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MousePlanet Mailbag for February 19, 2004

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

Feedback for Mike Scopa – Scoping the Parks

Will Coleman writes to Mike Scopa about his article, “The Trouble with Epcot” (November 7, 2003):

I always enjoy your writings on Mouseplanet. I'd like to know if you've ever taken the time to read some of the worthwhile biographies about Walt—not the strictly Disneyfied versions, where all he says is stuff like “it all started with a mouse” but a true biography—like Bob Thomas' book?

If you'd read that, you'd know that later in his life, Disney was really only interested in city planning and that was what Epcot was meant to be. Never ever was it envisioned as a theme park (you're right).

I enjoyed your Epcot article, but you spent such a long time in the lead up positing that Walt might've envisioned something else—well, yes. He did. Certainly.

Walt Disney was never interested in looking back. His enthusiasm for new projects kept him leaping forward to larger and larger things. He'd been frustrated with the whole “Magic Kingdom” in Florida idea because he'd already done that. Honestly, building four theme parks in the property is something he'd have been bored with.

Thanks for the writing!

Hi Will – I think I've read a portion of Bob Thomas' book, Walt Disney, an American Original (New York: Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster), 1976) but not all of it.

I think you're right about Walt's approach towards progress Will and the fact that he may have seen the construction of theme parks as boring or ho-hum… sort of “Been there, done that!”

He seemed to be driven to improve everyone's quality of life and when you think of it, by inserting the word “Prototype” in his Epcot master plan he actual felt that he would influence other developers.

Thanks for the note.

Regarding a previous Mailbag comment by Tim Wolfers (link) about Mike's article, “The Trouble with Epcot,” Karen writes:

I would have to disagree with the statement that yourself and Mr. Wolfers made about certain economic classes enjoying Epcot more than others. My husband and I enjoy Epcot; it's our favorite park and we are not exactly rich people. I would like to know what you and Mr. Wolfers are basing this opinion on. Just curious. Thank you.

Hi Karen – Of course I speak only for myself and not Mr. Wolfers, but I do recall him saying, “I have talked to all kinds of WDW-goers and it often comes down to economic class. Those of higher income levels seem to really enjoy the Epcot experience.”

My own thoughts also stem from my experience in talking with many people over the last 20 years and especially from discussions I've had with some cast members who have conducted guest surveys over the years.

I'm sure you've seen cast members asking questions of guests as they exit the turnstiles.

Many of the international guests who flock to WDW are obviously in a relatively higher economic class to afford to make the trip “across the pond.” These guests look forward to shopping in Epcot. I have also heard the same firsthand from many contacts in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.

What also plays into this formula is the level of education of these guests. That is to say that obviously the higher the level of education, the higher the earning potential.

So I would go as far as to say that education and economics play a large part in this theory.

I will add, however, that this theory may not hold as much water as it did some 10 years back. I believe that Test Track and Mission: Space have a lot to do with this, as well as the upcoming “Soaring Over Epcot.”

I say this because these attractions are designed to draw the young adults and teens to this theme park. Certainly they are in a lower economic bracket.

You also have to remember that more than any other theme park, Epcot draws a large percentage of older guests. Epcot's drawing power for young adults, teens, and young children was not as great as the Magic Kingdom nor Disney-MGM Studios.

I'm not rich either, nor do I play a rich person online… but I enjoy Epcot, too.

Thanks for the note, as I think your question needed to be answered. I hope this gives you an idea of how I arrived at this opinion. It is by no means a scientifically proven fact… just an opinion.

Gregg MacKenzie writes.

We are thinking of taking in the Luau at the Polynesian Resort on July 4. We have been told that only guests of the resort are allowed on the beach. Does anyone check this on July 4th? We would hate to set this up and then be asked to leave the beach we are hoping to watch the fireworks from. Do you know what the situation is like?

Hi Greg – The only problem you would have would be if you intended to park at the Polynesian.

This past July 4th, I found out that at one point the Magic Kingdom Park Toll Plaza had to turn away cars unless you were a guest at one of the Monorail Resorts or Fort Wilderness.

I also know that some people tried to drive over to the Polynesian Resort to watch the fireworks from the beach and they were also turned away, possibly as early at 4 in the afternoon.

The problems with the crowds this year began late in the day. I believe that the toll plaza began turning cars away about 6:30 p.m. or so.

One more thing you should know: In December, I met with some WDW managers to discuss an issue I had with parking at the Polynesian. My issue centered on the lack of security at that resort in regards to parking.

I had found many cars without permits in the parking lot. My voice must have been one of many because in recent weeks security has really tightened up.

However, if you are already “inside” the toll plaza and want to watch the Fort Wilderness at the Polynesian I would suggest parking in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and taking the monorail to the Polynesian.

Again, the issue here for you would be only if you intended to drive and park at the Polynesian.

So… enjoy the fireworks.

Staff writer Lani Teshima adds:

I recently stayed at the Polynesian, and I can attest to the difficulty in being allowed to park there. The parking lot entry has a sign stating that the only individuals who may park there are registered guests and those with Priority Seating request numbers for their restaurant meals.

Although I had a confirmation number for my valid reservation at the resort (and I was in their computer system when I checked in), for some reason the security guard at the Polynesian parking lot entry gate said I was not on the approved guest list. And because he could not find me listed as a valid guest, he was going to turn us away from the lot.

Fortunately, I had a copy of a fax with my confirmation number from my travel agent, so he finally let me in (without an apology, I might add). Heaven knows what would have happened if I just had the confirmation number written down in a notepad without the official-looking fax printout.

You might be interested to note that because the guard could not find me listed, he did not give me a parking pass! For the four days our car was parked there, we went without a parking pass, although once we were checked in, we used our guest ID cards to lift the entry gate on the “resort guests only” entrance. So Mike, it's quite possible some of those cars you saw without parking passes were for folks in situations like mine.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.
Feedback for Shoshana Lewin – Cast Place

Sam Lederberger from Australia, writes:

Please advise if, what type, where and the price of glatt kosher meals are available in Disneyland. Thanking you for your attention and awaiting your reply.

Hi Sam – You're in luck. Here's the lowdown on kosher eats at the park. What you need to do before you come to Disneyland is call the Dine Line at 714-781-DINE (3463)—to double check which locations serve kosher meals—and also to make a reservation. The meals are not prepared at the park but are in packages that you would find on an airplane.

At the moment, kosher meals can be located at several locations (see below), although you will have to wait a few minutes extra to have them prepared for you. If you are making a reservation in advance—for example, at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square—let them know you need kosher meals so they can have them for you.

When you arrive, tell your waiter that you had reserved kosher meals. It will likely take 15 to 20 minutes, minimum, for your order to be ready. They will provide you with the meal and its original packaging as proof of the meal's kosher value.

When last checked, all kosher meals cost $11.35—but the price is subject to change. Types of Kosher Meals Available:

  • Chicken Fiesta – Water, ground chicken, onions, lima beans, great northern beans, cranberry beans, whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes in tomato puree, chicken base, soybean oil, chili powder, modified food starch, garlic, spices.
  • Oriental Chicken – Water, cooked rice, boneless chicken, soy sauce, pineapple juice, modified food starch, sugar, margarine, catsup, corn syrup, beef and mushroom base, salt, carrots, spices.
  • Radiatore Bolognese – Cooked pasta product, ground beef, whole tomatoes, water, crushed tomatoes in tomato puree, onions, soybean oil, spices.
  • Salisbury Steak – Ground beef, water, potatoes, nondairy creamers, bread crumbs, sherry wine, onions, margarine, modified food starch, beef and mushroom base, spices.
  • Linguini – No ingredients are available for this item.

When I last checked, the following had the kosher meals:

  • Disneyland Hotel – Granvilles, HookÕs Pointe and GoofyÕs Kitchen
  • Grand Californian Hotel – Napa Rose and Storytellers
  • Paradise Pier Hotel – PCH Grill
  • Disneyland – Plaza Inn and Blue Bayou

Almost all the candy around the resort is kosher and labeled as such. There are also many locations that serve fresh fruit.

If you wish to bring your own food and keep it in a cooler, there are lockers available near the picnic area (you can't bring coolers into the park, but you can bring small Ziploc bags of snacks).

Hope this helps, and happy eating.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Shoshana here.
Feedback for Mark Goldhaber – World View

Kim Pedersen, President and Founder of the Monorail Society, writes to us after reading retired Imagineer and contributor George McGinnis' World View series on monorails (on the Mark V, and on the Mark VI):

Monorails aren't just for theme parks!

I, too, enjoyed the feature on monorails, thanks much!

George McGinnis infers that Seattle recently selected the monorail for aesthetics despite “very large switches,” the need for “mechanical stabilization” and that the monorail “works fine for small systems like Disneyland and WDW.”

We at the Monorail Society have been fighting these and other myths about monorails since our founding in 1989. I invite George and readers that are interested in learning more about what progress monorail has made around the world since Walt built his “Highways in the Sky” by visiting our Web site at monorails.org (note the “s” in monorails).

The Seattle Monorail Project is the result of citizens of Seattle, many of whom are Monorail Society members, seeing the obvious advantages of a quiet, fast, elevated Alweg line versus putting so-called light rail trains in the streets in the middle of traffic and pedestrians, as many American cities are doing these days.

Like the Disney monorails, the one-mile Seattle Alweg Monorail has carried millions of passengers quickly, quietly and safely since it opened for the 1962 Century 21 World's Fair. It's the only rail system in the U.S.A. to turn a profit!

Monorails have unfortunately been typecast as theme park rides in the U.S.A., which is not what Walt Disney intended. Still, many cities outside of the U.S.A. have built monorails and we are finally starting to make progress here with the Seattle Monorail Project, the new Las Vegas Monorail, and others. Thanks Walt, we're finally catching on!

Kim Pedersen
President/Founder
The Monorail Society
http://www.monorails.org

George responds:

Kim – Enjoyed your thoughtful letter to Mark Goldhaber regarding my statement on Seattle's apparent choice of monorails. The statement was made in an e-mail to Clark Dodge, Staff Chief Engineer for the Washington Ferries.

May I quote you, from Monorails of North America, Disneyland?

“Millions of TV viewers saw the monorail on Walt's Sunday show and became convinced of its future in transit.”

This instant love affair is not unlike the first advertised view of a successful car model. A large segment of the public are convinced they “need” one.

I believe the public wanted to ride the monorail and millions have. We know what the visual appeal is, especially with the Disney monorails. They have stayed with an aerodynamic nose and a Flash Gordon fin to cover side wheels. The affect is of a flying train, swallowing its rail as it moves along.

In that I believe this is where all monorail interest got its start, my inference regarding Seattle's selection of monorail has a basis. I agree with your statements regarding light rail in streets. Wise city planners will grade separate transit from the beginning.

There are many ways to arrange wheels under or over a train. Inventors are producing new ways everyday. All have to be compared with what has worked for over 150 years; inherent stability, simplicity of switching. The latter is a space consideration, and is very important in a system that is intended to grow and serve all the city with many lines and yards.

I have faith the engineers will make the right decision if politics are not dominant in the equation.

Kind regards,
George


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact George via Mark here.

Regarding Mark's new series about the History of Walt Disney World (link) published January 28, Bryan writes:

Enjoyed your article on the history of Walt Disney World. I hate to nitpick, but Disneyland was not a “rousing” success. The entire opening day was a disaster, from people screwing up many times during the live broadcast to the press blasting it as “Black Sunday” (at least I think it was Sunday), and “Disneyland is a spectacular… disaster.” People lost their heels in the concrete, Fantasyland had to be shut down due to a gas leak, the carousel created a humongous bottleneck… It wasn't until a month after opening that they recovered from the bad press. Yet thankfully the crowds still came.

Bryan – You're probably right. I probably should have said something like “Walt could already see that the park would soon become a rousing success.” I guess that, since I was rushing through that part of the story to set up the quote from Walt and the rest of the series, I didn't want to get into the lost microphone and other problems during the broadcast, the Fantasyland gas leak, the disappearance of the crowds after Labor Day, and so on.

Thanks for keeping me honest, and for writing!


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mark here.
Feedback for Lani Teshima – The Trip Planner

Al Edwards writes:

I was wondering how you came about the information on the Mr. Toad's car that sold on EBay. I have not been able to find any references to this as I would love to purchase some of this kind of stuff from Walt Disney World and Disneyland retired rides.

Hi Al – Every so often, the folks at Disney sell off their old attraction ride vehicles on the Disney eBay auction site. How much money these ride vehicles finally sell for depends greatly on demand, as you can imagine. Some attractions, such as the Dumbo ride, have such strong sentimental value, that bidders are willing to spend enormous sums to take home a piece of the park for themselves.

Although the original auction listing is not archived with Disney Auctions, some research has revealed that the Mr. Toad ride vehicle sold for a final price of no less than $6,800.

Disney does not sell ride vehicles often. If you are actively hoping to bid on one, you might want to make the Disney Auctions Web site (link) one of your regular stops online.

Happy bidding!

Mark Goldhaber also adds:

Al – Disney occasionally auctions off some of their old theme park ride vehicles, signs, and other items at their eBay store. Just check the store occasionally at Disney Auctions (link) and go to their Theme-Park Artifacts section. In fact, there's currently another Toad car up for auction at the moment (link), that is currently at $2,500 with almost 10 days to go. I don't really check the site frequently, though, so I sometimes come upon the auctions when they're remarked upon on one of the discussion boards that I participate in. Good luck!

Mark Lewis asks this odd question about Tomorrowland:

Not to be a total wiseguy or nothin', but has it ever come to anyone else's attention that people seem to flatulate more often in Tomorrowland, between the entrance and Innoventions? Why is that? I go to the park once a week, and I sometimes start my walk through Adventureland and other times through Tomorrowland; but every time I go through Tomorrowland lately I'm walking through clouds of noxious fumes. And this is first thing in the morning! Am I insane?

Hi Mark – I am going to reply to your rather humorous feedback with the assumption that you are serious.

In the last year, I have had the opportunity to visit Las Vegas on four separate occasions. Each time, the sidewalk in front of the construction wall at Caesar's Palace seemed to have a foul smell. My initial thought was that it was bodily gas, but in subsequent visits, I have come to believe the construction has exposed some sewage pipes.

If you seem to notice the same odor emanating from a single location in the park on a regular basis, it's quite possible it has to do with the sewage system. Either some pipes are outgassing to the Tomorrowland area without proper ventilation, or some pipe is broken.

You might consider notifying the fine folks at City Hall—and make sure they understand that you are not complaining about people “tooting,” but that you suspect it may be a sewage issue.

Good luck! In the meantime, try breathing through your mouth, like I do.

[Note: Mark wrote back, and assured me that what he detected was not sewage waste, but bodily gas emissions. Without getting too much into “TMI” (too much information) territory, if anyone has any serious theories I'll gladly entertain them.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lani here.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

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