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The BLOG FLUME - Eisner's Legacy

Things are bad at most of the Disney parks now, so what is Michael Eisner doing about it? The answer might surprise you.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: August 5, 2004 at 1:36 AM

EISNER'S LEGACY
Orlando Sentinel - Aug 3
MousePlanet - Aug 2
MiceAge - Aug 3

Euro Disney is reporting a 3% decrease in revenue last quarter and is warning of increased losses in upcoming quarters. Even scarier, Disney is apparently having problems in its quest to restructure its debt and has extended the deadline to save Euro Disney from bankruptcy.

Walt Disney World has had a slower-than-expected summer, and hotel discounts were offered soon after the season started. Independence Day weekend was far below expected numbers at most, if not all, WDW parks. Now the parks are bringing back the Play 4 Days park hoppers for locals, a measure that has normally been used to get locals into the parks in the slow months between Spring Break and summer. Furthermore, Annual Passholders are finding their August blackout days have vanished and they can visit the parks whenever they please.

The Disneyland Resort has had a horrible summer. The Tower of Terror did NOTHING for attendance at the beleaguered California Adventure park. Disneyland, a park which usually weathers any storm, is having a summer worse than any it has seen in over two decades. Independence Day was worse here than in Orlando, and plans to jack up the prices of Annual Passes unraveled quickly.

What's going on?

It would be easy to use the word many Disney fans have used the last few years: cheapness. It certainly has a lot to do with it. Euro Disney's problems intensified when they built Walt Disney Studios Paris, a park meant to turn Disneyland Paris into a "resort." Except they didn't bother making it a park anyone would "resort" to visiting. As most of us know, the same thing happened when Disneyland became the Disneyland RESORT.

But what about WDW? Actually, WDW was the FIRST Disney resort to suffer from ill-advised expansion. Animal Kingdom burst onto the scene in 1998 and people flocked to it. But they flocked away from Epcot and Disney/MGM Studios to do so. This was especially shocking because Epcot had always had a rabid following and the initial excitement over the Tower of Terror had died down enough for Disney to open Fantasmic in the park that year.

Smartly, Disney was already in the process of adding major attractions to all three parks for the following year: Test Track at Epcot, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney/MGM and the Asia land at AK. 1999 was still a down year for WDW, but the new additions made 2000 a banner year.

The newfound Disney cheapness has hurt them since then. With three parks that need major help and Disney refusing to pony up the money needed to make them work, things have gotten worse and worse for the parks. Cheap fixes like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, One Man's Dream, the Millenium Celebration, Dino-Rama were the equivalent of repairing an amputation with a styptic pencil.

So are the parks actually going to do something to stop the bleeding? Sorta. In 2005, Epcot is the only one getting an actual E-Ticket, with their Soarin' clone. Disneyland will get a solid D-Ticket with their Buzz Lightyear clone and Space Mountain might actually reopen in 2006. Disney/MGM will get a clone of a show, albeit a show that is supposed to be amazing. DCA, the American park that needs the most work, will get... NOTHING. AK, the park that needs a lot of work also, will get... a walking dinosaur! WDSP, the park that needs more help than any theme park in the WORLD, will get... NOTHING.

So the trend continues. Of course, Disneyland will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2005 (and throughout 2006) and probably won't need much help. In fact, all parks will benefit from DL's Anniversary, as all are in on the celebration.

Fortunately the celebration is a lengthy one, as AK's Expedition Everest should make it in time for the tail end of the party. Strange things are going on in DCA also, as their Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is scheduled to close this month. This means three buildings in a row in the Hollywood area - Superstar Limo and the Hollywood and Vine eatery both closed permanently earlier in the year - will all be vacant in after summer. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Disneyland's problems are really being focused on by TDA also. Matt Ouimet, the head of the Disneyland Resort, has actually asked for even more money for the park. He believes the proposed Finding Nemo overlay for the Submarine Lagoon won't be enough and the park needs a major E-Ticket, something they haven't had for almost a decade. He is suggesting a major NEW attraction using the ride system from Tokyo DisneySea's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. While water isn't necessary for this ride, it is definitely an improvement over resuscitating the slow-loading Subs.

Which brings us to Michael Eisner's legacy. We all know what has happened to the parks since Eisner brought on Paul Pressler to milk every cent out of them. But Eisner has two years left on his contract, if he isn't booted before then, and the next two years are going to be very busy at the parks. Eisner will head out after a 2005 that should be the parks' most successful. The new Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Soarin' and Everest should be huge crowd-pleasers, and that many major rides in about a year will surely be noticed. Especially if DCA gets something other than a Rock 'n' Roller Coaster clone in those newly empty buildings, and gets it quickly.

But that doesn't change the fact that DCA and AK will still be half-sized parks when he steps down. Or the fact that WDSP will still be a third-size park. Or the fact that another show, no matter how exciting, will help Disney/MGM for long. Or the fact that the other parks still need major help.

The most important fact is that Eisner will not be remembered for the movies Disney has produced. He will not be remembered for the Oscars Miramax has won. He will not be remembered for the television shows Buena Vista creates or those that air on their networks. He WILL be remembered for driving away Pixar and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the two biggest names in animation nowadays.

The only way Eisner can counteract being remembered for these defections is to start throwing major money at the theme parks. Eisner made his name bringing the parks to glory in the 90s, and he can do it again in 2006. It's his choice...

Readers' Opinions

From mister johnson on August 5, 2004 at 4:26 AM
Oh boy! What Disney-MGM does NOT need is a clone of this craptastic stunt show in Paris. This may be the one attraction most celebrated at WDSP, but consider the competition. It is a slow-moving, emotionally distant experience. The Mouse would be better off reinvesting in the Indiana Jones show.

And I do not know where Al Lutz gets his inside info, but if Ouimet thinks some variation of the Tokyo 20K is somehow an E ticket, the guy needs to have a proctologist examine his brain. This is a ride system that has D Ticket written all over it, even if the story, pacing, and effects were brilliantly executed (unlike on the TDS ride). I'd love to see it, or some Mermaid version, in DL, but have the sense to call a pig a pig. If Matt wants an E ticket, do something with the Tokyo Pooh ride platform.

I swear these parks are so far off the mark anymore that it gives me a minor stroke thinking about what was, versus what we have to deal with now. Tigger suits in courtrooms, film companies from Norway creating new films for Epcot, and the most beautiful Disney park in the world is failing (again). If ever there was a time to thaw out the boss, it is now.

From Chris Edison on August 5, 2004 at 7:30 AM
I gotta get in on this too. Al Lutz, Mr. anti-disney, has to blow his mouth and float his "so-called" sources. Dont get me wrong, disney is having troubles and they need seriously changes at the top, but we all know Al likes to blow his mouth when the company is down. IMHO, Al needs to..how should I say...put up or shut up...with his sources.
From scott sumerak on August 5, 2004 at 9:01 AM
Last week I made my first trip to Disneyland in almost 18 years. Mind you, WDW and DLP have filled that void. I must admit, that in the back of my mind, the constant droning thought was "This isnt WDW, it's a different place, and you shouldn't be disappointed. There is a whole lot wrong here, but keep looking for the Magic, not the chipped paint."
I have never had my preconceived notions destroyed so quickly! The ballons still float higher, the fireworks sparkle brighter, the giggles of kids ring louder, and the churros are..... churro-ier than anywhere else on Earth.
Look, I work in the theatre, so I can't step anywhere in a Disney Park without being constantly aware of show. It's just a mindset. But being in theatre also teaches one lesson: if you tell an audience that something is there enough times, whether it is or not, eventually they will see it. I am not saying that Mr. Lutz is to blame for failing numbers or low park attendance, but a collective voice created by the same kind of crumudginly naysayers will eventually have people seeing and condemming things that simply don't matter as much as you think they do.
I beleive in watchdogs, really I do. Somebody needs to have the courage to point out inproprieties and the like in the world. Yes, Eisner is a putz. Yes, Those building are empty right now. YES, we get it, somethings have slipped.But Al and Company, um, I mean "sources", need to remember that when someone reads the apocolyptic review of the concrete color around the Frontierland garbage cans, he mentions to a friend what he read, and the friend decides to go to Magic Mountain cause he "heard that Disneyland is falling apart".
Sorry if this rambled along, but as someone who fell prey to the negativism and, for a fleeting moment, let thatching and chipped paint become more important, I still saw Magic in 3 grown adults paddling a canoe in a shallow, dyed river past 2 random boys fishing in the middle of nowhere, one in a strawhat, the other barefoot. Now there's Disney. There's your Show. While I once found the scutiny iluminating, now "sources" just sound like whining!Paint chips be damned......i want a churro.
From kathy sussman on August 5, 2004 at 9:20 AM
Eisner can not let pixar go in the last couple years pixar has made classics like finding nemo, monsters inc., and toy story. Without pixar disney made sucky movies like jungle book 2 and home on the range. With pixar going this could be the last of disney studios.
From John Franklin on August 5, 2004 at 1:51 PM
Well, Kevin Baxter, do you know why CA Adventures is know as DCA? It's because the letters stand for DisCounted Adventures.
From Andrew Swanson on August 5, 2004 at 3:55 PM


Please tell me you're joking. Is Soarin' really worthy of E-Ticket Status?

From Kevin Baxter on August 6, 2004 at 1:46 AM
As for putting up or shutting up... someone who devotes an entire website to Disney parks is not "anti-Disney" and anyone that says so has far less credibility than the person whose credibility they are questioning. Just because you don't want to hear bad things about Disney doesn't take away from the fact that Lutz is at Disneyland all the friggin' time. Disney employees, from the ground level on up, know about his website and there has been more than one instance of his site causing Disney to fix whatever problem he has featured on his site. Lutz wants what is best for the parks. Disney doesn't. So what's up with the childish hatred?

MJ, I have serious problems with Disney's definitions of E-Tickets. They claim Buzz Lightyear is an E-Ticket, fergawdsake!

As far as I am concerned, only thrill rides should be considered true E-Tickets. Other major rides, like the proposed 20K (which isn't getting rave reviews at TDS) or PotC or IASW, should be Ds. C-Tickets should be bigger rides, but aimed more at kids, like the Fantasyland dark rides or Buzz. As and Bs would be sucky rides, or most of Paradise Pier!

As such, I totally agree DL needs an E-Ticket and that isn't it. A Finding Nemo Subs replacement won't do it either. Pooh's failure is still fresh and it seems they are already forgetting about it. DCA, on the other hand, needs quality Ds and Es. More soon...

From mister johnson on August 6, 2004 at 4:03 AM
Kevin, I have a lot of respect for you, but the notion that only thrill rides are E's is completely contrary to Disneyland's first principles. This park (and its global spawn) are family joints. Thrill rides are almost always restrictive in who-can and who-can't be accomodated. The notion that E Ticket=top shelf experience and that, in order to be an E Tik, you inherently exclude some huge chunk of the family market, it just makes no sense.

I'm not one of these "no roller coasters in my Disneyland" kind of people, but I'm increasingly disappointed that WDI cannot/will not invent 21st century attractions that revisit/reinvent what worked about rides like Pirates, Subs, and Haunted Mansion in their heyday. In their own peculiar way, these things were honest-to-god adventures. They were visceral and emotional experiences (as an aside, none featured any Disney branded characters...that's another topic). They were also family attractions that almost anyone could ride (I realize Subs has issues with access, but I guess WED didn't have an ADA to deal with in 1959).

These "classics" may be antiquated by contemporary standards, but be fair. The most modern of these rides is 35 years old.

How could a 2004-era Haunted Mansion--executed with the same conviction as the 1969 version--be anything but an E-tik? How could a Sub Voyage that employed EMV technology, great fx, followed a brilliant story AND went underwater be anything but an E?

From Kenny Hitt on August 6, 2004 at 7:21 AM
I would love for someone to put together a complete list of films that Disney has produced this year and how much money they have lost, total.

The studio is hemorrhaging money, and M Night Shamalamadingdong is not gonna fix that.

And by the way...THE VILLAGE'S big twist is that [CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED], and [CENSORED][CENSORED] to [CENSORED] so [CENSORED][CENSORED] can [CENSORED][CENSORED][CENSORED]them [CENSORED][CENSORED].

There, I just saved you ten bucks.

From Chris M on August 6, 2004 at 10:51 AM
Disney is forgetting about the ways that worked in bringing people to their parks back in the day. The Disneyland TV Show was basically an advertisement, so having GOOD commercials for the parks might work. Building a ride at one park and then building an identical ride at the other park 10 years later doesn't work. When Space Mountain in WDW opened in '75 within 3 years another one opened at DL. Why can't they go for a similar approach when they get a well-liked ride. I have nothing against the parks, however I am only 14 and I can see the flaws Disney has been making during the new milennium.
From John K on August 6, 2004 at 11:32 AM
what is DCA and disneyland's average attendance on weekdays? weekends?

sfmm stats/averages [not exact]: (last july) 10,500 weekdays, averaging 20,700 on saturdays, 18.4 thousand on sundays.

Disneyland is not alone, its been a real downer at Six Flags Magic Mountain this year also. Last year's averages were good but down from the year before. But SFMM plans to add 6 new coasters in the next decade, including one next year, and disneyland is also opening up the revised Space Mountain and other things, so lets see if the crowds come back to the parks

From John Franklin on August 6, 2004 at 12:26 PM
Kevin, the following is a list of rides that once required E tickets to ride:
The Matterhorn
Space Mountain
It's A Small World
The Monorail
The Subs
Haunted Mansion
PotC
Country Bear
Enchanted Tiki Room
The Jungle Cruise
I would also add Splash Mountain to the list
and Indiana Jones.
I feel that Star Tours is more of a D ride now days.

As far as WDW Space Mountain is concern, it is basically the Matterhorn track layout inside a roof. Disney could not build an exact copy of the Matterhorn in FL outside without replacing the track yearly because of the FL high humidity. So DL's Space Mountain is not really a clone. I don't know about the ones in Paris, Japan, or Hong Kong though.
As a former DL Cast Member, I can tell you that DL had attendance on the average of 60,000 + during the summer back in the 70's. So this summer really sucks for DL this year.


From mister johnson on August 6, 2004 at 12:51 PM
Wait a second John...why would they need to replace exterior coaster track annually in Florida? Is there something so unique about the Matterhorn's steel construction that it would fall apart where more contemporary coasters could withstand the elements? This is completely new to me and, honestly, sounds like a lot of malarky.
From David Franzen on August 6, 2004 at 1:43 PM
My 2 cents...

The original tickets were valued at different prices, according to category. E-tickets being the most expensive.

This was probably also a factor in categorizing a ride (and should be used today, if we want to hold on to the idealistic need to classify intrinsic ride value). The more expensive the ride was to build, the more money was needed to recoup contruction/operating costs.

In regards to the original subject of this discussion regarding the effectiveness/efficiency of Disney management, I answer with a question.

For a company that wants the brand name present in every part of our lives, why did it take them so long to build and market a home computer?

From Kevin Baxter on August 7, 2004 at 12:58 AM
I understand the reasoning behind E-Tickets, but I think the definition needs to change. I'm not talking solely about major thrills like ToT or California Screamin' but I would include tamer stuff like Indy, Matterhorn, Big Thunder, Soarin', Grizzly River Rapids, stuff like that. I think a big problem with Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was that Disney got people excited by telling them they were building an E-Ticket. Pooh isn't even in the same league as OLD E-Tickets.

Rides like HM and PotC are just in a different league than rides like Mission: Space and Test Track and RnRC and the like and they need a new title. D-Ticket doesn't mean they are any less worthy, just different. I just think nowadays that if you built a dark ride like Superstar Limo or Great Movie Ride and tell everyone it is an E-Ticket, people are going to be underwhelmed.

From Chuck Campbell on August 7, 2004 at 8:06 AM
I remember the old D-ticket rides used to include the Mark Twain, the Peoplemover, and Storybookland. Hmm--perhaps "D" meant "dull."
From mister johnson on August 7, 2004 at 1:49 PM
Frankly, Kevin, I think it's the lazy way out for these Imagineers to just slap some theme on a "thrilling" ride platform and have it proclaimed an E Ticket.
From David Franzen on August 7, 2004 at 2:51 PM
Hmm... sounds like this thread needs to be started over as a "ride classification" story.

BTW... Does anyone know if the individual rides are subject to individual budgeting? What I mean is, they can't neccesarily provide major/minor maintenance on all the rides at the same time. Do they just maintain based soley on a calendar, or do they also consider the through-traffic on the ride? I know that management is always thinking about the customer turnover and staffing accordingly, I just wondered if they tie that into maintenance budgeting.

From Christian Nicely on August 8, 2004 at 2:49 PM
I don't get it. Micheal E. just scares me. At the beginning everything was fine.
What they need do in my opinion is bring back Mr. Toads Ride, River Country and stop making more resorts.
I hope the Roller Coaster at AK is worth it.
From Kevin Baxter on August 8, 2004 at 8:03 PM
MJ, isn't that EXACTLY what the biggies have always done? What is the Matterhorn but a thrill ride with a theme thrown on it? What about Space Mountain? Splash Mountain? Especially Splash! As Robert stated in his Knotts trip report, that ride is almost exactly the Knotts flume with theming.

The same goes for the rides that are now essentially D-Tickets. PotC and IASW are basically the same rides with different themes. The Haunted Mansion is nothing more than a Fantasyland dark ride on steroids.

What Disney needs to do is take those ride systems and make them world-quality with the theming they give them. That hasn't been happening. And that is because Eisner's cheapness has forced Imagineers to skimp in the areas they used to excel. Universal now owns this department and Eisner will always be remembered for this if he doesn't change it in the next two years.

From gregory tulloss on August 8, 2004 at 8:12 PM
Let us revisit the classification of a ride like Soarin'. The first time I rode it, I noticed that the ride system was little advanced past the IMAX simulator, save for smell-o-vision and the upside down screen.

But the experience I have felt in total from the ride was bigger than the technology involved. It was an inspiring experience, and no matter what hype it had from previous accounts or reviews, the show was designed to provide an effect and delivered.

To many riders, Soarin' has an ethereal quality, one that pulls out a different kind of joy and pleasure. And the degree at which a ride can do that should be the way we define E-Tickets today, in my opinion.

From mister johnson on August 9, 2004 at 8:38 AM
I don't think "always" is a fair assessment, Kevin. Indy seems much more like a total integration between story, ride platform, and environment, to the point where you can't distinguish between these experience layers. I'd say Spider-man does the same for Universal. Subs are the same way for me (or were)...that whole ride platform was unique to the experience of diving into the ocean depths.

I contrast these attractions with Splash, and here I'd say that--in spite of its elaboration--this is a log flume with really thick makeup. Robert is right in his write up about this ride at DL--Splash IS special but not the same way as Indy or the Subs. When Dudley Doo-Right opened at IOA, a lot of the luster came off of Splash, in my eyes. The same ride experience, different make up.

If I were to draw a continuum, I'd put attractions like Indy & Subs on the far end of WED/WDI doing what they are best at. Hunny Hunt would be over there too, maybe Mission:SPACE. On the other end, you have Rock n Roller Coaster--an attraction completely cobbled from other attractions' great ideas. In the middle would be the Splashes and Towers and Pirates of the world. Each one a classic attraction but with too apparent a schism between "ride" and show.

Why shouldn't we expect/demand WDI get back into the business of total experience design, rather than simple theme overlays?

From Andrew Swanson on August 9, 2004 at 9:27 AM
MJ, To say that Splash Mountain is a typical flume ride with heavy make up, I don't understand why you don't have the same opinion about Mission: Space. It's a decades old carny ride that spins you around in circles and then the floor goes away and you're plastered to the wall. Ok, so in Mission: Space the floor stays, but the only thing that really seperates this from the carny rides is the video screen in your face and you get to press a couple of buttons as the ride goes on. They threw a pretty facade out front and called it cutting edge technology? Please.

Tower of Terror is more exciting (and outside less of a carny ride). Sure, one can argue it was based on the first generation Intamin freefall rides, but this thing goes up, breakes free from its shaft travels horizontally then drops (faster than gravity) then goes horizontally again but this time backwards before the guests get off.

Just my two cents-I definiatly loved the comparison of calling it a regular ride with lots of make up.

From mister johnson on August 9, 2004 at 12:03 PM
Andrew, I think it's a bit of a stretch to compare the ETC MAC ride platform to a Rotor. I love both, however, I've never thought of a Rotor as trying to simulate travel.
From John Franklin on August 9, 2004 at 4:04 PM
Guys, to tell Disney to go back to the days when Pirates was being developed is to forget one very important point: Walt Disney is gone. Walt had a lot to do with the development of all attractions in DL and without him, you need someone to replace him. Walt was the greatest showman of all time. So, the reasons we don't see other Pirates, et al are 1) Walt is gone and 2) Mr.(cheap) Eisner. Can anyone disagree with me here?
From gregory tulloss on August 9, 2004 at 5:03 PM
Though Walt is gone, it was not only he that promoted growth and creativity. Think of the influence of Tony Baxter in the last 25 years, and a bevy of ideas from lesser known imagineers. And in terms of Finance, the arguments between the Disney brothers was a huge factor in the development of 59's expansion, so I suggest that a tight purse teaches competitive creativity.

And if you want to talk budget about Eisner, I suggest that you refer to the Eisner in his worst years, those of which accomodate only half of his tenure. If you like Splash, Indy, Tower of Terror, MGM-Studios Park, Fantasmic, and even are looking forward to Expedition Everest, don't point your finger at Eisner and say that he's never done anything and that Walt did everything. If you don't believe me, read about Western River Expedition.

From Marc-André Routhier on August 10, 2004 at 5:10 AM
The reason we don't see other pirates to my opinion is very simple : The Disney organisation has walked away from it's core business : musical comedy. Is it because the genre is no longer "à la mode"? I really wonder. But to me it is obvious that if you want to be unique, different and last forever in the minds and hearts of the people, each ride needs to be "une oeuvre". Then as a rider, you don't see the ride system anymore, you are watching a 15 minutes musical comedy that you will want to experience over and over again. It is like Mary Poppins, Sound of music,… You don’t get bored and you keep watching, buying tapes, DVD’S,….. Long term returns are better….when you are patient enough. It’s a matter of faith. Are the Disney’s executives still believing in their own identity/culture?

MA Routhier

From John Franklin on August 10, 2004 at 2:53 PM
Well Gregory,

If you want to talk Eisner, how about talking about:
1) The Disney Stores going under to be sold or closed).
2) The fiasco that is ABC
3) Ca mis-Adventures
4) Paris Disney Studios
5) Animal Kingdom
6) Fox Family Channel
7) The Angels
8) Paris Disneyland about to go bankrupt
9) Pixar leaving Disney
10) Miramax talking about leaving Disney
11) DL's Tomorrowland '98 (or is it Deadland '98?)
12) Disney movies this year.
And this is just my short list. Eisner is responsible for all of these problems that Disney is trying to deal with.

To see the whole mess that Disney is in, just visit Roy E Disney's site SaveDisney.com. These issues are beyound the scope of this great site. But, everyone needs to see the whole picture that Kevin Baxter just touches on here.

From gregory tulloss on August 10, 2004 at 5:04 PM
John,
1) Where are the Warner Bros. Studio Stores? Discovery Channel, KCET, Nature Company Stores?
2)Name a time when ABC was ever successful?
3)DCA has added rides and increased attendance with the help of Eisners newly appointed TDA crew and his smart move to replace Pressler with Rasulo.
4)Not Eisners decision to open.
5)In the listings for top parks on this website, it is 9th, above Disneyland, and is the Third Highest ranking Disney park with a stellar new E-Ticket opening in 2006.
6)My girlfriend really likes the reruns of Seventh Heaven every day (on second thought, I think I'm with you on this one).
7)Do you realize how much Moreno is paying for his players these days? Selling them after the series was the best way to stem future losses.
8)It is not Eisners job to do the marketing, accounting and managing of DLP. It isn't even his job to control growth at the resort. I've been there, its very beautiful and the staff is compelling, plus the one-day is only $40. I don't know why they can't get more travelers through the 'stiles, but thats for opark management to figure out.
9)Read the latest negotiations, they are track to reconnect but with a more favorable deal for pixar, its not over yet.
10)Hollywood talk is a fiery and controversial bit of 15 minute gossip. Miramax would never totally split from Disney, they need the distribution and marketing power.
11)Walt once had a big plastic house in tomorrowland and when they tried to bring it down the wrecking ball bounced off of it. Tomorrowland is just an unforgiving place.
12)Its August, the Incredibles are coming, DVD sales will make up the domestic losses.

I'm thinking about a website to memorialize Eisner and all he has done for us Disneylanders. I think they should extend his contract because things are on the upswing, and it just a silly business anyway.

From Kevin Baxter on August 10, 2004 at 6:37 PM
I seriously hope that last post was a joke.

As for Eisner's first theme park renaissance, over time, has been attributed to the guidance of Frank Wells and not to Eisner himself. Look what has happened since Wells died in 1994:

- DCA
- WDSP
- AK built at 1/3 planned size
- New Asia land brings AK to a half-size park (and Kali River Rapids sucks!)
- Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
- Dino-rama expansion
- Closed Mr Toad in MK and Country Bear Jamboree in DL for underperforming Winnie the Pooh
- Innoventions in DL
- Nothing else new in DL, yet things have closed left and right!
- TWO Imagination rehabs, neither as good as the original
- Horizons and World of Motion vanish.
- Clones, clones clones! Including TWO Dumbo clones!

Lord, I can't even continue. What are the highlights? Test Track and Mission: Space? Fantasmic? Soarin'? Kilimanjaro Safaris? Dinosaur? Mickey's PhilharMagic?

Can that list compare to this one: Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Men in Black, Revenge of the Mummy, Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, Shrek 4-D, Terminator 2: 3-D, Dueling Dragons, Hulk??

Disney used to be the leader in creating rides. Cost-cutting is one of the main reasons they no longer are. And who controls the pursestrings?

(BTW, ABC was a moneymaker before Disney bought it, and it was Number One soon after. Now it's Number Four with no end in sight, so that one don't play.)

From John Franklin on August 10, 2004 at 6:43 PM
Gregory,
What you failed to see about my above list is that everything on it is doing poorly or wrost.
CA Adventures and Animal Kingdom are half day parks at best. And attendance at DCA was not helped by Tower of Terror AT ALL.
As far as the movies are concerned, when a movie like the Alamo or King Arthur or Treasure Planet cost 125 or more million dollars to produce and only take 25 mill or so at the theaters, it will be a while, a LONG while for DVDs et al to make up the difference.
ABC was successful back when Who Wants to be a Millionaire? first started. Now ABC is fourth behind FOX.
And Eisner did approved Paris Studios, Animal Kingdom, CA Adventures, and Deadland '98.
But all of these areas of Disney is losing money hand over fist.
ABC alone is losing money to the tune of millions of dollars each day.
From Ben Mills on August 11, 2004 at 12:23 PM
Before I add my two Sterling Pounds, let me get one thing straight: I HATE Eisner. For all the reasons above, plus many, many more. Not to mention the fact that it's his fault that DLP never got Geyser Mountain...

But for me of all people to complain about Eisner may well be a tad unfair. For Mikey was one of the key factors that Disneyland Paris exists today. He may well have crap people skills when it comes to dealing with creative types - Pixar, Miramax, Katzenberg, etc - but pitch him against the financial guys, and he's in his winning domain. He single handedly created the 1994 agreement with the banks that saved the Parisian resort. And again, he's the one holding together the current negotiations. Surprising, it was even his idea to give EuroDisney the proposed €250 million to build WDS new attractions with.

But Kevin got it right when he put the credit onto the Eisner/Wells era. Wells was the perfect creative antidote to Eisner. Kinda like Walt and Roy.

And you've gotta add Cinemagique at WDS onto that list of highlights, Kevin. It really is a suberb attraction.

From alex morehouse on August 16, 2004 at 5:43 PM
I'VE HAD IT WITH EISNER! He drove away Katzenburg, he drove away Pixar, and don't forget he drove away Amblin.

About the parks, I do agree that they all need work. The one that needs a lot of new attractions is Walt Disney Studios Paris. If it's updated, shouldn't it be better than the studio in Florida, like USF was to USH?

From alex morehouse on August 16, 2004 at 5:43 PM
I'VE HAD IT WITH EISNER! He drove away Katzenburg, he drove away Pixar, and don't forget he drove away Amblin.

About the parks, I do agree that they all need work. The one that needs a lot of new attractions is Walt Disney Studios Paris. If it's updated, shouldn't it be better than the studio in Florida, like USF was to USH?

From Ben Mills on August 17, 2004 at 3:27 PM
Have you actually been there Alex? If you had, you'd know that it is in fact the bestest park in the whole entire world, universe, and everything else that we haven't yet explored. We don't know what's there, but we do know that for a wholesome, rootin' tootin' experience for the whole family, just bring 'em on down to Walt Disney Studios, where you can meet Mickey and Pals and star in your very in imaginary movie! Never mind the fact that our rides and shows bar one are crap and sub-Six Flags! WE'VE GOT SOME STUPID IDIOT IN A FRICKIN' MOUSE COSTUME, DAMNIT! Eat that Universal, and your pathetic "world's best" rides! Who even votes those things, anyway? Some losers who are probably so sad they've never been on Its A Small World more than, like, two squillion times, that's who! HA!
From alex morehouse on August 18, 2004 at 5:26 PM
Kevin, I read your post from August 10. I do agree that DCA was a mistake from Eisner. Besides Soarin' Over California and California Screamin' being the 2 biggest draws for me and my parents at DCA, we left 2 hours later to go to Disneyland. It does showcase how un-unique Eisner is.

WDSP- as we all know- is it's lack of attractions. Eisner only spent an estimated 0 250 Million, and that is cheap-o compared to the estimated $1.4 Billion they spent on DCA (despite that it is flawed). It was also reported that it was to be an update of the D-MGM Studios in Florida. It they said "update", shouldn't it be bigger and better, you know, like, have more rides and attractions?

My 2 cents....

Here is my suggestion of what the rides at WDSP should be:

1. Brother Bear Peak (Log Flume)
2. Lilo and Stitch's Hawaiian Roller Coaster
3. Tarzan's Swingin' Safari
4. Tron Video Game Wars
5. Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror
6. Signs
7. Kim Possible's Disney Channel Adventure
8. Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin


Ben, I admit that I have not gone to WDSP, but I have seen a map of it. It looks terrible, cheap, and uncreative. There only 9 attractions, compared to the 18 attractions Disney-MGM Studios has. So Disney- MGM is the better value.

By the way, Kevin, I have read this and things were much better when Wells was around. Now, ABC is number four, Euro Disney is on the verge of Bankruptcy, and DCA is still underperforming. oh, I didn't know Winnie The pooh is underperforming. Hmm.....

From Ben Mills on August 19, 2004 at 3:04 PM
Wow. I'm actually gonna have to defend Eisner for once. Never saw that coming.

He didn't set the budget for WDS. In fact, he had very little to do with it. He did, however, have quite a large role in the creation of Disney/MGM Studios Europe, the park that was originally supposed to be the second park. I know it sounds the same, but the original plans that were almost set in stone back in 1990 were pretty different to the mess that sits in Marne la Vallee today. So while he agreed on behalf on TWDC to lend EuroDisney SCA the €150 million or whatever it was, he had very little say in what it was spent on. In fact, he actively spoke out against the EuroDisney folks' decision NOT to include ToT as a Phase One attraction. Sure, crap all over him for the domestic mess; he deserves it. But he's done far less damage over here. A lot of this is actually Pressler's fault, who for some deranged reason was elected as a consultant on the board of people who were behind the Studios. Apparently, he could see no reason why the attendance wouldn't be as high as the original's, if not higher.

And yet it still took Disney another year to dispose of him. Crazy.

I don't think I've ever read that WDS was supposed to be an update of MGM. It's a European version, and it's also supposed to follow Disney's ill fated "seven-year-plan" for developing new park. Now I've never really been opposed to the idea of the SYP, provided that they ACTUALLY STICK TO IT. See, the idea was that Disney could open half complete parks (ie, California Adventure, Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney Studios) and then spend the next seven years developing it into a full park. This allows them to open the park earlier, as they don't need to save so much money. Which is all great and true, but this means that visitors are charged FULL price for what is only a HALF park. And then Disney, in true Disney style, take waaay more than the seven years to complete the park. Animal Kingdom opened in '98, right? So that means that it should be complete by... oh wait, 2005! Expedition Everest won't be open by then, and even if it was, the Kingdom STILL wouldn't be a complete park. That's just cheap Disney for you.

Anyway, while your potential ride ideas have some good suggestions, WDS has a wierdly different atmosphere to MGM. It's entirely a "backlot" style (cheaper, you see) rather than MGM's mesh of ideas. Something like a Tarzan jungle really wouldn't "fit", if you see what I'm saying. I guess you gotta see it to understand.

What the Studios needs is more character. Not characters, as in those idiots in mouse costumes, but CHARACTER, the thing that used to make a Disney park a Disney park. It's nice that they've tried to make WDS seem authentic by making it look just like a movie studio lot, but there's just one tiny problem with that. Have you ever walked around a movie studio backlot? THEY'RE REALLY, REALLY BORING! People go to a theme park to escape to another planet, or a by-gone era, or an exotic part of the world. They don't go there to walk round looking at a selection of buildings that all look the same: LIKE A FRICKIN' FACTORY. That's my primary concern. I suppose the fact that there is a grand total of two attractions that I want to do again: CyberSpace Mountain and Cinemagique. And CBM is hardly spectacular attraction, it just happens to be a lotta fun.

I remember the best quote that I read in a national newspaper when the park opened. When asked what made the park so great, the general manager replied by stating that "it has plenty of opportunities for development". Classic stuff.

From alex morehouse on August 20, 2004 at 8:21 AM
I didn't know that Eisner had very little to do with setting the park's budget. So this is mostly Pressler's fault for consulting on the studios? Hmm.

Ben, I have been on a studio backlot. I went to Universal Studios Hollywood's backlot, and you are right about it being the same. However, I do defend my response from yesterday by saying that the sets on the backlot weren't all the same. I mean, did you forget some of these sets have theming, like USF's Amity has a fisherman's bay theme, or World Expo's futuristic architecture?

I'm not saying that you don't know anything about these parks. From the looks of it, you do have quite a bit of experience. It's just that if there was a wilderness set on one side, and a set of Philedelphia on one, does that make it the same?

Here is my WDSP themed areas :
1.Animation Courtyard
2.Hollywood
3.Philedelphia
4.Century City
5.Toontown Studios
6.Fort Wilderness

From Ben Mills on August 20, 2004 at 12:46 PM
I'm not arguing with you, Alex, you got some good ideas there. The problem is that Disney don't want to know about the great theming that could go into the park. They're quite happy just to claim ignorance and say to the guests "we're just trying to make it authentic!"

You raise a great point by referring to Universal Studios parks. To say that you're walking onto the set of a movie is a really, really easy way of setting up the backstory for a land. But Disney don't want to hear it. It's cheaper just to build a nice big factory style building and dump some generic indoor coaster in there. Instead of sets, they've built studio lots filled with crud. Oh, and don't forget the obligatory Dumbo clone, where the Genie from Aladdin has decided to become a movie director and has cast you in the starring role, so naturally, that means you have to get into a stupid magic carpet and fly around in a circle. Yay!

From alex morehouse on August 21, 2004 at 9:41 AM
To say that "Flying Carpets Over Agrabah" is a ride, well that's one very stupid magic trick.

Disney could put lots of theming and better shops and restarunts. I heard about one over there called "Rendezvous Of The Stars," is that correct? Is It any good?

From Ben Mills on August 21, 2004 at 3:41 PM
I've never actually been inside Rendez-Vous des Stars, but from what I've heard, it's nothing special. Almost all eateries in the Studios are either hot dog carts or crappy little canteens that look like, you guessed it...a factory.

Except, that is, for the couple of places in Studio 1, WDS's verion of Main Street. Where other Disney parks have such grand entrances as Main Street USA, Hollywood Boulevard, and the lead up to Spaceship Earth, in WDS we have a building. Yup, no fairytale castles or Utopian visions or the future for us; we get some hideous BUILDING to stand there and look at. I mean, Jesus, talk about an anti-climax. But it gets worse once you've stepped inside.

It's supposed to be like Hollywood Boulevard, but indoors. It actually ends up being a bunch of suspiciously cardboard-looking signs with some hideous lights on. Hidden behind big ugly half-walls to the side of the "boulevard" are some typical Disney fast food outlets and shops. But wait! Up ahead, it looks like Disney have spectacularly recreated the large hill and the Hollywood sign that sits on it. Only, we soon realise that Disney were too cheap to build anything near the scale of what MGM Studios accomplished. So can you guess what they did?

THEY PAINTED IT ON THE FRICKING WALL! Yeah! That's it! Why bother spending making anything look good or, I dunno, REAL, when you can just get some people to paint it on the wall! It is without doubt the single tackiest thing I've seen in a Disney theme park for a long time. Studio 1 - with it's neon lights, dark atmosphere, people hanging on the side of the pathway and cheap surroundings - doesn't feel like you're marching down Hollywood. It feel like you're skulking around a prostitute ridden back alley in Vegas.

A complete tangent, I know, but I needed to moan about it somewhere.

From alex morehouse on August 21, 2004 at 8:49 PM
I didn't know they painted the word "HOLLYWOOD" on a wall. That, plus cheap factory-looking buildings and hot dogs to eat instead of variety really does show how Disney doesn't want to spend money on customer convienence anymore, especially in France. What else is wrong at that park?
From Kevin Baxter on August 22, 2004 at 12:23 AM
Actually, I thought the idea of having an indoor Main Street thing was a good idea. The weather there isn't that great all the time. Obviously the problem here is execution.

I pictured the thing like a huge version of the Mexico pavilion in Epcot. Nice building facades and the entrances to attractions along the outer walls. It could work, if done well. I wish more of Florida's parks was indoors!

From Ben Mills on August 22, 2004 at 4:23 PM
lol, the weather isn't that great ANY of the time...

I gotta agree with you tho, Kev. The idea could be a very good one, if done well. Just look at Tokyo Disneyland's International Bazaar, or whatever that thing's called. But, as you guessed, the problem is in execution. It just looks so damn CHEAP. There are some nice touches, like how one of the shops has an exterior themed to look like a gas station, and there is a couple of fake cameras set up in the middle of the path, suggesting a movie is in progress, but in general, it's just an ugly place.

Stupid thing is, they set up the bit just past the turnstiles before you enter Studio 1 quite nicely. They've got an outside courtyard thing with a fountain, and nice architecture to your sides. The studio style entrance gates are a vast improvement over the MGM gates. They've even built WDS it's own Earful Tower. But, as I keep saying, Studio 1 is just depressing. There's no rides or attractions in here; just a path surrounded by endless ways to get hold of the visitor's money.

Once you step outside, the scenery is nice enough, but still rather boring. As I'm sure you've seen in pictures, etc, they've gone for a light creamy colour on all the buildings, which is always pleasing to the eye. But unlike the better parts of Disney's theme park universe, there are very few things to grab your attention in the surroundings. For a start, there are no "weenies" on the skyline. In fact, the most interesting things you'll ever see in the distance are Big Thunder Mountain or Sleeping Beauty's Castle, mocking you for deciding to go into Disneyland's runt of a sibling. But even on ground level, there are very few spots around the park that make you want to stop and actually look at Disney's masterful theming, unlike the original park. The only things that come close are a giant wind machine outside Armageddon - which has been known to actually blow small children over at times - and an umbrella attatched to the wall outside one of the shops, which has a water pump above it. Go stand underneath it, and you can pretend you're in Singing In The Rain! Hardly inspiring stuff, but little quirks like that make the day more interesting. I've felt for a long time that they should add more little points like that all over the park, where guests can recreate moments from famous movies. As it is, people are just rushing from one attraction to the next; other than trees, there is genuinely very little to look at in the park. That's part of the problem with WDS, as people are leaving by lunchtime to head back to the original park.

"What else is wrong at that park?" Have you got all day? Seriously, there really is too much to go into any detail on here. However, a lot of the problems are the same as DCA's: bland scenery, mostly boring rides, and an entrance fee that is waaaaay too high for half a park. But to be honest, it really does come down to what you would think would be the most obvious thing of all:

The rides just plain suck.

Okay, I still think that Cinemagique is the single greatest cinema attraction ever created for a theme park, and ranks in my top ten all-time favourite attractions anywhere in the world. But let me make the point: when you plan a visit to a theme park, you start to get a little bit excited, don't you. You think about how much you're looking forward to going on your favourite ride, or walking round yopur favourite bit of the park. For instance, whenever we're gonna go to DLP, I start to smile at the thought of going on Thunder Mountain, or Pirates, of Phantom Manor. You know, I love that park because of the way there are things in there that I genuinely look forward to. And here's the twist: there is NOTHING like that in WDS. Okay, I love Cinemagique, but other than that, I just think, "well, while I'm there, I guess I'll check out CyberSpace Mountain, maybe Animgaique. Ooh, maybe I'll go on the Studio Tram Tour. That's always good for a laugh." But that's it! A great theme park like DLP or IoA excites, inspires and enthuses. A merely okay theme park like WDS just amounts to one great big meh. I guess that's the key to it.

Also, they only have nine attractions, and with every trip, I'm deciding that I can no longer be bothered with one of those. Here's a rundown of the "attractions", and how much of a draw they actually hold.

Flying Carpets Over Agrabah. I've never been on it, but it's tackiness and ugliness has always irritated me.

The Art of Disney Animation soon got boring, thanks to the Eddie Murphy impersonator's crap rendition of Mushu.

If it weren't for the kickass Small World-style song, I'd be starting to get seriously pissed off with the repetitiveness of Animagique, which I used to find cute. I think my main problem is that I'm seeing it every time I go to WDS. I'm sure most theme park shows would piss me off if I watched them so often, but as there is very little else to do in the park, I go to it just to fill up the day.

I'm also tiring of Rock'n'Roller Coaster, which holds very few thrill past the launch. As Kevin knows, I've never exactly loved it, but it used to briefly amuse me and the provide the only adrenaline rush in the park.

The first twenty minutes of Television Production Tour makes me dangerously angry, but CyberSpace Mountain - which is literally dumped at the end of the tour - helps to calm my temper. However, if it isn't the first thing that I do in a day, then the queues for CSM have often built up. That means that I have to stand for a good half an hour, listening to all the loud, crappy music from the Disney Channel Cyber Space area that it is in. That infuriates me, but the ride is such good fun that I come out in pretty much the same mood as I went in.

Moteurs...Action! is seriously overrated. The fourty-five minutes that you have to endure on uncomfortable stadium-like benches is mostly spent watching film clips from old crap movies. True, the action scenes are impressive, but the total lengths of those things isn't much more than ten minutes. It reaches it's most pathetic when Herbie the Love Bug comes on stage and drives around. I understand that they have to do something to amuse the guests while they set up the next set piece, but honestly, it just makes you want to get up and walk out.

Armageddon...I've discussed before, but in brief: some nice effects, but nothing we haven't seen before, and it's put together in such a haphazard, hit-and-miss way that you have to consider whether this is actually any more enjoyable than the film. Yes, it's that bad.

The Studio Tram Tour has a total fun time of about five minutes, as you pass through Catastrophe Canyon. The rest is Jeremy Irons telling us all how great Pearl Harbour was, and how WDSP and Disney/MGM are both real working studios. Oh yeah, and we drive past props from Dinotopia. We're supposed to care, why?

Which brings us to Cinemagique, which I'm sure you've heard enough praise about from me. Ultimately tho, it's the only thing that you'll probably want to do more than once in a day.

See? How lame is all that? I'm sure the first time visitor wouldn't be so despondent, but the frustration racks up pretty quick. My advice? Get a one-day hopper. Spend the day in the Disneyland Park, and take a couple of hours to go and do the few attractions in WDS that take your fancy. That's what everyone else seems to be doing, too.

That's it for me until Friday, I'm afraid peeps. I'm off to Dreamland in Margate to experience the Scenic Railway - the oldest coaster in the country - before the park shuts down for good in two weeks. But post your responses here, and I'll be back soon to answer all your DLP-related questions!

Jeez, I feel just like Jim Hill. Only without the stupid beard.

From Kevin Baxter on August 23, 2004 at 2:24 AM
Start giving tours!

I think one of the main reasons IOA is so beloved is as much for its theming as its attractions. If it was only about attractions, people wouldn't have enough to do there. Just think of all the photo opportunities around the park, or just goofy things to enjoy like exploding Boris & Natasha's bomb or talking to Sindbad's fountain.

It is so irritating since this stuff isn't nearly as expensive as attractions, so for Disney to skimp on theming AND attractions is sickening. One or the other would be semi-understandable. Both is unforgivable.

From Ben Mills on August 27, 2004 at 2:22 AM
Yup, that's precisely the point. But another thing with IoA is not just the theming, but the outright brilliance of virtually every attraction. Spidey, Hulk, Dragons, JPRA, Dudley, Popeye, and more... all attractions that demand multiple rides. With the queues that things like Spidey pick up - not to mention shows such as Sinbad, and restaurants like Mythos to take in - there's plenty there to take a whole day.

I still think that WDS would benefit massively from little movie recreation points. Don't ask me what; I'm not a creatively-minded theme park designer. And judging by the people who designed WDS, neither are they.

Unfortunately DLP-Guide already do tours for my local Disney park. But hey, Kevin, maybe you should do a DCA Tour. "This is crap, so is that, and that...heck, it's all crap! Someoone get me a funnel cake!"

I can see an innovative new TPI service already...