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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 9/8/99 - Cynthia Harriss puts customers first again / Upcoming changes in attractions / A few notes from David [Mouse Tales] Koenig / A new DCA site to visit

Lots of good news [and some bad] this time around folks. So let's get going, shall we? [Don't forget a LOT of updating has also been done all throughout the site too, check the contents page for further info.]

First of all, I was very pleased to find out that Cynthia Harriss has "found a little money in the budget" to start weekend Friday and Saturday night Fireworks shows early next year [beginning February 18th] from what I understand - to help celebrate the upcoming 45th Anniversary of the park. What a nice change from the past few years where it seemed that the start of the summer shows were pushed back closer and closer to the 4th of July.

This along with her push to keep the canoes going year-round [a stance she took just shortly after the last update I made], and efforts to get the Columbia used more often, continue to indicate she is placing a high priority on the showmanship aspect of the park that had been so sorely lacking these past few years under her predecessor. 

Disneyland Canoes
Good news, the canoes stay!

The following is an amalgamation of several notes a few different people sent me that will fill you in on what is happening so far:

The Canoes will now be running every day during 10 AM to 8 PM operation schedule starting in September. 

They will be open from 12 Noon until 5 PM on weekdays, and will open at 11 AM on weekends. There will be three canoes in operation to start with, with extra canoes and their CM's added to the fleet as attendance estimates increase during weekends and holiday periods. 

This is basically how the canoes were run earlier in the 1990's and back in the 1980's, but now they will be run even more often than in the past. 

Previous to Pressler, the Canoes operated with three canoes when attendance was estimated at thirty thousand or more. As attendance grew, extra canoes were brought on. Now, three canoes will be run every day regardless of attendance. And as attendance grows over forty thousand or so, extra canoes will then be added.

This is all directly per Cynthia. She has said she is delighted with the unique Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, and is thrilled with the compliments that pour in at City Hall for that attraction and it's Cast Members. [Al's note: I want to thank here the many readers who did stop by city hall at Disneyland after the last update and let them know how you felt.]

Cynthia feels that the Canoes add life and vitality to the Rivers of America, and even though every visitor may not go on the Canoes, if they just watch them paddle by then that they have had a "Canoe experience" just by observing them. 

To her, the Canoes are a Disneyland original and should be preserved and offered as a daily attraction. At the Cast Member Canoe Races in mid August, Cynthia was even overheard commenting about how "fabulous" the Canoe costumes looked on the Canoe Cast Members!

More good news from other sources:

Expect to see more of the Mark Twain and the Columbia on the Rivers of America this Fall and Winter! Plans are still being finalized, but Cynthia Harriss wants both of them to be available to visitors more often. 

The Columbia may even be making weekday appearances during the slow season. Previously, it was only brought out during busy summer days and crowded holiday weekends. But Cynthia feels the ship looks wonderful sailing around the Rivers of America, and should be brought out more often, instead of only on the busiest of days to simply help relieve overcrowding. 

[Al's note: The new Columbia spiel was killed by Imagineer Tony Baxter I heard, he didn't seem to like it and another one is on the way.]

The Mark Twain will also be decorated for Christmas this year, something that hasn't happened in a long time. Cynthia, in a rush of Walt-like inspiration, wants a busy river. 

[Al's note: I understand the Twain may be used interactively in a Christmas show to be held riverside - in other words the show would start along the river, and the boat would come out to the middle of it, stop, and then have music played by a band from it. What an interesting idea!]

Could a return of the Mike Fink Keelboats be far behind? I understand bets are being taken for a return by July 4th of next year. ;)

But on the other hand...

The Main St. Cinema is history it seems...

David [Mouse Tales book] Koenig was kind enough to contribute the following item, it seems to confirm that they are still determined to turn Main St. into one huge mall - period:

Thought you might be interested in this. I got an update on Disneyland Maintenance's 5 Year Plan to make more $$$. It confirms the downsizing of Facilities over the last two years (as chronicled in the book "More Mouse Tales" and denied by park PR) and promises more cutbacks and layoffs to come. 

This info also included an interesting list of concepts WDI was working on at the time. Some have been built, a few are mysteries to me:

Attractions:
Tarzan Treehouse 
[Al's note: Done]
Winnie the Pooh Attraction 
[Al's note: Planned for the area between small world and the former Fantasyland Autopia]
Mouseworks (what's this?, I wonder!) 
[Al's note: This is a redo of the Main St. Theater - to show the latest Mickey Mouse Cartoons. No word yet if this is to be converted to a shop, although this seems confirmed below.]
Tiki Room
[Al's note: Rehab finally?]
Sleeping Beauty Castle
[Al's note: Rehab?]
Jungle Cruise
[Al's note: Rehab?]
Big Thunder Trestle
Plaza Garden Lighting
[Al's note: Done when facility finished]

Facilities:
Toon Park Paving
[Al's note: Done]
Toon Park Carousel
Recycler Program
Tomorrowland Station Canopy
Jungle Cruise Lighting
[Al's note: Rehab finally?]

Merchandise:
Main St. Music Kiosk & Lighting
[Al's note: Done]
Main Street Cinema
[Al's note: This seems to confirm the sad loss of the theater]
Gag Factory Redesign

Corporate Alliance:
Meet Mickey Queue Cartoon (Wonder if this is a new cartoon in the ToonTown barn...?) 
[Al's note: Maybe a new film to promote all of the latest video releases? Sigh.]

Just thought you'd be curious! - unless of course you already knew all this stuff!

If I only knew what they think I did David...  ;)  By the way, David was also kind enough to contribute the following item, which relates to someone who recently left the park [and hopefully will be back at work there soon] when an e-mail they sent went astray:

A memo was sent out, addressed to all park VP's and Directors (about 125+ people!) detailing a new policy that is designed to "cut down on communications clutter" as the resort grows. Here basically is the new policy: 

Organizational announcements regarding promotions, new hires, reassignments, transfers are to be issued only for manager level employees and above. Announcements regarding terminations and retirements to be issued for DIRECTOR level executives and above. 

Finally, ALL announcements "without exception, must be approved, edited, distributed and, if appropriate, written by Cast Communications."

The paranoia is reaching new heights.

Some things never change I guess... David also provided the following info about upkeep and the departments in charge of it at the park:

A leading cause for failing maintenance at Disneyland has been the loss of experienced supervision. Out of 170-odd members of Facilities management, nearly half (80) were hired in the last 2.5 years since the arrival of T. Irby.

"More Mouse Tales" chronicles one day in 1997, now called "Black Monday," in which 11 veteran supervisors were marched into the TDA Building by burly security guards and told to clear out their desks. The reason? Loyalty. Combined, they had well over 200 years experience at the park (and were making more in salary and benefits than would their inexperienced replacements).

Although maintenance at the park has improved dramatically during the last few months, things may be headed for another downward turn. On Thursday August 12, Disneyland terminated eight more veteran maintenance supervisors (although a few were on medical leave and were notified a few days earlier by certified mail). All but one was over 50 years old. Combined, the eight had well over 200 years experience at the park.

One fellow, in Horticulture since 1963, worked with Bill Evans planting many of the trees in the park. Others worked in the Cycle Shop since 1972, in Infrastructure since 1968, in Infrastructure since 1980, in Infrastructure since 1975, on the Coaster Team since 1976, on the South Team since 1976, and in Maintenance Engineering & Support since 1975.

A few were replaced while they were on medical leave. When they were ready to return to work, were informed that there was no longer a position for them. For others, the official reason was "lack expected skill level." 

Although some of the old-timers reportedly had trouble learning to work with computers, many were well respected leaders with incredible job knowledge.

Upper management denied rumors that more terminations would follow. According to one supervisor, "They say this is it for a while. Yeah, right, whatever."

I can attest that several of these recently laid off people are suing the park now - I have gotten e-mail from lawyers asking if I can assist them in any way.

BTW, I cannot plug David's latest volume of More Mouse Tales [as well as the first book and Mouse Under Glass] enough as a thank you to him for his kind contributions to this page this time around - so here's the order information in case you missed the last update, or have a hard time finding these books at your local bookstore:

More Mouse Tales! Mouse Tales! Mouse Under Glass!
David's collected writings!

To order any of the above books, print out this online order form and then mail it to: 

Bonaventure Press
P.O. Box 51961
Irvine CA 92619-1961

Do note if you order a copy of any of his books directly through Bonaventure Press you can have it autographed by the author at no extra charge! Just print and fill out the order form on the site at the link above and mail it in - it's as simple as that!

For more information about David Koenig's book-signings and a calendar of his upcoming appearances you can click here, or visit the publisher's website front page at: http://bonaventurepress.com/

You can also order via Amazon.com

Tell David Al sent you.  :)

Now, on a better note...

Rehabbing for Fast Pass...

As the summer came to an end and CM's don't have to work so hard trying to keep Disneyland running from 6:30 AM till 1:00 AM day after day, lots of info came in about the off-season just starting. As you may know, rehabs have been announced this Fall for Indy and Splash Mt. 

Splash Mt. will close from Nov. 8th thru the 28th, right thru Thanksgiving. [Normally Splash closes during February.] Then as soon as Splash reopens, Indy will close for it's first rehab ever from Nov. 29th thru Dec. 9th

Indy was designed to be a new type of ride that would rarely, if ever, need the type of rehab that would cause it to close for extended periods of time. It has had numerous "rolling rehabs" where the work is done over night for a period of weeks or months, while the ride remains open to visitors during Park operating hours. 

But this time, Indy will close for two weeks. Why the sudden change in policy and schedules you ask? Why, Fastpass of course! Splash, and Space will also get it installed, and the hope is to have it up and running for the holidays on the major attractions. They will be reconstructing the queues and installing the infrastructure for permanent Fastpass hardware during these rehabs.

The goal is to have Fastpass up and running at Space, Indy and Splash for the busy two weeks surrounding Christmas. Although park flack Brocatto keeps saying "early 2000" for a Fastpass date, Christmas and all the crowds in a spending mood is the real goal. A few kind souls at the park took the time to fill me in on what they like about Fastpass:

Even though the basic, less than magical, premise behind Fastpass is to reduce lines so visitors spend more, we are looking forward to Fastpass for several reasons. (Dissertation ahead!)

First, once it's up and running at several locations, Fastpass will reduce the frustration waiting in long lines can produce for most visitors.

Splash Mt. [for example] receives several complaints per week simply because it is a ride cursed with a 90 minute line. By the time people finally snake thru all the switchbacks in the hot sun and make it to the loading station, a small percentage of them can be downright ornery. And woe to the charming young CM who crosses their path! With Fastpass, the waits will be 10 minutes at most, the park expects complaints to plummet. 

Pirates and Splash use crews pulled from the same batch of CM's, and both rides use the same amount of CM's to run the two rides. Pirates gets 35,000 thru per day, while Splash gets about 20,000 thru per day. 

But Splash has triple the complaints that Pirates does (using the exact same CM's at both rides, so it's not because Splash CM's are inherently bad), and it all boils down to the fact that Splash has a 90 minute line that runs completely outdoors with no air conditioning, while Pirates has just a 15 minute line that is even partly air conditioned.

Secondly, Fastpass will restore a calmer and more pleasing sense of space to the walkways around attractions like Splash Mountain. 

Once the system is up and running, there will be no need for the large, extended queues set up and taken down each day. These endless switchbacks clog the walkways of Critter Country with unsightly poles and ropes herding visitors into rows like cattle. 

With Fastpass, the park expects to contain both the Fastpass and the Standby queue completely within the interior show building that begins at the barn doors just past the train trestle in Critter Country. The Fastpass machines and their accompanying CMs will be stationed at the side queue that currently runs parallel to the Haunted Mansion exit across from the Harbor Galley.

Only on the very busiest of days (New Years, July 4th, etc.) will they need to set up the poles and ropes for an extended queue at Splash Mountain.

And that brings this third Fastpass point. It will enable extra CM's to be out in the area accessible to Guests and their questions. 

Fastpass will require several more CM's to operate and maintain the system. There will be a few CM's at the ticket kiosks, and a few extra CM's farther along the line checking passes and adjusting the boarding of the stand-by line. These will be extra CMs that are not currently there available to visitors to help them find a bathroom, locate a vegetarian restaurant, help take a picture, direct them to Toontown, etc., etc. 

It's just an extra layer of Disney human interaction that has been missing since we got rid of ticket books and their plethora of ticket takers in the early 80's.

And finally, with visitors being able to take in three or more major E Ticket attractions with only a five-minute (or less) wait, they will be able to visit the other D, C, and B Ticket attractions that people routinely skip now. 

The park fully expects to see counts increase for the smaller attractions, and that would allow their hours of operation to expand. If everyone rushes to Indy first thing at Park opening and gets a Fastpass that says come back at 9:45am, then they are going to want to visit the Jungle Cruise and the Tiki Room in the interim. Currently, those two rides don't open until later in the day, but with Fastpass the word is that those rides could and should open earlier to soak up the Guest flow.

Fastpass can be a beautiful thing once the bugs have been worked out and it's up and running! ;) Seriously though, there are a lot of positives about this system. And if the company makes 4 dollars more per visitor with Fastpass, then so much the better for both them and the shareholders. 

One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere yet is the legal wrangling behind this all. Disney has copyrighted the software, hardware and some intellectual property for the concept. No one in the state of Florida can use a similar system, and no one within 150 miles of Disneyland can use it either. Sneaky, huh? Once it takes off and the public becomes comfortable with it, it could be a real pain and PR nightmare for other theme parks.

Interesting huh?

Other Rehab news...

Pirates will be receiving a lot of new animatronics with this upcoming rehab. They have been installing new wiring for the past few months, and it will be interesting to see what appears.

The Design Studio is keeping mum about it, and all people know is what is heard from the Facilities guys who work on the ride and they're mainly concerned with the technical stuff instead of new Show scenes. It appears some of the rickety and original '67 figures may be replaced. Also look for the first paint job ever [since the attraction opened] down on the sets below - amazing huh?

The Jolly Trolley had been closed all summer because they found stress fractures on one Trolley's chassis, inspected the others and found lots of other fractures, and had to close them all to rebuild the chassis'.

Word came back to me that the wonderful Monte Cristo sandwiches will probably be made available at the French Market Place during the Pirates / Bayou rehab for all the fans of it - what a thoughtful thing to do by the restaurant folks!

A forum was held about DCA costuming. They want to rethink some of the original costuming plans, and were asking CM's for their opinions. 

One of the main gripes was that there were NO BELTS OR BELTLOOPS for any of the costumes as they were previously planned. (A Pressler cost cutting move?) 

Where does one clip a flashlight, pocketknife or Park radio without a belt? Theater shows and indoor rides need CM's with mini-maglites clipped to their belts. Anyone working extended queues or parade control needs to clip a big flashlight and a leatherman or pocketknife to their belt. Leads and Managers have to clip a radio and / or Park pager to a belt. 

They promised it appears to redesign all costumes to include belts. They also mentioned that the costumes were having more "overlays" and "pieces" added. They showed previous versions, and the new versions that ALL included hats. 

Hats are really important, as they add to the Show and provide CM comfort outdoors. Old fashioned life jackets have also been added to the costume for Grizzly River Rapids, in place of a Innoventions style plain brown vest with boring pockets, and the consensus was that it really spruced up the outfit. 

Aviator sunglasses are being considered as an issued costume piece for California Soaring, which could be clever if all CM's were wearing them. 

Paradise Pier costumes have been proposed to change from hula shirts to Roaring 20's flapper style outfits. People seemed excited about the changes. 

Back to Disneyland costuming, one plan was to use the Tomorrowland area costumes for the new Autopia. The attractions managers didn't like the idea and insisted that Costuming try it out for a few weeks to prove a point. 

So, last July, some Autopia CM's wore the area costume for a few weeks. Sure enough, axle grease and motor oil got permanently ground into the new polyester costumes, the managers and CM's all smirked to themselves, and now costuming needs to come up with new easy to clean all-cotton costumes like they have used for decades.

Innoventions is having attendance problems, they have been way under projections for months. Pirates can pull in 35,000 a day. Innoventions is supposed to do 9,000 plus - but is lucky to get 7,000 a day. What a waste of CMs and space. 

BTW - the only staffers paid for by Disneyland to run the attraction are the outer ring folks - the greeter / operator, and the two or three folks who do the little shows. The rest of the staffing is paid for by the sponsors. 

They still are trying to figure out a way to get the cabin burning again on Tom Sawyer's Island. The gas line seems to be too expensive to repair - so they are investigating using the effects they tried way back when during the last gas crisis based on how Pirates shows fire [using cellophane, lights and blowers]. We'll see what they come up with.

Who said running a park would be easy? ;) 

Before I forget, farewell CM-only T-shirts were done for both Autopia ["45 years of NO BUMPING!" it says on it] and Casa Mexicana [Mickey doing a sombero dance]. Neat.

The Walls are UP!

The rebuilding of Disneyland's main gate area has begun - basically the entire west side of the area [to the left of the floral Mickey] is behind walls and will lose that side of the ticket booths, the lockers, group services windows, and the former ATM location, along with the picnic area. No word yet if they also plan to do the brickwork on this adjoining half of Main St.'s Town Square at the same time.

After this area is completed, then the east side will be made over [along with the probable Main St. bank remodel for Union Bank] - no word yet on relocation of the kennel, guest relations, old administration building or anything else.  Lockers and bathrooms for the area have been moved over to twin trailers located next to the DCA Preview Center. 

At the Disneyland Hotel, look for more walls around the old monorail station / Mickey's Corner / former gym / Neon Cactus - Goofy's Kitchen - Monorail Cafe area - as it gets demolished in the next few weeks. They've already paved over the old Oriental Gardens bungalow area into a parking lot.

A wonderful new DCA site:

Tony, wisebear@home.com was kind enough to alert me to his wonderful new California Adventure preview site - he's done a superb job on it, with lots of photos and such of all the upcoming attractions in a very easy to use format. Why not stop by and visit it at:

http://members.home.com/wisebear/dca

BTW, another source has indicated that the Downtown Disney segment of the development IS on time. My guess here is that both sources may have some truth to them, parts of the new mall between the parks may be delayed, as other parts are not. 

A few comments about the D-I-G site...

I was reading through my e-mail, and found a few notes of concern about the use of "cookies" on some sites out there [one newer Disney site has over six of them on just their opening page!] 

You can rest assured the only cookies you may see on this site here are related to the Link Exchange banners you see on some of the bottoms of pages [as below]. The reason for them in this case is that it helps keep a count for me of page hits. Rest assured that no info is gathered about your visit or sold to anyone else. Likewise with e-mail feedback - it stays with me for the most part. Any changes in future policy about that will be fully disclosed to you too, should the need arise.

Also, I wanted to make a note that as a policy, I never accept freebies from the park, nor do I take advantage of any service situations for myself at Disneyland. I pay normal prices just like you do, [with the Annual Pass discount wherever I can use it] and I wait in those same long lines [I never get VIP back-doored]. How else can I give out advice for visitors? I think this is an important thing to note - especially if you are trying to cover the park in an unbiased a manner as possible. 

What are YOU doing Al?

...is a question I hear a lot lately, thanks to all your kind e-mails asking about me. 

Besides working on the project I started a few months ago [which hopefully should be reaching completion soon] - sadly I also had to deal with the passing away of my roommate week before last under some very stressful circumstances. 

Those of you who found out and were kind enough to drop a line with condolences please know they were very deeply appreciated. I only hope that now he finds the peace he could not in life. 

As far as to any continuing "speculation" as to why otherwise I am not posting to the newsgroups, rest assured it is only because all my energies are devoted to this project I am on now. 

What with the current state of things in the NG at this time anyway, it hasn't really been worth the time, as many of you also seem to concur lately via your notes to me.

Well, that wraps it up for now, see you at the park!


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Quick Update 8/18/99 - Millennium Parade Preview / Sinking Pirates / Eisner's sermon on the glacier - more! [Including a mini-Fab update]

It's great when you have a peek at things across the country sometimes. Here's a quick sketch of what the new Disneyland Millennium Parade units will look like come early spring: 

Millennium parade units

The units are under construction in Orlando, and the parade is being done by the same guy who did the Mulan one [did I tell everyone how wonderful that parade was?] who worked previously at the Paris Opera. It will again feature the extensive use of gilded and detailed fabrics throughout, along with LOTS of characters. Think elaborate procession here.

Apparently the units [sketched above] will be either pushed or pulled down the route - as the side protrusions could be handles. As more info trickles out, I'll have more to update for you on this. Apparently one of the Light Magic units will be rebuilt as a finale unit, it saves them a few bucks.

Also seen in Orlando, the DCA Superstar Limo cars - purple with gold stars all over them.

A tidbit: Mickey's Matterhorn Climb...

...may be coming back this fall. It's survived more than a few budget reviews already and the prognosis is good now for a return after the October budget gets underway. Let's hope we get this terrific little added show back, it's amazing to see him climb up the mountain in full costume. The kids just love it. 

Meanwhile, back in the Bayou...

How bad has the skipping of upkeep in Pirates been? 

First of all, the good news, it appears that the Pirates rehab has been extended out to Halloween (thank goodness!), and they are trying to figure out how to work it so that two adjacent E Ticket rides [Mansion also] that both need rehab can be closed at the same time. 

Pirates really needs the rehab, since if you remember [as a reader of this column] that its rehab last March was cancelled per Paul Yeargin to keep his Spring time counts up. It's been breaking down even more than usual lately, and I have heard of the CMs putting on the fly fishing waders to push boats full of visitors thru the Battle Scene at least THREE times [maybe more now] in the last few weeks. 

It appears everything seems to be the culprit nowadays, from aging sensors to slipping station belts to boats that are simply falling apart and sinking

No kidding on that last one either. A few Sunday mornings ago the hull of one boat that the CM's had been tagging for Facilities to look at for over two weeks finally split open and the boat actually sank just as it was entering the Jail Scene! 

By the time the CM's got down there, the boat was jammed and the first three rows were flooded over the seats and the bow of the boat was completely submerged. As I understand it, the sinking boat was full of teenagers from Texas, and they had all clambered back into rows 4, 5 and 6 and were piled on top of each other as the front of their boat sank beneath the water line! 

The boat was completely useless and immobile and the CMs were forced to evacuate the rest of the ride. Luckily, the teens found it to be pretty funny after their initial shock wore off and it doesn't look like any lawsuits will be filed.

The Innoventions problems...

You've all heard by now that Compaq wants out [despite the long contract, due to financial problems at the company], and Gateway may move in. They are also looking at replacing a couple of the other sponsors, or "participants" in "Disney-speak." Specifically, SAP.

But here's something interesting, Disneyland was heavily escorting not only Prince Edward [who just visited the park first week of August], but really focusing their energies on Mr. Toyoda of the Toyota Motor Company who was also in the berm.

Toyoda got the red carpet treatment at Innoventions because the park is trying to lure Toyota into being a new sponsor there. How will General Motors will feel about that, after their long association with Disney? [Not that their current exhibit isn't already a "make up" one - given free to GM for the company being so late with Test Track at EPCOT, as I understand.] 

Keep in mind it was GM who pulled OUT of the Rocket Rods sponsorship here at Disneyland at the last minute [due to those EPCOT problems] - which threw the entire Tomorrowland redo into a tailspin from which it never recovered, since the money was never replaced.

Discounting begins...

Someone was kind enough to let me know they stopped by their local corporate cheap ticket office, where they found out the park is offering $30 tickets, that are good between August 22nd through just before Christmas, excluding the Thanksgiving holidays. 

If you are planning a visit soon, you may want to hold off a few days, and ask your company HR division [or whoever offers MKC benefits to the employees] about these upcoming offers.

A wonderful site...

I promised Paul a plug for his terrific site, and I've been remiss in following up on that for him, so here goes:

Go visit the COUNTRY BEAR PLAYHOUSE! It's the UNOFFICIAL home of those lovable Country Bears from Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Enjoy all the sights and sounds of this attraction right from your computer. Its just the fix you need when you can't get to the park in person!

Now you all go back to visit there, you hear?  :)

The sermon on the glacier...

Well, it's finally happened, Eisner got called into an executive retreat with Roy Disney - just days before the current round of stories broke about selling the teams and such. 

There are two versions floating around the company about what actually happened up on the yacht in Alaskan waters, I'll let you judge which one may be closer to what actually echoed off the glacier up there. 

Eisner was either a] working with Roy to put together / explain the next round of cutbacks / management changes - OR - b] He was read the riot act and told to get cracking, hence the sudden divesting of assets [like the teams] and the dive into DVD [on animated fare] for some quickly needed bucks. 

He was also told, [in each version of the story I've heard so far] in no uncertain terms that an heir to his job was to be appointed, and pronto. On the month before his 15 year anniversary with the company it could very well be that the moves are finally being made to change leadership.

Here's what to expect from what the rumor mill is saying [along with some confirmations from the recent Wall Street Journal article]: NO more Disney Quests / Club Disney / ESPN Sports Zones, whatever locations now built will be it. There will be cutbacks in Disney Store openings, [if not an outright freeze] and Sears is still expressing interest in purchasing the chain. 

There will be re-evaluations of all aspects of DCA to see [yet again] what more can be paired back. Expect holds on major attractions outside of Orlando [although Fire Mt. in WDW's Magic Kingdom seems a go.] The Paris second gate will just be a sliver of what could have been done if it goes ahead. Cruise ships ARE for sale. They just don't think they can get what they want for them.

Joe Roth [the film head guy] is probably leaving, [frustrated is what I keep hearing over and over again] and sadly Paul Pressler [now in charge of parks and WDI] is being put on a front burner by Eisner, [must be that executive hair] although the company board for the most part is still painfully aware of the many problems he has had in the past and is not as likely to accept him at a much higher level than he is now.

Expect layoffs at all divisions, with newer managers finally getting the excuses they need to flush out some of the older deadwood, along with some of the key staff that was still holding the quality line. Over and over again I keep hearing Richard Nanula's name being dropped, and Peter Schneider hankering to move up further. The future may look a whole lot different over in Burbank come Christmas.

One hint that Eisner kind of figured he was in hotter water than usual has been the extreme amount of press he has been participating in / seeking for himself. Usually when a corporate type seeks this type of coverage, [besides trying to shore up the stock] to improve his image, it's usually too late, since they don't stay much longer in their positions. 

The press on Eisner the last few weeks is intense, [including a rather odd tribute to him in the current Disney Magazine] and after the 15 years he's had already at the helm, it does seem that any time after he celebrates that, it would bode well for him if he finally moves on.

Fab's micro update...

Normally Fab gets her update on her own page, but since it is so short this time, I've appended it to my page here for your quicker reading. 

So sit back, be especially nice to her Monkey Boy, [she has him WELL trained] and take in what she's got to say today, even though she wanders a bit from her normal park news:

Sometimes it sucks being right.

While Mikey claims Disney is just "having lunch", most of us cynical types would better describe it as being "out to lunch." 

I'm in a bad little mood today. I can't afford any of the ride vehicles on eBay, and one of my favorite Imagineers, who was, as I mentioned earlier, targeted for layoffs, is on an extended "leave of absence" from the company. 

Will the last person with any real talent to leave the building please remember to turn off the lights?

I'd go to the movies to get my mind off of all of throw-the-quality-out-with-the-budget nonsense that Uncle Mike is doing, (the buzz on Iron Giant is great, btw. Heard about the train scene?) but I'll have to wait to see my fave Disney Animated flick. 

Beauty and the Beast was supposed to be Special Edition-ed this year, but we'll have to wait another it seems. With Disney's new DVD deal, they will be releasing what they like to call: "second-tier classics" (If I had spouted that one off, Kent would have been all over me for my negativity. It was the Mouse! I swear!) like Fox and the Hound et al first, then start blasting away with the ... er... "first-tier classics". 

Beauty and the Beast Special Edition will be postponed so as to hit the DVD market with the "first-tier classics" come 2002.

I wonder if Monkey Boy got Fab's home theater set up properly. She's a THX-spec gal if I ever met one... 

And don't let us forget all those people who when both Fab and myself asked why Disney was so behind the eight-ball with DVD were told by them that it was an "unproven technology" and we were "early adopters." Phuleeze. Warner Bros. early adopted themselves into the black with this new market despite all their bad movies. Disney was just asleep at the switch. Or is that at lunch? Can you believe he said that? Sigh.

Hmmm, shades of past Compaq management here... ;)

That's it for now, more to come soon. See you at the park, if we ALL [you know who you are] don't fall asleep at Coke Corner from all those late nights working, right? ;)


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 8/3/99 - California Miss-Adventure?

Lots to cover today - so lets go at it. 

Attendance headaches...

It's important to note attendance is below projection for Disneyland - and they are the only park in the Los Angeles area not offering a locals discount this summer. 

Universal just extended theirs until the third week of August, Knott's is offering twenty dollar tickets at Ralph's, and both Magic Mountain and LegoLand are offering discount coupon tie-ins.  Don't be surprised if some kind of discount gets offered early this year from Disneyland.

Bobbing along, bobbing along...

Q. The Canoes, Main Street Vehicles and Mr. Lincoln. What do those three have in common?

A. Lower than normal rider counts due to slower than expected summer attendance. What they also now have in common is being on the hit list for possible elimination if rider counts continue to remain low.

What this means right away of course, is that everyone this summer should make an extra effort to patronize these attractions wherever possible.

Unlike in the past, when "the system" method of running Disneyland was put in place, [where some things in the park were known to have less than optimized capacity, with the full understanding that others would help pick up the slack] current management, in particular Paul Yeargin seems still hooked on the idea that each attraction must carry full loads all the time. 

If you look at it, Disneyland is a rather unique assembly - everything in the park was originally designed to compliment each other. Some things like the Main Street vehicles or the Canoes are meant to decorate the scene as much as they are meant to be ridden / used. The tapestry that is Disneyland is rather unique in this level of detail. 

What a shame the Yeargins of the world don't comprehend that.  Let's hope Cynthia Harriss sees what is happening with these kinds of discussions going on at the Team Disney building and does the right thing.  She's been batting pretty well lately - and I hope she continues to do so.

By the way, at the Lincoln attraction you can get a FREE and rather cool commemorative 'E-ticket'-like souvenir that one of the CMs worked very hard on to get done, that should ease the pain of sitting through the show.  And if you brave the lines, and land a ride in the monorail nosecone, you can also get a FREE "Co-Pilots License" too - a nice touch.

Before the Parade marches on...

So far the parade schedule looks like this - Mulan will probably close forever right before the Christmas Parade is scheduled to start. There will be some changes to the Christmas Parade, probably minor, since this may be the last year for this edition.

The new parade will then probably start in February, [Remember Christmas seems to run from Halloween to almost Valentine's Day now at the park! ;) ] and be character based with a Millennium theme. Look for the last unit in the parade to be a recycled Light Magic float to save a few bucks. 

As I understand it, the same guy who was behind the Mulan parade [from the Paris Opera and Eisner's current favorite] will be doing this one - so we may get something a little out of the ordinary yet again.  I know I can't wait.

Speaking of parades, rumor has it most of the entertainment department at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World got the ax / will get the ax in the past / next few weeks. It appears that Peter Schneider is making his moves now in taking over this area.

One can only hope that Animazement will be on the chopping block soon...  ;)

Disney's California Adventure [DCA] - the evolution continues...

As the lovely and charming Fab notes [in her latest UPDATE] I also continue to hear that theme park spending is being cut by Disney.  There is talk about the new Hong Kong park getting mothballed and the second Paris gate getting the chop.  Naturally that means current projects are also probably going to continue to get cuts. Nothing like starving the golden goose huh?

Of course with all the cuts up to now for the new park, it's plain to see that most of the WDI designers are very disappointed in DCA.  "I hope for the best, but I don't like what I see.  It looks like Magic Mountain!" is a common cry. They really don't think much of it, and the indecision and continued bad planning by some in park management only makes matters worse.

Here's an example: There was no plan for a lagoon show, and so a wave machine was built for the lagoon.  Now Team Disney Anaheim [TDA] management wants a lagoon show, but there is no place to stage the boats for a show.  So, the boats will have to stay in the lagoon, the wave machine will be turned off, and the lagoon will be a flat plate of water.  Not a great representation of the Pacific Ocean is it?

Another problem is there was no way to take ride photos on the big coaster as it was originally planned [to save a few bucks it appeared], but now management has changed their mind and wants it, so they have to provide a room to put it in.  The big coaster will be way behind in testing - from October of this year to maybe January of next.  A Wild Mouse (a Mack made coaster, same as the one in Busch Gardens Williamsburg) will be built toward the end of the project, since that is on one of the current roads into the DCA site. 

The Superstar Limo ride is being considered a "C / D" ticket ride, while California Screamin', California Soarin' (the names are FAR too confusing and have to be changed), Muppets 4-D, Tough to be Bug, and Grizzly Rapids are being pushed as the "E" tickets.

Did you also know they planned only for shade in key areas, and no rain protection at all?  Even if it is Southern California, it does rain once in a while, but you will get wet at DCA.  And, it is now understood that Downtown Disney is way behind schedule.  It will not open with DCA.

As far as future expansion goes - I can confirm that the Hollywood area will have a foundation laid for a "Future Building."  Right now the Rock'n'RollerCoaster is being looked at, along with Tower of Terror [both now in the Studios park in Walt Disney World].

Other DCA tidbits:  No more than 38,000 will be allowed into the park. And TDA is expecting 5.1 million for fiscal year 2001 and 7.5 million for fiscal year 2002. 

No annual passes will be offered through fiscal year 2003, Disneyland Annual Passholders [...as a courtesy? Phuleeze...] will be able to purchase limited amounts of discounted tickets.

The Park Hopper pass they're looking at is different than WDW's, you'll have a limited amount of "entries" to use in limited number of days.  Entering both parks on the same day would use 2 entries.  Sneaky eh?

The entertainment department, what's left of it, describes the parade route as "Long and Narrow" since at one point the parade crosses a bridge that will have to be completely closed to visitor traffic to facilitate it.  There will be 2 parades daily, one day and one night.  Current plans are to have a new parade every year.  The parade is described as being like "Hercules" in size and scope.  There will also be a separate Christmas parade.

Meanwhile, the Hyperion theater will do five shows daily, nine on peak days.  No description of the show is available yet. Also no pyrotechnics will be used / allowed in the park for anything.

One attraction that I've never heard about has been added to the Paradise Pier area and caught my eye: "Happy Boat"   ...no joke.  What could this be, a margarita barge?

Finally - all but 2 of the costumes will be worn home by Cast Members [CMs].  The Mondavi vineyard will be the only third party labor supplier in the park.  Downtown Disney will likely have an outsourced Valet company.  The mall area will be open until 2am most nights.  They're also considering using Omnibuses to transport visitors from parking lot to parking lot (for no apparent reason it seems...).

Most persistent rumor? That contingency plans are being quietly made to re-theme the park over entirely to a movie theme should the "California" theme prove to be a dud.  Makes sense - with a few clapboard signs thrown around - all those state landmark reproductions can be turned into movie sets, right?  Like I said, a rumor.

Be sure to visit the DCA section of this site for new construction photos.

Satellite Resort District Police Service Center...

The Anaheim Police have set up a temporary substation in a trailer where crime victims can now report problems they encounter while visiting the Disneyland / Anaheim resort area. Located at 1500 S. Harbor Blvd., next to a McDonald's, [what, no Winchell's?  ;) ] it will remain open there until a permanent location is found. Dressed down officers will patrol on bicycle or horseback. Interaction with visitors is meant to be casual and friendly, but goals are clear-cut: to discourage would-be criminals, and to respond quickly to crimes. 

The service center has walking-tour maps for visitors, maps of Southern California and two desk personnel to take police reports and assist crime victims. Next time you get a Big Mac attack stop by and say hello!

NFFC News...

It was announced at the NFFC meet that ToonTown, New Orleans Square and the Mark Twain are to be decorated for Christmas this year, along with more lights around the hub and also additional trees in the Castle's moat. 

Cynthia Harriss did mention that New Year's Eve won't require special tickets, or be a separate event. However, Disneyland is supposed to close the gates when they reach "capacity." Let's hope that capacity is a bit less than the Electrical Parade farewell numbers.

Harriss also announced there would be a committee put together with about 25 people, meeting on a regular basis throughout the year to discuss things going on at Disneyland, including special events. This is an interesting step she is taking here - I am curious to see what items she discusses with the group and how their feedback is utilized. So far no mention has been made as to when this will begin / or how it will be organized.

They also talked about the Autopia remodel, and how it would begin work after Labor Day, and that an exhibit in the Disney Gallery above Pirates would accompany this. Lots of merchandise events [of course] were also announced.  It's finally good to see that they are interested again in this area, and that it has been so successful for them too.

Mouse Tales II - a quick review...

I got a chance this past weekend [thanks to LrdNiekon] to skim through David Koenig's sequel to his book "Mouse Tales" - titled "More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland."

What strikes one first from glancing through this is that Koenig has really honed his writing quite a bit - it's much better written than his first volume, and due to that tends to hold the reader's interest much more this time around.

An area of particular interest to me was Koenig's in-depth reporting of the T. Irby [head of maintenance] problem - much of what was apparent to visitors and reported briefly here on this site.  In the book Koenig digs deeper into things and presents more background - helping fill in the rest of the story.  He's done a solid job on this issue. 

But overall the book, rather than expand what we already read upon in the first volume, is really only an addendum in its modest scope - skipping and hopping in coverage of things right up until essentially the Columbia accident, [although minor mentions are made of the Knott's Cinco de Mayo fiasco among others.]  

I personally found the epilogue misnamed, it is instead a rather heavy-handed editorial about what the park needs to do to get back on its feet. Last December I would have agreed with Koenig and this approach and message, but things have made a turn around the past few months and it should have been acknowledged in this book as well. [Especially considering he was able to include events as recent as last May.]

Also he has structured the book a bit differently this time, with little boxed items at the bottom of most pages, usually a funny story about visitors.  Of note are ride layout drawings of attractions such as Haunted Mansion and Pirates - all very interesting to look at.

Oddly, no mention [other than an attribution to a posting made by yours truly and one by Jack Danger in the footnotes] is made about the newsgroups or internet, a striking omission since much of the information Koenig features was first reported online, and then later picked up by the media.  

For example, to leave out the online reactions to Light Magic is baffling - since the regular media quoted a lot of it.  It's also of note that many of the terms he uses in the book for Cosmic Waves and its problems [such as Cosmic Bidet for example] were first coined online.  Also I had heard rumors of several other areas he was going to cover but didn't get into from what I could see of it.

As a marketing guy at heart, I have to say that Koenig sort of limited the sales of this book to die-hards, just by titling it with the word "More."  A smarter approach would have been to take this slim volume, re-write the first book quite a bit, and integrate the new content in with the older stuff, to create a new expanded edition of Mouse Tales instead.  

He could have grown the audience for this franchise, rather than limit it - since sequels rarely do the business the originals do.  But if you are interested in the park, you will want to have this tome anyway.  There is something of interest for just about any fan in it.

Follow-up to the above:

A few hours after I posted the above review, David Koenig kindly dropped me a line about it, and after getting an OK I present his note below.  It helps add some more background to what his thinking was about the book.

Subj: Re: Al mentioned your book on his site
Date: 8/3/1999 10:52:09 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Dave Koenig

Hi Al, 

Doobie M. just sent me a copy of your mention of my new book, and I wanted to thank you for including it. For a "quick review," it actually goes into greater depth with more-thought-out analysis than the superficial treatment my books receive from the typical professional book reviewer ("It's real funny! I liked the story where...").

I appreciate your compliments as well as the criticisms (even though I stand behind my decisions; e.g.,

  • "epilogue" is not misnamed; definitionally, it's the perfect word for a short editorial tacked onto the end of a book;

  • no mention is made of recent improvements at the park because the text of the book was completed the first week of March, at which time I saw little evidence of change (I was able to make a few last minute additions to the end notes). See yesterday's Register for my opinion of the current state of the park.

  • any information I gathered from the Internet was attributed to its source (such as you and "Jack"). That other info, such as the term "Cosmic Bidet," may first have been made public on the Internet doesn't mean that's where I heard about it.

I had considered the "$marter approach" of simply revising the first book, but decided against it for 4 reasons:

  • a. I think the second book stands on its own, with a slightly different storyline.

  • b. All the info in both books is unique; combining it would have resulted in a nearly 500-page book--"Snow White" is not 3 and a half hours long for a reason.

  • c. Marketing-wise, a revised edition likely wouldn't gather as much publicity as an entirely new book.

  • d. And, finally, I wrote "More Mouse Tales" because so many readers wanted to read more Mouse tales--rewriting the first book, I think, would have cheated the tens of thousands of people who already bought/read "Mouse Tales" and for whom this book was written.

Anyway, keep up the great work. Your site and musings are far more interesting and informational than anything anyone else, including the Company, offers.

Best wishes,
David

PS While the book's official publication date isn't for a month, it does begin trickling into bookstores, initially in Southern California, this week.

PPS Hope I can say HI again sometime the next time I'm in the park at high noon on a Sunday!

Thank you David - your note helped answer a lot of questions! I know you've got a best-seller there with my readers at the very least. :)

Here today, gone a few months later?

Try typing in dig.com into your browser [ain't that a nice name?] - which used to take you to the Disney Internet Guide, a child safe search site. I guess it's gone now, since it just defaults to Disney.com.  

But I can assure you the original D-I-G [what you are now reading] remains as strong as ever, thanks to you the reader.  :)

That should do it for now, see you at the park!

Thanks!
 

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Quick Update 8/18/99 - Millennium Parade Preview / Sinking Pirates / Eisner's sermon on the glacier - more! [Including a mini-Fab update]

D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 8/3/99 - California Miss-Adventure?

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