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MousePlanet Mailbag for March 13, 2003

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish all of them, the following may be of interest to other readers.

Feedback for David Koenig

Automobile Insurance

Expert, readers discuss dangers of Autopia

[Feedback about “Blood Alley,” David's March 4 article.]

If history is any guide, Disneyland's Autopia may be racking up a new First Aid victim nearly every day of the year.

Ride safety expert Richard Harris shared a stack of Disneyland First Aid reports he collected for a recently settled Autopia lawsuit. During the 26 days analyzed (during the middle of the remodeled Autopia's first summer), 22 First Aid reports were completed for 23 victims of rearend collisions. Twenty reports noted neck and/or back pain; two were for bumped heads.

Thirteen of the incidents were serious enough that a nurse was called to the scene. The other nine victims were walk-ins at the First Aid station.

“We will see changes on that ride in the near future,” Harris vows. “I gave [Disney] some ideas for what improvements are needed to keep the ride a safe one. First, they need safety gates. Also, a safety light — traffic lights for the loading and unloading area at each stop so when the car hits a sensor the driver will know to slow down. Also, they need to have a thicker, padded head rest. They should put more employees on the track; instead of two, you would need more like 12 employees along the track. This will slow down on the bumper to bumper rearends. Have fewer cars on the track. Train the employees to look for problems before they happen. Rotate them more often, so they don't get bored. Also, put in some TV cameras that cover the whole tracking area. With these improvements there should be fewer accidents, which means fewer lawsuits.”

Readers also weighed in on the dangers of the Autopia. Dan wrote:

Very interesting stuff you wrote about the Autopia. I always thought that it was a ticking time bomb in our litigious society. What is next, though — the vintage firetruck and bus on Main Street on busy days?

Lisa E. suggested:

A solution for the bumping of cars already exists in Tokyo Disneyland: Autopia cars are equipped with proximity sensors that basically kill the engine when a car gets too close to the car in front of it. The engine starts back up again when you press the accelerator (presuming that you are no longer too close to the vehicle in front of you). Of course, it would cost money to install these at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but it seems that the reduction of injuries or potential lawsuits would justify the expense.

Irene shared:

What memories your March 4 report regarding the safety issues for the Autopia brought back. I am a native Californian who was privileged to go to Disneyland on July 18, 1955 on the day the park opened to the public (the 17th was for press and invited guests). This was my brother's birthday and, boy, was he excited. After that day our family went at least once a year as part of our vacation. It seemed to take so long to get there from Los Angeles on the I-5 freeway.

In 1959, we went after the Matterhorn and Submarine ride opened. I have vivid memories of standing in line with my brother (who would much rather have been doing something else) to ride the Autopia in Tomorrowland. This line moved at a snail's pace but excitement was building in me as I watched the cars coming in, loading up and taking off. Part way through this wait we watched as one car did not stop in time and slammed into the back of another car where a girl about my age was. Crying, blood, panic. I can see her walking by me with parents and personnel holding a bloody cloth to her mouth because she had lost her front tooth. Well, my mother jerked me out of that line so fast. No way was I going on that dangerous ride and risk losing my front teeth. No amount of begging and pleading would change her mind, and I had to watch in tears as my older brother got to ride.

But this was nothing new to my very protective mother. I can remember being at The Pike in Long Beach and watching my dad and brother getting to go on the old wooden (rickety) roller coaster while I stood and watched with my mom. No way would she let me go. Of course when I got into my teens and early 20s I made up for this and went on all the roller coasters I wanted to.

Now fast forward to today's Autopia. A year or two ago, my daughter and I were standing on the bridge waiting to go on this new Autopia watching as guests were being loaded and unloaded. A mom got out and started walking away, paying no attention to her young daughter who also was unloading. This girl started to climb out on the wrong side and the ride attendant, a large, disgusted-looking older man, reached over and picked her up by the arm and swung her over the car and onto the platform. I can imagine this arm technique hurt her as she was too old to be lifted in this manner, and she started to cry. The mom finally realized her daughter wasn't around and turned to see her crying and yelled at her to “come on, what are you crying about,” and off they went. Sigh.

My personal opinion is that, yes, this ride needs safety gates and a way to slow down the cars when they come in. What to do about guests getting out on the wrong side? Well as they say, guests seem to check their brains at the gate. Heck, as far as I'm concerned people in general seem to have checked their brains somewhere because common sense and looking after each other seem to be missing in our society today.

On the recent bug infestations at Disneyland, former cast member Matt wrote:

I thought it was interesting to read the guest comment in today's update about how they had never (until recently) seen any bugs in Disneyland. Well, I can tell you from experience that they have always been everywhere, particularly in Adventureland and Frontierland. I worked there for about seven years and I always noticed that right around mid- to late-September every year, the Jungle Cruise became infested with these huge nickel- to quarter-sized spiders. They were (and I imagine, still are) everywhere! I used see them spinning huge webs anywhere there was show lighting out in the jungle. But you would also see them all over the queue and even in the boats!

I remember one incident when I turned around to deliver my spiel and could only stare in horror as one of these monsters swung back and forth over the guests heads who were smiling back at me, oblivious to what was happening. Realizing that we were all trapped in a small boat in the dark, and that calling attention would cause mass panic, I decided that the best course of action was to take no action at all.

These same creatures are all over Big Thunder and Tom Sawyer Island, as well. Fortunately they start disappearing in November when the weather cools off a bit. The huge black cockroaches seem to stay all year, though...

And, finally, a Universal Studios-Hollywood (USH) source claims a discontinued event may be coming back:

Senior executives of Vivendi Universal have discussed the possibility of bringing back the Halloween Haunt to USH this year (no USH executives were invited to this meeting). Special ticketed Halloween continues to be popular at Universal Studios-Florida annually, and it was launched in Osaka at Universal Studios-Japan last year. One of the key points about bringing it back is the belief that USH can't continue to go unused at night in October. Another point was that annual passes wouldn't be good for admission, so cash flow would be created by the new business, maybe even making a small profit.

Also talked about how to overcome expected opposition (regarding bringing it back) by the USH staff, who feel they are overworked enough as it is. No decision has been made, but if I hear anything I'll let you know.


Contact David here.
Feedback for Brian Bennett

Peter writes:

I've been a regular reader of your columns since our first trip to WDW in 2000. I can honestly say that thanks to your advice and the experiences of others, our two trips have been some of the happiest times of our lives.

We hope to visit WDW again either later this year or early 2004 as a family. We are a family of five living in the UK, and in 2005 it will be my wife and my 25th wedding anniversary. We intend to tour a number of America's tourist sites, and for the grand finale a week or 10 days at WDW. My question is, as on this trip we will be without the kids, and we obviously want this trip to be special. Which Disney resort and accommodation would you recommend? We would prefer to stay in Moderate or Deluxe resort and would value your advice on which to choose. I realise this is a very difficult question as you don't know us or our personal preferences, suffice to say that we always seem to agree with your recommendations on Mouse Planet so would ask which resort you would choose for yourself in the same situation.

Also do you know of any treats or surprises I could enlist Disney's help to spring on my wife during our stay. I know it's a long way off yet but you can never start planning too early. Right?

Peter — I'm flattered that you seem to agree with me so often. I guess great minds think alike.

Well, given that you're just asking my opinion, I'll walk through this as if I was making plans for myself...

Money is always a factor. If there's enough money in the budget to go with a deluxe resort, I'd most likely choose to spring for either the Polynesian (Barb and I really love the themed atmosphere at this lovely resort) or the Boardwalk Inn (just because it's close to Epcot, but very quiet and secluded once you get into the Inn side of the resort.) If money is an issue, I wouldn't hestitate to go to either Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter. Both are very nicely themed, too. Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs are nice, too, but are much more spread out. Plus, it seems to me that Caribbean Beach Resort has a lot more families with small kids and Coronado Springs has a lot of convention (business) guests. For those reasons, I'd avoid those two resorts for such a special event.

I know that some folks would wonder why I didn't mention the Grand Floridian, the Yacht Club Resort, or the Beach Club Resort in my assessment. I can only say that it's personal preference. All three resorts are lovely, and all three have a very large following of very satisfied (and return) guests. Barb and I have never really thought that these resorts are right for us, though. They're just a bit too formal for our liking.

As far as planning for the special trip, I'll direct you to the Birthday/Anniversary Trip page at our Walt Disney Trip Planning Guide, which has information on how to try to maximize the special treatment you might get on a trip you're taking for a special occasion.

I'd also suggest that you select a couple of very nice restaurants and plan some special meals. Victoria and Albert's would be one that comes to mind as a particularly romantic and memorable choice.

Peter wrote back:

Thanks Brian for your prompt reply. I really appreciate the advice. Looks like it could be the Polynesian for us if the plastic can stand the strain.

Once again keep up the excellent work on Mouse Planet.

You're very welcome. Hey, there's another option that just came to mind as a sort of middle ground between the Polynesian and Port Orleans. That would be Wilderness Lodge, which would be a wonderful place to enjoy an anniversary visit. I'm embarassed that I didn't think of it before!

Nikki writes:

How do I submit a trip report? I just returned from WDW on Wednesday and itās the first time Iāve written a report. Thanks for your help!

I would love to have you submit a report! Go to the Trip Report page. There you'll find (in the left hand margin) all the information you need to write and post a trip report to MousePlanet.

Dave writes:

I consider your column a "“must read” before any trip to Walt Disney World. I would like to take my whole family to Disney World this fall, on a reasonable budget. The best way that I see to do this is by saving on the hotel rates. I have the airfare, transportation, food and park tickets accounted for. But the hotel rates are all over the place. The issue I run into is that I have five children from ages 2 to 11. I do not think I can not stay on a Disney property without staying at either the home away from home, (which is pricey) or renting two rooms. I have looked at some of the 2two-room suites off-site and some of them seem to be a good bargain. Any suggestions?

Dave — I'm a very firm believer in staying on-site if at all possible. However, in your case I can understand why, frankly, it's not possible.

As you pointed out, the cost of renting a Home Away From Home one- or two-bedroom vacation home, or even a Wilderness Cabin, is very high. Likewise, the cost of renting two rooms at one of the moderate resorts is also very high.

Here are really only two reasonable alternatives for you to consider: One is to rent two rooms at the All-Star Resorts (you can get adjoining rooms, if you'd like). However, you'll end up with two fairly small rooms for your money. The off-site option is the alternative. Even with the additional cost of renting a van (unless you're driving your own), you're likely to be ahead at the end of a trip.

As much as it breaks my heart to say this, I think the off-site option is really your best bet.

Grace writes:

Thanks for all your hard work on MousePlanet, I read it almost every day

In yesterday's Mail Bag, someone asked about getting their old park hopper passes scanned so they know what's on them. You directed them to the parks or Downtown Disney. I don't know of any way to get the passes scanned away from WDW, but I was there in January and a friend was able to figure out what options she had left on several old passes from the reception desk at our resort, the Beach Club. My guess is that any of the on property resorts would have access to the scanners.

That probably doesn't help the person who asked the question; I just thought you might want to know for future reference.

Grace — I'm curious... Did your friend have passes that needed to be scanned, or were they even older ones that had date stamps on them? If they were scanned, then you're right... the resorts apparently are being given equipment that they didn't have a year or so ago.

Grace replied:

I know that at least one of the passes was a newer one with the bar code, because it was left over from a trip we all took together in 1999, and ours had bar codes. I think all of her passes were of the bar code variety, although I'm not sure. The receptionist was able to tell her exactly what parks they had been in, and which “plus” options they had used (when and where). It was actually kind of spooky.

Thanks, Grace. I'm pleased to hear that the Guest Relations capabilities at the resorts have been upgraded.


Contact Brian here.
GENERAL QUESTIONS

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