by Brian Bennett
this special edition of "Notes From the World"
I'm going to share some of the feedback that I've received
from the piece that was recently published on the cutbacks
Take note, this is NOT
the most pleasant Notes From the World piece that I've
ever done. There is a lot of strong criticism
of Walt Disney World here, so if you're planning a trip
of your own, read on... but if you're just trying to
enjoy some Disney Magic, I'd suggest you read my old
Favorite Things at Walt Disney World" piece
| Werner writes:
I do think that Disney should have noted the staggered Epcot
hours instead of simply saying "Epcot, 10am-9pm. We've
seldom used early entry ourselves, but I know that for some
guests (early risers), early entry is the major reason for staying
on-site. At a time when on-site hotel bookings are down, it
seems like a poor business decision to discourage -- rather
than to encourage -- on-site hotel bookings. If the lack of
early entry causes WDW to have 100 fewer occupied rooms per
night at an average of $200 per room, that's $20,000 -- which
would pay for a lot of part- timers to operate a handful attractions
at one early entry park per day.
|I heartily agree. I don't think anyone at WDW
is really thinking through the long-term implications of what
they're doing, though. If they were, they'd realize that the
changes are only going to cause lasting harm to their reputation
for great customer service. :(
| Another MousePlanet reader writes:
Not only are employees being asked to take a cut in Orlando,
but also in Southern California. This is very upsetting to me
when I read in the paper at the same time that Michael Eisner
can turn around and give himself a bonus of over 87 million
dollars, while he is asking his valued employees to live on
less. Walt I am sure is disgusted with this act! Where are the
family values of the company? I guess they don't exist any longer...
Maybe the public is finally catching on to how greedy Mr. Eisner
has become and are spending their money at better Amusement
|Strong words. :)
I have to take exception to your point about folks "spending
their money at better Amusement Parks." I really
don't think you can find a better park than the Disney parks.
I just wish Disney wasn't so hell-bent on operating them in
such a mediocre fashion.
|Stephen writes: Hi
Brian. Just thought I would let you read my email to Guest
Services regarding my now canceled WDW trip. I'm peeved. Can
you tell? Thanks as always!
When word first hit the Internet
yesterday morning, I thought, "No. This isn't true.
They would never do that." But, then last night, when
I got home. I called and found out that, yes, it was true.
Disney is suspending Early Entry and E-Ride nights. Which
leaves me with the question. What about my November trip
to WDW that I had scheduled for the past 6 months? I have
visited 'the World' 14 times now. But, I have never stayed
on site. But, now, I have a nice job with a nice salary,
so I figured, what the heck, I'll spring for the extra dough
and stay on site. But, why? Why should I stay on site, now?
What's the benefit? A Character Caravan? No. That has no
interest to me. I want in the parks. I want my perks for
staying with you guys. I deserve it. So, I made my first
phone call of the day and canceled my reservations at the
resort, thinking that I could very easily stay somewhere
off site for 30 bucks or less, since I would be spending
most of my day in the parks themselves...
...that was until I heard the other
news: the abbreviated operating hours. I was planning a
5 day 'world' wind trip to visit all the parks and all attractions.
I was planning on purchasing an annual pass so I could visit
next summer, as well. I was planning on getting to the parks
when they opened, with Early Entry of course, and staying
till the closed, or after with the E-Ride nights. But, not
now. Let me ask something. What's the point in visiting
a world-class theme park if they are only open from 9-6.
(do you guys realize that you are closing the Magic Kingdom
before it even gets dark? I guess that's a way on cutting
electrical costs!) What's the point in visiting Epcot for
the Food and Wine Festival if its only open from 12 to 7?
What about the Animal Kingdom? Why would I visit when the
animals are already taking naps at 9 am when the park opens?
So, yesterday, my second phone call
was to Southwest Airlines and requested a credit toward
my flight to Orlando. My Disney, trip, that I had planned
for the past 6 months, is gone. You guys killed it. Now,
I know what you're going to say. We are experiencing an
economic downturn. We've been attacked by terrorists. We're
at war. You know what? It's really easy to blame the events
of September 11. And, I'm sure that has a great deal with
your need to cut costs. But, face it, you guys were cutting
costs waaay before September 11. You should have been spending
money instead of curbing costs. I'm not really sure why
I had planned a trip to WDW. It sure as heck wasn't because
you guys had 3 new parades. Parades don't drive people to
a theme park. Attractions do. And, I'm talking about exciting
attractions. Not carnival stuff like the new Aladdin ride.
But, the cost cuts continue. Not only are you guys not building
any new attractions, you're closing them. Have you looked
at Tomorrowland lately? You now have 4 attractions closed.
With no replacements in sight. I don't think you've built
anything at all new in the Magic Kingdom since Splash Mountain.
Mission Space at Epcot will be cool. But you had to bulldoze
Horizons to build it.
Anyway, I don't think what you're
doing is right. For all that the Disney company has done
right in the past, this is overshadowing it all. And, especially
during this 100 Years of Magic Celebration. I made one more
phone call yesterday... to the mail order number. I ordered
the 100 Years of Magic CD. I had planned on buying this
CD when I was down there. I don't know why I still want
it, but I do. Its expensive, for a CD, and I'm sure it has
music that I've already heard. But, now I don't have any
reservations about purchasing it. You guys have saved me
lots of money. So, now instead of the $2000 I had budged
for my trip, all I spent was $20. How's *that* for cost
I so wish that you didn't feel the need to change your plans.
However, if enough people do exactly that, perhaps WDW will
reconsider their actions.
Remember, Caveat Emptor.
|Fellow MousePlaneteer Mike Scopa added:
I understand the reasoning behind the
changes but I'm wondering how many guests will be influenced
into not going down because of the cutbacks.
You hit the nail right on the head.
I myself purposely visit during the
Summer months because everything is at peak. They may be cutting
their nose off to spite their face.
It would be wise for them to publicly
state these changes are temporary.
|...and I think that Mike hit the nail on the head
with this one.
|Kathy writes: Hi
Brian. Just read the information regarding new park hours,
attractions that are now closed, and other miscellaneous changes.
What is the reason for the Carousel of Progress closing?
We are going to WDW on October 31,
2001 (attending Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party) for
4 nights, a 4 night Disney cruise, and 2 post-cruise nights.
The resort that we are staying at is Port Orleans Riverside.
Any suggestions on some perks that
we might be able to get for all this inconvenience?
We will be staying in two rooms, one
for myself and my 9-year-old son and one for my daughter,
son-in-law, and two granddaughters. My son and I are flying
from New York and will meet my daughter and her family there
(now residents of Florida). The trip has been a year in the
making and we choose this time of year because it is a quiet
time, less congested.
It just seems unfair that so many things
have been cut back. We didn't get any real bargains
on the rates and now to cut back on things just doesn't seem
We almost cancelled the trip, living
in New York we are very close to all of the recent events,
but with much thought I decided that we need to be together
as a family and enjoy each other and be thankful for what
we have. So, we decided to go forward with the vacation.
When I called Disney to make inquiries about attendance and
ship upgrades, they tell me that everything is full, no cancellations
and all that stuff.
If that's so, why all the cut backs
at our expense?
We try to make this a yearly trip so
that we can spend time with my daughter. We did the
same trip last year at Thanksgiving time and everything was
Any suggestions you might have would
be great. I feel like we paid good money and feel that
had been promised so WDW should do something. Any way
that we might be able to get some of the benefits of the resort
magic plan (flex features)? We are booked with the cruise
and just took the room and length-of-stay passes. My
daughter is a seasonal pass holder and they just took the
room, no package.
Thanks so much for your suggestions
and any assistance that you can provide me.
As I mentioned, we are from New York
and understand fully what September 11th has done to this
country. I almost cancelled this trip, but felt that
our family needed to be together -- and what better place
The Carousel of Progress was closed due to the high cost
of maintaining the attraction. Frankly, I don't blame WDW
for the decision... if something had been brought in to replace
it in the park lineup (but that hasn't happened).
Regarding your thoughts and questions about "Any suggestions
on some perks that we might be able to get for all this inconvenience,"
you'd really have to take that up with guest relations at
WDW. I can't speak for the company, and really have no motivation
to report this information other than my desire that WDW reconsider
the changes and restore everything that they did that negatively
impacts customer satisfaction.
You may want to contact WDW directly with your concerns.
Perhaps, if they hear from enough of us, they'll reconsider
some of these decisions.
Also, regarding any statements that you've been told about
reservation levels being normal and so on, I'm not in a position
to deny that the cast member is telling the truth. The Disney
Cruiseline may very well be running a fairly normal schedule.
However, if you don't personally believe that to be the case,
you could always threaten to cancel your reservation. But
of course, then you'd have to be willing to follow-through
with the cancellation if you're not satisfied with whatever
answers you're given.
Don't forget... Caveat Emptor.
|Rick writes: Brian,
I hate to sound like a broken record, but thanks again for your
recent MousePlanet article. I like your fair and balanced approach
that presents the facts (the good and the bad) along with a
minimum of emotional opinion (unlike some other parts of the
I have a question about one of the
cutbacks you mentioned. You said that Mannequins at Pleasure
Island will not be reopened as planned. The latest information
I have is that the reopening date of October 19th (which was
never realistic to begin with) has been slipped to December
1st. Is that what you mean by "won't reopen as planned"
or have you heard something that leads you to believe that
Mannequins won't open again at ALL?
Your bottom line that people go to
Disney parks for the service and that cutbacks that hurt service
are short-sighted is right on the mark. Yes, I'm sure they
save a lot of direct labor costs by not offering Magic Mornings,
but have they really considered how much that benefit means,
especially to their repeat guests? Things like that, charging
for valet parking, etc., make it harder and harder for people
to justify paying the premium prices to stay on property.
Oh, well. You and I see eye-to-eye on this issue, and either
we're wrong, i.e. the profits will keep rolling in, or we're
right and management will have a slew of excuses why, none
of which addresses their poor decisions.
|Thanks for your note, Rick.
Regarding Mannequins, I have no knowledge that the December
delayed-opening will be delayed any further. Perhaps the delay
wasn't even due to the recent cutbacks, but due to some technical
issues related to the rehab. That's why I didn't expand on
the comment on my page... I didn't want to be inflammatory
on something that may be completely unrelated.
As far as your other comments... I agree that we're in agreement.
:) I think the cuts will simply erode the strong customer
loyalty that the company has enjoyed over the years... I've
seen it happen at General Motors (where I used to work) and
Disney is going down the same path. Vacations are a big investment
and planning for a trip is a series of emotional decisions
(at least to some extent). Besides, the turn-around from dissing
your loyal customer base can take years and years and years.
|John shared this note that he sent to WDW guest
To the Walt Disney World Resort Management
I am writing to express my immense
displeasure at the recent announcement you would be cutting
hours and shutting down rides in light of the current economic
situation your company faces.
I am sure I am in agreement with
many of your guests that we understand the need to reduce
costs. However, the recent cutbacks you have made SERIOUSLY
IMPEDE ON THE SATISFACTION OF YOUR GUESTS.
I had the pleasure of visiting Walt
Disney World from September 19 to 24. My traveling partner
and I were shocked at the low level of attendance... but
also absolutely DELIGHTED at the level of service we received,
the fact that all rides and attractions were operating,
and that park hours were almost normal. We absolutely had
the best time of our lives there.
Now, however, we will immediately
reconsider our plans to revisit the Resort in December or
January. Clearly, Walt Disney World does NOT care about
the satisfaction of its guests. We pay thousands of dollars
at your Resort, plus thousands more (sometimes) to fly to
visit you. To reduce the hours, shut down attractions and
basically tell us you can't meet our expectations is an
enormous disappointment. By taking this action, you may
very well have sealed the short-term fate of the Resort
-- people will NOT VISIT if they cannot get their money's
I implore you to reconsider your
decisions. You may think attractions like "Carousel
of Progress," "The Living Seas" and others
are worth closing down early or altogether; many guests
would argue with that thinking (me among them)! You may
believe you are doing "the right thing" for The
Walt Disney Company, but in fact you are doing exactly the
WRONG thing. You are preventing guests from enjoying your
Resort thoroughly -- which means they will, like me, not
return, or perhaps not visit at all in the first place.
Put yourself in the shoes of guests who have traveled across
the country or around the globe only to find attractions
closed, parks shut down early, and restaurants not operating.
The message you are sending both for Disney AND for the
country overall is a horrible one.
You have already shut down many
attractions that were apparently "too expensive"
to operate or not meeting your goals. Please, please, PLEASE
stop these actions. Operate Walt Disney World normally,
even if it costs you money in the short-run. Long term,
the decision will be one you will NOT regret!
In the meantime, however, I do regret
that I will cancel plans to visit your Resort until I can
be assured I will have the level of service, entertainment
and magic that I used to always expect from The Walt Disney
Company and Walt Disney World.
I'd be curious to hear what response you get.
I'm still waiting for them to call me back regarding my snail
mail letter that I sent them several weeks ago.
|Joe shared this note that he sent to WDW guest
Hello, I am in the midst of planning
a vacation to Disney World for the fall of 2002. I am very
disheartened by the recent announcements of cutbacks taking
place at the park. I have listened to many wonderful recounts
of peoples visits to Disney World and was counting on having
a wonderful trip with my family. This will be our first
trip to Disney World.
As you know, a vacation at Disney
World is not the most inexpensive vacation to be had. Most
of my friends and family who have gone to Disney World say
that paying a bit more for a vacation at Disney World is
well worth it because of the magical atmosphere there. I
hope that these cutbacks are not going to have a negative
effect on this. I will be keeping my eye on the various
Disney World web sites looking for feedback. So far, what
I've read is not good. It is not too late to plan a vacation
I'm glad you contacted WDW directly with your concerns. Perhaps,
if they hear from enough of us, they'll reconsider some of
|Judith writes: Brian,
after reading your article today on WDW cutbacks I have a question.
Is WDW still planning on holding Mickey's Very Merry Christmas
Party? We have tickets for December. Thanks for your great articles.
As far as I know, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is
still on. The Party is a separate ticketed event that, I'm
sure, meets financial requirements (i.e. the money coming
in is greater than the cost of running the event by whatever
percentage that Disney uses as a threshold.)
| A WDW Cast Member Responded,
Brian, I did read (your piece on the cutbacks). actually it
was the first that I had heard about the character caravan (but
I'm not really in an area that would get this info first-hand
There are some (other cuts) that I
have heard being bounced around-but nothing concrete and nothing
that I would dare repeat.
Your take on the situation was pretty
good as well.
I really do not have anything else
to add other than the higher ups are really doing this to
ultimately save peoples' jobs. I honestly believe them. They
are feeling this pinch too.
It's a tough balance between the guests,
the cast, and the share holders-- you have to give everyone
what they need and want, but how do you do it w/o having one
of them suffer? I don't know and I wouldn't even begin to
be able to start.
You give the guests everything that
they need- and in theory- they will spend more $$. but to
to this you have to work the cast-- but if you over work them,
then they will not treat the guests well. You don't work them
enough-- and they will not treat the guests well or they will
take out their frustrations on other cast members-- and then
they will not treat the guests well. There are 1000's of scenarios
that could play out with the guests, cast, and shareholders...
and they have to find the one that will work best for everyone
(or that they feel will work best for everyone-- that is a
whole different story too).
They are in a tough position right
now. I do not envy them at all.
Below is a statement made by one of
the Exec VP's in response to the article in the Sentinel yesterday.
"OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN!"
. . . This was one of the songs that put Britney Spears
on the map as a famous recording artist. I think the Orlando
Sentinel could adopt this song as its theme song. Over and
over again, they just can’t seem to get the facts straight
or the whole story accurate and balanced when they write
something about us.
On Monday they put on the front page
of the Business section that we had "eliminated Surprise
Mornings in the Park" . . . but failed to report that
we had added the Character Caravan that comes to each resort
several times a week so that our Characters can visit our
Guests where they are staying. Our research shows that this
is more important to the majority of our Resort Guests than
Surprise Mornings. The first reviews of the new Character
Caravan by our Guests is very positive, and we will continue
to make it better and better every day.
Well, this morning they OOPS’d AGAIN
(on the front page no less). The headline says, "Disney
Asks Workers To Cut Hours To Save Money." The article
says that thousands of salaried workers at the Walt Disney
World® Resort were asked to cut their workweek to 32 hours
as the Company stepped up cost-cutting efforts. The article
goes on to say that the move will mean 20 percent less in
their paychecks for 7,400 workers at Disney’s parks, hotels,
and administrative offices.
Another paragraph in the article
says that the Company’s higher-paid employees join the ranks
of the attraction’s 40,000 hourly workers, who have seen
their work schedules sharply reduced since the September
11 terrorism attacks.
They go on to say that our Company
laid off 1000 workers earlier this year. The reality is
that the vast majority of that worldwide reduction was accomplished
through a voluntary program that gave Cast Members the opportunity
to make choices that were best for them and to receive a
generous separation package.
Now let’s talk about the hours .
. . The TRUTH is that some hours have been reduced for some
front-line Cast Members, and salaried Cast Members will
forego a merit increase this year. We have developed several
plans where salaried Cast Members and Office and Technical
Cast Members can volunteer to work a reduced workweek and
take the corresponding reduced salary "If They Would
Like To." We have a lot of Cast Members who are interested
in this kind of arrangement for many personal reasons. This
program is in the final stages of being developed, it is
a completely voluntary program, it is temporary, and no
one has or will be forced to do it.
The TRUTH is that we have adjusted
park hours and some show schedules to match demand--just
like we always have for the last 30 years. These were prudent
decisions. I am sure that any responsible company is working
on matching their cost structure to the demand for their
products. Nowhere in this article did it comment about the
things we have added this year, such as four new parades,
the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream attraction, the Playhouse
Disney shows, and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat Icon.
We have a strategy to "MAINTAIN
JOBS" and not to lay off large numbers of Cast Members
who would find it very difficult to find a job in Central
Florida right now.
This would have been the easy way
to cut costs. We did not do that as many companies did.
This did entail reducing some hours for some Cast Members
and foregoing merit increases for salaried Cast Members.
This did mean tightening up our expenses, and this did mean
taking a balanced look at everything we do. So far we have
been very successful!
This could have been the story; but
instead the story was a story full of mistakes and written
in a way to be negative without the facts and without reporting
the real story.
I wish each one of you could have
been in the planning meetings the last few weeks to see
the sensitivity that was taken by the Steering Committee
to make balanced decisions that were thoughtful about our
Guest Experience, Cast Excellence, and responsibility to
achieve the right business results. This is extremely tricky
and difficult work, and I think that we have accomplished
our goal for all three of these important objectives. Those
three objectives must be totally connected. It would have
been nice if we had not had to make any changes; but that
is not reality in these times we are in. Trust me when I
tell you that we did a great job for our Guests, for YOU,
and for our Company.
I received several voice mails this
morning asking me why we did not tell the salaried Cast
that they were getting a 20 percent reduction in salary
before it was reported in the Orlando Sentinel. The reason
is that the story in the Orlando Sentinel is not true.
I have told you before not to believe
everything that you read in the newspaper, hear on the radio,
or see on the Internet because it is so often reported without
all of the facts; and frequently it is reported in a way
to misrepresent the facts.
NOW YOU KNOW THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
STORY. Hang in there, everyone. We will get through this
together. When you want the truth, turn to The Main Street
Diary. . . . Lee
| Thanks for the response! I appreciate it very,
|In a post on the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks,
Glenn made these comments (Note, he did not email this to
me, I found it on the newsgroup and asked -- and received --
his permission to post it here.):
In light of all the cutbacks we've
seen so far, and with no indication that Disney is finished
with the scissors, I offer the following predictions as
to what cost-cutting measures may be implemented next:
- Snow White will only have 6 dwarfs
instead of 7. Sleepy and Sneezy will merge to form a new
- Since Disney can no longer afford
a huge cathedral, The Hunchback of Notre Dame will become
the Hunchback of Haines City Presbyterian.
- Goofy's name will be changed to
- Spaceship Earth will be changed
to A Really Nice Airplane.
- "Pirate" of the Caribbean
- Small Rumbling Hill Railroad
- Timekeeper will be replaced by
- Rock & Roller Coaster starring
the Group That Sang "Macarena."
- Rhode Island Smith Epic Stunt
- "Beauty and the Beast"
will be replaced by "Sort of Cute and the Guy With
the Beard". Lumiere will be replaced by a large cigarette
lighter, and Cogsworth with a cheap watch.
- At the Magic Kingdom: Swiss Family
Outhouse, Haunted Apartment, Hall of Candidates, It's
a Small Attraction, Aladdin's Magic Throwrugs, Mad Warm
Water Party, Carousel of Recession
- At Epcot: Two Dragons Restaurant,
El Sewer del Tiempo, Pancreas Command, Honey I Shrunk
- At Disney/MGM: Sounds Expensive,
Short Trip of the Really Little Mermaid, Tower of Uneasiness,
The Lousy Movie Ride, Studios Pothole Tram Tour
- At the Animal Kingdom: The Shrub
of Life, It's Tough to be a Multi-Million Dollar Company,
- Resorts: Fishing Boat & Sand
Bar Club, All-Star Magazines, Bored-Walk
- Trains will be removed from the
Monorails, but guests will be permitted to walk the tracks
Note: Please do not interpret this
bizarre attempt at humor as an indication that I do not
like WDW or that I am upset with the company. I love the
place, and do not grudge them for making adjustments they
feel necessary. I'm just a guy wondering, like a lot of
people, what the future holds for our favorite destination
(which I still plan to visit this December). This is nothing
more than one crazy person's imagination going a little
bonkers, that's all. God bless America and WDW!
Y'all have fun, now!
May WDW un-do the damage and return to the splendor that
made it the greatest vacation destination in the world (the
real world, I mean)!
Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback
for the WDW Trip Planning Guide! Feed free to send more questions
or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner
Click here to see
some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!
here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive, including all of the previously
published "Notes From the World" pieces!
always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added
form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased
dramatically! I do my best to answer each and every question personally,
but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.
The question that one person asks might very well be the question that
someone else is wondering about. Thus this page!
reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question
someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!