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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 7/1/99 - Winds of change...

Yes, it's been awhile since the last update, but let's get going on a new one here and catch up.

First, a quick note for all of you that have written asking where I am or what is happening [since I'm currently not posting on the newsgroups]: 

I'm in the middle of a very large project that just doesn't allow for me to participate in them at this time. This effort has also slowed e-mail response to even more of a crawl, and also put in dent into just about anything else I've wanted to also get done in my life. 

Hopefully this project will be completed soon, and no I can't tell you anything about it - because then I would have to... well you know - it could get real messy.  ;)

"I'll only stay until the wind changes..." - from Mary Poppins

Has the wind changed at Disneyland - for the better? As each day goes by since Paul Pressler's apparent promotion last year [and the sad accident in particular last December], it seems that things have finally seemed to turn a corner at the park.

The Mark Twain is back on the river and looking better than it has in five plus years, the Columbia sails again fully refreshed, and the canoes have returned this summer after almost being lost last season. Trash cans are finally getting painted, ToonTown got some paint [and yet still begs for more], long neglected areas of the park have finally seen some of the care that used to be a Disney hallmark lavished upon them again.  It's nice to see the sub lagoon finally on some kind of regular clean-up schedule for debris again, [even though the subs sit unused, with people asking all the time why they aren't running].

The Haunted Mansion 30th Anniversary event [despite the many glitches that need to be looked at / learned from in organizing it and the merchandise] seems to indicate the park's management finally understands the value of the park attractions. Especially when it comes to unique merchandising opportunities.

The special CD that was created for the Mansion event was / is a huge hit, and Tony Baxter himself [as was related to me] purchased copies and had them sent to both Pressler and Eisner as an example of what kinds of items the park should be considering for the future. In his speech at the opening of the new music store on Main St. the week before he also indicated the success of this title would hopefully pave the way for more albums.

Annual Passholders are benefiting from targeted merchandise events, which indicates a renewed attention to them, and the opening soon of special merchandising venues for Pirates and Mansion in New Orleans Square will return ride-specific product to the shelves again after years of just duplicating the local Disney Store and Toys R Us inventory of summer movie merchandise.

Even the windows in the Emporium on Main St., which were scaled back a bit for Hercules and Mulan displays the last two years are back to their delightfully detailed glory with animated tableaus for Tarzan rivaling even those Manhattan Christmas season windows that New York City is so famous for. The tree-surfing Tarzan window draws crowds constantly.

I've had some brief chats with folks I know at the park and in Glendale and Burbank and asked if the park had finally turned a corner this year, since so many things appeared to me to be back on track. Most of them feel they could still be doing better, but that yes, the tide has begun to turn. A lot of them point to Cynthia Harriss, along with Mike Berry, and they feel both of them have more of an understanding of the issue of showmanship and extra care that the park requires.

Harriss' entrance / appearance at the Mansion event alone at the Fantasyland theater, with her rhinestone studded black cape - as she was raised up via the hidden door on the floor up onto the stage helped underscore her understanding of what people expect from Disneyland special events, not just a good show, but a dazzling one. Compare that to Pressler's stilted performance at the opening of New Tomorrowland, and you can really see the difference in their styles.

And on a personal note, it's great to see Harriss so often in the park - one can easily observe that she takes the time to try to talk to people who approach her. Already since last December, I myself have seen her out and about more often than I ever saw Pressler in his entire reign. It's great to see a VP of her level in the park on weekends when they do some of their bigger numbers, since it shows an interest in things past the normal 9 to 5 many of the suits usually pull.

Is it all milk and honey [or churros and coke] now, and have all the problems been solved?  Honestly, they have a long road still to come back on from the many headaches they have inherited. Some attractions like Autopia for example, still don't open until 11 AM, [Goofy's Bounce House at noon] still unforgivable during the summer season no matter what the excuse. ToonTown closes early at 8 PM most nights the rest of the park is open till midnight. They still need to work hard on getting lands and attractions better staffed to avoid line and crowd control problems. Fireworks were cut back too much this summer and they don't give as good a show as they should.

But it appears a corner has been turned this summer at Disneyland.  And like I told a friend on a recent Sunday, "today I feel like I'm ten years old all over again - Disneyland is doing a lot of things right." That's quite a different feeling from only a year ago I would say.

Here are some quick photos of recent park rehabs:

 The Mark Twain is back!
The Mark Twain getting ready to sail, looks just grand doesn't it? All spiffy and new. Just as it should.

 Plaza Inn at dusk.
The Plaza Inn at dusk, I was told the front entrance doors are from the Disney movie The Happiest Millionaire.

Plaza Inn is back - and in one word, it's wow.

I finally have had a few different meals at the newly reopened Plaza Inn the last two weeks and I have to express my delight in what used to be one of the more lackluster and longer lined dining locations at the park has become something to look forward to when it comes to either lunch or dinner.  [Breakfast should be added soon, maybe by the time I get this report up, since they are still ramping up.]

They've done a terrific job in the interior - even the soda dispensers are themed! And the gleaming brass and glass motif of the past was kept in this rehab and enhanced. In particular, I admired the new paintings in the entrance foyer - showing the Plaza Inn during a winter snow party and a summer dinner dance back at the turn of the century. Very, very nice. The theming is just so complete.

The terrific staff - which is working extra hard to make sure they can run things properly - serves up a good variety of dishes. Although the prices are still high by everyday dining standards, they now provide a better assortment of entrees and the quality of those offerings is way above what you would expect to find in a theme park. It's a solid dining choice now, instead of someplace that may have been last on your list in the past.

The 10.99 Fried Chicken plate gets my vote as your first choice, since it gives you three good-sized pieces, freshly breaded, steam-cooked - then quickly fried, and a very good cole slaw made with almond slivers. The included potato strips, which are sliced long and then coated with a spiced batter, are very good also.

If you don't want the chicken, they also offer several different 9.99 Pastas with a choice of sauce [a similar selection to what was offered at the now closed Plaza Pavilion not too long ago] and a Cobb Salad [the jury is still out on this one - the smaller serving size seems to be the problem here]. By the way, the pasta here is better than what is offered in a similar mode at Redd Rockett's - if only because you get a real plate and silverware, which tends to keep your entrée warm until you finish it. 

There is also a puff pastry / stew combo "Kettle Favorites" line that is just fair - I had the beef stew version and was not all that pleased. There is a chicken type and vegetarian type stew also. I was also told a soup was to be made available - about the only thing that is still missing on the menu - but so far haven't found it being served. Inexpensive smaller dinner salads are also available. 

Drinks are refillable, desserts are huge [the Carrot Cake in particular is wonderful] and the new scatter service system turned one of the longest lines in the park into one of the shortest ones now.

TIPS: The longest line seems to be for the pasta dishes, what most folks don't know is that you can order any entrée item on the menu from any other entrée station, so don't be shy about asking for what you want even if it is across the counter somewhere else. It will save you what little wait there is now. Also be sure to flash your premium AP for a discount, or your MKC card for same from 2 to 5 PM.

Especially compared to the rather dismal dining options offered at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom that I've experienced in past trips, Disneyland out here has them beat by a mile with this new revamp. This change was a vast improvement and very welcomed.

On the subject of dining...

It appears that they have settled on combining the Casa Mexicana / Big Thunder BBQ restaurants in Frontierland. Both restaurants will get a revised menu, a revamped Casa Mex location [it appears the Frontierland shooting gallery is history] and they will finally add cooked-to-order hamburgers to the menu. 

Corporate picnics, now housed in the old Hunchback arena will move into the Big Thunder BBQ location and free up that arena for - your guess is as good as mine. Hmm, maybe they finally are moving ahead with that new Frontierland area e-ticket type of attraction? We'll have to see this winter.

Tarzan save tree?

An interesting rumor, labels as such since I can't seem to confirm this story, is floating around about the new Tarzan Treehouse. [See a quick tour of it that the D-I-G now offers HERE.] From what I understand, it seems that we almost didn't get this attraction, and that if it didn't get done, the treehouse would have been permanently closed.

Apparently the Robinson's arboreal home was in need of some major work, there were lots of structural problems they were finding in parts of the tree. Since it was low attendance, it was probably, if kept unchanged, just going to be closed. There was just no way anyone could justify the expense to repair it for what it drew attendance-wise.

Then along comes Tarzan - and WDI finally finds a way with this new movie to keep it. It appears that Pressler then tried to stop it, that's why I was told the tree was supposed to close that one day, and they ended up waiting a week, but he was talked into pushing ahead with it. Reportedly at that time he then warned everyone that "this better be great."

As was then told to me, Pressler was knocked out with his walk-though before it opened, and suggested that the other parks could benefit from it also. So Orlando might be next, maybe as soon as next year. Pressler is apparently crowing this is now his idea of course. ;)

For a while before the treehouse opened apparently they had some problems with the Tarzan costuming - it was even suggested that he not appear as a character at the meet and greet area. Pressler was insistent that they find a way, and they have apparently solved the dilemma of a half-naked man in Disneyland with the costume you can now see on the treehouse page on this site.

The way I figure it is this - for years Daddies got to enjoy the princesses, in particular Jasmine and Ariel, with their rather skimpy outfits. Tarzan is finally something Mommy can get excited about. Turnabout is fair play don't you think? 

Pooh everywhere, oh bother...

Here goes the rumor mill again - it seems we are destined to see a Pooh attraction somewhere at Disneyland soon. [Even with a sales curve that's on the way down from overexposure of the character.] Where this thing might end up is the subject of much speculation nowadays.

Rumor one [which still holds quite a bit of water] is a flume type attraction replacing the Country Bears. That move may have been put on hold for a bit, no one is sure. At one point WDI was told the budget would only allow for a limited dark ride type of attraction, lots of plywood and only using about half of the Bear's building to save the money. They were supposed to have put their foot down and said no.

Rumor two is that the Pooh attraction expands into more of a land /playground thing and boots Tom Sawyer off his island so he can take it over. Why does this sound so bothersome? Will the Mark Twain be painted gray and become the Eeyore? It's a bit far-fetched sounding, especially considering how a new e-ticket attraction just might make it that way instead.

Rumor three is that Pooh moves into Fantasyland and replaces the low ridership Snow White and Pinocchio attractions, with a giant Pooh shop added for good measure. Um, let's hope the stuff they were smoking when they came up with this one has fatal side effects, ok?

So Pooh is coming, no matter what it seems. The question remains where and how.

Yeargin working the attractions...

Yep, Paul "I don't need to learn about the attractions" Yeargin is finally working shifts in key ones, such as Pirates, at long last. Seems the word came from above that he was to spend time learning more about them.

At least they are trying with him, but why do I feel this is a lost cause as far as getting the guy interested in all this. He should be in consumer products instead.

From Al's "why don't they watch over this" file...

Sometimes I get e-mail or an IM alerting me to something that the park needs to address as quickly as they can. Here's one item that really bothered me, see if you don't agree. It's about the lack of cast member supervision [to save a few bucks] on the newly rerouted Space Mt. queue:

Whoever decided that reroute the queue on the concourse, and then decide not to staff any security over there, should be fired on the spot right now. Ok well besides the fact that they seem to like breaking the lights up there, you know what kids do with that big planter up there right in front of space mountain? 

I saw kids running up and jumping on top of this thing. Some of them were getting their photos taken up there. And some of them were walking around on it. And if they wanted to, they could have easily just jumped right onto the roof of the queue and climbed right up the side of the mountain. More than a few were trying to get into the closed upper level of the Tomorrowland arcade too.

To add to this account, on more than a few occasions I've seen mounds of trash up there also, due to a lack of custodial visits in the area also. 

Let's hope they staff this area properly before someone gets hurt. 

Spending the Millennium in line…

As you've read in past updates, apparently the left hand knew not what the right hand was doing, and the park is probably facing a huge new year's Millennium eve with a reduced entertainment schedule and ride shut downs [due to Y2K concerns] starting at eleven PM.

I was told that apparently some planners are counting on 20,000 people to stay in closed attraction lines on New Years Eve from eleven PM until after midnight and not clog up the rest of the park's limited entertainment venues.

They can't be serious can they? Who the hell is going to stay in line during a once-in-a-lifetime event like this? Well, it could very well be a real big problem. 

Keep in mind the entertainment department had to find out via this site that they were shutting down attractions early in the first place. ;) 

More parking headaches for Cast Members...

It looks like with many of the new attraction elements for the new California Adventure park being stored in the Katella employee lot, so they will be running out of parking for them real soon. Like last year, they are looking at possibly doing parking for the lowest level CMs now at Anaheim Stadium, and running shuttles to and from the park.

This may actually end up being easier in the long run, since they can avoid the more congested Katella and opt instead for a Ball Road drop off. We'll see what they figure out here on this one.

Other tidbits from around the Disney Company...

- Want to get Eisner to grimace? [And not mention the word "Sparky" to do it?] Just ask about the Cruise Line. Seems all the discounting they are doing is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems they are having there. 

I keep hearing from travel agent types that Disney went into the market determined to do it their way, and blew off what many consider to be standard things cruise ships should offer. The addition of kids is also a major problem for that market too - most people who book those types of trips don't want them around.

My guess is that they figured on growing the market - and didn't count on the fact most cruise customers have a lot of repeat visits.  The expense and limited offerings on the Disney ships tend to discourage return bookings, something that the cruise industry thrives on.

- Speaking of travel agents, they as a group now seem to have a lot of apathy towards booking anything else Disney [besides the Cruise Line]. Here's some brief observations from someone in the business:

[Disney's] reputation in the [travel] business is not very good. They have a high quality product, but are terrible to work with. Complacent is really the word to use here - since they are the only one so you have to use them. If they courted the industry, they would really increase the bottom line.

As it is now many agencies hate to book Disney. So they never push it. They give out brochures and then wait. That's it. They never even re-order new brochures. Says a lot about the current problems that they have, you would think that since this is a bottom line issue, they would fix it in a hurry, instead of just plodding along.

They shook up the home video division and apparently before that consumer products; isn't it time to get working on the travel side also? Sigh.

See you at the park!


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 5/11/99 - A quick flash on a few items

Here's a quickie - Disneyland has unplugged ALL of the arcade games in both the Tomorrowland and Critter Country arcades that involve using a gun type of device to shoot at things. Quite a reaction to Denver huh?

[Thanks to C.C. for noting this and pointing it out to me.]

DCA - no crowding allowed...

Of interest is a figure I heard today. According to folks who will be working the Paradise Pier complex DCA will close it's gates at 30,000! That's not very many people really.

Disney already knows there are going to be days during the opening summer season when DCA will shut it's gates around noon, and all those people are going to need a Park to go to and they will just turn to Disneyland instead. Shut the gates at 30,000, yikes!

And you know they are going to market the hell out this thing so that they will easily reach that capacity on many summer days.

I don't envy the folks working in Guest Relations much. ;-)

Yeargin, why does this guy not get it?

Seems Paul Yeargin doesn't want the Canoes to come back until Saturday, July 17th! That would have given the CM's a few weeks to practice before the Canoe races in August, then he'd shut 'em down again on Labor Day. This July 3rd date is a compromise for Yeargin, although people are still trying to push for an earlier date.

It just shows how obtuse Yeargin is about this thing [and running the park]. Basically the Canoes are coming back this summer not because it will be nice for the Guests, but only because there would be an uprising from the CM's if Yeargin canceled the Canoe races. Yeargin didn't even want to run them on the 4th of July, one of the busiest weekends of the year! And never mind that there is a huge chunk of the Disneyland that NO visitors can see without the big boats or Canoes.

So folks know, the Keelboats have never been decommissioned, there is no reason why they couldn't be brought back. In fact, rumor has it that they very well may return for summer '01 when DCA is shutting it's main gate at noon (30,000 bodies and DCA is closed, that's the policy now folks!) and all those funseekers are directed north of the ticket booths to good ole' Disneyland.

They are expecting big numbers, and lots of disgruntled visitors who have combo tickets but can't get into DCA. Imagine, you bought a combo ticket but it was difficult to gain access to half of what you paid for.

So you would think this current River scenario, among others, would be perfect for bringing back the Keelboats and running the Canoes regularly on weekends, but with Yeargin in charge his "numbers" are more important than the suffering show.

Right now, the Mark Twain may not be able to come back until around the 4th of July also. Once the rehab is completed (June 19th) CM's must be retrained before visitors are allowed onboard. The retraining process will take two or three weeks.

Still no official word yet on whether the Columbia can reopen before the Twain. Memorial Day and June could be kind of crappy for visitors who want to do something on the Rivers of America. Anyway, the saga continues on the River.

Oh, and those new colorful flags on the Columbia don't spell anything - they are just there for color and are mixed up not to say anything. It's amazing how two departments had to co-ordinate to get this little detail up - the show folks had to agree to remove, then put them back up after each show.

What happened to the Fireworks?

To save money the park won't be bringing back the Fireworks until June 25th [moved up from 4th of July]. Why so late? [When shows used to start on weekends beginning Easter?] Well they are telling CM's that when they moved the date back, they got NO formal complaints about it, so they thought it was OK to do so since the public didn't care.

Let's not discuss the fact that all complaints such as this are discouraged before people can even get to City Hall - and are even discouraged when you do get there to keep the numbers down and the bonuses up for folks.

How about some complaining folks? Via e-mail and in person. Let them know you miss the days when Fireworks began around Easter, ran weekends until June, and then nightly until Labor Day.


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 5/8/99 - Massacre on Flower Street?

OK folks, this is a HUGE update. It's a little late due to the large amount of info offered in it. Whip up the drink of your choice, [I've got a huge Martini] sit back, and prepare to stay here awhile. I promise that you won't be bored.

Massacre on Flower Street?

It appears that Judson Green and Paul Pressler are now pushing through a reorganization of WDI, along with their new finance guy [and former efficiency expert] henchman, Byron Pollitt.

Look for a lot of pink slips - lots of moves for some well known names to positions that will "sound good on paper, but essentially render them powerless" - and a re-focusing of the division into a real estate / retail development arm, with attraction design increasingly shopped to outside vendors.

It's sort of a sad change, in that it mirrors in a way what the film studios did many years ago when they shut down in-house production of movies. Basically they then ended up [for the most part] just buying / financing properties developed by outside producers.

What the company gains in savings from reduced overhead, it will lose when it goes to the same set of vendors for attractions that every other theme park in the nation will be shopping from. There are reasons why all movies from all the studios now all seem so faceless and interchangeable, expect this way of doing business now at Disney parks over the next few years.

Needless to say, many long-timers at WDI are now being courted by all sorts of outside firms, and after the way Eisner has sort of set the direction now for the division, well it's really no surprise some of them are making the first moves. Model shop layoffs are almost done, almost all were let go. And others are at risk as well. Look for a major name we all know associated with the Anaheim park to get a new job - that may not wield as much power as it may initially appear to.

Paint begins to flow...

OK, now time for some good news. They are painting the park again! The DisneylandBlues page is losing a LOT of pictures this week, what with railings done in Tomorrowland, new paint in the Gadet's Go-Coaster queue and the beginnings of work on some of the ToonTown buildings [the Fire station is done for example]. Add to this all the lights fixed on Main St., and the new initiative the last few weeks to paint all the trash cans now [after a year or so of not doing it] - heck, maybe I can take that site down soon. Nothing would make me, and I'm sure the rest of you, happier.

More good news - famed Imagineering icon John Hench has been spotted walking around and working on the Tarzan treehouse redo. Nice to know he has at least some input to it. Even Cynthia Harriss has been seen spending time with him there. But too bad about these guy's silver passes - they now have blackout dates on them. Can you believe that?

The Mark Twain is really getting a work-over, and they are starting to lay the new foundation for the "Texas" deck (the top one that had been completely taken out). It will look brand new folks - this is just great news.

Apparently Ginger-X [someone who posts on alt.disney.disneyland] will be happy - her recent posting about the show problems at Pirates sparked some work at the attraction, lots of the little things that were broken have been fixed. And what couldn't be addressed until the Fall major rehab was documented by Maintenance in a memo sent to the attraction that detailed exactly why they couldn't get to it until the rehab. Nice huh? It seems they took her post very seriously and were very embarrassed that it came online.

The CD kiosks in Tomorrowland have been such a big hit that they will soon add them to the Showcase shop on Main St.. Look for lots of new tracks added to the database to inaugurate this expansion - maybe we'll get some of those neat versions they play of attraction favorites out at the ticket booths.

There now are plans (they do come and go it seems) to finally remove the Light Magic light poles / towers that turned small world way into a "tennis court" by first moving the light poles back into the planters. This is supposed to happen come October, but no one is betting on it right now. At the same time they would also remove the projection tower near the Storybook attraction - but the two other towers [across the way on the east side of the walkway] would remain due to all of the electrical / air distribution for the area in them.

Another parade update...

It now appears that the upcoming Millennium parade will later transform into the 45th anniversary parade in a full year reign on the parade route - starting at the end of this summer [the Mulan Parade ends Labor Day I understand]. I've heard reports that some rather unique looking zodiac symbol types of float units have been seen getting assembled back stage - and others have told me about sketches seen for them too.

Also currently it appears that they are beginning to distribute the Light Magic "assets" to other divisions of the company... projectors, illuminators, etc. This has already started, and as far as what is actually happening to the floats themselves, no one is saying. They "could" end up in something, but with all of the guts being distributed, it would be hard to do.

Blue Sky stuff...

Here are the latest rumors about major changes being discussed for the resort.

Sleeping Beauty Castle - Apparently there are plans somewhere [originating either at Team Disney Anaheim (TDA for short) or WDI, I can't lock it down] to do some major work on the castle for the 50th anniversary. The plan supposedly has them raising or rebuilding (yes, you read it right) the castle up about ten feet - which would allow for the installation of more shopping and a dining facility up inside. Not to mention also provide a new symbol for the 50th. Sound silly? Yeah - why mess with such an icon for the park and company? You probably get the same feeling I do here, that it isn't so much about avoiding an ugly Peptol-Bismol pink paint job [like they did at WDW] as it is to just try and squeeze more income from the area.

Barbie coming to DCA? - Rumor has it that Mattel is very determined to place that private Barbie collection they just bought [from the bay area] into some kind of display situation either in Downtown Disney or [preferably] as an actual "attraction" at DCA. Since the whole new park is so direction-less - you know what I mean - this just seems like it would fit right into this weird new thing, doesn't it? I guess all those negative comments visitors made about Barbie's stay at EPCOT a few years back [that was shortened no less] didn't quite sink in with Green and Pressler?

Speaking of DCA - apparently there will be NO phase two planned as it stands right now. To save money, [guess Eisner wants that bonus of his] no infrastructure will be put in for Tower of Terror, nothing for a lagoon show. Nothing - period. They would like [considering the current financial picture] to actually not do anything to the park for about five years. Conversations I've had with a few folks from outside the company are interesting - many feel that the park eventually will have the Hollywood section of it take it all over, as Disney finds out that the rest of it isn't as workable to be able to develop and expand.

There's more about DCA later on in this update.

Attraction round-up...

The proposed Pooh attraction is dead in the water right now. The Country Bears will remain until either a] TDA provides the budget asked for by WDI to do the flume ride they want - or - b] either comes up with something else for the area. Disneyland wants the ride badly [they are drooling at the merchandising tie-ins] but they only want to provide half the budget that WDI would prefer. Still smarting from Tomorrowland's less than stellar reviews, it appears that saner minds at WDI wisely have stepped back from this project, not wanting to only use half the current building filled up with plywood cutouts, which is what TDA's budget would only seem to allow for.

Guess what - one of the old Tomorrowland Flying Saucers has made its way to Flower Street in Glendale... and it seems they are putting a new control base on it... interesting huh?

It's now been confirmed by more than a few sources, a new Star Tours film is coming... as indicated before, not for at least a year or two, but it is indeed coming. And it won't just be a new film... there will be more. Wish I had more on this, but I don't right now.

The Autopia redo is set for the end of the summer - and the park is being a little pig-headed about how they are going do it. Seems WDI offered to do work on the attraction in such a way that would allow the Tomorrowland side to be done first, and allow the Fantasyland track to operate in the meantime to keep visitors happy. Well - the park has gone ahead and removed all the signs and equipment from the Fantasyland side in a real hurry - and most probably won't run it at all while the work is being done. Yes it saves them money - but it will be a real let down for the visitors.

The stuff planned for the Autopia redo is actually quite nice - even considering how much they've cut back on it. Billboards along the route are not all for Chevron and some are quite fun - plus three new body styles for the cars make for a nice variety. Best thing about the redo? A new engine for the cars that is almost totally quiet! What a boon for that area - no more sounds of what seems like endless lawnmowers. Too bad they can't seem to quiet down those Rocket Rods though.

But the REAL big project appears to be underway now...

Frontierland now looks like it will begin a two-year redo starting this August.

First phase [which I've discussed in the past here] is to move Casa Mexicana's menu over to the unused Plaza Pavilion building - while they gut the old location and tear out the shooting gallery. They want to do this so they can [in addition to the Mexican menu] bring in the Big Thunder BBQ menu with a new Texas twist, and turn the location into a "scatter serve" set-up. Yep, just like Pizza Port has, and which also is being put into Plaza Inn on the hub. Once the BBQ moves in with Casa Mexicana - that frees up the old festival arena. It could go back to entertainment - but it appears that it may be utilized for something else.

A big story [bear with me here folks] has been that TDA just sent out an order to purchase three brand new rafts, even though two of the current ones are relatively new and the third one is older yet still in great shape and very reliable. The CMs who work the rafts were excited - but couldn't figure out why THREE new Rafts were needed since the present ones were just fine thank you.

Now it seems some of the raft drivers have coming in at 5:00 AM on some days to shuttle WDI guys back and forth from the Island to the Mainland. This is where it gets interesting. Some of the trips the WDI guys were taking took them all the way around the Island to the Indian Village and former Cascade Peak area.

Why? It seems that the "Island will be changing soon."

Basically, from what has been gathered here, is that there is a plan to close Tom Sawyer's Island this October. Then the eastern leg of the Rivers of America would be pushed out into the area where Cascade Peak and the southern edge of the Festival Arena is, basically reversing the present curve of the River. The Island, which is presently a figure eight, would then be widened and filled in where the present riverbed is. The River would still be used for Columbia and Twain cruises, as well as the Canoes occasionally (Yeargin be damned it seems).

And on this bigger Island there would be - their words, not mine - "a big new E Ticket."

Now how do you get to the new attraction on the Island? The rafts! The plan would be to regularly run two rafts on slow days, three on weekends and four on holidays and in summer. Fantasmic! would get one of the extra Rafts to use permanently, and an extra Raft would be on standby. Interesting - right? How this attraction would operate during the show - if it even would continue at all - is unanswered still.

Now normally this could all be seen as just another blue-sky project. But it appears that this plan has been kicking around for over a year now and is one of the reasons Cascade Peak was replaced with a mound of construction-site dirt and a few shrubs. Seems the repair bill for Cascade Peak was steep, but the dirt mound replacement cost about a tenth of that.

Also of interest was that the Suspension Bridge on the Island has been closed and "red tagged" because one of the cables has broken. When something is red tagged by Facilities no one is supposed to touch it and visitors aren't allowed near it. And Facilities has also been telling CMs that the Barrel Bridge is the next to be closed and red tagged because it needs work too. It would cost a lot to replace the suspension and barrel bridges, but TDA has put that off because they are unsure if they'll even be there a year from now.

The fact remains that TDA has approved the purchase of the three new Rafts - and there is even speculation that the Keelboats could be even used on busy days to take visitors to a new Island keelboat dock and back. (The keelboats are still sitting backstage under wraps)

There's no word yet on exactly what this new attraction is - it would have to be BIG to go to all the trouble of rerouting the river. If they do go ahead, the schedule now is that the Island will close in October '99 and the new area will open for summer '02. Dovetails right in with the Casa Mex redo, right? And the whole thing sounds roughly similar to the Discovery Bay rumor from last year, doesn't it?

Keep your fingers crossed - although with the recent statements from Bruce Gordon / David Mumford on the recent Disney.com Disneyana chat about keeping an eye on the sub lagoon, I don't know which is coming first.

Someone was kind enough to write me about the following...

It appears that Rob Wallace, Joe Wallace's son (Joe was the builder of the Columbia, who passed away a few weeks ago) has been in the park working on the Mark Twain.

[If you remember from a previous update his boat restoration company was basically kissed off by TDA last Fall because they cost a bit more than the others. It now appears that immediately afterward TDA got in hot water with Burbank and Glendale for the blunder and had to ask them to come back. The workers involved were very pleased that the whole thing was resolved before Joe passed on because he was furious with TDA about it.]

Rob has some wonderful stories he's been telling people at the park about when he was a kid growing up, and his father was overseeing the Columbia's construction in Fowler's Harbor. He used to work on the ship on Mondays and Tuesdays when the Park was closed back then.

As expected, Walt was always around watching the progress being made. One Monday the local schools were on holiday, and Walt told all the construction guys to bring their wives and kids for the day. Walt had the Rafts take the kids over to the Island in the morning and they had the run of the place, with Walt himself running through the caves with an Indian feather headband. The wives had an Indian basket weaving class in the old Indian Village where the Hungry Bear is now, with Mrs. Disney as hostess.

At noon all the construction guys came off the boat and everybody had a big barbecue lunch while they watched the Indian's do their show in the Dance Circle. Afterwards Walt led all the families over to the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland where he kept getting the engineer to stop the train so he could explain and point everything out to the kids.

Rob said his Dad always used to like to tell that Walt story because it seemed like progress on the Columbia doubled in the weeks following that special "family day" for the construction crew. Could you imagine Eisner taking this kind of interest in something? I guess not.

When they scattered Joe Wallace's ashes into the Pacific off of Catalina Island last week, Disney let the Wallace family borrow the bell from the Columbia and they rang it long and loud as they scattered his ashes off the back of the boat. Nice, huh? The bell is already mounted back onto the Columbia, ready for the River again.

Is DCA really an acronym for Damn Carny Attractions now?

People seeing the plans for the new park are simply shocked at how much the emphasis is being placed on high-profit liquor sales. Beer kiosks and Margarita huts [for Paradise Pier] are planned everywhere, [it looks like you won't be able to turn a corner anywhere in the park without running into one] as well as serving beer and wine in almost every dining location. They face a problem in that they would like a major sponsor like Busch beer - but of course they have their own parks. Plus the trendy beers they might be looking at, maybe a micro-brew, are out of the question since they can't pony up the cash Disney demands for a sponsorship.

Recently the park hosted an event to discuss the future parking for DCA. Lots of pics and maps and the project manager plus his staff for Resort parking on hand to answer questions. From the info that was presented, this is what the future apparently holds:

- The visitor Parking Structure will have six levels, all above ground. Each level will be named after a Character, in homage to the old lot. From bottom to top the levels are; Chip N' Dale, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Minnie. The levels are also color coded, and the signs are all very modern / basic looking and presumably designed to be easily identifiable.

Reports that the structure will somehow be "themed" currently appear to be unfounded. The eastern end of the structure has some planter boxes with greenery in them, but they do very little to hide the fact that this is a garage. The sketches and renderings made this structure look very similar to the new parking lots at John Wayne Airport. It's just a modern cement structure with small planter boxes tacked onto one side.

Also there appeared to be no particular marquee or themed welcome sign indicated in any of the sketches of the parking structure, parking lots or surrounding surface streets. There's just a row of tollbooths on the ground floor of the parking structure, resembling the current ones at the entrance of the Timon lot.

- North of the Parking Structure will be a 1,700-space CM lot. Most likely to be used by Downtown Disney and Grand Californian CM's, and perhaps also Facilities and other back-of-house employees who will be working across West St.

- There will be more massive surface lots south of the Structure to the Disneyland Hotel. This will be self-parking and valet parking for Downtown Disney and DCA.

You will need to pay to park if you are going to Downtown Disney, much like Citywalk - unlike the Irvine Spectrum or The Block. It appears that validation will be possible at Downtown Disney restaurants or the theaters. There is not a lot of trees or landscaping planned for the lots, and actually for any of the new parking in general. Expect just acres of asphalt with single trees and shrubs around the periphery of each large lot. It doesn't look like a "Resort" so much as it looks like Long Term Parking at a big airport.

- The ugly East Esplanade [or as we refer to it on alt.disney.disneyland "the Christmas tree lot"] off of Harbor Blvd. is staying, it's not temporary like CM's at the Preview Center keep telling people who mention it's peculiar design. It appears that there just isn't any money to fix it. Although it was stated by many people that "the woman who designed that piece of the Resort for us no longer works for the Company." Thank God!

The new West Esplanade on the other hand will be taking a completely different route in its design. It is now planned with lots of rockwork, mature trees and babbling brooks and water features to help absorb the sounds of the trams and crowds. It's supposed to look woodsy, an extension of the nearby Grand Californian / wilderness section of DCA.

There is some hope that the new West Esplanade will look so nice, that when Eisner sees it - [and compares it to the nearby East Esplanade] - he will have no choice but to approve the money to redo the Christmas tree lot to better complement the rest of the area.

- Parking lot CM's may be getting new costumes. Sketches of the new costumes have been shown and they looked very attractive and much more professional than the current plaid shirts and orange jackets.

The white, navy and red fabrics matched the new trams, and the shirts and jackets looked much more tailored. They resembled a cross between the current Monorail costumes, a trendy flight attendant, and a traffic cop. Some combination huh! TDA has approved them, Pressler has now approved them, but Eisner has to approve them along the extra cash required.

Speaking of costumes...

...here's a follow up on the last update about them. It now seems that there is a tentative plan to replace every costume in the Park, if you can believe that! The all-new costumes are apparently "Option B", compared to "Option A" which is the minimally themed "Land area" costumes which seemed a done deal just a few weeks ago.

[It seems that the "Land area" costumes were apparently an idea of Pressler's he had shortly after coming to Disneyland, and he had been pressing along with that idea during his Disneyland tenure. In 1996 more and more costumes started to share the same pants or shirts, and more costumes started to lose their individual themed pieces. Like the pocketed Space Mountain pants, the rope belts on the Tom Sawyer Island Rafts, the shoe buckles on Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.]

Option B, which is a complete revamping of Disneyland's costumes, actually is Cynthia Harriss' doing. She wanted the managers and leads that work in the park to have costumes that could be identified by visitors as someone of authority.

She has actually been talking in Forums about that since her first few months at Disneyland in late '97. It's important to her to have managers out of the office and out with visitors, but she doesn't want them wearing business attire. She wants them dressed as part of the Show. But she also understands that bosses out there should be able to feel and look like bosses, to stroke an ego or two if nothing else.

Apparently now she is even taking it one step further and now wants to redo almost every costume in the Park. She wants more detail brought back into the highly themed costumes like Thunder Mountain, Matterhorn and Pirates. And she also wants to make some of the plain, dated or tackier costumes look "richer" and more professional.

For instance, the current Fantasyland attractions costume that's made up of bright blue pants, shirred white shirt and red nylon jacket would be replaced with grayish-green slacks with brass buttons, a fancy cream shirt and dark paisley suspenders with brass buttons. Hostesses would have the option of dusty green skirts and a paisley sash. Little fedora hats with paisley hatbands and a dashing feather would top off the new Fantasyland costume. Managers and leads would have a blazer and a tie or scarf in accenting colors. The new Fantasyland costumes would fit in with Fantasyland's Old European architecture beneath the towering Matterhorn much better.

The Haunted Mansion had a new version of its Maid and Butler outfits. The accent pieces for both costumes now show off a fabric that has a pattern similar to the wallpaper with the screeching heads in the Mansions hallways. You won't really notice it right away since the costumes still look lush and impressive, but after you gaze at it for a moment you realize just how spooky the fabric looked up close.

Some folks at the park feel this may be one instance where it'll be actually good to have a fashionable retail exec in charge at Disneyland. The one hurdle is that neither Pressler nor Eisner has signed off and approved of this plan and it's considerable expense. Let's all hope Cynthia can charm the cash out of 'em for the new costumes, or at least stall Pressler on the Land area costumes.

Now before we get giddy here - on the other hand there's the current plan for DCA costuming. The sketches seen were bland and ho-hum. LOTS of khaki's with polo shirts or cotton pullovers! Paradise Pier costumes are planned as khaki's and a predictable Hawaiian hula shirt. Most of the polo shirts have some sort of little logo on the chest to identify which attraction or area the CM is working at, much like the Innoventions patches and logo's. All DCA CM's look alike, with little differentiation between attractions, merchandise or foods CM's.

Sadly it seems that a DCA CM could go straight to the supermarket after work in their "costume" and no one would blink an eye. There is not one single DCA costume heavily themed. The hula shirts of Paradise Pier are about as wild as DCA costuming will get, if they go with the current plans the Pressler regime already had drawn up.

Bad news it seems about New Years...

Remember my last update, where I was detailing the precautions park operations is taking to make sure no one is stuck on rides at midnight in case of any Y2K problems?

Well it seems they didn't bother to tell anyone in entertainment about the attractions closing early. Hence the following: the Hunchback Festival Arena Party Town stuff from the last few years was cut - as was the Fantasmic / River entertainment, basically the same as last year, but without a band on the river now.

This was all done originally to save a few bucks and to move the remaining money towards what they called a big "midnight moment." Which is really not much than was done before.

I heard that someone forwarded the last D-I-G update that detailed the attractions closing down to the producer for the night, who basically said "What the... no one told us about this!" Last I heard they were trying to confirm my site with the operations people and then try and figure out what to do next. Which brings us to the next section...

The right hand never knows what the left is doing?

Increasingly more and more people who deal with the park in business or media matters are reporting back that the park [as well as the company itself overall] is increasingly getting more and more disorganized.

One example cited to me was the recent press event held to promote the new hotel and adjacent mall for DCA. While press materials and people involved in the presentation showcase agreements that had been reached with lessees for key additions (such as the movie theaters and some restaurants) - other sources are telling folks that none of the materials actually jive with what is really happening. As, you guessed it, no agreements have been reached yet with anyone.

Disneyland is only a small part of the problems in the whole company - fiefdoms are in place now everywhere as department heads refuse to spend their allotted funds to help / work with other departments. No co-ordination of projects happens [one of the key reasons both the 75th anniversary of the company was such a bust and the grandiose plans to celebrate the new millennium were abandoned] and there are no guiding hands anywhere to avoid all the internal bickering that is going on.

Eisner seems oblivious to much of this, even though all the mistakes and mix-ups get more and more expensive each time. [Recent examples include video recalls due to people forgetting to check masters, a $30 million loss I read somewhere on the Rescuers recall, and sloppy work being done on re-mastering of classic film product.] As distracted, as he seems to be, he apparently just doesn't see much of anything wrong and has no real plans to put a successor in place or consider a future without the company.

As one outside observer told me, (who would be in a good position to really know what is going on) "he's determined to get out of it what he feels he needs personally and is managing the company day to day in a short term mode. There are no concrete plans beyond the next year or so, no matter what he tells people, and he'll keep on dogging along this way until he has to be dragged out of there on a slab." Harsh words huh? Are they true - we'll see I guess.

Is the other shoe dropping with the competition?

Meanwhile Disneyland faces even more competition in the future - apparently Busch is putting in many of the same managers they have for Busch Gardens in place at Sea World [to replicate the idea of thrill rides and animals thrown together which works quite well for them]. Look for more coasters and rides from them in what still has to be one of the best locations ever for a theme park.

And a rumor has surfaced about Universal Hollywood again, this time it seems Uni is taking a cue from a Disney idea for WDW. They may consider a smaller, all steel / all thrill ride park for the lower lot area - Bronfmann likes the idea of the cash cow parks expanding and feels the Hollywood park is in need of a second gate.

Meanwhile back at WDW Disney opened an expensive-to-run new park [Animal Kingdom] hoping to increase the visitor's typical stay by a day or so. But things haven't worked out that way - it's just cannibalized time spent from the other parks instead. And now the big worry is that Islands of Adventure might even cut a day out of a typical vacation week for them on top of all that - so you can see why they are fretting out there so much.

BTW - I've heard from a lot of people that WDW is on a four-year maintenance backlog - the only thing to make one feel better is that it has improved from eight years, where it was at only two years ago.

Miscellaneous...

Compaq may be trying to pull out / or not renew their Innoventions exhibit in the near future due to their financial problems. Even though they are supposed to have a long-term lease, someone at the company told me the major stockholder that kicked out the last president of the company was especially irked by the "frivolous" expenses of the Disneyland project. Also keep in mind Disneyland promised new exhibits in the building every six months - and we're past that point now aren't we?

I hear from several sources that the Rocket Rods are costing the park a fortune in upkeep and maintenance. All this for something the vast majority of riders continue to be disappointed with. Rumors abound not only at the park but also in Glendale and Burbank that they may not last as long as five years. The "Flying Saucers of the 90s" - they may go down a lot sooner than anyone thinks.

The crystal castle that used to sit in the window of the glass blower's shop on Main St. has been sold to a studio executive. Seems it was moved to the studio for some reason, spotted there and then sold on the spot. Also the Disneyana shop sold the sign from out front of the Swiss Family Treehouse on the day it was first offered - for $5,000 plus a mandatory $500 for shipping. Individual vinyl leaves from the tree are now sold for $40, (nicely framed of course), and a litho with a leaf also attached is now offered too. Only Disneyland could sell its garbage huh? ;)

I got an interesting note from WDW:

The internet is a lot more reliable then some of the internal memos sent out here. Disney does have a page on the intranet site they maintain with links to fan sites. But funny, yours isn't listed! I tried accessing the D-I-G, but the person told me it had to be an approved link. Funny, they don't seem to understand we can read it at home. And people do read what is posted online BTW. Most managers read RADP to find out what people say about their locations.

Cynthia Harris was overheard at one of the shops recently, apparently she was getting a little animated in a discussion about having to find ways of increasing sales. The word is that she was asking for sales increases of about a third because "Eisner is demanding it" and "if we don't get them we have to start laying off people around here." How much more they expect to do - or cut back - is anyone's guess. Most folks feel Pollitt has paired things to the bone as it is.

On a final note, Grad Nights start in two weeks and I pity the CMs in charge of protecting attractions such as the Pirates of the Caribbean from the "Class of 1999." Harriss was reported to have gushed in a recent CM forum "Oh, we're not getting rid of Grad Nights! I just LOVE Grad Nights!" [And probably all the money they make.] Many CMs say it's very easy to say you love them when you've never had to tell an entire boatload of guys to stop urinating into the Pirates' Bayou or ask a Grad to kindly direct his Tequila-scented vomit into a planter, like more than a few have. Wish them all luck!

See you at the park!

Thanks!
 

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 5/11/99 - A quick flash

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 5/8/99 - Massacre on Flower Street?

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