Another Update, plus Reader Mail
Lost in Space
Reader Andrew asked:
I was wondering where is the new Space Mountain car located? I would
like to get some pictures of it.
Save your film. While the prototype rocket had been stored in a "more
visible" backstage location, about two weeks ago it was moved back
to "its home," in the Facilities 500 Building adjacent to the
Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) Building.
A ride operator elaborated:
They are undecided and don't know if they are going to phase it in
with guests or just wait until all 14 of them arrive. It still seems
a long ways off, like after summer before any are put into use.
Still, Space Mountain was shut down Wednesday afternoon April 24 for
"testing," although no one would exactly what was being tested.
CalOSHA was called in "for consultation," said state Department
of Industrial Relations spokesman Dean Fryer. "They were making some
changes to the ride, so the ride was shut down while we were doing our
inspection. We did suggest some minor corrections."
Actually, the attraction has been experiencing an unusual amount of downtime
lately. Two Sundays ago, said a ride operator,
Space opened late due to a crack in one of the I-beams holding up one
of the tracks. They welded well into the afternoon before opening up.
Apparently they must have used gum and duct tape to fix that crack because
then this past Tuesday, Space was closed all day due to the crack resurfacing.
I believe they took a more drastic step, something to the effect of
replacing the whole beam itself instead of just repairing the crack.
Counting on Characters
Reports an employee:
Cast members and guests have noticed the Character Department hosts
(the cast members that watch over the characters in the park) are carrying
small hand counters. They are now keeping track of the number of guests
seeing the characters.
There is speculation on why this is done: the 'bean counters' in TDA
(Team Disney Anaheim) and Burbank are demanding justification on the
amount of money being spent having characters in the park. If this is
true, how could you put a price on the joy of a child seeing their favorite
Disney character? If the counts are low, does that mean that characters
Certain unpopular characters maybe, but I'm sure there will always be
characters. Lots of them. My guess is that Disney is trying to "quantify
the relative popularity" of each character. This may help them schedule
certain characters more frequently, move them to more accessible locations,
have them appear at more popular times of the day, or even introduce promotions
or merchandise related to more popular characters.
The Atlantis characters are seen less frequently since last summer.
This doesn't have to be bad. Let's hope Disney uses this new data for
good instead of evil. The cast member agreed,
There will be always characters in the park. But with the way the company
is so penny-pinching about things, cast members are looking at this
as an ominous sign.
It has come down with the general attitude of cast members toward the
company lately, we look at anything management considers 'good' with
a degree of suspicion (but it's like that anywhere, right?).
New operating procedures have been added at the Indiana Jones Adventure,
following an employee injury mid-afternoon April 16. As a ride operator
A Facilities cast member was injured while adding a jeep. He was apparently
standing near the mirror, and didn't hear or see the jeep coming out,
and was struck by the rear bumper when it swung around the track switch.
He didn't report it to an Attractions cast member, but instead went
back to the hand-off area of the ride.
The ride shut down immediately, and remained so until the park closed
several hours later. CalOSHA's Fryer confirmed the vehicle struck the
man's leg, and he suffered a 6-inch laceration. The agency decided against
a full investigation.
But, the ride operator continued, "effective April 18, every single
cast member, be it the lead, Facilities or management, is to stay clear
of the track and hand-off. Cast members are to hit an E-Stop if anyone
shows up on the monitor in the tower. Just another overboard safety
measure at Indy.
The precautions go beyond the "tag out" safety procedures instituted
on Indy several years ago. Whenever a crewmen went inside the body of
the attraction, they were to take a colored tag with them, so everyone
knew where they were.
Switching gears for a moment to animation, a mock press release, penned
by a disgruntled former animator, has been making the rounds. "It
is pinned up all over the studio walls," admits one animator.
"Disney Feature Animation failing, Despite Efforts of Thomas Schumacher"
Burbank, CA The entertainment industry stands perplexed over
the continual decline in profit margins at Walt Disney Feature Animation,
despite the Herculean efforts made to save the failing company by President
and Tony Award winner Thomas Schumacher.
"I didn't invent animation. Walt invented animation," Schumacher
said in a recent press conference. "I merely advanced animation
to an art form."
Never have truer words been spoken. Since his promotion to President
of Feature Animation, Schumacher has overseen the production of such
films as The Emperor's New Groove and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, both
instant classics that are cherished by dozens of people worldwide.
"I've never seen a time when our films were more vital and energetic,"
Schumacher said. "From The Little Mermaid: Return to the Sea to
Peter Pan: Return to Neverland to Cinderella II: Return to the Store
for a Refund, the creative range and diversity of our recent offerings
have no equal."
Cinderella II. Promotional art © Disney.
Yet despite the continuous outpouring of high quality family entertainment
that the studio has crafted under Schumacher's careful guidance, consumer
trends are beginning to shift away from the traditional hand-drawn offerings
in favor of flashy new three dimensional "computer graphics imagery."
In a web poll, most moviegoers said that they preferred 3-D computer-animated
films like PDI-DreamWorks' Shrek and Disney bedfellow Pixar's Monster's
Inc. to recent traditional Disney features, claiming that these films
"make sense" and "don't suck."
When questioned on the prospect of computer animation completely replacing
the traditional style created by the Disney studio, Schumacher chuckles
"Much like myself, the computer is a powerful tool. It is a tool
that we are using in our films right now. We're hip. We're with it.
Some people don't realize that the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin or the
boats in Pocahontas were digital creations. Some people still get scared
when the theater lights go down and the wall turns into a magic window
with moving pictures living inside of it. These are the people that
I am reaching out to with my films."
Indeed, Disney has always been a pioneering force in computer graphics.
"We were doing computer before computer was cool. We made Tron
in 1982. That's a full 13 years before Toy Story," Schumacher gloats.
"In recent years, we have been committed to further development
of this new art form that the Disney studios created."
While on the subject of the new wave of technological animation, Schumacher
spoke proudly of the establishment of his fully realized Disney three-dimensional
computer animation studio, The Secret Lab.
"When we merged Dream Quest Images and Disney's computer animation
operation, it represented a tremendous pooling of talent and resources.
Both groups were involved in creating spectacular digital imagery, and
the formation of The Secret Lab brought together a group of visual effects
experts that were tops in their field. Disney built a first-class digital
animation studio and pushed the boundaries of digital filmmaking,"
Schumacher said. "But it didn't really work out, so we canned them
Without skirting the issue, Schumacher spoke briefly on the subject
of corporate belt-tightening, putting to rest months of rumors and speculation.
"Yes, there will be layoffs," Schumacher admitted, his eyes
beginning to shimmer with compassionate tears. "They are necessary
to keep the company strong, and to that end, we are removing the elements
in the studio who are most to blame for our recent box office failures.
Schumacher went on to say that the layoffs will be minor, effecting
only about 10 to 97% of the current workforce. "We're not shutting
down the Burbank studio, we're merely cutting the fat. When we've reached
our goals, Disney Feature Animation will be a stunning Calista Flockhart
of an animation studio."
Despite the downturn, Schumacher is confident for the future, and has
greenlit a full slate of films through 2006, including Bambi II: A Few
More Bucks and A Completely F***ing Balls Out Goofy Movie.
"Some naive people have said cel animation is dead," Schumacher
says. "But it's still a great business to be in. Until I fire you."
Lost & Found & Relocated
Back in Anaheim, the consolidation of the two parks' Lost & Found
areas to a single central location is moving forward. One cast member
It's on the way, the signs announcing the move are all around.
Some of the Disneyland Lost & Found crew are anxious to flee the
current grimy quarters. But, asks a cast member in another department,
If Lost & Found is a secured location and is not cleaned on a regular
basis as it is, what makes anyone believe it will be regularly cleaned
as a consolidated facility?
Suggests a worker:
My best guess is probably not. However, the benefit lies in 'starting
over,' moving everything to a brand-new facility. I mean, DCA has had
its Lost & Found's back room closed off for over a year nowbut
it's still about 10 times cleaner than its Disneyland counterpart, which
has been working out of the same building for about 15 years (or whenever
they moved from the Emporium, anyway). The new Lost & Found may
not receive regular cleaning, as maybe it shouldn't with all the valuables
around, but it will at least 'buy' another 10 years of a pleasant work
Which begs the question: why isn't it regularly cleaned? I understand
the back of Disneyland's Lost & Found is so dingy that at least two
cast members received notes from their doctors to avoid working there
due to dust and allergens.
Couldn't a cleaning crew make a regular visit, even if security cameras
and an armed guard watched each sweeper's every move? The employee responds:
That's a good question, and probably one that we should start when
the changeover occurs (now slated for the end of May). I mean, all Lost
& Found/Guest Relations cast members are trusted to work the locationthey're
no more trustworthy than custodial cast members. Maybe they should come
by (during the day, at least, when they're there) and sweep up occasionally.
Regarding the recent comments about shoplifting and the needs for the
I am wondering: what happened to the Security?
It was always my understanding that the Disney Security was hiding
in bushes, and had cameras everywhere! (Maybe that was just the paranoia
story that they sell to kids?)
I have a friend who swears by the effectiveness of Disney Security.
When she was 10, she was persuaded to steal a ball cap from one of the
stores. She walked around all day with the hat buried deep in her backpack,
thinking that Security would come and get her. After a few hours, she
felt relatively safe, and actually wore the hat for the rest of the
day. Thinking that she had gotten off scot free, she was devastated
when she was literally grabbed and pulled aside by a security officer
on her way out the gate that night at park closing. She was detained
and her parents were called to pick her up from the security office
for shoplifting. What they told her (which may or may not bear any truth)
was that she was seen stealing earlier, and they followed her all day.
That kind of story kept me very wary of the invisible eyes of the Disney
Law! Not that I was a bad kidI'm just saying ;) I have even seen
fights break out, and within seconds, security officers were swarming
If Disney has such a top notch security team, why the detectors? I
think enough people have pointed out the drawbacks.
Disney's security force today is a shadow of what it was less than 10
years ago, not to mention that crowds are larger and trouble-makers more
In the late '90s, Disney security started getting too aggressive and
management castrated the department to protect its happy, smiling PR image
(the whole story's in
my book More Mouse Tales, which is out in paperback next month).
The letter printed here a couple of weeks ago by a disgruntled guest
continues to spark reader reaction. John, a.k.a. "ParrotHead,"
I just had to add my two cents to the discussion about the guest who
couldn't find his brick and the cast member who gave him an 800 number
Was this awful guest service? No. Was it outstanding? No. The outstanding
thing for the cast member to do would have been to have offered to call
the number for the guest and find out where his brick was. Instead,
the appearance was created that the cast member was passing the buck.
I used to work for a large hardware store chain. Back then, we all
had to wear smocks that said, "Ask meIf I don't know, I'll
find out." The idea was that each employee was responsible for
helping every customer get an answer to every question, even if their
question was related to something outside our area of expertise. I worked
in the electrical department, but I was expected to help a customer
who had, say, a plumbing question. And not by simply pointing them in
the general direction of the plumbing department and sending them on
their way. Rather, I would walk with them to that department and make
sure an associate there answered their question.
Any cast member who doesn't grasp this notion of guest service needs
to be re-trained. Any trainer who isn't teaching this notion of guest
service needs to be fired.
And on another topic, while we're on the subject of how to treat guests
I have a problem with the anti-theft devices being used at Disneyland.
I understand the need to minimize inventory shrink, but I also understand
that systems like this treat EVERY GUEST like a potential thief. That's
wrong for SO many reasons, not the least of which is the embarrassment
caused by false alarms.
The irony is that the use of such systems is spoken against in a customer
service-related book called Raving Fans, which is written by Kenneth
Blanchard, an author whose works I've seen Disney's upper management
recommend to lower-level managers.
to buy from Amazon.
I guess Raving Fans wasn't on the list of recommended reading, though.
That's a shame, because I sometimes think that some (not all, thank
goodness) within the company have no idea what creating raving fans
is all about, or how to go about doing it.
Here's a hint
Passing the buck on guests who need assistance
and treating all guests like potential thieves are not how you create
A ride operator wrote:
The last letter by a Disneyland Resort cast member struck a chord with
me. I always try so very hard to provide great "guest service,"
but more times than not, guests are just so rude and stuck on the "me"
aspect. Like they are the only one waiting in a queue that is 120 minutes
long. God forbid Indiana Jones breaks down if you have a FastPass; numerous
times, I have been talked down to and yelled at by rude, selfish morons
who expect a flawless visit.
Reality check, things break, get over it. Bottom line, guests need
to keep in mind that they are not the only one in the park! (Except
at DCA, but that goes without saying). Especially during spring break,
summer, or during Christmas. You have no idea just how much it makes
a difference when people show some patience and cooperation, and say,
"Thank you." It's when I come across people like that who
I go the extra mile for.
Reader John wrote:
After reading what the guest said a few weeks ago and how the cast
members responded, and after my recent trip to Disneyland two months
ago, I thought I would also give my response and two cents. I am a former
Disney Store cast member. In 1996, I had the honor of winning the National
Disney Store Trivia Competition at the park. A great number of us Triviateers,
a person who competed in the Nationals, still keep in touch via a website,
so a reunion was inevitable. My partner and I trekked cross-country,
from Rhode Island, to attend this event which was a labor of love, sponsored
by no one but ourselves. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which we
love, and it was great seeing some folks again, meeting new people,
and of course catching up with our good friend, Dave Smith.
I personally was very disappointed with the amount of closures in the
park. I was disappointed with the lack of entertainment in the park,
I was very disappointed in the overall lack of time and maintenance
that once was hallmark of Disneyland. But the one thing I can not say
I was disappointed in was the cast members. We both met a countless
number of men and women who truly share Walt's vision and showed a passion
for what they do at the Happiest Place on Earth. Because even after
riding Space Mountain without the music, or schlepping through Fantasyland
between all the blue walls, or seeing our beloved Haunted Mansion and
Splash Mountain covered in scaffolding, the one bright side was the
cast members we interacted with.
I do have to admit though that there is nothing on the horizon for
us to return to Disneyland any time soon. We can fly to Florida often
and we've ridden Twilight Zone Tower of Terror countless times for us
to travel cross-country for it and A Bug's Land is a kids-only place.
So is there a decline in the service and magic? OF COURSE!
Are the cast members to blame? Of course not!
But with Disneyland's prices increasing and the number of attractions
and shows decreasing, I'm beginning to feel like Disneyland is taking
us for suckers. P. T. Barnum was right. So, I ask any true Disney fans
to do something in terms of a protest, whether it be to stay away from
the park, or whatever, until the folks at TDA (Team Disney Anaheim)
wise up and bring the park back to the leader, instead of follower,
in quality entertainment.
I'm a first time writer who has read your first book and found it delightful
and have been an annual passholder for as long as they've been available.
I've been coming to this site now for about five months since I found
out about it and have mixed feeling, while I love to come and get information,
sometimes it is depressing to read all the negative from people. I wanted
to write to address a couple of issues from readers.
First the merchandise, I have been increasingly disappointed in the
merchandising at Disneyland, in particular in the last at least five
years, probably longer than that. I remember with fondness when I started
collecting little wooden houses that were hand painted and very collectible
that made the Frontier store so unique. I would buy one (average price
about $25) every trip we'd make.
Also some of the merchandise that used to be found in what is now I
believe the French Market in New Orleans Square, even if it was pricey
or not even for sale it was fun to walk through and see some of the
unique antique items.
The point is if as I read in the update annual passholders are over
450,000 strong, why is it that the powers that be don't ask them what
products they'd like to see in the stores instead of doing a horribly
stupid job of it themselves. I have a limited amount of marketing experience
and could do a better job myself! They're really missing this one big
time. I suggest they send out a survey to all passholders and get their
opinion, they may be surprised how much GOOD feedback they'd get. I
don't ever remember being surveyed as an annual passholder as to what
I'd like to see happen.
As far as the cast members, we go every 2 to 3 months and have yet
to have a bad experience, generally I think the cast members are very
nice and helpful, but what I have noticed in my day to day experience
that people in general are getting less tolerant and ruder than they
used to be. It's hard to bring magic into those people. An observation
that I have made over the last 10 years, is that when I used to attend
Disneyland when I was a kid (the 60s) my memories were of families together
having fun, rare was the time I witnessed a child having a tantrum or
a parent having a meltdown. It says something about society today that
I see this in rather disturbing numbers when we attend now. Maybe everybody
guests and cast members should have a little mental reminder every time
they walk through that archway, what this place is supposed to be about.
This is getting quite long, but I figured I'd throw my two cents in
with everybody else. Keep up the great info, you and Al Lutz keep me
coming back for more!
Ken Hughes wrote:
I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging on MousePlanet that sometimes
it's the guest who creates a customer service problem, not the cast
member. How disgusting that some people seem to think it's their birthright
to be treated like royalty just for visiting a Disney park. Sure, it's
expensive. Sure, we have a right to expect certain things. Sure, it
sucks that management is letting whole areas of the park fall apart.
But for cryin' out loud, be reasonable! Issues of poor leadership and
the ever-present few bad apples aside, most Disney cast members really
do want to help us have a great experience.
Let's not punish the rank and file for the sins of their "superiors."
It's inappropriate to assume that since we've paid $45 to enter, we
have any right to give up initiating courtesy. And don't tell me that
since you own a few shares, you deserve special treatment.
To all my fellow Disney guests: Treat cast members with courtesy and
respect (and smile, for God's sake, you're on vacation!!) and they will
pay you back with interest. In seven days at Walt Disney World last
October, there was exactly ONE time I felt we were treated with less
courtesy than we deserved, and even that interaction left a lot of room
for misunderstanding. We came into contact with, easily, 100 cast members
as we traveled all over the place. 99 out of 100 is pretty good. These
are people, not audio-animatronics. We're all grumpy sometimes.
We made an effort to treat all who served us with the respect and courtesy
we wanted to receive. And we were richly repaid. It's not difficult.
And you'll actually have more fun than if you walk around the parks
grumbling about everything. Please stay home if you're gonna do thatyour
money really will be wasted, and I don't want to have to hear you kvetching
while we're both standing in line for this or that.
If you feel you have to punish someone for letting our beloved park
edge ever closer to circling the toilet bowl, punish the leadership
by staying away until things improve. And when it does get better, let's
all go back and reward the company for putting things right. And smile
at a cast member first. You never know what might happen next.
Well put. I don't think it's a coincidence that a friendly guest will
encounter a lot more smiling, helpful cast members than will the discourteous
As "Pooh" wrote:
I visit the Anaheim and LGV property at least twice a year. I have
experienced only the warmest and most helpful of customer service EVERY
time. Part of the reason is that I am a great guest. I treat Disney
with respect, and I also understand that I want my vacation to be the
On my first trip to DCA, in the men's room, a cast member used the
most profane words I'd ever heard, period. Certainly, way out of line
in any professional environment. I went to Guest Relations and reported
this incident, only as I didn't want children to hear such words. Guest
Relations was immediate and very understanding about my complaint. I
was given a little gift for my trouble, and went on my way. That is
how you should handle something. If I had gone in and carried on like
some lunatic, perhaps my experience at that moment wouldn't had been
as memorable, or positive.
Before FastPass, I was waiting in a two-hour line for Splash and observing
a bunch of teenagers bouncing in and out of a wheelchair, and then going
in through the handicapped entrance. Being that my mom is wheelchair-bound,
I informed the cast member at the special entrance of this, and I was
allowed to enter there as well. When I got off, I was greeted by a very
nice security person who asked me a few questions. I offered my name
and the resort I was staying, if they needed me for later assistance.
When I got to my room, there was a basket and a thank you note from
security. You see, I had a choice. I could've acted like a baboon, or
as I did, a thinking, mature adult.
So, my point here is simple. Behave, think, and don't act like an idiot,
and I'm sure you'll see the magic all around you, and have a great time
at any Disney theme park.
In the meantime, at least two of the original writer's complaints (couldn't
buy stamps at DCA, asked by Guest Relations to call an 800 number to locate
his commemorative brick) may have been remedied.
A cast member wrote:
I thought you might want to know that DCA now has a stamp machineit's
located inside Greetings From California, just inside the first door
as you're coming through the gate. It's even nicely themed with the
And, Richard Kaufman wrote:
My wife and I were in Anaheim last April. I had left the piece of paper
with the location of our brick at home. Since we wanted to see it, we
went to a kiosk that is on the Esplanade between the ticket booths and
Downtown Disney. They were able to tell me the location of my brick
with no problem!
I can't recall if they looked it up in a black loose-leaf binder or
on a computer, but they definitely told us, because we then walked over
to the spot and saw the brick! Something must have changed since then.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact David here.