Design Your Own Coaster!
And more reader mail on the Carrousel,
|A "confused Tomorrowland cast
There is a mysterious vehicle that has shown up behind
Innoventions. It is under a tarp and it invites all the cast
members passing by to look under it. Here is the description.
1. It's not an obvious vehicle for or from any ride in
Disneyland or DCA.
2. It is on roller coaster rails. It can't be for Space
Mountain since they have the purple rockets for that I've
seen. But it has a set-up like a roller coaster.
3. It is a gold/silver (basic Tomorrowland colors)
vehicle that sits about two to four people.
4. It had pull-down lap bars like a roller coaster.
5. It has "Imagineering" on the front and
"put Disney logo here" on a piece of paper on the
6. It had a big back area for an engine or something.
Could it be something to go on the Rocket Rods tracks or
new Mulholland Madness cars?
The "mystery vehicle" is
actually a new Innoventions exhibit for a build-your-own-
rollercoaster software package titled "Ultimate Ride"
from Disney Interactive. It was expected to be installed by
today, November 15, in the Disney exhibit area.
Click to Buy from Amazon
The car looks like an ultra-modern,
Star Trek-inspired coaster vehicle with a screen in
front of the seated guest who plays the software demo.
The software is already available at
retailers such as Amazon (click on the graphic above), Circuit
City, Best Buy, and, yes, the 20th Century Music Company on
Disneyland's Main Street.
|The Carrousel retrofit ("Circular
Reasoning") sparked more impassioned debate. Rich
The subject of wheelchair accessibility at Disneyland is
an interesting issue. My wife and I use three wheel electric
scooters due to various physical disabilities. At Disneyland
the Train and Small World are so-called wheelchair accessible
rides, but neither of these allows our scooters on board. We
have to transfer to a manual wheelchair to ride these
Disneyland also rents four-wheel electric scooters for
disabled guests; these are not allowed on either of the
So the question comes down to what is meant by
wheelchair accessibility at Disneyland?
Good point, Rich. I hadn't thought
about degrees of accessibility. But I am behind making as many
attractions available to as many people as possible.
FYI an electric scooter weighs between 100 and 200 lbs.
empty and an electric wheelchair I think comes in about 200
lbs. Add a rider and 400 lbs is not an unreasonable number.
One suggestion I have made several times to Disneyland
and they have done nothing about is to mark the curbs where a
chair can exit to the street with lights or paint so it is
easy to see where to navigate at night. WDW did this several
years ago, but I guess it is too expensive for Disneyland!
|A merchandising employee wrote:
I just read your article today and I have to say I agree
with you 100 percent. As a cast member, I say, the more the
merrier on the King Arthur Carrousel. Walt wanted as many
people as possible to enjoy the wonders of his park.
Still, I hope the structure itself can take all the
Another thing I hope they do to the carrousel during
this rehab is paint the roof. Have you seen it lately? Every
time I go through the castle, I can't help but stare at it!
The paint is peeling and faded and it just looks terrible.
Maybe there's money in the budget for that?
|A Disneyland worker
I sorta agree on your case about the conversion of the
King Arthur Carrousel. However, my hostility is the way it
will be done. Do you honestly believe, as stated in the last
letter, that the company will do a quality job on this? The
park is in bad shape, with maintenance poor, and the company
WILL NOT do a quality job. All they care about is how cheaply
it can be done.
When the new Tomorowland was under construction, I
witnessed an Imagineer and a manager shouting at each other.
The argument was about the railing for the queue for Rocket
Rods. The Imagineer designed the railing to last, and fit in
the queue. The manager overruled him and bought a cheaper
version. Well, it didn't work. The cheaper railing did not
fit, and had to be ripped out, and the original design used.
This snafu increased the cost of the construction of the
While I agree with you about the happy wheelchair-bound
guests on the Carrousel, I do not have confidence that the
work will be done correctly.
Very interesting discussion going on here. One question:
I'm not a Disneyland park historian, but wasn't the whole
carousel MOVED during the Fantasyland renovation in 1982 or
1983? Tony Baxter was involved
the black light rides were
I won't even get into the whole debate/discussion, I
can really see both sides. But instead of changing a perfectly
fine ride, I just wish that WDI would do something about
You're right. It used to be closer
to the drawbridge, and Tea Cups were basically where Carrousel
I say, "let the handicapped kids ride." Of all
the attractions that a kid in a wheelchair should be able to
experience at Disneyland, I'd say the Carrousel is one of
them. Additionally, they should modify a Dumbo car to allow
the same. While I realize that the Carrousel is an antique,
the Facilities worker is certainly generating some bad karma
by being so opposed to the move of refurbishing it to
accommodate other riders. I'd hate to be around him when the
karma comes back at him (in full force, no doubt). It's not
that Disney is doing a "politically correct" thing,
or even a federally mandated ADA thing, they're simply doing
the "right thing."
Additionally, by you trying to showcase this issue so
much, I think you're trying to agitate things a bit more than
necessary. I mean, really, is this issue of that much
importance that people are really going to care and protest in
front of City Hall on Main Street? It's not like they're going
to replace the whole carrousel with a new one containing half
horses and half wheelchair spaces. Also, how much does a chair
really weigh, come on. The Facilities worker should be more
concerned about obese kids riding the thing as opposed to
wheelchair restrictive riders.
As for some horses being taken away, I say rotate the
"victimized" horses out with the next Carrousel
rehab. Have Disney say that the old ones were "given a
rest" while making space for wheelchair guests. Who
knows, with Disney merchandising prowess and Disneyphiles'
love for this crap, they can create an event around the
"temporary retiring of the horses," and then welcome
them back two years later.
Really, David, we have bigger fish to fry here these
days. The theme park revenues are in the toilet, and quality
attractions are just not being installed into Disney's
American parks these days.
|Regarding the possibility of an extended hiatus
for Fantasmic, Mark wrote:
When I talked to some cast members about Fantasmic not
returning for the Holidays, it seemed to be a dual answer.
Yes, it is expensive to run, and they would save greatly by
not bringing it back until next summer. But the other reason
seems to be that they didn't want it as a distraction to
With so much of Christmas happening at the Disneyland,
there was concern over just how many guests would come back
over to DCA in the evening, given that there is the Believe in
Holiday Magic show and a night-time Christmas Fantasy parade.
It seems that they didn't want 20,000 people sitting in
Frontierland when they could be spending money in DCA.
Oh, and by the way, the followspots that normally dot
the parade route (dwindling every year, I know) were
eliminated completely for this year, The first time since
there was a Christmas parade.
|So, what's a "followspot"?
An Entertainment employee explained:
A followspot is the manned spot lights that dot the tops
of Main Street and along the Parade Route on scaffolds. They
usually use them for the Christmas Parade only. They do use
three of them for Tinker Belle in the fireworks show every
night too. I hadn't heard they cut those. I do know they were
incredibly annoying to the character performers and float
drivers because when the light would hit the screen they see
through it would render them completely blind. I don't think
it will take away from the parade at all.
Also, to clear a couple things up in your latest
article: First, someone mentioned that the Homecoming Unit has
been cut from "A Christmas Fantasy Parade." That is
true, the unit as a whole has been taken out of the parade.
But that wasn't for budget reasons totally. Every year the
director of the parade likes to keep it fresh by changing
things here and there. Otherwise it would get pretty boring
for repeat viewers (and repeat performers and staff).
The Parade is budgeted for a certain amount of performer
hours. When they cut the Homecoming Unit they were able to
beef up other units with those unused people. Make sense? With
the absence of a large unit like that they could do things
like add a couple of Snowflakes and Snowpeople, and add some
Elves. Things like that. It also freed up all those Classic
Characters to put them elsewhere in the Parade. I think it's a
good idea to reevaluate things every year and try something
Also someone talked about how they
"cannibalized" the Fantasmic! pyro barges for
LuminAria. They did borrow some of the water craft and
transfer barges for the initial set up of the show, but
LuminAria is able to run without the use of Fantasmic's
barges. They were just using them for the time being since
they weren't being used anywhere else.
It's not as bad as the doomsayers seem to think it is.
|Finally, more reaction
to the new serve-yourself Costume Shopping program for Disney
According to a cast member in Toontown, which began
using Costume Shopping a few months earlier:
I would like to respond to your article on the Costume
Shop program. At first, I thought what the hell are they
doing?!?! I hated the program from day one. It took forever to
find my size and when they didn't have any of my sizes, things
got more confusing. I had to get to work a little early just
to find my costume.
Jump forward to today and I love Costume Shopping! I
know where my costume pieces are, exactly, and there is no
line anymore to get a costume. It's actually faster now. Get
your costume, scan it out, and your ready to go. The friendly
costume cast members in Toontown are more then eager to help,
and very quickly. When I walk backstage to main costume issue,
I can't believe I see people waiting in line to get a costume.
To me, the idea of waiting seems positively primeval.
Many of the comments I read from other cast members were
the exact thoughts that many of us Fantasyland/Toontown cast
members thought of the program, but I'm sure once they get
used to it, they'll see it's a better way to a costume.
I hope it works out. Do you see the
design of the main costume building or the increased number of
people needing costumes from there preventing Costume Shopping
from working like it does for Fantasyland / Toontown?
The Toontown tipster responded:
To answer you question bluntly, yes. If you've ever seen
the two, they are EXTREMELY different. Our costuming in
Toontown is very small in comparison, and there is no
"conveyer belt" (lack of better wording) type of
contraption. The highest row only takes a step stool to reach.
And the increased number of cast members that need main
costume issue will make it a bit more of a hassle.
The first two or three months of Costume Shopping in
main costuming are going to be chaotic. It took a good month
and a half of complaining in Toontown before we grew
accustomed to it and preferred it over waiting. I'm sure that
when all the kinks are flattened out, Costume Shopping will
work as well as it does in Toontown. It will take time, longer
time then it did in Toontown, but I feel it will be preferred.
I was reading through your article about costuming and
sometimes I would rather go back behind the counters and get
my costume myself. When I hired in, Costuming was still
getting use to the new buildings. Lines were long and tempers
often flew. This is why Costuming is the butt of many jokes of
cast members. Throughout the year they got the hang of where
everything was and service was slowly getting faster, I would
be able to show up 20 minutes before my shift and still have
time to spare after going through Costuming.
Now they have tossed in Costume Shopping for which they
have re-arranged the costumes in there again. So again, the
lines are beginning to grow. Lost cast members are walking
around looking for clothes, just like when they first got
there. I hope they figure out what they are doing before the
busy season hits. I do not see it a reason to come to work an
HOUR early just to get from K-Lot to Harbor Pointe and then
wait in line for my costume just to wait another 15 minutes
for them to figure out where a bow tie is. So if Costume
Shopping means I get my costume now, then I wouldn't mind.
Sometimes I felt it better if I got my own costume. On
Wednesdays, when Costuming was closed, they would have us walk
with them to retrieve our costume. And I didn't mind since I
was able to pick a shirt that actually had buttons, get pants
with no holes, and a hat that wasn't ripped. So I'm not sure
about Costume Shopping: with the wait times growing, cast
members who complain of just jumping over the counter to get
their own costume may soon be able to do just that.
A ride operator continued:
Hello, David. I haven't had the chance to read your book
yet, but have heard many cast members refer to it as a must-
Moving along now to costuming, I'm torn between the two
sides. I have in the past dealt with some of the nicest
costuming cast members in the world, but at the same time,
there are a few bad apples that seem to pride themselves on
taking their time getting my costume.
Having said that, I think the idea of "costume
shopping" is just so utterly dumb. If anything, it will
only add to the delay that cast members face when we go to
Bottom line: expect this to last only a few months until
manager musical chairs begins again, and someone new decides
to go back to the current, sometimes flawed, but okay system
we know (as has been the case with CDS which at my attraction,
seems to be phasing itself out before it has really started,
I just wanted to put in a quick two cents about this
whole Costuming debate. I work in Entertainment and work very
closely with Entertainment Costuming (which is a separate
department from Operational Costuming). Let me tell you most
of the cast members in Entertainment Costuming do a fantastic
job! They work their butts off to get our shows dressed and on
stage. The costumers are always working one on one with the
performers helping to get things just how the performer wants
it, and believe me some of these performers can be prima
Anyway, I just wanted to let it be known that
Entertainment Costuming, at least, works hard WITH everyone
for the common goal of getting any show or parade out for our
People don't communicate enough of the positive things
about Disney, especially lately. But that's pretty much how it
is everywhere, isn't it? It's easier to point out the bad
instead of the good.
The costumers on both Eureka! Parade and Disney's
Electrical Parade work their tails off getting things as good
as they possibly can to make the parades look the way they do.
They have a million things working against them but they still
do their best. And what's even better is they are all good
people. Fun to work with.
I don't have any direct contact with Main Issue so I
honestly don't know if any of the concerns people have are
true, but I know back in the Parade Building the costuming
crew is the best crew you could ask for.
Another cast member wrote:
You said: "I agree wholeheartedly that many who
look down on Costuming cast members have no idea how difficult
your jobs are. They're about to find out."
I am one cast member who HAS found out. For some time
now I have been retrieving my own costume from the racks. A
good number of my fellow cast members in my department do the
same. We find that this is much easier than dealing with
Costuming cast members and their lack of memorization skills
and quick service. Now don't get me wrong, I know that there
are a few shining stars in that department, but on the whole,
that's how things are.
From this experience I have learned that finding costume
pieces isn't that hard, difficult or draining. But one of the
problems I've had is that there is a serious lack of
organization on the racks. For example, the shirts are
supposed to be arranged by size, yet almost every single time
I go to get a shirt the sizes are completely mixed up. I then
have to go through at least five to seven shirts before I find
one that's my size, and this is when we're just dealing with
small, medium, large, etc.
Then when I do find clothes in my size I usually have to
pick "the lesser of two evils." Do I want a stained
shirt or one with tears? Yes, it's been a long time since I've
found a shirt that looked clean or was in good condition.
Calling attention to rips and stains in clothes is usually
ignored by Costuming cast members.
But at least we now have enough clothing to go around.
Recently there was a shortage and we had to wear a different
costume piece to replace the one that was currently
One of your readers wrote: "This sounds like a lot
of whining. I'm sure this is not the biggest problem that
Disneyland cast members have. Holding on to their jobs and not
losing too many work hours would seem to me to be higher
Sure it sounds like a lot of whining, but Disney seems
to be slowly deteriorating. One little thing leads to another
and that's really scary. Just using this Costuming example:
At first Disney provided and maintained the costumes and
they never left Disney property which helped preserve the
magic. You could obtain a fresh clean costume before or after
Then came FastTrack and cast members in costume could be
seen on Harbor Blvd., at Denny's, on the bus, etc. This
perhaps lessened the special qualities and magic of costumes
and the cast members wearing them because you'd see them in
"UnDisney" situations like eating, smoking,
drinking, cussing, etc.
Then some costume locations closed on certain days. This
has most likely resulted in cast members having to wear
not-so-fresh costumes, soiled costumes, incomplete costumes,
etc., either by their own fault or something happening during
Coming soon, this Costume Shopping business, which may
add more unpaid "prep time" for the cast members
before their shift. Also, all the negative aspects which a
number have addressed already.
How long before we are issued two or three costumes that
we have to launder and maintain ourselves? We'd have to spend
even more unpaid "prep time." How long before they
ask us to furnish some costume pieces such as black or white
pants in addition to shoes and such we already provide? That
can lead to lack of quality and standards with the different
styles and fabrics. How long before we have to purchase our
own Costume pieces?
You might think that the above hypothetical situations
are impossible, but think about this: If you were to go back
in time about 10 years and talked to cast members back then,
I'm sure they couldn't comprehend FastTrack, Costume Shopping
and other things currently in place or about to become
reality. They would say it's impossible!
But all it takes are little steps to drastically change
show quality, standards, etc. And that is why some people are
"whining." We don't see an end to this nonsense.
Just a quick addition to all this costume craziness. You
know everything is downright horrible if you go to any random
store in Orange County and you see Disneyland cast member.
Well, that happens all the time. But how about if this cast
member was fully dressed in her costume (Tomorrowland)?
Maybe not fully dressed because everything was untucked,
wrinkled and probably not clean. No how about if I told you
that this cast member still had her nametag on? Well, it had
to be the worst sight I have seen in regards to costuming and
it drives me insane that this is happening.
When I was back in ODV a few years back, people who were
caught wearing any piece of their costume off park property
were reported and usually fired. What has it come to? Do they
actually allow people to wear their costumes and shop wherever
they want? I sure hope not
Promo art © 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.)