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David Koenig
Mailbag — Week of July 23, 2001

Could Oriental Land Company (OLC) really save Disney?
Take a deep breath, here we go!


Michael J. Siebielec wrote:

Keep up the great commentary. In regard to the suggestion that the Oriental Land Co. might be a better management team for the Disney parks you stated, "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."

We should be so lucky to have such thinking here in the U.S. Your statement really points two of the topics that are major faults of the current management. The first being that unlike the Japanese, they believe the American audience to be unable to distinguish real quality. That the majority of the public will be happy with a carnival tilt-o-whirl with a fiberglass sculpture of Winnie the Pooh on it surrounded by some painted plywood cutouts and renamed "Pooh's Blustery Day." And they believe these same folks will still be dazzled by "the magic" in three years when the paint has faded off the cutouts and Pooh's limited animation no longer works properly. By the looks of the crowds at Disneyland today and upcoming "attractions" being planned (i.e., Pooh) maybe they are right.

As far as any allegiance to Walt's creative heritage, well that is just marketing copy now. It is no longer honored and, in fact, I believe it is seen as foolish by the accountants and lawyers that now make what passes as "creative" decisions.

The Disney Co. now only has allegiance to profits and profits made at the very lowest quality standard and at the very highest markup. There desperately needs to be a changing of the guard before what little is left of "the magic" is stripped mined totally in the interests of upper management bonuses and golden parachutes.

As I have said many times before things will only change when they start losing money. I'm doing my part and have canceled my Disney trips. There appears to be some interesting attractions in Vegas and I will be spending my vacation money there this year. I hope more folks will "vote with their pocketbooks" and teach the suits in the only way they seem to understand: lower attendance until we are given a quality reason to return.

A Tokyo Disney insider wrote:

I feel it necessary to clear up some misconceptions you and your readers may have concerning the Oriental Land Co., and how the Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and the soon to premiere Tokyo DisneySea) is run.

You have heard about the high standards of quality in Tokyo Disneyland, but who controls the quality? Who enforces Disney standards at the Tokyo Disney Resort? Disney does. Yes, that is correct, Disney.

By virtue of a contractual agreement with OLC, Disney has a full time, on-site team of expatriates and locally hired Cast Members who are not only involved with managing OLC's use of Disney intellectual property, but for enforcing, promoting, and advancing all aspects of show quality. If you visit Tokyo Disneyland, you may notice one of these expats walking around, with a radio in an ear and an interpreter in tow, checking out restaurants, attractions, merchandise, entertainment venues, and even chatting with on-duty cast members via interpreters.

This is not a bi-monthly or even monthly event. It is a daily routine. Why? Because this hands-on oversight is the only guarantee of upholding Disney quality standards. If there is any element in the guest experience that Disney feels OLC is short changing guests, they immediately address it with the highest levels of OLC management.

If, for example, OLC wants to cut electricity costs and leave the heating element in the restroom air hand dryers off (even in winter!), the Disney expat reviews the policy change, and if he or she feels that Disney quality is being compromised, gently (and at times not so gently) reminds OLC of the contractual agreement, binding them to Disney's lead in regards to quality. Then the Disney expat is actually there, the next week, walking into the restrooms, literally getting his hands wet, and personally making sure that the hand dryers are using warmed air. The key here is that OLC wants to cut costs. Plain and simple. Unchecked, OLC would cut costs, even though they would cut into the guest experience. In that they are no different from the Disney management team in the U.S.

The important thing is this: To OLC's way of thinking, Disney's on-site expat team, freed as they are from any financial constraints, would spend so lavishly on details and quality that OLC would run itself into bankruptcy. To Disney's way of thinking, OLC's lack of quality standards and emphasis on higher profit margins would run Tokyo Disneyland into the ground, since they have a history of trying to cut costs at the expense of guest satisfaction.

But by working together, creative genius is tempered with financial responsibility. Disney takes the lead for advancing quality as far as can be stretched within the realistic financial conditions defined by OLC. Whether the impact of Disney's macro or micro-management is tangible or not, the results are clear. Tokyo Disneyland is still the single most visited park on Earth, and has been for quite some time now.

Why does Tokyo Disneyland lead the world in annual attendance? To Disney folks, it is because Disney standards are applied (and sometimes forced) upon a benefactor who has no choice but to follow with it's pocketbook. To OLC folks, it is because they play a shrewd game of numbers and know how to allocate funds and resources.

Bottom line? Tokyo Disneyland is successful because of OLC and Disney. To credit OLC for 100% of the success of the resort would not be correct, and would be a great disservice to the many Disney expats and local cast members who struggle on a daily basis to influence, suggest, and even occasionally manipulate and force OLC to exceed guest expectations.

Perhaps the strongest points I wish to make are the following:

1. The Disney Theme Parks and Resorts team, when freed from unreasonable financial constraint, is very capable of running a successful and satisfying Theme Park. If you ever visited Tokyo Disneyland, you couldn't help but admire it's well-kept attractions, facilities and scenery.

Yes, OLC paid for it. Yes, an OLC-paid Cast Member did the work, but it is Disney that makes OLC adhere to stringent high standards. It is a Disney cast member walking around on a daily basis, making sure that Disney policy is being followed. The Disney "eye" for quality is still sharp, and as long as there is money to spend on quality, there WILL be quality.

2. Believe me, having OLC run Disney Theme Parks and Resorts would NOT improve the situation. You wouldn't like that. Trust me. Nobody runs a business of this sort for the love of mankind, and OLC is no exception. Profit is the only motive. OLC's attitude is if profit comes at the expense of a little guest satisfaction, well, too bad for the guests sometimes.

Without the Disney "checks and balances" system which holds OLC to high quality standards, they would be no different than Disney in the U.S., or any other business in that regard.

To give you an idea of how closely OLC cares about the bottom line, consider the following. Currently, theme park cast members in the U.S. (even part-timers) are given food and merchandise discounts when visiting the park. In addition, a cast member need only present their ID card at the main gate for complementary admission to the park. On top of that, regular cast members are given Main Gate passes which allow them a set number of complementary admissions to the parks, as well as occasional extra passports during the holiday season. This has the effect of improving morale and increasing pride in the parks. It also reduces employee turnover.

Well, at Tokyo Disneyland, with OLC running the show, there are no food or merchandise discounts for cast members while in the park, and in fact, if a cast member wants to visit the park, they have to pay the regular admission price. Sure, turnover is high, but who cares? Japan is in a recession, there is a surplus of labor, and there is tremendous prestige for working at the "best" theme park in the world. If OLC will do this to their own cast members, imagine what other inroads they would make with the guests' experience if they were left unchecked!

Promotional image of Tokyo DisneySeas  Disney
Promotional image of Tokyo DisneySeas Disney

You may have seen pictures of Tokyo DisneySea. If you actually see it in person, I guarantee that you will lack adjectives to adequately describe what you see. The creative talents of Walt Disney Imagineering are alive and well. Left to an unlimited budget, they would design the next Wonder of the World. Failing the unlimited budget, they designed Tokyo DisneySea ;) The key here is budget, and the key word is Disney. OLC could never develop anything resembling Tokyo DisneySea on their own, and I must make the further distinction that OLC is not in the design business, at least not on a theme park scale.

Why will Tokyo DisneySea be a smash success? Because OLC knows that the creative genius of Disney is alive and well, and all that is required to bring it into fruition is lots and lots of money. In addition, OLC secretly knows that Disney, by enforcing and advancing quality standards, will never allow themselves to truly screw things up.

It's an interesting formula, and an interesting relationship that has forged a Disney park that Disney would have never, ever built on their own. At the same time, it is a park so unique and creative that it could only have been designed by Disney.

Perhaps the greatest, future challenge for the Disney management team in Japan is the current state of the U.S.-based parks and resorts. The Disney team in Japan is finding itself more and more often enforcing quality standards that the Disney team in the U.S. is unable to uphold. It's getting harder to go to OLC and demand that they follow X maintenance schedule or Y standard when the paint in Anaheim is peeling. After all, it is hard to get OLC to adhere to quality standards that Disney itself is not willing to follow.

Ironic, isn't it?

Thank you for the note. It's refreshing to have someone add shading to the common black-and-white picture (OLC/DisneySeas good, Disney/DCA bad). I've long suspected that OLC wasn't some virtuous benefactor who didn't care about profits, only about creating happiness for guests and preserving Walt's legacy (aka, its one-dimensional reputation among U.S. Disney fans).

I question, though, that Disney deserves most of the credit for upholding the quality of Tokyo Disneyland. Disney is not investing its resources to better Tokyo DL, the bill is being paid by OLC due to contractual obligations. And, after hearing about the conservative plans for a first gate in Hong Kong, I doubt Disney is forcing OLC to spend so lavishly on its second gate.

I suspect OLC is investing so heavily because Disney for so many years has pounded into their heads the message: "As long as you create and maintain Quality Entertainment, you'll have customers standing in line." The problem, as you admit, is Disney no longer seems to believe its own message.

I'm sure OLC is far from perfect. But, at least for now, I will have more praise for a company that spends what it takes to spoil its customers, than for the company that tells the first company how to spend its money, then shortchanges its own customers.

Please feel free to continue trying to set me straight on this!

Benjamin wrote:

In light of your last article ("All the Wrong Moves") and to the current state of the Disney Co., I am just baffled by its lack of understanding of Walt's initial dream. How can they screw up such a simple thing?

Walt Disney's vision was to take the things that excite our imagination and bring them to life. He took absolute delight in entertaining us. Walt was always trying to figure out how to push our buttons and we loved him for it. He immersed himself in his work taking childlike delight in his projects and being involved with every detail of the company to produce a solid and beautiful product.

How many of us would love to be in charge of a company involved in the film, television, and theme park industries? How exciting to be paid to use our imaginations and entertain the world. I wouldn't even need the money. I would promptly move into Walt's apartment above the Disneyland firehouse and spend all my time working on making the company better. How great would that be, and could you even call it work?! I'm not even that big of a Disney freak, but the thoughts of what I could do with that power are very exciting. Oh, the fun I would have!

I wonder if Mr. Eisner gets that excited about the company? Does he even like visiting the parks? If Walt was consumed with entertaining the world, you might expect the same from the president of his company. Does Michael Eisner have that same passion? For a look at how Eisner thinks I turn to an e-mail he sent to the whole company about attending the premiere of Aida.

To paraphrase, all he could think about during the show is how Aida would fit in to the financial structure of the company. His mind seemed to wander a lot during the course of the show. He was also thinking about the current money making success of Toy Story 2 and Who Want to Be a Millionaire. Was he ever emotionally moved by the lovers dying on stage? Or perhaps in their place he saw Regis asking, "Final answer?" and dollar signs. Surely Mr. Eisner has an imagination. I just wonder if he ever fantasizes of anything other than financial success.

It just seems to me that the current problem with the Disney Co. is that the administrators don't have that same passion to entertain as Walt Disney. Which is too bad. It's like using a magic wand for a back scratcher—you've got something with amazing potential doing something very mundane and boring.

A DCA cast member wrote:

Thank you for writing that article… now can you send it off to every person in the Disney company who has anything to do with managing?? Just a dream, I doubt that it would be read anyway.

You may find it sad that a 24 year-old hourly and several of her co-workers realize the state of things with Disney while Disney itself does not. We have seen firsthand the horrible idea of save now, pay big bucks later.

One example: When the Eureka parade at DCA was in rehearsals we rented orange cones to line the parade route. (Why? Because in most of the areas of the parade route there are no definite boundaries viewable from a float unless there are crowds watching. And that's an entirely different matter.)

Could we have borrowed the measly 100 or so cones from the parking lots? Apparently not. Also the thought was that we wouldn't need them again anytime soon. Wrong! A few months down the line we were having rehearsals for Disney's Electrical Parade and again had to line the route with cones.

And then the tents for the Electrical Parade Floats! These are really flimsy constructions. Something I'd expect to see at a one-day event. Our entire parade crew stopped and stared with mouths open as we watched a tent being raised. The tent roof looked like it was going to come crashing down on the poor guys trying to get it up.

If Disney had any sense, any inkling that there might be a large parade or two parades for DCA they should have built us a decent float warehouse. There was plenty of room for it. Now I can just see somewhere down the line in the near future that those tents will be replaced by slightly better, slightly longer lasting structures.  And, of course it will just be more money wasted…err, spent.  

Not to mention the fact that our parade crew needs at least an additional 3-4 people per night to coordinate float moves between tents to get everything up to step-off in order. Yes, the tents are different heights and the floats are scattered around the locations out of order.

Thank you for venting. I sometimes think if Disney would just turn the Management Pyramid on its head and put the sweepers and dishwashers in charge and make the executives do the real work, the company would be a lot better off.

Glen wrote:

Great column, if not a little sad. I too noticed on my last visit to Disneyland in '99, things were starting to look a little shoddy around the edges (ToonTown looks absolutely faded out!). While most of the cast members (especially the older ones) were still the same courteous folks I'd always seen at the park, many of the younger ones were curt and barely functionary. The parade was this lame, short affair called "Disney Magic" or something and even IT looked a little ragged. The food was expensive (and awful) and while most of the rides were fun (notable exception: the new Rocket Rods, which always seemed to break down as we were approaching the platform), but the huge holes in the park, especially the lagoon, were depressing.

The faded red paint on Gadget's Go Coaster at Disneyland
The faded red paint on Gadget's Go Coaster at Disneyland

But the one money-grubbing thing that really worked me were the crowds. It was insane. I can understand the park is there to turn a buck, but to have it so crowded impedes on having a good time. Most of the time is spent being pushed around in the crowd or waiting for something (a ride, food, the bathroom). It just seemed like the charm was gone.

And the movies! What happened? Did Katzenberg really have that much influence over what was going on? From live-action duds like this year's Pearl Harbor to the constant video rehashing of the classics (and these insipid DTV sequels), the creative line is definitely dead. The one exception for me was this year's Atlantis. I enjoyed its briskly told adventure and the blend of traditional animation and CG rendered art was truly beautiful.

The one thing I kept thinking as I watched was the same thing another reader bought up: Wow! Here's their chance to really fix up that lagoon area at the park with some cool Atlantis-themed attractions! A motion simulation ride a la the film's finale, a ride around the lagoon in the Ulysses and see the sunken graveyard and have an encounter with the Leviathan, a really creative queue done up like the city of Atlantis… but no. This film didn't open to a $100 million weekend, so Eisner and his bean counters probably consider it a failure despite it generally good reviews (and everyone I've talked to that's seen it appreciates it).

Instead we have a park that's literally fading away and a new park that sounds like it's not living up to anyone's expectations (I'll see for myself this October. At least it should have the advantage of not being too crowded, a plus for me), and a chairman of the board who sounds so isolated from what results from his decisions that it looks like things'll have to get worse before they get better.

Again, thanks for the great read. MousePlanet is the best!!

Raymond Chuang wrote:

I read with great interest your article on the decline of Disney in the last six years. Between the failure of, Disney's California Adventure not being a success, declining park attendance in general, the very expensive failures of Pearl Harbor and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, general chaos at Disney Animation, a lot of bad publicity regarding the "Gay Days" at Disney theme parks, and on and on, I think it is very high time for Roy E. Disney to threaten his resignation from the Disney board of directors.

Roy E. Disney riding California Screamin' at the opening of California Adventure
Roy E. Disney riding California Screamin' at the opening of California Adventure

I think there should be a group of people that should try to convince Roy E. Disney and his allies in the Disney organization to try to force out Michael Eisner and his cronies from the board of directors and put a whole new team in place that have the ability to revive the allure of the Disney brand itself. I believe the pressure is already under way; that's why I think Eisner will be lucky if he is still CEO of Disney by Labor Day this year.

The very name "Disney" is probably one of the world's most recognizable brand names, no contest. It is time for the right management to nurture the company back to the great heights of the early Eisner years.

I've been talking with a number of high-level producers and directors at Disney Animation privately via email and personally, I think a new regime that takes pride in its work will definitely help things. Maybe the threat of resignation by people like Don Hahn, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale would finally convince people major changes are needed in Disney management.

Mr. Koenig, I believe it is high time you start talking with reporters at the Los Angeles Times, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Tonight and E! News Daily to express your serious concerns about problems at the company; maybe a front page LA Times article, a major story on Entertainment Tonight and E! News Daily TV shows, or a major article in Daily Variety or Hollywood Reporter may finally convince the general public that Disney desperately needs "new blood" in management to bring the company back to its glory.

Thanks for the note. I obviously share your concerns and will do my part in any palace coup.

My fear, though, is that the only group with enough clout to oust Eisner would be the financial/investment community—which would probably push for his replacement to be someone even less Quality-minded and more bottom line-oriented than Eisner (believe me, it's possible). Companies like Disney, despite all the talk, never listen to their customers; they only listen to the swipes of their customers' credit cards.

The Times knows my feelings on the subject. I don't know anyone at the other outlets you mentioned, although don't expect much coverage on E! News Daily—the channel is owned by Disney.

Chris Wiles wrote:

I wanted to add my $.02 to the discussion on Disney's Decline. It appears that Eisner has never had to work in a competitive industry. He could learn a lot by looking at the hi-tech industry. The mistakes he is making are nothing new and just a little research would show this.

In this time of down turn in the economy business are pulling back and focusing on their "core competencies." That is, they are focusing on the products that made them successful and eliminating other products.

It is apparent to me that Disneyland was the product that made Disney successful. The should focus on Disney "type" products, not DCA carnival/county type parks.

Too bad Harriss couldn't replace Eisner, I hold more hope with her.

Bryan wrote:

I noticed that in the last mailbag someone asked about an Atlantis theme park attraction. It's obvious at this point that Atlantis has no chance at becoming an attraction. So what could become of that old lagoon at WDW? I fear the worst: They fill it in with cement and build something on top. Could it happen?

Second, about the entire Animal Kingdom fiasco: Quite a few people on the Internet, at newspapers, and even on this site say this could be the downfall of the Disney corporation. Not AK exclusively, but DCA, Atlantis, and AK combined. I think AK is a wonderful park. It's up to Disney standards. Sure it wasn't necessary, but with the right improvements it could be above par. By right, I mean without the carnival attractions in Dino-Land. Disney MGM wasn't necessary either, but it's a great park now that I consider worth visiting.

Disney has done a lot with pre-established properties such as the studio theme park idea. The "zoo" as people call it, can be something special as well. And can we please stop calling it "the zoo"? (Although you have to agree they might not have built this if they had looked at the reason why animatronics are in the Jungle Cruise in the first place. Both you and I know that…)

Paradise Pier
Paradise Pier

Third, about DCA. We all know the story. Dave, I must ask you: Will someone ever step in? Is Paul Pressler/Michael Eisner's reign ending soon? Not to be mean, I do love some of the things they've done, but everything's going sour right now. I got all excited about a second park in Anaheim until it turned out to be DCA. Do I dare think of fifth park in WDW? (please, don't let it be Legoland!.. please!)

Next, Don't even mention Hong Kong Disney. I thought it would be an exciting new development. Instead it's a copy of Disneyland, and not even a good copy of Disneyland. But it will serve its purpose and only that: to boost tourism to Hong Kong. Sad it couldn't be anything special. The second park (which will come along a few years down the road) could be another DCA if this trend continues.

I really think that Eisner has lost his taste for good theme parks after DLP and AK. He has really lost faith in Imagineering, has he not? He spends more time on hotels and shops. Nobody is going to buy a DCA T-shirt if the park's not that great. If they made quality attractions ahead of… oh never mind. It's been said before.

It's really sad when the public has a bit more common sense then a corporation.

A Disneyland cast member wrote:

Read your latest article. I just loved the way people still try to stick up for DCA.

News from a friend in entertainment: management is thinking of cutting out the second Electrical Parade in DCA, because the park is a ghost town after the first parade, and to cut costs.

Also, there has been some concerns over the new Mr. Lincoln show. Guests will be wearing cordless earphones to experience surround sound for the show. It's great. But the concern is how to sterilize the earphones after each use (you can catch germs from sick people) and what if the guest has head lice? Managers say it is not a problem. Right. Share the love, huh?

On the cancellation of Disney's proposed Team Atlantis series, Kyle Miller wrote:

I enjoyed your recent article on MousePlanet. One thing makes me wonder about the cancelled Atlantis show. It could be the one thing that the beleaguered ToonDisney cable network needs. Let me explain.

In a recent article, it was stated that Disney is having trouble getting the viewership it desired for ToonDisney. Which is not surprising since ToonDisney has no original programming while virtually all of its competitors (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, even the Disney Channel) have hours of original, exclusive programs to get viewers coming back day after day. ToonDisney can only go so far with reruns, even with "freshening" them from time to time with shows dropped from Saturday Morning and syndication. The network clearly needs some original programming.

Promotional art  Disney
Promotional art Disney

Which is why Atlantis would be such a great bargain for the network. Most of the work has already been done, saving the network from the expense of trying to make an original show from scratch. They could finish the animation and have the show ready for fall to compete with the new shows from Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Of course, this is all just a pipe dream, since I doubt that anyone at Disney TV realizes that reruns are the root of ToonDisney's lackluster performance and, even if they did, they probably don't have the budget to buy more coffee for the office, let alone finish a nearly completed cartoon series. But one can dream, can't we?

Actually, a great deal of preliminary work, including script writing and voice recording, had been done, but little or no animation.

Angered by the closure of popular shows at Universal Studios-Hollywood, Doug Higley wrote:

I put a link and advisory up on my site regarding today's disturbing column. This is some really bad stuff. Down right maddening. Dammit!

Such a slap in the face to annual passholders being looked upon as freeloaders who don't deserve a decent show or can't tell the difference between nothing and something. When I first rode Super Star Limo I wrote a piece predicting just this backwards step budget cutting at Universal. I hate to be right on it, but it was an obvious outcome of Disney no longer being the "rabbit" in the greyhound race.

Above all, I hate the feeling of being thought of as meat and not being catered to as a discriminating guest. Unfortunately there are the zillions of morons who can't tell the difference who will pick up the slack of those who can.

Promotional art  Universal Studios/Dreamworks
Promotional art
Universal Studios / Dreamworks

Universal not providing content for daily visitors is appalling and goes against the stellar history of this company. The loss of value and content is the ultimate stupidity of these short term money grabbers who know damn well they are destroying the future of theme based entertainment and making a farce of all the hard work and caring input that went before to build a place that attracts. To paraphrase Ian Malcomb (a Universal staple), "You do have attractions at your attraction don't you?"

I got the same feeling when French Vivendi took over that I had when I first got a gander at the phony smile of the Anti-Walt. He/they don't "get it." Sickening.

Thomas wrote:

I just finished reading your article regarding the closing of shows at Universal Studios-Hollywood. I worked at USH for approximately four years as a merchandise manager in the early '90s.

One thing I never liked about USH, was the fact that most of the attractions, the guest sat down and watched something (Beetlejuice, Animal show, Flintstones-when I worked there, the Stunt show, etc.). Even Terminator 3-D is just a sit down show with better special effects. The tram ride is nothing special since you are trapped inside the tram and just look at everything.

There are three real rides in the park: Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and E.T. E.T is old and is the only kid friendly ride. The other two can be quite rough and are not kid or family friendly.

I visited USF approximately four years ago and loved it. Everything you see on the tram at USH was a ride at USF (Jaws, Earthquake, King Kong). E.T. was just as boring, though.

I personally feel that if USH wants to succeed, they need to get rid of the sit down shows and build more rides. E.T. could be replaced with a new dark ride (i.e. Spiderman at IOA). The World of Cinemagic could also house a dark ride especially around the Curious George character now that Vivendi has bought the rights to it.

A roller coaster definitely would bring in the crowds. And not a Magic Mountain type coaster. A themed roller coaster built inside (the ET building is big enough I think).

Anyways, I think USH needs to get away from the sit down show aspect and move into the ride business. One of the complaints about DCA is that it has a bunch of shows. That seems to be the problem at USH.

If I may also add, USH entertainment department might be more profitable if it didn't pay the actors and actresses so much money. If memory serves me correctly, these people are allowed to belong to the SAG and can then demand higher salaries and perks. I will always remember the characters walking around the parks (Woody Woodpecker, etc). They would do about a 15-20 minute show and then take an approximately 90-minute break. Talk about hard work.

If the tram tour was ever deleted, that would also save a lot of money. The tram drivers earn top dollars. Think how much USF saves without them. On top of that, employees are not allowed to drive around the lot on carts or other vehicles from the warehouses to offices or whatever. They have to be driven by a UNION driver. If USH could just cut little things, they might not have to close everything.

I know I went off on a lot of areas, but I hope you get the point. USH could pack them in if they just changed their philosophy. People for the most part know how movies are made and they don't need to pay $43 to see it. In fact, most movies are now computerized. "Outdoor" shots are now filmed inside on a sound stage. USH should dig into their library and design rides around these movies. The old movies would bring in the older crowd and the newer movies would bring in the younger. Shrek sounds like it will be a good franchise and USH should not lose the opportunity to expand on it.

A Universal tram on the back lot
A Universal tram on the back lot

I agree with some of your complaints (too many static, sit-down shows at USH), observations (USF enjoyable), and suggestions (add more film-themed, but not film-based attractions). But I heartily disagree that because something is a sit-down attraction, it is inferior or should be replaced. I personally think USH's tram tour is (potentially, with the right guide) the greatest attraction at any theme park in the world, because it is real. You roll by the actual sets from some of the greatest movies ever made.

Theme parks need a mix of attraction types; that's one reason why Disney parks are so successful. Islands of Adventure, as wonderful a park as it is, has more limited potential because most of its attractions are either strictly thrill or strictly kiddie rides.

Certainly USH could use a better mix of sit-down attractions vs. rides, but the last thing I want is for USH to abandon its greatest asset (a real Hollywood backlot) as well as its proven crowd-pleasers (stunt shows) to turn into a themed version of Magic Mountain.

Publicity photo  Disney
Publicity photo Disney


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.)


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