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David Koenig
Good Character

New program to keep characters from getting clobbered

Mickey has had enough. In an effort to protect its battered costumed characters, the Disneyland Resort has launched a pilot program to educate guests on how to treat the characters and to facilitate smoother "meet and greets." Called Mickey Mouse's "Good Character" Club, the test began in Critter Country at the end of September, with plans eventually to implement the program resortwide.

This idea, explains one cast member, is to "hopefully give guests an idea of what to expect and how to visit when they are with the characters." Currently, visitors are given a little handout booklet at three locations: Pooh's Thoughtful Spot in Critter Country, the Information Board in the Hub, and Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. The booklets ask that the guests have their autograph books open and their pens and cameras ready before it is their turn to visit the characters, and that they be patient with the characters and other guests.

Guests are encouraged to be gentle with the characters ("Mickey and his pals love hugs, not tugs"), to stand in front of them so that they can see you, and to leave them some room to move around.

On the back of the booklet is a blank space to put a "I Have Good Character" sticker showing that they are "a member of the club." Stickers can be received from the Toonfinder at the Information board.

In time, the booklets may be distributed to guests as they enter the Main Gate. "The program is still in testing phase, but if successful, will probably extend to all the locations, and maybe a few atmosphere areas (Town Square, Frontierland, Adventureland, etc.)," he said. "I definitely think they chose to test it in Critter Country because it's a set location, which means all the guests you're going to see are in line, and it's easier to hand them out to a line, rather than a crazed mob ganging up on Mickey in Town Square."

Cast members in the Character Department have mixed feelings, but overall seem optimistic. "I hope it works" is a common refrain. More critical reaction included:

"I think we are expecting too much from the guests."

"It's about time!"

"These things should also be printed in Spanish."

"I didn't think the guests could read!"

"Another effort by the company to dumb down to the guests' level."

"The program does seem good in theory, but I'm not sure if it will work as well as they want it to," said another employee. "The cast members will now have the responsibility of handing the booklets out while also trying to keep an eye open for the characters, and the guests who don't have autographs books just use the blank space as a scrap paper for an autograph. Hopefully the program will get people to give the characters (and their hosts!) a little more courtesy and understanding when things don't go EXACTLY as planned."

A co-worker agreed: "I personally got a little excited when I read about it in a mini-memo, but after working Critter Country, it's hard to remember to hand out the booklets as well as take care of pictures with Pooh, and keep an eye out for kids trying to sneak in, etc. It will definitely take a little work to get the cast members to actually remember to hand the things out, but hopefully it will be a success."

Breaking News / Editor's Note:

As we were organizing materials for today's content both David and I got notes from our sources about a major change in Disneyland Resort management.

I'll let the following e-mail I received explain why many cast members were celebrating more than just the Angels winning the past few days at Disneyland:

The occasion for the celebrations is that Paul Yeargin, the former Director of Attractions that Cynthia brought from the Midwest Disney Stores in 1997 and a man many disliked, has just been terminated. He was walked out (day before) yesterday afternoon and is no longer employed by Disney. Since his severance package is widely rumored to be in the $70,000 neighborhood, no one feels too badly for him. And many were certainly very happy to see his personal style of mall management leave Disneyland.

This is great news for Guest Relations, the division Paul was moved to be the Director of after getting shuffled out of Attractions when management morale really suffered under him. He never got what Disneyland was about, and he never fit in or earned anyone's respect. And he certainly had no love for Attractions, as he never once thought it necessary to wear a costume for a day or two and actually get trained on a ride.

Paul Yeargin (far left, top) posing for a Disneyland holiday photo at about the time he began working at the resort. Cynthia Harriss (blonde hair) is in the center.
Paul Yeargin (far left, top) posing for a Disneyland holiday photo at about the time he began working at the resort. Cynthia Harriss (blonde hair) is in the center.

And then there is the bigger picture of what this may mean. Yeargin was a regional manager for Disney Stores in the Midwest. He worked for Cynthia in that region in the 90's, and Cynthia purposefully brought him to Disneyland with Paul Pressler's blessing in late 1997. People of course are obviously asking "How long until Cynthia goes?" as Yeargin was the epitome of the Disney Store style that swept through Disneyland in the late '90s, and was seen as one of Cynthia's hand picked lower executives.

People are trying to figure out if this is an isolated event, since Yeargin never seemed to click at Disneyland. Or maybe it's a step towards the Disney Store era ending completely with Cynthia's eventual departure?

From what could be gathered by presstime there was also some shuffling around of Vice Presidential level responsibilities, and it sounds like Attractions has a new place amongst the VP's. 

Like the source above, I too wonder if this means there will be an overhaul in the way things have been run at the parks over the last eight years now that Jay Rasulo has replaced Paul Pressler.  We've already experienced a dramatic increase in upkeep, it remains to be seen if there will be more to it than that.

We'll have more on this and any other changes at the resort as things develop.

- Al Lutz

Promotional photo  MLB
Promotional art MLB

Response to last month's article on the success of Disney's Anaheim Angels ("Heaven Sent") generated a now-moot chorus of "Go A's!," "Go Yankees!" and "Go Mariners!"

More sober-minded readers included Darryl Musick, who wrote:

Great story about the hottest Disney property going. I'm one of those hapless souls that have been an Angels fan all my life. My mom went to school with Albie Pearson, Jim Fregosi owned a small soda bottling plant next to my grandmother's house in the '60s (and sometimes gave us a few free bottles), and Fred Lynn graduated from my high school.

You're right. It's great entertainment, exciting, and a very pleasant, inexpensive (compared to Disneyland) place to spend a few hours.

Here are some things I really enjoy there...

The cast members (yes, they're called that here too) are very friendly and helpful.

Disney fireworks after every Friday home game.

Edison Field renovations is a vast improvement over the dismal fortress of the Rams days.

The halo on the Big A lights up after every win.

Orlando Mercado, the bullpen catcher, always has time to say hi, smile at the fans, and sign a quick autograph.

The All Star dogs (grilled on a BBQ at Autry's behind the rockpile in center field) put Dodger Dogs to shame.

Our fellow long-suffering Angel fans are really fun to hang out with.

And last, but definitely not least, this record breaking winning season. The Halos have won more games this year than any other year in the franchise.

See you at the Ed.

Doug cheered:

THE RALLY MONKEY LIVES!!!!

Promotional photo  MLB
Promotional photo MLB

Angels in six (ONLY because I want to see them win the series at home!) and that's all I have to say about that!! Of course a sweep would be nice!!

If (when) the Angels win, will the victory rally be held at Disneyland or will Disney once again force a team to go to DCA? Enjoy the Series!

I, too, would love to see the Angels over the Giants in six because that brings the celebration to Anaheim.

I'm confident that if the Angels win, a victory rally would be held at Downtown Disney with a parade through DCA. The question, though, is if the Giants win, will they parade down DCA -- or does Disney pay their fare to Disney World to keep them from being assaulted by Thunder Stix???

Ed groused:

Uhm, yeah, that's nice... but what do you tell those who simply don't care about baseball such as myself? Don't get me wrong, with so much that has been failing with the Walt Disney Company I am glad something is going great. But I fail to see this as part of Walt Disney's Dream.

Nice points, but I doubt I'll be going to Edison Field any time soon.

Asked to explain this mysterious "Dream," Ed continued:

Walt's Dream that I refer to is Disneyland, what I was trying to point out was that I highly doubt that Disney ever had in mind of having a baseball team as part of the Disneyland vision (Walt's Dream). I understand what your point is, which is an offering that the modern Disney Company having a thrill aside from Disneyland that's close by and the need to not worry about paint, cheesy expansions, etc...

But like I said, I am not a baseball fan and I don't see myself turning into one anytime soon. That's why I said what do you have as an alternative for those who simply don't care about this option (baseball).

To me, "Walt Disney's Dream" -- better yet, his ongoing vision, was to present the highest quality entertainment for the whole family at a reasonable price. Certainly a day at Edison Field would qualify more than just about anything else Disney has served up in Anaheim over the last half-dozen years.

Relief pitcher Scott Schoeneweis pumps his fist after striking out Rich Aurilia to end Game 3 (Justin Sullivan/MLB.com)
Relief pitcher Scott Schoeneweis pumps his fist after striking out Rich Aurilia to end Game 3 (Justin Sullivan/MLB.com)
Promotional photo MLB

Just because some Disneyland fans don't like baseball is no reason not to celebrate the Angels' spectacular season. Walt wasn't deterred from building Disneyland by the fact that many people who loved his movies hated amusement parks.

I don't think Disney has an obligation to please everyone with everything it does. It should have the goal of providing maximum enjoyment to the maximum number of people. And hopefully it will succeed so often that if Product A doesn't appeal to you, hopefully Product B or Product C will.


Next time: Reader reaction to last week's article, "Ways of the World."

Promotional photo  MLB
Promotional photo MLB

Hopefully the ringing in my ears from Thunder Stix will subside by then.


Send your comments to David here.

Good Character

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

LINKS

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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