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MousePlanet Mailbag for June 9, 2005

Today's Mailbag contains email for a variety of topics. We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.


On May 12, we published an article entitled "Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Guided Tour: Disneyland: the First 50 Years—From Imagination to Celebration" written by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix. Although Adrienne communicated with many of the tour participants for her article, we thought we would publish some of the longer and thoughtful responses we got from the participants.

Joshua Coleman writes:

Hello, I am a frequent visitor of your site, and a 20-year Disney fanatic (I'm only 20) and was one of the 16 individuals lucky enough to be in the final tour of the day that ended with Remember... Dreams Come True. Just in case your interested here is my review.

 

Our group met at the Guided Tour station just before 6:00. We started off the tour, by getting our "tour ears" and a free Dasani water. We started off by going around and introducing ourselves and saying our favorite Disney memories. Then our group selected our "Decades" we got 1955-1965, (Storybook Canal Boats) 1985-1995, (Splash Mountain) and 1995-2005 (Buzz Lightyear). The other two rides featured on the tour are Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain, although our guide told us Space Mountain would be added to the tour in July, which could be worth the price alone.

We started our journey by heading to the front of the park to get our picture in front of the new 3-D Mickey flowers. After that, we headed up to the Steamboat Willie Mosaic and they told us about the employees-only door across from it, which as you should all know is strange because Disney doesn't have "employees." Next, they took us into the 50th show with Steve Martin, and pointed out a Hidden Walt in the castle. If you look through the opening of the sastle in the same case as the Matterhorn costume you'll see him walking out. Kinda cool. We then saw the show.

Following the show, our tour guide took off down Main Street leaving half the group very confused as our "tour ears" [headphones] cut out a lot, and if we got very far away from her they didn't work at all. I'm glad they worked for the other groups though, because they weren't horribly dependable for us. We headed up to our first attraction, the Story Boats, where we were given some interesting history, and they asked the ride operators their favorite Disney memories (our boat driver met Walt), which was cool.

Our tour guide was keeping in touch with her manager through a cell phone, and would frequently switch off her microphone leaving us with a bunch of static in our ear. Again though, they were new to the system so I'll let it slide. We then moved toward the castle and stopped near Peter Pan, and she told us that the clouds in the ride were actual trash bags left behind by a janitorial staff when Walt did his ride through, he liked the effect and kept them as clouds.

Continuing on, we took the little side exit from the castle, and stopped so we had a clear view of the front of it. She then pointed out all five of the "crowns" on the castle and what they represented--kinda cool, I guess--as well as a couple other little castle trivia things. We continued on toward Splash Mountain and it started raining a little, but our group opted to do it anyways, so we went and even with her in the full outfit got on in the rain. A little bit of Splash trivia and we started heading our of critter country as she pointed out some of the 50 hidden 50s.

Deciding we had time, they took us on Big Thunder as well, even though it wasn't our decade. She used to work at Big Thunder and showed us that after the second lift, if you watch the goat on the right all the way around the turn (you have to turn your head as you go down the turning drop) you'll have an interesting experience. Kinda random I guess, but still cool. Next, we backtracked through New Orleans, and got on the train that we took around to Tomorrowland. We got to take the side entrance though, which was nice because it would have taken three trains with [the length of] that line.

We got off and headed straight to Buzz Lightyear, where she told us the Rocket Rods used to be nicknamed 108 (or something like that) because it was the code for a ride breakdown. When we got on, she told us all to aim for the hidden spot below the "Z" on Zurg's chest for a target worth 50,000 points. We finished the ride and headed toward the Space Mountain bathrooms, so anyone could wash their hands before the fireworks. Now, this part is where they tour hit its low and high. Our priority seating for the fireworks were in the hub behind the Partners statue, to say the least they were perfect seats. However, there was no path cleared out between tomorrowland and the hub and she just let us figure out how to navigate the insane crowd on our own. People weren't impressed and thought we were being jerks.

We finally arrived though (after our guide saved a couple of people), and they let us through the rope into the press area behind (by behind I mean closer to the castle than the statue) Partners. We were, however, told that the Priority seating would be moved back more toward the opening of the hub for the rest of the tours. We then got our snack, (same as the other tour's) and sat waiting for the fireworks. Which were absolutely awesome from our seats, and easily the best part of my entire day on the 5th.

Our ears were collected, we were all given a copy of the picture and we signed the book. They also told us that we would be sent some extra goodies; no mention of the pin or anything about it though.

* Tour content/script: 3

* Bonus value: 2 (although, the seats alone were a 5)

* Tour guide: 4

* Tour support: 4

* Tour price: 4 (a bit pricey, but a good way to hit a lot of rides in one day)

* Overall tour experience: 5 (because of the Fireworks)

All in all, it was a positive experience; I may do again on July 17th depending on where the seating changes to and if they add Space Mountain. The tour ears could definately use some tweaking.


Gabriel Torres writes:

Hi! I just wanted to give my opinion on the tour. We took it on the 8th and I have to say even for someone who goes to Disneyland quite often, I was pretty impressed. Our tour guide was absolutely fabulous! She made the whole tour worth while. We took the last tour of the night, which got us seating at the firework. Since the park wasn't so overly crowded that day we got to talk a lot and have a lot of fun. we even got a bonus decade, so we rode everything that is offered except storybook land. I have been posting my review of the tour everywhere, including sending a stellar compliment to disney.

Here is what I sent Disney:

We visited the park on Sunday, May 8th, and we took your 50th anniversary tour, and I have to say that i enjoyed it immensely. We took the 5:40 Tour.

Our tour guide, Nicole deserves all the praise in the world because she wasn't just a boring old tour guide. She talked to us and played around with us. I remember that we even had our own little running jokes, and it's those little things that made this trip so absolutely amazing. Nicole made our tour even more special because she even gave us a "bonus" Decade, so we got to ride Splash Mountain! I was the one who got to pick out the decades, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed the I didn't pick the decade that corresponded to Splash Mountain.

But when Nicole told us that we were going to ride it, I was just so exited, and I thought that Nicole was really nice and she cared that we had a good time. On the walk to buzz from splash, we sang songs an played "Name that tune," which by the way I guessed all of them. I also remember mentioning to her that we had been keeping count of all the 50's that we had seen, so whenever we came across one she would ask me if I had counted it, and then we would go "Check!" it was like a little running joke. There were countless things that Nicole did that just made our tour, and our day for that matter, 100 percent more magical. She deserves every praise she gets. Thanks Nicole, you were awesome.


Elizabeth writes:

Howdy! Before I get to the tour let me tell you how I just love MousePlanet! I take my laptop on every Disneyland vacation just so I can read the MousePlanet updates while I am at the park. And when I am at home I read it first thing everyday!

Now to the tour. To start off I would like to say that for this specific Disneyland vacation I have been here a total of 10 nights (I am from Norther CA and my husband was one of the lucky winners for the AP Sweepstakes for entry into the park for May 4).

I would also like to say that I have done several special things with my family when we come to Disneyland: Fantasmic Balcony, Holiday Tour, Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour, and now the 50th Anniversary Tour. And I can say that I have loved every special thing EXCEPT for this new 50th tour. I will not recommend it to anyone. And this is why: As you have mentioned, the tour cost $55 per person.

My husband and I specifically took this tour to get the seating for the fireworks show. We really wanted some awesome seats. Well, that didn't happen. The tour itself was just alright. Being a Disney fan I have done my homework on reading many books and articles. Usually when I take a tour I don't really learn very much but occasionally I am surprised with a new piece of information. Of coarse with Fantasmic Balcony you don't learn anything because it is a watching and eating type thing. But my family and I love doing it.

The Holiday Tour, which my family and I took last December, was wonderful! We all had so much fun. The Walt Tour, which my husband and I took the day before our 50th tour, was a lot of fun. We didn't learn anything that we didn't already know but we had a great time. The 50th tour, well, can't say I learned anything and I'm not quite sure what the tour is all about. Our tour guide was fun and very bubbly. But other then that, well, we thought it was a waste of money. My husband and I hated the ear piece. We thought that made the tour very impersonal. We spent a lot of time looking at our tour guide's back while she was talking to us. We did not like how we could hear interference with cell phones. We did not like how it was constantly cutting in and out. So many times on our tour the guide would be half-way through saying something and we would miss the end of what she was talking about because of cutouts. One poor lady in our tour kept asking me, "Did you catch that? What did she say?"

Going on the rides was fun, no doubt about that (on our tour we did go on Thunder Mountain through the exit). We, too, did Splash Mountain and out of 13 people in our group, 4 did not go on the ride. We also did Pirates of the Caribbean (got on by going in the exit, although, there was no line for that). Because we finished the tour so early, our guide also took us on the new Buzz ride. That was nice just because the lines have been so long. I had only be en on the ride once and that was a nice little treat.

However, I do believe that our guide ended up getting in trouble for this act of kindness. I think the only reason she did it was because we were, technically, finished with the "tour" part about 45 minutes before we were supposed to be seated for the fireworks.

As my husband said, the tour was pretty much a one-sided conversation with the ear piece. Also, we felt we would have been better off with carrying a recording around then what we got with the ear pieces. And, I found myself saving my questions until the bathroom breaks when the ear pieces were off.

Now to the special seating for the fireworks. What a joke that was. For whatever reason, we got to be the guinea pigs and they moved it over to the Wedding Gardens. We missed half the show. Nobody got to use the nice cushy seats because they couldn't see anything from that location. People had to sit on the lawn or stand up. We were constantly be told "move around. This is your area." Luckily, I had seen the fireworks show every night from different locations since May 5. Depending on where we sat in the Wedding Garden you could not see the Matterhorn. I had to point this out for some of the people. I wanted them to see it all. We also could barely see any of Tink's flight. That was pathetic! We had a better view of Tink over in Fantasyland standing by Casey Jr.

We could not see any of the fireworks that happen on the right side of the castle. Most of the fireworks on the left side were blocked by a tree. And no matter how much we moved, we still weren't going to see them. The ground was cold and those standing kept trying to stay out of everybody's way for the show.

I have seen the show from Pooh's Adventure (not a recommended location because of all the trees), Fantasyland (not too bad. You don't see the castle but you get lots of fireworks and depending on where you are, great shots of Tink), right in front of the castle (that was very cool indeed), and in front of the castle to the right (this was on May 5 and I was packed in like a sardine. I am short so I did not get to see any of the lower castle. But in my opinion, a better view then what I paid $110 for). I have also seen it from the Train Station Platform. Perfect! And let me tell you, that location is no longer a secret.

The day after our tour my husband and I went to City Hall and let them know our thoughts. The lady we dealt with was very attentive, took notes, and immediately called whoever to pass this info on. One City Hall lady kept trying to downplay it all. I was not happy with her. She made the comment about how the celebrities got to view it from the Hub and then they decided to change it. I replied, "Yeah, but I spent $110 to see it. The celebrities didn't." She kept telling us that they might cut the tree down in order to see the show better. My husband and I just about had heart failure. We told them that cutting the tree down isn't going to help; it's a terrible viewing location. After a while I think I figured out that she meant trim the tree back. Cutting the tree down and trimming it back is a big difference.

I also informed our helpful City Hall lady that I will be back to Disneyland in August and Sept. I had planned on doing the tour again, specifically for the fireworks, on b! oth occasions with other people. I told City Hall that unless they do something about the viewing for the fireworks I will not take the tour again and I will tell everybody I know not to waste their money.


Pal Mickey

Walt Disney World Park Update editor Mark Goldhaber got a spate of email from people who had various opinions about the new version of Pal Mickey, which WDW introduced as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration. He writes:

"I don't think that I've ever gotten this many emails about a single topic from an Update before. Nine emails about the Pal Mickey upgrade! Go figure. Hmm... It seems like folks are fairly evenly split between those that plan to buy the new doll, those who think it looks good but aren't willing to part with more money on top of what they spent for Version 1.0 and those who hate that Disney isn't offering a trade-in program. Thanks for everyone's contributions!"


Jeana writes:

I think they should offer some sort of exchange to the people who blew fifty dollars on the old one—you can never hear him—which defeats the whole purpose. I am not about to buy a new one for sixty five dollars, but would love to have the option of a credit or exchange or something towards a new one.


Ruth writes:

My family and I loved Pal Mickey. In fact we fought over carrying him through all the parks (you should know that my boys are age 14 & 17). It was like having a personal tour guide. This is good since I only go to the WDW park once a year.

The new features sound great! I will definitely purchase Pal Mickey 2.0 for our next trip through the park!


Joe writes:

I think it stinks that they offer an upgrade. I know that my daughter will probably want that one once she sees it. They should offer a trade-in program to existing owners so that they can get the new and improved version.


Daniel writes:

I like it, and don't mind the "premium" because it's a 50th collectable.


Latoya Wells writes:

Hi, First of all let me say that I love your Web site and I check it 2-3 times per week for updates and to read people's journals about there trips to WDW. My husband and I are 28 years old and we are from Slidell (a city right outside of New Orleans, Louisiana). We try to visit every other year, however I would come sooner if the job allowed it.

We recently went on our trip to WDW during Easter Break and I did buy Pal Mickey. I felt a little silly with him because I did not have kids, but I must admit that I enjoyed him. I actually found myself feeling a little attached to him (like a little girl)! He is so cute and he really does tell you some interesting things about the park. I think that perhaps he is a little overpriced, but nevertheless cute. Gosh I feel sort of sorry for families with say 4 kids; that's $200 plus tax (real steep). Anyway, one cool feature was that you could actually turn him off so if you got tired of him laughing and every so often saying, "Oh, gosh," you did not have to hear him. I must admit once you've walked around one park with him, when you go back to the same park, what he says does not change, so it could get a little boring.


Shari Meyr writes:

The WDW medallion on Pal Mickey's right hand is what you press to see a light show on the Happiest Celebration Glow Medallions. Pal Mickey was priced at $60 (including tax) at WDW until any recent clearance sales. The new Pal Mickey version 2 "Special Edition" will be $65 plus tax, but WDW Annual Passholders can purchase him for $60 plus tax and receive a special little passholder t-shirt for him. The lanyard and removable tux are new, as well as new content and features. Visit PalMickey.net and click on "News."

As co-founder of Pal Mickey's Grown-Up Pals Club, which has a rapidly growing number of members in more than a few countries, I (and many others in our group) will not hesitate to fork out another $60+ for the new and improved Pal. My current one has been a great buddy at least a couple of times per week for the last year and a half. I will continue to add to his "family" as new Pals become available.


John writes:

How are the old Pal Mickeys going to work? Are we going to be offered the chance to upgrade or exchange for a fee?? I hope they dont expect us to buy a new one every year.


Jeff Lojko writes:

My goodness! Can the powers to be think of ANOTHER WAY to hook the kids onto something for some outrageous price - and of course mom and dad have to pay for it.

We are avid Disney fans, but it is really getting tiring that every time we turn around the price goes up and service and quality sometimes does not keep pace. I don't expect to get anything for free, but the pricing strategy I think will eventually tick off enough people to say - see ya! Our salaries are keeping pace with the "Disney Inflation Rate" and it is getting harder and harder to save for our big summer vacation. $65 for version 2. I personally would love the per unit cost - maybe $10-$15 dollars? Whatever it is, I am willing to bet it is A LOT cheaper than $65.


Michaela writes:

I bought a Pal Mickey when I was there at Christmas. Any word if the upgrades will work on the older model? I love the one we got, we had a lot of fun with it but would there be a benefit to buying the new one?


As to the specific questions asked, Mark responds:

As far as I know, the old Pal Mickeys will continue to work the way that they always have, getting some updated information when they enter the park but otherwise not having any of the new features. Disney has not announced any trade-in program. My hunch is that they won't. I don't know if this initial upgrade interval is an indicator that they'll come out with a new version every 2 years, or if it'll just happen whenever they come up with a new innovation. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

The complete list of enhanced features is: 25 percent of content has been upgraded; there are additional character greetings, showtime reminders and attraction short wait tips; content has been added for Happiest Celebration on Earth attraction and entertainment tips; interactive trivia questions replace half of the jokes; speaker volume has been increased; three games have been added, for a total of six; there are seven sing-alongs; Mickey interacts with the new glow medallions; and the new doll features a carrying lanyard and removable tux jacket. (Thanks to PalMickey.net.) You'll have to decide whether or not they are worth spending another $69.23 (or $63.90 if you're a passholder) for yourself. As to whether or not the upgrades will work on the older model, the answer would be no. There are internal hardware changes that wouldn't be able to be duplicated on an existing doll. Additional functionality can only be had by buying the new doll. Planned obsolescence is a wonderful thing for retailers.


Gay Day coverage

Finally, we got this rather long email from Tony R. regarding last week's reader feedback regarding our planned coverage of Gay Day:

Dear Editor,

I just read an emailed response from MP reader David B. concerning the Gay Days at WDW issue. While I agree that MousePlanet is perhaps not quite the venue for such divisive topical discussions, I do have some issues with this reader's commentary that I felt compelled to voice. While I don't intend to extend this discussion indefinitely (everyone has an opinion as it were), I do hope you'll at least indulge my comments in the name of fairness whether you decide to publish them or not. I will also preface my comments by stating that, having just read the article, it mentions nothing about soliciting readers' comments concerning whether they're for or against Gay Days at WDW. The article asks for those who will be visiting the parks on the days in question to provide their reaction to the activities whether those readers be opposed to the events or not. This is not the same as asking the readership for their opinion on whether they personally do or do not agree with the Gay Days themselves which David B. attempts to equate with prejudice and hate. More on this issue below.

Continuing from the above paragraph, the gentleman equates the soliciting of readers' opinions on whether an event such as Gay Days is appropriate for a Disney theme park to "complicity for the prejudice and hate that you're encouraging from others." While I can sense the line of reasoning this individual is pursuing, I have to wonder how it is he can compare active prejudice or hate to the offering of people's opinions? The only difficulty in offering opinions is that someone else may disagree with it, and the last time I looked, the Bill of Rights was still an important document in this country (though perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree than in the past thanks to special interests lobbyists among others). It seems to me to be a bit of a stretch to connect those dots, and it also seems that by attempting to do so, the gentleman paints your readership with the same broad brush he is accusing the article's author of using in making the request, again even though that was not the case.

Secondly, David compares the author's request for opinions to asking "if they like the idea of black people or Jews being in the parks." I'm afraid I have to express here that there is a difference between a group of people who exist independent of the circumstances of their birth (all of us, regardless of skin color) or who are beholden to their religious following (all of us, regardless of faith, atheists included) and a group who have made conscious decisions to pursue a particular sexual lifestyle preference. I think if you were to ask the NAACP how the circumstances of those who choose to pursue a homosexual lifestyle compare to the decades of abuse Africans suffered while in the bondage of slavery and racial bigotry, and whether or not the two groups should be viewed in the same light in terms of persecution, they might have a thing or two to say about that. Saying that I am a hate-monger because I disagree with a person's homosexual lifestyle preference is tantamount to saying the same because I disagree with a child molester's sexual preference for children. These are individual choice issues.

As I mentioned earlier, I agree with David in that I do not feel that MousePlanet serves its audience by soliciting such opinions from its readership given its mission to entertain and inform, not to provoke. However, what I cannot agree with David on is the manner in which his response approaches the subject at hand nor the way in which his comments express the moral relativism so prevalent in current society. The truth of the matter is that, as humans in general, we should be able to agree not only on what actions are right but which are wrong. The logical conclusion is to say that nothing is wrong because everything is right, and that inevitably leads to the destruction of justice, societal degradation and anarchy (think Roman history). Gay activists have countered this statement by stating that homosexuality is an inbred attraction rather than a preference, but I have encountered no science to substantiate that position. Given then that it is a preference, it can be a morally wrong preference; a person who is a serial murderer is no less wrong simply because his preference is to kill other humans for his own satisfaction. I would be no less morally culpable for having affairs on my wife simply because my preference is to sleep with multiple partners when I've committed to a single individual. I'm not comparing murders to homosexuals here; the point is that choice is choice, and we are all responsible for the consequences of the ones we make.

As a footnote, because homosexuality is a moral issue for most in this country (though as I've alluded to this viewpoint is evolving), I think it only responsible for WDW to post for its clientele when events such as Gay Days or Night of Joy (Christian event I assume) or anything else will occur at its parks provided they have advance notice of them - obviously there's no predicting what a group of private individuals may choose to do in any setting. As a parent, I do not care to have my children present in a setting in which they might be exposed to overtly risque expressions or sexual situations in the same way that I would not take them to see a sexually-intense R-rated film whether the content were homosexual or heterosexual in nature. Given the overall market segment the Disney parks market to and that the segment is largely controlled by its parents and guardians, information is the key to keeping its customers satisfied that their visit will not be marred by an event which they may prefer not to be present for. I also resent certain groups' tendencies to color people as prejudiced and hateful because they do not agree with their positions. If we cannot agree to disagree in this, the free-est (I hope that's a word) country in the world in terms of personal expression, what hope does the rest of the world have to get things straight?

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


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2002

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