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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
An Update, plus Reader Mail
Readers wrote to expound on every topic covered in last week's update. Here are the most intriguing of the bunch, starting with more details on the new Space Mountain rockets.

A ride operator reported:

The purple Space Mountain rocket (yes, it is #5) isn't on the track right now. It's actually back in its home in the Facilities 500 building out next to TDA again. They are undecided and don't know if they are going to phase it in with guests or just wait until all 14 of them arrive. It still seems a long ways off, like after summer before any are put into use.

Reader Issac sent this photo of the new Space Mt. cars -interesting eh? Thanks Issac!
Reader Issac sent MousePlanet this photo of the new Space Mt. car Thanks again Issac!

Odds are they would do penetration testing with it without guests at first (meaning seeing how it would handle in breaking down situations and how fast it goes thought the mountain compared to the other rockets, etc.). Since penetration testing takes all day (sometimes two), odds are they'd want to wait for a rehab before they added all the rockets.

So if a rehab (maybe a week) suddenly shows up on schedules, then that rehab is most likely to involve the rockets. It still looks far far off, though. It's still 100% sure after summer.

The purple rockets actually serve a better purpose than just looking nice. They have a different way to pop up the lap bars. It's a foot pedal which makes our job a lot easier when taking out guests from the dispatch point. We have broken down quite a bit or at least went to a reduced capacity (we go reduced about every two hours for about 20 minutes due to that problem) because we have trouble getting people out at dispatch due to the current crappy lap bar release.

Some of the stuff they changed during this past rehab:

1. Pretty painted new station and new tiling

2. DL-2000 on the rocket changed to 3000

3. The second lift's chain was replaced.

4. Lead removal (yay)

5. Rows 1, 2, 3 moved 11 inches to the left.

Regarding Tomorrowland's defunct fountain, Cosmic Waves (shown below), the worker added:

Cosmic Waves

Apparently they are going to keep the giant marble, but replace everything else with a ring of orange trees. Odd.

As for other attractions, another employee noted:

Remember how the queue for the Matterhorn was redone so it does not wrap around the mountain?

Well, after a dismal failure, the queue has been returned to its original form (where it again wraps around the mountain).


On to merchandise, reader Clinton Ralph wrote:

I have read your column regularly and your books, as well. They are all good reads if a little disheartening, but the news about the Villains shop especially struck me. I liked that shop quite a bit, as I travel to Disneyland two or three times a year and like the Villains merchandise.

I had noticed the shop stocking some more Fantasmic-based items, Sorcerer Mickey and the light spinners and so forth, which seemed a little out of place… but this just shocks me. There is no change in the theme for the store at all? Sounds like just merchandise I wouldn't be interested in in the slightest in a store that used to stock things I had to buy. It's sad, really. I will be going to the park in two weekends.

Am I correct in thinking that City Hall is the correct place to file complaints about such matters?

Yes, City Hall would be the place to go to complain. I think the rationale behind the shop changes is to better target specific identifiable demographics most likely to be in a particular area. A lot of little girls visit Fantasyland, so let's have a shop just for little girls. A lot of little boys visit Fantasyland, so let's have a shop just for little boys. It was probably difficult to quantify the audience for a villains shop. It was a unique experience, so hopefully it will return or turn up elsewhere. (Although Disney is convinced you don't maximize revenue through unique merchandise.)

Another cast member recently told me that the makeover in Merchandise was influenced by the continuing increase in annual passholders (Al Lutz's latest update says the ranks of APers are now up to 450,000!).

Since APers make up an increasingly larger percentage of a day's total crowd and the average APer spends far less on souvenirs than the typical tourist, the idea is to fill up the stores with less expensive merchandise (under $10) that can be "changed out" more frequently, hopefully creating more opportunities to sell to repeat visitors.

A cast member confirmed:

In your latest article where a merchandise cast member commented about the metal strips on the merchandise like on CDs and videos to prevent shoplifting, that's exactly what it is. Cast members can be seen at the entrances of the shops throughout the resort watching guests.

If this new security system goes resort-wide, these cast members will be the ones to approach the guest if any merchandise trips the sensors.

Reader Kathy wrote:

We were at Disneyland about a week and a half ago & experienced the new anti-theft system at the Gag Factory—we inadvertently set it off both entering and exiting the store with previously purchased merchandise that had not been desensitized.

No one responded to the store alarm either time, and it took me a while to conclude that those two alarms were related to our pin purchases out on the Small World Esplanade. Since I was unsure if there were other theft detection devices in the park (it had been a year since our last visit), I removed the offending strips from the pins, and knew we'd have no more trouble.

Jason Bostick added:

About that anti-theft system in Toontown…

Two words: It Sucks.

I am one of those ubiquitous pin traders who carries his collection around with him, hermit-crab style. The first thing I learned about those magnetic tags is that you'd better not keep a pin "mint on card" in your bag, and you'd best check that card if bought from World of Disney because it WILL set off the sensors the next time you visit. There is nothing more embarrassing than to set off the security sensor walking in the door at World of Disney and then sheepishly pulling your collection apart to find the one errant tag.

World of Disney store photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix
World of Disney store photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Well, actually there is. It's buying pins from World of Disney, watching the cast member rub the tags on the desensitizing doohickey and then setting off the sensors in Toontown later in the day. So far, since Five and Dime has installed those sensors their record has been 3 for 3. Three times in a row, I have bought pins at World of Disney, have gone to Toontown (one of the best places to look for pins that are running out of stock), and I have spent another 10 minutes while a helpful cast member re-de-sensitizes the exact same pins.

I've taken to keeping my receipts in the bag because there is no question about what will happen. If they expand the use of magnetic sensors, they will reap a migraine headache of pin trader after pin trader innocently setting off the alarms across Walt's park.

As the cast member at World of Disney recently explained to me as to why there aren't more magnetic gates everywhere in Disneyland: "They distract from the magic." Let's hope someone remembers that.


A security guard's comments on shoplifters caught one reader's attention. Ken Martinez wrote:

First off, let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your column and am an avid reader of MousePlanet. I was curious about the paragraph below from your column today ("They steal right in front of the cast members, and when they are stopped, they accuse the cast members of picking on them because of their race.").

When you wrote that shoplifters who accused cast members of picking on them because of their race, was this including Caucasians who shoplift? If not, are there any Caucasian shoplifters? What excuse do they use? The last sentence in this paragraph appears to state that shoplifters are non-white and that this scenario is always the case. Just wanted to share that observation with you.

This obviously was an off-the-cuff generalization by the cast member. I suspect that, no matter what their race, not every suspect responds in this way. It's just one common excuse, and I honestly have no idea of the percentage breakdown of how many Caucasians vs. Hispanics vs. Blacks vs. Asians are detained—but, unfortunately, I'm sure they're are plenty of each.

Ken responded:

Some people when confronted for stealing do try to manipulate (using race card included) to get out of a situation. I've seen it myself. People are capable of being prejudiced regardless of their race or background even towards their own social or ethnic group.

Also, I'm sure if someone did a study of the shoplifters, it probably is higher within specific ethnic groups. Again, the sentence in the paragraph that appeared in today's column appeared too black and white for a very gray issue.


As for consolidating the two parks' Lost & Found departments, a cast member provided:

Currently the plan is NOT for attractions to have to "ferry" the day-of Lost & Found items to the centralized location at the Main Entry Plaza, but instead there will be a drop-off bin behind City Hall, not too far away from the old Disneyland Lost & Found.

City Hall and Guest Relations Lobby cast members won't have any extra duties—anybody asking about their lost item will be sent to Lost & Found at the Main Entry Plaza (they have to go out there anyway to leave the park). There will be a designated Guest Relations "runner" to transport items from each park's day-of drop-off locations to Lost & Found, only adding a single cast member shift to the consolidated Lost & Found's staffing budget.

Money is being saved because you're taking a full staff for two locations, combining them, and operating the new location with about 60% the combined labor hours. I can see why management is addressing that area as a cost-saving device.

Plus, if you could see how filthy the back of Disneyland's Lost & Found is, you'd want out of there too! As it contains many items of value (lost cameras, jewelry, clothing, merchandise, wallets, etc.), it is a secured location overnight and therefore does not get any cleaning at all. Even the perennial Disneyland L&F ladies are looking forward to the move to the nice, clean facility!

If you ask me, it's a much better system from an operational viewpoint; however, I will admit that there is an element of guest inconvenience present. Simply put, it's easier to stop by Main Street or the Golden Gate Bridge during the day to check on lost things, not outside the park. But for those calling to report or check on their items, and especially for those coming from the outside (without an additional ticket) to pick up their items, moving Lost & Found to the Main Entry Plaza does make sense.


Alas, every silver cloud must have a black lining. Critics even took issue with last week's mention of strong crowds at both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. A cast member reported:

All My Children actress Terri Ivens, chatting with diners. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix
All My Children actress Terri Ivens, chatting with diners. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Was told today that the soap star promotion was a big success in drawing people into DCA. The only problem was all the fans were too busy staring at the stars to ride the rides, shop the shops, or even rest in the restaurants!

Even though the paid attendance met favorably with expectations, the total financial intake was merely an average day! Many of the merchandise crew spent the day twiddling their thumbs waiting for customers. Screamin' ran with only two trains (standard minimum) due to lack of riders.

Perhaps DCA could finally become successful by pulling out all the attractions and permanently installing Meet-and-Greets with the cast of General Hospital.


For a change, instead of ending the column with a reader's complaint about cast members, we'll sign off with a couple of cast members complaining about a reader.

A Disney World cast member wrote:

Reader Mike in your April 8 column was right in only one respect: you should write a third volume of Mouse Tales. They make for very fun reading.

As for the rest of this guy's comments, all I can say is give me a break! This guy is so petty and nit-picking. If he has such BAD experiences with Disney Guest Service, then he should just stay home.

Good Guest Service is not at all easy to provide to the "know-it-all" guest like him. In fact, it's impossible. And, he isn't a guest; he is a customer.

I just had to get that off my chest. Dealing with guests like him is simply a complete nightmare.

I would be happier if he went to Knott's Berry Farm.

Thanks for letting me vent.


A Disneyland Resort employee joined in:

I couldn't help but respond to a few of one of your reader's posts of today, April 8. Here were his comments:

1. "We bought a brick outside the gate. Went to find it and had misplaced the location. Asked Guest Relations for help and they directed us to a pay phone and told us to call an 800 number. Thanks for the help, Disney!"

Guest Relations has zero access whatsoever for location of bricks. We have a map of section locations, and that is it. That is why guests are provided their exact location when they receive their certificate. Brick sales are actually handled through DelivEars, our mail-order group.

Yes, I agree it would be nice if we had access to all that information, but for now, the only thing we have to combat the question "Where is my brick?" is the telephone number.

3. "Did you know that DCA sells postcards… they even have a mailbox to send them… but they do NOT sell postage stamps? I just found that one out the hard way the other day. Their answer was go across the street to Disneyland!"

Stamps can also be purchased inside of the Grand Californian Hotel. Yes, it is unfortunate that [there isn't] a stamp machine inside DCA, but I personally don't ever mind being given an excuse to go into the Grand.

4. "Spotted Eisner in the park at the beginning of December on Main Street with a group of what appeared to be 'ordinary people.' However, at the same time he was completely unapproachable. The usual crowd control folks around to maintain his environment. To make matters worse, he proceeds to take this group of people backstage of the fire station to what I am going to assume was a personal tour of Walt's apartment. A week prior I attended a special event at which we were given an exclusive peek at it. We were told that this unique opportunity would not be commoditized as they wish to respect the dignity of Walt's Apartment."

Main St. Fire Station

Walt's apartment [above the Main St. Fire Station] is now used for very special occasions or people. It is remarkably rare for someone outside of the company to be allowed up there. There are several tours that are being developed right now in Guest Relations; however, none of them will be including a trip to the Apartment.

There is a sense of respect about the place, and it is felt that visitors should be kept to a minimum, so as to keep the place from falling apart. I will admit it is a bit surreal to sit on Walt's couch, or handle some of the authentic items still in the apartment. If people really want in the apartment, casting is on the corner of Ball Road and Cast Place. Just pick the right department!

I've learned a lot of the dealings of the company working at the Resort, and there is usually an even amount of good versus the bad. With that, for every bad action I see by a cast member, I see 30 guests come in and lie, cheat, and steal their way through the parks. This is something I could write my own book about, and I think it unfortunate that not only has the quality of casting gone down, but there has been an even downgrade in the quality of our guests.

You should hear the story of the annual passholders who came in to City Hall on September 12 seeking compensation for the parks being closed on September 11. After all, they are supposed to be able to come every day of the year. Right.

You're right. As "cast members were so rude to me" complaints go, these don't sound like things to really get worked up about. Unfortunately, I think that in the past Disney spoiled us so much with extraordinary service, that we feel cheated with ordinary service. Every cast member should welcome us with open arms and treat us like royalty, no matter what the circumstances. Right.

I agree there's probably much more good than bad when it comes to working for or especially visiting Disneyland. But as you must know if you've ever worked the desk at City Hall, people like to complain a lot more than they like to compliment.


You can write to David atthis link..

An Update, plus Reader Mail

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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