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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
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.
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:
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]:
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:
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:
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.
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...
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.
What Do the Cast Members (Employees) Think?
From a few different e-mails, all combined here for easier reading:
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):
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!
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.
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:
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.
I'm sure Cheryl can direct your e-mails to the proper folks. Just tell her you're hungry. :)
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.
We'll have another D-I-G update for you soon. See you at Disneyland!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Letters, I get letters. James kindly writes:
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 (above), and after (below)
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.
...A kind source writes in:
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:
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.
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.
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:
And also for those out of town or who want to splurge:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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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