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David Koenig
Mailbag — Week of August 29, 2000

Are the Rocket Rods Going to Orlando??

The top letter in the e-mailbag lets me divulge a longshot, yet very real possibility for the star attraction of Disneyland's New Tomorrowland.

Mail for 8/29/00:
Chris Kitamura wrote:

I read your recent article on MousePlanet and noticed you mentioned about the maintenance of Rocket Rods. I was wondering what your opinion or insight on the future of this attraction is?

Chris, the Rocket Rods have become so expensive and labor intensive to maintain—not to mention unreliable—that something drastic has to be done. The tentative plan, revealed to maintenance managers last week, is to shut down the attraction September 5 until as late as April. The ride underwent a similar three-month overhaul two years ago.

If problems persist, the Rods' fate is anyone's guess. But one interesting possibility is being considered: relocating the attraction to Walt Disney World. I first couldn't believe that WDW would want to take on this maintenance nightmare—until I realized it would get a new, custom-built track, not something originally built for the 2-mile-per-hour PeopleMover.

"I have heard this, but have nothing to confirm it," admits one insider. "Our opinion generally is such a transfer would be a good thing, as the constant start/stop at Disneyland is what tears the vehicles up. Florida has the space to run these vehicles at top speed for extended periods, and they should perform much better there than they can here."

Vicki Scott wrote:

Will the Monorail be running at all in October? We plan on staying at the Disneyland Hotel and really love the convenience of the Monorail, but from your news, it sounds like the Monorail is not doing well at all. One way trips are fine, I just hope it's running.

Also, can you tell me where the new monorail station is located, exactly? We were last there last October, so if there are any other changes that you think we should be updated on, I would be very appreciative. We save all year for this trip and really splurge, and we love it and look forward to it all year, so I like to know what to expect in the way of construction inconvenience, etc.

Vicki, the changeover to round-trips is scheduled for late November, so the Monorail should still be running, at least one-way, through October. The new station is in the same location as the old station. It just seems farther away from the hotel, since the hotel shops and structures that once surrounded it have been demolished to make way for Downtown Disney. From your hotel room, you'll walk down a long corridor of construction fences to get to the station.

On Universal… 

Coheteboy writes:

I just had to write after reading your Universal Tram 2000 update. I just happened to visit the Hollywood theme park a few days ago and boarded the tram with the new monitors.

Thinking that this would make the tram a little more personalized, I thought it was a great idea. But after the ride, I am starting to wish that it was never put in. Instead of a better view of the tour guide, the guide hardly spoke at all. Instead, she let everyone watch scenes from movies (Universal ones only) while we were passing the sets themselves. I think I was the only one watching the actual sets. Everyone else were glued to the monitors. There was no trivia, no introductions, no explaining about anything. It was the most boring tram ride I have ever been on. It's very unfortunate that the best thing about Universal Studios is now the "worst" thing.


Nick B. also writes:

Hi, I'm a long time reader of MousePlanet. I just finished reading your last update and I wanted to correct you on one detail. In your update, you were talking about Universal and their new annual pass for an extra $8.

Yes, it is true that anyone can buy this pass for $8, but it does have 32 block out days. If a customer would like, they can buy a annual pass with no black out days for I think something like an extra $20 or $29.

Nick is right! The $8 upgrade gets you an annual pass with 30 blackout days mostly holidays and Saturdays starting in April. It's $28 more for the 365-days-a- year pass.

On Disney Paint…

Tim Barnes writes:

Thanks for a great column. It more than complements your terrific books.

I find it rather ironic that Disney is promoting paint, when they seem to have forgotten about the stuff at the parks. Maybe with Sherwin-Williams' help, they can "afford" to start using it again.


Jeff Peterson also writes:

The Disney promotion for Sherwin-Williams paint is a nice idea, and it sounds like a higher than usual level of creativity has been expended on its development. So why not deepen the corporate ties and invite the paint company to become a Disneyland sponsor? Such an alliance would not be unprecedented, since Dutch Boy Paints sponsored Tomorrowland's Color Gallery for the park's first eight years.

But instead of shoving another company into a corner of Innoventions, Sherwin-Williams' wares would be best displayed in the most colorful land of all, Mickey's Toontown. They could host an exhibit showing how Mickey and his friends keep their homes looking their brightest with Sherwin-Williams paints. As part of the deal, the company would kick in several thousand buckets of their product so that Toontown's unique buildings can actually be repainted, and the entire land would then become an advertisement for Sherwin-Williams. I'm sure that some entertaining television and print advertising could be produced to benefit both companies.

Finally, as the official paint of Disneyland, I'm sure some other structures would benefit from a few coats of paint as well, perhaps even developing some new official hues, such as Mansion Ivory for the Haunted Mansion. -

On DCA

Chris Kitamura writes:

I have read all of your books and have enjoyed every single one (when are you going to write another one?). It's also nice to know there are other Christians who like Disney. I read your article about DCA and agree with every single one of your points. In fact, when I read the "10 reasons why DCA will be a flop" article, I immediately made the same remarks you did.

I'll admit that Disney definitely could have done better, especially if they could have done Westcot. But I think the one thing that the critics are not realizing is that almost any new Disney theme park is better than none. Disneyland is getting so crowded when we go, and it's getting hard to go for more than one day in a row (which my family and I do once every year). It will be good to have another theme park. Even if it was themed after the animated features and only had dark rides, it is still good.

Plus, weren't there critics saying that Disneyland was going to be a "successful failure"? -

On FastPass

Rob writes:

Looking at your articles, I think you might rethink part of your expectations on DCA in light of the Tourist behavior with FastPass. Disneyland is very crowded right now, and DCA is designed to supplement the crowding. I think this is a large part of why tourists attack. WDW has plenty of land and much less need to push through huge groups of people. DL in the heat is very crowded and much of the design of the park is terrible for managing shoppers.  

Look at the layout for Tomorrowland. You have Cosmic Waves partially blocking the entrance to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, the entrance to Rocket Redd's Pizza Port, the entrance and exit to Space Mountain.  The arcade is still accessible through the Star Trader, but look at the layout there. All of the lines for the registers block the aisles when more than three guests are there and you have the exit from Start Tours there as well. I find this one of the worst traffic areas in the park. If you try to get through this, then have to wait in line in the heat for an hour and then watch groups of people zip past, I can understand the frustration. I would think this would increase with the traffic from DCA.  

In Orlando, the entrances to the parks are nowhere near each other. Not much chance of that with DCA as it will be sharing the ticket booths with DL. You could well be right about this being an experiment for park with a slow start, but perhaps to give it a better chance, it should have been done out in Florida (which is now pretty packed with parks). I think DCA will have some of the problems DL is having with visitor violence. Add to the mix the ESPN sports bar, and I think there will be some big potential problems.


Andrew Goczkowski also writes:

After reading your two articles, I felt that I should share my thoughts.  

Having visited WDW in July, I can tell you that the people in the lines didn't seem to have any problem with us passing if we were in FastPass, although it seems as though FastPass itself is the longer of the two lines, when everyone decides to return at the same time! This problem is only made that much larger with the fact that the Brazilian tour groups have apparently figured out the system, and now have their tour group go up there, and run 70 tickets through the machine. We were not happy campers, being stuck behind them for more than 15 minutes.  

As for your writing on DCA, I honestly hope that it fails. Disney has been going downhill, and I think that there has to be a certain point where a line is drawn, and it has to get better. I hope that that line is coming up, because the magical place that I remember is beginning to fade, and is being visibly replaced by a few people's greed. While your reasoning is sound, I hope that it doesn't turn out to be that way.  

I coincidentally have just read your first two books, and am looking for your third that I have just discovered in your "About the Author" section. I find in your writing the magic that I had lost when it came to Disney. I thank you for that.


Bryan sends this note:

I'm a Walt Disney World fanatic, though I keep in touch with news about Disneyland as well. I was very disturbed by the amount of trouble that FastPass causes at DL. I went to Disney World this past week and I have some new comments to make about this:

1. FastPass only works well with certain attractions at certain parks.

For the most part, FastPass works wonders at MK, Epcot, and MGM, where there is plenty to do. However, the system fails at parks like AK. A lot of people are ill prepared and can't understand why attractions like Dinosaur get backed up. Not everyone is a Disney fanatic and can analyze the whole situation. AK is a small park. It really only has five attractions (The safari, Kali River Rapids, Tough to be a Bug!, Tarzan Rocks!, and Dinosaur) and with FastPass on at least three of these attractions, crowds don't tend to expand elsewhere, translating into similar line lengths for FastPass and standby.

In the long run, FastPass DOES end up getting you there faster, and it cuts wait time, not eliminating it totally. But some people don't have the patience to understand this concept. Example: my dad and I waited in line for Dinosaur this week. The line for FastPass stretched outside the queue in front of the building. Meanwhile, the standby line started going faster. Then, in about 15 minutes we got into the preshow and onto the loading dock. We still waited in line, but we cut our time from 60 minutes to about 20. Some people expect to get right on the ride after getting (FastPass). You get ahead in the line, and that's the only point.  

2. It's confusing to most others.

I have seen a few people become frustrated with the fact that the standby lines start going and the FastPass line just sits there. Others get tickets before they use their first FastPass and don't realize that the time on the ticket has been replaced with a "warning" to tell you that you need to use your first one. I forgot how the system realized the customer had two until I went to get on Space Mountain after getting a Pooh ticket, and I'm a big Disney fan myself.

3. Incompetence to ask

Let's face it. When I see people prancing ahead of me in line, carrying anything that looks like a special pass, I get angry. Humans get frustrated with people who have special access to things that they normally can't get (backstage passes, discounts at restaurants, etc.). This is a broad idea that happens in reality, not just Disney. I was at first angry that everyone at WDW could go to E-ticket night except annual passholders like me, but I know better that Disney is limiting the amount of people in the park doing this, and it allows the less frequent visitor get a chance to ride the popular rides that I could do any other weekend. Unfortunately, some people can't cool down and think about these things. Some just don't want to ask why people with FastPass can get to the front of the line. Not everyone in the world wants to ask or put up with this special program that looks intimidatingly like a privilege to certain individuals, when indeed it is open to everyone.


J.G. contributes:

After reading your article and reading some of the fan mail on the site, I must say that a lot of people are sheep!!!! A lot of the people saying why FastPass does not work is because they didn't know how to use it. It was not designed so you could use FastPass on all the rides and see everything in a matter of hours. FastPass was designed so instead of having to wait in line for two hours and miss seeing something like some of the dark rides, you could get your FastPass have about two hours to see other attractions, shows and, of course, spend your money, then go back and not have to wait in line for the E-Ticket ride forever.

FastPass might not be the simplest thing in the world to understand, but they have signs with info about it in all the WDW parks and here in Disneyland, and at WDW all the park maps have very simple directions about how to use FastPass. I have used FastPass at both Disneyland and all four of the parks in WDW and I have had nothing but a great time using it.

FastPass is a great thing if you only care about riding the ride, as one of your readers stated she waited in the "standby" queue to get the full experience, which I think everyone should do at least once. But after that it is FastPass all the way!!

Also I believe the same person was saying how the guests behind her in Test Track were upset about people cutting in front of them in line because they had no idea about FastPass. Maybe if those guest took a few minutes to read a sign or ask a question instead of running to the ride and knocking down little kids in there path they would not have been so upset and they would have been able to see some of the other things in Epcot. I have been on Test Track and I must say that ride is the worst set-up for FastPass, but still in order to get into the attraction you have to walk past a ton of FastPass stuff blocking the front of the attraction.

One of the main problems with FastPass as it is now is this system were thrown into attractions that were built for a queue not a FastPass and a standby line. I have heard that some of the attractions at DCA are being built with FastPass in mind and I know Mission:Space is designed for FastPass, so that should help with some of the problems at that point but saying that FastPass does not work on rides like Space Mountain or Splash Mountain is false. They work great if you know how to use it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

LINKS

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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