Autopia Getting a Honda Refreshby David Koenig, contributing writer
Autopia Getting a Honda Refresh
Despite rumors earlier this year that, with the addition of a new Star Wars Land, Disneyland’s Autopia and adjacent lagoon would go the way of the Viewliner, it now looks like the Star Wars invasion will help guarantee at least several more years of Tomorrowland’s only Opening Day attraction.
The complete Star Wars/Marvel takeover of the Tomorrowland’s carousel building that opens November 16 forced out the last remaining sponsor of Innoventions: American Honda Motor Company. But since Disneyland wanted to keep Honda happy and extend its now-10-year-old, multi-resort sponsorship deal with the car company, Honda was instead offered sponsorship of Autopia.
To promote the Honda connection, the Autopia buildings will be repainted white, blue and silver, and the digital signage will change. The cars and track will stay the same.
Autopia is not yet listed on park refurbishment schedules, but—although the changeover will be very noticeable—it won’t require too extended of a rehab, a godsend for the park considering all the other capacity that will be lost for a full year to allow construction of the 14-acre Star Wars Land behind Frontierland.
Honda also sponsors Disneyland’s nightly fireworks shows, its Grad Nites, and, not so coincidentally, the Autopia at Hong Kong Disneyland. It’s also the Disneyland Resort’s official Car, Motorcycle and Select Power Equipment company.
Longer Distance Parking
Cast members are getting increasingly cranky about having to park miles away from Disneyland and be shuttled to and from the resort. On especially busy days, employees accustomed to parking at the Katella Cast Member Lot (KCML) have had to park at Angel Stadium at least 16 times so far this year.
To make matters worse, Disneyland reportedly has struck a deal to also allow visitors to the Anaheim Convention Center to park at KCML during heavily attended events. Evidently, Disney could charge the convention center parkers far more than they would in turn have to pay to rent spaces at the stadium.
One cast member heard that this could mean workers would be redirected to park further off-site up to 100 times next year. “It just reinforces our belief that cast members are not valued and are second-class citizens,” he said.
[Editors note: Cast members are being informed that they are being sent to park at Angels Stadium this Friday and Saturday due to the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend races.]
The Case of the Troubled Transgender
After spending years researching my new book The People v. Disneyland: How Lawsuits & Lawyers Transformed the Magic (it makes the perfect holiday gift!), I thought I’d heard them all—but two pretty unique cases have been filed recently, and both plaintiffs are looking to you to help with their expenses.
In the first, a former cast member has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for her lawsuit alleging Disneyland discriminated against and terminated her because she is transgender. In a 34-page filing, the lawsuit explains that the plaintiff spent three years in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of petty officer third class prior to her transition. After being discharged in late 2002, she legally changed her name to Alyssa Nguyen and was issued a new driver's license with her new name, and which listed her gender as female.
In 2006, Alyssa was hired as a merchandise hostess at Disney California Adventure. During the entire time, she dressed in ways appropriate to her female identity, including adhering to Disney's female grooming standards of wearing her hair longer and wearing earrings, which are not permitted for male cast members.
Outwardly, the company seemed to approve, by assigning her a female uniform, although she was passed over several times for promotions. Her allegations recount many complaints, from co-workers nosily asking about whether she was a woman or man, to guests mocking her for wearing women’s clothing. According to her lawsuit, for example:
- Guests pointied out that Alyssa was “a girl’s name,” or asked if that was her real name.
- Others referred to her as “he,” “him,” “it,” or “the man who wears women’s clothing.”
- A co-worker (who got a promotion to trainer that Nguyen applied for) “enforced gender roles on theme park visitors who were minors,” such as discouraging boys from selecting princess merchandise or from using a pink ribbon when having their headwear personalized.
Several interactions with guests or co-workers escalated, and Alyssa ended up receiving multiple warnings and suspensions.
She also sought and received several transfers between DCA, Disneyland, and Downtown Disney to escape the hostile work environments.
Ironically one of her biggest issues had nothing to do with her gender identity, but with the embroidery machine at the Los Feliz Five & Dime shop. Alyssa had been trained one way and it drove her crazy to see co-workers operate the equipment “in a manner contrary to Disneyland Resort embroidery training and manufacturer specifications.”
As well, she thought the store used way too many cans of compressed air, which she considered a health, environmental, and explosion hazard.
During this time, she began to worry about her stress levels and mental health due to co-workers’ “continued failure to adhere to established embroidery procedures and (management’s) inaction.” Alyssa began taking medical leave, and her late-shows and absences piled up until, on March 14, 2014, she was dismissed.
Alyssa enlisted an attorney to convince Disney to settle, but the company refused. So on her own, she filed suit for discrimination, harassment, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and wrongful termination. She expected to encounter about $8,000 in legal fees, so she turned to crowdfunding. In four months, her campaign to raise $8,000 has collected a combined $295 from six donors, half of them anonymous.
The Case of the Panicky Passholder
Carole Waddell was a devoted Disney fan who owned a Disneyland seasonal pass, despite living more than 100 miles away from the park. In 2003, she was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. A psychologist recommended and prescribed a service dog, which could act as a calming force for her in public and could be trained to sense the onset of a panic attack.
Waddell got a beagle she named Bagel and had him licensed as a service dog. The dog “assisted in keeping her depression and anxiety down to a manageable level so she could go outside and carry on her life.” With Bagel at her side, she was able to enjoy regular trips to the park, despite the crowds.
Unfortunately, in April 2014, Bagel was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live. On July 20, 2014, Carole packed up Bagel for one last trip to Disneyland, followed by a night at the Disneyland Hotel. They never got that far. At the Main Gate, as she was tucking her dying dog into a stroller, a cast member told them they’d have to leave. Waddell explained that Bagel was a service dog and reached to show its registration papers. The host refused to look at them and said the dog was actually a “therapy dog,” which was not entitled to the same legal protections.
As Waddell began walking back through Downtown Disney to her car, she felt a panic attack coming on. Fortunately, with ailing Bagel’s assistance, she made it back to her car. Barely. Shortly after exiting the lot, she blacked out. She woke up the next morning in a parking lot in Fullerton with no recollection of how she’d gotten there. Knowing that she was in no shape to drive home, she found a nearby Holiday Inn, where “the manager took her under his wing and gave her and Bagel a room to rest and eat and gather her wits.” She drove home the next morning. Four days later, Bagel was dead.
Waddell was devastated; “her assistant dog’s last visit to Disneyland was short-circuited by an overzealous, misinformed employee of the park.” She had to undergo additional therapy sessions to overcome the trauma and it took nearly a year before she was able to return to Disneyland, accompanied by a friend, since she was afraid she’d be attacked once again.
Right after arriving on May 27, 2015, she headed for City Hall to obtain a disability pass. There, the host interrogated her so mercilessly she almost suffered another panic attack. He “kept asking why she needed the pass, what happens when she became unstable or anxious, what happens if she is in line,” and so forth, until she finally screamed, “I BLACK OUT!” He reluctantly handed her a pass. But by then her day had essentially been “ruined by the cast member’s rude and illegal behavior.”
Waddell, too, filed suit and turned to You Caring Compassionate Crowdfunding for help. In five months, her campaign has generated a combined $314 from nine donors, to help train the newest member of her family, Storm, to become a PTSD service dog.
My suspicion is, no matter how many dozens of dollars these plaintiffs are able to raise, Mickey will win once again.