good example is all of the attraction specific merchandise originally available in Hollywood for Superstar Limo! Do you remember all that stuff they had, and still do? Magnets, coffee mugs, computer mouse pads, note books, t-shirts, and little knick knacks of all sorts. And all for a simple dark ride that quickly turned into the laughing stock of the Walt Disney Company.
Can you imagine if they put out a big line of Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise? Big Thunder Mountain western wear? Space Mountain based office sets? They would sell like hotcakes. But instead they put all this time and effort into creating really great products for Superstar Limo and the Paradise Pier carnival rides. And then they set up huge salaried staffs and battalions of managers to supervise the stores selling this junk. Fewer people than expected came to DCA in 2001, and even fewer wanted to remember their trip with a Superstar Limo refrigerator magnet and coffee mug.
There are some rumors going around that Harriss is pushing these cuts now in order to get her budgets into place for the 50th rehabs. But we'll see if that works out for her. I don't think they can fire enough people to get the money to rebuild some of badly neglected attractions as they should be.
Ok, enough for now. See you at Disneyland.
The Big Picture
You may remember a while back, I had some information from "a very trusted source" about Monsters Inc. - today he has some clarifications to make on his previous item, plus a few other really interesting observations about the Walt Disney Co. that bear paying attention to:
Of note (Al here again) - remember when I said there was no advance buzz about the movie? That came from within the company itself, and sparked a last minute rather heavy ad campaign to support the launch of the movie.
No one can ever really know if there was any kind of buzz out there or if the ads managed to finally wake folks up to the movie - but they did react to the concern about the buzz.
In retrospect I suspect it was a combination of things that gave the movie such a huge opening - mostly though because there was a real dearth of any kind of family movies in the marketplace, and the Disney / Pixar moniker has gained some rather solid marquee value.
Our source continues...
Keeping in mind of course...
Interesting no? I listen to this guy, and you should too.
DCA Upkeep Concerns - Are They Finally Noticing? - But the complaints keep rolling in...
Reader Carly writes in:
I didn't get a chance to look closely at the Screamin' cars, but I do understand they have had myriad problems with them since the ride came up to speed. Mostly it has to do with the fact the ride was designed with a seasonal park in mind - as opposed to year round operation.
(When you design something for seasonal operation, a ride goes down a few months and more elaborate / extensive upkeep and repairs can be made. Year round operation demands a ride be built differently, so that underperforming or problematic components can be switched in on the fly as needed.)
Three guesses which was the cheaper route here? ;)
As far as Soarin - this sounds like yet another problem for this new ride system. Unlike an off- the- shelf coaster or Mad Mouse, Disney is still probably trying to find out what the optimal upkeep cycle is on this ride. (Indy's new technology for example took them a few years before they finally got all the kinks out.)
I would think though that if it isn't lifting properly, it shouldn't be run, should it?
But are they finally noticing the problems? This kind note from an anonymous reader may provide some insight...
We can all guess who "Theme Park One" is - I wonder if this was his first time ever on the Disneyland Railroad? ;)
Meanwhile the complaints keep rolling in here about DCA itself... new reader SDW writes:
Although the resort experienced record attendance this past holiday season - DCA itself was still struggling. It's worse now on weekdays, although it has picked up a bit (due to the extensive discounting) on the weekends.
Even with attractions, shops and dining locations up and running there still isn't much for folks to do in this park, and kids suffer the most. The upcoming additions (kids play area, Tower of Terror) may end up being just drops in the poorly designed bucket that is this park.
Reader Steve has more comments on DCA, plus some observations on Disneyland:
Since your visit Steve, they have begun to address some of the upkeep issues at Disneyland. But DCA is another matter. Workers there who are stuck with this mess do their best to try and make people happy - but as you say, it really missed the mark with the public. (Too bad you missed Blast at the Hyperion, it is a very good show.)
New additions, such as the Tower of Terror and the Bugs land area will help - but the real problem with this park is the core "California" theme - fix that big mistake, and it opens up all sorts of new possibilities for them.
Keep in mind, since that park opened, not ONE SINGLE ADDITION OR FIX has been themed to California - its a real straightjacket as they have come to find out.
Churro Update II
It now appears that since our first update on this matter, Outdoor Vending (ODV) management has stopped the practice of pre- loading of food product on churro and pretzel wagons by the night crew.
This change comes after they almost made the situation worse - apparently they were ready to cut more shifts and they had decided to have the wagons pulled back out onstage at night shortly after they were cleaned and loaded with stock.
This would have cutting two opening positions (the people lugging the carts out) saving a shift premium of $0.25/hr - but it would have allowed food product stay out all night without proper care. At least now the food product is safely in a freezer untill the morning Inventory Controller arrives and loads up the truck with boxes of churros to distribute to the wagons.
Apparently who ever makes these decisions is more concerned about saving a few quarters, rather than making sure the food items are properly handled.
Even without the food now, the ODV Wagons are now on stage at night getting misted / drenched by the night hose crew. Popcorn wagons have special tarps that are put on by the closing in- park lead (rumored to be the next shift to be cut by the way) to protect them from hose spray. Churro and pretzel wagons are on their own.
Because fewer wagons are going out due to construction and rehabs there are now (barely) enough churro belts for the wagons to get clean belts for the next day. Why each cart cannot have two belts (one to use while the other is being cleaned) is a real mystery here. They must cost a few bucks, and if they are pinching quarters, this must be a potential for huge savings for them here.
Another thing that is interesting - apparently there is a special health permit required for each ODV wagon that is to remain on stage overnight. Popcorn carts, ice cream carts, turkey leg locations, the Moonliner cart, and parts of the cappuccino wagon (in the Castle hub area) have such a permit. I am willing to bet (after asking around) that churro and pretzel wagons don't have such a permit.
Let's hope that is rectified soon - permits require inspections as you well know. And it seems current management could use some help in this area to properly follow more commonly accepted industry procedures.
It looks like there is some casting going on or soon to commence on a new show for the Fantasyland Theatre... the working title is Mick Tracy.
Don't expect too much - it will be the same type of modest rubberhead production that Minnie's Christmas Party was this past holiday season.
Like fellow MousePlaneteer Sue Kruse is fond of saying, remember when Disneyland entertainment was, well... entertaining?
Ruining the View
From the "what were they thinking" department...
...the suits have decided they needed to put a penny press machine right in the middle of the Sleeping Beauty Castle entry walkway.
Not only is it ugly and cheap looking, but it makes for a traffic problem in one of the most congested areas of the park, the castle Fantasyland entrance.
I guess they need the money.
Rumors, Rumors, Rumors
There are all sorts of rumors going around online expanding the Disneyland 50th Anniversary classic ride upgrade info I had up here a while back. Just keep in mind a few things while reading them:
In other words, don't get your hopes up too much.
The good guys in Imagineering (WDI) would love to do some of these things and more - but the marketing guys (and those suits including Pressler and Eisner) call the shots. And as one internal wag told me: "You can't sell something old, you need something new." No matter how much nicer they could make Pirates, Mansion or any of the other classics.
No wonder things have gotten worse at WDI under Pressler, one insider remarked "They won't give the resort any decent proposals...and when they do they are too "blue sky." They were talking things that would cost three billion dollars." I asked the insider if it wasn't true that Pressler had tamed them his way since taking over, to which they replied "Pressler has just caused them to rebel... and now they are unreasonable and cranky as opposed to [just] unreasonable."
Atta boy! That's my Paul!
UPDATE 2/15 - Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dud? - Splash restraints mean delays / Carrousel Rehab Photo / Pooh's Invasion / New Tomorrowland Plaque / Mansion Update / Kid falls off tram / Disneyland's 50th - a possible timeline / Don't bother us kids... / He went that a way... / A Compliment
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