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A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Mailbag — Week of Feburary 1, 2001

Ear-Mail -Subs = Zero

Last week's article on the uncertain fate of the Submarine rides at Disneyland and Disney World sparked fond memories and some hostility among readers.

Former cast member Michael A. Mu–oz wrote:

I truly do miss those nostalgic vessels of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World lagoons. A little history about myself. Having grown up in Florida, my first "job" was at the Walt Disney World Resort, circa 1978. I was a junior in high school and landed a position as an attractions "host" at Fantasyland's '20K' attraction, a.k.a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. When you're 17 and working at WDW, it's really not a job, it's mostly fun.

One great highlight of my "tour of duty" on the Nautilus was the opportunity to welcome aboard the then famous Amy Carter, daughter of President Carter. Amy was allowed a "sub" all to herself as well as her entourage of guests and Secret Service agents. It was kind of exciting to me. I was picked to host the President's daughter on a voyage '20,000 leagues under the sea.' I still remember my lead contacting me via the radios and relaying the message, 'You're it!'

The submarine attraction was always described by my peers at the time as being corny, boring, fake. I guess if they had been in my shoes, their opinions would have drastically changed. Working on the subs was, at least in my opinion, 100 times more exciting than sitting at a console at one of the 'dark rides' or the 'cycle-type' attractions (Dumbo, Carrousel). There were many positions to work. It was never a dull time during peak operating days. And I had the opportunity to pilot and control my own vessel. The interior and exterior lights, the sound system, the front and rear hatches, the speed of travel. I was Captain Nemo—well, only in spirit.

Ah yes, but then all things do come to an end and so did my career on the Nautilus. Upon graduating from high school, my parents decided that we were moving to California. (sigh)

The Sub dock today
The Sub dock today

Upon visiting Disneyland during the '80s and early '90s, I embarked on a journey through liquid space as often as I could. I landed a position at Disneyland at the old Character Shop—but that's another story.

I personally would like to see an innovative and clever rehab of the submarine attractions at both parks. It's very sad to walk past those empty lagoons. I truly enjoyed reading your article and hope to see more if there are any new developments in "sub" resurrection. Thanks for a great article.

Ben Johnson wrote:

On your next visit at Disney World, drive past the Contemporary towards the backlot area to the Magic Kingdom. Just shortly past Space Mountain on the opposite side of the road is the scrap yard for the Magic Kingdom. It includes old Jungle Cruise Boats, Indian War Canoes, and the remaining fleet of the Submarines. This area is usually vacant of employees but is monitored heavily by security. They also store busses in this parking lot.

So next time you are in the area of the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, drive back into the backlot area and just before the Train & Monorail station you can see the remainder of the subs on trailers at the back of the lot.

Bryan wrote:

Loved that article on the subs. I haven't heard anything in years, and it was good to finally see an article on it. But I was kind of hoping you would focus a little more on 20K version, since I am close to WDW. I never knew that 20K sub on the backlot was the one from Magic Kingdom! That is so eerie to me. It's weird to think that an old Disney attraction vehicle is somewhere in a coral reef in Castaway Cay. Maybe someone will go out and raise it like they did the Titanic… wishful thinking.

Anyway, keep up the good work!

Bryan, I spent a little less time on WDW since there's less chance the attraction will be resurrected there. Officially, Disneyland's subs are just on hiatus, but Disney World's are dead in the water. As for what actually will happen, we'll have to wait and see. And keep you eyes on the box office totals for Atlantis.

Bryan responded:

It's funny you should say that, Dave. I would have thought the opposite. Magic Kingdom has an entire show building not in use, and they have a lot of land around the site. I would have thought it would have more of chance than Disneyland, because the Sub Voyage there is underneath the Autopia, making it impossible to "beef up" the ride with special effects and whatnot. I guess time will tell. I'll just be looking at that empty lagoon for a few more years, I guess… sigh.

Jonathan wrote:

Glad to hear about the fight to keep Subs. About the film Atlantis, it has the signs of being a moneymaker. If you go into the Animation building in the Hollywood section of DCA, there is concept art relating to the film. The feel of the film is a combination of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Black Hole, with a little Edgar Rice Burroughs thrown in. There is a heavy Japanese influence in the film, no doubt many of the production crew were influenced by Japanese Anime.

While the hardware looks great, the design of the female lead leaves a lot to be desired. She is not as pretty as the princesses of Disney films past.

Readers may wish to note that fellow MousePlanet columnist Jim Hill just presented some of the Atlantis concept art from the new park's exhibit in his recent piece on upcoming Disney animated projects.

Robert Meyer wrote:

Looking over your comments about the sinkhole that needs to have water pumped in or Autopia and Innoventions will have structural problems, I have some questions. First, is this at Disneyland or WDW?

Also, if the amount of water that needs to be pumped in needs to be increased each year, this indicates erosion that would make any repairs harder and more expensive as it increases, right? And as the volume of water needed increases doesn't this increase the likelihood of a rather huge disaster?

Now, I know Disney carries insurance for accidents, but by pumping water into a sinkhole and increasing its size, it would seem Disney is not just increasing their liability, but also affecting any insurance coverage they might have in the event of a collapse (as this could be considered partially self-inflicted).

Hopefully Disney is working with their insurer to minimize this occurring, but the size of the potential accident and the number of people who could be affected is frightening! With Innoventions on a slow spin, what might happen if there is a sudden shift? I would think if the structures (Autopia and Innoventions) drop as much as a foot things would be just a bit scary, but much more than that and some major problems might occur making the accidents we have seen at Disney in the last few years seem minimal. Any idea what the projected figures are?

And what happens if rolling blackouts occur shutting off the water pumps?

Robert, the problem is at Disneyland, but I have to believe the park wouldn't be neglecting the area if there were a realistic chance of such a catastrophe.

Since Disneyland contracts its power from the city of Anaheim, it likely won't face any rolling blackouts. Plus, the lagoon holds about 8 million gallons of water, so the pumps would have to be out of commission for a long time to significantly affect the water level. -

Even More Tiki Talk

In addition to leaky subs, the creaky Tiki Room continues to be a hot topic…

In addition to leaky subs, the creaky Tiki Room continues to be a hot topic…

Ken wrote:

My name is Ken Hay. I'm 35. I am a Disneyland fanatic. I am grateful for your coverage of the Tiki Room. I remember going on the attraction many times as a youth. I am disappointed on the current condition of the attraction.

Believe it or not, the Flavor of Hawaii film that is the topic these days, used to be a part of the garden experience. The Lanai Garden was also beautiful, and secluded so you didn't have to be reminded that a lot of people were strolling around. Once you entered the garden, you could be assured that you would get a seat. There was a guest count at the turnstiles and once capacity was met, the rope went up. The Hawaiian music was much louder than it plays these days; you were supposed to have entered a tropical/Hawaiian themed garden.

Before the film started, an attraction host would hold a mike and turn our attention to the film. As a youth, I remember a crowded garden, with all of the guests gathering to the screen to watch the film The Flavor of Hawaii. It featured pineapple planting, harvesting and the canning process. By the time the film was over, the line at the juice bar was long. The juice bar served guests in the garden, as well as those walking outside of the attraction. I always thought this to be a disadvantage as you could not take your refreshing pineapple bars in with you.

As the show was about 17 minutes long, restrooms were provided for people who needed to make room for the refreshments. Amazingly, there are no restrooms for the Magic Eye Theater with a wait about as long as the Tiki Room, nor is there a refreshment bar.

When I was 16, I signed a contract, flew to Lanai, and engaged in pineapple picking myself. I worked for five months. I lived in Lanai City. I had no idea the garden at Disneyland's Tiki Room was named "Lanai Garden" until Disneyland Forever called it that. It makes it more special. Having lived in Lanai, I consider the Lanai Garden to be like an old friend. I have a bootleg tape recording of The Flavor Of Hawaii. I know the hard work of harvesting pineapples and nothing beats eating them off the plants in the field.

Other things noticed: A few years back during a rehab, several of the gods were placed inside the bazaar store as decor. I examined them closer, realized how fragile they were, and thought they should be replaced. During my last visit, I was a bit saddened by the attraction's overall condition. The front of the garden area is exposed to the public, hardly magical. The Hawaiian music is an afterthought; I could barely hear it. One of the gods was missing. He used to 'spit' water into a bamboo shoot and when it filled up, it would dump into a small water pool. I noticed his voice was missing from the Lanai Garden lineup and this meant a long break between gods.

One visit, the water god was spraying, and we were seated into the Tiki Room and, with barely time to sit down, the show began. It did not coincide with the outside show.

Finally, I saw the Tiki Room Under New Management at Walt Disney World. I picked a lousy seat. I could not see Iago at all during his two appearances and our section was constantly blinded by the new lighting, prompting five of us to get up and move to avoid a direct hit by a blue light for most of the show. The show was short. I disliked the new Tiki Totems song. I liked it when they took away the show from the birds. The Hawaiian drums sound like thunder. No rolling drum track here.

Walt's birds look real. The cartoon birds don't belong. I heard guest complaints. They did not like it. I am not against having a new show at the Tiki Room, but some elements should remain. There should be a chant near the end, the songs can be different, there could be a rain sequence during a song, new gods could be on all four upper shelf corners with eyes that light and glowing red volcano mouths to threaten us during a hostile takeover. There is room behind the windows to provide an effect with volcanoes spewing lava during a chant.

Eisner's Empire could care less. This Empire does not recognize its roots and in fact, despises that which made them so. It segregates the generations, so that Walt Disney would have to stand and watch his kids play in Goofy's Bounce House. Perhaps he should build a theme park where the parents and the kids could jump together? Destroy the birds? Amen to Disneyland. Rename it Eisner's Empire.

Kim McClellan wrote:

Your article on the bad state of the Enchanted Tiki Room truly saddened me as it is my favorite ride at Disneyland. I fear it may be closed down for good very soon.

I would like to complain to Paul Pressler and Michael Eisner. Do you know of a mailing address or email address where I could write to them? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Along with fellow MousePlanet readers and contributors, I first voiced my concern to Dole.

Reader Kelly Pierce fills us in:

The following letter was recently sent to me when I wrote Dole expressing my concern at the current condition of the Enchanted Tiki Room. As you can tell, it is the exact same generic letter that was sent to Brian (Bennett). Did they even read it? Probably not! But then again I didn't really expect anything more.

Dear Ms. Pierce:

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your comments about the Dole-sponsored "Enchanted Tiki Room."

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 our products.

Sincerely,
Consumer Response Staff
Consumer Center
Dole Food Company, Inc.

Yes, all of us received the same stock reply from Dole, followed several days later by identical responses from Disneyland:

To: davidk@...
Subject: Disneyland Comments

From: Disney Online Guest Services (guest.mail@online.disney.com)

Dear Mr. Koenig:

Thank you for your letter to Dole regarding the Enchanted Tiki Room. Your comments were forwarded to our office so that we may address your concerns.

We are concerned with your letter and we wish to assure you that our high standards of Park upkeep have not diminished. We have an extensive facilities team comprised of electricians, painters, carpenters, engineers, and plumbers, to name just a few of the many facets of our operation. Our Facilities team works around the clock to maintain the Park in a pristine condition and have received numerous compliments for the quality of their work. All major attractions in the Park are refurbished on a yearly basis for safety, as well as to maintain a quality "show."

Even with extensive maintenance, mechanical problems or general wear from frequent use may occur. We take a great deal of pride in the attention to detail we give to each area of the Park and apologize that our dedication was not evident during your visit. We always try to repair our facilities as quickly and effectively as possible and sincerely apologize for the situations you encountered. We have shared your comments with the appropriate management so that they will be aware of your remarks.

Once again, thank you for writing. We continually monitor our operation and our Guests' enjoyment of the Park. Our Guests' input is very valuable to us, and we appreciate the time you took to share your concerns.

Sincerely,
Ryan Whitman
Guest Communications
Disneyland Resort

Questioning how much thought and sincerity was devoted to each of our letters, I volleyed:

Ryan,

Thank you for your response to my letter to Dole regarding the Tiki Room. Unfortunately (and I apologize if I am mistaken), it reads like a canned response, the type I assumed I'd receive if I voiced my concerns directly to Disney instead of Dole.

As a frequent visitor to Disneyland, it is troubling to see things maintained as poorly as the Tiki Room is. I think there comes a point when the attraction becomes an eyesore even for casual tourists and should either be completely overhauled or just torn down.

Walk over there sometime and check it out for yourself.

Best wishes,
David Koenig

Not to be outdone, Mr. Whitman shot back:

Dear Mr. Koenig:

I appreciate your continued correspondence regarding the Enchanted Tiki Room. I wish to assure you that our office has shared all of your concerns with the appropriate mangers.

Sincerely,
Ryan Whitman
Guest Communications
Disneyland Resort

At long last, I sensed a victory. Unless Mr. Whitman had, in fact, shared my concerns with a small trough, his typo suggested that someone had finally responded with a personal message. Grateful, I backed away from the keyboard. The people have been heard!

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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