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A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Adventureland is CLOSED
Walt Disney World may have reopened TimeKeeper, but prospects are dimmer for the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland

Sooner or later, all the bad ideas from Disney World seem to filter over to Disneyland. Think the CDS rotation system. The GEMS scheduling system. Innoventions.

Now Disneyland has returned the favor; Florida's Magic Kingdom has picked up one of Anaheim's notoriously guest-unfriendly practices: opening certain attractions an hour or more after the park opens and closing them well before the park closes.

Mickey's ToonTown now opens at 10 a.m., an hour after the rest of the Magic Kingdom opens. The Carousel of Progress only operates from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and Time Keeper, until it reopened earlier this week, had been shut down entirely for months. (The high-capacity but lowly attended Tomorrowland attraction had been planned to reopen during the 100 Years of Magic Celebration, but was called into duty early, evidently due to a few other nearby rides being in rehab.)

Shorter hours at select attractions of "more limited appeal" have helped keep labor costs down during a slower-than-usual summer.

But, the practice may be getting out of hand. Starting October 1 (also the beginning of the 100 Years promo), the Magic Kingdom will open at 9 a.m., but all of Adventureland will remain closed until 10 a.m. No Jungle Cruise. No Enchanted Tiki Room. No Swiss Family Treehouse. No Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride.

"I can't imagine what kind of sonic boom it will set off when word of this gets out," said one Magic Kingdom manager. "Opening cast members will be losing an hour's pay on the average. Gee, the thanks that we get for earning our seniority…"

The choice of Adventureland is a calculated one. Adventureland is located at the far left corner of the park, so its closure doesn't create the awkward sight you might have if a more central area like, say, Fantasyland were roped off.

In addition, the other main lands (Fantasy, Tomorrow, Frontier) feature at least one of the park's most popular attractions and, if closed, would likely be missed more by guests and generate more complaints.

All of Adventureland already sits vacant during the three-hour E-Ticket Nights, when visitors can pay extra to ride about 10 of the more popular Magic Kingdom attractions after regular operating hours.

Disney World probably assumes that guests won't suffer since they'll have a dozen hours to visit Adventureland later in the day.

But the closure goes beyond depriving someone of starting their morning with a vigorous climb up the Treehouse. By closing a big block of rides during regular operating hours, larger crowds are deflected to other areas of the park, increasing wait times at all other attractions.

Sure, you may argue, but the first hour of the Magic Kingdom is typically its lightest attended. All the visitors in Adventureland between 9 and 10 a.m. probably wouldn't even fill up the queue at Splash Mountain.

The point is that many guests arrive at the park before it opens because of the lighter crowds. Disney realizes this. That's why they admit on-property hotel guests an hour early into a different park each day—a perk obviously devalued by making fewer attractions available in the early morning.

Shuttered facilities also are bad show. In the first years of Disneyland, Walt Disney forbid food and merchandise lessees from closing up their shops early because he disliked the look of closed facilities. In fact, one of the first lessees to vacate was the proprietor of a baby shop in the castle, because he refused to stay open on Christmas.

"I always believed that when the park was open, everybody should be open," said Bo Foster, who operated the Sunkist Citrus House on Main Street for 30 years. "It wouldn't look right if some were closed. Those days are gone. There's nothing done just for show."

For years, the parks in Anaheim and Orlando have opened a handful of less popular attractions late, closed them early or kept them closed all day—or even all winter. After all, what's the use of playing the Tiki Room to crowds of two when there won't be a wait at noon?

But, in the fall of 1998, the practice became more widespread and extended to signature attractions at Disneyland. The park began staggering opening and closing times at more than 20 attractions, including the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Railroad and Autopia. Customers were furious, forcing management, as a token gesture, to reinstate hours on some attractions.

Most of the criticism was directed at Disneyland's then-president, Paul Pressler, who now oversees the Florida parks, as well. Could Disneyland's old villain be behind the increasingly frequent closures in Orlando?

Fumed one Magic Kingdom cast member: "The Disney Company has enough money to buy Fox Family channel, implement CDS, and construct a new FastPass department, but it doesn't have enough money to run Adventureland for an hour. Such a sad state of affairs. And I have heard that Adventureland can blame Mr. Pressler for this one."


You can write to David atthis link..

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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