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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Tip of the Cap

Salute to Disneyland legends, changes at California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood, more...

First, a tip of the Mouse Ears to two unofficial Disneyland legends, a long-time cast member and a long-time guest.

Next time you visit the Disney Gallery, make a point of congratulating merchandise hostess Beverly Butrum (photo below), who recently celebrated her 35th anniversary with the park.

Disneyland feted Beverly with a special anniversary party at the Gallery patio on the evening of May 24. There, she was presented with her 35-year pin, posed for photos with Mickey Mouse, and enjoyed cake and punch with family members, co-workers and guests.

A highlight was a surprise appearance by Tony Baxter, Mike Vaughn and Mark Zimmer, Beverly's original "fan club" from the early 1970s when they all worked at Disneyland.

Former ride operator Zimmer drove out from Oklahoma City and hadn't seen Beverly in several years. "She was absolutely shocked," Zimmer says. Vaughn worked with Beverly in merchandising for many years.

Not sure what that Baxter fellow has been up in the 30-some years since he scooped ice cream at Carnation.

A long-time visitor also received a special in-park ceremony. A friend reports: "At the former Carnation Plaza there is a band every Saturday night and a group of regulars who swing dance. Two of the regulars, Mr. and Mrs. Miller, were well up in years and had reportedly been dancing at Disneyland since Walt used to come and watch. Mrs. Miller died about two years ago. Mr. Miller died in March of this year. Shortly after his death another of the regulars, Rosie, organized a little memorial service for them. There was a display with their picture and the band played their favorite song.

"Two weeks ago Rosie emptied Mr. Miller's ashes in the pond next to the Castle that borders the Carnation Plaza area. No, I am not kidding, I witnessed this myself. A small group of people participated; they said a prayer and someone took pictures. Supposedly she did the same with Mrs. Miller's ashes when she died."

Also in mourning are the performers of the hit show, The Power of Blast, at California Adventure's Hyperion Theater. DCA is ending the costly show after the summer -- several months earlier than expected.

"Originally, they were supposed to leave in early 2003," says a source. "However, Disney is exercising an escape clause in their contract. The Blast performers are basically out of a job. They were supposed to perform at DCA until next year and then go to a gig in Germany. The Germany gig is still on, and the Germans have already paid their money. Unfortunately, the performers will not have anything to do between now and then. Right now, they can only hope that they can find another gig somewhere and fast."

The Aladdin stage show that will open in the Hyperion in the late fall will serve as an abbreviated "test run" of a possible full-length Broadway musical. (Theme parks, you'll remember, are where Disney gave Broadway's Beauty and the Beast its start on stage.)

"If this show does well," speculates the source, "look for a Broadway version of Aladdin. I would imagine that the show would probably just test how scenes from the movie translate on to the stage. It could also be used to gauge guest reaction. It will not be a two-to-three hour full Broadway musical in its DCA form."

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about the "Stroller Derby" and "Pesky Passholder" issues. Impassioned emails continue to stream in, so feel free to resume these debates on MousePad. I'm going to mercifully close these topics with four final notes -- from three frequent guests and one former cast member.

Grace noted:

As premium passholders since 1997, it's a bit hard not to take some of the cast member comments personally, although I really hope none of them could apply to my family! (That comment about how we should all "get lives" hits way too close to home.) Unless we are making a purchase or getting a FastPass, I don't see how the average cast member could have any idea that we do have passes. If some APs use the pass as a license to treat cast members like dirt, then I can understand the resentment.

But I'm guessing that a certain percentage of "full paying" and complementary guests treat them like dirt, too. Unfortunately, it's just the way of the world. Some people think the universe revolves around them, and no amount of talking will persuade them otherwise.

I do have a question, though. For years, we've been told, on MousePlanet and by others, that the reason Disney looked down on APs is that we don't spend much money in the parks. Maybe that's true on a per-visit basis compared to a family that only goes to Disneyland once every few years, but I have never believed it to be the case overall. I may not buy as many plush toys as the once-in-a-lifetime visitor, but over the course of a year we spend literally thousands of dollars at Disney on meals and merchandise. And that doesn't even include our fairly regular trips to Disney World.

Disney has traditionally "looked down" on APs as spending less money not over the course of a pass, but on a per-visit basis. For argument's sake, let's say the typical AP spends $100 on a pass, goes 10 times a year, eats a $15 dinner each night, and buys a $5 souvenir each third trip.

One single visit day guest spends $45 to get in, eats a $10 lunch and a $15 dinner, and buys a $5 souvenir.

Per visit, the AP spends $26.50 and the day guest spends $75. That's why Disney is desperate to increase the number of day guests in the park on any given day. What they're forgetting, of course, is that over the course of a year the AP has spent $265 to the day guest's $75. Disney is not good at long term, cumulative thinking.

Worse, Disney views APs as "given," pre-sold customers that don't have to be marketed to. We're the hard-core fans who will visit whether you give us perks or not. The more indifferent local, who sees no difference between Disneyland and Magic Mountain and a day at the beach, is the one who has to be wooed.

Naturally, this goes against everything business schools teach about the cost of retaining existing customers vs. gaining new customers, but Disney is Disney.

Blu Silva wrote:

In response to your article on annual passholders, Shon Christy was quoted as writing: "Just because you hold an AP and get a few perks does not mean that you 'own' the park and should be treated like Walt himself."

Every single guest of Disneyland's should be treated like Walt himself. Although I did not know Walt Disney personally, from what I've read and heard of the man's desires about his guests' experiences in his park, that's exactly what he expected of his Disneyland cast members.

I am a passholder. I am a guest. Every time I enter the Park, I DO expect to be treated like "Walt himself." Every guest is entitled to that. And, yes, I expect that quality of service every single visit.

This does not allow for rude behavior on the part of any passholder nor any cast member. It's simply a fact. And it annoys me when cast members either are not trained to this standard of guest service or simply do not give a hoot.

No guest should be treated with disdain. Period.

I think I agree with Shon on this one. What he meant by "treated like Walt himself" was that someone expects special privileges and to be individually pampered. As one of possibly 50,000 guests in the park on a given day, no one person should EXPECT extraordinary service. Rudeness never. Adequate service always. Good service definitely. Great service when possible.

But you'll see it at every service-oriented business, the more customers EXPECT greatness, the more you'll see deprived, disappointed customers -- no matter how hard the business and its employees try.

Ex-ride operator Matt shared:

Obviously many AP readers were horrified at learning the truth about cast members' attitudes towards them. I myself was a passholder for a couple of years, but I can completely understand the cast members' position. The reason for this is because prior to being a passholder I was a cast member, trainer and lead for seven years.

I can remember standing on the spur side of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad station one particularly hot Sunday afternoon (the spur side faces the Rivers of America and has very little shade) when a young woman in a group waiting to board in rows 13, 14 and 15 decided to pipe up above everyone else, "Hi, Matt (reading my nametag). You know, those aren't proper sunglasses because we can't see your eyes and you know you really shouldn't be leaning against the post like that because it's bad show. We know this because we're passholders."

Now, I knew these "rules" to be true. Heck, I even taught the class to new hires up in the Disney University for a year, but never have I felt such contempt for passholders than at that moment. Sure, I was leaning against a post in the sun on a 90+ degree afternoon and maybe the lenses of my sunglasses were a bit dark because I wanted to shield my eyes from the SUN. But, I did not feel that it was this group's job to draw attention to it so that they could have a laugh and pat themselves on the back for their "inside knowledge."

Similar behavior was witnessed while working shifts on the Mark Twain. "Captain, captain! You have to let us ride in the wheelhouse! We're passholders! We know the rules!"

And never have I witnessed such ugliness as when I had to watch (on numerous occasions) different groups of passholders try to assert their false superiority against each other to try and claim the highly coveted five available seats in the front of the Monorail. Often I would have to intervene and then watch as the "winning" party got their way and proudly marched into the cab. Just as sickening was the way these folks' attitudes suddenly became sweet as punch as soon as they were comfortably seated inside and would then begin to want to make pleasant small talk with me or pick my brain for trivia while I drove.

Along with these memories are those of some of the other "colorful" passholders who have been well documented in your two Mouse Tales books. I remember the woman with the supercharged wheelchair quite well... Granted, these people were the minority, but it unfortunately was not enough to give me anything more than a lousy impression of these people in general. Working as a cast member you always knew that these were the folks who were most likely to complain the loudest and give you the hardest time for the smallest mistake or offense. So later on, when I became an AP myself, you can be sure that I did my best to play it cool, have fun, and not give people a hard time or assert myself in an obnoxious manner in order to get my way.

Jeff wrote:

You can't set an age limit at Disney/amusement parks, won't fly, so end of story. However, taking "most" kids younger than 4 or so doesn't make sense. They have NO idea what's going on, and can't really appreciate everything. The reason they go is because of the parents, who think it's cute, and time to take them, and get their pictures with all the characters and such.

Parents need to get a clue and take them when it's (like all things in a kid's life) age appropriate. Each parent knows when the right time is. They just know. For some kids it might be 3, for others it might be 6. I've seen parents take little babies to ballgames. Calling it their "first game." It's not their first game. They have no idea where they are at. Yeah, it's cute to throw a ballcap on 'em, and take their picture. It's for the parents' selfish whims, not because little 13-month-old Sparky said, "Hey, Mom and Pops, how 'bout taking me to the Yankees-Mets clash tonight? I saw on ESPN that it's going to be great!"

Same with amusement parks. I doubt little 15-month-old Poinsettia said, "Hey, Mom and Pops, how about us getting our swerve on and getting out of our crib, hopping in our ride, and bust on down to Walt's place and hit the sights!"

All of which leads me to a couple of other pet peeves, that make me laugh, and yet sad for those kids that ARE old to be there:

- For those of us who go often, how many times have you seen parents come up on a line with the kids (who want to go on the ride) and say, "Nope, let's pass on this one," or "We'll come back later (yeah, sure)" all because the LINE IS TOO LONG. Hey, Ozzie and Harriet, it's an AMUSEMENT PARK, that's the way it is. If the kids want to go on something, let them go. If that means you might go on two less attractions all day, so be it. I think the kid will have longer and better memories if they got to go on the seven rides they wanted to, than the nine you actually did hit, but those other two were something they weren't interested in.

- Or, and this one kills me, say a child is getting a little cranky (most likely because mom and pop won't let him go on previously mentioned ride), and the sharp-as-a-tack parent-of-the-year-nominee says, "You better straighten up, Junior, or we're going home! Do you wanna go home?" Oh my gosh, the yucks ensue. I just wish once I could hear some wiseacre 9-year-old say, "Ummm sure, Mom and Pops, it's only 9:30, and you spent over 100 bucks to get in here, and we drove for an hour to get here, and I don't plan on behaving much better than you're seeing right now, so why don't we leave, hop in our Gremlin, and drive on back home, SpongeBob Squarepants marathon is on today on Nickelodeon, and I don't wanna miss it."

But that just goes back to the old deal of parents not sticking to what they say. If you don't plan on leaving the park, don't use it as a threat. And if you go to a park, just accept it, lines are part of the experience. Even more of a reason not to take your youngins' till the right age.

You sound exactly like I did, same beefs, four or five years ago, before I became a parent myself.

I realized a lot of parents take babies to Disneyland not to give the child a treat; it's because the parents want to go to Disneyland. Bringing the baby to Disneyland is less expensive than hiring a babysitter, and you get to share your experiences with your child -- even if the child is too young to tell the difference between Disneyland and the DMV.

We're a family, and we like being together. And I discovered that Disneyland, more than any other place, I enjoy much more when I'm with my family.

The kids seem okay with it, too. My son began enjoying being at Disneyland by the time he turned 1. No, he was too little to go on Space Mountain. He was too young to understand any of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. He could barely walk.

But he loved driving his own Autopia car like nothing else. And watching the parades and fireworks and riding the Carrousel. And watching those things light up his face with joy brings me more joy than anything else I've ever experienced in Disneyland.

My son's 3 now, and he's memorized the color coding and attraction numbering on the guide maps to Disneyland and DCA (He sounds like Rain Man. "Daddy, can we go on The Monorail, Blue Number 9, now?"). As he grows older, he'll certainly appreciate Disneyland more, but I can't imagine him enjoying it any more than he does right now.

As for his little sister, she turned 1 last week, and she's been to Disneyland about eight or 10 times. Again, she understands none of it, but enjoys the lights and colors and music, and we enjoy spending our time there with her.

As for your pet peeves, we commonly bypass Dumbo and other rides that my son might like to ride because there are a few dozen other equally enjoyable things without an hour-long wait and, as APs, we can come back another day and hope for a shorter line. My son is okay with that. He, in fact, would have a much less pleasant time waiting in that line than we would.

I couldn't agree more with you about idly threatening to take a misbehaving kid home. It drives me crazy when I see parents trying to correct their children with threats of actions they never intend to take. Their children quickly realize this, and come to think they don't have to listen to their parents because they are full of hot air.

Over at Universal Studios-Hollywood, the new "Spider-man Rocks!" is undergoing emergency rewrites at the request of senior management that oversees all the Vivendi Universal parks.

"It is currently in the process of being toned down," says one source. "It's a little too risqué for a family audience. There were a lot of suggestive body language and Brittany Spears/Eminem type dance moves. Imagine the movie Grease taken a couple of steps further. Nothing major that can't be fixed -- but the theater is full of very young kids and there is no reason not to run a clean show, like the Spiderman movie was.

That hasn't stopped Universal employees from calling the show "RENT, starring Spider-man" and "The Rocky Horror Spider-man Show," or decrying: "Instead of the show, they should have torn out the theater and built the Islands of Adventure Spider-man ride there!"

Last note: I urge anyone who'll be in Southern California the weekend after next to attend the upcoming NFFC Disneyana Show & Sale Sunday July 21 at the Crown Plaza Hotel (about a mile from Disneyland at Harbor and Chapman in Garden Grove). Even those who aren't collectors but just "enthusiasts" like me will have a wonderful time poring through old guidebooks and other memorabilia at about 200 exhibitor tables and mingling with the hundreds more Disney fans from around the world.


I'll be among those 200 peddlers, so please hunt me down and say, "Hi!" It will be my first signing since the release of two "new" books: the slightly updated paperback version of More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland as well as -- and this one is NOT available through MouseShoppe -- the Korean edition of Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks. (Shown above.) Reserve your copy today!

Send your comments to David here.


David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


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