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MousePlanet Mailbag for August 21, 2003

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. David Koenig's two recent articles elicited a mountain of mail. David writes: “There was so much response to my two articles last week, that I could only run a fraction of them. My apologies to all those that ended up on the cutting room floor.”

You can contact David here.

Feedback for “Suspended Animation

First, some reaction—and a grim update—to “Suspended Animation” (about layoffs at Feature Animation, published August 14).

An insider from Orlando wrote:

Good article, David. Are you aware of the exact situation at Disney Florida? Next week will be the last day for over half of the Clean Up Department (33 artists ranging from leads and top key assistants to inbetweeners). Four weeks later, five of the animators will be let go, including veteran Bob Bryan and up-and-coming “stars” like John Hurst and Steve Mason. I hear that Mason already got snapped up by DreamWorks for Over the Hedge and they're courting Hurst.

Also let go are three rough inbetweeners and up to eight of the Effects animators. (Efx is still finishing up on Brother Bear, so they won't get their notices until mid-September, but the character animators and rough inbetweeners already know their last day.) People are leaving at different times because of contract dates overlapping, but by October of this year 50 artists will have been laid off from the already smallish Florida feature animation team. (This is the team that made Lilo & Stitch, Mulan, John Henry.)

A newly unemployed animator wrote:

I'm one of the many clean-up artists laid off from FA (Feature Animation) Florida. Great article! I just wanted you to have the newest of the “wonderful” titles for My Peoples. Get this, it's now called Angel and Her No Good Sister. Nope, I'm not kidding! Long live Walt's vision! And (blank) Eisner!

“It all started—and ended—with a Mouse.”

Director Will Finn wrote:

I normally make it a point to ignore rumor mills (electronic or otherwise), but since you and I once met face to face, I will not tolerate you talking such hateful trash about Home on the Range (the 2-D feature I am co-directing with John Sanford) without some kind of response.

Perhaps there are two David Koenigs: one who writes unauthorized but objective reports about Disney animation, citing credible, credited sources, for books like (Mouse Under Glass). I was pleased to be sought out for and accurately quoted in that text, as were many other colleagues of Disney Feature Animation.

The “other David Koenig,” however, writes pieces like “Suspended Animation” for the Web. This scandal sheet not only published idle gossip about Home, but rewarded his “inside sources” with the cowardly cover of anonymity. Who does it help to start a negative buzz on Home on the Range more than half a year before its release, other than yourself and the “insider” pipsqueak who predicted it will be “the biggest bomb since Black Cauldron”? Let objective minds make of it what they will when it comes out, but it is no service to 2-D animation to attempt sabotage to this film just because somebody's ego wasn't stroked enough during production. Every feature from Great Mouse to Finding Nemo has been tarred with this tired brush by somebody and the sky hasn't fallen yet. No wonder Disney is so keen on producing Chicken Little!

Secondly, you report an audience preview quote that called Home “more boring than church,” which your source could only have heard from either John or myself. We quoted this remark liberally as one of only two negative notes out of hundreds of favorable ones given at a preview last October. John and I found the quote funny enough to repeat, but by isolating it you have thrown it way out of context. You could just as easily write a one-line bio of Adolph Hitler that reads: “He was a German guy who loved his pet schnauzer” and say you are not being inaccurate, just selective.

For the record, the response to Home previews in October, April and one just two weeks ago were overwhelmingly positive, literally—unequivocal raves from parents and kids who laughed, cheered and applauded throughout. One typical one was from a lady who begged us to “keep making 'em just like this one!” At the end of the recent screening kids were bouncing off the walls with glee, quoting lines and re-enacting scenes from our film. It was like a dream come true for those of us who have worked so hard on this film, which admittedly got off to a rocky start and has had its share of chaos through the years of production. What film hasn't, animated or otherwise?

Now if the two David Koenigs are really one, then I stand corrected. However, I am puzzled by why I was sought out for (Mouse Under Glass), but not to comment on a project I am more intimately involved in than any other before. Maybe the fear of me canceling out some sensational gossip from an insider with an axe to grind was just too great. So much for objectivity.

Linda Miller wrote:

I'm a former Disney, former Bluth animator, and it sounds like Disney's divesting itself of their institutional memory. I was there in the Seventies when it was tacitly agreed among the veteran animators that they would allow the art form to die with them, and it was only by the concerted efforts of several groups of young and dedicated artists, both inside and outside the studio, that the art form was preserved. Then, as now, the studio blamed the artists for the failure of their films.

In my experience (and I've been on a lot of bad movies), animation is never the problem—most of us can tell from a long way off that we've been handed a stinker, and by then, of course, it's too late. Disney's treatment of its artist is an admission of management's failure to give them stories worth making. I'm hoping that the people in my field will stop looking to Disney and make their own movies.

Kalvin Taylor Jr., “another unemployed Art Institute graduate,” wrote:

Reading your recent article really sort of confirmed a lot of what I was suspecting as of late. It does indeed seem that traditional animation has caught the Computer Animated virus. I just hope that while it's taking a long cryogenic nap that a cure will be found soon. Heh, actually I don't mean to sound that harsh, but to see things going the way they are in the House of Mouse… it's rather disheartening.

I have been a longtime fan of all things 2-D as a child and it was primarily Disney's efforts that inspired me to work towards becoming a 2-D animator. Unfortunately, I feel that I have arrived at the game much too late. I grew very discouraged and pretty much gave up when the trends in animation tend to lean more towards a person's skill at 3-D Studio Max or Maya than with a pencil. There is no doubt that the computer really is just another tool at an animator's disposal, but it's becoming harder and harder to believe it's “just a tool” when more animation jobs flat out require you have extensive knowledge in 3-D than anything else.

J. wrote:

My God. I just read your latest article about what is going on at Feature Animation. What are these guys thinking?

As an artist with computer training, you're right about the medium not being important. It is the story, music, and characters that make a film “come to life”—it all comes down to the “human element.” The computer is a tool, nothing else. The suits at Disney feel that technology will fix their ills. They are badly mistaken. A classic example is Miyazaki-san's Spirited Away. While Studio Ghibli created this wonderful film by computer, that “human element” was there.* It did not have the fancy computer-generated images like Treasure Planet, but it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Why? A good story, and likable characters.

While at an anime convention, I talked to a Japanese animator about 3-D and 2-D animation. He stated, “An animator who does that first sketch to final drawing of a character has put his life, his soul into that character.” Sounds familiar. Famous animators such as Chuck Jones said something to that affect. And didn't Walt Disney say that too?

“In Japan, we believe in both mediums. It's not that one is better than another. They can coexist, nurture each other.”

Pixar and Dreamworks seem to be more open-minded than Disney. No doubt, they would welcome the displaced Disney animators with open arms.

[*As far as we are aware, Spirited Away was made meticulously by hand, with just a few small segments augmented by CG.]

Pioneering Imagineer Bob Gurr wrote:

Disney animation coming to an end? This story just leaves me with a feeling of a death in the family. Are you sure all this is really true? Certainly, time, science, and business realities march on, but the thought of this loss of a timeless treasure of skills just hurts.

Moreover, like the lost skills of great thinkers and craftsmen of 500 B.C., once it's gone, the planet will never see it again. How awful.

Aaron Skoff wrote:

I'm the career advisor for our Animation department at the Art Institute of Colorado, with too many kids wanting to get jobs in 2-D animation.

I read your recent article about Disney. In your opinion, how dead is the 2-D industry?

At Disney, 2-D feature animation appears to be preparing for an extended hibernation. Hopefully there will be a reawakening one day soon.

There are other opportunities, such as commercial and television work, although an increasing amount of this work is being shipped overseas. And 2-D is a good foundation for learning and excelling in 3-D.

No, the entire 2-D industry is not dead, but it is losing its greatest benefactor.

Another reader wrote:

I heard the devastating news about Disney killing off the remainder of the 2-D animation services.

This is a low blow for all Disney fans. Disney has been in another economic slump for a while, and I was a little relieved when I heard that Mr. Eisner was going to unleash some aggressive come-back plans (including some for reviving Mickey Mouse's popularity). But I have to say, this decision to go all digital is one of the worst moves the studio has ever done. There's still no clear proof that 2-D is going to be extinct; for all we know, this 3-D movement is probably just another trend.

More importantly, they've abandoned an integral part of their heritage; traditional animation is what began the Disney legacy 80 years ago (Alice in Cartoonland, Steamboat Willie, etc.), and is what helped the studio come so far.

Few questions: Since Roy Disney Jr. is in charge of the animation department, what did he have to say about this? In fact, what are his current reactions to the crises at Disney?

Also, what exactly does this suspension mean for the future of Disney animation (as well as the conglomerate itself)?

I was informed that Roy “is not too happy, but there's very little he can actually do. He's not good at rallying the stockholders up as Eisner is.”

Disney sees the suspension as a stroke of cost-cutting genius. I see it as corporate suicide. How can you cut out your heart and expect to live?

Doug Higley wrote:

Just imagine, if Pixar truly had it together they would hire the fired batch of animators and begin their first 2-D project. This would put a well-needed thorn in Eisner's eyeball and establish a new dynasty. The best balls are dropped balls. Keep imagining… a major 2-D project with DreamWorks distributing.

By the way: All those Princess stories are public domain. Cinderella and Snow White could team up with Beauty to rescue Pinocchio from a Wicked Queen. Not only legal but insidious.

Sounds very marketable. I'm thinking The Rescuers meets Charlie's Angels.

Tom Lubin wrote:

I just got to reading your recent article on Disney moving out of traditional. We are developing a community in Western Australia that develops animation, games, and traditional and digital puppetry. We have been amazed by how many schools talk about animation, but teach little in traditional skills as a foundation. We believe that you can't move to computers until you sketch storyboards, have a traditional background in animation, and above all else know how to shape an animated story.

Animated stories that are fun and compelling grow through the animation process, and since most script writing has its reference in live production, most script writing teams don't have a clue. The animators workshop all script here. 3-D without first developing models that give you some idea of space and what real light does to it is just sh-t flying around the screen.

Eisner saved the company once, now someone needs to be found to save the company from Eisner. Great animated films come from animators that are storytellers, not click and drag guys.

Another former employee wrote:

I read with interest your recent article “Suspended Animation.” Sad, but all true. I left Walt Disney Animation Florida after completing Lilo & Stitch… and my mind is still reeling… What about Lilo & Stitch???

We made that movie for a fraction of the cost of all their recent feature productions and it was a huge success financially… and now, 2-D animation is dead? Lilo was appealing and the film had an engaging storyline… aha! The key, as you pointed out. How the likes of Tom Schumacher and family didn't notice the bang they got for their buck on Lilo & Stitch, is beyond me.

To be honest with you, I think the suits who are running Disney animation just get a (sensual reaction) from computers, and they feel, “uncomfortable” around artists. We are indeed, a liability to them. After all, we think, we feel, and we speak up when something dead is smelling up the hallways.

In any case, as long as I live and breathe, there will be fantastic animation projects brewing somewhere. 2-D, 3-D? That's a moot point. The corporate morons at Disney have no idea what they are dealing with. Titanic indeed! Hopefully as the lifeboats pluck them from the icy water they will feel some humility, and listen to their conscience—oh, that's right, they don't have one—I mean, listen to the conscience of the artists that created the art form that they have been bleeding to death for the past two decades. Like parasitic ticks clinging to the underbelly of the fine art of animation, these corporate scum. “Don't take it personally,” they say. “It's just business!”

Thanks, David, for presenting a conscious view of what is happening at the Disney cartoon factory these days.

Jason wrote:

I have been a long-time fan of your work, and dedication to informing the public of the modern Disney's doings. Normally I read your articles and still manage to hold a bit of optimism, and a sunnier view of the outcome; however, upon reading your article about the current condition of feature animation, all my optimism jumped ship like the smart ones on the Titanic.

As much as I appreciate your work and read every article to the letter, at times I feel almost as if ignorance is bliss. I long for the days when Disney was something more to the people who claim to be its biggest supporters, than an icon that pays for their poolboy. The ones in charge of the company should have profit as an afterthought, and pride and creativity at the forefront of everything they do. I believe that success would be earned through dedication to such excellence. I know I'm preaching to the choir with this, and I appreciate your understanding. I just couldn't let this one just slip by without saying something.

Every aspect of the Disney giant is held in high regards in my eyes. Disneyland has a special place in my heart, and so too do the films in which I, and most every other American child, grew up on. The extreme loss to the feature animation department of 2-D animation is especially hard hitting. It's as if Fantasyland at Disneyland was suddenly closed off until further notice. Granted, as a 20-year-old male, Fantasyland isn't a place I generally admit to enjoying, but deep down everyone gets a little grin on their face when they soar around with Dumbo the elephant, or go on a wild ride with Mr. Toad.

I feel as if I lost a long-time family pet, betrayed and hurt. I realize 2-D animation might have grown out of favor with the mass public, and CG animation is all the rage, but I too agree that it all depends on the story and the development of the characters portrayed. As animation is such a limitless medium, it was appropriate that fantasy and princess stories were the ones to begin with. The classic stories were fail-safe. It is truly a tragedy that instead of trying to fix the problem and invest a little time and, heaven forbid, money into developing a worthwhile story, that the entire department had to be shut down.

Thank you once again for your own storytelling, and I appreciate your work, however disappointed I may become in the people who control the childhoods of America.

You share my feelings exactly.

Keep the faith—it may be two outs in the ninth, but the game's not over yet.

Ken wrote:

In your latest article on feature animation it was interesting to hear you say how bad Home on the Range is going to be. I have a couple of friends who worked on the animation for that movie. It appears that this movie will in fact be the worst movie that Disney has ever produced.

These animators are embarrassed to even be connected to this project. Eisner had his hand in ruining this effort. His philosophy is that kids like computer games and that they like computer images instead of hand-drawn animation. He held “focus groups” to find out what kids want to see in a movie and then put it all into the movie. As an example, he went to a movie and saw that kids laughed when they saw men in drag… so at the end of Home on the Range, there are bulls dressed in dresses.

This just backs up your point that what is really missing in Disney animation is the story. This movie is so misguided that I wouldn't be surprised if they rethemed DCA [Disney's California Adventure park] around it.

John wrote:

One question: How can Eisner declare “2-D Dead” with the success of something like Lilo & Stitch?

3-D does well for Pixar because of quality in all areas—an attention to detail bar none. Pixar reminds me of upstart Microsoft years ago vs. Disney cast as IBM from the same period.

Where is the Pixie dust? I think Eisner has Tinker Bell locked away in his office so no one else can see her. More and more, Mr. Eisner reminds me of Captain Hook.

When do you think Wall Street will wake up to the dismal situation and clean house?

Unfortunately, Disney is a company that sells something called “magic;” it comes in the form of movies, theme parks, collectible pins, what have you, but what it does is build a link between parents and children and a lifelong bond between company and consumer. That's all forgotten by the time Disney translates it into statistics and dollar figures for the benefit of Wall Street.

Merlin Jones wrote:

Thanks for detailing some of the under-reported horror of Disney Feature Animation's long, slow demise.

What has happened down on Buena Vista Street is a crime against one of our national treasures. That it was done (over the last 10 years) with such arrogance and ignorance makes it hurt all the more.

More please. These people (Eisner, Schumacher, Stainton, Morrill, Schneider, et al.) should be properly, publicly humiliated as often as possible.

If people only knew the full story here…

Brian Mitchell wrote:

In what has to be the most ludicrous and bone-headed move by the Disney Company, it has thrown out the very essence of what makes Disney magical. Disney cartoons are the look and backbone of the company.

It seems to me that Disney was a little bit anxious to dump its cartoon division. Originally it was said that the films were costing too much money, and yes, they were. For any animated movie to cost over $100 million to produce is an absolute crime. It's grossly excessive. Was this the animators' fault? No. If the animators, writers and directors were left to their own devices, they could complete these films on time and on a much lower budget. Don Bluth's features in the late '80s and early '90s were costing between $12 and $18 million dollars with full production values… minus good stories. Has inflation increased so tremendously in 10 years that full animation has increased over five times?

Executives don't make movies. Film-makers make movies. Executive meddling causes the budgets to rise. Blame it on the moneymen. Because these folks couldn't get their act together or rather, stay out of the creative process, they caused an entire division to fail.

It wasn't computer animation that shuttered Disney animation. The shutdown of Disney animation was in the works for at least three years. The success of Finding Nemo finally gave them a good reason for shutting its doors for good.

The audience for cartoon animation features (and I used the word “cartoon” and not 2-D or traditional animation) is still alive and strong. As in any popular film, the concept has to be intriguing and the content has to look like fun. It seemed like the publicity teams behind these pictures like Atlantis and Treasure Planet tried to make these films look as bland and lifeless as possible (aside from making them look computer-generated in advertising). These films also targeted the wrong audiences in that they went after teenage males, typically not the audience that pays $8 to see animated movies! DreamWorks' Sinbad looked like an absolute bore with its advertising. What teenage boy is going to be hopped up to see an animated picture starring the voice of Brad Pitt?

Surely Pixar didn't need to do this with Finding Nemo because it knew its core audience, the family. Aside from that, the look and concept promised a lot of fun. As one fellow animator put it, “Pixar's producing the cartoons that Disney used to make!”

If Disney were truly using its resources, they'd start to make cartoons again, real cartoons, and not try to imitate live action or computer animation (and I hesitate to use the word 3-D animation, because it's not 3-D, it's 2-D computer animation that has a dimensional look).

You don't have to woo the audience back to cartoon films. The audience is there and waiting. They're just waiting for something fun and entertaining to spend their $10 bucks on.

Feedback for “Land Locked

And, some of the reaction to “Land Locked” (about some changes in where Disneyland cast members can work, published August 12):

A newly assigned Tomorrowland cast member wrote:

Land Locking really does suck. A lot of people I have worked with in Tomorrowland are moving over to Fantasyland and the east side. I'm losing a lot of good friends. I'm also losing the chance to get trained on some good rides.

The only good thing coming out of this is there will be fewer new hires. Big huge gaps will eventually have to be filled for attractions like Autopia or the Fantasyland routes. Big huge gaps that will have to be filled with the A's and B's, so they can pull their mandated hours. For a while, new hires will likely not be hired because of the lack of hours in some areas. Maybe that's the only good thing, that you are not “watering down” the talent pool.

Morale took a shot with this announcement, a lot of people are going to lose rides they loved to work.

Bob wrote:

Great article, as usual. I wondered if this would also help with the “lost” costuming pieces that have been such a problem since “serve-yourself” started. If cast members only work one land, they wouldn't need the various pieces for multiple costuming to lose. I know you said only about 8 percent really cross into separate lands, so the impact may only be small.

And I think about one popular character, Manyard, who can be seen at the Rocket Jets, Jungle Cruise, and Haunted Mansion, etc. I wonder how this will affect him? I hope he stays with the Haunted Mansion, my favorite of his characters.

Great point. I don't think reducing costume loss was an intended goal, but it should definitely help in this area.

The animated ride operator Maynard is the perfect example of a mid-1990s hire who used the “Empowerment Evolution” to learn attractions all over the park—and who will be most seriously affected by Land Locking. A co-worker speculated that Maynard might select New Orleans Square/Critter Country as his homeroom, so he could continue on Mansion—but spelling an end to his appearances in areas such as Jungle Cruise, Tomorrowland, and Toon Town.

It will be interesting to see how the performance-oriented fellow will fare during the several months each year that Mansion is in rehab, and he will be forced to work capacity-intensive attractions such as Splash, Pirates and Pooh.

Mark Zimmer wrote:

Your report on “Land Locked” was something I didn't even know occurred! Over nine years I worked as a ride operator in the 1970s and was moved very seldom from land to land. Yet after five years of Adventure/New Orleans/Frontierland I did get to enjoy Tommorrowland/Fantasyland for several years.

While change is good, staying in one area does grow on you. You become one with the land you stay in. There is a certain stability and satisfaction with Walt's original idea. As long as the ride operators are trained on a variety of attractions within their land and rotated frequently, they will realize that Walt had the right idea.

Now if Disneyland would only close on Monday and Tuesday, then the hosts and hostesses would really enjoy the greatest perk—enjoying off times together, forming life-long friendships with fellow Disneylanders!

Warren wrote:

I am a manager for a major retailer in America, and look forward to reading your articles about Disney. You provide insight into how another business giant runs its shop, and I take some of these ideas into my own store sometimes. I applaud you for always giving hourly cast members the benefit of the doubt.

The toughest thing to manage is change. Initial reaction among all co-workers, even managers, is that the coming change will be bad. No matter the eventual outcome, initial reaction is negative.

Now let me tell you, as a consumer, I would feel safer knowing that my ride operator is an “expert” on the one or two rides that he is working, rather than someone who is trying to learn every ride in the park just so he isn't bored.

On the matter of “musical managers,” one cast member states they want a manager to “know as little about me as possible.” My reaction as a manager is, what does this person have to hide? And as for “losing family,” it's a workplace, people! The primary reason it exists is to make money. Friendships and family are extra and not the reason for the workplace existing. Why can't these cast members be happy growing friendships with folks in their assigned work areas? Because they will always see their employer, especially one as big as Disney, as their persecutor.

It all comes down to attitude, and the most successful, happy employees are the ones that learn to play the game. Those that try to turn their workplace into a surrogate family/community are ultimately disappointed, because an employer is not obligated to provide this for them. Dare I say, it's impossible for a business giant such as Disney to achieve it 100 percent. Let me clarify: any employer can indeed provide this feeling, but it's usually evident and achieved backstage (or in my case, off the selling floor). Friendships are nurtured in the breakroom, after hours hanging out with your co-workers... on-stage, on the selling floor, is a workplace, not a social place. The concept of SBT's should be applied to extra-curriculars and employee award structures, not for managing the business.

You end your article with the following statement: “Hopefully, management can implement the changes in a way that provides cast members with suitable freedom and variety.” I ask you, why should management have to shoulder this obligation? The ultimate freedom would be to not work for Disney. I would venture a guess that those that complain about lost “freedom” in the workplace are never happy in any job they hold. And why is variety necessary? The ultimate goal in a customer service business is making money, indeed through excellent customer service. Excellent customer service comes from attitude, not job variety. What do these cast members think they are getting when they apply for an hourly position with a customer service giant?

What you mean to say is hopefully management can implement these changes in such a way as to provide the perception that these changes are for the good. Perception and attitude, these two concepts are what actually lead to a successful, happy work environment for all.

I agree that those who will have the hardest time changing are the short-timers that only know the current way of ride operation management. Having been with my company for almost a decade, I see strategies and paradigms shift constantly. Hang around one job long enough and you'll eventually see a change that matches the environment you were hired into.

Every time I look to my workplace to provide me with emotional fulfillment I am ultimately disappointed, because it's a business. My family is at home, not at work. My freedoms are exercised in my personal life, not my professional life.

You make some great points.

While your conclusion is a productive, practical goal (perception and attitude), I maintain that some freedom and variety are helpful in keeping ride operators from devolving into mindless robots or bitter victims, thereby improving their perception of the change and their attitude at work.

And I do disagree that one can't derive and hope for emotional fulfillment from one's workplace. Over the years I've interviewed well over 500 Disney theme park cast members, animators, songwriters, storymen, etc., and know that 99% long for at least some emotional fulfillment from their jobs. But I will agree that the more one expects it, the more disappointed they will be.

Keith wrote:

David, a minor bit of information for purposes of comparison: at one time (and perhaps still) Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom was operationally divided in two, “Kingdom East” and “Kingdom West.” This afforded more opportunities for the cast to work a greater range of attractions, while not being as absurdly disjointed as the SBT plan. If it worked for WDW's larger Magic Kingdom, why couldn't it work for Disneyland? This would at least somewhat soften the blow for those who are affected by the elimination of SBT's. I think it behooves Disney to find some middle ground—or at least some way to placate those who are affected. Eight percent of the workforce doesn't sound like a lot, until you consider how many people it takes to run such a park.

Constantly alienating one's employees and driving a high turnover rate is simply bad business. It's a drain on the collective pool of talent, and it costs money in terms recruiting and training replacements.

You're right, 8 percent is a significant number of people, especially when you consider that these are almost all veteran, “tenured” CMs. I didn't mean to belittle their plight, but to be honest this change (unlike a lot of the other goofy decisions) does seem to make sense.

A tenured cast member wrote:

I want to thank you for taking an interest in our little situation at The Happiest Place on Earth. I have no doubt it makes good business sense. It's just the losers are the little people who make the magic everyday, and the suits out in TDA (Team Disney Anaheim) have no idea how this will affect the hourly cast members in the park.

Cast Members who were put into business units they didn't want to be in are being allowed to petition for exceptions to go to the units they want to be in. We aren't losing our job knowledge right away; however, we will eventually. So I guess it will all work out in the end; however' like you stated, most of the good business sense will end up driving some good cast members away.

A ride operator wrote:

I think this land locked deal will, in fact, be beneficial in the long run. I, myself, am losing some knowledge that I'd rather not have anymore and will be spending time in the area I love to work. I know many other cast members who feel the same.

I think the major objection that I have is more with the way these kind of moves are handled by our friends in management. Oftentimes, with changes such as these, the front line cast member feels that things are being done TO us, rather than with us or for us. Anytime someone raises this point, it is actually possible to see an assistant manager's eyes glaze over as they push the play button on the “this is what the cast wanted” speech: “Through our continued surveying of cast members, we have determined that one of the primary concerns has been that they would like to have a stronger sense of who their leaders are... etc. etc.”

Not that I doubt that those sort of concerns exist. It just seems to me that they have hammered the information that they had into the shape necessary to implement whatever plan they already had. Sure, the cast has trouble identifying its leadership. With constant rotation of both assistant and area managers, and an unwillingness on the part of the managers that we have to spend time in their areas with the cast, rather than their offices, who wouldn't?

None of these problems will be solved by trendy manager-speak or keeping a cast member from working the one attraction they know in Critter Country. What we need is a management team that puts as much emphasis on positive reinforcement as it does on negative reinforcement and doesn't act like it's the greatest inconvenience in the world to spend time with and listen to their subservients without always being ready with the stock responses.

A little honesty and integrity would go a long way.


Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.


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• April: 10, 24
• March: 6, 13, 27
• February: 13, 20
• January: 9, 16, 30


• December: 5, 12, 19


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MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.