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David Koenig
Mailbag — Week of September 20, 2000

Now it's time to say goodbye…

Pass the hankies. Historic attractions at Disneyland and Universal Studios-Hollywood appear to be facing their final days.

As reported last week, the end is near for Universal's first real live movie set ever featured at its theme park, The War Lord Tower.

As one employee revealed late last week:

Thanks for the great write-up on the War Lord Tower. It is still standing tonight though the construction foreman says it is still a goner (but no exact date yet). Quite a few people have already contacted USH thanks to your article, and we even had someone call who offered to buy it and tow it off property (lawyers thought about it for about two minutes then said no due to potential liability—you know how theme parks draw lawsuits!).

Sure enough, a call to Guest Relations (who transferred me to Development, who transferred me to Facilities, who transferred me to P.R., who transferred me…) confirmed that "the Tower will be torn down this week."

The spokesman explained:

Unfortunately, real estate is at a premium here. The studio and theme park are a work in progress. We build sets for about 40 movies a year, and they're meant to be temporary. Now, the Psycho House is an icon that will probably never be torn down.

Sounded like a slight rewrite of Imagineering's stock "Disneyland is not a museum" speech. But I do thank everyone who wrote and called Universal to try to save the Tower. Hopefully, next time it won't be the Psycho House or Spartacus Square.

Over at Disneyland, the days also may be numbered for a 40-year-old attraction.

Richard Newton wrote:

I just read your Harvey story. Nice work about a cute little bunny. But something I read caught my attention. In your article, you said: "He was supposed to stay just on the north end of the island, beyond the barricade that keeps guests away from the once-burning cabin."

Does this mean that the burning cabin is no longer there? When did it leave?

No, the burning cabin (unlike former resident Harvey the rabbit) still sits on Tom Sawyer Island. It just doesn't burn.

As one cast member explained, 

From the stories circulating, the burning cabin will never burn again. It's not only because of the corroded gas lines, but air quality laws in the state make it prohibitive to do so. Maybe the park should go back to the red lights and plastic like it did before.

Demolishing the cabin, though, would be unlikely until—or unless—a replacement is decided upon. The same cast member also reported another rumor making the rounds: that Fort Wilderness will eventually be razed, and replaced by a barn. 

This way, security's cavalry costumes can be done away with, and the upkeep will be cheaper. Also, if the fort is rebuilt, it probably will have to be rebuilt to allow wheelchair access -- another can of worms that will be open.

But a higher profile attraction, Disneyland still swears, isn't going anywhere. An attendee at Mickey's Roll Call meeting last Friday said that, according to one of the managers of Tomorrowland, "Rocket Rods will go down on Sept. 25 and return Spring 2001 after a major rehab. Disneyland is committed to keep it in the park due to overwhelming guest satisfaction with the ride."

But then, according to their Public Relations Department, Disneyland also was officially committed to bringing back the Submarine Voyage…

Relocating the Rocket Rods to a custom-built track in Orlando remains a possibility. 

Wade Newer wrote:

This is just speculation, but I'd lay odds that if they are moving the Rocket Rods to Orlando they will go in the new "SPACE" exhibit at EPCOT, rather than in the Magic Kingdom. EPCOT needs more thrill rides.

Former Imagineer Bob Gurr also wrote to set the record straight regarding the theory that the Monorails are becoming more difficult to maintain because of the constant back-and-forth runs they now make:

You might recheck your sources for 'manufacturer of the Mk V.' The train is geometrically identical in both directions. The only part ever in question is the differential gearing; specifically running the pinion gear in what's called 'coast-loaded.' Rockwell Standard, the differential manufacturer, assured me that this meant very little to the pinion. Half of the differentials on the Mk V are coast-loaded no matter which way the train runs.

Reversing the train should not cause any problems other than a slight tire wear situation if the guys had evolved a wheel alignment set up biased towards a forward run most of the time. The motors and switchgear are from prior General Electric street car design and don't care which way they run.

The same differential gearing, motors and running gear were used on the Florida Monorails for 20 years, two of those Mk IV's are still running fine today in shuttle mode in Las Vegas between MGM and Bally's.

Maybe you are hearing phony excuses for some other "budget" situations. MAPO (Disney shops in Glendale) was the manufacturer in 1967-69, I was the designer.

Back to Universal, Annual Passholder responded to another reader's criticism of USH's Tram Tour 2000:

I have been on the new tram tour many times, and I also have gotten a few guides who did this same thing. But most of the ones I have been on did very much the opposite of what (reader Coheteboy) said: they gave a great tour and used the videos to help their tour.

I have talked to some of the guides and they said that at first they thought the monitors were going to replace them, but instead it has given them more to work with. They also said that the videos were going to be changed every three or four months to try and keep them up to date.

As far as the cost and blackout days of an annual pass, in the past three months Universal has gone through seven different types of AP's trying to draw in local guests, ranging AP's that get you pre-boarded on all the attractions to the latest one that you actually get 333 days for $8. For the extra $28 you only get 363—Universal is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving day."

And, finally, as for topics that refuse to die…

V. Anton Spraul wrote:

You ran a news item recently about "Standby" guests getting angry at FastPass holders. I thought you might be interested in this rumor from Screamscape: In the future, it may be possible for resort package guests to pay a premium and be able to get instant passes… that is, be able to enter the FastPass line immediately. Now that would make people angry… class warfare comes to Walt Disney World!

I also have another take on the whole Standby anger thing.  When I went to WDW last year, FastPass was still an infant and had little effect overall. But how much can it grow?  If it really takes off, how will they give out FastPasses to everyone who wants one on a popular ride? They can only give out so many per return hour before the FastPass wait starts to look like the pre-FastPass wait.

And here's where anger may come from: many people like to ride the most popular rides multiple times, and maybe they are the ones getting angry. The more FastPass is used, the harder this is to do, whether you use FastPass or not. In essence, FastPass punishes people who are willing to endure long lines to appease those who would rather not. Just a thought.

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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