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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Q & A on DCA
The countdown to Opening Day at Disney's California Adventure is now under 100 days. Previews begin in just two months. Downtown Disney should open even sooner.

Still, questions remain…

What costumed characters will appear at DCA?

With its availability of alcohol, higher proportion of restaurants and shops to attractions, larger number of exhibits and more adult feel, DCA is a lot more like Epcot than Disneyland. As such, DCA's planners gave serious thought to having no traditional costumed characters in DCA, copying the strategy for Epcot when Disney World's second gate first opened in 1982. Instead, street performers would add to the atmosphere of each land.

Recent filming done at DCA's main gate for park commercials involved the Buzz Lightyear character
Recent filming done at DCA's main gate for park commercials involved the Buzz Lightyear character

DCA's braintrust, though, has been able to learn from Disney World's mistakes. They remember that Early Epcot was quickly besieged by questions and complaints: families wanted to know where the heck Mickey was. Disney had forgotten that, although Epcot was themed and marketed to an older visitor, its most likely audience was its captive one: tourists already in town to visit the Magic Kingdom. (And, mom and dad didn't have the option of dropping Junior off at the kennels when they wanted to go to Epcot.)

One current plan, according to an insider, is at the very least "the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) are slated to appear in DCA." We'll see how the lineup evolves after the park opens.

Orlando's Downtown Disney is more isolated than Anaheim's. Will it be safe?

A few years ago, before massive construction began around the Resort, Disneyland had a security force of 300-odd officers. Reportedly, by the time DCA opens, the Security Department will be around 800 officers strong.

The increase in manpower is due to the increased crowds and different clientele expected with Downtown Disney as well as DCA. "We have been told that APD (Anaheim Police Department) will make their presence known in Downtown Disney," says one cast member. "I don't know what that means, but we have heard that they might be allowed to walk patrols around the area. Also, some of the venues will be allowed to bring in their own security crew."

The biggest question, of course remains: Will DCA be able to hire enough workers?

Somehow, it must—but thousands more still need to be hired and trained. In the Team Disney Anaheim building, a giant tube, marked in increments of 1,000, is filled with balls to chart the progress in adding the needed 8,000 employees. So far, the balls are a little over the 3,000 marker.

Photos from a recent Job Fair held at the Disneyland Hotel

Photos from a recent Job Fair held at the Disneyland Hotel
Photos from a recent Job Fair held at the Disneyland Hotel

"Departments are reporting that they are 50% to 60% below their target as far as hiring new cast members," lamented one cast member. "But even with all the cast members that are hired, how many of them are going to stay?"

Desperate to uncover interested prospects, the park recently sent the same recruitment letter, slightly rewritten letter to address the different audiences, to several of its mailing lists, including annual passholders, former cast members and even retiree members of the Golden 'Ears Club. The park must be desperate—even I got a letter.

Wanna work for the mouse?
Wanna work for the mouse?

Confirmed reader Patti Bellamy:

I am a former Disneyland cast member (Attractions, 1982 -1991), and I just finished reading the response from Miles about the possibility of Disney asking former cast members to work at DCA. I got a letter just yesterday (October 20) from Disney asking me to come back to work for them.  It was a mass mailing sent out to all members of the Disneyland Alumni Club.

They must really be desperate—I don't even live in California anymore. I gave it a little thought, but decided against it. I really enjoyed my years at Disneyland—my fellow cast members made it a great experience. But everything changed once Eisner got into it.

I've decided to keep the wonderful memories I have of the good old days, and not buy into the current Disney philosophy, which is money, money, money.

Will DCA's labor shortage have any affect on Disneyland's workforce?

Certainly, some of Disneyland's better cast members already have transferred to DCA. Some maintenance positions, for example, were expected to be moved to the new park without being replaced at Disneyland. Other support workers may have to spread their time across both facilities.

There's been nothing official announced, but one old-timer speculates that about the time DCA opens, a large number of labor-intensive attractions at Disneyland will suddenly go on long-term rehab. You won't, for instance, be riding canoes. Don't think it's a coincidence that Rocket Rods isn't scheduled to return to action until at least two months after DCA opens.

Ironically, FastPass, which requires several more employees to implement, continues to be added to attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion that don't really need it. Groused a ride operator: "FastPass is spreading throughout the park like a plague."

First the Roger Rabbit accident, a few weeks later a serious collision on Autopia, then days later a cast member falls off a steam train. Is the labor shortage affecting safety?

Mostly what's changed is how Disneyland responds to emergencies. Years ago, a rider who was rear-ended on Autopia might be dragged offstage and treated out of view to other guests. But with all the recent criticism of its response procedures, management has become paranoid. Paramedics quickly responded to both of the most recent incidents.

By law, Disneyland now must also report serious injuries, making such instances harder to keep out of the news. So, the park may not be the site of more accidents, we're just more likely to hear about them.

Reduced staffing may have contributed to only the Roger Rabbit accident and even that may have been incidental. Three employees instead of the maximum five were working that night, meaning one position missing was the one at Load who checks to see that the lap bars are secure—and could have encouraged the mother to sit either by the vehicle's opening or between her two sons.

The ride operators have been defended, though, by every cast member I've spoken with, including those who aren't shy about admitting co-workers' mistakes. One says:

Overall, the cast members are getting angrier over the Roger Rabbit incident, while there is much sympathy for Brandon, there is not much for the parents. The cast members are getting increasing frustrated and disgusted by guests. The behavior of the guests have not been getting better, but worse. Pardon the language, but they have been getting increasingly stupid, too. They refuse to listen to instructions, and if something happens, they blame us. With all the safety reworks that have to be done—the most in recent history—we often wonder if management is not the only ones to blame.

Another agrees:

About Roger Rabbit, other cast members and I feel that Disney is going to fight the impending lawsuit against us. If we don't, we are going to lose more than just a big settlement. There are several stories circulating about what happened in that attraction, but the singular common point is that it was the parents' fault.

Finally, whatever happened to Harvey, the rabbit who disappeared a few months ago from Tom Sawyer Island?

Artist rendering of missing Harvey
Artist rendering of missing Harvey

Alas, no news is bad news. While reader Lighthope couldn't disprove that Harvey is in the Big Carrot Patch in the Sky, he did provide some background.

Reading about Harvey the TSI rabbit reminded me of the family of cats that made their home at Big Thunder BBQ during 1988. The cast members loved them. This cat and her kittens kept the rats away.

Interestingly, though, management didn't like the cats and had Landscaping come in and remove ('kill') them. Seems management prefers having the rats. Oh well, I guess it was just a case of looking out for their relatives. Hahaha!

Of course, we won't mention Fluffy, the cockroach adopted by Parade Costuming. This 'pet' was so beloved that, when he died, he was given a funeral and a burial site on the side of Circle D. They always said parade people were strange.


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.)


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