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Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News

News Commentary from July 10 - July 16

Even the Second Tier is Getting into Theming

Kevin Yee

News of two noteworthy attractions were reported in various online publications this month, including Amusement Today (subscription required) and USA Today: an underwater dark ride and an E-Ticket type Tomb Raider attraction.

The dark ride recently opened at Le Grand Aquarium in Saint Malo, France — owned by Disneyland Paris competitor Parc Asterix — and features mini-submersibles that take four people at a time along an underwater Omnimover-type ride through aquariums, complete with onboard music and narration. It's billed as the world's first underwater dark ride.

The Tomb Raider ride was announced for Summer 2002 for the Rivertown section of Paramount's Kings Island amusement park outside Cincinnati. This attraction is likely to emulate Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure, by leading guests on a wilder ride through crypts and caves, including close encounters with ice cave stalactites and a pit of molten lava, and will be based around the experiences found in the recent Paramount movie. The attraction art at the Paramount's Kings Island Web site may remind you more than a bit of the Mara's temple from the Disneyland Web site.

The PKI offering is on the one hand something of a rip- off of Disney, but on the other hand emblematic of the ever- encroaching competition on Disney. Paramount parks in particular are balancing their thrill rides and unthemed roller coasters with more and more themed family attractions — their Nickelodeon brand is one of the keys to their success — and the Tomb Raider ride promises to be a turning point in their creative endeavors. When Paramount — a distant finisher behind Disney, Universal, Busch, and Cedar Fair for theme park attendance — can justify a major new themed ride like this, how can Disney compete with rides like Superstar Limo?

The underwater dark ride further underscores the point. Here is a facility that is not primarily a theme park, but rather an aquarium, yet it offers a unique, revolutionary type of ride certain to entertain children and fascinate adults. This is the type of thing Disney used to be known for, yet new innovative ride systems seem few and far between at Disney these days. Is it budget-cutting, a brain drain at Walt Disney Imagineering, or just a level playing field for creative types outside Disney? Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing is certain: Disney will face ever-increasing competition, and consumers will (hopefully) get ever-better experiences.


The Embarrassment of Fastpass

Alex Stroup

One question many of us here at MousePlanet here repeatedly ask is "How can you write about such a narrow topic, all of the time?" I don't really have an answer for that, but it always pleases me when I see a big mainstream media piece on some of the minutiae we cover on a daily basis.

A FastPast ticket for Splash Mt. Art © Disney
A FastPass ticket for Splash Mt. Art © Disney

I was pleased, therefore, when USA Today ran a lengthy article last week reviewing the various FastPass systems popping up in the amusement park industry. These systems were new just two years ago when Disney announced its FastPass system, but can now be found in just about all major parks in the United States.

They have been a cause of controversy for their entire lives: Is it cheating? Does it endorse line- cutting? Does it actually save time? Is it just a cynical attempt by the parks to get you to spend more time in the stores? Are there ways to cheat the system? Is it a waste of money that requires more staffing? Why don't they do a better job advertising and explaining how it works? Are they going to start charging for it?

All of these are valid issues — and you can discuss them in our discussion forum, MousePad — but... ere are two fundamental problems I want to raise here: "Why can't I get a FastPass now?" and "How is it that — se people seem to have 450 passes?"

In my opinion, most of the fairness issues are relevant as long as the use of FastPass is available to all guests equally. For the most part this is true, but not when all passes have been distributed for a ride by noon. If a guest doesn't want to force his children into the park before lunch, is it really fair to subject that person to standby times that are consistently over 90 minutes? Should enjoying the park be a race?

I don't think Disney should abandon FastPass as I would generally prefer to spend time in one of Pressler's stores than in a queue (regardless of how well- themed the queue is). The parks really need to find a method, to ensure that FastPasses are available throughout the day; perhaps with several starting periods throughout the day: new passes becoming available at noon, 3 p.m., and 6.p.m., for example. If you cannot completely get rid of the race, perhaps it can be turned into several smaller races.

The second question, "How is it that those people seem to have 450 passes?" is more vital, I think. Without going into details I want to say that it is absurdly simple to get almost as many FastPasses as you want. I personally know one person that rode Soarin' Over California four times in an hour, all with FastPasses collected when he entered the park. Alternatively, people are getting passes for many rides at the same time. This is simply unfair to the honest, na•ve, or unaware — and it contributes to the scarcity issue above.

I will consider FastPass to be a failure until they find a way to at least make it difficult to cheat the system. In my imagination I go to Disneyland and, by myself, collect an entire day's passes for Space Mountain. Other than testing to see how easy it is, I haven't cheated on FastPass. But many, many people do, and it affects everyone else wanting to ride that attraction. More than any of the other issues, I consider this a real embarrassment to the ideal of Disneyland.



ABOUT THIS COLUMN

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.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all submissions to the Reporter's Notebook become property of this Web site. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site.

Send your questions, comments, and news tips here.

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