It's back to the mailbag
|First, with a response
to Disney toying with the idea of retheming the Submarine Voyage
to Atlantis, reader Darrin Earl pointed
I find amusing the whole question of what (if anything)
will Disney do for an Atlantis ride tie in. Partly because so
far they haven't done anything, meaning any ride (well any
REAL ride) will be at least two years behind the theatrical
release. But mainly because Disney is amusingly far behind the
rest of the theme park world on this one.
Exhibit one: Caesar's Las Vegas' "Race for
Atlantis." A surprisingly well themed (animatronic
"barker" fountain show plus really cool queue) and
technologically advanced (IMAX dome 3-D) ride. Excellent
quality CGI movie, nifty bright colors, fun ride, and you even
get to save Atlantis.
Exhibit two: SeaWorld Orlando's "Journey to
Atlantis." Theming that is definitely third to Disney and
Universal, but not bad for SeaWorld's first real theme park
ride. Innovative ride system courtesy Mack of Germany (also
used in an Atlantis-themed ride at Mack's own park, Europa
Park). Journey to the newly risen City of Atlantis in a Greek
fishing boat. See a golden seahorse several times. Fun ending.
Best themed gift shop I've seen. Also quiet, suspenseful, and
non disturbing to the animals (unlike Kraken, their more
recent roller coaster ride). Plus you get credit for saving
Notice a trend here? Both East and West coasts have a
major Atlantis ride. There is both a water ride, as well as a
As Atlantis continues sinking at the
box office, all Disney has to offer is the Disney Cruise Lines'
stop in Nassau, which the Disney Cruise Lines' stop in Nassau
does offer the shore excursion option of seeing the famed
Atlantis Resort and Casino (above), where you can water slide
down a pyramid and through a shark tank (below).
by Universal Studios poking fun at DCA during a summer kick-off
party for employees, Kar2oonMan wrote:
How ironic that Universal would mock DCA's troubles from
the set of a Waterworld attraction. People howl about DCA but
yet Universal still has a show based on one of its biggest box
office bombs YEARS after
and they wonder why people aren't
spending more on souvenirs? I would remind Universal about
people who live in glass houses
I hadn't thought about that, but
you're right, it is a little ironic. (Although I would argue
that Waterworld the Attraction is a lot better than Waterworld
the Movie, and better than most of what's in DCA.)
|An Entertainment Division cast member
First let me say that I enjoyed your Mouse Tales books
and the articles which appear online. I also want to assure
you that I am in no way putting down your article or any of
the things said in them. Okay, with that said let's get to my
reason for writing.
I'm a Disneyland Resort cast member who's worked there
for quite a long time. All my years have been spent in Entertainment
so I've seen my share of ups and downs. The opening of Fantasmic,
The Lion King Celebration, The Hunchback Festival of Fools
are a few that lifted our hopes and swelled our heads.
Light Magic and Parade of the Stars sure did bring back
some humility. I find it interesting how so many are quick to
put down the Resort expansion so quickly. What theme park in
history ever did well its first few years? I like DCA
personally, there are some fantastic things put in there that
could never have been done across the way. The Eureka
Parade is an example. I think in time DCA will find it's niche
and will swell into a true Disney park.
I also find it funny how other theme parks in the area
take great pleasure in putting down all things Disney. The
hangings at Knott's Halloween Haunt always poke fun at what is
new at Disneyland and the Employee showing of Waterworld that
you wrote about did the same. In all the time I've been at
Disney there has never been a show or cast event that makes
fun of any of the neighboring parks. I think all the
attractions in Southern California help each other and should
build a partnership of some kind to get more people to
I'm sure it's kind of a 'bring down the big guy'
mentality, but Disneyland Resort still is, and probably always
will be, the Resort of choice in Southern California. That
doesn't mean that families vacationing here only go to Disney.
They take a day at Knott's and a day at Universal, and
probably a day at Magic Mountain. The attractions feed off
each other, so they should cooperate.
I just wanted to put my two cents in.
Thanks for the great note!
I couldn't agree more with all your
pointsunfortunately Disney, Knott's and Universal no longer
seem to agree. It's funny, years ago Disney and the competition
(especially Knott's) had a very close working relationship. They
understood that they could benefit and boost each others'
business rather than tear it down (the way Sea World and
Universal Studios are joint-marketed in Florida).
Walter Knott attended the grand
opening of Disneyland and gave gracious, glowing quotes to all
the news reporters. In the off season Disneyland used to be
closed Monday and Tuesday, and Knott's would close Wednesday and
Many old time Imagineers
upon seeing the plans for the new park dubbed it the
"Universal Berry Farm"
Starting in the 1970s, though, they
started going after each other's business more intensely, trying
to build similar types of attractions. And, soon after, the
jabs started coming. Jokes about Disneyland tourists in Knott's
stage show or the mouse ears floating in the Jurassic Park ride
at Universal StudiosHollywood (USH). Disney, being top
dog, doesn't have to jab the competition in public, but it did
take the biggest competitive swipe in purposely designing DCA
to counter the strengths of Knott's (the West) and USH (Hollywood).
Before DCA, I held out hope that the
parks could once again return to working together for the
betterment of the industry and the audience. DCA may have
created too much overlap. The various parks may no longer be
unique enough to "get along."
|Bill Crawford wrote:
Since people are concerned that bringing back the MSEP
in the middle of the power shortage and blackouts will send a
wrong message, Disney should get a sponsor like Duracell or
have the Energizer Bunny lead the parade to tell people that
most of the lights are run off of batteries.
Steve Farrell wrote:
My family and myself who are die-hard Disneyland fans
and annual passholders for the last six years went to DCA on
March 14. I have to say before I go on, I am one the Disney
fan's who was very skeptical of the new park, however after
going there I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn't as bad as I
thought, it's by no means in the same class as Disneyland at
this point, but I don't think that it needs to measure up to
Disneyland at this time point.
I think the price is too much for the amount of rides
that it has. They should offer a combined price around $60 and
let people go between parks. The park at this point has a
couple of very good rides (California Screamin' and Soarin'
over California, and a deceiving Ferris wheel).
If the suits get out of the way the park has potential.
Right now there are too many restaurants and shops for the
price they are charging. At this point I am glad that I didn't
covert my Disney annual pass to include DCA, too many
additional blackout days (from 65 to 160 ).
I'd like to add in closing, the attendance for day we
went was one of their best for DCA, I think it had to do more
with the weather than anything else, it was one of the first
days in a month that we had a sunny day.
As a Disney two-park premium passholder I have gone to
DCA a half a dozen times, If I go back it will only be for the
But this is what I expect to happen.
Passholders will be most of the crowds lining the route.
Day guests will arrive late morning/early to mid
afternoon to see the park and stay for the parade and leave
after the parade.
Flexpass holders will spend the day at Disneyland then
flow over to DCA for the parade then flow back to Disneyland
for the rest of the night.
Passholders will most likely do this as well.
Once word gets out about the floats having half the number
of lights on them ( Budget cutbacks )and Disney trying to
find a use for the hundreds of miles of fiberoptic cables
from light magic (and more budget cutbacks). This will give
Disney a reason to cancel the parade once again.
Disney, stop trying to put a band-aid on DCA. Give us a
quality parade in a quality park.
|As far as the layoffs
and ensuing reorganization at the Disneyland Resort, a cast
With the news of the layoffs at the resort, sources tell
me that if things do not pan out for DCA for the summer, the
next round of layoffs could come as early as fall.
Concerning the third park Disney wants to build in
Anaheim, should it be built, two sources in the parking lot
have told me that KCML (Katella Cast Member Lot) will become a
Today's Register on the lower admission prices for DCA
is a scream. Do you smell desperation? If Pressler and Eisner
were not so damn arrogant and cheap, all this could have been
avoided. It's now going to cost us more to fix the park. What
was that saying? "You get what you pay for."
While Tokyo DisneySeas looks and sounds fantastic (it
will open Sept. 4), we're stuck with a poor excuse for a
Disney park. Cast members have given some new meanings to DCA:
Disney's Carny Adventure, and Don't Come Again.
The Team Disney Anaheim
An Attractions cast member added:
Black Tuesday came and went, and it was almost
exclusively lower management and clerical. Lots of clerical,
The big guys all kept their spots, and an entire new
"make work" department within Attractions was
created to hold them. It's amazing, but many of them should
see the writing on the wall there. Cynthia issued a letter
stating that "this current phase of the workforce
reduction has been completed." This "current
phase"??? The reliable rumor is that there is more to
come later in summer, maybe August.
Paul Yeargin, the Disneyland Director of Attractions
from the Disney Store that never deemed it necessary to be
trained on ANY attraction, is now the Director of Guest
Relations. The old DCA Attractions Director (John Storbeck) is
now the Director of Attractions for the entire Resort, both
Parks. He's a guy who started as an hourly Attractions host 20
years ago and has worked his way up from there, and it's a
very popular choice.
That's about the gist of it. But the basic story is that
anyone at or above middle management kept their job. The ranks
of secretaries and assistants are drastically thinner, and
some salaried lower management was walked out. All the big
players in TDA are still there, of course.
|Reader Andrew wrote:
Thanks for answering my question about the Space
Mountain soundtrack. I love the Space Mountain soundtrack and
enjoy its heart-pounding thrills.
I need clarification on what you wrote. Are they trying
to fix the rockets again, or are they just buying time until
they slowly bring a new fleet in?
What is the buzz about the new rockets (if any)?
The new ride photo system
shows the Space Mt. cars
You need clarification because the
article was unclearbecause I have conflicting sources.
The word going around ride operators
is that new rockets are coming. But the people in Facilities
(who should be better informed than Attractions on this) swear
that the plan to buy new rockets was scrapped a couple of months
The current rockets and soundtrack
SHOULD be repaired, but Facilities lacks the money, time,
experience and replacement parts to do that. It's inexcusable.
Would they keep running Star Tours without the video? If Space
Mountain is silent during my next trip, I'm heading for City
Hall. (On the other hand, if the soundtrack on Small World was
|From Thomas, "aka a really really sad
I have to say that growing up in Southern California
(mainly Orange County) I have always held a special place in
my heart for Disneyland. I can remember a time when cast
members actually used to smile, which was quickly returned by
happy guests and good PR for Disney.
What happened? This bureaucracy that has all but
crippled the "Old Disney Way" will continue to
change one of the worlds greatest family theme parks into a
worthless, money-hungry shopping mall with rides.
Reading your articles has given me a clear picture of
what's happening. I was beginning to wonder if my age was
opening my eyes to just how much Disneyland has sunken into
disrepair. Not just the peeling paint and tattered props, but
the loss of "Magic" that used to permeate the air
like the smell of cookies on Main Street. Someone in charge
must not have read the plaques around the park.
Peeling paint on the
Carrousel roof has still not been fixed
I am a very happy person and tend to be easily pleased.
I don't expect that cast members treat me special in any way.
I would just like to feel as if they are happy for me to be
there. But knowing the working conditions and increases in
mismanagement, not to mention Disney-sizing (I mean
downsizing), I don't want to blame the cast members. But what
has happened to the pride that used to be worn by most if not
all on stage cast members? Could it be the bloodsucking pariah
that we all fear? Unhappy boys and girls that never knew what
Disneyland was finally in control and taking out their
un-nurtured childhoods on one of the most sacred temples of
I could go on and on and on and on, but for your sake I
just wanted to let you know that us long time Disneyland
lovers, not to mention annual passholders, are quickly seeing
the pixie dust fade. From the apparent overwhelming
merchandising, to the rape and pillage pricing of food and
water, Disneyland might as well change its name to
"Knott's 2" At least there you know that your going
to get rude employees, run down scenery, and sub-par
entertainment for your admission price.
In closing, I must say that in preparation for crossing
the threshold of parenthood, I wish for only one thing. It's
big (and God knows pretty much impossible), but simple.
Disneyland was opened not just to make money (although why
else build a theme park), but as "a happy place where
parents and children can have fun together."
Thanks for hearing the rants, I know you must get a lot
of them. Your columns may help to shine a light of hope on
what has become a dark spot in Anaheim.
Along the same lines, K.S. wrote:
Dave, I am really baffled by all of this.
I realize the need that the Disney parks and all areas
included in such be profitable as any other retail operation
that exist today. But I am coming to the quick conclusion that
Disney has lost all interest in trying to provide an ongoing
unique experience to their guest here in the US. I keep
reading all of this gossip, etc. about what is going on but I
recently got to experience it first hand in Florida.
The trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) was to visit the
Animal Kingdom Lodge. The hotel was fabulous and first rate.
The hotel experience delivered everything exactly as promised
by all of Disney's PR. But outside the hotel seemed to be a
The Magic Kingdom's newest attraction "Flying
Carpets" whatever looked like nothing more than a quick
cheap attempt to throw something new into that area of the
park. It looked like something that I would find as a local
state fair. I realize the idea was a take off on the Dumbo
ride in Fantasyland, but this just doesn't seem to fit in. The
Dumbo ride is a classic Disney touch, the effort to copy it
just seemed to me as a complete waste. It really struck me as
a very cheap rip off of something else there that most would
consider a classic. And trust me when I say, the people riding
it didn't look like they were having fun as they went round
The other thing that struck me as being really strange
is this tremendous Sorcerer's hat being built at the studio
park. It might be interesting in its own right as an icon
piece but the placement of it truly destroys the re-creation
of Mann's theater there. It is huge, it is gaudy as hell and
sticks out like a really sore thumb. Of course, I get the idea
that some very important people at Disney seem to think that
most guests won't notice all of these cheesy things they are
doing right now.
And they wonder why the Animal Kingdom is losing on the
attendance numbers. Any fool could have figured that from day
one. Why did Disney ever want to get into the zoo business
period??? Even though they are adding some things in the Dino
area of the park, I just really feel the overall corporate
heads could really care less at this time. I get the
impression that if they can save a nickel on anything they
will at this point. Obviously, Disney has lost their focus for
the moment on their American parks. To me it just looks like
the budget figures and bottom line is all that matters. I just
hope they figure it out before the overall public does.
But for all of my complaining I must say the Animal
Kingdom Lodge is most impressive, so I find my feelings to be
somewhat crossed in terms of this note. My trip left me with
the thought that Disney is working on very different levels,
depending on your aspect of interest. I just hope someone
realizes that very soon. I have plans made now to revisit the
AKL in November, but I don't expect the service to be as high
as I just experienced. Sorry for all the rant ,but it was
something I needed to do.
Your perceptions are accurate.
Disney continues to churn out first-
rate, well-themed hotels because, they think, you have a choice
of where to stay. If they want to get $200 or $300 or $whatever
from you, they have to give you quality lodging. But as far as
expanding the theme parks, they figure that once they've got you
on property and collected your $50 a head, they no longer have
to work as hard to impress you.
They can get away with that, to some
extent, at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot or Disneyland, because the
reputation is firmly in place. Pirates of the Caribbean and
Haunted Mansion and IllumiNations aren't going away. But Animal
Kingdom and DCA are showing them that if there's no substance,
the word will get out and people may not come back.
Hopefully they'll learn their lesson
though I'm sure it will take a while.
|Michael Sweeney echoed a
Just got finished reading your mailbag and the last
letter prompted me to write.
The Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room are falling
apart, the Country Bears are on their way out, injuries are
on the rise, fires are occurring on the Rivers of America,
the park still does not have a nighttime paradewhat
are the loyal Disneyland fans to do?
The sailing ship Columbia
While I am aware that some of these problems are more
complicated than others, some of them are simple upkeep
problems. I was so excited about the opportunity to finally
ride the Columbia (since I usually visit the park off-season,
I don't get the chance to ride it), but if Al is reporting
fires, maybe I should bypass this. I don't want my trip to
Disneyland this summer, and my girlfriend's first trip to the
park, to be depressing.
And yet, I will goout of loyalty to my memories, to
the company (hey, I am loyal to the brand), or out of my
loyalty to Walt Disney and what I conceive to be his personal
presence there. But I have thoughts recently about what
happens when it is all gone, because for the first time I see
the company ramming this nearly fifty year old institution
into the ground. DCA has a lot to do with that. Yes, I
understand that it takes awhile for a good theme park to
develop (take the Disney-MGM Studios, which I think is finally
a place where you can spend a day), but DCA was a bad idea
from the beginning.
Part of the problem is that I know what it used to be
likeeven after Walt Disney was gone. (Remember the
wonderful stories about Walt putting his money back into the
company so that even greater things could continue to come --
I don't know if that is true or not, but I think it is.) There
was a commitment to excellence and quality. For awhile I could
sit back and say, "well, this is just a small problem, it
will get better." But my hope is fading!
So do we (Disneyland fans) take the advise of another
letter writer and boycott the company demanding better
quality. I don't see that working. I used to think you could
turn to Roy E. Disney for help, but his power and knowledge is
limited. So what do you, David, see as the answerno matter
how wild it my sound, I would be interested in your thoughts.
You can only show so many pictures of malfunctioning
Tikis before you either give up or do something about it.
Anyway, I apologize for my tirade. I would be interested
in your thoughts about what we can do about this situation.
For now I guess I will put on my Main Street music, dream of
days gone by, and hope for the best!
Michael, thanks for sharing your heartfelt
My hope, too, is fading. I'm not
sure how many times Disney has to make the same mistake before
it realizes the importance of quality, experience and loyalty.
These are what made the company great, and these are the
illusions that the company uses today to sell inferior products.
Personally, I don't think a formal
boycott would do much good (the line in the letter column saying
one "might work" should have been attributed to the
letter writer, not to me), but I don't blame anyone for trying
any sane, legal means to get Disney's attention. Disney would
have to both suffer substantial financial impairment, as well as
be able to conclusively link that impairment to a boycott. That
said, I'd like to think that if no one bought a particular
product or visited a particular theme park, that the
manufacturer would be discouraged from making another.
I wish I had a better suggestion.
I'd be happy to get behind a positive movement to encourage
Disney to return to its roots. I'm convinced that imagination
and creativity still reside at WDI, Disney's animation studios
and theme parksit's just hard to hear them sometimes over
the din of the calculators and cash registers.
(Oh, and, last of all, no, I am not
related to Walter Koenig.)
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.)