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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update
UPDATE 3/28 - Splashless ...continued | Disney's Adventure Park (forget the California angle) | Uh-oh, Lilo! | Soap: "New and Improved!" | DCA numbers up, but at a cost | DCA Dining, an Oxymoron? | Oscar's Snub

 

Splashless ...continued

You can see how extensive the Splash Mt. work is in this photo from last Sunday - they really are doing a major overhaul
You can see how extensive the Splash Mt. work is in this photo from a few weeks ago - they really are doing a major overhaul

Splash Mountain continues its extended closure after the announced reopening date of March 22nd came and went, however Disney still won't publicly acknowledge that the ride will likely be closed for the rest of the year. Since the closure will now last much longer, they have gone ahead and brought contractors in to begin tearing up the pavement in Critter Country in anticipation of the Winnie The Pooh attraction for 03.

In early February the Disneyland Facilities department installed a custom built wooden wall near the Brer Bar and Pooh's Corner gift shop so that they could continue working on the Winnie The Pooh area behind the wall when Splash Mountain reopened for Spring Break. But, that wall had to be torn down just weeks after it was installed when it became clear that Splash Mountain and Critter Country would remain closed and work on Winnie The Pooh could go full steam ahead without worrying about an operating theme park just a few feet away.

Originally, all that pavement work was scheduled to occur next winter, when Splash Mountain and Critter Country were scheduled to close again for last minute Pooh preparations. But now the heavy machinery has moved in and is tearing all of Critter Country up 10 months ahead of schedule.

For those who have doubted that safety changes to the Splash Mountain logs are the reason behind this mystery closure, the sudden construction throughout Critter Country when the Land and its signature attraction were originally planned to be reopened for Spring Break crowds should be proof. Disney decided to not let this unplanned closure go to waste, and they are getting a head start on Pooh preparations while they have that corner of the Park all to themselves.

 

While Splash and the Haunted Mansion got badly needed paint, other areas of Disneyland are still in need.

While Splash and the Haunted Mansion got badly needed paint, other areas of Disneyland are still in need. Above, the Golden Horseshoe is starting to really peel, and below you can start to see how bad the paint on Space Mt. is getting now - dirty and fading. Both shots are from two weeks ago.

Above, the Golden Horseshoe is starting to really peel, and below you can start to see how bad the paint on Space Mt. is getting now - dirty and fading. Both shots are from two weeks ago.

While Splash and the Haunted Mansion got badly needed paint, other areas of Disneyland are still in need. Above, the Golden Horseshoe is starting to really peel, and below you can start to see how bad the paint on Space Mt. is getting now - dirty and fading. Both shots are from two weeks ago.

 

Meanwhile, the lawyers and the executives are still wrangling with some operational issues regarding the coming changes to Splash Mountain. The execs are seeing the light that a full reworking of the attraction is probably the best way to go, rather than trying to retrofit over the shoulder safety restraints into the current fleet of logs. After some initial engineering analysis however, a 10 person log with 5 rows of 2 abreast seating is probably out of the question. Instead, a shorter log that seats 8, with 4 rows of 2 abreast seating (with a belt or bar to hold riders in), is probably the vehicle Disneyland will end up with. This won't add too much to the ride's capacity, as some had hoped could be achieved if a full 15 month closure was needed, but it at least won't slash capacity like the retrofitting the current logs would do.

Disneyland's operational management is lobbying for a full rework of the attraction, and they have the support of WDI and the lawyers. Its just up to Burbank to greenlight that type of multi-million dollar investment. WDI has been scrambling to come up with relatively cheap proposals to "fix" some of the Show concerns they have had with Splash Mountain since it first opened.

They fixed most of the problems with the Show in WDWs and Tokyos later version of Splash Mountain. But Disneyland's original version has always been saddled with poor pacing, a muddled storyline and almost meaningless audio. Few riders even realize what the plotline of Disneyland's Splash Mountain actually is, and WDI would like to change that (bless 'em). They will probably never get an opportunity to fix major Show mistakes like this ever again, with a major E Ticket attraction closed for up to 15 months. Well keep you posted on whether or not Splash Mountain gets more than just new logs as those decisions are made.

 

Before (above - taken last October) and after (taken a few weeks ago) shots of the Haunted Mansion. What a difference. :)

Before (above - taken last October) and after (taken a few weeks ago) shots of the Haunted Mansion. What a difference. :)

Before (above - taken last October) and after (taken a few weeks ago) shots of the Haunted Mansion. What a difference. :)

 

Disney's Adventure Park (forget the California angle)

Meanwhile, over in DCA, work continues on the Flik expansion. Meetings are currently being held to decide what the "ridership strategy" is going to be for those four new kiddy rides when they open this Fall. DCA's Attraction managers would like to limit riders to small children, or adults with small children only. They are currently trying to come up with a workable strategy that would keep childless adults and older kids and teens off of the Flik's attractions. Concepts recently contemplated were maximum height requirements, with riders exceeding a certain height being ineligible to ride without accompanying a child below those maximum height requirements.

Knowing that many of DCA's visitors, including a great deal of Annual Passholders, do not visit the Parks with small children has some managers worried about the backlash to these types of policies however. Again, we'll keep you posted as they hammer out the details for this new "kiddy land" at DCA.

 

Reader Sean writes about the above picture he sent in: "I thought you might get a kick out of this one. My family and I went to Disneyland on Sunday 03/20/02. As we were leaving for the day, we noticed some new lines added to the end of the lines at the ticket booths in the entrance esplanade. Check out the enclosed picture!" Amazing isn't it Sean. This apparently is cheaper to do than having enough cast members on hand, or the proper equipment on hand to make queues with. This has also been seen in the past during other busy periods.
Reader Sean writes about the above picture he sent in: "I thought you might get a kick out of this one. My family and I went to Disneyland on Sunday 03/20/02. As we were leaving for the day, we noticed some new lines added to the end of the lines at the ticket booths in the entrance esplanade. Check out the enclosed picture!"

Amazing isn't it Sean. This apparently is cheaper to do than having enough cast members on hand, or the proper equipment on hand to make queues with. This has also been seen in the past during other busy periods.

 

Uh-oh, Lilo!

The advance buzz for this summer's new animated motion picture from Disney "Lilo & Stitch" coming from cast member screenings has not been too positive. Groups of execs and managers attending advance screenings of the final print in Burbank and Anaheim have privately expressed their lack of excitement over the new animated movie. The movie will most likely be rated "PG" for its violence and frank subject matter.

As you may all know by now, the movie takes place in Hawaii, with a few scenes taking place in outer space and aboard alien spacecraft, and the predictable Character meet 'n' greet opportunities will be available at the Disneyland Resort this summer.

However, you won't be visiting the Lilo & Stitch Characters in Adventureland, where you would naturally expect a Hawaiian theme to be played out (and it looks like Steve Davison's Tiki / Lilo makeover idea may be history). You won't even find anything in the increasingly drab and fading Tomorrowland, to tie in to Stitch's distant planet homeland or his souped-up spaceship.

 

They finally figured out that having a show that encourages kids to scream shouldn't be near a dining area. They've moved the Monsters show in DCA further back up the walkway, between the Grizzly River Run (raft ride) and the farm. Diners are finally able to enjoy their meals with some peace and quiet.
They finally figured out that having a show that encourages kids to scream shouldn't be near a dining area. They've moved the Monsters show in DCA further back up the walkway, between the Grizzly River Run (raft ride) and the farm. Diners are finally able to enjoy their meals with some peace and quiet.

 

Instead, (in yet another move to try and lure bodies in) Lilo & Stitch will take up residence this summer (you guessed it) in Disney's California Adventure, right smack dab in the middle of Paradise Pier. You read that right, Lilo & Stitch will be in Paradise Pier, the DCA area themed to "celebrate the boardwalks and seaside carnivals of California's past."

The Disneyland Resort Entertainment Department has created plans to install a Hawaiian themed overlay to the Pizza Oom Mow Mow restaurant as well as the area around the S . S. rustworthy playground and Orange Stinger chain swing ride. The meet 'n' greet area will be there of course, as well as audience participation activities like hula lessons, a "Blue Hawaii" Elvis karaoke stage, and lei making for the kids. (Imaginative right? Just like how they tried to shoehorn Monsters Inc. into the same park.)

Of course this festive salute to the culture of our 50th State has absolutely nothing to do with the California theme of the Park, but hey they've had that problem since DCA opened haven't they? They will do anything to get a buzz for DCA, regardless of theme or plotline or even just common sense. It's too bad that Lilo & Stitch seems to be a clunker of a movie as far as the advance screenings have been going. Of course this has me all the more curious to see it.

 

Reader Issac sent this photo of the new Space Mt. cars - interesting eh? Thanks Issac!
Reader Issac sent this photo of the new Space Mt. cars - interesting eh? Thanks Issac!

 

Soap: "New and Improved!"

Also planned for DCA in the upcoming weeks are Super Soap Weekends, a West Coast version of the popular MGM Studios events out in WDW. There are events planned for all over DCA for those three weekends in April, with the majority of the action taking place in the Hollywood Backlot area.

The Golden Dreams Theater will be shut down on those days however, to make room for Soap Opera Q & A sessions for fans. Since Golden Dreams has seen its attendance plummet the last 6 months, now that most Annual Passholders have already seen the history film once, and the word is out among the tourists this thing is a snore, the attraction closure during busy weekends is not expected to actually inconvenience anyone however.

Don't tell Whoopi, Eisner, or Pressler that though. In fact, Paul Pressler is still convinced that movie based attractions are a great way to add Park capacity for little investment. (You gotta admit the guy is consistent, if still utterly, completely and totally clueless. Did I cluster those words well enough? ;) )

Events for Super Soap Weekends are also planned for the waterfront amphitheater across from Paradise Pier, with Soap Star cavalcades down the DCA parade route, plus autograph sessions near the Winery and the boardwalk area near Avalon Cove. Event planners are bracing for an expected 15,000 fans per day, in addition to the regular DCA day visitors.

If you want to read more about who and when things are scheduled, take a look at Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix's recent article detailing it all for you. (She also kindly asked me to let you know she got additional information that these west coast events are not replacing the east coast ones, as indicated in her article. So you Walt Disney World soap event fans can breathe easier.)

 

These are photos from my last update (above) and the week after (below) - It looks like they are now regularly cleaning the LuminAria tarp out in the Paradise Pier lagoon. See we notice both good and bad. :)

These are photos from my last update (above) and the week after (below) - It looks like they are now regularly cleaning the LuminAria tarp out in the Paradise Pier lagoon. See we notice both good and bad. :)

These are photos from my last update (above) and the week after (below) - It looks like they are now regularly cleaning the LuminAria tarp out in the Paradise Pier lagoon. See we notice both good and bad. :)

 

DCA numbers up, but at a cost

Speaking of attendance, the never ending list of current DCA discounts and promotions has shored up attendance recently. During the first weekend and weekdays of Spring Break this year, Disneyland Park was averaging attendance in the 53,000 to 60,000 range, while DCA was in the 16,000 to 19,000 range.

Those DCA numbers, while no where near the 32,000 to 38,000 Disney planners dreamed up for the new Parks "peak days" back in 2000, are certainly much better than the 5,000 to 8,000 per day DCA was getting last year at this time.

What remains to be seen however is if DCA can pull in some decent numbers this summer, without relying on freebie tickets, supermarket discounts, generous park hopping policies, local salute offers, and private parties and special events, and instead pull in full-fare paying crowds of locals and day trippers.

Considering just how many of those recent visitors have continued to express their disappointment with the park (even if they obtained a discount or comp to get in) unless they maintain the giveaways it will always be a struggle.

 


Last time I showed you how the Mulholland Madness (mad mouse) wall looked from in DCA, now take a look from the Grand Californian main entry. Ugly ugly ugly isn't it?

And get this, the view rooms (the most expensive ones) get the best views of this mess. What in heavens made them think the screams were not going to be a problem? I forgot, the head guy never understood what he was doing. ;)

 

DCA Dining, an Oxymoron?

Restaurant spending at DCA is still no where near where it should be however, even with the increase in attendance. The ABC Soap Opera Bistro, one of DCA's most highly touted attractions when it opened, will remain closed completely this Spring Break period on Mondays thru Thursdays. It will only be open on weekends, even though these are some of the biggest daily crowds DCA has seen in the past year.

The pricey Vineyard Room also continues to struggle. Many people don't even realize that it is still open for business, after that location lost its Mondavi sponsorship last September. Other DCA counter service locations, like Malibu-Ritos and Lucky Fortune Cookery, will remain closed during this busy Spring Break period.

DCA still cant generate the big time crowds necessary for the Park to be firing on all 8 cylinders, and those locations will remain closed for the time being.

Meanwhile a cast member was kind enough to write me about some new annual passholder dining discounts for DCA:

[The powers that be] now offer a 10 percent AP discount at Taste Pilot's Grill, Hollywood and Dine, and Pizza Oom Mow Mow, in addition to the existing discount at The Pacific Wharf. I would appreciate your help in spreading the word.

You got it. Also, before I forget, the latest edition of the annual passholder's newsletter lists all the Downtown Disney discounts now offered for AP holders. Very nice. The only problem (and you KNEW I'd find one didn't you) is that about half of them are only good Mon. thru Thur.

While I'm glad they seem to understand this is a good idea, they are still way behind what places like Universal and City Walk offer. Hopefully they will make more progress soon.

If you didn't get a passholder newsletter, stop by the processing center and ask for one. There are a lot more useful things to note in this last edition, as opposed to the last few issues.

 

Oscar's snub

A lot of folks (including yours truly) saw the writing on the wall when it came to the first ever animation Oscar™ given this year - something that Disney should have won if nothing to acknowledge what they have done for the art form in the past and more recently.

But if Oscars most times get awarded for merit (and in Shrek's case most likely for being so successful), there are the few times they are also used to settle scores. It's no secret the Disney company has trampled over quite a few folks under current management. (Lord knows I saw this come via this forum with the email and other communications I get.) It's too bad, since people who are doing a great job, like Pixar and the core animation group at Disney, have to suffer for this.

A while back I wrote about the layoffs at animation, and then it took months for them to finally kick in (sometimes you can find out things much earlier than it will happen). It seems that from the recent moves Disney is going to focus more on computer animation for now, and ship off more and more of the traditional hand drawn stuff overseas. The next two or three conventionally animated films may be the start of a pull back in that type of production.

As far as the future for Disney, well - expect less and not more, so long as the current guy in charge remains. It was a great run, and like all good runs, it is coming to an end. Now the question is how long will it take for another creative and artistic renaissance to begin?

Will it be another ten or twenty years?

 

OK, See you at Disneyland this weekend folks. Soon, I'll finally finish that "X" coaster review, I promise. Today I'll be at Universal, I'll fill you in on any changes there next time.

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Al Lutz may be e-mailed at al@mouseplanet.com - Keep in mind the volume of e-mail he receives may not allow for a personal response.


UPDATE 3/12 - Splashless until 2003? | California Adventure's numbers up | Tower of Terror and Flik's Fantasy Faire construction photos | Mullholland Madness Scream Wall | Star Tour - singular | Is Iger Next? | 50th Blues

 

Splashless until 2003?

Splash Mountain was just supposed to close for a nice ten week refurbishment this winter. During those ten weeks they were going to install the safety loading gates in the station area like Pirates and Thunder Mountain recently got, refurbish some of the backstage walkways and access routes and bring them in line with new state codes, and do some painting and much needed freshening to the very tired looking Audio-Animatronics and set pieces.

You can see how extensive the Splash Mt. work is in this photo from last Sunday - they really are doing a major overhaul
You can see how extensive the Splash Mt. work is in this photo from last Sunday - they really are doing a major overhaul

Everything was going along fine for the first few weeks in January, until early February and the sudden mandate from Disney's legal department, as we told you about here in the last update. Well, as of this update, Splash Mountain will now be closed for much longer than the ten weeks originally planned. Over a week after the last update went online, Disneyland officially changed the end date of Splash Mountains refurbishment from March 22nd to May 24th. However, it now appears that Splash Mountain won't be open in time for the busy summer season either, and that the May 24th return date is going to quickly fall by the wayside.

There are actually several different scenarios being decided upon by Disney execs, in order to solve the "Splash Mountain problem" and get the ride eventually reopened. As we discussed earlier, the lawyers are adamant that the Splash Mountain logs be fitted with over the shoulder restraints, much like those found on California Screamin'. However, to install that type of restraint system inside the current logs would drastically reduce the hourly capacity of the attraction by eliminating 2 to 4 passengers per log over previously allowed limits.

In addition to the reduced number of riders in each log, the capacity would be reduced even further by the increase in dispatching intervals due to the new tasks of securing all those restraints and double checking them before the CMs can send the logs into the ride. Splash Mountain already has one of the longest lines in the Park. But with new shoulder restraints and a slower boarding process, the lines would move almost half as fast and the number of Fastpasses available per day for Splash Mountain would be slashed by several thousand - which would make them basically unavailable after the early morning hours.

Things get even messier when you realize that Imagineering (WDI) was completely taken by this legal surprise as well along with the Parks Operations teams, and WDI doesn't even know how they are going to retrofit the logs for the over the shoulder restraints that the lawyers want. WDI would like some time to try and develop some other type of restraint system that would be suitable for the lawyers, yet wouldn't hurt the rides capacity or inhibit the riders ability to look all around them and take in the immersive "show" scenes found in Disneyland's Splash Mountain.

Now that a few weeks have passed, and the enormity of the project is sinking in with WDI's industrial engineers, the newly released return date of May 24th is looking overly optimistic. Most of the engineers and managers involved with the project realize that this retrofit project on the Splash Mountain ride vehicles will take at least six months, with a return date perhaps more appropriately pegged for the Fall of 2002.

That of course means that Splash Mountain will not be open at all for this summer season. And the Guest Relations and Attractions managers at Disneyland were already reeling from the thought of not having Splash Mountain operating for the busy Easter vacation period at the end of March and early April!

This photo from two weeks before the above one shows the work on the flume area just before you glide past the riverboat scene inside
This photo from two weeks before the above one shows the work on the flume area just before you glide past the riverboat scene inside

There is however a fairly new development to this rapidly unfolding nightmare. What if they started over from square one with Splash Mountain? What if they created a much larger ride vehicle entirely, instead of trying to retrofit hastily designed restraints into the logs that Splash Mountain has been using since 1989?

There is now a new proposal, currently being weighed by TDA and Burbank execs, accountants and lawyers, that would if gone forward with, rip out most of Splash Mountains flume and station area. In its place a much wider flume would be installed, wide enough to accommodate a log that has side by side seating like in the later versions of Splash Mountain built in Florida and Tokyo in the 1990s. The new logs would still have a restraint system, and they would still probably be shoulder restraints since that is what the lawyers are so insistent upon. (As I understand it, Tokyo does have lap bars by the way.)

The upside to all this? With a log seating up to 10 riders side by side, the hourly capacity of the attraction would actually be increased from its present levels. To accomplish all of this however, Splash Mountain would need to remain closed for all of 2002, and hopefully be ready to open when The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh debuts next door in Critter Country in early April, 2003.

One must also realize that scenario is also going to be the most expensive (and we all know how Disney has been dealing with expenses under current management - basically not even worrying about them). However, right now its almost a given that Splash Mountain will not be opening for this upcoming summer season.

What it comes down to is the executives must now decide whether they spend a few million, and keep one of Disneyland's most popular E Ticket attractions closed all summer long, and then reopen the ride with hastily retrofitted logs that inhibit the riders view of the "show" and a drastically reduced hourly capacity that will ensure long, slow moving lines for years and years to come.

Or, the executives could decided to spend several million additional dollars, which would keep Splash Mountain closed for up to twelve additional months instead of six, but be able to reopen the attraction in the spring of 2003 with all new ride vehicles designed purposely to accommodate a rider restraint system and also have a popular attraction that could slightly increase its hourly capacity. When we get word on which version, and which closure scenario the executives choose, well let you know. (You'd think this was a no brainer - being able to announce a higher capacity Splash Mountain along with the less than overwhelming Pooh ride - but keep in mind this is Disney under Pressler and Eisner that were talking about.)

In the meantime, don't take any information about Splash Mountain offered by the official Disneyland.com website (or any others for that matter) very seriously. Splash Mountain will almost positively not be open this summer. And if it is able to open sometime this year, expect much longer lines, much fewer Fastpasses available per day, and new log designs that will most likely restrict your view of the Splash Mountain "show."

Good thing all your complaints ended up bringing back Fantasmic eh?  ;) That would have really hurt the park if they had gone ahead and shut the show down as they were contemplating, until the feedback poured in. You can expect Fantasmic to return (as of this writing) June 14th, along with that weird Eureka Parade at California Adventure. (Mickey's Detective School, a new Fantasyland Theater show, opens April 4th.)

As you can imagine, in addition to all this sudden long term planning for Splash Mountain, Disneyland's Attractions and Operations managers are trying to decide whether they should just close off Critter Country completely until it can all reopen in 2003. Since this current Splash Mountain refurbishment was only supposed to last for ten weeks, the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes were allowed to remain open to offer at least one attraction in that area. And themed construction walls were brought in to surround the Winnie The Pooh area so that when Splash Mountain reopened March 22nd they could continue with Pooh construction in the middle of a bustling Critter Country. But the Canoes and all of Critter Country may be sealed off shortly and put into long term hibernation until the entire land can reopen with a new Splash Mountain and the Winnie The Pooh ride.

My opinion here? I say keep it closed and do the job RIGHT. That means really upgrading the ride system, using lap bars instead of over the shoulder restraints, increasing the log capacity, and doing something really smart here - improve the show inside a bit. Either add some new scenes, or a new drop inside to give visitors something new to experience.

If they were really smart, they'd put in the infrastructure for a larger new improvement inside, and then finish it for the 50th anniversary.

But that would be thinking ahead wouldn't it?  ;)

 

California Adventure's numbers up

Speaking of refurbishments, we warned you last year about all the upcoming refurbishments planned for Disneyland this winter and spring. But it seems that the suits in the Team Disney Anaheim building out back (TDA) didn't expect the Parks visitors to be nearly as upset as they have been the last few weeks.

Complaints at City Hall were already running well above normal earlier this winter when Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Small World were all closed at the same time. But now that the closure roster features several of the Parks most popular E Ticket thrill rides; Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as the continuing closure of large sections of Fantasyland for repaving, the Guest Relations folks are getting hit very hard with complaints on even the most uncrowded days.

Recent weekends have seen complaint lines at City Hall snaking down the front stairs and onto the sidewalk. With daily maintenance cut back in recent years, the few remaining E Tickets left open often have extended downtimes, which leaves paying visitors walking from major attraction to major attraction only to find them either "temporarily closed due to technical difficulties" or "closed for refurbishment" for weeks at a time. Even if they do get a badly needed rehab, like Mansion did, the ride continued to go down in the weeks after it opened on a regular basis.

The Monorail in particular has been having almost daily difficulties and reduced operating schedules, as local TV viewers saw in late February when the orange train conked out on the track and had to be evacuated with ladders while 5 TV News helicopters hovered overhead. (Admittedly, it must have been a slow news day since that has happened a few times before during the Monorail's lifespan without nearly the scandalous publicity.)

But with Space Mountain closed, the Submarines gone, the Rocket Rods shuttering taking CircleVision with it, Cosmic Waves permanently turned off, an aging Star Tours seeming more and more predictable (more on that below), visitor counts dropping off for Honey I Shrunk, and the Monorail having seen much better days, Tomorrowland in particular can be a very frustrating place for a paying customer to visit.

I'd say it's almost as frustrating as the western side of Disneyland, where the two major water rides (Splash Mountain and Pirates) are also simultaneously closed. (Let's not even talk about all the stuff not working on Tom Sawyer's Island shall we?)

LuminAria Poo-Poo? The birds are leaving their mark on the abandoned LuminAria island in the middle of California Adventure's lagoon. What an eyesore. The summer edition of the show was cancelled.
LuminAria Poo-Poo? The birds are leaving their mark on the abandoned LuminAria island in the middle of California Adventure's lagoon. What an eyesore. The summer edition of the show was cancelled.

Yes, suddenly it seems as if California Adventure (DCA) has more rides running than Disneyland! Now that all Annual Passholders, and many types of discounted admission media available at the ticket booths, are pretty much all allowed unlimited park hopping privileges, there has been a steady flow of visitors across the Esplanade from Disneyland and into DCA.

And to help get even more people into DCA, just this past week Disney issued a policy change regarding the complimentary passes that are issued to CMs twice a year in July and December. In addition to the "main gate passes" that allow CMs to get friends and family into the Parks for free, Disney mails out two additional comp passes twice a year. The last three sets of comp passes given out however since Christmas 2000 were not allowed to be used as "park hoppers" between Disneyland and DCA. If a CM gave the passes to a friend or family member, they would have to stay in the Park that they entered initially. But now those comp passes can be used as one day park hopper tickets, allowing someone to cross back and forth between DCA and Disneyland.

Now Disney just needs to come up with a way to offer that type of park hopping day ticket to the general public without losing company face. If the day tripping locals were allowed to enter DCA for a few hours out of a day, with the majority of the time spent at good ol Disneyland, DCA attendance would soar to the levels originally predicted back in 2000 wouldn't they?

With that type of ticket available to the general public, DCA may be able to find its niche with the skeptical locals as an additional three "lands" next door to Disneyland, with two or three decent new attractions, a few good restaurants, and the ability to buy a glass of beer with lunch. Many of you remember the original (and for the most part still continuing) complaints about DCA - that they were charging Disneyland pricing for something not even worth half that. Including this new theme- crippled park with your current Disneyland admission would go a long way to removing many of the complaints about the value it offers.

Of course, that type of ticketing and visitation scenario would lay ruin to the "Resort" business models that several key Burbank executives are still clinging to for DCA. (Just tack the word "Disneys" on to the front of the title and the schmucks will pay full price for it, right?  And remember, it's a cluster! Not a resort! Sheesh.) But they already have priced it at what it is worth for the Annual Passholders (by simply including admission to it with your Disneyland basic pass). The general public would most likely respond best to a similar strategy don't you think?

 

Tower of Terror and Flik's Fantasy Faire construction photos

Yes, you guys keep asking for photos, but until these last few weeks there really hasn't been much to take photos of. Well, it's now looking like there is reason to peek into what is going on, and we'll update as major changes take place. (We don't want to waste your time do we?)

Above is the excavation for Tower of Terror - this is right across from the Hyperion Theater courtyard. Below you can see the kiddie Flik's Fantasy Faire area - it is located behind the animation and Bug's Life buildings - you'll enter it from the farm.

Above is the excavation for Tower of Terror - this is right across from the Hyperion Theater courtyard. Below you can see the kiddy Flik's Fantasy Faire area - it is located behind the animation and Bug's Life buildings - you'll enter it from the farm.

Above is the excavation for Tower of Terror - this is right across from the Hyperion Theater courtyard. Below you can see the kiddie Flik's Fantasy Faire area - it is located behind the animation and Bug's Life buildings - you'll enter it from the farm.

Reader Ed sent me the following, which includes a note about the Flik kiddy area:

Hi Al: Thanks for all your hard work with DIG. I was raised in Anaheim, born 1956, and "grew up" to become an architect, so I've always been fascinated with the built environment as imagineered or otherwise created by the Walt Disney Company. Over 30 years ago the late architect Charles Moore, who is well know only in academic circles, wrote a short book called "You Have to Pay for the Public Life". The title essay makes an eloquent case for Disneyland as an important example of an uniquely American public space, as important to our citizens as the great plazas and boulevards of Europe are to the inhabitants of Paris or Rome.

I couldn't help thinking about that thesis as I watched the new Disney Treasures DVD featuring historic Disneyland television episodes. We've all seen clips from these broadcasts many times before, but the shows in their entirety contain some interesting revelations.

It's amazing, first of all, how many of the design concepts so near and dear to the heart of Disney theme park connoisseurs are clearly articulated for the audience in the Disneyland Grand Opening show. As an example, Art Linkletter, standing in front of the Main Street railway station, almost immediately addresses the issue of how the raised "dike" on which the railroad tracks sit is an effort to isolate the park from the outside world.

Watching the tenth anniversary show, the dense landscape growth on the berms already fulfills the vision; it really doesn't look too much different today. Obviously Walt saw his park as a self-contained work of art, almost like a film you watch from beginning to end, and although not every theme park can or should conform to this concept, it is clear that one of the reasons the Magic Kingdom is so beloved is this simple idea of a totally separate fantasy environment.

Although I believe California Adventure will mature convincingly in the years to come, it is clearly not isolated from the real world as is the Mother Park. Your message boards have been arguing over this simple point since the birth of DCA; for the average guest, however, it may be something sensed rather then consciously considered. Whichever it is, the missing berm seems to haunt the bottom line of gate two.

PS I was at the City of Anaheim Building Department last week pulling a couple of minor building permits. Stacked on the public counter were a complete set of construction documents, more then two hundred pages, for Flik's Fun Faire, or whatever it's called. I studied them for a few minutes, no one seemed to mind.

The good news is the theming and detail for this new area appears lavish, every fence and gutter is accounted for. On the down side, the layout of the attractions is totally straightforward, with each ride sort of set in a big circle around the perimeter of the new area. It's like a kiddy carnival at the county fair, with fantastic decorations.

Thanks for the note Ed - we're a year apart in birth, and have similar feelings it seems.

What gets me about the new DCA Kiddy Flik area is that: a] it truly has nothing to do with the California theme (proving again what a lousy choice it was), and b] that it is something that shouldn't have to be built now nor at this park, IF they had done the job properly in the first place.

The other thing that worries me about this new area is what ended up happening to ToonTown, once it got built, it got ignored and neglected. All one needs to do is look at how faded Mickey's house has become, to realize how this new carnival area will look like after a few years of wear and tear.

 

Mulholland Madness Scream Wall

At the other end of California Adventure, they just finished building a big ugly wall around the Mad Mouse (Mulholland Madness).

Why they couldn't figure out in advance how something this close to the two hotels would make so much noise, is a question for the ages.

Now you ride this thing, and feel you are trapped inside a box. Big fun.

Wouldn't have enclosing it in a building first thing - then actually THEMING IT, like Rock and Roll Roller coaster is done in Orlando and Paris make it work better? A Mad Mouse inside a building isn't something you'd find at every carnival come to think of it.

I forgot, executives who could care less about theme parks built the thing. ;)

 

Star Tour - singular

The scuttlebutt I got on the cancellation of the Star Wars events at Disney World (and what looks like no more updates for the Star Tours ride) didn't match what you may have read in the media lately.

My friends at the ranch have been telling me for quite a while that Lucas has been very unhappy with Disney over the last few years, and with Eisner in particular. Apparently what started it was that Lucas wanted an increase in his licensing fee for the Indy and Star Wars characters - and Disney has held firm on the payout they first agreed on (with Eisner even bragging about how cheap it is).

Add to that the tension between Disney and Pixar (I'm sure you saw the correction Pixar made to the recent Eisner statement about movies left on their deal.) From what I hear, Lassiter is unhappy with how Monsters was originally promoted and is nonplussed with the current Oscar campaign. He may feel the industry animosity towards Disney, along with Shrek's exhaustive ad campaign will hurt his chances, and Lucas himself has been planting bugs in his and Job's ear about Pixar ending back up with him. (And remember the trailer mess with Monsters last year?)

The recent full page L.A. Times ad for Monsters where "animation experts" such as John Canemaker and Joe Grant were quoted was a major misstep for example - more than a few Academy members (and DreamWorks minions) e-mailed each other (and yours truly) with notes saying "aren't all those guys on Disney's payroll?" (Well - not exactly on payroll, but with Canemaker promoting a new book published by Disney, and the others consulting for the company for pay, their point was very well taken).

My one friend at the ranch said (and I quoted him in an update here before) "There is one company that can outdo Disney in promotion and marketing of any major franchise, and that is us." This seemed to be also confirmed by a financial friend, whose department has been asked to draw up some deal outlines should Lucas take on Pixar (for distribution via Fox or whomever they choose), and their current deal with Lucas should be expanded to reflect that. The rumors about possible future expansions of the Star Wars saga / universe via CGI (which "guess who" could do along with Lucasfilm) also keep swirling. Now you know why Eisner really hyped the 3-D Mickey at the stockholder's meeting, trying to show folks Disney can do CGI work without Pixar.

Lassiter seeing first hand how the parks have deteriorated (at Disneyland recently, which I discussed in a recent update) and Lucas also experiencing the same problems with the lack of upkeep at the Star Tours attraction in Orlando (upon a brief visit a few years ago) added even more fuel to the fire. And past problems, such as what happened with Alien Encounter, just kept festering.

That's what I hear is the real reason why no updates are planned at all for the Star Tours ride, as was originally envisioned. And the way the deal is set up, Disney cannot update it without Lucas being involved.

Pressler's stone returns to the esplande between the two parks. Maybe they can keep it from getting disfigured again.
Pressler's stone returns to the esplanade between the two parks. Maybe they can keep it from getting disfigured again.

Also don't forget the lesson Jimmy Neutron's recent successful release also seemed to give the industry (and that Disney has been focused on) - which is that a computer animated movie can be done very cheaply and still pull in huge numbers. Pixar is getting more and more expensive with their movie making (Disney experienced the same ramp up in costs after Mermaid succeeded). You have to keep in mind all the suits keep asking is "if this other stuff can be so cheap, (including the made for video stuff) and still pull in some really great numbers, why are we spending so much?"

Before I forget, I also finally have an answer as to why Disney is so very aggressive with the sequels to their movies lately (besides the fact they are cheap to make, and they seem to sell in huge numbers no matter how poorly they are made.)

It has to do with the copyright laws basically. With the possibility of not being able to keep their properties, (such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White) out of the public domain, other companies will be free to create their own sequels to the Disney originals. The sequels coming out now allow the company to milk the franchise as dry as they can, plus add enough newly copyrighted materials, stories and designs, that they can litigate on the smallest points any future use of the characters / stories for many years to come.

Yep, it may make great business sense, but we have to pay the price with junk like Cinderella 2. Sigh.

 

Is Iger Next?

Of course, as you all well know, a company cannot perform poorly as Disney had done lately without some kind of scapegoat targeted to take all the blame.  (Never mind that Eisner himself has isolated himself from much of the creative talent who control so many things he can no longer either follow up on or improve, such as Spielberg with a Roger Rabbit sequel, or Lucas with Star Tours / Indy rides, etc.)

Sadly (according to those folks in Burbank) it seems Eiser has decided that Robert Iger is now in the hot seat, since "he can't quite run that network properly" among other things. The recent mess with David Letterman and the ABC News folks (for which Iger took blame by the way, trying to keep Eisner insulated) only cements his situation. If the company continues to do poorly (i.e. the network continues to falter among other things) expect Eisner to announce someone new to come in to fix it.

And who might that be? Well, if Viacom's Sumner Redstone (who is one of those executives just like Eisner that can't play well with others) pushes out fellow honcho Mel Karmazin as is widely expected (he built up the formidable CBS radio and then television networks) guess where Mel may end up? Imagine what the stock price might do if that came to be?

If the folks at ABC (and come to think of it, the rest of Disney) think they have it hard now...  ;)

 

50th Blues

It looks like Disney may combine Disneyland's 50th anniversary plans with Walt Disney World's 35th - with duplicate cost saving events, parades, shows and merchandise, and the bulk of advertising / marketing steered towards Orlando.

Why diminish Disneyland's anniversary like this? I guess it is true that Paul Pressler does not care for Disneyland at all.

 

OK, See you at Disneyland folks.

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UPDATE 3/28 - Splashless ...continued | Disney's Adventure Park (forget the California angle) | Uh-oh, Lilo! | Soap: "New and Improved!" | DCA numbers up, but at a cost | DCA Dining, an Oxymoron? | Oscar's Snub

UPDATE

UPDATE 3/12 - Splashless until 2003? | California Adventure's numbers up | Tower of Terror and Flik's Fantasy Faire construction photos | Mullholland Madness Scream Wall | Star Tour - singular | Is Iger Next? | 50th Blues

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