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say Hello to Pepsi | Connect the Dots | The
Shanghai Park | The
Sad Saga Continues | DCA
+ ABC = ? | DCA
Concert Series Tidbits
Wonderful "World" of Color
small world returned from its extensive (and much extended) rehab this past weekend - and they did good folks.
Colors are back to their bright sixties hues, greasy handprints are gone off of walls, forgotten work ladders don't sit out anymore and glitter has been newly applied everywhere. (I'll let the Mary Blair experts tell you if it's all color accurate or not.)
Color filters for lights, and details on the dolls such as feathers and streamers have all been renewed or replaced. Safety gates have also been added to the boarding area (shown below).
There are some very minor fixes that still need to be made - a light that shines into the rider's eyes near the exit, some bulbs that haven't been hooked up yet - but I have confidence that even these will get attended to over the next few days as they finish up. (The ride exterior facade is still a mess, but the word now is that they will tackle that after the holiday makeover finishes its run next year.)
The pictures here really don't do the attraction justice - my digital camera in particular has a tough time indoors without flash. When you ride through on your next visit you'll be able to see for yourself what all the work has accomplished.
I'll be frank - this is NOT one of my favorite attractions, but I know from your feedback how much it means to so many people. I think everyone will be pleased with the care that has gone into renewing this ride after so many years of neglect.
As someone in the seat next to me pointed out "This was always a boring ride to me, but now with all the bright colors and new paint, I can see why people responded to it the way they did. This makes the ride fun again."
Let's hope this is now a trend...
Hey Coke, say Hello to Pepsi
Well, actually Frito-Lay. They've just signed a sponsorship deal with Disneyland Resort.
Frito-Lay will now provide all the chips and pretzels for the resort, except the tortilla chips at Cucina Cucamonga which will still be made from Mission Foods tortillas. Plus, over at California Adventure (DCA), California Screamin' will soon be titled "California Screamin', presented by Frito-Lay." No word yet if they will repaint the thing with the official FUNYUNS® Onion Flavored Rings colors. ;)
Astute readers will remember that Frito-Lay is a division of PepsiCo. Hmmm, I wonder if Pepsi could be trying to muscle in on Coke's turf at Disneyland?
When I was a kid, I remember when it was Coke in Tomorrowland, and Pepsi in Frontierland. Until the new regime came in and decided to jack up the sponsorship fees by having them bid against each other.
Maybe it won't be the real thing anymore for this generation? ;)
Connect the dots
Here are some interesting tidbits from the past week or so - I'll let you readers connect the dots...
I'll let you mull all the above over. If I were you, I'd focus in particular on Coney Island. ;)
The Shanghai Park
I was greatly amused at all the tap-dancing Paul Pressler (parks head) was doing this past week about the new Disney Shanghai park in press conferences. (We already talked about this, remember?)
The Hong Kong dealmakers are furious that apparently Disney has no qualms opening another park in China within a year of theirs (and just in time for the Olympics). What's really flummoxing them though is that Shanghai is apparently getting a brand new shiny copy of DisneySea (the one bright spot among the other rather dismal parks Disney has opened recently). Meanwhile Hong Kong is getting a budget version of Disneyland.
If I were Hong Kong I wouldn't worry though. With Pressler in charge, both Chinese parks may be something more along the lines of the unappealing Paris Studios or DCA. I really don't think the man is capable of giving them anything else. Theme parks are just not his forte.
What was the line from the old Jay Ward "Fractured Fairytale" of Pinocchio? "You should have stayed wood boy."
(Pressler wasn't the only one tap-dancing either last week - check this Variety story out. The line "But my focus is on the theme parks" was especially rich. You'd never know Ms. Hamburger even set foot in the parks after seeing what passes for entertainment now at the resort.)
The Sad Saga Continues at DCA
Disneyland has met its projections for attendance so far this summer
season, but they were some of the lowest numbers that had been created in
years. DCA had moderate numbers projected, and is only reaching about two
thirds of those projections - if that.
After the DCA ticket discounts were rolled out with little effect on summer attendance, the last hope for increased sales was the Rockin' The Bay concert, er, "music," series. Diners at The Vineyard Room or ABC Soap Opera Bistro were guaranteed a seat for one of the two afternoon concerts on the same day they had dining reservations. But the offer of great seats for bands like Starship and The Buckinghams didn't generate much extra demand for the spendy lunches and dinners offered at The Vineyard Room.
Meanwhile the upcoming Flik's Fun Fair play area is supposed to squelch the continuing complaints about the lack of kid's attractions at DCA. The Junior Ranger program and crafts locations will close upon Flik's opening.
A kind friend took another peek into Flik's, and reported it looks very nice. Although the attractions themselves are very basic, the level of theming is much more immersive than Paradise Pier or the DCA entry plaza. They report it's got a lot of eye candy, kind of like Toontown. (I just hope they keep it painted!)
On the flip side, they timed Heimlich's Chew Chew Train at a 75 second cycle time. That's ten seconds longer than Gadget's Go Coaster over in ToonTown. This is basically a dark ride type system, with a driverless "train" traveling along a bus bar dark ride track. Casey Jr. it is not, but it's a noticeable step up on the theme scale from Mulholland Madness or the Orange Stinger.
DCA + ABC = ?
Disney is also finally firing up the synergy engines that it is supposedly so famous for. On the night of August 6th, after DCA closes for the night, the TV cameras and film crews will roll in and get ready to film a special program for ABC Television overnight. ABC will be filming a 30 minute long program highlighting all of its new TV shows for this Fall's lineup, to be broadcast near the start of the new Fall season.
TV stars and celebrities from all of the new ABC shows will be filmed enjoying the attractions of DCA (well, keep in mind they are actors you know, they are awfully good at pretending) as they provide brief introductions to their "exciting new lineup" of ABC programs.
Disney is seriously attempting to hype two problem areas; the ratings black hole of ABC Television and the faltering DCA that can't quite seem to generate a crowd despite the massive discounts, free child's admission and constant additions to the Park entertainment schedule.
Although the artistic merit and entertainment value of what is basically an infomercial for ABC's upcoming Fall TV shows has yet to be seen, (don't you miss the Osmonds and E. J. Peaker at times like this?) Disney is at least trying to improve the marketing and exposure of DCA and the ABC TV network.
But you know me, I have to play the spoilsport here. Is it really a good idea to associate this failing park with a bootstrapping TV lineup? Isn't this giving those rather testy and nasty TV critics some really loaded ammo? Those TV guys make me look like Pollyanna ya know - and more than a few have been e-mailing me asking about DCA's increasing problems.
Will two wrongs ever will make a right?
DCA Concert Series Tidbits
And returning to the subject of those DCA Rockin' The Bay shows, they continue to generate relatively small crowds on most days. Last week for several days the featured band was "Starship." The crowd control folks for the concert amphitheater optimistically estimated the gathering for the first 3:30 performance of Starship at 300 viewers.
When Starship took the stage to a quiet and polite applause from the small crowd, the lead singer squinted out at the sparsely populated amphitheater and then said over the PA system "Well, I guess Disney may have learned a valuable lesson that this is a bad time of day to hold a concert, huh?"
Either that, or it's also a bad idea to hold a concert in a struggling theme park. Starship finished its remaining DCA performances playing to crowds in the 275 to 450 people range. Ouch.
It's painfully obvious that this concert series isn't driving any substantial extra attendance to the struggling Park. It's mainly serving as a reason for DCA visitors to stop for a few moments whenever the band plays a song that may sound vaguely familiar to the Baby Boomers in the Park.
The decision by TDA planners to not spend the money on installing bleachers to seat 2,200 DCA visitors for this concert series is looking like a very smart move at this point in the summer. Upcoming performances by The Bangles, Chubby Checker, The Village People and The Monkees should generate bigger crowds than the recent one hit wonders that have been performing however.
By the way, while looking around the web the other day I stumbled upon the artist's agency website for what seems to be almost the entire DCA Summer series roster. Paradise Artists is the name of the company, and if you look at their lineup by clicking the above link, it's like Disney went right down the "Pop" list and put almost the entire roster into their online shopping cart. (I wonder if they got a discount or at least free shipping booking in bulk like this?)
After being told yesterday that the "5th Dimension" spent most of their set talking, and did a cover of "Who Let the Dogs Out" - and having last week watched Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits do their three hits then fill out the rest of the show as a cover band performing '60s ditties such as the Who's "My Generation," - I suggest that you folks booking any weddings, bar-mitzvah's or birthday parties may want to stop by the site. County Fair season is almost over, all those acts should have plenty of open weekends coming up.
I got a lot of e-mail about the Blood, Sweat & Tears item I ran last time, detailing how singer David Clayton-Thomas was very unpleasant to the Disney folks handling him. After reviewing it all, and contacting some other folks in the biz, it should be made clear that the band itself had no blame in any of the antics I reported.
Judging from the amazing amount of people from the music biz who wrote me, this apparently has been an ongoing problem since almost day one with BS&T - and there really isn't much that can be done about it. As one rather stressed Disney employee put it - "The guy was even worse than Eisner."
Now that's saying something. ;)
We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon. See you at Disneyland!
We'll have more news soon - but one item in particular just begged to be run today... so I paired it up with an Entertainment department story that was being worked on to make for worthwhile reading.
Blood, Sweat & Jeers
You just can't make this stuff up.
Here's some rather amazing news about Blood Sweat & Tears and their appearance at the California Adventure (DCA) concert, er, MUSIC series...
Yesterday it seems the Park Duty Manager (the guy in charge who responds to emergency situations and who checks in with managers from all lines of business) was hurriedly called to the Green Room hospitality trailer set up backstage behind the Screamin' coaster for the Rockin' The Bay talent groups to lounge in before and between sets.
Why such a panic? Well, it seems that a Disneyland Resort video crew with their perky hostess stopped by to interview Blood, Sweat & Tears before they went on for an upcoming spot on "Cast TV" - an in house video program done for the employees. They, um, well, let's shall we say, ran into a little trouble.
When the effervescent hostess asked "What's been your favorite thing about the Disneyland Resort!?!" lead singer David Clayton Thomas bluntly snapped "Are you kidding? This place sucks! I hate Disney. If I could get my hands on enough dynamite I'd smuggle it in and blow the place up!" Apparently he wasn't joking.
I guess he must not read the papers or watch CNN, and didn't realize that his remark (especially after this week's discovery of detailed Disneyland video footage found in the hands of terrorists arrested in Spain) was in very bad taste. Or, maybe he was so gosh darn angry that perhaps he did?
From what I can gather, the reason behind the outburst was that the band was upset with the treatment they'd received from Disney. They were angry that they were being shuttled around backstage in a mere van, rather than in Cadillacs or Lincolns. (That's awfully rich, considering just how long its been since they had any hits - they should be glad they didn't have to rent their own flower power VW bus to haul themselves in with.)
Apparently they were also all out of sorts about the "artistically limiting" 45 minute sets the concert, er, music series requires of them. They even announced to the audience during their first show that "We apologize this set has to be so short. We normally like to play two hour sets for our audiences, but Disney won't let us do anything!"
The Disney managers watching that first set cringed and hoped they wouldn't expand on their "Disney Sucks" theme. Thankfully they didn't. But the dynamite crack was too much, and the Entertainment and Cast TV folks were working to alert the right people. I guess I got a call too. ;)
As of now (and this may change once this column goes up), they will return for their final two concerts today [Friday the 18th]. But you can most likely bet they won't be booked for anything at the Disneyland Resort in the future.
If you're visiting DCA today, why not stop by one of the shows and let David Clayton Thomas know just how you feel about his wanting to dynamite the place in these days and times? I know if I can make it (and it would be well worth the traffic) a few well placed loud boos and jeers will be made. You know, I don't much care for DCA either, but I'd rather they fix the place than blow it all up. ;)
What really makes this all even more bizarre is that NO ONE was watching their two shows yesterday. The 200 chairs in front of the stage were full, and we counted about 40 or 50 people leaning up against the railing behind the amphitheater during the performance. Ten minutes before the 5:45 pm show ended, there was still a few empty spots along the railing. They couldn't even manage to get a crowd that was two people deep to stop and watch their performance.
But then, when you've got a measly 13,000 people in your Park for a peak season summer day, it's hard to generate a crowd for anything. Got any ideas how many will show up for the Buckinghams?
Lord, I wonder if the Commodores are going to give them this much trouble over the weekend?
Here's why Disneyland Entertainment (if you can still call it that) has gone so far downhill
After the last few updates I've gotten a lot of e-mail agreeing on just how poor the resort entertainment has been lately. A lot of the slip in quality seems due to an executive honcho (Anne Hamburger) who is apparently more focused on getting herself to Broadway rather than taking care of her own backyard.
But there are some other reasons things have gotten so bad - mainly costs and the twisting of visitor surveys by management to justify some of the very poor decisions that have been made lately.
Let's start with the following note I got from a kind source:
The above explained a lot, but even more came to light once I shared the above note (obtaining the author's permission of course) with our resident MousePlaneteer expert on Disneyland Resort entertainment, Sue Kruse.
Thanks Sue, you shed a lot of light there.
For me it's just how these new shows "talk down" to both the kids and the adults. The writers seem to think they are entertaining the kids, but the seem to forget it's the parents that buy the admission tickets. While Beauty and the Beast and Lion King Celebration were expensive to produce and perform, they also were smartly written, well produced and encouraged return visits and excited word of mouth about the park. None of that is happening now with the current entertainment line-up - and even the one WOW show they still have left, Fantasmic!, is starting to show its age and may not return after its next hiatus.
Remember when I said that if DCA began to fail it would start to hurt everything? We're now seeing in action the Heroin Monkey effect I had been talking about before that park even opened. That giant sucking sound you hear out in the former Disneyland parking lot is the new park taking the lifeblood out of the older park. As Disneyland continues to meet or exceed its numbers, even after the events of 9/11, DCA's floundering is making for huge cutbacks in the original park's budgets. When you have to pay premium prices for oldies acts (surly ones at that!) to try and shore up attendance at DCA, you get the dismal Mickey's Detective School at Disneyland.
Now as far as loyalty goes - from what I hear there is one long time act that has been playing the park that should be keeping a few other options on their back burner. I do think they know their time at the park is getting limited, so hopefully they have something else lined up.
They'd sure fit into Knott's Berry Farm quite well, if you ask me.
We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon. See you at Disneyland!
7/16 UPDATE - DCA is worth $14 | Eisner on the way out? | Numbers, numbers - they may get smaller, but we still have 'em | Shhh, it's not a "concert," it's "music" | Catch a wave, NOT | Meanwhile, back across the esplanade... quick tidbits | International notes | Shhh, wanna buy a pizza?
DCA is worth $14
Things seem to be getting worse. Yesterday the Disneyland Resort started selling one day park hoppers - $59 for adults / $49 for children. There is no limit to the number of hoppers one can purchase, but they have to be used on the same day. And get this, anyone can buy them, not just Southern California residents
Note the math. If a Disneyland ticket costs $45 and a hopper costs $59, that means Disney values California Adventure (DCA) at $14.
Right now, weekend movie tickets in top line venues - such as the ArcLight/Dome complex and the El Capitan Lilo & Stitch experience (with an included show) run $14.
That means that Paul Pressler and Barry Braverman's 1.4 billion dollar "vision" (along with Michael Eisner and Tom Fitzgerald) has to be discounted to what seeing the 90 minute SpiderMan, Men in Black II or even Lilo & Stitch costs. And you can't release a cash cow DVD in time for Christmas either... ;)
Contrast that with the just announced number of ten million visitors (yes, you read that right - ten million) that have entered the gates at the DisneySea park in Tokyo in just about a year of operation. And these record numbers were achieved with no discounting and in the opinion of many experts the worst Japanese economy since World War II.
Yes, the new Park Hoppers are certainly another step to what seems the inevitable now; the low budget carnival-like DCA may end up (if the trends continue - and nothing seems to indicate otherwise) as simply a cheap five or ten dollar "add on" to a Disneyland ticket. Or in what increasingly looks like a possible scenario - a regular ticket that lumps the two parks together at anywhere from $50 to $60, without the ability to exclude the new park at a lower price.
Remember, this entire one day "Park Hopping" idea is completely opposite of what was supposed to be achieved with DCA. When the new park first opened, it was only the out of towners staying in the Disney owned Hotels that could buy a Park Hopper, and only the multi-day tickets had Park Hopping availability. Even Disney employees were going to be banned from visiting for the first nine months. The Main Gate Passes that hourly Cast Members (CMs) used to sign friends and family into Disneyland, as well as the Silver Passes that salaried employees used, all were "blocked" from DCA admissions through Labor Day, 2001.
It only took about six weeks of very low attendance after DCA's Grand Opening weekend for Disney to reverse that decision. Even though the passes had a message on the back that DCA was blocked out to CM entry through early September, the ban was lifted in just after Easter, 2001. And then they started offering unprecedented "50% off dinner at (now gone) Mondavi or ABC Bistro" without even having to use an admission on your CM Pass to get into the park for you and your friends.
The whole concept behind DCA was to create a "Resort" experience for the people staying in Disney Hotels, and encourage them to stay an extra day on Disney property. And at the same time they would be pulling in an extra 10,000 to 20,000 locals a day who would come to see the new Disney Park along with the out of towners.
While the tourists are occasionally tacking on an extra day in Anaheim at the urging of their travel agents, only to end up disappointed, the day-tripping locals have been staying away in droves. And the ones who do visit are either annual passholders (APs) who cross over from Disneyland for a couple hours at the most to ride Soarin'' or Screamin', or maybe watch "Blast!", or they are lured by amazing discounts that slash ten dollars off an adult ticket and let their kids in for free.
And so for the last twelve months the Team Disney Anaheim building out back (TDA) has been experimenting and inching their way towards a one-day Park Hopper that basically tacks on DCA for a few extra bucks. Considering just how negatively people feel about this park after they visit it, and the bad word of mouth it generates, I imagine there will be at least one or two more versions of this newest ticket offering before they get to something that's simply a five or ten dollar addition to a Disneyland ticket - or a slightly higher priced ticket that simply includes the new park even if you don't care to visit it.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. This was all foreseen by everyone outside the Disney executive think tank that put this mess of a park together in the first place.
Now, since I've been complaining, I should yet again offer a solution. That should be the the point of any criticism, to identify problems and offer alternatives. Here's what they need to do:
Get rid of the California theme NOW. Kill it and put the park out of its misery. It's already clear all the very expensive changes and additions constantly being made by the company to the park never have anything to do with that off-putting theme anyway. Let's be real here, out of all the possible concepts that could have been chosen, it was the ONE that alienates the locals - and if Disneyland's rather consistent and still healthy numbers prove day in and day out, it shuts out up to 60% of the possible daily audience for this park.
It's like the suits forgot that one of the main reasons Disneyland itself was built way out in Anaheim was because of anticipated regional population trends. Walt Disney and his planners knew they could pull in the international / national trade as they progressed, but they also knew by placing Disneyland where it was easily accessible by the locals, they would insure there would be an audience for it should international (as well as national) trends and conditions change. That survey they got from the university was almost dead on, Disneyland is within five miles of the actual and current Los Angeles area geographic populace center.
A California park in Japan may have been an interesting idea. But a California park in California, well that one is (and always has been) hard to fathom. We should have gotten the more exciting DisneySea concept here, and it should have been properly funded taking into consideration a] Disneyland with over 45 years of improvements is sitting right next door, and b] the goal was to charge equal admission to either park. Not to mention excite the locals too.
There are two obvious themes they can go with almost immediately - each which could incorporate a great deal of what exists now and allow for what should be quick to follow quality embellishment to what people expect of the Disney brand name.
First is the Disney's America concept - which only gets more interesting as we move on from last September's events. It is nowhere near as restricting as the current theme - and it offers something of interest to the international audience. (It also helps that DCA was cobbled together from many of the concepts originally conceived for that project.)
The second theme could be movie centered - that would also easily accommodate a very broad range of attractions. Imagine for example one area that changes every six to twelve months, with sets and props for the latest major film release on display or to be walked through. A nearby simulator type of attraction could put you inside the movie itself, and be produced at the same time all the extra material now done for films (for DVD, press use and other media - costs would be budgeted to the film) are all done. Opening right after filming would help to promote the upcoming movie too. There's much more that can be done with this, but you get the idea.
Either of the above themes could easily incorporate what already has been built in DCA - and allow for much greater promotional and marketing opportunities for the parks, and the resort as a whole.
Replace Paradise Pier NOW. If there is one symbol of how freakishly out of synch the suits are with their audience it is this one area of the park. It's a garish and cheap slap in the face to an audience that has been carefully nurtured otherwise to expect something of higher quality from the Disney brand name. (They even try to avoid showing too much of it in current advertising.) The Disney Company built a new higher end industry out of what used to be the carnival business by raising the bar, in both creativity and quality with their theme parks. This carnival is exactly what the company set out originally NOT to do - they always wanted to grow beyond that.
Sadly the cheap rides have come to typify the thinking of a management team that is too caught up in what people WILL like because they are told to do so, as opposed to trying to present an experience that only the Disney brand can and should provide - and is not available down the street at the local church parking lot or county fair grounds.
I don't think Paul Pressler can even begin to visualize a Disney quality park - it would be like asking him to paint a portrait when the man has no art skills whatsoever. I know Barry Braverman is truly incapable of it, and even if he did know what to do right, he wouldn't fight for it. Tom Fitzgerald (the heir to Marty Sklar) should be in the film business, where his limited talents would be much better appreciated. And I think Michael Eisner without Frank Wells is a situation that is broken and most likely beyond repair.
The facts are there plain as day: When Disney builds a park without the above regime involved (such as DisneySeas), ten million full price admissions show up in just under a year (and in a dismal economy no less).
When the company has the above listed people involved, the customer gets California Adventure and the Disney Studios in Paris (which already is shocking people internally with low attendance and bad word of mouth from visitors - more on this later on in the column today).
I can tell you now that in 2006 (give or take a year or two) Disney is going to start the next China park in Shanghai. Guess which theme they have decided upon for it? Yep, DisneySeas.
They must know a winner when they stumble upon it, eh? Let's hope the regime changes before those plans get "improved" by them.
Eisner on the way out?
The Wall Street Journal recently mentioned that the Disney board is pressing Eisner to improve and get the stock price up. The board is apparently now understanding what their role is, in particular with what has happened at major companies like Enron and WorldCom. They don't want to get blamed should things continue to slide - as the environment may exist soon that they could personally be culpable if the company continues to have problems. Rumors at the company seem to confirm that.
Apparently Eisner's been given a time limit and a stock price to reach, and he’s fighting back. Some of the recent announcements have probably been part of the increasingly desperate attempts to influence the stock. Pressler, also under mounting pressure, will probably become a scapegoat for what is happening with the parks.
But there’s still no evidence that there’s any change in attitude insofar as any support for serious projects by corporate. Budgets are still being held down and creative initiative stifled if any investment is needed. Disney has apparently so little confidence in their product that there is little support for any park attraction based on any of their current feature films. Any park projects related to any Disney features are at the level of low budget overlays, parades or simple shows.
The one area that they do appear willing to spend money is in an attempt to boost ABC's flagging position by shoehorning parades and shows into DCA to promote them. Unfortunately, this sort of “synergistic” effort also feels desperate, reflecting negatively on both ABC and DCA.
The feeling by folks within and observers outside is that more and more of the steps Disney is taking appear to be desperate attempts to make Disney sound healthier than they actually are. For example, the recent announcement that Disney was revising their 2000 and 2001 earnings calculations to exclude a goodwill charge due to new accounting practices, while appearing to be beneficial to the company, also adds to the feeling that Disney is willing to go to any length in trying to improve their image to investors. But, too many insincere past moves on their part will only work against them.
I asked one person who is in the know what they thought about all this, and they replied:
It's about investor confidence. And things like the DCA problems (read on below) don't help. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.
Numbers, numbers - they may get smaller, but we still have 'em
The Beach Boys concerts this past weekend offered a noticeable bump in attendance for DCA, compared to the previous summer weeks of lackluster numbers.
On Saturday, July 13th DCA had a daily attendance of just over 16,000. The original attendance for that day however, from the fiscal year planning calendar that was prepared last Fall, and revised this Spring to supposedly take into account the damaging effects of September 11th, had a projected attendance of 24k for DCA on July 13th.
Still, the 16k in DCA this past Saturday was an improvement of roughly
3,000 from the previous Saturday. (One should note the National Fantasy
Fan Club (NFFC) Convention is in town this week, and has several thousand
Disney fans attending from around the country. I'm sure it deserves part
of the credit for the bump in DCA attendance.)
Keep in mind however that pesky (and now overly optimistic) attendance planning calendar that TDA created earlier in the year, before The Beach Boys were scheduled to perform for the weekend. At that time it projected that DCA would get 26k for that particular Sunday.
The percentage of AP's inside DCA on Sunday was at roughly 45% for the day however, and the concert didn't seem to generate any extra one day ticket sales or drive major interest from locals. It simply seemed to pull more AP's and Park Hopping tourists over from Disneyland for the afternoon. Seems like a LOT of money spent to just rearrange the deck chairs on what may be a sinking ship, no?
So you know, it should be noted that the DCA attendance on Monday, July 15th barely made it above 12k for the day. It was definitely much slower than the weekend, although Disneyland still had around 45k on the same day, without any adult discounts or free children's admission. The original DCA estimate created earlier this year for Monday the 15th was 21k. So, early into the game it looks as though the higher than normal attendance at DCA this past weekend were due to the novelty factor from the Annual Passholder crowd, the arriving NFFC conventioneers, as well as the simple drawing power of The Beach Boys.
And you have to wonder what would the DCA attendance be like if they weren't already cutting ten dollars off the adult price and letting all the kids in for free? Last year at this time DCA was averaging around 19,000 visitors per day, as the Electrical Parade had just returned from the grave and the same DCA-specific local discounts and free kids tickets were being advertised. Although a DCA attendance of 19k sounds heavenly to most TDA execs in 2002, the 2001 numbers were actually a disappointment from the 34k to 38k that execs in TDA and Burbank had originally estimated for the summer of 2001.
In late 2000 and early 2001, Disneyland management was even directed to prep the hourly Cast Members to deal with angry Disneyland guests who had to "settle for" a day at old Disneyland after being turned away from DCA after the turnstiles inevitably had to be closed due to overcrowding in the new Park during the Spring and Summer of 2001. That old concept from 2000, to cheer up people turned away from an overcrowded DCA, seems almost rather quaint and innocent at this point.
You do have to ask yourself; Has the novelty worn off of DCA for the day-tripping locals who still flock to Disneyland? What happened to all of that word of mouth advertising last summer's local discounts and free children's tickets were supposed to generate? (Or this winter's continuous discounting?) Hmmm, maybe Cynthia Harriss had it right last winter when she told groups of Cast Members that "In ten years, DCA will be a great Park"? I guess we still have eight or nine years to go?
It will be very interesting to see what DCA's attendance does as the concert series rolls along through the summer. Will the novelty of the concept wear off amongst the AP's after a few shows? Will the locals flock to DCA to see The Buckinghams or The 5th Dimension? Will there be more sunstroke victims than ever? We'll keep you updated on what effect this concert series has on DCA's attendance.
Shhh, it's not a "concert," it's "music"
Speaking of the "concert series", don't tell anyone in TDA that anyone is calling it that. Late last week a memo and formal communication campaign went out informing Disneyland Resort Cast Members that the DCA Rockin' The Bay concerts were not "concerts" or a "Concert Series", but rather a "Music Series".
Why? TDA does not want Cast Members telling Resort guests that it's a "concert" or a "concert series", because that would imply a more formal seating and viewing area on a much larger scale than what was ultimately budgeted and provided. After the plan for bleachers was nixed for budget reasons in June and some of the bands booked were not exactly A List material, the TDA execs began to worry that the Parks visitors would set their expectations too high if the concerts were actually labeled as "concerts". So, they mandated that the events be called a "Music Series" instead.
They even went so far as to tell Cast Members and management teams in the Parks not to call the viewing area an "amphitheater", but rather just refer to the location as the "Paradise Bay Stage in Golden State Park". Got all of that? Good. And whatever you do, don't let the executives in TDA hear you call the bands performing in DCA this summer a "concert".
Could we make this stuff up? Nah. It could only come from the out of touch (and almost delusional?) executives in TDA!
By the way - a couple of quick notes from my viewing of the first Beach Boys show on Sunday: The lack of shade and hot weather is quite simply a killer - I watched (along with fellow MousePlaneteer David) from just in front of the Avalon Cove restaurant, from under a bit of shade that was from a sign. Most people around us could not take the heat, and only watched for one or two songs - then moved on. They had cast members counting heads every few minutes, I could see smaller and smaller numbers on the clipboard sheets as they came by every fifteen minutes or so.
The sound was surprisingly good - not too loud and it sounds like music. Unfortunately the band itself was pretty sloppy, missing all sorts of notes and beats. Granted, as Mike Love said - it's hard to hit those high notes 30 or 40 years later, but fingers should still strum or hit the right notes. Especially since the band was a lot younger than the original guys for the most part.
The viewing conditions are just awful no matter where you park yourself - a band of this type was simply too much of a draw for the limited viewing areas and seating this park offers. This should be much less of a problem with all the other acts they have scheduled - but still, if they have afternoon showtimes, they need to provide shade for the audience. I understand nighttime shows (which could address some of these issues) may be out of the question due to the hotels that ring the park, and the way the sound carries.
Another alternative would have been to have placed the stage in the dead center of the lagoon, which would have opened up more viewing areas. But then the bands would be pretty far off in the distance.
Personally out of the whole lineup, the Beach Boys were about the only thing I would even attempt to see under these kind of less than optimal viewing conditions. Even if you pay the high "priority seating" prices, you will still bake in the sun. Other than that, you most likely won't even be able to see them up close.
If none of the bands on the list excite you, I would suggest planning your time more wisely. YMMV of course.
Catch a wave, NOT
By the way, the Paradise Bay lagoon water has gone back to the flat and lifeless condition it had last November and December when Luminaria was being shown. It seems the wave machine that creates the crashing breakers on the jetty at the California Screamin' launch track, as well as the undulating swells throughout the lagoon itself, will be turned off for at least nine hours a day for the rest of the summer.
Apparently the stage hastily built for the Rockin' The Bay concerts (er, Music Series) require the bands and talent to be shuttled to the back of the stage from small boats. (Keep in mind that such a stage was never considered or planned for during DCA's design and construction phase. The Park itself was going to pack in the crowds, remember?)
But the Disneyland Fire Department is worried that if someone were to fall overboard from the boats, or fall off the stage itself and into the water, the waves would hamper any possible rescue attempt. So, the wave machine will be turned off all day, from Park opening until 7 pm. But, if there is a new band playing the next day, then the wave machine will need to be turned off until 8:30 p.m. to allow for additional preparations to the stage setup. So that just leaves between 3 hours to 90 minutes before DCA closes at 10 p.m. that the wave machine will operate this summer.
That wave machine was bought by WDI from a Norwegian firm that designs and builds such unique things. During the Park's last few months of construction in late 2000, there was even a Norwegian technician staying in Anaheim that programmed a specific wave pattern, with help from WDI Imagineers, purposely designed with California Screamin' and the rest of Paradise Bay in mind.
The WDI Imagineers, or the Norseman who put his unique talents to work at DCA, were not consulted about this elimination of this Paradise Pier show effect. After this column hits though, the good folks at WDI will likely find out that their wave machine has been turned off for the summer.
It's just for six weeks in the middle of summer though, right? And it's for a good cause. I mean how often do you get a chance to hear Herman's Hermits or The Village People in concert (I mean Music Series)? And it's not like the waves added much to the oceanfront theme of Paradise Pier. They've still got those midway games and carnival rides to remind people of the beach.
Meanwhile, back across the esplanade... quick tidbits:
Concerning the Tomorrowland fountain: The last we heard, they were planning to move the Moonliner over the fountain ball and create some leapfrog fountains in crater shaped pools. Haven’t heard anything more recently, but it still may be a possibility. As you can see above, the water was turned back on again last week.
The new restrictions put into place at the parks: It has become so difficult to get into Disneyland backstage that many Imagineers are reluctant to go to the park anymore. It's actually easier to get onto the studio lot and even WDI than it is to get backstage at Disneyland. Anyone wanting backstage access has to get a special Disneyland ID, even those with valid ID's from other Disney business units. The events of 9-11 have been used to completely eliminate all backstage parking except for company vehicles.
Superstar Limo: Is permanently shut down. They have been using the facility to test the Pooh vehicle.
SAP at Disney: Disneyland, Imagineering and the Disney Studios are going to be the guinea pigs for the new corporate online financial system that is intended to tie all the various business units together. The system is being developed with SAP.
Now, if anyone remembers the SAP "attraction" at Innoventions at Disneyland, you can imagine what the results will be when Disney employees have to try doing their time sheets and expense reports. While this system may benefit someone, somewhere deep in Disney's corporate financial dungeons, it appears that it will produce nightmares for those having to deal with it for items like timesheets, something that was previously (relatively) simple to do.
While there may be a few that revel in dealing with lots of numbers, or don't actually have to do anything more than submit the same time sheet each week, a many (most?) will find the experience exasperating and a lot more time consuming. And those who have to produce these (and other) financial forms for others will find their work multiplied.
I don't know how Disney is planning on writing off the expense this changeover, known as “Project Tomorrowland” (whoever thought THAT was a good descriptive project title probably supported the DCA concept), but they must be hiring a lot of people to cover their support phones and troubleshoot the resulting mess.
Disney will probably, somehow make this new system sound like a boon to the bottom line (or did they have to do it to make up for the Innoventions flop?). But, while it may have some cross business benefits, the overall impact appears to likely cost the company millions in new financial administrative costs and wasted employee time.
Anyway, we'll have to see what the body count will be as they kick off this new system.
Process, Process Process: In their increasing process driven strategy, they have decided to bring on board (at WDI) a “troubleshooter” to cure all their woes (sort of like what Anne Hamburger was supposed to do for entertainment). Unfortunately (just like Ms. Hamburger), his past efforts have produced less than worthwhile results.
The oppressive process oriented strategy has been having increasingly negative effects on WDI’s ability to create. "It's kind of like trying to swim in molasses." one person remarked.
Disney Studios Paris: The new Disney Studio Paris theme park has been doing worse than DCA. The attendance has been about 20% of DCA’s, not even enough to cover the additional cast members needed to run the park.
(I am still working on a review of this very disappointing park. Too many Disneyland updates, along with a few unexpected events, have delayed my column on it. I even have a better day planned for you, if you will be in Paris - once the review runs, I'll then give you a tour of a much more charming movie neighborhood.)
Disney in China: Disney is apparently moving ahead with another park in China, somewhere around Shanghai and most likely with the DisneySea theme (as we mentioned above). With the relative "failure" of DCA and Disney Studios Paris, the new Hong Kong (HK) Disneyland looks to be tenuous at best. The latest news item released by Disney focused on the use of Feng Shui and differing park hours as key aspects of the parks draw.
While the park will reflect the level of finish that Disney usually provides, the overall impression is that the park will be at the California Adventure (DCA) / Disney Studios Paris (DSP) level. Add that to the overall deterioration of Hong Kong's financial stability, and it begs the question as to what do they really expect the HK park to do?
If HK falls in with DCA and DSP, it will become apparent that Disney has lost their touch. Of course, that’s not to say that they couldn't pull off a great park if they gave the right Imagineers the tools and funding to do their best (witness DisneySea). But, as Disney is so enamored with economic process instead of creative production now, little if anything is being successfully created.
Shhh, wanna buy a pizza?
The lovely MousePlaneteer Sue Kruse, who has been way too busy except for the occasional article she still pens for us, was kind enough to drop me a line about my last update. She made some great observations and points I want to share with you, if you don't mind.
I guess I was so turned off by all the yelling Sue, I didn't really listen to the commercial message. ;) Anyway, I'd already learned my lesson about the pizza served there - I avoid it like the plague.
But allow me to have you continue here...
One of the problems Sue, may be that Anne Hamburger (who was supposed to fix the entertainment, not make it worse) is completely and totally wrapped up in trying to get her next show to Broadway. Fellow MousePlaneteer David Koenig mentioned it in his last update, that the next production going into the Hyperion Theater in DCA would be Aladdin - which Ms. Hamburger is lavishing all her attention on. Maybe if she wasn't so caught up with that singular goal, she could then focus on all the other poor quality shows and parades at the parks. (But then again, if her idea of fixing things is like what she did to the original Steps in Time show at DCA, maybe it's just best she keep on ignoring things. ;) )
Sue in her e-mail also mentions the changes at the Plaza Inn that I had noticed upon my last visit...
It's sort of like they forgot it's a PARK, right Sue? ;)
By the way, it's Disneyland's birthday on the 17th (tomorrow). I'll be there, will you? Not that they are doing much...
We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon.
7/16 UPDATE - DCA is worth $14 | Eisner on the way out? | Numbers, numbers - they may get smaller, but we still have 'em | Shhh, it's not a "concert," it's "music" | Catch a wave, NOT | Meanwhile, back across the esplanade... quick tidbits | International notes | Shhh, wanna buy a pizza?
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