reader mail this time, starting off with comments on
Disneyland's new "Good Character"
Since we've been focusing on Walt Disney World this past week, I've gone
ahead and included below the latest set of rehab & construction
photos for the Disneyland resort that would normally appear in a DIG
update. All photos, unless noted, were taken last weekend. My thanks to
David for allowing me to pop them into his column today.
- Al Lutz
|A reader shared:
I agree that it's about time that the performers who play
the characters are finally getting a little respect. Because,
really, that's what it is. Sure, there will be sarcastic jokes
by some once they read the booklets, but maybe it'll make some
think before they do something like let their child climb on
Donald's bill or -- I don't know -- jab a syringe into
Esmerelda's arm, causing her to panic and pass out (According to
friends who used to work at Disneyland, this actually happened.)
But I still think this is a good idea. I performed at
Universal Hollywood's last Halloween Horror Nights and, frankly,
I don't know if I could do that, again (though I still would
like to perform at Disneyland). It was not unusual to be felt
up, have wives or girlfriends tell their significant others that
I was a man (I wore a limited vision mask), or hear of my
co-workers getting punched in the chest or stomach.
While I realize this is a different park, perhaps other
parks will pick this idea up now. It's ultimately good to make
the guests aware of the situation and not just place the
responsibility on the performer. And it's great that Disney is
the first to initiate this, in my opinion.
Tomorrowland the Space Exhibit has undergone some updating, as
David had noted previously in his
column, including some new space vehicle mock-ups, shown above.
Also, the peeling and rotting panels in the Star Tours facade
have been replaced.
|A cast member wrote:
Just loved your latest MousePlanet article on the
"Good Character" Club.
I want to let you know that the guests I have encountered
who got the pamphlet think the rules of this club only apply to
the "fuzzies" (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc.), but it
applies to ALL the characters. This includes the
"face" characters (Alice, Poppins, the princesses),
An old-timer commented:
If this is going to be a success, all the guests need to
read the pamphlet, understand it, and apply it. Children are not
going to understand this, so it is the responsibility of the
parents to discuss it with them. It is a sad sign of our society
when we have to pass out 'rules of conduct' to the guests.
Another cast member commented:
We would rather lavish more time on a polite guest than a
On another note, the rehab work for
the Matterhorn is waaay behind schedule. Don't count on it
reopening on schedule (December 12).
faded hills have finally been getting a fresh coat of paint -
above is last week's shot, below is the week before that. Note
the difference in the depth of color.
Please, please say you're kidding about giving
"rules" to guests for meeting characters!
How is it that Disneyland has gotten 50 years without this
being necessary? This is another example of Disney saying to
guests, "You're stupid and we know better than you."
If an attraction is closed, you can't complain. If the park is
dirty, you can't complain. And now if you want to meet a
character, you'll need to follow directions.
How about this one instead? Disney, recognizing that huge
weekend crowds make for an unpleasant experience full of
jostling and shouting and hitting and kicking (I'm sure we've
all seen it all!), announces that no more than 40,000 people
will be let into the park each day. Seriously. The spillover can
go to DCA. Then there will be no need for "character
rules" or any of the problems we associate with guests,
because crowds will be manageable and the experience will be
better for everyone. Who knows -- as a result, people might
actually spend more money in stores and restaurants!
Just a modest proposal. But not as dumb, I don't think, as
giving out "how-to-meet-a-character" rule sheets.
|Suzanne Payne suggested:
I think Disneyland and Disney World should implement a
meet & greet area that you can acquire a FastPass for. I
think many people want to quickly get in a visit without waiting
a long time, and are afraid the character is going to leave
before they get to the front causing a near panic situation when
Carrousel in Fantasyland almost had the roof support structure
completed last Sunday (above). Below is the 100th Birthday
plaque that was finally installed in front of the Walt &
Mickey Partner's statue in the hub.
|David McHugh related:
In our trips to Disneyland with our children, I always
disliked the emphasis placed on autographs from characters.
Instead of kids having a brief, hopefully memorable moment in
close proximity to one of their movie or television heroes, kids
are forced into a mob whose goal is simply to get an unreadable
signature. Even if parents or children are not initially
inclined to seek an autograph, it becomes obvious to the kids
that that is what is important. Seeing a character becomes
stressful and another dog-eat-dog experience that is experienced
too frequently in the real world, and that you hope to avoid for
a few hours in Disneyland.
If I were king, I would stop selling those dumb autograph
books, and stop the practice of giving autographs completely.
Instead, why not assign a "helper" to the character
who would give a pin or something to each child who visited? For
those who simply want evidence, they can bypass a direct
greeting and head for the pin, leaving quieter encounters to
those willing to be patient and kind both to their children and
I agree with your sentiment, but I
think we both know Disney will never stop selling autograph books.
When I was a kid, the characters were
like old friends from TV and the movies. Meetings with characters
were by chance -- they'd just be standing around -- and the
emphasis was just on seeing them and getting a hug.
Nowadays, the character are
celebrities. Encounters are structured. You stand in line for
Mickey. You get his autograph. Pose for a picture. Next guest! And
you're off to the next line.
Terror continues to be worked on at DCA, above is the view from
the Bugs land area, below is a close-up of the huge boxes added
to the top floor of the structure.
view of the structure from the Hollywood Backlot area near the
Hyperion Theater queue area. Below is a close-up of the banner
now seen at the top.
Sadly, it seems that the company is striving towards the
right direction but just doesn't seem to grasp the correct
solution and in doing so, is creating a whole new slew of
problems. The idea in itself is a good one. Though I never have
been a character at Disneyland, I've heard countless stories
from those who have about how difficult it is to walk around,
dressed in a hot, smelly costume with limited sight lines and
try and please everyone.
Though I'm sad to see the days of children crowded around
their favorite characters waning as more and more "meet and
greet" spots pop up, it is fortunate in that it creates a
much nicer atmosphere for everyone. Everyone can see Pooh
because when the cast member's walk time is up, he goes
backstage for a "hunny break" and another Pooh takes
his place. The cast members get their much deserved break and no
child goes home unhappy or picture-less.
Unfortunately they still have to deal with angry and rude
people who don't understand that, while we'd all love to keep up
the facade, there is a real person in that costume who is
subject to limited views, heat, and gravity like the best of us.
I assume this was the inspiration for the "Good
Personally, I don't see this as being a worthwhile idea.
I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say that most of those
rude guests are not trying to be rude, but are simply trying to
create the best "Disney" experience for themselves but
in doing so, ignore the same desire of their fellow guests. Many
do not need this information; they are already polite enough.
The ones who could benefit will either not choose to read it or
simply ignore it, either way resulting in "Good
Character" pamphlets to be strewn about the park for those
hard-working custodians to sweep up. Moreover, the character
escorts now must pass out this information in addition to taking
photos, walking the character from location to location, and
keeping the cast member from being mauled by overly-excited
I guess I just see this as being a waste of money for an
end-product that is quite different from what the company
expects, and it doesn't seem that anyone considered this. But
for the sake of the cast members, I hope I'm wrong.
|On Disneyland vs.
Disney World, Evan Millward noted:
I feel very much that Disneyland will never be a complete
resort destination. After all, Uncle Walt never wanted it to be.
He felt that it was nice to have somewhere where locals could
come and spend a day or two with their kids. Walt Disney World
is THE true resort destination. Walt knew that he wanted
something truly different and exciting for the public when he
built Disney World. He saw what he did wrong in California and
he made the necessary changes. He didn't want to have a Harbor
Boulevard 10 feet from Tomorrowland.
About the Angels and Walt's "dream": Walt loved
a day at the ballpark and he greatly enjoyed America's favorite
pastime. I'll bet that eventually he would have done the same
with buying the Angels. The Mighty Ducks wouldn't have happened,
though. The Angels are a piece of California and a great thing
that Disney has done for the area. I personally think that it is
terrible that Disney is still selling.
For those who hate all things that aren't Walt's dream
(California Adventure), I must say that Epcot isn't what Walt
wanted but, I'd bet he'd enjoy it the way it is today. Sure
there'd be more upkeep and better rides, but it would have
pleased him. He probably would greatly enjoy MGM and Animal
Kingdom. How he'd feel about Hong Kong may be fairly different,
I am a Disney Vacation Club member and would love to see a
West Coast hotel because it just seems that sooner or later
Disney World will have too many hotel rooms and they won't be
able to fill enough rooms and will enter a decline of profit. I
also wouldn't mind a Paris and/or Tokyo DVC resort either.
weekend was your last chance to dine at the Soap Opera Bistro -
as we told you here before, it will soon house a Playhouse
Disney show for the little ones.
|Frank Wierenga corrected:
You reported that for Fox Family Disney paid $3.8 billion
not $5.8 and we should give Eisner some credit for this.
According to the 2001 annual report, Disney paid $2.9 billion in
cash AND the assumption of $2.3 billion in debt. This makes a
total price of $5.2 billion for the channel.
It should be noted that Disney financed the cash portion
of the purchase.
I have been a Florida resident my whole life, as well as a
Walt Disney/Mickey Mouse fan. I grew up watching Walt on the
Wonderful World of Color and yearning to go to Disneyland. My
family and I have gone to Walt Disney World hundreds of times,
but I still wanted that magical trip to Disneyland, Walt's park.
I finally got my wish in summer 1999 when my family
(husband, three children, and I) made the trip to Southern
California. I could write a book comparing my husband's
impressions about Disneyland (a cramped little park) and mine
(the hundreds of little touches of Walt that are missing in
Florida), but what really shocked me was the missed
opportunities in Anaheim.
For instance, my family purchased tickets to an Angels
game and I foolishly expected that the Disneyland Hotel would
have a shuttle bus running between the stadium and the hotel.
Not only was this not the case but there was absolutely no
mention of the Angels anywhere in the hotel or around
At Walt Disney World the minor league team that plays at
the Wide World of Sports as well as the Braves during spring
training are advertised in resort literature that is handed out
to every guest. I couldn't help feeling that the Disneyland
management could learn a great deal about cross promotion from
its Florida resort.
You are absolutely right. I think
Disney was scared away from cross-promoting theme parks and sports
teams too heavily after it acquired the Angels and promptly began
"Disnefying" the team with a lot of silly gimmicks,
mascots, pastel colors, etc. My guess is they erroneously figured,
"Oh, Disney and baseball don't mix. We should keep these
The shuttle's a great idea, whether
the company sells the team(s) or not.
lost one of its oldest and largest trees last week, the one in
front of the former Casa Mexicana / now Rancho del Zocalo. I was
told the new tree, seen above, replaced a dying one. It also
somewhat opened up the vistas in this area.
facade of the nearby Golden Horseshoe Saloon (above) continues
to deteriorate (we showed you the peeling gutters before), there
is some extensive work still going on for the Disneyland
Railroad. Below you can see the buildings that span the track
are being repainted.
Railroad also got all new platforms and paint on all the
stations (ToonTown in particular looks outstanding), new track
was laid from the roundhouse into the park and in most areas of
the loop, new drainage was installed back around the Rivers of
America along with what looks like the start of even more track
work in the future.
though, the trains also got a new English and Spanish narration
track that no longer utilizes the old Thurl Ravenscroft
recordings. The new voice is very sadly lacking in the
thanks to David - I know a lot of you have been asking for an
update from Disneyland, and this set of photos should help catch
- Al Lutz
the Angels, Kevin Johnson wrote:
I just wanted to comment on the rant about the Angels not
being Disney. What is Disney? As far as I thought, Disney meant
quality family entertainment. These means motion picture,
television, amusement park, and, yes, even baseball or hockey or
any other kind of family entertainment. Even when Walt was
alive, Disney was always moving on new fronts; expanding and
I think one thing should be established: Disney is NOT
Disneyland. Disneyland is merely part of a much larger
corporation. As a matter of fact what must people have thought
when Disneyland was first built. I mean, Disney was associated
with movies and later, television. Not an amusement park.
I guess what I want to say is that entertainment does not
make Disney. Disney makes entertainment.
|Robert Chinn continued:
A response to "Ed's
grouse": Walt Disney appears to be an American who
celebrated America. Abe Lincoln. Main Street. Casey at the Bat.
Frontierland. Sport Goofy. The Flag Retreat.
The company as an extension of the man has celebrated the
people, places and forms of America. Perhaps viewing Ken Burns'
Baseball or reading George Will will help us understand how the
sport has always seemed to reflect, transcend and connect the
American experience. Certainly, baseball as a part of Americana
can rightfully claim to be part of the celebration, if not
On the flippant side, I'm wondering what Uncle Walt would
think about the purchase of a hockey team. If I have my history
right, Disneyland is supposed to be a wholesome, clean place
where a family can spend their time together. If this is true,
baseball can reasonably be a part of the Disney line of
products. Baseball IS family entertainment. What more can be
said about the bonding that occurs between father and son going
to the ball game?
On the Series: being a (now) long suffering Dodger fan, I
enjoyed watching Scioscia and Baker duke it out. It's good to
see Dodger blue underneath the red and black/orange uniforms.
|And, Anthony Galindo
I don't want to get off on a rant here, but people like Ed
need to get out of the parks every once and a while and see what
the rest of the world is cooking up. All parks and nothing else
makes ED a dull boy. And what's up with the "Walt's
Dream" thing. Did Ed have a one-on-one with Walty that he's
not telling us about?
If you live in So. Cal. and are not affected by the Angels
then it's by a conscience choice not to be happy about it. It's
like saying you're not happy about Jello for dessert.
Ed, get a girlfriend and a life outside of pin trading.
Put an Angel's cap on and pump your fist in the air at every run
scored by the boys from Anaheim.
And, smile. Walt would have wanted you to.
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.)