"All the Wrong
Moves," which noted the similarities between recent moves by
the Disney Co. and mistakes of 20 years ago by Walt Disney Productions,
generated dozens of passionate notes from readers. Now we just have to
get the message to Roy!
|A Disneyland cast member wrote:
Loved your latest article. What you wrote is something I
(and many old-timers) believe is happening to the company.
Will things get worse? I believe so.
Many at the park (and some I know at the studios) are
afraid that we are going to hit bottom again real soon.
Something like that Frank Sinatra song where a verse goes,
"life keeps running in cycles, first the laughter, then
Team Disney Anaheim
A ride operator friend who had to visit TDA (Team Disney
Anaheim) told me he saw security officers manning every
entrance to the building. When asked why, they were tight-
Speculation going around is management is scared of
retaliation from those who were laid off to some kind of
sabotage. The officers ask for ID from cast members they are
not sure about. My friend said the officers he encountered
were very nice, and a little apologetic for what they had to
put the cast members through. Gee, Cynthia, are you really
scared of us???
On the subject of DCA, I find it laughable how
management is trying to save the park. When DCA was about to
open, their managers bragged ("and were quite full of
themselves," one cast member told me) that the new park
didn't need Mickey & Friends' help, "but those
managers are eating crow, big time."
Character shows have been added to every district in the
park (Bountiful Valley Farm -Mickey's Garden, Golden Dreams -
Max Joins LaFeet, Grizzly Waterfalls -Donald's Vision,
Hollywood Backlot -Cruella's Story and Goofy's Beach Party
Bash, Condor Flats -Minnie Earheart: Mouse With Mettle)
|Wayne Campbell wrote:
What a well-written column today! It was especially
clever (and, somewhat eerie) to start it with the excerpts
from the 1977 letter.
What I wouldn't give to know what Roy's thinking these
days, becauseas you point outthe parallels between
now and the dark days of the late '70s are quite clear. I'm
tempted to pull out my old copy of Storming the Magic Kingdom
for a re-read. Wonder if Roy and Stanley Gold are plotting
anything over grappa these days?
Anyway, thanks for a sane and reasoned update. While I
enjoy all of MousePlanet and read every one of Al's updates,
sometimes he's just so emotional that I think people miss the
point. Your calm voice of reason is a nice counterbalance.
|A cast member wrote:
I was told about MousePlanet by a hard core Disney fan.
Anyway, ever since that day I couldn't stop reading the
questions, comments and secrets made by true hard-core Disney
fans. However, as to reading the remarks made by the guest to
the cast members is rather disappointing.
As a cast member I give it my all to please the guest
and uphold the Disney way. I am not the only one who does this
but many cast members whom I work with, and the cast members
I've seen while entering the park as a guest.
Yes, I admit that there are some bad apples in the
bunch, but there are those who give it their all and go out of
their way to make everybody happy and have a good Disney
I feel that today's cast members respect Disneyland and,
most importantly, Walt Disney. We are Mr. Disney's biggest
fans. I remember when I was little, I always wanted to work at
Disneyland. Finally, at the age of 20 I made it. It has now
been one year for me and I will continue to go out of my way
to deliver the best Disney experience I can.
So don't think of us as employees, instead look at us as
Disney fans like yourselves.
I think you'll find a common thread
among all the columnists on MousePlanet is an appreciation for
Disney's average cast member, who works very hard so that the
rest of us can play.
Criticism usually is directed toward
the occasional bad apple or management that has lost touch with
"going out of their way to deliver the best Disney
experience they can."
I have read all of your books on the Disney Co. and have
been following you faithfully since you began writing for
MousePlanet. I love your honest and nostalgic views of Disney,
whether they are cherished memories or harsh criticisms. In
your words I hear what countless other lifelong, die-hard
Disney fans are saying about the current state of the company,
especially the theme parks division.
I just finished reading your article, "All the
Wrong Moves," and felt compelled to write to you
and let you know that what you said is exactly what I have
been saying for the last couple of years.
Promotional image of Tokyo
DisneySeas © Disney
I have one question for you: With the obvious
mismanagement of the company and the continuous lack of that
famous Walt Disney touch in the parks, has anyone considered
the Oriental Land Co. taking over the parks? From what I've
been hearing, they've done a fabulous job with Tokyo
Disneyland and the new Tokyo DisneySeas. It seems that they
hold Walt's ideals up on a pedestal and even take them to the
next level. They understand the concept of spending money to
make money and creating the best show possible to entice
guests to come, even in a sagging economy. I think that they
should make there way to the U.S. and somehow get their hands
on the parks division and make things right.
I know that Eisner is probably building up his share so
he can make a quick getaway when the time comes and pawn the
company off on one of his cronies, but someone should come
along and bump him out of the picture before things hit rock
It only makes sense that someone run the company the way
Walt did: create a great show and an innovative product and
people will come. There's more money to be made if you do
things right and wow people right off the bat, rather than
endure months of negative press and criticism, only to spend
even more money on a band aid. DCA could have been great, if
the right people were allowed to be creative and not shot down
We could only hope that management
as quality-minded as Oriental Land Company (OLC) would assume
oversight of Disney's parks. But as for OLC itself taking over
the parks, I don't think Disney would do it (they're currently
in a more profitable position with greater control) and OLC
strikes me as a company that funds quality projects out of
allegiance to its homeland audience, rather than allegiance to
preserving Walt's creative heritage.
|Chris Kitamura wrote:
I always enjoy reading your articles on this Web site. I
think you have a special insight into some of these matters.
In response to your recent article, I am a bit concerned over
the future state of Disney. At first, I was skeptical and
highly optimistic. I tried to keep on passing off anyone's
hard criticism as jealousy or just stupid comments. I am
definitely getting concerned now. I'm still optimistic with
Like you said, it's still a big lots o' money-making corporation.
I am definitely not down on the management. My thoughts are
that they've made some poor decisions, but not bad ones. DCA
is not, in my opinion, a bad or poor decision, and I say this
because of the recent slanderous criticism it's received.
My opinions are that things are fine in other areas of the
company, but better decisions need to be made with the parks.
Relying on the theme parks may not be a mistake if they actually
focused on them.
The faded red paint on
Gadget's Go Coaster at Disneyland
I'm disappointed in the low maintenance at the
Disneyland Resort parks. I also wish that they would put a
little more time and effort into the parks' attractions. I
think the big attractions at DCA are some of the best, but
they haven't been developing any for Disneyland, or so it
seems. I'm wondering if they haven't been putting too much
money aside for the Hong Kong park. In my opinion, if they
focused on the parks already built, and maybe sacrificed a
little out of their big profit pockets that it would
eventually build the other parks.
I'm no businessman, though, but I believe that if you
build great attractions at the cost of going a little down in
profit results in better profits after a couple of years of
low profit. The Disney Co. is wanting instant turnover. Give
it time. The parks will be great again, they won't worry about
the cost to maintain them and build new ones.
Walt often risked everything on big projects. I've heard
that he mortgaged his house to help build Disneyland. It's
that kind of risk that Disney needs to do now. It may be hard
now because they may not have the money to even begin to do
Unfortunately, Disney currently
disagrees. It wants maximum return from Day One. It views
Disneyland Paris as one of its biggest catastrophes since Eisner
took over, the problem being they made the park too high in
quality and too expensive, dooming it to lose money. What they
fail to realize is that DL Paris, after a rocky start, has been
profitable for yearssomething it might not be if it were
made on the cheap.
|Ken Coates wrote:
Thanks for another great article. I can only hope you
are right and Roy Disney resigns soon.
I also hope that Disney is learning that you can't build
a new park (i.e., DCA) on the cheap. I think the best long-term
result for Disney fans is for DCA to continue to have low
|Robert K. Johnson Jr. wrote:
I work at Knott's, and today Knott's is closer to the
Old Disneyland than Disneyland is. Disneyland is mired in
bureaucracy, WAY too many layers of management and WAY too
little flexibility. Knott's is the most disorganized place on
earth, we have way too little management. and virtually no
bureaucracy to speak of. It's possible to get something fixed
the same day, much less the week it took at Disney.
A good example is, for the whole months I worked (at
Disneyland) there was a burned-out light bulb on the Hungry
Bear porch. As of one month ago, it was still burned out
some 6 months later. My manager called on it, I called on it,
and that stupid light bulb didn't get replaced. Whereas, I had
a bulb out in my shop at Knott's, and I simply went and got a
bulb and replaced it myself. It took all of five minutes.
Knott's is non-union, which helps us a great deal. We have
fewer people who seem to have no job, but are always there.
People tend to disappear, but our morale is low, and there is
little to no job security, and it can take up to two years to
make part time.
You would be amazed by the shortages we have. If
something isn't nailed down, or locked up, it disappears. But,
if I have a problem, I can go to any supervisor in my division
and deal with it. No union, no filling out forms in
triplicate, simple and easy. If Knott's votes for a union, I
will probably vote it down. I've been union, and I don't want
to be again.
I sort of got off track. Disney is at a crossroads. They
need to turn the boat around, but I'm not sure it's possible
|Doug Higley wrote:
Thanks David for an excellent piece. I've been squawking
for months that the obvious (too obvious) motivation for the
Anti-Walt was to rake in all the personal doubloons he can
for his money bin and bail no matter the expense to the company
or a personal legacy he has long since abandoned. Whatever
initial heart he put into it has since pinched down to pure
personal greed. (Though I never once thought there was
any heart other than that put into a rather phony act, a front
for the cameras of Wonderful World.)
I'm glad you see an opportunity for change to be
grabbed. Actually there is only one. An OLC/Dreamworks buy
out and a big tent for all the former geniuses to come home.
As to Disneyland, an unprecedented three-month closure
for a full rehab and the biggest re-opening bash in
history, and a gigantic new E attraction in the current 'space'
between the two parks which would tie them together into the
world's greatest mega-park. Other than that, I'm going to
I have often wondered when and why the current Disney
regime started to unfold. All businesses are cyclic in nature
to varying degrees, Disney included, but this fact cannot
explain every event of the last few years.
It seems to me the genesis of today's problems can be
found in 1994 with the death of Frank Wells. I have read many
second-hand accounts about the personal impact this made on
Mr. Eisner. From the moment of his passing Disney seems to
have lost much of its direction and success.
I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on this. In
your estimation, do you think Bob Iger is the proper
I don't know enough about Iger, but
I doubt he can be the Frank Wells counterpart that Eisner needs
Eisner needs (but no longer seems to
want) someone to stand up to him. Unfortunately, I can't think
of anyone who would.
|Brad Lauzon wrote:
Kudos sir on your new editorial at MP!!!
I am almost speechless with agreement and dumbfounded
with shock at the sheer stupidity of the current
administration. I could understand if they were just plain
greedy. They are not. They are grossly inept and stupid.
If Ei$ner had the brains to understand that by giving
the "go ahead" to a new, eye-popping, knock your
socks off E-Ticket in each of the four parks in Orlando (and
I don'tT count the lackluster Mission: Space as one
of them), or that by building something of lasting
quality in Anaheim, he could actually make hundreds of
I mean, it's not like it's his money, is it?
Just wanted to thank you for your excellently written,
poignant posting to MousePlanet today. I'm an over-emotional
30-year-old, but I must say I have a couple tears in my eyes
after reading it. Also as a former entertainment cast member
from '92 to '98, it especially reminds me of the constant
downward spiral I experienced (most notably Very Merry Christmas
Parade getting so small it finally transformed into the cheaper
Christmas Fantasy) until I finally had to quit at the end
of Light Magic.
I hope Eisner and his team do read these pages
occasionally so they can take a break from the cash crunching
and become real people again.
I do wonder how Eisner and his team
would react if they did read the articlewould they grumble
that someone was on to them, deny everything even to themselves,
or have an awakening and change their ways? I guess Number 2.
|Mark Thurow wrote:
You wrote, "Today, Disney's most-publicized
attractions, such DCA's California Screamin', were bought 'off
This is not quite accurate. California Screamin' was
purchased from an outside contractor, Intamin, but it's a
custom design. Anyone with enough money can buy a roller
coaster from Intamin, but I doubt they would sell a copy of
Screamin', since it was designed specifically for DCA.
Similarly, Vekoma, a Dutch company whose coasters can be
found in dozens of parks in the U.S. and elsewhere (Six Flags
included), provided the ride systems for Space Mountain and
Big Thunder at DLP. These attractions could hardly be
considered "off the shelf."
Sun Wheel, Maliboomer and Mulholland Madness, on the
other hand, are indeed off the shelf' rides. Any park could
purchase essentially similar rides from their respective
manufacturers (Mack for MM, S&S Power for Maliboomer, and
I think Huss for the Sun Wheel).
Like most of the readers that mail you, let me open by
thanking you for the time you devote to writing these
insightful, and informative articles and books. I enjoy them
I'm sure you have heard my story being recanted
endlessly by most of your readers who bother to write: As a
young child, I remember visiting the Magic Kingdom throughout
the late '60s and early '70s at least once a year with my
grandparents. All three of us, (Grandma, Grandpa and little
me, dragging them around all day) at Grandma's insistence,
would wear the same color shirts so she could keep track of
us. And as I remember it, I would spend most of the day riding
on Grandpa's shoulders, taking in the magic of the moments.
As a result of this early imprinting, I find that I have
to visit the resort at least once a year, or I begin pacing
around like a tiger in a zoo cage. My friends call me a Disney
Freak, as I can seem to come up with some little bit of
meaningless trivia about almost anything in the park.
It was only natural, that I jumped at the chance to give
a friend and his family transportation from our homes in
Bakersfield down to the resort for a day trip. My better half
and I decided to use the day to explore Disney's California
After reading the reviews for the new expansion on
MousePlanet and other sources on the Internet, I must admit
that we did not have very high expectations from the new park.
But I must also admit that we had a very good time despite the
Grizzly River Run raft
Without being too negative, my first impression of DCA
is that it is a good foundation upon which to build. When I
first heard of the idea of a park that showcased the
"California lifestyle," I had reservations as to how
that would interest Californians, but I did find several
things of interest there.
On the negative side, I found very little of interest on
the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Except, of course, I was very
interested in how the Superstar Limousine attraction ever got
past the "Hey, I got an idea" stage. (Although it
was mildly interesting to find out that if, during the ride,
you put your arm across the back of the seat next to you, at
the ride's end, the seatbar from the seat behind you traps
your elbow. The cast members just advance the car to the
loading station, and the bar releases. There was no pain
involved, but it was disconcerting to have the threat of
having to go again.)
Ironically, one of the best attractions we experienced
was also in the area. The Disney Animation attraction was
We both agreed that the Bountiful Farms area could very
easily be a place holder for later development as it can be
removed with out much work at all, and be replaced with almost
anything. The "It's Tough to Be a Bug!" attraction
was very well presented, and very entertaining.
Paradise Pier slightly misses the mark in my view. While
the rides themselves are very fun, and exciting, I fail to see
the innovation that is so very trademark Disney in Disneyland.
The rides just seem to be there for the sake of riding.
There's not much special about them, leading me to call them
rides and not attractions. And what good is a boardwalk
without bumper cars?
All and all, though, it was a very good visit. My thoughts
are that the park has been just advertised with the wrong
approach. The goal of expanding the Disneyland Resort, as
I was to understand it, was to make Disneyland a true multi-
day destination, and yet they are advertising DCA as a separate
park instead of a reason to extend your stay. California Adventure
should be advertised as part of the whole resort (after a
day with the kids in the Magic Kingdom, come and enjoy some
of the laid-back lifestyle that makes California so special.)
One closing thought: I have read much of the discontent
being blamed on the current management with growing sadness.
It is not hard to see that precious little innovation is
budgeted these days. The thoughts of bringing in copies of
existing attractions to Disneyland instead of creating new
ones boarders on blasphemy of the Disney ideal. The reason for
this seems clear to me: Disneyland was created successfully by
balancing Walt Disney's dreams with Roy Disney's cash control.
It would appear today, that there are too many Roys, and not
|Other readers also stuck up for
Andrea Gonzales wrote:
I am surprised at how many people are so disappointed by
Disney's new park. I keep hearing the same complaint,
"It's not Disneyland!" My response to them is,
"It isn't suppose to be!"
I am one of those dedicated, fanatic Disneyland fans.
I am also a two-park passholder. My 9-year-old son and I have
a great time whenever we go to DCA. We actually prefer DCA
to Disneyland. It is much more relaxed and quiet. Soarin'
over California is awesome and the Rapids ride is very enjoyable.
My son loves going into the Wilderness area and the rock traversing.
People need to take there blinders off, and enjoy the
new park for what it is. Take the time to enjoy all it has
to offer. You need to go to the Hyperion Theater and see the
wonderful musical shows they perform. Spend time in the Disney
Animation building. Very informative. Take a leisurely walk
around the boardwalk and play a few games. See Golden Dreams
where Whoopi Goldberg narrates and participates in a moving
re-enactment of how California came to be. The Bountiful Valley
with all the plots of fresh fruit and vegetables is fun for
young kids to see who think that all their veggies come from
the grocery store.
It is a wonderful concept of demonstrating all that
California has to offer. That is what DCA is all about. If you
want Disneyland, and wall to wall people, by all means go
there. You can find me having a relaxing glass of wine across
the way at the Mondavi Winery before I head to Wolfgang Puck's
restaurant for a fabulous dinner by the waterside.
Similarly, Stephanie Jewell wrote:
Having just returned from Disneyland and the new DCA and
having heard about your site from a Disney cast member, I
logged on to "see." Pish posh to all the naysayers.
We had a wonderful time.
Our family is my husband, myself, three children, ages
17, 15 and 13. We visited the parks for four days and every
portion of our visit was well worth our time and money. We
found the employees to be considerate, accommodating, and
interested in our having a good time.
It was our 15-year-old's birthday and the Disney employees
made his day special all day. The food in DCA is well above
average for a theme park, the rides are plenty, the shows
terrific, and the Disney magic is in the air.
Let us give Disney a chance. Let us give life a chance
for goodness sake. All this indulgent introspection may just
be too much. We found the parks to be "a happy place
where parents and children can have fun together." Our
17-year-old exclaimed, "This is the happiest place on
earth," and he meant it.
I just read a letter from a guest to Animal Kingdom in
your recent post, and he found AK boring (my opinion of what
he wrote). I have been to AK twice and am ready to go again,
(it's a long trip from So. Calif. so I don't go often enough).
I disagree with his views.
ANIMAL KINGDOM IS A ZOO, it is not an amusement park,
the animals will not come to you and entertain you, you have
to do the work, you have to read the information sheets and
signs that are posted, you have to stand still for more that
30 seconds and study the area and watch the animals (if they
choose to appear for you).
pre-opening brochure © Disney
This is not Disneyland, it is not Sea World, it is
unlike most zoos. It is animals living in a habitat similar to
their home (except for the weather, even Disney can't control
yet). You need to look around you, take in the beauty
and displays and be patient and wait for the animals to act
Animal Kingdom is a fun place to visit if go with the
right frame of mind and don't expect the animals to come to
you and put on a show, the show is the animals living
in a habitat that is similar to what they had at home. It's
I just wanted to take some time out to respond to some
of the things that have been said about the recent Summer
Employee party that we had here at Universal Studios
First of all, about the comment from Kar2oonMan about
the show at the Waterworld Stage. Yes, it is true that
"people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones,"
however, it should be noted that with Waterworld, (and with
Backdraft) Universal has been able to "create a silk
purse out of a sow's ear"to use another well-worn
clichˇ. In other words, we have been able to create
compelling attractions out of less than compelling movies.
From what I've read, it seems that Disney tends to run
screaming in the other direction the minute a movie does less
than perfect box office. Which is really a shame since an
attraction based, even in part, on the movie Atlantis would be
a perfect fix for the submarine attractions at Disneyland and
About the "competitive swipes" that Disney has
taken, the "biggest" being DCA, you forgot to mention
the fact that there have been bigger swipes taken in Florida
with the opening of Disney/MGM Studios (to compete with Universal)
and the opening of Animal Kingdom (to compete with Busch Gardens,
Tampa). I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see their fifth park
turning out to be a thrill-based park to compete with IOA.
(It's also interesting to note that in the final montage film
at the end of the Great Movie Ride at Disney/MGM, there is
not one Universal picture in the batchalthough, I'll
be honest, I'm not sure whether Disney balked at showing Universal
films or if Universal refused to relinquish any footage.)
We at Universal see what everyone else sees, a company
that tried to be "hip and edgy," a company that cut
corners wherever it could, yet charged the same admission
price, a park that, at least initially, has nearly fallen flat
on its face, and, most importantly, a company that is an empty
shell of what it once was a few years ago. It's as if
Nordstrom has been bought out by Wal-Mart.
Lily Tomlin once said, "It's not called 'Show
Art.'" It is a business, and being a business, it is
competitive. And being competitive, sometimes we take playful,
tongue-in-cheek swipes at one another. It's not as if they
were running this show for public viewing, this was for the
employees. In a sense, they were "preaching to the
converted." I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the same
thing goes on at employee parties at Disney (do they even do
such a thing?).
Anyway, thanks for your insight regarding all things
Disney. Being an annual passholder and having been to
Disneyland every year since 1967, I have a deep-rooted
fondness for the parks and the company and it's great (even if
it's a bit disheartening) to hear what's going on.
In your recent mailbag I read this quote from a reader:
"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
Well, actually I don't' know who else has noticed, but
me and my fiancˇe noticed a long time ago that in the queue
for Thunder Mountain, the signposts poke fun at neighboring
parks. I don't remember what they say exactly there are a
couple arrows pointing towards both Knott's and Magic Mountain
that have a derogatory title and then has the miles to those
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.)