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David Koenig
Mailbag — Week of October 13, 2000

Last year for Universal's Halloween? Plus reader feedback on Disney's Casting Adventure

Halloween fans, if you've ever thought about attending Universal Studios – Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights, this is the year. You might not get another chance. Management has been informed that this year—year four in its current incarnation—may be the event's last, unless it turns a profit.

While guests may miss the annual scare-fest, many workers will be happy to see it go. "It's never been popular with the tour employees," one explains, "because it meant a major gearing up right after a three-month summer peak season and also having to deal with the major park security problems each night of HHN."

This year, to save money, Universal cut 90% of HHN's advertising and promotional budget. Ironically, advance ticket sales are currently 20% ahead of last year. It will be interesting to see what happens if the trend continues, since Universal is so keen on getting out of the Halloween business, at least in Southern California. HHN at Universal Studios – Florida is in no danger, since it runs many more nights and is a huge success every year. -

Readers both agreed with and took exception to "Disney's Casting Adventure."

As Qyouth wrote:

"I was recently hired to work at Disneyland… NOT DCA. I agree, if Disney (had not relaxed its hiring standards), I probably wouldn't have gotten hired, mainly because I am overweight. But these people they are hiring, although they don't fit the "Ken and Barbie" look, they do have the heart of a cast member.

"A good example is a girl who was in my interview group. She was too glum to be a cast member. She didn't even try to put on a good show in the interview, and if she had used "like" one more time, I would have strangled her. She was clearly not hired.

"The final verdict is: Disney has lowered its standards for appearance, but not personality."

But a co-worker, J. M., wrote:

"Loved your article on the cast member recruitment. Many cast members feel (the hiring drive) was a big bust. The park is even busing college students from San Bernardino and other outside areas to apply and be interviewed."

Miles Ketchum offered a possible solution:

I am a former Disneyland cast member (Fantasyland Merchandise 1987-94), and I find all of these Disneyland Resort labor stories very interesting. I keep opening my mailbox, wondering why I'm not receiving some sort of solicitation to return to the Disney work force? It seems to me they are missing out on perhaps quite a few capable people willing to work part-time for the debut of the new park.

Your thoughts?

I think Miles has a great idea! I'm sure many alumni would love the chance to relive their polyester-clad college years -- on a part-time basis. During other labor crunches—such as the Big Strike of 1984—Disneyland did call on former cast members to fill in. Remember, though, that was a temporary situation. DCA, despite the wishes of its very vocal critics, isn't going away. -

For my part, I've spent the last few days enduring the Chinese Email Torture, as one depressing message after another arrives updating me, blow by blow, on the demise of Universal's landmark War Lord Tower.

Friday October 6:

Most of today was spent hearing the sound of the demolition workers dismantling the roof and the upper rear portion of the War Lord Tower. If the rumor is true, tonight or early Saturday the tower will come down.

Monday October 9:

The destruction of the War Lord Tower has slowly begun. A small part of the top was removed this morning as well as the interior supports. The surrounding foundation was removed over the weekend.

Early Tuesday October 10:

The War Lord Tower is now beginning its trek into park history, as only a brief reminder of what it once looked like is just a mere skeleton of wood and large sections of its facade removed. As of today, the only visible portion of the tower facade is just below the area that once been the first set of large (window) like openings as shown on your website photo.

Late Tuesday October 10:

I was at USH this morning around 3 a.m., after Halloween Horror Nights rehearsals, and the War Lord Tower just came down. I took two photos of the last section of doorway, arch and large wooden door as the skip loader knocked it over. By this afternoon, most of the debris will probably be removed. They were loading and hauling it away in a couple of dump trucks.

Wednesday October 11:

I was at Universal this afternoon and, yes, the Tower is now all gone except for some of the cement foundation and some small support rods. In violation of our noise agreement with our neighbors, the final demolition was started at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Senior management told us it was done at this time because this is when the fewest employees would be around to witness it, but they forgot that the park was full of hundreds of HHN performers and staff in rehearsal. Well, at least we still have the Psycho house.

Hopefully, we can show photos of the Tower's demolition on MousePlanet in the near future, to bid a final farewell to a piece of theme park history.

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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