It's time to play catch up again with some of my sources at Disneyland
and Universal Studios-Hollywood
It's Time To Say Good-bye
Disneyland's latest, long-dreaded round of layoffs Tuesday
and Wednesday affected both salaried and hourly employees. The
hourlies were herded to a conference room at the Grand
Californian and given their walking papers. Some were called in
on their day off, unaware of the reception that awaited them.
"Pretty dirty way the company handled it," said a
cast member who survived the cut. "Well, it seems par for
the course. As related from a studio cast member, around last
year the studio laid off animators in a similar fashion. The
studio had a barbecue party and during the festivities, a
manager read off a list of names and asked them to meet him on
the side. He then told them they were laid off. Yeah, I just
feel the love."
The Team Disney Anaheim
As far as salaried employees, one reported, "Yesterday
was Doomsday for a whole lot of people. Security lined up early
at Team Disney Anaheim (TDA), limited access to the building to
a select few, and walked out those whose time had come. Once
these were gone, hired movers went in to clear out all the
non-sensitive materials, and to sort out company property from
personal. It was all over by noon. As predicted, clerical was
hit hard. There were some management people who left as
Merchandise/Shops saw their share of layoffs too. Managers
and assistants huddled in stockrooms Tuesday, waiting to see
who would be "next." One long timer commented: "The
Fantasyland shops, to name just one area, lost two managers.
One manager had just earned his 20-year pin. There was a meeting
Tuesday afternoon, at which the new organization of the stores
was discussed. It looks like the Fantasyland shops will be merged
into one unit again, with a new manager. One of the stores might
be closed, and no one is sure what's happening to the current
By mid-afternoon, some CMs were calling store to store to learn
the latest news. One CM said "It was a bloodbathwe
lost the person who held this area together." Another said,
"We had CMs crying on-stage, which was really good show."
On Tuesday night one lone lead was all the supervision available
for all of Fantasyland stores. Collectibles also lost someone
who had just reached their 20th anniversary.
Noted the friend of a highly regarded, 20-year veteran who
was let go: "To say the least, he was like many before him
in chastising the park and how they play with peoples lives. He
says that he was handled very poorly in his dismissal, but he
expected it, the dismissal, and the way he was treated."
|Down With the
Al Lutz's Disneyland
Information Guide recently reported that an empty
Pirates boat sunk Sunday night. Most of the ride operators I
contacted had yet to hear about the accident, including those
who worked earlier that evening as well as the following
morning. As a witness explained, "The incident did occur
just a couple minutes before closing, when most people had
already left, and I, too, found most cast members unaware of the
Pirates of the Caribbean
Yet repairmen and other witnesses confirmed the report and
added details. One reason so many managers responded to the call
was that ride evacuations "are a big deal, and at that time
of night there is hardly any (hourly) cast members left, let
alone any to spare to evacuate the whole ride. Luckily, there
were only about 100 guests downstairs and they all got out
quickly, and one very nice family who was stuck on the lift for
about 20 minutes. They were just the nicest people, family of
four all in matching Disneyland sweatshirts that looked like
they stepped out of a cereal commercial. They were on a two-day
pass, so they were comped lunch at DCA for the following day and
given a backdoor pass for Soarin' since they were stuck on that
incline for 20 minutes in the middle of the night."
Another cast member said, "I've never seen a boat do
that before, the whole bow just went down into the water and the
damn thing sunk! Very lucky that the boat was tagged to be
pulled off and wasn't full of guests, because there could have
been a real panic if it had passengers in it when it sunk like
Added a Facilities crewman: "The boat appears to have
been punctured by a two-inch pipe, on the right side at about
the third row, just at the water line. No one yet knows what
caused the puncture. There are also signs on some of the boats
of frame damage at about the fourth row, and the sides of all
the boats are showing serious scarring from something rough
A former Pirates ride operator says, "For at least a couple
of years now, Facilities has stopped any real repairs on the
boats. I'm not one to say if this is budget related or has to
do with lack of people to perform maintenance, but the problems
just mount. You see, the brakes at the top of drop one and two
and the pre-lift brake at the bottom of the lift hill keep punching
holes in the boats. It's sort of like the Morse code effect
that people say sank the Titanic (interesting parallel, no?)."
Space No One Can Hear
In the same edition of the D-I-G,
a reader claimed that he was told by a Space Mountain ride operator
that repairs are being deferred because all the rockets are
"going to be replaced in about a month."
The new ride photo system
shows the Space Mt. cars
I'd heard the same rumor, such as from this cast member:
"They are supposed to be getting new rockets soon. I do not
believe it will be the entire fleet for some time, but they are
supposed to get a test rocket with a new sound system 'similar
to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.' The backs are supposed to be lower
like the rockets were prior to the sound system installation.
They should be getting the new test rocket next month or perhaps
With the Facilities budget cut so severely? Sounded very far
fetched to me, so I asked a Facilities mechanic.
He agreed, "It IS very far fetched! The new body project
at Space got put on indefinite hold (some time ago). Initially,
the hold was because the design staff was assigned to Screamin'
(truly a sound system designed by a committee!), then fiscal
issues were cited as being the reason. There were problems with
weight, center of gravity, speaker placement, mounting of the
sound system equipment, etc. As these problems were not easily
solved without a mass infusion of cash, and DCA was only a year
away from opening, the design group was disbanded. Thus, there
are NO active plans to alter the Space bodies. In fact, a couple
are in the process of being rehabbed for return to the ridein
the current configuration.
"The main reason the sound system is in the shape it is,
even with the old bodies, is (the mechanics') lack of experience
with audio equipment. As the equipment needing repair started to
pile up, they mangled the repairs, succeeding only in adding to
the work load. Eventually, there weren't enough working pieces
to keep it running. The ride operators didn't like the system
anyway, so they would shut it all off once ANY unit began
"And, since the former manager of the Coaster Team (now
manager of North TeamFantasyland/ToonTown) was such a
tightwad, this just meant that he didn't have to 'waste' his
budget on it anymore. Bottom line on Space Audio: no one cares,
and the hell with the guests!"
Unfortunately, maintenance spent a lot of its time at Space
Mountain last week cleaning up damage to the inside queue from a
Grad Nite. Evidently, the vandals "punched two or three
holes in the drywall and used the drywall fragments as chalk for
graffiti. It was a real mess. It took a couple of work days to
repair. I don't know if this is true as I was unable to make
sense of the graffiti myself, but apparently, some of the grads
wrote their school's names and such. I've been told that several
schools have been banned from Grad Nite participation for
several years because of the damage."
The Matterhorn should reopen in about a week, but, according
to a cast member, "the FastPass system and the safety gates
will not be installed in this rehab. The mountain will have
another rehab in September, and this is when they will be put
A Universal tram on the
Meanwhile cutbacks continue at Universal Studios-Hollywood (USH),
as well. Reportedly, last Sunday were the final performances of
the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein show. "Strictly economics
figured in this decision," confessed an Entertainment
Department employee. "The show was really popular with the
kids and always had big crowds, but the company is looking for
ways to save money."
Ironically, he continues, "we passed the 300,000 mark in
season passes sold last weekwhich has meant huge crowds
every day, but senior management has told us the guests are not
spending enough money on food, drinks and souvenirs."
Consequently, he adds, "Vivendi has told us to expect a
voluntary retirement program similar to Disney's to be put in
before the end of the year."
(MousePlanet's news page
today also has an item from the Orlando Sentinel detailing other
layoffs at Universal Orlando.)
As noted last time, Disney insisted that USH change its Mummy
Maze from the "Temple of Doom" and remove Disney
references from its Shrek stage show. "The Mummy Maze is
now using the term 'Chamber of Doom,'" a source elaborates.
"About the Shrek show Disney references, Disney asked us to
drop the "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go
phraseas it is copyrighted. Disney also asked us to drop any
references to their characters, but as you know many of the
characters are in the public domain. Our legal team felt Disney
was just trying to bluff us on that one."
Waterworld at Universal
Universal saved its best digs at the competition for an
employee-only, revamped version of its popular Waterworld show.
A Universal employee relates: "Our annual employee summer
kickoff party last week was at Waterworld (renamed the Disney
Catastrophic Adventure!). A character named "Michael Eisner"
is killed in the show, the bad guys wore mouse ears, even the
hovercraft had huge mouse ears attached to it. There were knocks
on Downtown Disney, the small crowds at DCA, and the good guy
(played in the show by USH President Larry Kurzwiel) mentions
that USH doesn't drop oak trees on our guests.
"I missed the party and show but it sounded wildand
the first time I remember USH ever talking about the Disney
parks to the line employees (over 2,000 at the show)."
You can write to David atthis link..
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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