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MousePlanet Mailbag for June 2, 2005

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 is full of comments and insights for Mark Goldhaber regarding Disney's Magical Express complimentary shuttle service for Walt Disney World (“Some of it's Magical, some of it's Tragical” from the May 23 WDW Park Update), Disney President Robert Iger (“Meet the New Boss” May 11), and the unofficial Gay Days event at WDW (“Gay Day/Gay Days 2005 to visit Walt Disney World this weekend” from May 31 WDW Park Update).

Debbie Johns writes:

We just returned from WDW and used the Magical Express from our home airport and back home again at the end of our trip. It was flawless! We arrived Friday afternoon, checked in at the hotel and went to Epcot. When we returned that evening our bags were waiting in our room. When leaving on Tuesday, we went out, got our boarding passes, they tagged our luggage and five minutes later boarded our bus. No hassles getting to the airport, lugging bags around, etc. One note though—people need to realize that whatever bags they put under the bus, they pick up at their resort.

Michelle Gorman writes:

We just returned from a trip to WDW and used Magical Express. We had two minor issues with the service. One was that we never received our luggage tags in the mail—not a problem, since we were only using carry–on bags. The other issue we had was mentioned in your park update this week—the multiple calls to DME to confirm our return trip. When we arrived at the airport, the representative at the check–in desk confirmed our return flight. The next day, we received voicemail from DME asking for our return flight information because they didn't have it on file. I called and gave them the information. The next day, we received the confirmation slip under our hotel room door, and the return flight information was missing. However, the next morning when we went to meet the bus, they were expecting us, so one of the calls/confirmations must have gone through successfully. Other than that, the whole process was very smooth.

Ryan Hama writes:

Just returned from a trip to WDW… though we left on our trip on May 11 without the luggage tags, we were greeted in the terminal and provided detailed instructions to either claim our bags or head straight to the bus check–in and describe our luggage to the host. We opted to claim our own luggage, after hearing of so many problems, and taking them to the bus check–in.

After the 30 minutes to get our luggage and wheel them to the DME area, we waited less than five minutes while the associate checked our reservation and provided our “bus transfers” … waited then five minutes in line, the boarded a bus and waited another 10 minutes to get the clearance from “Disney” for our driver to depart.… It took about 30 minutes to drive to the Pop Century hotel first, but the driver had put on a time–consuming video on the monitors. After another stop (can't remember the next hotel) we were on our way to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Arrived at the hotel after another 15 minutes… all in all it took approx two and a half hours from stepping off the plane to get to our hotel.

I do have to tell you that we stayed at two different hotels during the stay (first to AKL then to Grand Floridian), so I was also concerned that we would be stranded for our trip back.

Day before checkout, I called DME and had to provide our outbound flight info (fifth time)… checkout day on May 19, we checked into our flight on Delta Song. This was so great… no more luggage to worry about the rest of the day.

Lastly, we found out that FedEx left two envelopes, the day after we left, with our DME luggage tags. One set was for our AKL reservations and another was for the GF reservations…what a waste to get them afterwards, but also that we received two.

All in all, things could have been logistically better, but for free… I am not going to complain.

Peter Jesse writes:

Just wanted to drop a line about Disney's Magical Express. I am regular visitor to MousePlanet and several other Disney boards and have heard quite a few horror stories about this service, so I wanted to share my experience.

I just returned yesterday from a travel agent education program at WDW. We all used the Magical Express service. My flight arrived at 11:45 a.m., I was on a bus by 12:15 p.m. and at the resort by 1:15 p.m. It was all quite seamless. My luggage was in my room when I returned at 7:30 p.m. or so (couldn't say when it got there). When I checked out, I was able to use the Resort Check–in Service, so said good–bye to my bag at 8:00 a.m. and didn't see it again until 11 p.m. in Boston. The bus arrived right on schedule for the return trip to the airport. Couldn't have been any better.

Just to show that not everything goes smoothly, my roommate for the week came in from a different part of the country. He got to the resort smoothly, but as of 7:30 p.m., his bag was not in the room. He called the front desk, who directed him to the Magical Express staff. He alerted them to the situation and they began the search. The front desk manager of the resort, when alerted to the situation, was certain the bag would be located that night, but offered to let my roommate buy some clothes in the resort shop for the next day just in case and he would remove the charge from the room bill. The bag, it turns out, was located and delivered to our room at 2:30 a.m. (at my roommate's request). Which just goes to show that, even when problems do arise, Disney rises to the occasion to try to make it right.

Obviously many folks have had problems which were not resolved so quickly or agreeably, but I'm sure they are in the increasingly large minority.

Just thought you would appreciate some recent feedback.

Kim writes:

I just got back from my WDW vacation (May 22–28) and had no problems with the Magical Express service. We waiting about five minutes for our bus and maybe 10 to 15 minutes after boarding the bus for more guests. We arrived at our hotel around 10 a.m. and didn't go back to it until 1 a.m. We were a party of five adults and had two rooms so at first we thought our luggage didn't arrive because our three bags were not in our room but it was all in our party's adjoining room.

Getting back to the airport was a little different than I expected. We received our two departure notices and one had three of us on it with our flight info and departure pick–up time, the other had two guests on it but no info. I called the number on the sheet was directly connected and told the operator the two guests info, he gave me a conformation number and said it was all set. Since we were flying out Southwest and they were not signed on for Disney's service we could not check in at the hotel but at the airport and our bags were to go back to the airport with us on our bus. A Disney Cruise line bus picked us up at the hotel with our bags and took us to the airport. All of our luggage did arrive back in Philadelphia with us. There may have been some small issues getting back but not a major problem or inconvenience for any of us.

Regarding Robert Iger, Frank Wierenga writes (and begins a very long e–mail exchange with Mark):

It's not really a big thing but you mentioned that Iger is CEO–elect in your article today. If you check out the official filing with the SEC, Disney states that Iger and Eisner are Co–CEOs. This seems to me to be a fairly significant slap at Eisner and equal significant endorsement of Iger. But no one seems to have caught on to this as Iger is repeatedly referred to as the CEO elect, or CEO designate or some such.

Like I said, really its not all that big a deal but it isn't accurate.

Hi Frank – According the form 8–K filed back in March, “On March 12, 2005, the Board of Directors of the Registrant unanimously selected Robert A. Iger, currently President and Chief Operating Officer of the Registrant, to become Chief Executive Officer of the Registrant, effective October 1, 2005. Michael D. Eisner, the current Chief Executive Officer and a Director of the Registrant, will step down as Chief Executive Officer effective September 30, 2005. During the transition period, Messrs. Iger and Eisner will share Chief Executive Officer duties.”

This says that, while they're sharing duties, Iger won't become CEO until October 1, hence he is the CEO–elect. If there was a subsequent filing that changed this status, I didn't see it. Could you point it out to me, please? I've got a feature about Iger to be published on Wednesday, and I'd like to make sure that I didn't miss any facts. I've already got to make changes based on the lawsuit filed by Stan and Roy today, so as long as I have the story open, I can make other changes, as well.

Frank replied:

As far as I know there are no other filings. I guess the matter is subject to interpretation. I read sharing CEO duties as a slap at Eisner and an endorsement for Iger. The way I read the filing, Iger assumes sole CEO duties at the end of September. But that's just one persona view.

How about Roy Disney's lawsuit?

I look forward to reading your article.

PS: One last thought about the CEO issue. Iger eliminated the Corporate Strategic planning group. This was seen as being a group near and dear to Eisner's heart. Perhaps Eisner allowed Iger to eliminate this group, perhaps Iger had the power to do so on his own. If the later is the case, then it would argue that he has equal standing with Eisner. Who knows for sure though?

Frank – I definitely believe that Iger is getting a chance to start running the show. I'm thinking (though I didn't put it in the article) that the reason that Eisner is being allowed to stay through September 30 is to bring it to an even year before the end of his contract and, perhaps more importantly, to allow him to preside over the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland. The Corporate Strategic Planning Division (or “Business Prevention Department” ) is definitely a sign of Iger making changes. The division (and its head, Peter Murphy) were favorites of Eisner and his chief enforcers. I'll leave it for the article to go into more detail. As to Roy & Stan's lawsuit, I kind of agree with Jim Hill, that it's too little, too late. Kind of a “waaah, you outsmarted us!” kind of thing. I think that it's highly unlikely that it will go anywhere. I'm not certain that the board actually had any requirements to say anything publicly, and if Roy & Stan (actually, more to the point, I think that it's really Stan & Roy—I'm pretty certain that Stan is the one behind this scorched–earth policy) are making this effort, it's pretty certain that they think that they have no other options to attempt to remain relevant in the company. (Though they may have been wrong, depending on Iger's outlook.) I also think that it's interesting that the suit doesn't name Matschullat, Langhammer, Wilson or—especially—Bryson. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Thanks for writing, Mark

Frank replied:

I agree that the suit is ill–timed. Disney of course is trying to portray the suit as an attack on performance, which it isn't of course. It is strange that the suit did not some Board members, particularly Wilson, who as a long timer would seem to be a likely target. I'll have to search some of the legal sites and see if I can't find a copy of the suit. I'll bet there is a heck of a story there some where.

I can't help but think that Iger may have reached out to Roy Disney, or perhaps other members of the Disney family, at some point in the future. After his reaching out to Jobs/Pixar and Lucas, it isn't a stretch to think that he may have made an attempt to reach out to the Disney's. Now of course, no way will Iger make any such attempt.

Then again, that may be why the suit has come about. Perhaps Stan and Roy thought that maybe Iger would make an effort towards then and were rebuffed. Who knows.

One last point, I think you may be right that the suit is Stan's doing more so than Roy. Wish I'd been a fly on the wall during those conversations.

Frank – I'm less surprised about Wilson than I am about Bryson. Think about it. He was the chair of the nominating committee that told Roy that he wasn't being renominated. He was considered an independent director even though his wife made $1.35 million working for Lifetime (which is part–owned by Disney), while Gold was deemed non–independent because his daughter (who wasn't even living at home) made $85,000 working for Disney Consumer Products. Not to mention the whole Edison International Field issue that NOBODY has mentioned. According to Jim Hill, Iger had already reached out to Roy to invite him to participate in the July 17 festivities at Disneyland. Roy turned him down. Boy, that sounds even more petty, now. Of course, acting hurt and “keeping his distance” may have just been a convenient excuse for not being there when he really want to race in his final TransPac yacht race, which ends in Hawaii on July 17. We'll have to wait and see how this turns out. Let me know if you find anything on those legal sites.

Frank replied:

Considering just how screwed up everything is with Disney these days, it's hard to know who is angry with whom. I'ts even harder to try and figure out what is motivating people. Time will tell I guess.

If I find something in a Web site, I'll let you know.

Frank – I just finished going through the documents. First off, I think that it's a very tenuous case to try to prove liability, and an even tougher case to try to get the remedies that they're looking for. Secondly, I had some interesting thoughts about this paragraph of the complaint: “29. When directors of a Delaware corporation communicate publicly or directly with stockholders about corporate matters, the sine qua non of directors' fiduciary duties is honesty, and they are obligated to disclose all material information to stockholders.” So, when Eisner went on Larry King and said that things were hunky–dory with Ovitz, while the board knew that they were trying to get rid of him, what was that? And who complained? And who looked for what remedy?

I have a feeling that we'll be hearing “case dismissed” not too far in the future. Thanks for passing the docs along. Hope you enjoyed today's story.

Frank replied:

You are right about the case. Executives say many things just to protect ongoing business interests. Still, at some point there is a line that could be crossed into outright depict. Proving that, well, I think Roy and Stan have their work cut out for them.

Liked your article a lot. I share your thoughts that Iger may still prove to be his own man once Eisner is out of the picture. Time will tell.

Kevin Page writes:

Great article. I obviously know nothing about Iger except what you read and hear over the internet.

But my gut impression of Iger is a man who is a “survivor.” While all the other people with any brains were run out of the company by Eisner's ego, Iger seemed to know how to get by without ruffling feathers and doing his job.

Now that he has the job he wanted, he can be his own man. Sort of like appeasing the dictator, even though you believed in democracy, knowing that if you go along with the bad stuff for the time being, in the long run you can do more good than fighting with the emperor and getting run out of town.

Like you, I watch with a cautious eye, but the things he has done, so far so good. I don't think any of use felt we could say that we would feel this way one year ago.

I also agree, while it would be nice to have a creative guy at the top with Iger, as long as Iger knows and trusts the people who creative the magic, that's all that is needed. He seems to be the type of person who doesn't need to be in on every decision and run roughshod all over the place.

A CEO has to be businessman, and as long as a businessman let's the people who know how to do their jobs, actually do their job, everything will fall into place.

Hi Kevin – Thanks for your note. It's going to be interesting to watch over the next few months, especially when then Save Disney lawsuit goes “poof” later this year. I don't see how they can possibly succeed. And even if they did, what would they get? Eisner spending more time as CEO! And no more guarantee of his stepping down off of the board when his term is up! (If they void the whole form 8–K with Iger's election, his promise in writing is voided, too.) I think that Stan has gotten into a similar phallus–waving contest with Eisner as already has happened with Eisner and Steve Jobs. And now, it's at the same scorched–earth* state. If he doesn't get his ego in check, it's just going to blow up in his face even worse.

Can't wait to see what happens next. Thanks for writing.

[*Scorched–earth policy: The policy of devastating all land and buildings in the course of advancing or retreating troops so as to leave nothing salvageable to the enemy.]

Kevin replied:

I was hoping that the SaveDisney thing was mainly to get rid of the directors, I didn't see them mentioning replacing Iger, but what the heck do I really know :–)

Keep up the good work.

Their actual request is:

WHEREFORE, Shamrock, Disney and Gold respectfully request that this Court enter an Order:

(i) Voiding the 2005 election of directors;

(ii) Compelling the Company to hold another election for directors after full and fair disclosure of all material facts about the CEO selection process;

(iii) Enjoining Defendants from changing either Eisner's or Iger's compensation or employment contracts;

(iv) Awarding costs and expenses incurred by Plaintiffs in connection with this action; and

(v) Granting such further and other relief as this Court shall deem appropriate.

Tim Landry writes:

Like your review of Iger, I see some glimmers of hope. When they closed down their visual effects [VFX] division (at which time I lost my job), it was a sad and final signal that Disney was no longer in the “business of magic.” Imagineering was stripped to nothing. Research & Development went away along with all the other massive layoffs. Disney under Eisner alienated nearly the entire creative community, many never to return. Even up to today in the Disneyland 50th film, Donald Duck was outsourced. And you still can't get them to green light anything cool to save their lives.

But there are occasional glimmers of hope. Just saw the new parade stuff and fireworks and spiffy paint job at Disneyland last night. Hints of nifty things on the drawing board at WDI [Walt Disney Imagineering].

If they re–build a VFX (visual effects) division it will be the signal that Disney management finally gets it.

I'm not holding my breath.

Hi Tim – It is kind of sad. Kind of like the way that they forced WDI to bid on the construction of the Stitch's Great Escape attraction if they wanted to build it themselves. Suddenly, they found themselves trying to build a $25 million attraction on a $10 million budget. No wonder it sucks. (Though rumor was that they were counting on an infusion of funds a la Alien Encounter v 1.0 and Journey Into Your Imagination v 2.0 if it sucked bad enough. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they got the whole additional $5 million that they were promised yet.) Even the animation work on Stitch had to be contracted out, because they had just shut down the Florida animation studio and fired all of the animators!

I'm hopeful that things will come back under Iger. We won't really have a solid indication for several months yet, though I'm taking the changes so far as a positive sign. Of course, I am definitely looking forward to heading west to see all of the new stuff at Disneyland in August. Should be a fun trip.

By the way, kudos on your body of work. I've probably only seen a fraction of the films that you've worked on, but I've enjoyed the ones that I have.

Mashelle writes:

Just read about the new CEO. Oh boy, here we go again? I hope he is not another Michael. However we should give the guy a chance. Running Disney isn't a ride in the park. Like you said, this Disney company isn't just the park and movies. If Uncle Walt were alive today he would be 104 years old, and I think he would have trouble running the company. It isn't easy trying to please a public that has grown up in a world that has Internet, cell phones and electric cars. I wish the new CEO my best wishes and to remind him that this isn't his play toy and that Disney doesn't belong to him alone, but to us all.”

A cast member writes:

Thank you, Mark! Your piece on Bob Iger was certainly a breath of fresh air. I have only dealt with him personally once, briefly, and under unusual circumstances, but he seemed like a very competent, professional person. There is far too much negativity, in my view, among the Internet communities of Disney fans. It seems to me (just from observing the last year) that not only your articles, but MousePlanet as a whole is moving towards the type of professional, reasoned reporting of factual information that one usually attributes to accredited journalists. That is something that has been sorely lacking in the realm of unofficial Disney fan sites. Thanks for respecting the intelligence of your readers.

M. Bell writes:

I have known Bob Iger off and on since 1978 when I first was employed at ABC as a videotape editor. All I can tell you is on a personal level he is the same person now as he was then—bright, thoughtful, funny and the right person with the right experience to be running this rather large company. There is not anyone at Disney or outside of Disney who comes close to his experience. When you talk to him you know he “gets it.” He even mentioned to me recently about an experience he had recently finding out by himself on the streets of China the ease he had buying bootlegged Disney videos. So he is a hands–on guy. Granted, I may be slightly influenced in my feelings as I work for ABC and have known Bob somewhat. But let me tell you from a workforce employee. He is the right person for the job. My money is on him hands down.

Regarding Mark's plans to write an article about Gay Day(s), Mark Cuadrado writes:

Regarding your “in favor or against” the posting of Gay Days at Disneyworld, I find it ludicrous that you would even post a 'vote' on this site. Are you catering to the conservative crowd already? Are you stuck in the 20th century? Come on—this type of questioning smacks of segregation, which isn't the Disney I care to know. I will think twice about reading an article written by you in the future.

Janet Smith writes:

I do not think that a lot of time should be spent going over plans for Gay Days. Although WDW does recognize the event I do not believe it is an event that is planned or sanctioned by Disney. To me Disney is a family place. Whatever your opinion is on the issue, unless it is an official Disney or MousePlanet event I don't think you should spend a lot of space on it.

Janet writes again:

I emailed you earlier regarding your upcoming article on Gay Day. In the past you have mentioned the week and it is on your planning section as well as Disney's Web site for planning purposes. I do appreciate this since when I am planning our trips I do not want it to coincide with these days. On the other hand I also try to plan my trip around any major event that is happening at Disney so the crowds are down. What I do no appreciate is an article that is glorifying the gay lifestyle or an article that is a debate about whether being gay is morally wrong. I have my opinion on the issue as well as most people in America. The chance of either of us changing each others mind is slim. I have had many gay friends but they know I do not approve of such a lifestyle choice. When I read MousePlanet daily, I come for a dose of the mouse which is a happy feeling not to discuss a hot button issue of the day. There a many Web sites on the web that I can go to that does that better. Please go back to what you do best which is talk about Disney.

Jose B. writes:

I've been reading your Web site since way back. I'm a bit disturb about these Gay Days that is being promoted. I have nothing against gay people but having this such event where kids go and have fun, I'm sorry to say is wrong... I don't like the idea and don't like the idea of you writing an article of this event. I wish Disney would take a stand on this but you know how the publicity would be. Is there a way to ban Gay Days at Disney world and Disneyland? Thank you

David B. writes:

I don't think that it's appropriate for you to solicit comments about whether readers are for or against Gay Days at Walt Disney World. By doing so you're either showing your own bias against gay people and their right to be treated equally, or you're showing complicity for the prejudice and hate that you're encouraging from others.

It's like asking the readers to tell you if they like the idea of black people or Jews being at the theme parks. By asking for comments on Gay Days, all you're doing is providing an occasion for the bigots to heap a little more scorn upon gay people again. You already know that you'll be getting those kind of comments. Why encourage them, unless you think there's nothing wrong with them?

There are a lot of young readers who read your articles. Some of them are either gay or are questioning their sexual identities. Imagine how hurtful the hostile language you're encouraging must be for them. You're giving them a big helping of the “You don't belong around decent people” message they must deal with in a hundred other venues. Why turn your feel–good Web site into another source for such an attack.

Surely you would never ask readers if they like the idea of the Night of Joy events, or raise issues about whether Christians have a right to hold such events at a park that represents good will toward all. You wouldn't do that because you don't wish to stir up a lot of ill feelings between Christians and those whom they have identified as their enemies. It's odd that you don't see your encouragement for people to weigh in on how they feel about gay people as the same sort of tacit endorsement of prejudice and hate.

Thoughts, questions, or comments for Mark specifically? Contact him here.
You can also contact the Mailbag editor here.


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