MousePlanet Mailbag for August 5, 2004
We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot
publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.
Today's Mailbag continues with more reader comments regarding the July
9, 2004 accident involving Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
roller coaster in Frontierland. As the third newsworthy accident in
10 months, the ride has been the focus of much concern among our readers.
For more information, see our coverage of the accidents here.
For those who want to freak out about this accident, keep
in mind, it was a bump, not a collision like some reports would
have you believe. Do people think these rides are fail-safe?! Nothing
is! I think Disneyland does a great job maintaining the rides
they have to! Look at the millions of people who are there
Obviously, something is wrong with Big Thunder
but, this last
incident may very well be caused by the cast members who control the
trains coming in and going out. Again
it was a BUMP not a full
keep things in perspective. Blaming Disneyland
for negligence is foolish. I am sure Disney will do a full investigation,
and the problem will be fixed. I have complete faith in Disneyland,
and will return to the parks next year for our 3rd trip in as many years,
with my husband and our 5 sons. And, yes
we will ride Big Thunder.
Hi Kirstin Thank you for taking the time to write.
Since you seem very sure about the bump, I have to be fair and ask, were
you involved in the accident, or were you present at the ride when it
While the official statement from Disneyland was that it was a bump,
I spoke to a person who said he was there, and who swears vehemently that
it was a full-on slam and not a bump at all. We went out of
our way to try to make sure the person we spoke to was a credible source,
and not someone just making things up.
As you can imagine, we felt it was important to relay this information
to our readers.
One issue to consider, and I believe this is serious: After the accident
last year, Big Thunder should have become the safest ride in the entire
park. CMs should have received more training than on any other ride, and
it should have become the shining example of safety for not just Disneyland,
but all major theme parks. The emergency stop this past spring, and this
most recent incident, should have never happened. Even if it was
caused just by CMs and not mechanical. This is my personal
opinion, but one that has been shared by a number of readers who have
offered their views.
Your comment about not blaming Disneyland for negligence is interesting.
Who would you blame? The CM who performed something wrong, perhaps? What
if the CM was not properly trained, or was not a very good worker? Lots
of things to ponder.
Again, thanks for writing. Aloha,
We rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad many times with our 7-year-old
grandson Xavier during the last week of April (April 2529) as
it is his favorite ride at both parks. We again rode Big Thunder Mountain
Railroad many times with our 9-year-old grandson Michael and 7-year-old
granddaughter Laura (and their parents) during the last week of June
(June 28July 2) as it is also their favorite ride.
All of us have no concern that the ride is unsafe. Freak accidents
happen all the time
even while people are sleeping in bed at their
Our daughter's comments after she read MousePlanet's reports on the
latest Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was, Good Grief. How do people
get to Disneyland? I have much more worry about our safety on the Freeways
getting to Disneyland than I do concerning any ride at Disneyland Resort.
We all appreciate the accurate, timely information from MousePlanet.
Phillip Stewart writes:
I am reading News and Views concerning the accident with
Big Thunder Mountain and I have to ask, what exactly is to be gained
by publishing the insensitive, hostile remarks allegedly made by park
visitors to Cast Members? Is this news, or is it hearsay? Is it in some
way helping the reader to understand the accident? Is it proof
that insensitive clods visit Disneyland, too?
I don't need my Disney news sugar-coated, but if I want to read relentless
anti-Disney drivel I'll go to [another Web site]. Please focus on facts
that directly affect the issue in question. If your reporter actually
heard people saying such stupid things, then go ask those folks what,
exactly, they think that Cast Member is supposed to be doing to fix
the ride. Or ask those folks thinking about canceling the
Disneyland trip if they are so safety-conscious about every other aspect
of their lives.
No, I'm not brushing aside the very real issues about this ride's safety.
I'm just wondering why the reporter prints anything people say and calls
Thank you for taking the time to write and share with me your views..
While I am not the person who wrote the quotes, as the chief copy editor
I am one of the individuals responsible for giving the go-ahead or removing
copy submitted by our reporters.
I can forward your comments to the reporter, but I have the highest trust
in our reporter that she heard those quotes from some of the park visitors.
If she heard it, and she reported it, it is straight news. She is very
professional, and anything she heard third-hand, she always says so.
If you read the article carefully, for example, we describe the eyewitness
as claiming to be one, since we are going by the person's word,
and cannot prove with photo or statements from others that the person
was there. Any theories that we introduce to our readers are explicitly
stated as speculation as well.
I am surprised that you think our coverage is anti-Disney drivel.
We go out of our way to try to provide coverage from different perspectives,
and I believe the section near the end of our piece, giving quotes from
both concerned people, as well as those who say to wait until the final
report is out, is a good example.
You do make a very good point about asking people about their thinking
about changing their plans; whether they do so with other aspects of their
lives. Some may not have thought about it, while others may concur that
they have; for example, by avoiding rental cars that lack side impact
air bags (that is one of the things I personally do).
I guess I do have a question for you. You asked why the reporter prints
anything people say and calls it news. When I read the initial copy, it
told me a lot. It is news when we quote and attribute the words
to other people; it is an editorial when we say those things ourselves.
For example, if someone says, I'm really scared now and I don't
want to go on the ride, that is news because it conveys a
person's thoughts to the reader. If, however, we were to say, all
visitors should avoid the ride, then it is no longer news, but an
Again, thank you for taking the time to write. Feel free to contact me
if you have any other questions or issues.
Phillip Stewart writes:
First, please allow me to apologize for remarks I made that offended
you or the sensibilities of your fine Web site. We're both fans of Disney,
we're both sticklers for accuracy, and I'm sure we'd both be friends
if we knew each other. I sincerely hope that what we have here is a
case of 2 people on the same side of the fence who, through the impersonal
nature of e-mail, have misread tone and meaning.
I thoroughly enjoy your Web site and use it extensively when planning
trips to either Disney park. The research is exhaustive in scope and
accuracy. I find the things I read to be critical in a most fair wayunlike
my poorly-worded comparison to [another Web site]
a site that,
in my opinion, is a thinly veiled anti-Disney diatribe. I apologize
for giving anyone the mistaken notion that your site is anti-Disney
drivel. Quite the opposite.
My concerns were more along the lines of news as being
something more relevant than simply parroting off-handed remarks of
a random sample of guests. For instance, I loathe when local newscasters,
instead of offering valuable commentary, simply stick a mike in peoples'
faces and get irrelevant sound bites. What I should have taken the time
to clearly say was that I wish the reporter would have invested the
time necessary to plumb the depths of park visitors' feelings. Yes,
sir, you say you'll never ride this ride again. Can you explain to our
readers exactly why you feel this way?"
Perhaps my concerns stem from my experience as a college educator and
my insistence on students' work drawing a clear line between opinion
and fact. If I stand in one spot long enough I am bound to find a few
negatives, a few positives, and a few in-betweens. Therein lies the
reason why I so enjoy your Web siteI never get the sense of a
'smattering' of opinionsyour contributors share both the magic
and the miscues but in ways that speak of our shared love of all that
is the Disney experience.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me, and for accepting this
apology. If you have already shared my 1st e-mail with the reporter,
please share this one, too. And thank for helping to keep the
Disney magic alive through the seemingly tireless efforts of the staff
Note: I did contact the writer about the cat calls by the
two park visitors. My understanding is that those visitors were extraordinarily
aggressive, and did not appear to welcome any feedbackfrom cast
members, reporters, or from other park visitors.
Shelly Sandford writes:
I am, of course, disappointed that Big Thunder will be closed during
my visit to Disneyland next week. But any sensible person must realize
the need to ensure that the attraction is as safe as possible. I feel
very sorry for the cast members that have received verbal abuse from
park visitors, when all they are doing is maintaining safety procedures
and providing what information they are allowed. I will make a point
of stopping by next week to give them a friendly hello.
I hope Big Thunder is up and running by August 29, when we will be visiting
again. I always like to visit that dynamite chomping goat.
My daughter and I are going to Disneyland the last week in July. Any
chance Thunder Mountain will be open again by then or is it highly doubtful?
It's really hard to say. The word from DOSH was that they thought it
might take at last two weeks, but that they weren't sure how much longer
Keep your fingers crossed!
Note: As of the publication of this mailbag, the ride is still closed,
with no word of pending reopening.
Frieda Stone writes:
It's a shame some people act out so carelessly. It's as if they are
only thinking of themselves and not of the other Disney guest around.
If the ride is down, go find another one that is up and running; it's
not like there's a shortage of rides at Disneyland. Although I do admit
three times from one ride is a bit much in such a short time span, but
all you can do is close the ride, find and fix the problem and hope
and pray for the best.
Have a great day.
Steve Wenzel writes:
What kind of horse's butt would scream at a cast member of Disneyland?
Oh yea! It was that poor kid's fault that the trains bumped together.
As for me and my family, we are going to Disneyland the end of October,
and guess what? You got itI am going to ride and ride and ride
some more the Thunder Mountain roller coaster.
I wish that I would have been there when the guy yelled at the poor
kid, I probably would have clocked the horse's butt!
We were on vacation in the park that afternoon and were on line to
ride Big Thunder when it was suddenly closed for repair. We heard that
the ride reopened shortly after that and then the accident happened..
It wasn't until the following morning that we found out there was an
accident. When watching the footage in our hotel room, I thought they
said there was a fatality in this accident too. Is that true? When we
returned to the park the next morning, personal offered nothing more
than the ride will be closed today and believe it or not, hundreds of
people never even knew what transpired the day before!
Hi Karen Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt or killed in the
accident you refer to. You can read more about the accident at our Big
Thunder Mountain accident page (link).
Thanks for taking the time to write!
There were actually about 9 people injured on the Big Thunder Mountain
accident. I know this because me and my family were on the ride when
we crashed into the other car accounted for three of the injuries. There
were three other people that besides ourselves and the family that were
hurt. My daughter and I were checked out by medical personnel and released,
then my wife was checked out about an hour later due to back pain and
numbness in her legs. Just wanted you guys to know that it was a little
more serious than reported.
Rick Rusher writes:
Ok, I am getting very sick & tired of people dissing this great Disneyland
attraction just because of these freak accidents. Get over it! You take
your chances on thrill rides like this at any theme park in the world.
If you're scared, stay home and read a friggin' book! I for one think
dying on a D-Land ride is a prime way to go. It's either that way or
dying in your golden years not being able to make it the
toilet before you gotta take a #2. Wouldn't you rather have a quick
check-out on a great D-Land ride? I mean
So for everyone that is trying to say that Disney needs to get their
stuff together had better keep it to themselves because I guarantee
I'll be really ticked off if they try to force Disney to remove Big
Thunder Mountain. If you want to shut something down, shut down Toontown,
but better yet all you paranoid, politically-correct, roller-coaster
keep your friggin mouth shut! Thank you for
your time and in closing let me!
Just say that Disneyland is The Happiest Place On Earth and
it will survive for another 50+ years no matter what people try
to do to it. God Bless Walt Disney.
I am getting so sick of everyone complaining about the accidents on
the ride. Has everyone forgotten that in the later '70s and '80s, Magic
Mountain had the poorest track record of any park? They had accidents
and deaths so many times that they should have been shut down completely.
However they are still going strong and are better then they used.
Granted, Disney's maintenance has gotten bad over the years. They have
let to much go. But remember this was under a management that had no
concept of rides or theme parks. THey thought a ride was only there
to get people to come in and shop and eat. Then to put someone like
T. Irby in charge of maintenance when he had no experience was just
Yes it is very unfortunate that they have had three accidents in a
year on Big Thunder. Two accidents is too many for one ride. However,
I strongly believe in Disney's safety record. It speaks for them, but
they do need to get maintenance back up to the level it was when I was
a kid in the late 70's and 80's. It will take the new management teak
a few years to get this back up. We cannot expect them to fix all of
the problems overnight.
I will definitely be going on Big Thunder when it reopens. I wen t
on it in May knowing it had two accidents and never had a problem or
even a thought about them. I will always stand behind their record regardless
of what happens. They are the greatest theme park in the world and I
strongly believe that it will get back to the way it was ten years ago.
DJ Heinlein writes:
In response to the e-mail sent by Rebecca Carmichael-Stromgren and
posted in the July 29 (2004) Mailbag.
The Fantasyland rides such as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride are designed to
be operated on electrical tracks with predetermined stop and start points
along the track. The operator only has control over dispatching the
vehicles on these electrical tracks, but not stopping them. The Mr.
Toad's ride was under it's DFAM (Down For Annual Maintenance) not too
long ago and there is a high possibility of the braking system has been
adjusted by a maintenance worker.
I used to work as an operator on a ride at LEGOland, CA with an identical
operational system. We had several complaints from riders regarding
the braking system of the ride and were asked to go easy on the brakes.
Since the operators had no control over the stops (only the dispatches),
we turned to the maintenance workers. Their response to the us as operators
proved the maintenance department had the ability to adjust the stopping
power of the vehicles on electrical track rides.
After reading several letters with people's thoughts on the crashes
at Big Thunder, I began to worry.
Maybe September 11th has made me wary or perhaps I just tend to think
towards conspiracies, but these crashes seem a little suspicious. Of
course, I have no proof, but having worked at Disneyland, I know that
the guidance systems for the attractions are pretty much foolproof.
The computer always stops you from doing something stupid or potentially
Having said that, there were several anomalies that I noted on Indy
[the Indiana Jones Adventure ride] when I worked there. I would see
cars bump each other in the station. I have seen cars emulate parts
of the ride right in the middle of the station, raising up 10 feet in
the air and tilting to one side while blasting music from the Overlook
scene. I have seen cars jump forward when in the station, supposedly
locked by a station stop.
Perhaps Disney should look for the ghost in the machine.
Art Collier writes:
In response to comments by former Imagineer Michael Strong and absolutely
no way two trains can collide unless a maintenance problem was
at issue, I must point out that any machine will break. It may very
well have been a mechanical issue and not a software problem. However,
the collisions did occur.
As a manager of information systems, I am often asked by end users
why their computers fail. My standard answer is it's amazing they work
at all. Broken computers are all I see day in an day out. Sometimes
it is mechanical, other times electrical as in memory gone bad. But
80 percent of the problems I see are software-related, be it corrupted
files that loaded wrong or software installations gone bad. Maybe someone
did mess up a software upgrade and broke more than they fixed. Will
the DOSH inspectors find the problem if it is software related?
Hard to say; are they mechanical/electrical engineers looking for a
a mechanical/electrical problem or software engineers looking for a
fault in the code?
The Space Shuttle has five computers checking its systems, and still
we have had two disasters.
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