Week of November 27, 2000
"Idiot-proofing the Parks" -Two
to rage about Disneyland installing extra safety precautions (see
"Idiot-proofing the Parks"),
as park management and designers try to think of how guests will
|Former cast member Josh
Your article about 'Idiot-proofing the Parks' was
excellent. I just have a comment about the proposed idea of
installing laser beams to measure guests' heights. As a former
Attractions cast member (Indiana Jones specifically, where
this kind of confusion and unrest was commonplace), I do not
feel that this will make any difference.
First of all, let's get to the root of the problem: it's
NOT that the cast member has to make the decision about
whether or not the child is tall enough, and it never has
been. On every attraction with a height requirement, there's
some sort of measuring device, whether it be a red line on a
signpost, or the bottom of a sign under which the person's
head must fit. A laser beam is no different, it just
computerizes the mechanism. The cast member must still be the
one who says, "The computer says no, so I'm sorry but
your child cannot ride" (as opposed to saying, "The
signpost says no, so I'm sorry but your child cannot
The issue here is guests standing on their tip-toes, guests
wearing Mad Hatter hats, guests with large hairdos, parents
who lift their children so they're tall enough, etc., etc.
Installing a laser beam does not eliminate ANY of these problems,
and in fact it introduces new problems, because the guests
can say something like "My child is taller than
46 inches because I measured him before I came here!! That
computer must be wrong!" What does Disney do in this
case? You guessed it, they bring out the meter stick; which
is exactly what they have in place right now. (Well, not exactly,
but what they have now is closer to a meter stick than a laser
"Having worked in this exact situation many, many
times, I can tell you it is not fun. Telling a family that
their child may not ride is not a happy occasion, and what's
even sadder is that the guests who get angry about it don't
realize that it's only for their safety. (Imagine telling this
to a family whose short child was spotted not in line, but at
the vehicle board area, seconds before getting on the ride?
That is not a pretty sight, let me tell you!!!)
But even though it's not fun, and it angers the guests,
we must remember that it is not the cast member making the
actual decision; that's what the rulers and signposts are for.
The cast member's job is merely to make sure the guests abide
by the signs. Therefore, the only way to eliminate this
problem is to install some system by which a computer decides
who is and is not tall enough (with PERFECT accuracy) that
requires no cast member supervision. People won't argue with a
computer. That is the only way to take the cast member out of
I just don't think that spending millions to install
laser beams across the park is going to produce for Disney the
result it is looking for. And I don't know if there is any
definitive answer. Do you think perhaps Disney is fooling
themselves into thinking this problem has an absolute
Thanks again for an informative read.
Thanks for the great note, Josh.
I do agree that unless the laser
system makes some sort of alert that the kid is tall enough or
too short, the problem will remain because it will still be up
to the cast member to say, "Sorry."
I don't think Disney is fooling themselves,
I think they're trying to find a solution to a problem they've
never addressed before. My guess is they'll install it on Splash
Mountain, then wait and see if it cures the problem before expanding
it to other attractions. -
|Reader Todd Swanson wrote:
You said two thing that just don't seem to add up in
your last article.
1. The Gates on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad could
possibly take one entire crew member to maintain??? I honestly
don't see how this could be. Many, many, many amusement parks
have those things, and they are very little maintenance. Heck,
a small little amusement park in my home state of Oregon has
them on its rides.
You might want to check your sources on this one.
Big Thunder's gates
2. You mentioned that restraints could not be added
to the Splash Mountain ride. This is not true, they
can. Jurassic Park ride at USH and
Islands of Adventure both have them. True that
log flume rides cannot have restraints for the very reason
that you mentioned, turning over. However at Walt Disney World
guests sit side by side. It really isn't a true log ride. They
can add restraints just like the Universal Studios' rides.
Excellent points, Todd.
The source of the information of the
first item is directly involved with the systemso they
should know what they are talking aboutand stands by the
claims. The system is brand new, though, and the prediction was
provided several days before the ride actually reopened, so I
wonder if once the gates are actually put into use, if there may
not be as much maintenance required as feared.
As for the second item,
"I" did not say that restraints cannot be added to
Splash Mountain. It was "speculation" from a reader;
he even admits that he isn't 100% sure. He is, though, a cast
member at Disneyland NOT Disney World and may be unaware that
their Splash seating arrangements are different.
Do you know, though, if true log
rides are prohibited from having restraints?
Todd promptly replied:
I think that you're right in that the initial few weeks
/months of operation of those cattle gate things on Big
Thunder may require some additional work, but I still really
think that the maintenance staff will get the hang of these
I don't think that Disney and other parks have added
restraints to their flume-type rides, because with the depth
that a traditional flume-type ride sits in, the water could
possibly cause it to fill with water from the sides. Should
the ride become so waterlogged that this occurred, restraints
on smaller passengers would quickly become a drowning hazard.
I sent an e-mail questioning this info to Hopkins
Rides, the company that originally supplied Disneyland
with parts for its custom-designed flume type ride, Splash
Mountain, and I will forward their response to you as soon as
I get one.
By the way Walt Disney World does have a safety contact
person listed belowat least she is the person that is
listed as their contact with the ride safety commission:
Ann M. VanVolkinburg
Walt Disney World
5121 Log Wagon Rd.
Ocoee, Fl. 34761-8118
(407) 296-2601, Fax (407)824-5779
|Reader Debbie Smith
I do not understand why people are so ignorant in
regards to safety. Aside from the occasional accident,
Disneyland and Disney World have been providing fun family
entertainment for generations. The worst thing that ever
happened to me at Disneyland was when a woman spilled hot
coffee on me in August (ouch!).
I have never felt like I was safer than when I am in a
theme park like these ones. I also rode my bike and roller
skated without any helmet or pads. I guess common sense goes a
|Finally, reader Michael Donoghue might
have the perfect solution
Idiot Insurance. Mike vented:
I don't really have much to say, but this whole safety
at parks thing ROYALLY ticks me off. People these days are too
eager to blame someone for their own stupidity. I think that
buying a ticket to an amusement park is like signing a waiver.
The REASON that you are going there is to enjoy the thrill
if there was no excitement, why not sit home where it is at
least partially safe?
I especially hate it when it happens to Disney. It's
like they are held to a much higher standard (as if they owe
us all something for providing us with years of
entertainment). An accident at Disney is rare (even more rare
if it is Disney's fault), but when there is an accident it's
blown up a thousand times. Up here in the San Francisco Bay
where I live, Great America has accidents like every week
(guest stupidity, I'm not raggin' on the big G.A.), but do
people in L.A. or Florida ever hear about it? NO WAY!!! But on
the front page here I can read about a man dying on Splash
Mountain across the country, 'cause it's Disney.
The point is that a person can be smart, but PEOPLE are
dumb as rocks and need to take more responsibility for
themselves (I'm only 22 and I know this). Maybe what should
happen is that when buying a ticket to an amusement park you
should have the OPTION of buying Insurance (maybe like an
extra $10), and if anything happens you're covered (within
reason). Who knows, it could work. Then again that may make
people feel more invincible.
Week of November 20, 2000
"Idiot-proofing the Parks" -One
|In my last
article ("Idiot-proofing the Parks"), I suggested that
the only foolproof method for protecting guests from themselves
might be locking them in cages.
But as a Disneyland cast member noted
I'm not sure guest cages would actually work. Remember
the Skyway jumper? He managed to get the bars spread enough to
reach the latch, which was supposed to be designed to prevent
There are some things being done about
"improving" guest safety. The gates at Big Thunder
are actually a mandate from Legal. I'm told that Florida's Big
Thunder has had gates for a while, therefore should someone
get hurt at Disneyland and we DIDN'T have gates there, this
would put Disney in a weak defensive position. Ergo, they
spent something like $1 million dollars (Thank you, Dr. Evil!)
putting these in.
However, all the control boxes are easily within reach
of any guest, and the control for the gate is easily read, so
unless Disney decides to increase staffing at Big Thunder,
this all will be for nothing.
Also, these gates are a maintenance nightmare! They
require constant care, the gates open position adjustments
HAVE to be specifically 93 degrees from the closed position or
they have problems (according to the contractor who installed
them!), and the machinists tell me that these gates would be a
full time job for one man. As they are already shorthanded
from staff transfers to DCA, and they can't seem to hire
competent help, this means that something else will lose
The Roger Rabbit changes include reprogramming the ride
control system. The latest plan is to dispatch a vehicle into
the next zone to allow loading the next one, playing a 'remain
' spiel, then restarting the vehicle. This would be
the least expensive way of 'fixing' the Roger problems.
As for the Florida Splash Mountain death, I'm told that
federal boating safety regulations apply to Splash, something
about the water depth being about 18 inches. This means that
ANY guest restraint becomes a hazard should the logs ever turn
over. Short of supplying life jackets, I really don't see how
safety can be 'guest-proofed' at any flume ride.
We will still have to trust that the riders have some
intelligence. I cannot blame Disney for that man's death in
|Reader Gregory Wright
As an AVID amusement park fiend and a member of ACE,
you'd think I would be the last person to have an incident at
Disneyland on a coaster. I myself once almost stepped into a
moving Space Mountain vehicle as it was leaving the station.
This, despite a cast member telling me to stand behind the
yellow line. If this cast member hadn't been paying attention,
I'd have fallen into the moving car, onto the track and been
severely injured. The cast member stopped me just in time.
Kudos to him.
I do think that putting in the safety gates is a good
idea. They may not be pretty, but if I can find myself making
an error in boarding when I know better, having ridden
thousands of times, what chance does an 8-year-old who
doesn't speak English have?
|Reader T. wrote:
Just wanted to drop a line to tell you how much I
enjoyed your article. It's a very rare thing when a guest gets
injured after following all safety guidelines and suggestions.
Unfortunately, most people seem to think their admission media
entitles them to invulnerability. I'm sure most of these
accidents (and I hesitate to even call them that) could be
easily remedied by a short intelligence test at the front
gate. Ah, in a perfect world
Anyway, great article. I'm now a MousePlanet junkie
thanks to you. Keep it up!
|Reader Cal Jabour wrote:
Great articles (and I have enjoyed your books, as well).
Just wondering if Disney has any common sense to think about
what they themselves are doing. By that I mean all the staff
reductions and budgets cuts that everyone reads about. I have
read that they have reduced staff at Storybook Land so that
there are not enough cast members to help guests into the
I wonder if that is what happened at Big Thunder when
that little boy lost part of his foot--would it have happened
if they had had enough staff to oversee guest safety? If only
Michael Eisner and Paul Pressler could get some sense knocked
into them. Here's hoping.
Evidently staffing was not an issue
in the Big Thunder accident. The car stopped at the beginning of
the station and the boy, thinking the ride was over, set his
foot out of the car. When the car restarted, his foot was
A cast member noted:
In response to the kid who lost his foot at Big Thunder,
the running boards on the cars are now mounted about 2 inches
higher on one train as a test. This is supposed to make it
less likely that anyone could get their foot caught. The way
it looks to me, this would only make sure that the ANKLE
becomes severed. Is this easier to fix in surgery or
something? Also, guests WILL trip over them. I've already done
it, and I am supposed to know my way around there!
|Reader Brad Lauzon wrote:
Just read your article re: Idiot proofing the parks.
Gotta tell you, I work with the public and I have
(unfortunately) learned the mantra, 'Expect Stupidity.'
It is really that simple.
Keep up the great articles!!!
P.S. Are you any relation to Walter Koenig, the actor
who played Chekov in "Star Trek"? Sorry if it is a
dumb question but, hey, remember my mantra!
Although we're not related, Walter
Koenig is a noted Disneyana collector, frequent Disneyana show
visitor and "Mouse Tales" reader!
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.)