The BLOGFlume—Happy Birthday America!
Unexpected losses at Pixar, Space Mountain back on line, and the first part of a vacation planning series.
Written by Russell Meyer
It seems that Pixar Animation Studios may not be the goldmine everyone thought it was. Shares of Pixar dropped a whopping 10% after announcing 2nd quarter earnings would be $6 million less than previously expected. The cause of the surprising drop is being pinned on lower than expected sales of The Incredibles on DVD. DVD sales have been tripping up a number of analysts, since many other movie companies have been missing estimates because of decreasing DVD sales. The biggest problem with DVD sales seems to be the lack of a tracking system. Music has Soundscan, which all retailers are required to use to track all music sales. However, movies have no such tracking system, and lots of DVDs are purchased by retailers and just placed on store shelves. The initial run occurs on a title, and in order to free shelf space for the next big DVD release, retailers send back unsold lots to the distributor. When announcing sales, movie companies count those unsold lots, and when they are returned, they subtract from the expected DVD sales. A similar thing happened when Shrek 2 was released, and proclaimed the best selling DVD of all time. For a couple of weeks it was, until Wal-Mart, Target, and all of the other retailers who bought monstrous lots of copies of the movie realized that they would not sell them all, and returned a large number of unsold copies. Experts want to point to the stalling interest in computer-animated movies, but I think the issue is more about the cooling interest in purchasing DVDs. I’ve noticed recently that a number of premier DVD titles are being sold at cut-rate prices, just to get them off the shelves. It’s disappointing to see Pixar fail to meet estimates, but perhaps it’s more because of the accountants than the material that Pixar is producing. Regardless, Robert Iger has just been handed a great negotiating tool to try to seal the deal and reunite Pixar with Disney.
Back to Life
As a number of TPI members can already attest, the new version of Space Mountain at Disneyland is nearing completion, and has been taking riders over the past week or so. While the official grand re-opening of the classic ride is not scheduled to happen until July 15, 2005, Disney has initiated a “soft opening” period for the coaster, and some reviews have been coming in from all over about what’s been happening inside the mountain of steel over the past two years. Everyone seems to have their positives and their negatives, but most people seem to agree that it’s great to see the coaster back up and running. The track is noticeably smoother, and the soundtrack is clearer and easier to hear. Hard core fanatics of the coaster can point out every single thing that has changed about the ride, which include the lights in the tunnels, queue, and loading area. The one common change that everyone seems to like is that the inside of the mountain is much darker, and that the track can no longer be seen from the queue area. There’s still no word about the rumored “Rockit’ Mountain” which is supposed to make the ride change at night, and it is possible that those changes may not be made until early next year. Early speculations are that Disney will re-re-launch Space Mountain in the spring of next year and create another “new” attraction to draw guests to the park for the second half of the 50th Anniversary celebration. While the coaster may not please those who were looking for a more intense and more thrilling launched coaster, I think everyone will agree that Disneyland is not the same place without Space Mountain.
An Orlando Vacation Planning Guide Part I
Over the next few months, I will be writing about planning an Orlando vacation. My wife and I have begun thinking about taking a vacation to Florida in the fall of this year, and I will be discussing what we do to get the most out of our vacation. We don’t have any children yet, so I will do my best to try to consider what families with children would also be interested in doing. However, something that has always been a part of our vacations is trying to pack the most in the least amount of time. We don’t obsessively plan, but we have a good idea what we want to do on certain days, and try our best to see everything we want to see. After all, how many times to you get to go on vacation? We often come back from a trip and think that we need a vacation from our vacation. So those who are looking to move at a more leisurely pace will probably flip out when they see our eventual itinerary.
The first thing to do when planning a vacation is to decide when you want to go on vacation. Those with children may be tied to a school schedule, but while we don’t have kids, we want to take advantage of the times of the year when our likely vacations spots are going to be less crowded. For Orlando, that means avoiding the summer, major holidays, and spring break. We like to travel during the October/November time frame to avoid the crowds, and have found great success during the early part of November in particular. The great thing about October and November are two of the lesser-observed federal holidays,-Columbus Day and Veterans Day- fall during that time, so that’s one less vacation day we have to use at work. It also means any parks that are only open weekends in the fall will be open two extra weekdays. October and November is also the usual time frame for the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival. The event, which this year runs from September 30, 2005 to November 13, 2005, turns the World Showcase into a “Taste-Of” festival where you can sample food and drink from around the world at a fraction of the price of eating at the pavilion restaurants.
We’ve been tossing back places to go for our fall vacation, and the two leading contenders are Hawaii and Florida. I know, I know. The choice is easy for me too. I want to go to Hawaii, especially since my beloved Maryland Terrapins are playing the Maui Invitation preseason basketball tournament in November. Hawaii in November, and Florida in February, but it seems my wife is practical, and my whimsical visions of hiking through Volcanoes National Park and watching basketball cannot come to fruition unless I can acquire tickets to the basketball tournament. Acquiring tickets to this basketball tournament is not as easy as one would think since tickets are only being distributed right now to those who purchase travel packages through the tournament travel agent. Let’s just say the tournament travel agent is not interested in giving people a great value, but instead a first class trip. I don’t mind first class, I’m just not interested in paying for it. So as it stands right now, we’re on plan B, which is a trip to Orlando.
So we’ve decided where we want to go and when we want to go, approximately, so now it’s time to have some fun and see what Disney’s marketing machine can provide us. As someone who’s pretty experienced in the way things at Disney works, the Disney Vacation Planning Video is not completely helpful, but it’s a great place for just about everyone to start. It doesn’t cost you a dime to watch an hour of Disney self-promotion, and if you haven’t been in a few years, it’s a great way to brush up on what’s going on in the Magic Kingdom. The video can be ordered right off the Disney website, and many travel agents have them. The one we received came about a week and a half after I ordered it, and was geared towards guests traveling to Disney over the Disneyland 50th Anniversary celebration. It was clear that the video was made before a number of the new attractions were completed, but it does cover all of the recent additions to all of the parks. The video also gives details about the various resorts around the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney really wants you to stay on-site, and they’ve added a number of perks that make it hard to resist the temptation to stay on Disney property. From Extra Magic Hours, when the parks are only open to on-site resort guests, to Magical Express, a service that allows you to skip baggage claim at the airport to get straight to the parks, there are a number of new advantages to staying on property. So why would you not want to stay on-site? Price! It’s definitely not cheap to stay on Disney property, and once you’re on-site, Disney will do whatever they can to keep you from leaving. There are hotels on Disney property that are a little more reasonable, but you get what you pay for, and those “value” resorts are nothing more than silly themed motels.
After watching the video, you will want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, or the Grand Floridian. That is, of course, until you see how expensive it is to stay at the “deluxe” resorts. Every resort has its pros and cons, but the bottom line about choosing a resort is picking something that you can afford. Remember, you still have airfare, rental car, tickets, food, and souvenirs to buy. So while it may seem really cool to stay right at the doorstep of the Magic Kingdom at one of the monorail resorts, if your budget cannot handle it, you should strongly consider one of the moderate resorts. This vacation will probably be the first time I will be staying on-site since 1987, when my parents and I stayed at the Fort Wilderness Campground as part of the old Big Red Boat cruise package. For those who are looking for the best deals, Disney does release special discounted rooms on a three month advanced schedule. That means if you’re planning on going in October/November, now’s the time to start looking around for those discounted rooms. We are in the middle of that process right now, and my next installment will go into those discounts and the world of possibilities outside of Walt Disney World.
What's it like to work at Disney World?
Insider's Pick: Ever wondered what it would be like to work at the Walt Disney World Resort? Stories from a Theme Park Insider offers more than 100 pages of fun, insightful, and even sometimes touching stories from people who've worked at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It's a great way to get in the mood for your next trip to Orlando, or just to keep the memories of a Disney World visit alive.
Top U.S. Theme Parks
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Other Top International Parks
Features, News and Advice
"Stories from a Theme Park Insider"
Connect with Theme Park Insider