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
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.
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
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
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
|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
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
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.
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
- 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
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
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
"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
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
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.)