Cast members gab on rehabs, the
VSP, a falling tree, and much, much more.
It's time to play catch up with some of my sources
at Disneyland, DCA and Universal StudiosHollywood
close did Disneyland come to receiving its target of 250
applicants for its Voluntary Separation Program?
"The 250 quota for the VSP was not reached, so
there will be some more lay-offs."
"I was told that we almost made that quota,
but the numbers were increased to around 500. So, on paper,
we fell short."
When will / did the
departures take place?
"Cast members who have taken the VSP are leaving at
intervals, not all at one time. It appears layoffs are coming
up, regardless the cast members who took the VSP. There are
whispers going around that a round of layoffs will occur
before July 4.
"Concerning the cast members who took the VSP, here
is an interesting story (at this time unconfirmed, but comes
from various sources): Orders from TDA (Team Disney Anaheim)
or the honchos at Burbank came down that cast members who took
the VSP were to leave the company quietly. No good-bye
parties, cards or memos. If any news came out, it was to
happen after their departure. So if you didn't know about
someone leaving, it would appear they got erased off the face
of the earth.
Why such secrecy? You got me. But I can tell you, there
were parties and get-togethers for cast members."
Have the cutbacks had any effect on
"Everyone is awaiting the drop of the other shoe
now that most of the voluntary separations have happened. The
MRT (Maintenance Response Team) is on an overtime restriction,
and with vacations, sick days, and holidays, they are running
raggedly shorthanded. The number of serious downtimes is
slightly higher already.
Just yesterday alone, Pirates almost had to be
evacuated, Space Mountain had a more-serious-than-usual
downtime, and Screamin' was down twice for brake problems,
probably relatively minor ones since they came back up so
California Screamin' at
"Half of the available DCA MRT are to 'stand-by'
at Screamin' awaiting the next downtime (must be having lots
of problems out there), while the rest of the crew are to
cover all the rest of DCA. With summer approaching rapidly,
and the Grad Nites under way, this should get very
"Remember how we were told that the Facilities budget
was reduced $14 million? The South Team offices were just
completely remodeled! There are lots of new and expensive
cubicles, and there is a new carpet on the floor, a deep pile
with a custom Mickey design done in several colors. I would
estimate that the cost of this carpet approaches $100 a yard,
so what happened to the budget cuts?"
"The Western offices have had similar treatment.
According to the management there, it was for asbestos
abatement. North offices by Small World had already been
|Fortunately, I haven't
heard of any recent fires on the Rivers of America, but I
understand there have been a few incidents.
"On June 4, the Columbia 'lost all forward power'
around 1:30 p.m. just past the old Keel Boat dock. The ship
had to back up, with only one of two propellers working, which
made it slow going. At the same time, a guest became ill 'from
the sun.' On June 5, the Columbia went 101 for the same
Pirates still soaking guests (see "Splash
Pirates")? I heard that some loaders are now warning
guests that they might get a little wet.
"Yes. Just the other day, Pirates was flooded.
There was so much water down below that most of the show
lighting and effects in the battle scene were submerged and
are still in process of repair. Much of the lighting and
effects in the Bayou were also affected."
|Wasn't the new drain
that I discussed in the same article suspiciously close to the
cork oak that toppled a few weeks ago onto a couple of dozen
"Close enough to count!"
"Now a tree is attacking the guests? Believe me, a
lot of us are scratching our heads about this one. Without
revealing too much, let's just say the ODV (outdoor vending)
popcorn wagon looks like a squashed Coke can after this.
"With all the mishaps going on, some cast members
are wondering if this is a sign that the park is protesting in
the way it is being treated. With the constant penny-
pinching, and the neglect it is going through, many of us are
saying that it is saying, 'I've had enough!'"
"Remember the popcorn cart the tree fell on? It
must have had a bad karma day. Not only did the tree fall on
it, but as it was being hauled to the rear for repairs, it
fell off the truck hauling it. Then, after being placed in the
breezeway of the maintenance building, an unexploded fireworks
shell fell through a skylight and burst on it, burning it
beyond repair. Other shop equipment was burned up also."
Any other "fall out" from
the tree incident?
"Landscaping is going through the park and
targeting trees for removal. About six have been selected; one
will be the tree that is behind the Guest Relations Info Board
in front of Plaza Pavilion. The tree is held up by two metal
posts and the branches with guide wires."
Trees instantly disappear!
"Two old trees disappeared on the morning of June 4
from the planters in front of the Plaza Pavilion. All part of
the tree-cutting plan stemming from the incident in
Frontierland. New trees will be planted to replace the old
its age, the Matterhorn typically requires the longest rehab of
any attraction. But this year it seems to have been down even
longer. Why the delays?
"They keep finding things that won't wait anymore.
The elevator install hasn't even been started as of the last
time I checked in over there. I wouldn't expect to see it back
in service before the start of summer."
Actually, a sign has been posted on
the construction fences saying the ride will reopen by the end
of June. Considering how common delays have become, isn't it
risky to publicize exact reopening dates?
"This is how we USED to do it!!! I can remember the
big Matterhorn Ride Control rehab back in 1980-2, when the
completion date was posted on the walls just like now. Only
thing different is the planning back then was done by people
who knew how the work was done, not by some snot-nosed MBA
wannabe who never lifted a tool heavier than a VCR
Rumors are that time and money
constraints may prevent the Matterhorn from getting safety gates
and FastPass during this rehab. Any truth here?
"Legal will insist that the gates be in before the
Matterhorn loading area
before the rehab
Not having FastPass is a possibility. They have no good
way of running the CAT 5 wiring necessary for the stations, no
place to put the server, and no connection to the fiber
backbone. These issues will be dealt with 'later.'"
|Has retraining of ride
operators started on Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin?
"Roger Rabbit testing is still not going well,
mostly due to the confused situation everyone has to deal with
over there. The various project managers are still planning
things like they are the only ones involved. Cooperation only
happens among those actually doing real work over there.
"Some of the confusion involves equipment used to
control the animation and show doors having to be replaced due
the manufacturer no longer making or supporting the equipment.
Keeping this equipment in use places Disney in the front row
at Liability Court, so it has been decreed from On High that
all of this will be replaced.
Our engineers, overloaded with work as they are, will
probably get it all done in time, but their families won't
new on the East side of the park, besides the Atlantis Meet and
"A new Buzz Lightyear show will be taking place at
Tomorrowland Terrace. It will mark the appearance of Zurg. But
he will only be appearing in the show, and not be walking
around like Buzz (and spared from the autograph hounds)."
|Is business finally
picking up at Disney's California Adventure?
"We had a good day at DCA yesterdaythe line for
Screamin' went around TWO turns of the queue!"
Main StreetI mean Disney's Electrical Parade still on
schedule for a July 4 premiere at DCA?
"Electrical parade floats are coming along. Tents
had to be raised along Katella behind Screamin' to store them
all. 'To Honor America' is back, and will likely be the
parade's finale float again.
Event Services has a hiring freeze in place, so all existing
crew are having to work 14-hour days six days a week to cover."
|And, how's business at
"Attendance is booming at USH thanks to all the
local business that we are finally getting. All the season
passes, supermarket promotions, Citywalk expansion, etc.,
etc., along with the failure of DCA as an attendance drain
factor has made for huge spring crowds.
"DCA sure is advertising itself as a kids park now
I don't think anybody is falling for this, though. I talk
to our out of town guests everyday and many have come from DCA
the day or two before; a major complaint is not enough
attractions and not enough for kids."
So Disney's had minimal effect on USH this year?
"Disney did ask us to drop the 'Temple of Doom'
phrase at our Mummy Maze (the signage now says 'Walk Thru
Haunted Movie Sets') and to drop the verbal references to
Disney from our Shrek kids show.
The Mummy Maze
"The Mummy maze is a walk-thru past the props and
sets from the movie. Every so often the guests will encounter
live mummies and other characters from the movie. The maze is
in the exact location the Grinch was located in during last
Christmas peak season. Prior to Grinch this was the building
that housed the Marvel Mania restaurant (and before that-the
Victoria Station restaurant)."
What else is new?
Animal Planet show at
"The new Animal Planet show is doing well. It is
directly tied in with the cable channel, and the live on-set
animals share time with taped segments on video monitors. AP
is running this show and it's still a work in progress, but
the guest seem to be enjoying it."
"The reworked Jaws attraction is now open. I
haven't seen Jaws since it reopened, but a police diver is
supposed to be attacked and more flames have been added.
"The Lucy Tribute has some new displays and a
remodeled floor plan. The River Princess snack bar is now
remodeled as the Flintstone's Drive-In and actually looks
pretty good. It's still a theme park snack bar with an
unchanged menu, but the facade looks really nice and themes up
well with the two live action movies. Nothing like
Disney-MGM's SciFi place.
"Carleon & Sons will reopen in June as Frank
'n' Stein. Carleon & Sons was a upscale Italian snack bar
just inside the park after you enter (and passed the retail
store on the left). No word yet on the menu (which will
probably be small to medium in size) for the new place, but
the Frank 'n' Stein name is kind of neat.
At the end of the Studio
Center is Cinemagic
"The only negative is Cinemagicit is now open
weekends only until summer in order to save money."
Thank you all!
You can write to David
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.
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