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A behindtheears look at Disneyland
|Pineapples from Heaven|
Doles Out Dollars For Upgrades
In the coming months, sharp-eyed visitors may notice upgrades at attractions throughout Disneyland, and who do they have to thank? The fine folks at the Dole Food Co.
Dole, as most know, is the longtime sponsor of the Enchanted Tiki Room, arguably the most neglected attraction at Disneyland. Next month marks the 25th anniversary of Dole's sponsorship of the attractionand at long last, Tiki's deterioration has come to Dole's attention. In September, as recounted in a recent DIG Update (contained in the sidebar to the right), Dole executives paid a long-overdue visit to the park to see how their millions of dollars were being used to enhance their corporate image. They couldn't help but notice the broken animatronics and practically un-viewable pre-show Dole commercial.
Unfortunately, Facilities doesn't have the budget or manpower to properly maintain the attraction. "As for the show itself," confesses a maintenance worker, "we are out of spares. There are no spare birds to replace those that don't work well, there are no spare speakers to replace those destroyed by a power dip, no spare Tiki pole so they can be cycled out for repairs, etc. We are in sad shape."
He adds: "There is almost no support from other crafts that used to actually cover the birds; this was a specialty job. We used to have a taxidermist on staff to cover the birds, and when his position was eliminated, the Staff Shop took that job over. Now, they have no time to support us, and their staff got cut back, so they have no people to support us, either."
The next time you visit the park, check out the doors of the projection booth, located in the Garden behind the juice bar, which hang perilously on their hinges. Note the bamboo trim on the booth, and on the walls of the Tiki building itself, especially by the wheelchair lift over by the Tiki Gods Pele and Ngendi. Some of the visibly missing pieces were vandal damage from Grad Nites, but most are the victim of neglect.
The entire entrance courtyard, called the Garden, may be a disaster- waiting-to-happen. (see below) Years ago, maintenance strung taut cable between the Tiki building and the posts that run along the perimeter of the Garden, then hung banners on the cables, hoping to cut down on the sunlight that made it difficult to see the pre-show Dole commercial. Earlier this year, during park operating hours, several rot-ravaged posts gave way, causing a large portion of the Garden set to collapse.
The Maintenance Response Team was instructed to somehow prop up the facade, but, to their credit, insisted that it was too much of a safety hazard to be allowed to remain. They removed it that night, and the Mill hurriedly constructed the Western-style fence that currently graces the Garden. They re-hung the banners, but know the solution is temporary, since the structures that remain also are decayed.
Besides the unfavorable viewing conditions, Dole's pre-show film also is difficult to see because it's a battered, old 16mm print run on ancient projection machinery. "Our last print is still in service long past its normal life," a cast member admits. "It's been spliced so many times that it's a hazard to itself. We do have a test print made up of Mylar, but it's 30 feet too short to use as is. We can't make it longer, and it would take two guys all night in cramped and uncomfortable positions working in almost no light to reset the loops in the cabinetthink of this like a big 8-track cartridge. We are told that we don't have the people or time to deal with this problem right now. So it sits."
Dole's displeasure with the condition of the Tiki Roomand in particular the pre-show commercialgot Disney thinking about its other sponsors, as well. Many of the other attractions with paid sponsorsFedEx's Space Mountain, Energizer's Star Tours, Innoventionsalso utilize video monitors.
So, in early December, a couple of maintenance workers joined an entourage from WDI to inspect the video equipment on attractions throughout the park, primarily in Tomorrowland. Reportedly, none of the equipment passed the technical inspection. Balance, brightness and contrast were all out of whack. "Technical specifications were so far away from where they were supposed to be," a co-worker revealed. "One specification has to do with what's called 'black level' or 'pedestal;' this is how bright the screen is with no input signal. Most of the monitors practically glowed!"
That the equipment all received failing marks came as no surprise, considering the Video Shop was one of the first things disbanded when T. Irby took over the Facilities Division in 1997. The Video Shop consisted of two full-time technicians, who performed most of the work, including all repairs and calibration. The rest of the Sound Department did the basic field work, including installation, removal and simple adjustments. Said a former soundman: "We were to act as the eyes and ears, so to speak, and when something was beyond what we could do, then the expert would come out and deal with it."
Under Irby, broken equipment was to be shipped out for repairs, and replaced if the repairs were deemed too expensive. So, to save money, equipment was rarely shipped out. It was considered operable and left in service as long as there was any kind of a recognizable image--even if that image was green, the most common failure mode.
In addition, most of the monitors in use became obsolete, and there were few models that could be used to replace them. The monitors over the loading doors at Star Tours, for example, were Sony models that the manufacturer stopped making about 1992. Broken monitors had to be replaced with Sharp models, because that's all that could be found to fit the space. "Now," says the maintenance worker, "the Sharp monitors are obsolete, and we know of no available unit of any kind that will fit. There just aren't too many 15-inch monitors out there anymore!"
The eye-opening maintenance tour convinced WDI to fund replacement of video equipment parkwide. Reportedly, all video equipment will be replaced at Space Mountain, Star Tours and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (including the wide screen in the theater). "At Innoventions," the cast member says, "they found some problems, but nothing that couldn't be handled in a routine manner, assuming management was really doing their jobs. If enough money remains, Disney Story and the Main Street Cinema just MIGHT get new equipment as well. Only Autopia, whose video system is still fairly new, doesn't require equipment replacement, but it will be expected that it will all be tuned up as it's already showing some signs of neglect."
There is also speculation that the Video Shop may be re-created. But, as one realist surmises, "since manpower is tight, the test and repair equipment is long gone and the space once used by the Video Shop is now offices, I'm not holding my breath. Besides, they would have to work day shift, and T is adamantly opposed to anyone else getting off third shift."
Hopefully, the dollars will spread at least to restore the rest of the Tiki Room, to keep Dole from flying the coop. But, again the insider warns: "Don't hold your breathPressler hates anything that moves, unless it's a cash drawer. He's still in charge of the theme parks, and he'd turn Tiki into a juice bar tomorrow if he could!"
You can write to David atthis link..
From Al Lutz's Disneyland Information Guide update of 12/8:
Dole's Tiki Adventure
Sometimes you gotta wonder
So Disneyland wants to make sure Dole not only renews their sponsorship for the Enchanted Tiki Room, but also expands it to host fresh fruit carts at DCA. (I guess it looks pretty barren out there with only all those margarita and beer carts )
Turns out the head honchos from Dole are just across the street at some kind of convention, and the park gives them a tour of DCA, and then the beloved Tiki Room.
The execs in charge of wooing the sponsors feel it's kind of embarrassing to show Dole a Tiki Room that keeps going down (not only are a lot of the animatronics not working, but Jose has been freezing up and closing the show down). So a quick rehab is done.
The execs also feel that Dole may not like the fact the attraction only opens for a few hours each day either. So on the day they expected the Dole folks to walk through - they grabbed someone from the Jungle Cruise, decked them out in a Tiki Room outfit, called foods and opened up the Pineapple bar hours earlier than usual.
The poor guy in charge of the attraction is running around sweating bullets and praying that Jose warbles and rattles on cue -and that they don't get wind that Tiki only operates for limited hours. Quickly they turn on the pre-show -and they start to run that antique Dole ad film on the screen behind the Pineapple Bar. The exec from Disney has been talking to the guys from Dole all morning about this wonderful film, and wants to show it, so he can talk them into paying for a new one.
Well the film is barely visible. It's been barely visible for years. Antique technology makes it so, and it's something in the whole Tiki setup that maintenance folks just blew off. All due to no budgets of course.
"Turn it on!" the guy in charge screams. "It IS on, you just have to walk right up to it and look at the screen, then you see it." came the reply from the employee behind the counter. Frantic flicking of the switch behind the counter by the guy in charge proves the cast member right. It is working, just no one can see it because of how dim it is and the sunlight.
The guy in charge tries to get the Disney exec to hold off a bit, just so they can miss the pre-show. Thanks to a busy day, a short walk over to the attraction is made a bit longer, and the pre-show is JUST missed by the Dole honchos.
The Dole honchos arrive -and of course they would like to see the film. The guy in charge looks like he's passing a brick, the Disney exec notices there may be a problem, and tap dances the Dole guy into the attraction promising him he would FedEx a video copy of the film to him so they can stay on time for their executive luncheon over at DCA.
Crisis averted for now.
But wait -what's this? The technology utilized for that film is antique. There's going to be no real way to make a copy of the film for the Dole honchos. Well, I guess they'll deal with that later.
Saddest part of the story -that Dole is apparently clueless about a] how badly the attraction is kept up and b] its very limited operating hours.
Happiest part of the story -well, they now know don't they?
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.
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