Time to catch up on reader
mail, starting with some fascinating changes at Autopia
|As one Autopia operator reported:
Cal OSHA has decided that Autopia is fairly unsafe.
Since guests bump and hurt other guests and cast members
during loading and unloading, OSHA set up some rules that took
effect Sunday (January 27).
We now have to have three cast members on each track instead
of the old two cast members, so we need more cast members
to work at the same capacity
Autopia's labor costs go
up! (The company, of course, doesn't like that).
We do have the option still of having two cast members
on each track, but then we can only group up to six (as
opposed to eight), meaning a 25% decrease in capacity and 25%
I'm sure the company is thinking twice about renewing
that contract with Chevron in eight years. As I said before,
Autopia's days are probably numbered.
I was talking with management and the reason they say
they wont put any "shut-off sensors" in the cars is
because the sensors run on a commonly used radio frequency.
The frequency would apparently disrupt radio traffic near by
the resort. Apparently other radio frequency bands are taken
by the FCC.
The Chevron sponsor lounge
under the Autopia Tower
In slightly off news, add Chevron to the list of
disgruntled sponsors. As you may know, due to FastPass, guests
just walk right though the tower that plays the Chevron
cartoons (They are, of course, advertisements). Chevron took
offense and now demands that FastPass keep a "Two
Minute" line inside the tower.
Sadly, the FastPass cast member at the merge point
cannot see where the "Two Minute" mark is and now
has to blindly send guests into the tower, thus making the
FastPass return line 10 to 20 minutes long, instead of the old
Lastly, Autopia got its Cast Deployment System computer
Monday (January 21). It is a great change from the two
whiteboards we had before (we had some idiot leads)
still prefer the old breaking system.
|Heather, the former
Disneyland cast member campaigning to convince the park to pay
tribute to the late saxman of New Orleans Square, Edwin
Pleasants. She wrote:
I have to thank you soooo much for posting
the info on Edwin for your readers. The response has
been amazing so far and there is no telling where it will end!
I am truly touched.
I'm going to send all the responses to his companion,
Inther, who is a great lady and will be overwhelmed. I'll keep
you informed on our progress.
I've gotten a number of wonderful testimonials, but they
have slowed down over the weekend. Hopefully, they'll pick up
again. I would like a lot more to convince Ms. Harriss.
Readers, please continue to send
your memories to Heather at DsnyRed1@cs.com
|Reader predictions for 2002 continued to arrive. Wade
Guess I'll add my 10 cents to the 2002 predictions.
1. Disney stock will begin to slip as a hostile take
over looms on the horizon.
2. A new add campaign for DCA will unsuccessfully target
3. Michael Jackson will offer to buy the Disneyland
4. Michael Eisner will seriously consider Jackson's
5. Walt Disney World will lose its unique self
government status and be split between the two counties.
6. Disney Vacation Club will announce a new time share
program that utilize empty resort rooms while they sell off
Disney Cruise Line -Photo
7. Disney Cruise Line will (along with other cruse
lines) face new problems of security and safety as the War on
Terrorism expands to the seas.
8. The Angels will win the pennant, and then be sold.
9. Return to Neverland will be just successful enough
for Eisner to blow off the "Sequel Critics."
10. Atlantis "Bumper Boats" will be placed in
the Disneyland and Disney World submarine lagoons.
Bonus prediction: "Disney's Fantasmic On Ice"
|Andrew Salter predicted:
I've noticed a lot of your readers being sarcastic and
downright cruel to the parks about their renovations for 2002.
So, here's one for all you happy people:
(6) A massive refurbishment drive will solve many
nagging problems in the parks and prevent massive accidents.
(5) The Pooh ride will draw more visitors to the back of
the park, making it seem more lively, thanks to the addition
of a new attraction there. The Pooh ride will also make due
with the budget cuts that it is getting and impress the
(4) Disney's California Adventure will lay plans for a
lagoon spectacular, utilizing effects (in pyrotechnics)
pioneered in LuminAria. They will solve the problems that they
have now by doing repairs to the Paradise Pier, although it
may cause some congestion. Remember, these are only plans. The
show itself will require a dry rehab of the lagoon.
(3) Fantasmic! will return in all its glory and reclaim
the crown as the king of nighttime spectaculars. Formerly
disused effects will come back into play and the show will
glow like it was meant to.
(2) DCA will slowly decline in popularity until there
are enough rides to draw attention. I know that rides aren't
the important thing, but for the younger population, they are!
Once DCA realizes their mistakes, they will work on improving
show quality, despite the iron fist of Paul Pressler.
(1) Tomorrowland may get an E-ticket, or at least one in
construction. This may be a long-term project, but the
important thing is that there will be one!
The outlook on the resort is not so gloomy. I myself
love to visit despite the problems they have at the moment.
Besides, could you look for this quality at Universal? Close,
but not quite.
I don't know if yours are the most
probable predictions, but they sure are the ones I hope
Here is my prediction for the next decade. Either
one of these two things will happen:
1. Disney will somehow regain its image and become a great
place to go again. This will happen preferably with Eisner
completely out of the picture. Then the company would go to
its rightful owner, Roy E. Disney (he is part of the
actual family). Then they would realize that pins and other
memorabilia aren't the biggest cash cows, but rather the parks
themselves, and give the Imagineers some money to come up
with better ideas and more freedom for rides/parks/attractions
at all the parks in the U.S. Things better than a tortilla
machine and a boring limo ride.
Hunchback of Notre Dame II -Promo art © Disney
And they might give the film division some money, too,
so they might be able to produce great theater-quality
movies, rather than our current hoard of direct-to-video
sequels. They're turning everything into the Land Before Time.
Then they might put some better shows on ABC, rather than
pathetic and overrated game shows like The Chair and
Millionaire. This type of turnaround would require some real
pixie dust though.
this is probably more likely
2. Thanks to Eisner and Pressler, The Walt Disney
Company will be run into the ground and cease to exist.
In your mailbag for the week of January 22, you
responded to Susan Schaar's suggestion (that consumers strike
the parks to send a message to shareholders) by saying,
"Disney stock is held by so many small investors that
organizing a coup may be impossible."
Perhaps what we need is for Dreamworks SKG to be the
"white knight" and organize a leveraged buyout of
Disney. Then the "talent" Susan referred to, Jeffrey
Katzenberg, can return to Disney, help restore the company's
former image and vision, and also have the pleasure of
removing his former boss, Michael Eisner.
|A Disneyland cast member wrote:
I just read the last message on the mailbag today and I
totally agree with everything you and your reader wrote. The
only way to make management see the light is to go through the
stockholders, since management won't listen to the paying
But, you said at the end of the message that a
"coup would be impossible." I don't think it's
impossible. Didn't a "coup" happen in the early
1980s when Eisner and Wells came on? Didn't the shareholders,
with the help of Roy E. Disney, oust Ron Miller, et al?
Maybe history will repeat itself and Roy E. will lead
another "coup"? Who knows?
Another coup would require someone
like Roy to lead, but remember Eisner is Roy's man. I don't
think he'd turn on his own appointee.
Also, you'd have to find an
individual (or, for a merger, a larger company) willing to put
up the billions.
Finally, the business community (not
Disney fans) would have to come to the realization that the
leadership was incompetent and the company drastically
under-performing. We're not there yet. The business community
remembers Eisner turned the company around once, and is hoping
he'll repeat. That Ron Miller was in over his head was apparent
Let's see what happens. If the
company continues to stumble, something's gotta give.
"life-long Disney fan," wrote:
After reading Susan Schaar's contribution to the 2002
predictions (what a great article!), it brought back to memory
something I had thought about long ago. I had wondered about
the stockholders on many occasions. Could they really be that
out of touch with what is going on with their money? I just
don't see how anyone paying any attention to Disney matters at
all, could fail to see the total debauchery going on.
My only investment with Walt Disney Company is with my
heart, and my wallet, and as for my heart, it has been
breaking for the Disney name and all it used imply for quite
some time now. I keep waiting for the people who have real
dollars invested to wise up and demand the complete change of
the present mismanagement, before this once great Icon of all
Icons is really gone forever!
I am a loyal reader of MousePlanet, and a great fan of
your books. Have you and Mr. Lutz ever considered going to the
television media with any of these stories? Surely there would
be no shortage of back up from people with plenty of proof to
show. You are well known, and MousePlanet seems to be known by
a lot of people. Perhaps there are legalities involved, or you
both have worked hard getting where you are, and don't want to
cause that kind of an uproar, but I wish someone with some
clout would take a hold of the reigns and just get this stuff
out to the people! I really believe there are so many of us
out there that really love Disney, that things could be forced
to change, I just don't know how to go about it. I thought Ms.
Shaar's ideas were great.
Maybe a video taken at both U.S. resorts, showing all
the decay, and lack of training for cast members, etc., and
distributed to stockholders, something Eisner couldn't
schmooze his way out of
Well, my hot air is deflating. I
will end this by saying you guys are doing a great job there
at MousePlanet. I love your site even though I end up upset
after every new round of bad news. I have your books, and
enjoyed them immensely. Thanks for taking the time to let me
P.S. One more try: How about a 60 Minutes expose! I realize
20/20 is out
|A former Disney Company executive wrote
Susan Schaar is almost right. Raising a stink might have
some effect, getting the media involved is always a smart
thingbut the fact is many Disney lovers don't come across
particularly well or intelligently on camera. They are too
focused on "Walt's legacy" to be taken seriously
except by other people who care deeply. (And, make no doubt,
caring deeply is a good thing.)
But there is something that Disney fears. The thought of
it makes Eisner and Staggs and everyone else in lofty
positions absolutely cower.
What they DON'T want, what they absolutely go to GREAT
lengths to avoid, is anyone raising a stink at the annual
It's not for nothing that the last few years have seen
shareholders meetings take place in Fort Worth, Texas, in
Seattle, in Chicago and, this year, in Hartford, Connecticut.
Hartford, Connecticut, you ask? Yes, indeed. Why? Because
it's not Orlando or Anaheim. It's not even New York City.
It's hard to get to. It's cold. It's hardly the place people
clamor to go to. In short, they figure no one's gonna go.
And if no one goes, no one can get in front of a
microphone and start belittling management. No one will get
irate or raise sensitive issues that they don't want to
Of course, for decades, Disney held its annual
meetings in Orlando and Anaheim. They wanted people to come.
They wanted people to see the parks. Back in the 1970s, they
even showed a movie after the meeting, just to make people
feel good. They gave away park passes. The whole event was
a (fun) circusheld in huge convention centers that sometimes
saw two or three thousand attendees. The question-and-answer
period sometimes lasted an hour.
Michael Eisner, whats-his-name
and Cynthia Harris September 24th at Disneyland
The last time the meeting was held in Anaheim, at the
Pond (not next door to Disneyland), the question-and-answer
session got really ugly. Cast members asked very pointed
questions. Shareholders applauded when Michael and Co. were
chastised for their management and for turning their backs on
The LAST thing anyone wants to see is a repeat of THAT.
They KNOW people are unhappy. They KNOW they're pissing people
off. And they don't care. Their answer is to run and hide and
hold a meeting in the dead of winter in Connecticut.
if you're really committed to making a difference,
hop onto Orbitz and book a flight to Hartford and plan to
attend the shareholders' meeting on Feb. 19. If you're really,
really determined, bring an attorney with you to ensure
that the microphone isn't cut off and that you can say what
you came to say. Even better, alert some local reporters to
the fact that you're going to make a stink at the annual meeting.
They'll be all over it. It will be effective negative publicityand
Susan is right, negative publicity is one thing that Disney
really hates. Almost as much as people saying rude things
at the Annual Meeting.
Attention Disney shareholders: Your company wants to run
itself without your input, even once a year. Are you going to
I'd like believe this would have
some effect, but I was at that last shareholders meeting in
Anaheim, nearly in the center of the front row, so close I could
see the sweat beading up on Eisner's forehead. I saw how ugly it
got. I saw how uncomfortable that made him. I saw how he quickly
got defensive and short, how he started to cut people off.
That's when I knew the meeting
wasn't going to be in Anaheim again for a long time. And that
Disney, publicly, was all about excuses and posturing; they
wouldn't listen to or learn from criticism, they thought
everything was just peachy. And I knew that things at Disney
would get much, much worse for a long, long time.
So, I optimistically admit, it might
help. If I could make it, I would. I encourage others to try to
find a way to attend and give voice to common sense. Then, just
don't be surprised if next year's shareholders meeting is in
The ex-exec responded:
It won't help if it's just a couple of people raising
random concerns. The trick would be to try (quickly) to
organize an effort. That way, if Michael or Tom Staggs tries
to cut the first person off, the next person can be right
behind to say, "Please answer the first question and,
also, here's my comment." And if it continues, the next
person does the same.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. I can only muse, though, how
the L.A. Times or the Hartford Courant would react if they
knew they had a great story about shareholders ganging up
on a reluctant Eisner. He can't shut down the meeting, because
by law they have to build a Q&A session. He can shut up
and refuse to answer, he can evade and try to make jokes.
But the headline, "Eisner Upstaged By Angry Shareholders"
makes it across the country (and around the world), the pressure
might finally be on.
(It would also be very smart to address some of the
board members directly and ask them questions about finances,
the audit committee, their attendance records, and their
reluctance to make any moves against their good buddy.)
I know it's unlikely this will happen, but like I said,
first-hand experience (and involvement) has told me that a
public shareholder outcry at the meeting is one of the few
things that absolutely makes Michael and the rest quake in
|Keith McDaniel wrote:
My two sons and I were regular Disneyland visitors for
several years, but have now becometo put it mildlydisenchanted
with the place.
Our last three visits to Disneyland were quite
disappointing because of rude or indifferent cast members and
lack of friendliness. The magic is gone when the cast members
no longer smile, look at the kids, talk to them, or are
helpful with requests. We received curt answers to questions,
sarcasm, and a general irritability with the staff there.
Disneyland has made a huge error in not paying cast members
more and being more selective in hiring staff. I overheard one
cast member complaining about their pay to guests! I also
witnessed rude behavior of cast members towards guests with
questions. It used to be a favorite place to go, but now it is
just disappointing if you remember how it used to be.
At our last visit (March 2001), we went to DCA for the
first time. There is a slide that is in a fabricated tree in a
section of DCA. This is kind of a tube slide which goes inside
the tree. There are no height restrictions listed near or at
the ride, or directions. I went down the slide on the right
side in a sitting position, after my two sons. I am 5 feet 7
At the bottom of the slide my head went smack right into
the top part of the bottom of the tube. This really hurt and
threw me backwards where I laid for about five minutes because
I was stunned. I think it was because of my height that my
head hit the top part of the end of the slide. If I had been
lying down this wouldn't have occurred; it was the design of
the slide that caused you to go into the bottom part if you
are sitting up and taller than a child.
There were two staff people manning the ride. Neither
one of them came down to inquire or to assist me although I
lay there for over five minutes. There were very few people on
the ride; it was not crowded at all. The staff did notice I
was lying down and hurt because I couldn't immediately get up.
My two young sons came over to me. One staff member called
down, "Are you okay?," and I said, "No,"
but they still did not offer to help or come down. My head was
really hurting. I had to get up and go up the stairs to where
the staff were (two people!) and tell them they should warn
people to not go down the slide in a sitting position or their
head will hit the bottom of the slide. They were whispering to
each other, but did not express any concern or seem interested
in how it happened. No one even spoke to my two boys.
They then called over some managers who huddled together
with the staff and barely talked to me. They asked me if I
wanted to go with their nurse. I knew there wasn't much she
could do for me, so I declined after which the staff did not
even speak with me. I am a physician and knew what to do: I
took some Tylenol. I had a headache the rest of the day; it
ruined the day for me. I checked later and there was no sign
put up at the ride.
I spoke with customer assistance later and they just
gave me free pass. I checked the next day and they still did
not have a warning sign up. I was really appalled by the lack
of concern, lack of helpfulness, and that they did not follow
through with a warning sign or directions to prevent the same
thing from happening to another person.
The attitude and response of the staff made me never
want to return to the place. I wrote a written complaint, but
no one ever contacted me. I found this to be unbelievable.
I'm sorry to hear about your
miserable day at Disneyland/California Adventure. The cast
member indifference annoys me as a guest and enrages me as a
Please know that there are many cast
members who care about their jobsjust fewer than there used
|Finally, Scalper pointed
out that anyone in the market for a used fiberglass flying elephant
head over to Ebay.
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.)