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|Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News|
News Commentary from July 24 - July 30
Still a Star
I want to comment on this item regarding Julie Andrews losing her voice. To begin with, this is a tragedy. Julie Andrews has had one of the finest singing voices I have ever heard. Even if the music she sings is not always my preference, I have stood in awe at her range and control. This is a tremendous loss.
Having said that I also feel Ms. Andrews should be chastised for believing her voice has been the reason she is a star. One of my favorite films is The Americanization of Emily. There is no singing in this film, simply brilliant acting and writing. I have always looked at Ms. Andrews as being a brilliant actress with a tremendous voice and a wonderful comedic style. True, her voice is a great tool, but she is the artist wielding the tool. She has proven her talents are not limited to just music.
If all she had to offer was a voice, I do not believe she would have been a star. She is still a very lovely lady, a talented actress, and a very funny comic. While I hope she recovers her voice and is able to sing again, I could not compare that to the loss of seeing Julie Andrews perform.
Extreme Rides and Their Risks
In early June a woman visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain in California died while riding the Goliath roller coaster. Reaching a top speed of 85mph, with a 235- foot free fall, this is definitely a serious thrill ride! Following her death the ride was shut down and inspected, while accusations were made that the Goliath was somehow responsible for her death. Her family retained an attorney who specializes is suing amusement parks for injuries sustained on rides.
The autopsy report showed that the woman suffered from hypertension- related heart disease and had a brain aneurysm that ruptured during the ride. The ride did not cause the aneurysm to form, but the stress and excitement of the ride could have been a factor in its rupturing at that particular time. It could also have ruptured had she been quietly napping in her home at that same moment.
So, Magic Mountain is satisfied that their ride is not the cause of this death, yet the attorney presses on. Every thrill ride I have seen has a long list of health advisories -- if guests choose to ignore them or are unaware of some preexisting condition they may have, I cannot fathom how they can claim the park is responsible. Short of requiring a complete physical before getting on a ride, Magic Mountain (as well as other other parks) takes reasonable precautions to keep guests safe, as evidenced by millions of people riding these same rides without incident each year.
Disney at Odds with the ADA?
There is a prevalent mindset within Disney right now -- do the minimum they think they can get away with. The cost cutting and shortcuts taken at Disney 's California Adventure are a prime example of this mentality in action. The recent news item about disabled accessibility of the Disney cruise ships is another example.
Though Access Now, a disability rights group who filed suit against Disney, lost the case on technicalities, the merits of the case were never judged. The article states that the case may be precedent setting, but count on the activists to find a disabled traveler willing to attempt the cruise in order to overcome the technicalities. This issue is far from over.
One interesting observation in the article is the change in attitude expressed by Carnival Cruise Lines. Rather than dismissing the challenges disabled travelers face, they are working with activists to make changes to their ships in order to make them more accommodating to those with disabilities. What a contrast when compared to Disney!
The most egregious part of this whole story is that the ships in question weren't built 20 years ago when disabled accessibility was often ignored. They were built well after the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The omission of accessible facilities by Disney on board these new ships indicates either gross incompetence on the part of Disney's designers and lawyers, or gross negligence. Shame on the Mouse for deciding to cut corners. Unfortunately, it is likely that Disney shareholders will pay the price in the form of reduced earnings when this case is resolved. Make no mistake -- we have not heard the end of this issue.
Building More Rooms In This Market?
Disney's announcement of a new Florida time- share resort comes in the middle of a lackluster summer season for other Orlando- area hoteliers. Lake Buena Vista- area hotels had the highest occupancy rate in the region at 81%, but they also had the largest drop, down over 9% from last year. The International Drive hotels, which cater to Universal as well as Disney visitors, experienced a 4% dip in occupancy, filling just under 80% of their rooms.
While Orlando hotels are having a tough time filling their 130,000 hotel rooms, and are facing the worst tourism rates in nearly a decade, Disney is building more rooms. Timeshare is proving to be both more profitable and more recession proof than traditional properties, and Disney is looking to expand their reach in this market. There are currently 15,000 timeshares in the Orlando area, and they enjoy an attractive occupancy rate and guaranteed repeat business.
Once the backwater of vacation lodging, timeshare has become almost mainstream and respectable. New laws have been enacted giving consumers greater protection, and the state of Florida has opened a bureau to enforce these laws. While potential customers will still find themselves sitting through the inevitable timeshare sales pitch, the Disney version is usually low pressure and sleaze free.
The allure of timeshare is simple -- prepaid vacations, with various degrees of flexibility over time and location. Guests who buy into the Disney timeshares have a variety of choices over here they want to stay, when they want to visit, and even what country they would like to tour. For more information on the Disney Vacation Club, visit Brian Bennet's DVC Guide.
The timeshare concept is also spreading beyond the traditional resort. Just yesterday, Carnival Cruise Lines announced plans to offer timeshare units on their cruise ships. I'm sure the Disney Cruise Line will be watching this development closely to determine if such a program would help their booking rates.
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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