Graveyard Shriftby David Koenig, contributing writer
The employee First Aid station at Disneyland is now closed on weekends during the graveyard shift. Cast member First Aid had been staffed around the clock by registered nurses, with similar qualifications as those who work the guest First Aid facility.
"No one is happy about this," said one worker. "If a cast member needs medical attention, the manager of that department has to find a way to transport the cast member to the nearest urgent care facility, or call for paramedics."
Speculation is that Disneyland is merely copying similar cutbacks at its East Coast counterparts. "Florida does it, now we have to," the employee said. "It's another example of how Florida is taking over our operations, as part of the One Disney initiative."
There's Something about Mary
The new Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe is packed to the rafters with references to the film Mary Poppins, with one glaring omission: Mary Poppins herself. The decor includes snippets of song lyrics, chalk-sidewalk-painting flooring, and plenty of penguins, but the closest you'll find to Mary is her tiny visage atop the weathervane.
Disney might argue that playing down the Poppins was a conscious design decision, to make the cartoonish elements more subtle and protect the theming on Main Street. Yet the Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep face characters had long been regulars on Main Street and, after a gig greeting guests out front of the bakery when it opened two weeks ago, have since been absent from the area.
Some cast members suspect sinister forces at play. One suggested that the bakery and its adjacent dining area are "off limits to the face characters due to some legal issue."
"Pretty sad," he remarked, "Mary and Bert being barred from a location themed just for them."
As expected, the opening of the new bakery coincided with the closure of the old bakery—along with every other shop between the two (what internally is classified as the "400 block" of Main Street), including the Carnation Cafe, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Penny Arcade, Candy Palace, and Coke Refreshment Corner. Carnation is expected to consume the old bakery, to convert into much-needed indoor seating. Meanwhile, the ice cream shop desperately requires a revamped serving and queuing set-up, and the highly popular candy store would love to expand its borders. That may place a squeeze on the facility between the ice cream and candy shops—the once richly themed Penny Arcade. Hopefully, the rehab doesn't spell the end of what little is left of this 1955 showplace.
Shutting down about the same time as the shops was the Matterhorn, to install an entire fleet of new high-tech bobsleds. Most noticeably, the new vehicles feature a sleeker look and individual seats, bringing an end to the custom of having fellow guests sit in your lap (which likely will force Disney to increase the ride's height limit).
What's less obvious is that the sleds are considerably heavier and more complex, primarily due to the addition of lawyer-mandated safety equipment. "They are not just simple sleds," said one ride operator. "Among the new safety features are electronic locking safety belts, like in Star Tours."
He also noted, "It's going to be a snug fit for tall or large people," due to the streamlined design, compartmentalized seating, and ability to accommodate six adults. A cast member who sampled the sleds during earlier testing agreed: "There is not much leg room. It is as if the designers forgot people have legs. If you have really long legs, it will take you longer to get out."
Personally, I look forward to seeing if the heavier vehicles make for a faster ride!
What won't be faster is loading, unloading, and the sure-to-be-never-ending queue. Consider that the ride will reopen about the same that Cars Land is unveiled—and that by the time the mountain reopens in mid-June, it will have been closed for more than seven of the preceding 12 months.
Prepare to say good-bye to one of Downtown Disney's last original lessees, Compass Books & Cafe. The bookstore/coffee shop's lease expired December 31, and Disney refused to renew—instead giving the business three months to evacuate (meaning the doors could close as early as next month or early March). Although Disney's press honks say the departure was a "mutual" decision, Compass enjoyed one of its best years to date in 2011 and would have loved to continue.
The move continues an unfortunate trend of forcing out unique lessees in favor of more homogenized, Disneyfied retail experiences. Downtown Disney is becoming, one Compass regular bemoaned, "a long corridor of Disney shops leading to more Disney shopping."
Having a neighborhood bookstore/coffee shop at the far corner of Downtown Disney was a masterstroke of planning genius. I shudder to think of what will replace it. Consider the kiosk in front of Compass that Disney kicked the bookstore out of five years ago. It's sold everything from trinkets to T-shirts in the interim. Every idea has been a bust.