Readers were able to provide
additional details to Universal StudiosHollywood's January 6 closing
of its venerable Wild West stunt show.
|A Universal StudiosHollywood (USH) Entertainment
Yes, it is true, everything
that you reported on MousePlanet happened. There has
been talk of changing the West show for some time, but there
is nothing written or even planned that I have heard of.
I don't know exactly what the numbers for [the show]
have been, but attendance has been extremely poor for USH as
of late. There have been days where the count is 1,000. Even
after the riots and the Northridge quake we had better
attendance. Granted, there were more and newer attractions to
see at that time.
In answer to your last question ("Is USH
nuts?"), I have suspected that USH management is insane,
and has been for some time. Unless this is all part of their
master plan to pave over USH and make it a giant shopping
mall, in which case they are well on their way to achieving
|An insider wrote:
USH has some alternate Chaplins when Samir is on
vacation. No one knows what they are going to do with him once
the West show closes, but he is in tight with senior
management so he will be okay. They may just put him out in
the park with the other strolling characters. He is the only
non-union character on the schedule, and the only one that
gets six days of work every week.
Talked to a few other people at USH today and everyone
is in real shock over there about the show closing. Employees
feel the only thing safe now is the tram tour. New concern too
is that Barry Diller and Vivendi are spending all kinds of
money on every division but the L.A. theme park.
It was very quiet at USH the last six months until the
Wild West show situation. The only thing new that I've heard
is whatever show they do put in there, it will cost a lot less
to run and maintain (though the present show isn't that
expensive since they got rid of the horse in the show a couple
of years ago).
Though nobody seems too concerned about Diller interfering
with the theme parks (he will probably be too busy with the
movie-TV stuff), there are serious cash flow problems with
so little ticket revenue coming in (everyone is entering the
park with a pass). And, of course, the same old problem about
USH season passholders: they don't spend much on food and
souvenirs in the park.
|Reaction to "If
Walt Were Alive" continue to arrive. Kennect
What would Walt think today if he were alive? I have no
clue. He certainly was a free thinker and I doubt any of us
could guess what might be on his mind today as things are. It
has taken me a very long time to fully understand the impact
he has had on the entertainment industry. In fact, it has
taken me over 40 years to understand that one person had the
ability to make such an enormous impact on my life personally.
He was truly unique and his vision will never be repeated.
Promotional photo © Disney
I am just grateful this man gave us several different
things to enjoy. First the films, secondly Disneyland. I will
never forget the day he died. They actually walked into each
classroom at school to announce his death. That alone shows
what an impact the man had on the overall public. I just
really wonder if he ever truly thought what he did would be
held in such high regard today? I somewhat doubt that he did.
He left us with so much and it is great to know that some of
that still exist today. It may not be perfect but a world
without Disney would be very sad.
|A "Well-Misplaced Source"
responded to another reader who praised Pixar and touted John
Lasseter as an "entertainment genius" and "the
current heir to Walt's throne":
Okay, talk about too much time in Fantasyland
John Lasseter is not the savior as portrayed in this post.
Facts are that some very talented people are responsible for
the success to which his name is often associated with. Much
like Walt was recognized for Disney films and no one knew
about the people who made the stories come to life.
Some of the best and brightest have left Pixar and gone
elsewhere, being termed "hard to cast" (read not
one of the Cal Arts crowd) for further assignments. One can
only wonder how their contributions could have enhanced future
Promotional art © Disney/
Monsters Inc. (MI) made money, no doubt, but where is
the ground breaking story? Too much was simply recycled (the
flying doors sequence is just the baggage system from the
airport in Toy Story 2 in another guise) or made plush and
pastel to keep from being "too scary." Notice how
bright the whole film is, and really not threatening at all.
The final product is much lighter than what had come along
during story development. MI could have been darker and scary
yet appealing to children, much as the story and upcoming
film, Where the Wild Things Are. Not everything has to be
cute and cuddly to sell merchandise.
If Pixar is going to fall into a formula for story, eventually
they are headed into the same pit which Disney feature animation
has dived into. How many teenage girl stories can you come
up with before audiences don't find them interesting enough
to buy tickets? Pixar is clearly headed that way with its
Don't be fooled. Pixar has its own problems, and Disney
may be best done with them when the contract is up.
Thanks for the note.
I love to hear both sides to every
I'm sure John Lasseter is no "savior,"
but I do know that I've enjoyed everything he's done; I can't
say that about Disney Feature Animation, theme parks, etc.
Now, I don't know John Lasseter, but
I've spoken with some who have for 20 years, and they say he
wants to be Walt Disney. Could he?
Think for a moment about your criticisms
- "Some very talented people
are responsible for the success to which his name is often
associated with. Much like Walt was recognized for Disney
films and no one knew about the people who made the stories
come to life."
- "Some of the best and brightest
have left and gone elsewhere" because they didn't fall
into the mold.
- Latest film "made money,
no doubt, but where is the ground breaking story? Too much
was simply recycled/kept from being "too scary."
Sounds like Walt to me
|A Disneyland host wrote:
Your Walt article was great. Though I do not share the
view of how the company would be if Walt had been alive these
past 30 years, I do agree what it would be if he were
warped to the present.
As for the old topic of Costume Shopping tacked on at
the end of the Walt II: with the exception of teachers,
politicians, and workaholics, I know of no other occupation
that requires its regular, front-line employees to spend so
much time preparing to work than at Disneyland. Most people
are at work a few minutes before their shift, work their time,
and leave a few minutes after their shift. I know this is
generalized, but bear with me. Most of my fellow cast members
and I arrive at work 30 to 60 minutes prior to our shifts;
sure, we have our 15 minutes of walk time, but it is not as if
that allows us to leave straight away. No, there are costume
changes to make, schedules to check, questions to answer on
the way backstage (not to mention lost children, etc.), bags
to check with security, shuttles to catch, traffic to get
through on the shuttle, etc., etc., etc.
I know, I know, to the naysayer, this still sounds like
complaining. Frankly, it is. But at the wages the park offers,
would it be too much to ask to have paid prep time? After all,
a happy employee leads to happy guests and happy guests lead
to more profits in the long run. Oh, wait a moment, I'm
talking about the people that would sell Walt's soul for a
Now that we're on the subject, I'd actually be happy
regardless of all this management garbage with just a
"living wage." I'm forced to decide now whether a
roof over my head or food is more important. Unfortunately,
food and warmth are two habits I'd rather not break. Oh well,
we Disney cast members are just a bunch of complainers, right?
|On Attractions recently
spinning off a separate FastPass division, a DCA cast
The entire premise of branching FastPass off from the
attractions is to provide the guests an excellent service,
and ensure a 5-minute wait. Another underlying philosophy
is that we, Disney, need to separate ourselves from other
theme parks who offer similar programs. But, then again, Disney
is light years ahead of Magic Mountain, so I don't know what
they are talking about. Anyway, we were told that cast members
from around the park would be update-trained on every FastPass
location, even Bugs and Muppets, which would result in the
formation of superior service and efficiency regarding the
This may sound fine, but there are many problems arising
already only after a month and a half of operation as a
separate unit. Consider Soarin' Over California. First of all,
leads don't always agree on how the merge point should be run.
Second, cast members from Hollywood who have never seen
a merge point in their lives, let alone worked one, are thrown
into the mix without update-training, and expected to
perform. Several cast members from Hollywood have refused to
check heights because they were not "comfortable"
with it, and others who refused to even learn the merge point
because it is too much for them.
This leads me to the point that FastPass never should
have been broken off from the attractions. There are cast
members working crucial points who do not have the necessary
experience to do their duties sufficiently. I figure its
better leaving duties regarding the attraction to the
attraction, the cast members who actually know how the
attraction runs, and how to adjust the flow of people
accordingly. They are also trying to provide a superior
service but it is hard to do when there are cast members
working the FastPass who hate validation and merge, and do a
crummy job the entire day just because they are bitter they
are not on the attraction its self.
And, one last thing, due to the fact that DCA is dead,
even now during the holiday season, I am rather certain that
FastPass will be quickly merged back into the Attraction
operations. And along these lines, the operations manager for
DCA recently had the Grizzly lead pull rafts so that a line
would build and FastPass would be utilized. I thought that it
was our goal to get guest through the ride as quickly as
possible, and when possible, and reducing capacity just to
build a line just shows again the backwards ways of Disney
theme park management.
|Finally, Allen Huffman wrote:
We took a trip from Iowa to Disneyland this past weekend
(Friday-Monday) and were there during the power problem that
day. We walked around Disneyland that morning (it was cold
and they had the snow going on Main Streetfun touch!)
for an hour, then over to DCA for an hour, then ended up sitting
around at a restaurant waiting for a friend to show up for
a few hours. The weather was so bad, it didn't really matter.
About the Keel Boat auction: That auction used (without
permission) a photo from my Web site. Actually, they lifted
the bottom picture from Yesterland.com
(without permission) where it appeared with a photo credit
to me at the bottom of the page. I thought that was interestingDisney
didn't even have easy access to a stock photo of their own
boat. (Also, the photo pictured the wrong Keel Boat
The Rocket Rod at DCA was not there this past weekendat
least, I did not see it when I was looking for it.
Also, I thought I was told a Rod had already shown up
on Ebaybad information?
You sound very plugged into
Disneyland for an Iowan!
Evidently the Rod sold earlier on
eBay was a prototype, non-operational, technology-lacking vehicle,
not one that ran in the park.
Send your comments to David here.
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.)