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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
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The Matterhorn's inoperable elevator, promotions, crowds, and (our last item) Moesha, Moesha, Moesha…

Recent visitors may wonder if the Original Magic Kingdom secretly added a new guest area: Rehabland, themed with festive tarps and construction fences. It features an impressive line-up of attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, the Mark Twain, the Carrousel and a few Fantasyland dark rides, all down for maintenance.

One "ride," though, has sat inoperable for nearly a year and few guests notice—until the Matterhorn goes "101" and must be evacuated. It's the mountain's freight elevator, which had its cab replaced during "The Rock's" last rehab last spring. It seems that the elevator has not been cleared by OSHA for transporting people.

As a crewman explained:

It had been a freight type, and one of the alleged-genius project managers assumed that a similar type could be installed. Because this was used more for passenger service during the day during evacuations, OSHA stated that regulations require that the cab be for passenger service. This would require replacing the lift system, as the passenger cab is MUCH heavier than a freight type.

The lift tube for the old elevator was something like 180 feet long, obviously much taller than 'The Rock' itself, which would have required knocking a clearance hole through the top of the mountain to remove the old tube and to install a newer (and longer yet) tube. I have heard that the new tube was also larger in diameter, but haven't confirmed that. If so, it would have been necessary to bore a wider and deeper hole for the new lift tube, and this would have required hiring some very specialized and expensive drilling equipment to be operated through the hole in the mountain. Either way, this new hole in the mountain would then have to be patched.

Two factors kept this from happening: CO$T, and the rehab was already touching the start of the summer season by about a week. Making any of these changes would have required extending the rehab through the summer, something upper management was not willing to do. The main reason it hasn't YET been done remains CO$T.

The inoperable elevator means maintenance crews must lug their equipment up long flights of steps to get to the top of the mountain. He confirmed:

There are LOTS of stairs up that main chain lift tunnel, and the stairs are of irregular heights in order to fit the structural steel beams. There are also vertical beams that show up as the 'stone' columns in the tunnel, with only the cable running down the middle for support. I can tell you from experience it is NO fun just carrying one's self up that lift, much less an 80-lb. brake and one's tools, even less so on third shift!!!

More commonly, the elevator had been used for evacuations when the Matterhorn goes 101. But now riders also must walk down the flights of steps to get to ground level. A cast member noted:

Ceilings are low in spots, and I have a scar on the top of my head from a sharp projection that I didn't duck enough for. I'm amazed that OSHA or some other safety organization even allows operating the mountain under these conditions, but I guess having political connections doesn't hurt!

The Matterhorn also remains without two long-planned upgrades: FastPass and safety gates at the load area. As a Facilities cast member postulated:

There is as yet no place to put the necessary computer equipment for either (the ride control computer systems already take up the only available "secure" space), nor is there any good way to connect the local FastPass system to the rest of the network. The nearest connection to the park Intranet that I know of is under Village Haus, and no one wanted to make the decision to run a 6-inch conduit for the necessary network connections from there to the Matterhorn. Additional power feeds would also have to be routed from either the Alice/Pan/Toad substation, or from one of the substations in the Coke Terrace service tunnel. Both would be big jobs!

As for the safety gates, I know the work was scheduled, but was put off for some reason.

First Paul Pressler and now T Irby. The D-I-G stages a "Promote Paul Pressler" campaign to get the controversial Disneyland president away from Disneyland, and Pressler ends up in charge of the entire Disneyland Resort, Disney World and Imagineering.

Now word arrives that Irby, the retired Army general recruited five years ago to turn Disneyland's Facilities department upside down, has been promoted. Irby now oversees not only Facilities, but also Attractions, Security, Entertainment, Guest Relations and other Guest Services.

Irby's added responsibilities were implied in a February 1 announcement by Disneyland president Cynthia Harriss thanking outgoing senior vice president of operations, George Kalogridis. Thirty-year Disney World veteran Kalogridis came to Anaheim to help open the expanded Disneyland Resort, and is returning to Orlando to lead their Downtown Disney team.

As a result, read the memo, "Food Operations, led by Mary Niven, Store Operations, led by Mike Griggs, and Merchandise, led by Carmen Bauza, will report to Randy Baumberger, Senior Vice President Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney. This action consolidates and aligns all of our revenue-generating operations under Randy's leadership and allows us to maintain a more integrated and consistent revenue-generating strategy.

"In addition, effective immediately Disneyland Resort Attractions and Guest Services, led by Vice President Jim MacPhee, will report to Susan Cowan, Vice President, Operations Services. Susan will assume these new responsibilities in addition to her present responsibilities. She will continue to report to T Irby, Senior Vice President, Resort Support."

As one cast member explained, "All the affected areas used to be the fiefdom of George Kalogridis. What they did was divide his former empire between Randy Baumberger (foods and merchandise, much of which was already in the hotels, his main area) and T Irby (who gained Resort Attractions and Guest Services through his downlink to Susan Cowan)."

A co-worker added, "Each department has their own vice president or director, but they eventually answer to T, who answers to Cynthia Harriss."

Well aware of Irby's reputation among veteran hourlies in Facilities, cast members throughout Operations are nervous about what changes may be in store. My hope is that Irby must have been doing something right to merit such a promotion.

Attendance ran high at both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure during Presidents Day Weekend, making for large crowds, long lines and rising tempers. Noted one security guard:

This past weekend was like being in hell. The crowds were pretty bad—but good for business. It was busy, and the guests were extremely rude and nasty to each other and cast members. Fights—physical and verbal—were happening every day.

He mentioned one incident in particular from last Saturday night. According to the officer,

The actress/singer Brandy was in the park with her entourage and bodyguard.

Brandy has a new CD (shown above) coming March 5th
Brandy has a new CD (shown above) shipping March 5.

Brandy is best known as UPN TV's "Moesha" and The Wonderful World of Disney's "Cinderella" (whose fairy godmother was played by Whitney Houston).

A guest was down in front of the Main Street train station, facing Town Square, and [Brandy's] bodyguard thought he saw the guest take a picture of the actress. He came down from the station, grabbed the guest's camera, ripped out the film, and shoved the camera back to the guest. This happened in front of at least a dozen witnesses. Before you know it, security, guest relations, and park management were called to settle the matter. It was not pretty.

Such behavior from the bodyguard was considered unwarranted and inexcusable. Some witnesses said the guest should take this to court. Supposedly, the camera was damaged in the incident as well as un-nerving the guest.

Disneyland has had countless guests and dignitaries in its history, but to have a bodyguard rough up another guest for such a minor celebrity, and for such a lame excuse is a joke.

It could be worse, Mike Tyson may yearn for a spin on the teacups.

You can write to David atthis link..

The Matterhorn's inoperable elevator, promotions, crowds, and Moesha, Moesha, Moesha…


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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