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|Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News|
News Commentary from June 4 - June 10
Is it Pixie Dust, or is it Drugs?
On June 2, 2001, the L.A. Times reports that a newly hired cast member working as a greeter at Space Mountain in Disneyland was arrested for suspected use of illegal drugs after guests reported her strange behavior. When Anaheim police arrived, she dropped a plastic bag containing a small amount of methamphetamine and admitted to having used some an hour before in order to stay awake.
Disney has a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use or possession anywhere on it's properties, which is a good thing. Imagine the risk to guests if cast members under the influence of drugs failed to perform safety checks on the attractions, or behaved in a reckless manner. In this case, the cast member was too new to have been trained to operate the ride, and was simply greeting guests.
Disney does not perform routine drug tests prior to hiring. While a drug test might have allowed them to prevent hiring this particular woman, there's no guarantee that any cast member won't begin using illegal drugs after being hired -- so relying solely on drug testing would be naive.
Thank goodness visitors noticed the strange behavior, and Disney management reacted appropriately. It makes me wonder, though, why it took customers to notice the behavior. Where was her supervisor?? Were there no co-workers around this new cast member?
No matter how stringent the hiring and screening practices are, the occasional bad apple will get in -- Disney needs to pay closer attention to catch these problems before they're noticed by guests ... and before anyone can be placed at risk of harm.
Are Things Too Extreme?
The death of a woman at Six Flags Magic Mountain last week has sent shockwaves through the Theme Park industry. Many analysts are now asking the question: "How extreme is too extreme?"
Parks have long had warnings advising that people with health conditions not ride the thrill rides. The ubiquitous signs warning away pregnant women and people with back or neck problems are plastered everywhere in the hopes of preventing liability claims against the parks. Now, that may change.
The death of the woman last week was from a previously undetected aneurysm. The problem is, there are literally thousands of people walking around today with aneurysms who have no idea. Disneyland is facing a suit from a woman with a similar medical condition whose suffered injuries after riding the Indiana Jones attraction.
At what point do park operators step in? Where do they draw the line? If a pattern of deaths and injuries develops, we will likely see an elimination of the extreme rides. After all, the point of building the extreme rides is to draw in more customers. However, if the rides are injuring and even killing the customers, they won't visit and the lawsuits will hurt the bottom line even more.
My prediction? The competition for the most extreme ride will quickly reach an end.
Is Simba really the Grinch?
The Scotsman Online reported earlier this week that Disney denied permission to a small school on the Isle of Lewis permission to do a four-day production of The Lion King. The run had sold out, the students had rehearsed for months, and the money was going to pay for school trips. None of this, however, moved the Disney lawyers. The teacher in charge had sent what they figured was a pro forma request for permission and was shocked when when it was denied. In a nutshell, the children may perform the songs, but they can not reenact the play or movie.
Is Disney being unreasonable? The gut reaction is a hearty "oh yeah!" or "big time!" But we need to keep in mind that Disney has always been a hawkish defender of their intellectual property rights. One of the earliest corporate battles , back in the '30s and '40s (and greatest coups) was the almost total eradication of European imitations of Disney characters and products.
The case can be made that Disney has used its rather extensive power to lengthen and strengthen copyright law in the United States (it will now be another 20 years before Mickey Mouse enters the public domain) in ways that make the concept almost meaningless. Right or wrong, though, while Disney has ownership of intellectual property (as would any other copyright holder) they must vigorously defend their right of control.
I wouldn't let Disney off so easy though. All they would have to do is grant permission in these harmless "thefts." A simple "We've considered it, you need to understand our rights, and we'll allow your use" would avoid the public relations disaster that always happens when Disney shuts down a school play, or demands that a preschool mural be painted over. Let's be honest here, this type of situation poses no real threat to the Disney bottom- line.
I do understand the reasoning behind their actions, but I continue to be amazed at the rigidity of the follow-through.
One of the lesser-known features of MousePlanet is our News headlines in our MousePad discussion forum, where we try to direct you to any important news stories about the entire Disney company.
One thing we can't provide in that resource is an idea as to how those stories, generally about very specific portions of the company, may fit into the larger Disney picture. Towards that end, the Reporter's Notebook provides brief comments on those recent stories that are of interest.
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