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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update
9/30 UPDATE - Paul Pressler in his own words | Ten Things NOT to Do | What Do the Cast Members (Employees) Think? | What May Have Happened? | We're Hungry Pt. 2 | Flik's Now Open

 

Note: No, we haven't gone crazy, this week's rehab and construction photos are interspersed throughout the update to help break up all the gray text a bit.

 

Paul Pressler in his own words

What can I say about Paul Pressler finally leaving the Walt Disney Company? Many of you wrote after the news broke last week asking why I didn't have any comments on it.

Roy E. Disney and Paul Pressler at the opening of California Adventure - Publicity photo  Disney
Roy E. Disney and Paul Pressler at the opening of California Adventure - Publicity photo Disney

Honestly I held back because I was thinking of what I wanted to say. How could I encapsulate everything I was thinking all these years into a column without droning on and on? What could I add to the years of photos showing the continuing problems at Disneyland, and the many stories I was passing on about all the headaches in the division he was in charge of?

Like you probably did, I read all the news reports and various interviews Pressler was giving over the last few days. Finally it hit me, the best way to summarize just what had been so wrong was to use the man's own words. It all (to me at least) pretty much boiled down to the following three items.


First, the below e-mail was sent to all at Imagineering the day after the news broke, I've highlighted what I found interesting in it:

Sent: Friday, September 27, 2002 8:52 AM
Subject: Message from Paul Pressler
Date: September 26, 2002
From: Paul Pressler

By now you have likely heard the news that I will be leaving The Walt Disney Company to join The Gap as their CEO. Unfortunately, given various legal requirements, we were forced to make this announcement with haste, and therefore I apologize to those of you who heard this via a source other than your business leaders. Now that I can, I want to take a moment to share some of my thoughts about this change.

Although I am very excited about the opportunity to run a company of the size and prestige of The Gap, the decision to leave was a difficult one. Of course, like all of you, I believe wholeheartedly in our product, our mission, and our passion for excellence. And although I will miss walking the Parks and Hotels, playing on our Cruise Ships, enjoying our Sports teams and having a nightcap at the Zone, what I will miss most is all of you.

I have always said that none of us will be recognized individually until we are all recognized collectively. The happiness that I have experienced and any successes that I have achieved are simply because of this outstanding, dedicated, and loyal team. Your support is in my heart, it is greatly appreciated, and will never be forgotten. I especially need to thank Michael and Bob who have been important mentors and close friends during my tenure and who have supported so many of my decisions and our divisions important initiatives. I know that they will continue to lead this company to even greater accomplishments.

My decision to leave should not be interpreted as anything other than a personal decision to pursue an exciting opportunity. This is a fantastic organization with tremendous future potential largely because so many of you are working on great projects that will propel our business forward. And more broadly at the company level, Michael, Bob and others are working hard to continue creating Disney magic in each of our divisions.

I want to say thank you. Thank you for your tremendous work, for your passion, and most of all, for your friendship. Continue to do great work and know that I will be watching and cheering.

With warm regards,
Paul

The following quote is from a story about Pressler's departure in the O.C. Register Friday, September 27, 2002, it features his reaction to some criticisms of his work [I've included some of the story before the quote to provide context]:

But to some Disneyland devotees who follow every development at the park with an eye for micro detail, Pressler's tenure both as head of Disneyland and of Disney's theme-park empire has been less than stellar. Those who say he emphasized the bottom line over creative innovation rejoiced in his departure.

"Zip-a-dee-do-dah. What a wonderful day," quipped Al Lutz, a longtime Pressler critic who operates Mouseplanet.com, one of many Disney-watching Web sites. "I'm delighted for the Gap. I think it's a good thing all the way around."

Dave Koenig, author of several books about Disneyland, said Pressler's departure could "help the theme park's image among its strongest fans, who have seen Pressler as a symbol or a scapegoat to blame all Disney theme-park problems on."

Koenig said Pressler does deserve a good share of the blame for the alleged lack of creative ambition at the Disney theme parks. He said California Adventure, in which Pressler played a central role, suffers from a much deeper problem than temporary economic woes. It's a conceptual problem, he said: The mostly local people who attend Disneyland simply don't want to attend a theme park about California.

Koenig also denigrated the remake of Disneyland's Tomorrowland under Pressler's stewardship. "There's less in Tomorrowland now than there was before it was rebuilt," he said. After several years, there's still an empty lagoon where the once popular Submarine Voyage used to be, he said, and Rocket Rods, once the piece de resistance of the new Tomorrowland, is gone too.

Pressler rejected the criticisms of Koenig and Lutz: "If you talk to the Walt Disney Imagineering group, which is the heart and soul of this organization, to the person they will tell you that I had great affection for the creative people and worked very hard to strike the right balance."

Pressler's company portrait at the time he took over Disneyland - Publicity photo  Disney
Pressler's company portrait at the time he took over Disneyland - Publicity photo Disney

The final quote given in response to a question about his lack of experience in fashion retail is from another interview Pressler gave to A.P. which was run in the O.C. Register on Friday, September 27, 2002:

"Disney theme parks are just a giant retail location," said Pressler.

And with that one quip - he neatly sums up the problems over the past eight years, don't you think?

The GAP is going to do well with Paul Pressler at the helm. The man was genetically engineered, if not bred, to handle that type of challenge. I think once he digs into his new work, and experiences the success he is so capable of, he will understand why this change in career was so important to make.


So, what about the future under newly announced replacement James A. Rasulo, formerly the chief executive of Euro Disney? Again, let's look to the subject's own words, from an article appearing in today's L.A. Times:

[Rasulo] said he would continue to streamline the division while balancing the needs to invest in future projects. "Maybe we tilted the balance a little bit toward seeking efficiencies and cost reductions," he said.

"Disney parks and resorts are fixtures of the landscape, and they certainly depend on the quality of the execution of the Disney brand," he said. "We're not going to compromise on that."

Keep in mind he most likely chose his words with care to communicate the company's current stance in this area. The recent dramatic increase in upkeep at Disneyland may be the start of something good for the resort.

Encouraged? Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Hey, they also let the blustery Disneyland PR flack Ray Gomez go - things must be changing.

 

A mariachi was placed out front to try and lure visitors to California Adventure (DCA) this past Sunday. Thousands of them replied, "No Senior, Yo Querio Disneylandia!"
A mariachi was placed out front to try and lure visitors to California Adventure (DCA) this past Sunday. Thousands upon thousands of them replied, "Yo Querio Disneylandia!"

Meanwhile, inside Disneylandia the new FastPass area for Splash Mt. opened up near the Haunted Mansion entrance
Meanwhile, inside Disneylandia the new FastPass area for Splash Mt. opened up near the Haunted Mansion entrance

 

Ten Things NOT to Do

Jay Rasulo, you just landed the top spot in the Theme Parks & Resorts division, and you're going to ALL the Disneylands!

Want to avoid the same fate that bedeviled your predecessor? Need a few tips and tricks on what NOT to do?

Here's a handy checklist of ten things to avoid that got the last guy into endless hot water. Avoid these sure-to-create-controversy situations and you may find yourself getting Michael's brass ring on King Arthur's Carrousel...

1. Don't LIE

When something is supposed to "glow away forever" - it is not supposed to come back as an emergency maneuver to boost sagging attendance at a park you missed the mark on. And you don't sell lightbulb souvenirs that were never used, and don't give extra performances beyond announced closing special events that you've already sold tickets to.

Your customers clearly understand the magical Disney lie - that things never do go away forever, but they come back new, improved and back where they are supposed to belong.

2. Don't MESS WITH THE DISABLED

I still remember the interviews on KNX news radio with developmentally disabled crying children (living on severely restricted incomes no less) lamenting the loss of the Disneyland ticket discounts.

Visualize that famous "Scream" painting if you need a refresher here.

3. Don't PROMISE MORE THAN YOU'LL DELIVER

You don't sell a rehearsal as a premiere - you explain the problems up front, offer refunds or credits and diffuse the situation ahead of time. You also don't keep a show or attraction running that numbs your audience into silence.

We won't discuss the rumors that SuperStar Limo actually decreased rider's IQ scores.

4. Don't PASS OFF MOVIES AS RIDES or TORTILLAS AS ATTRACTIONS

People can sit in a theater at the local multiplex, or nowadays with a big enough TV set make their own home theater. Unless they are Michael Jackson chances are they don't have a home version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Tortillas are readily available without an admission charge at your local supermarket.

5. Don't TELL YOUR CUSTOMERS HOW FISCALLY SAVVY YOU ARE

No one wants to pay full price for a half park as it is. You make it worse by bragging how cheaply you got it all done to impress the Wall St. experts.

We all know how expert those analysts really are - can you spell E-N-R-O-N?

6. Don't IGNORE PAINT

Paint is a lot cheaper than unhappy customers who wonder why the admission prices are so high. Paint when used properly also delays expensive overhauls and repairs later on.

Paint, it's a good thing.

7. Don't CHEAP OUT

Usually when a new Tomorrowland is opened, you get the same number, if not a few more attractions.

That used to work quite well for Walt Disney, you may want to try it again soon, like for Disneyland's 50th?

8. Don't IGNORE YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS

Yes there are a few annual passholders that scare even me, and I'm a grizzled old bastard. (And there are a few pin traders that are even worse!) But the vast majority of passholders are your best ambassadors to what you sell. Get on the ball with an area affiliation discount program using the annual pass. Don't blame the passholders when things go wrong, think out in advance what you'll be doing and plan for things.

Don't treat the passholders as cows to be milked, their teats are awfully sore after the last eight years.

9. Don't LISTEN TO TOM FITZGERALD

He thinks tile murals are exciting.

10. Don't IGNORE TONY BAXTER

Last time I checked the guy still has a better attraction track record than Tom "tile murals are exciting" Fitzgerald.

Do you readers have a top ten list that you'd like to submit? Send yours into the email address at the bottom of this column. I'll select the best ones for a follow up in the next few weeks.

 

More of the Matterhorn has been torn out - in some places you can still see the original wood used in building the frames for the rockwork

More of the Matterhorn has been torn out - in some places you can still see the original wood used in building the frames for the rockwork

More of the Matterhorn has been torn out - in some places you can still see the original wood used in building the frames for the rockwork

 

What Do the Cast Members (Employees) Think?

From a few different e-mails, all combined here for easier reading:

Wow, what a week. Amazing how it came out of nowhere, huh? If your looking for thoughts from CM's, the pool of lower / middle management has these basic thoughts:

- Everyone was very surprised by the news. It took everyone completely off guard.

- The immediate thought in Anaheim was "What happens to Cynthia?" The general consensus was that either she would be tapped to fill Paul's spot (less likely) or else she would be moving on herself within 6 months or so now that Paul was gone. Paul brought Cynthia over from The Disney Stores in the summer of 1997 very specifically to fill his shoes if he were to be called up to Burbank. And that happened just as planned. And Cynthia brought in several of her own folks from The Disney Stores to fill her junior executive ranks; Paul Yeargin for the Director of Attractions from 1997 to 2001 as a good example.

Everyone is wondering "How much longer does Cynthia and the rest of the Disney Stores mall folks stick around at Disneyland now that Pressler is gone?" None of them are really here because of an intense love for Disneyland and what it stands for. The incredible blunders this group of Disney Store execs made in the late 1990's, like budgeting the entire Fiscal Year 1999 based on the failed late opening / early closure plan for Attractions that brought the Resort awful PR in October 1998 is an example that springs to mind. Anyone who has ever worked one single summer as a seasonal CircleVision hostess could have told you that opening the rides late and closing them early would have be the stupidest thing you could ever do, but these execs did it anyway because they had no concept of what a day at Disneyland is supposed to be like for the guests.

Cynthia ran defense for Paul and the others and took the blame for it all, famously telling Attractions managers in the fall of 1998 after the Park was forced by the bad PR to reverse the decision that she was "still working through my learning curve". So now that the person who brought them all to Disneyland in the first place, and was their biggest cheerleader, has now jumped ship, how long are they going to stick around? The conventional wisdom has at least some of them leaving within the year.

- Everyone was equally amazed with how quickly the position was filled. Within three days the guy from Paris was slotted into the spot. Bizarre.

That's about what the buzz is around the park. No one will really miss Paul at Disneyland, since he was never considered a true Disneylander. He was always thought of by his management teams in the Park as an outsider from the mall who had to learn what Disneyland was supposed to be about. And they aren't quite sure he ever learned that lesson before he finally left last week.

Cynthia has done a better job of creating admiration and respect from her management teams, as well as her hourly Cast Members. But she still isn't quite thought of as a Disneylander. She's charming as all get out, and obviously very smart and talented. But she is still thought of by most management as an outsider who may be leaving Disneyland soon to go back to a mall job somewhere.

Maybe Paul will take her to the Gap with him? I'd give Paul a few months to get the feel for his current Gap executives before he decides if he needs a dynamic personality like Cynthia on his Gap executive team.

 

The Carrousel roof frame is now going up in Fantasyland
The Carrousel roof frame is now going up in Fantasyland

 

What May Have Happened?

There's been a lot of speculation and rumor about just what triggered everything with Pressler - and I'll recap what I heard (and read) quickly here.  Keep in mind these are just tidbits and scuttlebutt, it may take a while for the full story to get out.

Apparently from what I've been told the board meeting last Tuesday triggered it. Pressler was either told beforehand or found out after the presentation about Eisner's succession list, and as you can guess by what has already happened, he was not on it.

One of the newspapers noted an e-mail about his departure began arriving at the executive e-mail boxes Wednesday night. The GAP press release hit very early Thursday morning. Both the GAP and Pressler have been quoted that several overtures were made in the recent past, but that Pressler had turned them down. Pressler also was on a recent list of possible top executives for AOL, but (wisely I think) turned that down also. (In the past he also looked over the Mattel job after Jill Barad left a few years ago, but didn't like the company's board.) It was clear to many folks he was looking around just in case for some time now.

Disney and Eisner's delay in getting out a press release about this (usually they like to announce departures and arrivals at once so as not to spook Wall St.) indicates to most observers that chatted with me that the company was caught flat footed. Pressler had to have been keenly aware that Eisner was going to get some more heat about another executive leaving, and despite the many comments otherwise, went ahead with an accelerated exit.

One source noted (paraphrased here):

It always takes a year for someone who fails at something to leave. It happened with Light Magic, it happened with Mike Berry - they don't perform, or more key, make for a fiscal loss, and Eisner falls out of sorts with them.

When California Adventure kept sliding downhill and losing so much money for them, his fate was sealed. So long as the numbers were met, Pressler was fine. The continuing success of Disneyland, while DCA continued to struggle, made things clear.

Apparently WDW head Al Weiss lobbied hard for the job, but Eisner for some reason (yet again) was not impressed by him. (Keep in mind Pressler was originally promoted over Weiss after only a short time at Disneyland.) It would be logical to assume after a second time passed over that Weiss probably won't stay past another year. Disneyland head Cynthia Harriss is considered by many to be gaining experience, but not ready yet for the top spot. In more than a few offhand comments that she has made she understands that and is fine with it. My next guess is that she moves up to running Walt Disney World.  Others (like the one source quoted in the previous item above) think she may follow Pressler to the GAP.

Many of you were wondering why, with Pressler's track record, you were reading such glowing quotes about him from Wall St. analysts. The reason is because these, um, experts just look at information provided by the company, and do very little research beyond that. This is why things like Enron and Worldcom happen - none of these types goes out to examine the companies they cover, talk to their customers, or in this case set foot in a deserted theme park. Compare this with an investor like Warren Buffet, who makes it a point of involving himself with his portfolio. He got out of Disney long ago.

My suggestion? Read who those folks work for and make sure your money is out of their recommended companies. There were actually two or three analysts that did comment about the problems we've been discussing here - it's clear in their methods of research that they look beyond the official company information.


Let's get on with the rest of the update shall we? I'm so tired talking about what's-his-name anyway. See? I've already forgotten who he is!

 

The Disney Gallery is getting a makeover - featuring the art of the Haunted Mansion. Opens October 3rd.
The Disney Gallery is getting a makeover - featuring the art of the Haunted Mansion. Opens October 3rd.

 

We're Hungry Pt. 2

After it's sudden closure last Sunday, the DCA Cafe has reopened to serve Cast Members. And they actually have food this time!

Within a few days of the last update the DCA Cafe was visited by several Eurest Dining regional managers in "Visitor" nametags, bustling about in the DCA Cafe kitchen and offices. The TDA execs who oversee the Eurest Dining contract were just as shocked and amazed by the closure as the DCA Cast Members who were left without a cafeteria to eat in last weekend. The TDA folks simply didn't know it had gotten that bad way over there in the theme park south of their office building, and didn't quite know what to make of the problem.

In a photo that hangs in the Disney Studios commissary you can see Walt Disney hosting some visitors for lunch
In a photo that hangs in the Disney Studios commissary, you can see Walt Disney hosting some visitors for lunch

Immediate pressure was placed on Eurest Dining to clean up their act, and at least order some more hamburger patties and french fries to serve the Cast Members. The Cafe now features a limited menu of hot entrees, plus the standard cheeseburgers and salad bar fare it always has. For a couple of days while the Eurest managers were visiting, the DCA Cafe even had three, count 'em three, whole employees on hand to serve the customers. But this weekend, with the Eurest management gone, that staffing dropped back to the usual overworked short order cook and a lone cashier chomping gum at her register.

It should be noted that the Eurest folks did put out some festive autumn decorations in the food service area however, just to brighten the barren environment up a bit and show that Eurest really does care.

When one Cast Member commented to the Eurest cashier this past week "Hey, you guys are open and have food again!" she smiled and said "Yeah, for now. We'll have to see how long this lasts."

If a kind note from a reader is any indication though, it may not be lasting very long at all:

My other half works for Eurest which has the contract at Microsoft to run the cafeterias. They used to try all the shortcuts up here too but they weren't able to get away with as much because the Microsofties will email at the drop of a hat and unlike the poor CMs at Disney, the Microsoft people listen and things improved.

Eurest still cuts corners and buys some incredibly lousy products but good Chefs make it taste pretty good most of the time. Just wanted you to know it isn't just at Disney where such things occur.

Because no one wants to see a cast member starve to death on their breaks (or sweat to death, thanks to a closed air conditioned break room), I am providing the following address for Eurest that they can use to vent their frustrations with.

Eurest - Compass Group North America
2400 Yorkmont Road
Charlotte, NC 28217

Phone: 704-329-4000
Fax: 704-329-4010
Email: cheryl.webster@exch.compass-usa.com

I'm sure Cheryl can direct your e-mails to the proper folks. Just tell her you're hungry. :)

 

The Tower of Terror continues to go up at DCA

The Tower of Terror continues to go up at DCA (above) Disneyland PR made the following concept sketch (below) available just recently.

Disneyland PR made the following concept sketch available just recently - Promotional art  Disney
Promotional art Disney

 

Flik's now open

Yes, Flik's Fun Fair is now open at California Adventure (DCA) despite the promises made in an extra charge exclusive "premiere" event. It will remain open for visitors as a "soft opening" through this week, before the AP and media events next weekend.

It makes me wonder why they charged the passholders for those "premieres" coming up, when everyone could have all just gone in there for free this weekend as I did. Let's hope the ignoring of rule number one (as was quoted above) is something left over from the past regime.

Briefly here, I have to admit I was wrong in my last comments about this new addition "blowing the adults off" - quite to the contrary I liked seeing the adults and kids enjoying the attractions together. That was what made Disneyland work so well, and they worked hard to do that here. The new Ugly Ball show nearby was also a pleasant surprise.

I'll do a more comprehensive review once the new area is opened to the paying public - and can gauge how the crowds may work within its rather tight confines. They do seem to be discussing an area FastPass - which would limit the amount of visitors let into the area at one time.

 

The above peeling view of the Indy show building greeted the folks staying at the expensive Grand Californian Hotel last week... below you can see they fixed it in less than a week. Bravo!

The above peeling view of the Indy show building greeted the folks staying at the expensive Grand Californian Hotel last week... below you can see they fixed it in less than a week. Bravo!

The above peeling view of the Indy show building greeted the folks staying at the expensive Grand Californian Hotel last week... below you can see they fixed it in less than a week. Bravo!

 

We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon. See you at Disneyland!


9/26 UPDATE - Paul Pressler moves on | We're Hungry | Pooh Day | Marketing wins | Readers write | Buh-Bye WDI R&D - follow up | Goofy's Kitchen

A special thanks goes out to fellow MousePlaneteer David Lane today for the photos below, he covered for me last Sunday when I couldn't make it to the park. Thanks Dave.

 

Paul Pressler moves on

Just as I uploaded the update below - the news broke that Paul Pressler will succeed Millard Drexler as president and chief executive of the specialty-clothing retailer the GAP.

I wish Mr. Pressler the best in his new employment. I'm sure he will do a wonderful job for them.

 

We're Hungry

On Sunday, September 22nd there were a lot of hungry cast members in the new California Adventure park (DCA) during the evening hours. Why? It seems the cast member cafeteria that serves the entire park, called the "DCA Cafe," was shut down completely due to a lack of food.

How could DCA's employees be turned away from a cafeteria with no food, while meals continued to be served on the other side of the wall to the Park's paying visitors? The answer lies with the fact that the DCA Cafe is not actually operated by Disney, unlike the other employee cafeterias in Disneyland and at the Disney Hotels nearby. Rather, the DCA Cafe is owned and operated by an outside company that runs cafeterias in business and academic locations around the country.

In a photo that hangs in the Disney Studios commissary you can see Walt Disney hosting some visitors for lunch
In a photo that hangs in the Disney Studios commissary, you can see Walt Disney hosting some visitors for lunch

Ever since Disneyland opened in 1955, there has always been an employee cafeteria available for the Park employees. Walt Disney himself set up the Disneyland employee food service using the Studios commissary as a model. The first Disneyland cafeteria, dubbed the "InnBetween" because it was located in between Tomorrowland and Main Street, still operates to this day. The InnBetween has been refurbished and expanded several times since 1955, but it continues to be very popular with cast members eating breakfast before their workdays, or having lunch or dinner during their shifts.

When New Orleans Square was built in the mid 1960s, a second cafeteria was built underground for Park employees called the Westside Diner. It offers standard cafeteria and grill items, as well as a pork chop or seafood gumbo dinner, or Monte Cristo sandwich, since it shares the same kitchen space as the Blue Bayou and French Market where the Park visitors eat upstairs. And over at the Resort's hotels, there are several cafeterias offering heavily subsidized and tasty meals to Hotel cast members.

But when DCA was being planned in the late 1990s, the Disney executives wanted to get away from the annoyingly low-profit business of providing meals to the employees. The operation of the employee cafeteria built in 1996 next to the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) administration building had been contracted out to Eurest Dining.

It should be noted here that Eurest continues to provide a high level of service and food offerings to the TDA folks who head there on their lunch breaks. The TDA location offers a wide range of freshly prepared lunch entrees, as well as deli sandwiches, a gourmet salad bar, and lots of options for beverages that include bottled juices, trendy coffees, and sparkling waters. So the Disney execs planning DCA decided to just let the same concern handle the new Park's employee cafeteria, and be done with worrying about such trivialities as happy, well fed employees who were cared for backstage. But that's where they made their mistake.

Ever since the DCA Cafe opened during the Park's construction phase with Eurest managing the place, it was kind of a mess. The lines were always long, and diners complained that the food was mediocre yet higher priced than the Disneyland cafeterias. The folks eating there, who included some Disney execs overseeing DCA construction, wrote the Cafe's shortcomings off to growing pains and an over-inflated number of cast members and construction crews all trying to eat there at once.

And during DCA's construction, WDI was hosting weekly barbecue lunches on the construction site every Friday afternoon with catered food and even unlimited bottled beer to celebrate the end of the work week. So the DCA Cafe was just a nuisance brushed under the rug during DCA's frenzied construction for those visiting from Burbank and Glendale.

But once the Park opened and the construction lunch crowds went away, the DCA Cafe failed to improve for those left behind. In fact, it seemed to actually be getting worse and worse. But since the big shot execs who were in charge of DCA's construction had moved back to Burbank and Glendale and TDA, there wasn't anyone of any importance to witness how low the service and food was sinking at the DCA Cafe. And so it got worse and worse as 2001 turned in to 2002.

Even the soon to be closed Soap Opera Bistro still offers a full menu, unlike the employee cafe
Even the soon-to-be-closed Soap Opera Bistro still offers a full menu, unlike the employee cafe

And then, within the past month or so, cast members reported the DCA Cafe began cutting back on menu items almost daily. The daily hot entrees disappeared, replaced with the same canned enchiladas and tasteless rice dishes day after day. And then finally even the canned enchiladas went away and the hot entree station was put in mothballs. The make-your-own deli sandwich bar was shut down. The salad bar offered fewer and fewer items, and the things remaining began to look noticeably wilted and brown. The dairy case wasn't restocked, and the cartons of milk and yogurt finally disappeared. The fresh fruit offered at the cash registers went away. The short-order cook had no tuna or chicken salad. Only frozen corn dogs and entrees that utilized frozen hamburger patties could be made at the grill. But those were just the start.

They stopped offering french fries, since they no longer had any to put in the deep-fry machines. And then a few days later, they ran out of chicken tenders. Even many of the cafe's employees disappeared, with just a lone short-order cook and a single cashier/housekeeper left to run the place. Compared to the battalion of Disney cooks, cashiers, dishwashers and busboys who staff the Disney-run employee cafeterias at Disneyland and the Hotels, the DCA Cafe was compared by many of the cast members to a poorly stocked soup kitchen in the inner city -- except for the fact that the DCA Cafe even stopped offering soup in its final days.

Apparently this past weekend things finally came to a head. All weekend long the offerings were the slimmest they'd ever been, according to the cast members who contacted us. Basically, if you didn't want a hamburger patty dressed with pre-packaged condiments and a fountain soft drink in a foam cup, you were out of luck.

And then finally, Sunday afternoon, with hundreds of DCA cast members still planning on taking their dinner breaks later in the afternoon and evening, the DCA Cafe closed and locked its doors to DCA's cast members. The cashier got a red marker and taped a sign to the locked doors that read, "Due to lack of food we are closed. Sorry."

Cast members stood in front of the locked doors and scratched their heads, and then called back to their locations to ask their supervisors what they were supposed to do. Never mind that the DCA Cafe is the only air conditioned break area on that side of the Park, and many cast members head there with a brown bag lunch to get out of the heat and noise during their lunch breaks. The food may be awful, and the pickings increasingly slim, but the DCA Cafe remained one of only three air conditioned break areas available for DCA cast members. But then the place shut down.

Some cast members pounded on the locked doors, and the short order cook yelled back that they were closed and pointed to the hand drawn sign taped to the door. He even elaborated a bit and acknowledged to some outraged cast members that his manager wouldn't order any more food because the location wasn't making enough money and he was trying to look good to his supervisors. He also told one cast member that the rest of the employees at that location had quit and that the manager didn't think the DCA Cafe was important enough to keep operating. Good move there, eh?

Remember, this outside company also operates the Eat Ticket cafeteria for the white-collar workers, managers, and executives on the opposite side of the Resort at the TDA building. And you can be sure that the Eat Ticket was well stocked and staffed by Eurest Dining during the weeks leading up to the DCA Cafe's sudden closure, and that not a single wilted piece of lettuce or bruised banana dared to appear at the Eat Ticket for those Disney white-collar employees.

During the same week that the DCA Cafe had run out of french fries and milk, and was offering leftover canned enchiladas yet again as its lone daily entree, the Eat Ticket was featuring freshly prepared pasta dishes tossed while you wait, a traditionally trained sushi chef in a crisp white Japanese uniform making fresh California rolls or made-to-order sushi prepared before the delighted eyes of TDA staff, and any number of fresh sandwiches, grill items, or gourmet salad fixings. Heck, the Eat Ticket even had milk!

But the same company made a conscious decision to offer a much lower level of service to the DCA cast members at their satellite DCA Cafe location. They apparently knew that they had to keep the suits at TDA who pull all the strings happy, while they gave the ultimate cold shoulder (and bad tuna salad) to the nobodies out in the theme park.

Unfortunately, the TDA folks who approved the outside deal just don't seem to get out to that troubled new theme park. And they certainly don't eat with the hired help at some unfortunate place like the DCA Cafe, as they usually retreat back to the restaurants of Downtown Disney for a expense account power lunch before trekking back to TDA. Or, if they are on a budget, they go to the cast member cafeteria downstairs at the Grand Californian Hotel, which always has wonderful things for lunch.

Now you may be asking - why couldn't the CMs just go to the employee restaurant at the hotel for lunch? It seems that in order to prevent a parade of costumed DCA cast members tromping through the lobby of the Grand Californian, only Grand Californian cast members or Disney employees in business attire are allowed to eat at the Grand Californian's cast member cafeteria, which is just steps away from Grizzly River Run.

This means that the DCA cast members are only allowed to eat at the DCA Cafe on their 30-minute lunch breaks. And never mind the fact that the DCA hourly cast members' counterparts over at Disneyland are still eating comparatively well at the InnBetween and Westside Diner the whole time.

Of course the closure of the DCA Cafe "due to lack of food" sounded some alarm bells with the DCA managers from Stores and Custodial and such, who were concerned for their upset hourly cast members. And hopefully those bells will be heard by the TDA execs. But it all just goes to show how cutting corners in the short term, by doing things like hiring an outside contractor to run your employee dining service, will end up just hurting you in the long term.

The DCA cast members, many of whom contacted us, were furious. And since many of the DCA cast members used to work at Disneyland, they know from firsthand experience what a real cast member cafeteria is supposed to be like, and the type of service it's supposed to offer. Too bad they don't work at Disneyland. Or at TDA.

It was always Walt Disney's biggest worry, that a nice air conditioned office building for the executives who ran Disneyland would be a big mistake. He felt it would be an excuse for them to stay away from the park; a place to hide out and distance themselves from the public and the employees.

 

This peeling view of the Indy show building greets the folks staying at the expensive Grand Californian Hotel. As if all the tram noise down below isn't enough...
This peeling view of the Indy show building greets the folks staying at the expensive Grand Californian Hotel. As if all the tram noise down below isn't enough...

 

Pooh Day

The Winnie The Pooh attraction, which is still officially called "The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh," is now planned to be unveiled to the national media on Monday, October 7, 2002.

As part of the multi-day media party for Bug's Land and Flik's Fun Fair, Disney will host a breakfast in the queue and station area of the Pooh attraction in Critter Country. Imagineers who helped design the attraction will be on hand to answer questions, and artwork of the new Disneyland ride will be officially on display for the first time.

There will be a second reception that evening at the Pooh ride that will feature the Flik stuff, the Pooh information, a sneak peak at some of the technology being used in DCA's new Aladdin stage show, as well as a media ride through of the updated Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction.

The general idea is to showcase to the media all of the new things currently at the Disneyland Resort, as well as things coming within the next six months.

 

Yes, you can see the new Tower of Terror at DCA from inside Disneyland in several places.
Yes, you can see the new Tower of Terror at DCA from inside Disneyland in several places.

 

Marketing wins

Now that LuminAria has suddenly been canceled, and the Little Mermaid lagoon show the Entertainment folks were working feverishly on for next spring at DCA has been canned, the dust is settling, and many insiders are commenting that "Marketing has won."

It seems the Marketing folks were able to put together a stronger case for going forward with cheap and easy things like the Rockin' The Bay series that will return next summer. Since TDA has already spent more on DCA during its first 18 months of operation that it had originally planned -- with sudden additions like the Electrical Parade, Blast!, Millionaire, and Rockin' The Bay, not to mention two summers worth of millions of dollars given away in ticket discounts and free children admissions -- TDA is looking for ways to diminish the short-term investment in DCA.

Remember -- Disneyland has a big 50th Anniversary that is rapidly approaching, and all of the attention and money can't continue to be poured in to DCA. At the same time, the embattled Marketing department saw a chance to improve its tarnished image by proposing cheap and easy "fixes" for DCA, like another summer of Rockin' The Bay concerts.

Entertainment has been put on hold with its DCA lagoon show plans until 2006 now (except for the Aladdin show), once Disneyland's 50th Anniversary festivities conclude. That hasn't stopped Entertainment from going forward with plans and proposals for it's future lagoon show however.

Just this past week they had a height-test balloon out in the middle of Paradise Bay that ascended almost as high as the Sun Wheel. That height would be the limit of the tallest fountain during the most dramatic crescendo of a dancing waters show that will reportedly take its inspiration from the popular Bellagio fountain show in Las Vegas. Stay tuned on that one; I'm just thrilled it may be smoke-free.

Although the Marketing folks seemed to have won the battle for the summer of 2003 at DCA, the Entertainment department still intends to win the war on getting more bodies in to DCA later this decade. We'll see if the new Aladdin show coming soon to the Hyperion is a crowd-pleaser, or just another showcase for what Anne Hamburger so totally misunderstands about Disney theme park entertainment.

 

Work continues on the Matterhorn - it's become very apparent they are enlarging the openings. Looks like the lawyers are worried the clearances between the riders and the rockwork are too close.
Work continues on the Matterhorn - it's become very apparent they are enlarging the openings. Looks like the lawyers are worried the clearances between the riders and the rock work are too close.

 

Readers write

Letters, I get letters. James kindly writes:

Al, thanks for pointing out repeatedly how important painting is.

A few months ago at Disneyland, waiting for the train with my wife at the Tomorrowland station, I pointed out to her a place where peeling paint showed several different layers of paint on the railings. I commented to my wife about how it really needed to be repainted.

A cast member, overhearing us, yelled after us as we boarded the train: "In the future, we don't paint!"

My wife and I would PAY DISNEY to let us come in at 4 a.m. and paint.

Now now, don't give them any ideas James. We're already paying for the walkway between the two parks as it is.

Actually I'm delighted to get a note like yours, although believe it or not I still get a few others complaining that I focus too much (and so negatively) on "minor paint issues."

The following two photos, though, I think make a good example of why paint is so important. Both are of Minnie's House in ToonTown, before and after the new paint job it got a week or so ago.

Before

Before (above), and after (below)

After

You know, not painting at all for seven years may mean some folks don't know of a Disneyland that could be any other way, but I have to say one of the reasons I loved the park so much as a kid was because of the vibrancy it had, in both vivid colors and immaculate upkeep.

It's nice to see the painting finally going on as it should, but the real key to all this is a regular schedule of upkeep.

 

Of course you'll have to wait a while in the mornings until they actually OPEN ToonTown before you can see all the new paint. Lord, remember the days when the whole park opened and closed the actual posted hours?
Of course you'll have to wait a while in the mornings until they actually open ToonTown before you can see all the new paint. Remember the days when the whole park opened and closed the actual posted hours?

...A kind source writes in:

Just a quick note to be sure you know that much more is going on with the Disneyland Railroad than just refurbishing the stations.

In the northeast backstage area (next to Small World show building and parade Step-Off point), the trainhouse is having its entire track torn out and replaced. (You have probably noticed the trainhouse through the opening in the berm across from the Agrifuture sign).

When the trains come in at the end of the night, the track curves north to the backstage area, then forks out into four separate tracks to fit each of the four steam trains in the trainhouse. The trains are just sitting inside the house, waiting for the construction to be finished. It's supposed to be done within the next couple weeks...

As of today there is still nothing but dirt and gravel where they dug out the old tracks... But I'm really glad that they decided to do this because the tracks and the surrounding asphalt were in really bad shape.

Thank you for your kind note, I got several with the same information. Let's hope they will also replace the rest of the track around the park - it is also in pretty bad condition. That's actually one of the main reasons that they give as to why they had to discontinue the rides up in the engine with the train engineers.

People keep telling me the next item is old news, but considering some of the other notes I have below, I think more than a few of you may not know or be aware of the following.

...A kind soul wrote in:


The Mansion last Sunday undergoing its holiday makeover.

This year's Nightmare Haunted Mansion will feature a new score adapted from Danny's songs from Nightmare Before Christmas. It was recently recorded by John Debney, who has previously adapted Elfman's themes on film scores such as Spy Kids.

I'm looking forward to this redo of the music -- as good as the makeover was last year, something like this could have really put it over the top. [They used non-Elfman sound-alike songs last time.] I'm delighted they went ahead and made the investment in the new soundtrack to make the change for the better.

You many not know that Debney is also a major composer in his own right (Emperor's New Groove, Princess Diaries, Cats & Dogs, Jimmy Neutron, Snow Dogs, Scorpion King, Liar Liar). He has also scored a number of other Disney park attractions, including the terrific Phantom Manor soundtrack at Disneyland Paris.

By the way, the former kitchen shop in New Orleans Square is now getting a makeover for the holidays judging from the sign on the rehab wall out front (below):

It looks like this year they won't run out of Nightmare-themed merchandise in the first week.

...Kevin wrote:

Thanks so much as usual for your fantastic updates on Disneyland. I practically grew up there and am a former cast member. Went there last year for the first time in years. It was great, but the neglect was also obvious. Keep aiming your mighty lenses. Hopefully they'll get the message and return it to what it should be. (What a dream, huh?)

So here's my question. In your 9/20/02 update, you show a picture of the Small World facade - is it my eyes or did they actually repaint the facade to the original white and gold instead of that hideous pastel nightmare of prior years? I hope they did - this would be reason enough to fly out and take another look.

Actually I covered that in a PAST UPDATE Kevin; just click on that link and you'll see a photo of a sign they had out front explaining just what they did.

It sure looks great - I wasn't there last week, but I'm hoping they also repaint the gift shop at the exit and redo the leftover Light Magic towers on the walkway approaching it.

...CJ wrote:

Hello Al, and thank you for your great column!! Am going to Disneyland in October with a huge bunch of my family and was wondering when Flik's Fun Fair was opening. Thanks for your time!

I did mention in a past column that they announced a date of October 7, 2002 for the public, but they are also doing a few advance merchandise event dates for premium annual passholders.

If you visit the Disneyland.com annual passholder section you'll see the following two packages offered:

"a bug's land" premiere - Premium Annual Passholder Event - Event Package A - Friday, October 4, 2002

This special sneak preview offer will give Premium Annual Passholder's the first opportunity to get a bug's eye view of "a bug's land," the newest addition to Disney's California Adventure park. Each limited-attendance designated preview time will give Guests the opportunity to become the size of a bug and discover a place where being small is big fun.

This package will include:

  • Dated Premium Annual Passholder "a bug's land" Souvenir Fun Map
  • Opportunity to get a bug's eye view of Flik's Fun Fair
  • "a bug's land" snack and beverage
  • All new Ugly Bug Ball Show

Dated Premium Annual Passholder commemorative pin featuring Francis & Dot with the Flik's Fun Fair logo

Tickets for this package are $10 per Guest. Limited to 5,000 Guests. No other discounts will be offered in conjunction with this package. EVENT INFORMATION SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. A valid Premium Annual Passport & event ticket is required to enter "a bug's land" premiere at Disney's California Adventure park for this event. As always, paid admission is required to enter Disney's California Adventure park.

And also for those out of town or who want to splurge:

"a bug's land" bug bash with Hotel package - Premium Annual Passholder Event - Event Package "B" - Saturday, October 5, 2002 - 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This special sneak preview offer will give Premium Annual Passholder's the first opportunity to get a bug's eye view of "a bug's land," the newest addition to Disney's California Adventure park.

This package will include:

  • One night hotel accommodation at the Disneyland Hotel*
  • Breakfast at a Disneyland Resort Hotel restaurant
  • Special Green carpet arrival at "a bug's land"
  • Bug-o-licious themed Buffet
  • "a bug's land" live Music
  • Bugology 101- classroom in "It's Tough to Be A Bug" including special Guest appearances
  • Meet and Greet with a Bugologist and some of the creators of "a bug's land"
  • Dated Premium Annual Passholder "a bug's land" Souvenir Fun Map
  • Dated Premium Annual Passholder commemorative pin featuring Francis & Dot with the Flik's Fun Fair logo
  • All new Ugly Bug Ball Show
  • "a bug's land" photo opportunity
  • Commemorative Flik's Fun Fair lanyard & pin (Edition size of 1000)

Opportunity to purchase the following Limited-Edition " a bug's land" Event Merchandise through the Random Selection Process

  • Five (5) Limited-Edition pins featuring characters from each attraction at "Flik's Fun Fair" (Edition size 1500 each)
  • Limited-edition boxed pin set (Edition size 500)
  • Limited-edition three Pin Puzzle set (Edition size 100)
  • Limited -edition "Large" bug pin (Edition size 100)

Tickets for this package are $395 per Guest. No other discounts will be offered in conjunction with this package. Restrictions apply. EVENT INFORMATION SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. A valid Premium Annual Passport & event ticket is required to enter "a bug's land" bug bash at Disney's California Adventure park for this event. As always, paid admission is required to enter Disney's California Adventure park.

I'm guessing here since the events are still being offered as of this writing, that they have not sold out. They should have considered offering it to all passholders and not just premium, I think.

Myself, I can wait. As nice as the detailing is in the new addition, it appears to me that they kind of blew off the adults when it came to the rides. Also the pin trader angle disgusts me - there are a few real hardcore nuts who tend to ruin it all for the casual or new collectors.  I've made it a policy to avoid them.

If you missed our photo tour of the new land, CLICK ON THIS LINK. I think you'll find the concise way we covered it will save you a lot of time and yet still hit all the highlights.

...On a related note, James wrote:

I'm hearing radio ads on KBIG now promoting "A Bug's Land". (I think they were also calling it "Disneyland's California Adventure.")  One ad referred to "A Bug's Land including Flik's Fun Fair" but most of the time just "A Bug's Land, inspired by the Disney movie A Bug's Life" with no reference to "Flik's Fun Fair."

The reason for this approach is the dismal DCA attendance, James - for many visitors to the park, the Bugs 3-D movie will be new, as will the rest of the park, for that matter.

But I have to wonder how misleading this is, as it's not really a whole new land. It's simply an overhaul of a bad idea (the farm) incorporating the one thing people would like (the 3-D movie), if they could find it.

...Finally, another kind soul wrote in about the Christmas parade at Disneyland:

Well, here's an update Al,

1) Lilo & Stitch are replacing Meg & Herc in the toy block section.

2) They ice ring float will not have Chip & Dale this year. Mickey & Minnie will replace them.

So that means that the horsedrawn carriage that the used to carry Mickey & Minnie will not be used, or might contain other people.

Anyhow, Chip and Dale will be riding and driving the red mini Humvee in the parade. You might have seen it in that little show that Donald had in DCA.

Thank you for the update. While I am happy to hear of the changes (and they sound like nice ones), it's been how many years now for this edition of the parade? Remember when the park used to have new parades every few years?

 

Buh-Bye WDI R&D - a follow up

A kind soul wrote in:

The R&D layoffs were a surprise. The real shock in the layoff is that they have eliminated some of the real creative people and replaced them with those who just submit to the company's politics (kind of like getting rid of the Kirks and keeping Braverman -- only worse).

The company has gotten so bogged down due to the overwhelming numbers of those who just kowtow to management pressures that there is little real creative innovation being allowed there any more. Those who used to constantly fight for quality and integrity have either been eliminated or put in positions where they no longer have any influence.

(The number you indicated as being laid off [100], seems high, unless there are others being laid off elsewhere. I don't think they even have 100 people in R&D there. I understand it was less than two dozen. But maybe that number is if they completely shut R&D down.)

If Disney is even capable of surviving with any sort of creative integrity, it appears to be fading rapidly. Every step they take still seems to result in the loss of more capabilities. Eventually, they will be beyond recovery. They have an immense amount of repair just to get their existing parks deterioration under control.

On top of that they have to improve on the quality uniqueness of their new attractions. If they think they can maintain any sort of lead in the theme park business with the kind of attractions they have been putting in DCA, they are in for more bad news.

Amen. Thank you for the heads up as far as the numbers - there were a lot of upset folks last week, so it was tough locking down the figures.

As far as improving the quality of the attractions they now do, I have little hope of that with the current suits in charge. They need to make changes, starting at the very top, to fix that problem.

 

Goofy's Kitchen

I've been hearing from more than a few of you that you were not aware that Kevin Yee's recent Chef Kevin pieces here at MousePlanet were not just features about dining at Goofy's Kitchen, but are eye-opening news items on the recent problems there.

I urge you to make an effort to read the two columns, the first of which has some very interesting photos at the end, the second of which features an exclusive interview with a former employee there.

Hopefully the issues raised by everyone involved have been addressed.

 

We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon. See you at Disneyland!

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ON THIS PAGE

9/30 UPDATE - Paul Pressler in his own words | Ten Things NOT to Do | What Do the Cast Members (Employees) Think? | What May Have Happened? | We're Hungry Pt. 2 | Flik's Now Open

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9/26 UPDATE - Paul Pressler moves on | We're Hungry | Pooh Day | Marketing wins | Readers write | Buh-Bye WDI R&D - follow up | Goofy's Kitchen


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