Readers, especially current and
former cast members, are critical of Disneyland's new Cast
Deployment (a.k.a. "Virtual Lead") program, which
replaces the time-worn system of rotational breaks on
|Cal Jabour asked:
If the system seems to work at the Magic Kingdom, why
don't they just use the same system at Disneyland? How much do
they save at WDW using this system? Could that be translated
to Disneyland ?
In the future, we will probably see more accidents like
at Roger Rabbit (and the new rules that the state has enforced
|ParrotHead, proprietor of www.wdwblues.com,
What a coincidence that you should publish the item
about Cast Deployment. I just received a message from a
seasonal cast member about this (I had never heard of it
before). I figured you might be interested in what he had to
say about how this is working here in sunny Florida:
"Recently, Walt Disney World instigated what is
called Cast Deployment. Personally, anything with the prefix
"de" in front of it seems to be negative in my
mind. De-activate. De-moralizing
you get the picture?
"What Cast Deployment amounts to is a computerized
system in nearly each area where a computer tells each cast
member what to do, where to be every minute of the day, etc.
You punch in your number and are given directions, a
position, or a task. Without this system, we used to move
around more and have more interaction with the public. Now I
hardly see a guest in my job.
"A greeter job is at the entrance to an attraction
or at an exit to welcome the guest. Now they are dropping
the exit greeter.
"The system keeps us all so busy that we are 'on the
clock' with the computer and cannot stop to take the proper
time to chat with guests, give directions, and be personableeven
to each other! (Walt would do a rollover here.)
"To be happy, you have to live happy and work happy!
If we enjoy our jobs, we can enjoy our guests.
"Besides that the system has us so busy and worried
about jobs, that we turn into royal bitches with a chip on
our shoulders from the STRESS
and God help the guest who
asks us a question!! We are stressed.
"Further, the computer is in error sometimes. It failed
to give me my entitled two 15-minute breaks (6-hour day) yesterday
and I had NO supper! One would have been sufficient for me,
but I am to have two. I was furious. I was in a very bad frame
of mind and after this season may never be back to work at
I thought the latter comment was interesting, because by
law employees must be given breaks at certain intervals. If
the computers aren't properly scheduling them, Disney could
have some trouble on its hands.
What I find amazing is that the "success" of a
program like this is apparently measured solely by the amount
of money it saves the company. Such "unimportant"
factors as cast member morale and positive interaction with
guests don't seem to be considered.
|A Disneyland cast member
"The current cast member outlook for the new
virtual lead is very poor. If this system stays around for
more than a month we stand to lose about 10% of the cast
members who have job knowledge on certain attractions. With
the current lack of cast members this whole process is very
poorly timed. Splash Mountain started scheduled breaks on
December 24; cast members from this attraction are calling in
sick when scheduled to work the mountain. Consequently, there
has been a problem with staffing the mountain. Several cast
members have talked about walking out when the system goes
into effect park wide. Unfortunately, given the cost of the
system ($70,000 per computer, that is why they are only
installing so few in the park) the only way which this
will change is if someone gets hurt. I would really hate to
see it come to that, we already have enough problems as it
|Kevin Remington wrote:
Matterhorn loading area
Thanks for your article on Cast Deployment. You mention
early in the article that the rotation system of attractions
operation suffers from "tenuous accountability." As
a former cast member, I have to strongly disagree. If a cast
member on, say, Jungle Cruise returns even two or three
minutes late from a lunch or a break, they hear about it,
believe me. Not just from a lead but from the rest of the
crew. When you return late the entire rotation can be put in a
holding pattern, and the guy you're supposed to bump out of a
boat has to take another trip; everyone stays where they are
until you return. It may not be immediately apparent who's
gumming up the works, but it never takes long to figure it
out. It only took one or two instances of returning late from
a break or a lunch and catching holy hell from everyone on the
crew to realize I'd better keep a sharp eye on the clock
whenever I stepped away from whichever attraction I happened
to be working.
Keeping attractions hosts and hostesses (especially on
the "big rides") at a position for longer than 15 to
20 minutes before bump or break is idioticmoving through
the rotation does indeed keep you very alert, fresh and ready
for the next position. It's a system that has worked for 30+
years; it ain't broke.
I also doubt strongly the 4% labor savings figure that was
quoted to you from WDW. I can imagine that they did not account
for all of variables you mention in your articlethe "unpredictables"
of guest behavior (lost children, guests in distress, etc.).
Factoring in those and other "intangibles" would considerably
reduce that percentage. Each day as an attractions cast member
has a slightly different "rhythm" and the rotation
system was like the bass line, or backbeatflexible enough
to respond to changing conditions but constant enough to make
sure that cast members kept the show going and guests going
through the show.
One more thing: the "Optimized Task" is ridiculous
for a few reasons. First of all, back in the "good old
days," cast members were scrupulously trained to constantly
be on the lookout for "magic moment" opportunities
to the point that it became second nature, even for the most
jaded cast members. Having a computer tell a cast member to
go and seek out a magic moment makes for an awfully insincere
moment and turns it into a chore. It also reveals that current
management sees value in these moments, but they've forgotten
how to inspire them into happening naturally. Training, training,
trainingwhich I understand they've cut way back on.
Also, what happens if there's no magic moment to be
found right then and there? Do you just go to the break area
and smoke another cigarette instead? "Magic Moments"
have to be spontaneous or they're void of magic. Optimized
tasks such as checking FastPass machines or other attractions
"housekeeping" duties were also trained into us
until they were second nature. We didn't need a computer to
tell us it was time to call custodial or check for burnt out
bulbs. Besides, leads checked animation, light bulbs, and
myriad other show safety/quality/efficiency items via a daily
Thanks for the article, it gives insight into how a
seemingly good business practice can harm the overall business
I can see your point about rotations
providing "tenuous accountability." I was taking the
viewpoint not of hourly CM or lead, but of upper management. Rotations
don't provide them with concrete data they can analyze and quantify
and incorporate into nice charts and diagrams they can show their
bosses and use to justify certain changes.
As for Optimized Tasks, Disneyland
and Disney World workforces evidently have become so large and
so diluted that nothing can be left to chance.
Why is it that most of the Disney
cast members who "get it" seem to be former cast
|WDW alumnus Steve wrote:
Thanks once again for a great article. As a former Walt
Disney World cast lead, I can tell you that the Virtual Lead
computer program is terrible. There are two main flaws in the
thinking that it saves money and is equitable.
(1) It assumes that a rotation means that everyone is in
a position for 15 minutes. That, of course, is not reality.
Even on a normal day it usually takes 20 to 25 minutes for
breaks and 35 to 45 minutes for a rotation to move one
position. But a larger issue for me is that during slow time I
appreciated the fact that my cast members got more breaks. It
made up for the busy days when they went a long time without
one because of crowds or were asked to go above and beyond to
maintain a good show. I always felt that they deserved what
(2) It takes the human element out of it and there
really is no one watching the system. The computer doesn't
know if there is a delay in the park or consider all the
variables that running a theme park requires. A cast member
who leaves for lunch and gets involved with a lost child is
penalized for being late. Or if we need to bring up an extra
vehicle or tram at an attraction because of a breakdown or
because it is busy, the computer program needs to be adjusted
and when it is busy who has the time to sit and do that?
At least on the old system a thinking human being can
ensure that the operation is running as smoothly as possible
considering ALL the variables that we encounter daily. As
always, on paper the computer system (which has been touted by
a group of people in upper management who have never actually
worked in the park) looks like a reliable, equitable system,
but in actuality no one really likes it, not even management.
|Readers also remain
concerned about the deteriorating Tiki Room. MousePlanet's main
WDW connection, Brian Bennett, contacted Dole directly and
received the following response:
Dear Mr. Bennett:
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your comments about the Dole-sponsored "Enchanted
They were shared with senior management at Dole and
Disneyland, so the situation can be reviewed and corrected. We
apologize for the disappointment and are glad you took the
time to share your thoughts and observations.
We appreciate having the opportunity to respond to your
concern and hope we may continue to serve you as a consumer of
Consumer Response Staff
Dole Food Company, Inc.
|Old friend Daniel Roth
The deteriorated entryway
to the Tiki Room
For some reason the Tiki Room has been perhaps my
favorite attraction at Disneyland, and it's been sad to see
the way it has been treated the last few years by the
I do not see any improvements yet. One can only hope.
I've visited the attraction four times over the last four
weeksincluding tonight. A very interesting thing happen at
the start of the show. Before the hostess began her usual
spiel to awake Jose, she said (I hope I got this right), " Before
we begin the show, we would like to point out that the Dole
Company sponsors this attraction and has so for the last 25
years." The hostess said those lines like she had a
gun pointed to her head. They did not flow very naturally.
This occurred about 7 p.m. and, of course, Dole's Juice Bar
was already cleaned up and closed.
It would be great if they would do one of those special
events nights there sometime. I would pay up to $100 for that
one. Doing the Tiki theme for one of those events would be a
blast. Due to small capacity of the ride, it probably won't
I think a Tiki Room special event would
be great. Space shouldn't be a problem, since they've built events
around Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and other limited capacity attractions.
They could utilize Aladdin's Oasis and other areas of Adventureland.
What might prevent Disney from
showcasing the Tiki Room at such an event, though, would be the
necessity of first restoring the attraction to pristine
It's hard for me not to sigh every time I read such sad
stories about Disneyland crumbling right before our eyes. It's
a shame that Disney went from being a fun, clean money-making
machine to just being a money-making machine. I'm disgusted
with this Paul Presser guy
can we write to him directly?
A comment regarding the Disneyland Hotel: A year back, I
stayed at the Disneyland Hotel with all my in-laws and my
family, 12 of us in all. We spent a fortune on two one-bedroom
suites and an extra room, and paid to upgrade to concierge
service. We paid an extra $300 for the privilege, but when we
(1) We had to wait in the same line as everybody else
did to check in,
(2) Our rooms weren't ready, so we had to check our bags
into the extra room, and then lug our stuff back to our rooms
after a seven-hour car ride and 10 hours in the park,
(3) When we did get to our room, we were greeted with a
pile of soiled linens and wet towels,
(4) One of our keys didn't work, and we had to go back
to the main tower to get it fixed,
(5) When we went to the "exclusive breakfast
bar", we were stopped for trying to take a glass of juice
with us to our room, and there was nothing more than fruit and
cookies to eat, and
(6) Whenever we tried to make reservations, for anything
from Goofy's Kitchen to parade seats to the Golden Horseshoe
Review, we were told they were "unable to
So many other things happened that could have made our
trip miserable, but I waited until I got home and then called
and demanded our money back. They credited my account pronto,
and promised to forward my complaint to a higher-up, but I
never heard another thing. I was hoping that somebody from
Disney Hotels would call me back to apologize, if not explain
what exactly I was getting when I "upgraded," but I
may as well have waited for the price for Disneyland admission
to come down.
Back when my kids were babies, I dreamed of taking them
every year to Disneyland. But watching how everything is just
going to pot is pretty much erasing that dream for me.
Disneyland was such a famous landmark in our country, so clean
and fun and wholesome. I totally blame Michael Eisner and his
type-A obsession with being rich.
Even though I, too, see that a lot of the accidents that
occur in the park are the fault of the riders themselves, it
bothers me that Disney's only immediate response is image
control. Even fast food restaurants will call 911 first and
ask questions afterwards!
I hope that the Disney family, especially Roy or whoever
is still living, takes the park back from those money-hungry,
plastic-smile megalomaniacal billionaires who have to make
just THAT MUCH MORE every year. The sad thing is, if they are
let go, Disney will pay them all a huge annual pension, as a
consolation prize, but won't fork over a few thousand dollars
so that Jose the Parrot can sing again.
Finally, Mark J.
As always, it was very interesting reading your column on
January 3, including your responses to reader email. In
particular, I agree with you about the following:
"As far as the 4-year-old on
Roger Rabbit, we'll probably never know if the boy fell or
climbed out. I have always maintained (and the just-released
OSHA report confirms) that the main contributing factor was that
the boy was allowed to sit near the vehicle opening, next to his
brother, not his mother. New seating requirements should
eliminate this condition in the future."
However, what bothers me is that Cal-OSHA went beyond
requiring Disney to improve procedures to require a bunch of new
mechanical, electrical and computer systems be added to the
Roger Rabbit ride that to me at least seem unnecessary. There
are times, such as when there is a pattern of recurring injuries
on a ride, when a technological fix of some sort is the right
solution to improving safety. However, I am totally unconvinced
in the case of the RR ride or any of the other Disney dark rides
that new technology based safety systems need to be installed. I
recently posted the following about the RR ride accident on a
"Like most people, the only facts I have about this
accident is what I read on the Internet. However, I do have a
"1. The "technological fix" that Cal-OSHA is
proposing does not seem like a great idea to me for a variety
of reasons. First, it seems like it is requiring a lot of
fairly expensive fixes for a ride with an accident rate of one
or two people per every 10 million or more riders. Second, a
seemingly cheaper remedy had it been followed would probably
have prevented an accident of this type: require CMs to load
vehicles with children and an adult so that the adult is
nearer the open door of the car. If necessary, Cal-OSHA could
do periodic unannounced inspections to insure this procedure
is carried out. Third, given how low the current accident rate
is on the ride, adding all of this new "safety"
technology could significantly increase the chance of a future
accidents due to the "law of unintended
consequence." For example, adding closing doors to the
ride vehicles could create the added hazard of a door closing
on a guest's leg or arm, etc.
"2. My second major concern is that Cal-OSHA is
suggesting that other similar types of attractions at
Disneyland have similar "safety technology" added to
them. Given the extremely low accident rates on the other Dark
rides at Disneyland, this seems an irresponsible suggestion on
the part of Cal-OSHA. Once again, adding such technology would
probably be expensive and, given the very low accident rates
on these rides, possibly create as many accidents as it
"And I don't mean to sound like a technological
luddite here; I have two brothers who are engineers and I work
with engineers all of the time at work. However, the accident
rates on Disneyland rides are currently so low that it is hard
to imagine any technological fix that would be guaranteed to
prevent as many accidents as it might create.
"In contrast, requiring a load procedure that puts
parents by the open door just seems like common sense to me,
and is apparently a procedure followed at other amusement
I agree that the OSHA-mandated changes
go too far. Certainly positioning an adult between a child and
the door would offer the same protection as installing netted
doors. It doesn't make sense to install new devices and procedures
for a one in a million occurrence (check that, one in 10 million).
I think this time, though, OSHA was not paying attention to the
percentages. It was going on:
A: Most importantly, the severity
of the accident. The boy's injuries were so heart-wrenching,
I think OSHA was determined to demand whatever changes it could
think of that, if they had been installed months earlier, would
have prevented the accident.
And B: Disney's recent track record.
Whereas before OSHA paid infrequent visits to Disneyland and
assumed serious accidents were rare, ever since the Columbia
OSHA has had to investigate mishaps of seemingly increasing
frequency, which are uncovering disturbing traits the park never
had before, such as reduced training and maintenance. Disneyland
used to get the benefit of the doubt. Nowadays, unfortunately,
doubt is the investigators' first reaction.
It makes me think of legislation that
is being proposed in Massachusetts, spurred by a recent spate of
accidents in which customers at a few Home Depots were injured or
killed by falling merchandise. Instead of addressing the cause of
the incidents (untrained forklift operators, shoppers getting too
close to the forklift), the bill would force customers at
warehouse stores to wear hard hats when they shop. Maybe that's
next for Disneyland
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.)