MousePlanet Mailbag

by Stephanie Wien, staff writer

Summer has definitely left us here in the northeast, but the fall colors are really beautiful. Staff writer Chris Barry starts off the mailbag this week by answering letters from Disney collectors, including reaction to his article on Vinylmation (September 17, 2010).

Michael M. writes:

I recently was going through my grandparents' stuff and came across these six books, or what I thought were books; I opened one up and there are Disney ornaments in it. I have tried to research them but can't find anything on them on the web. I am trying to find out how old they are and if they are worth anything, but looking on the internet it is like they never existed. If you can help me or tell me where I can go to find information I would really appreciate it

I'm guessing what you found were Disney Storybook Ornaments. They were available from The Disney Store and the Disney Catalog. I believe you can still purchase these in the parks from time to time. Some are older than others and some more collectible than others. Google "Disney Storybook Ornaments" and you should find information on them. I've seen them on eBay and Amazon. Good luck.

Larry writes:

Over 22 years I have accumulated hundreds of those small plastic Disney figures that were sold in the Disney store for $1 - $3. They are in mint condition. I bought them for my kids when they were very young. Do they have value and who would want to buy them?

They do have value. There are a lot of collectors out there who love the small PVC figures. You're probably best off selling them in a lot on a site like eBay, however there are websites that deal directly with this particular thing. Perhaps you can contact them, they might be interested in buying the lot from you and reselling them.

It's hard to place dollar amounts on them. I'm a collector, but not a seller, so I'm not sure what individual pieces are worth. The majority of mine were either purchased for my daughter when new or from various sites in lots of under 10. If you're interested, I can provide you with some of the site names that I frequented when I was more into buying figures.

Bob B. writes:

I collect a lot of Disney stuff but I and I have to say my family put the brakes on for Vinylmations. I guess we just don't get it. I think they are ugly and I have a better use for my money for better Disney products. I just get this vision of some Disney business manager chuckling in the background rubbing his hands together saying, "You're right PT; there is a sucker born every minute." I think this is the most negative I have been about a Disney product but I can say there is not one Vinylmation in our house.

I appreciate your opinion and I might've agreed with you a year ago. I did think they were pretty ugly. Some of them are still pretty ugly. It's funny, my wife used the same phrase as you: "I just don't get it." I slowly got it. You certainly don't have to.

The only point I will differ on with you is that this is strictly a money-making thought on Disney's part. Let's face it, they will put Mickey or his likeness on just about anything and it will sell in the parks and they know that. However, in the case of some of the Vinylmations, I think they're a little more cutting-edge. Certainly some of the artwork on them is not meant to appeal to a wide audience. You make a Mickey shaped drain stopper and people will buy it. You put some rather unconventional artwork on a Mickey shaped figure and I don't think you're guaranteeing a sale. They do turn off people and why would the marketing folks want to do that?

I also think that some of the choices of character representations are certainly not mainstream but are appealing to more of a hardcore Disney fan base, and not the throngs of tourists that will buy a fairly standard Mickey t-shirt when they're in the parks. I actually think the marketing folks took a risk with Vinylmation. I'm not saying it's not paying off. It certainly is, but I give them credit for thinking out of the box for a change.

Next, staff writer Steve Russo answers letters on the controversial subject of charging extra for additional park experiences in response to his column, "Would You Pay Extra For…" (September 24, 2010).

John H. writes:

You recently discussed ticketing options like partial day tickets and no-ride tickets, wondering how they could be enforced. I suspect those potential options grow out of Disney plans to put RFID chips into tickets. Unobtrusive scanners all over the parks could use those chips to track the movements of crowds, individual guest ride patterns, times in different stores, time spent in restaurants and quick service locations at different times of the day, exact wait times on rides and a huge amount of other data. The data would surely be rendered anonymous, not linked to specific individuals, but whether Disney used that information for good (to respond to customer demand) or evil (to cut back on marginally less popular options) would be a different question.

One of the other things that could be easily done with the chips once they're in tickets is to code them with information like partial day and no-ride options. No one would have to pull out tickets. A scanner hidden near the boarding line would just spot anyone whose chip reported they were no longer eligible to ride, and the cast member on scene would confirm that with a hand-held scan and then direct the guest away. The chips would also make getting into the parks faster, because no one would have to physically insert a ticket into a machine. You'd just walk up to it and the chip would report whether your ticket was still valid.

If any guest tried to sneak into somewhere backstage they weren't supposed to be, or go around safety barriers, the chips could alert Disney to that as well. Rides might be backfitted so that if a chip goes outside a ride vehicle there's an immediate shut down. Lost kids (or parents) could be found almost instantly anywhere in the parks if you had that option added to your tickets.) You can bet that Disney is looking into the use of chips in tickets because of all the things that would make possible.

I have heard rumors of RFID chips being used but, so far, nothing above rumors. Thanks for sharing that.

A. D. J. writes:

Very intriguing article about possible "guest enhancement" ideas. If they offered a Theme Park Club ticket, I would have to seriously consider buying it, even if I did not plan to go every year (right now I go about every other year). I suspect any way I slice it, I'd either break even or more likely come out ahead. I also love the idea of a partial-day ticket, probably for evening hours. I fly to Orlando from Denver, and I am very hard-pressed to get to the resort before 4 pm. Therefore, paying a bit less to get in for half a day would make a lot of sense for my first day there.

The other ideas, as you point out, come with huge disadvantages for enforcement (a no-ride ticket, for example). The trouble with these is that you have to inconvenience every guest in order to make this ticket possible for a very small minority. I can think of no way to do it so it is transparent for those who did not buy that special ticket. And I, like you, have to vote against the paid fastpass idea. Personally, I think we all would be shocked at the number of people who *would* shell out $150 or more for this.

I would consider shelling out more for some new, interesting, small-group experiences or tours. For example, "Research & Development at Walt Disney World," or "History and Cultural References at Epcot." They have "Dine with an Imagineer" which I want to do someday - but I have to say, I'd go nuts (no pun intended) for "Cook with a Disney Chef." Experiences of this sort would probably get me to stay an extra day or two. Have they ever considered a "value pack" of tours?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Chris H. writes:

I definitely agree that a pay-extra fast pass is a bad idea. To have unlimited access to the fast pass line all day would kill the statistical timing of the system. If they did implement it, I would hope that the uber-fast pass would be limited to only five rides a day.

Also, I would love it if Walt Disney World would actually pull back a little on the Premium Holiday Party Tickets. Offering a party four times a week is too much. Usually they leave the weekend free and Tuesday or Wednesday. That just makes the weekends busier and the one weekday without the party a mad house. I know - I've experienced it. If they would do like Disneyland and limit it to two a week, I'd be a lot happier.

Thanks for the comments. I agree 100%.

Bill writes:

What I don't get is how does Disney distinguish between regular hour visitors and "extra" hour visitors? That applies to both "Extra Magic Hours" and things like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? If one can enter the park with a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party ticket prior to 7 pm, what prevents a regular day pass holder from just not leaving?

From my experience with Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Party guests are issued wristbands and encouraged to congregate in Tomorrowland as the party begins. The cast members begin "sweeping" the other lands encouraging those without wristbands to begin making their way to the exits. It does seem to work.

Lisa H. writes:

One thing I would definitely pay for is a late afternoon partial day. I agree with you, a morning partial pass would be difficult, if not impossible to enforce, however, a bet lots of folks arrive hot off the airport or highway in the afternoon, who would love a reduced rate for an after 3:00 or 4:00 pass. That type of pass would be easy to enforce.

I have mixed feeling about the unlimited FastPass. One thing I hate about the current system is the early morning crush to get at the FastPass machine. It is a vacation, and I hate to feel competitive about marching straight to Soarin' or Expedition Everest to get my family's Fast Passes. On days I forego the "march," I am stunned at the crowds and am amazed more injuries are not reported. To have a FastPass secured for me in advance is easily worth $150 for a week's vacation, much like paying a premium for park hopping is well worth it.

My one hesitation is this: Before committing to the extra $600 it would cost my family, I would have to research to find out what percentage of people typically pay for it. If 80% of customers pay for the pass, it won't really help with lines. I wonder if Universal has statistics on how many of its guests pay for the pass? Like with regular Fast Pass, I wonder how many people would even understand it.