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A behindtheears look at Disneyland
It's a Shiny World, After All
Disneyland's it's a small world is about to reopen after a lengthy rehab and -- at least on the inside -- may have never looked better. "I was in Small World and all I can say is WOW!" reports one maintenance man. "Almost the entire interior of the ride sets have been repainted and re-glittered by the sign shop. The difference will amaze you. Too bad the exterior was not touched, but there are plans for that in the future."
Facilities has been cycling boats through the attraction and began testing the animation. "There was a worry that with the dolls off so long that the skins might have hardened but I guess they are all right," the crewman adds.
Walt's Relocated For Good
For the last 10 months, cast members working the Walt Disney Story/Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln have been telling guests that Walt's informal office was "on loan" to Florida's Magic Kingdom for its "100 Years of Magic" celebration. Well, cast members have just been informed that the office will be staying in Orlando permanently and not returning to Disneyland.
An employee notes: "Considering the amount of money spent to catalogue, and ship the office to Florida, the company would rather not spend the money to have it sent back to Disneyland."
Changes In Store
Finally, the merchandise department has made some changes at the Pioneer Mercantile, which switched to a Pocahontas motif about seven years ago and has changed little since. A merchandise hostess reports: "I think someone was paying attention to your last few columns. Pioneer Mercantile got rid of the old Pocahontas laser disc and replaced it with a DVD system. It now features a new DVD with some Toy Story clips, Davy Crockett stuff, etc. Pocahontas is still there, but at least some other tunes accompany 'Colors of the Wind' now."
In addition, the former Tinker Bell's Toy Shop underwent a small rehab and reopened Saturday July 20 as Once Upon a Time. "A more extensive rehab is supposed to follow this fall," she notes. "Let's hope that they also re-do poor Villain's Lair and the former Castle Princess shop. I'm excited!"
Check out the "Drawn to Animation" exhibit at DCA's Animation building. Following the release of Lilo and Stitch, the exhibit now runs a preview of Treasure Planet at the end of the show. "However," notes a source, "it is not the trailer. It has clips from the feature and has one of the directors explaining and showing the work in progress."
Hopefully, the curvy couches have been returned to the Animation building's central lobby. The sofas provided a wonderful place to relax and watch the room's multimedia display, but were removed early this month (except one, which was pushed against the wall). Sans sofas, the room also looks less inviting and more industrial. The reasoning, explained one hostess, was to make the room less crowded when the hordes of guests showed up for the summer.
Disneyland has bats. Evidently, the creatures occasionally fall from the trees, land on the ground, and appear to be in distress. Cast members that try to help them out are in danger of being bitten -- and, according to Animal Control, bats often carry rabies.
Several weeks ago, Circle D issued a warning that cast members not to pick up or touch any bats that they might find. Guests walking the back trails of Frontierland should heed the same warning.
Temple Of Downtime
Two weeks ago, the Indiana Jones Adventure suffered an hour-long emergency shutdown when a child jumped onto the tracks.
"The car was idle at the belt check portion on the south side of the station (the part furthest from the queue)," reveals a ride operator. "The seatbelt was never on to begin with, the cast member was in the process of checking seatbelts when the child dropped something and jumped in and out of the vehicle to get the item."
Although unlikely that the jeep would have been dispatched without the child, the cast member, remembering the Roger Rabbit tragedy, reacted instantly. "The child was physically on the track for a few moments, but the cast member had already pressed the E-Stop," the employee continues. "The only reason the ride was closed was that we had to evacuate the attraction (which is Standard Operating Procedure), and then power down and then power up the ride, reset the five zones and creep all 15 vehicles, which takes just over an hour. Rumor has it that Facilities was griping about the situation because this downtime came right out of their budget, rather than the attractions budget."
Fantasmic! may be a terribly expensive production to stage, but Disneyland has devised a new method for cutting costs: reducing the number of cast members working guest control. "They schedule a total number of hours per night for Fantasmic for crowd control," explains a cast member. "Originally, it was something around 360 hours of labor for guest control allotted per night. Last summer, 90 hours a night were cut. Now it looks like another 90 are going to get cut yet again. That means that Fantasmic will be about half as staffed as it was when it first opened."
Similarly, reports a co-worker, "Just this past week, in an effort to cut the guest control shifts on the closed section of Tom Sawyer Island, actual wooden fences with netting were supposed to be put up to prevent guests from going in. From sources, the closed off sections of the island will not reopen until after the River rehab next year. The Island's rehab itself is scheduled from January to March."
Finally, a Universal Studios-Hollywood employee corrected his co-workers, who told me that the park's "Spider-man Rocks!" is more commonly referred to as "Rent, starring Spider-man" and the "The Rocky Horror Spider-man Show."
"Actually," he says, "the most common employee euphemism for the show is 'Spider-man Sucks!'"
Send your comments to David here.
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.
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