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February 2007

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Calling all L.A.-area Star Wars fans

By Robert Niles
Published: February 22, 2007 at 4:34 PM
I know this isn't specifically theme park related, but many TPI readers are Star Wars fans, or at least parents, so I'd like to invite you to join me at a fun event this Saturday night in Pasadena.

It's called "McKinley Goes to the Movies" and it is a silent auction in support of arts education programs at McKinley School, a public K-8 school in Pasadena. (Yep, my kids go there.)

The evening has a Star Wars theme and will feature appearances by Darth Vader, R2D2, Boba Fett and other characters. And several Star Wars-related items will be up for bid, including a Princess Leia wig donated by Carrie Fisher. Here's a partial list of the items available. (I've donated, on behalf of TPI, a collectible Darth Vader watch and helmet from last year's Star Wars Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios.)

The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25 at the door for adults, $15 for kids. There's plenty of food included with the admission, too. The school is located at 325 South Oak Knoll Ave. in Pasadena. (Once you get there, you might recognize it, as it has been used in filming for Boston Public, the X Files, Legally Blonde, Arrested Development and Without a Trace as well as the upcoming Adam Sandler flick. Heck, it sees more studio action than Disney-MGM ever did....)

Hope to see you there. It's a great school with great kids who certainly would appreciate your support.

Comments (3) | Archive Link

It's good to be on the West Coast...

By Robert Niles
Published: February 21, 2007 at 10:51 AM
A couple of links today, which remind me how much I'm glad I live in L.A.

Not to talk smack to my Orlando-area and East Coast friends.... Nope. Wait a minute. I'm totally talking smack to my Orlando and East Coasts friends. It's February. What else is there for theme park fans to do? :-)

The Orlando Sentinel reports the inevitable Chapter 11 filing by the owner of Orlando's Church Steert Station. Back in the days before Downtown Disney and CityWalk, Church Street Station was the "grown-up" place to go in Orlando. But Downtown Disney brought the nightclub district concpet to the tourist resorts and not enough locals were left to support the Church Street Complex, located far north of the tourist zone, in downtown Orlando.

The complex nearly died earlier this decade, but was bought out by Backstreet Boys/'N Sync creator Lou Pearlman, who promised a resurgance.

Too bad that Pearlman turned out to be a (okay, alleged) con man, now facing a slew of investigations for various financial schemes. His company that owned Church Street filed for bankruptcy last night and investigators are serving search warrants all over the place.

If that's the bad news from Orlando, the good news from California is that Disneyland's two new E-ticket rides are gonna rock. Al Lutz provides the details about the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Toy Story Midway Mania in a new article on MiceAge, which reads like a mash note to Disney and Pixar's John Lasseter. We've come a long way from the dark days of the Paul Pressler regime, haven't we?

Comments (9) | Archive Link

Wanna work at Disneyland? And make $3400 for one day's work? Here's your chance...

By Robert Niles
Published: February 18, 2007 at 2:45 PM
Disney sends a reminder that Monday night's the deadline to enter its Disney Dream "Job" contest. This is where you can win a day as an "honorary cast member" in selected jobs at Disneyland.

Available positions include Pirate, Princess-in-Waiting, Jungle Cruise Skipper, Haunted Mansion Butler or Maid, or a Parade Performer. To enter, you need to submit a video audition clip via the page linked above.

As a former Walt Disney World cast member (a Pirate of the Caribbean, among others, in fact!) I have to say that I find hilarious the concept of Disney running a contest where the prize is a day as a CM. After all, if you *really* want the gig, just head over to the Casting Center in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World or off Harbor Blvd. at Disneyland and they'll hook you up. And pay you, too!

Of course, the real prize here isn't a day on stage. It's the free trip to Disneyland. Here's what the five Grand Prize winners in each category get, according to the official rules:

Each Grand Prize is a trip for winner and up to three (3) guests to Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, California from June 9 to 12, 2007 consisting of round-trip coach-class air transportation for four (4) persons from the major commercial airport with regularly scheduled flights nearest winner’s permanent residence to a Southern California airport as chosen by Sponsor, four (4) days/three (3) nights hotel accommodations (one standard room, quad occupancy, room and tax only) at a hotel located near the Disneyland® Resort as designated by Sponsor, round-trip ground transportation between airport and hotel in California, four (4) Disneyland® Resort 4-Day Park Hopper® Tickets, one (1) Disney Gift Card valued at $250, one (1) “Where Dreams Come True” Welcome Basket, and the opportunity for the winner to perform the designated “Honorary Job” depicted in their entry; ARV: $3,400 each.

...While performing their “Honorary Jobs” at the Disneyland® Resort, Grand Prize Winners will be acting as independent contractors and not as Disney's employees, although Disney shall have the right to make recommendations concerning the procedures employed by the Grand Prize Winners in performing their “Honorary Jobs”. No employment relationship will be created and no employment-related statutory law, case law, common law or governmental regulations will apply in connection with the performance of the “Honorary Jobs” by the Grand Prize Winners. No agency relationship will be created between the Grand Prize Winners and Disney.

Yep, you gotta go on the specific days. But I am intrigued by the line that Disney has "the right to make recommendations concerning the procedures employed" in doing the dream jobs. Just 'recommendations'? Does this mean that the winners can use some, uh, alternate, non-SOP spiels? 'Cause I know a few... ;-)

Disney sends along a few clips their people have picked from those selected, so you know what you're up against:

The Jungle shift "prize" really tickles me, given how hard Magic Kingdom West CMs worked to get *out* of Jungle shifts. The fact that I worked 22 months in MK West Attractions without ever once pulling a shift in the Jungle amazed, and infuriated, many of my fellow CMs.

Of course, if Disney offered a shift for my old job driving rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, I would drop this sarcastic facade and enter in a moment. Now *that* was a dream job!

Comments (2) | Archive Link

Tigger won't face charges; But did he get his job back?

By Robert Niles
Published: February 16, 2007 at 12:04 PM
The Disney World cast member who was accused of whapping a kid on the head while performing as Tigger will not be charged with a crime.

You might remember the incident from last month. A Disney World visitor shot a video of Tigger apparently hitting his teenage son. Many viewers saw the scene differently, though, claiming that the kid might have provoked Tigger, potentially endangering the cast member.

The Florida state attorney's office announced this week that it had reviewed the incident and would not file charges. What has not been announced though, is what Disney's done to the employee. Disney had said that he would be suspended without pay during the investigation.

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Nature Conservancy offers discount deal for Discovery Cove

By Robert Niles
Published: February 15, 2007 at 11:34 AM
If you've been thinking about splurging on a trip to SeaWorld's Discovery Cove in Orlando, the Nature Conservancy is offering a deal that also helps support the Conservancy's Rescue the Reef program.

Use the promo code "TNC" when booking a trip to Discovery Cove, and Busch will donate $25 to Rescue the Reef. Include a dolphin swim with your trip (and, don't most people do that anyway?) and you'll save 15 percent off the admission price with this promo code.

Florida residents can get their own deal, too: $199 plus tax for admission with the dolphin swim and $99 plus tax without. The resident deal is available for these 2007 dates: Now through February 16; March 1-10; May 1-19; Sept. 5 - Oct. 7; Nov. 12 through Dec. 20.

Comments (2) | Archive Link

Dan Snyder buys Johnny Rockets

By Randy Taylor
Published: February 9, 2007 at 11:48 PM
Washington NFL and Six Flags owner Dan Snyder has purchased the Johnny Rockets fast food chain. Do you think that he will put them in his theme parks in order to upgrade the dining experience?

Comments (11) | Archive Link

Legoland in Kansas City? Would you go?

By Robert Niles
Published: February 9, 2007 at 10:00 AM
Legoland has selected the Kansas City area as the site for its second U.S. theme park, and is in the process of trying to build public support for tax increment financing to help pay for the project.

The new Legoland would be built in Lees Summit, in the southeast suburbs of Kansas City. The development would include a Sea Life Aquarium (the first in the U.S.), as well as a hotel and shopping center.

Legoland and its development partner are seeking more than $180 million in subsidies to help pay for the estimated $540 million project. This week, Lego held an open house to try to sell local residents on the project, in advance of applying for the tax breaks.

What do you think? Would you go to a Legoland Kansas City? Is Kansas City the best location for a second U.S. Legoland? Should theme park companies get tax breaks to build new parks?

Comments (11) | Archive Link

New coaster to debut at Kings Island

By Tony Stevens
Published: February 8, 2007 at 6:54 PM
I received this email from Kings Island yesterday. I'm curious where it will be located and if anything was eliminated to make room.

FOR ANYONE WHO'S EVER WANTED TO KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO FLY...
You can this summer on Firehawk! Kings Island celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2007 by soaring to new heights with its 14th roller coaster, Firehawk. Debuting Memorial Day Weekend, this innovative flying coaster propels willing test pilots 115 feet in the air and through five inversions at speeds of more than 50mph - all while facing the ground, experiencing the inconceivable feeling of human flight.

[Editor's note: Isn't it established at this point that this is a reinstallation of X-Flight from Geauga Lake?]

Comments (3) | Archive Link

Happy times at the Mouse House

By Robert Niles
Published: February 8, 2007 at 9:18 AM
As we gear up for the 2007 season in the theme and amusement park industry, there's an unusual feeling in the air. Or, more accurately, there's an absence of a feeling that's defined the industry over the past decade.

No one's tanking.

Six Flags has sold the parks it wanted to sell and is gearing up to make family-friendly additions to the parks it retained. Cedar Fair has bought out Paramount Parks. Busch is investing in new and upgraded attractions at its parks. Universal's finally found stable ownership, in NBC, and is rumored to be dropping a major new attraction into Islands of Adventure soon.

And Disney? Well, the market leader is still showing the rest of the field how to make some serious coin.

Disney announced yesterday that its first quarter profit more than doubled from a year ago. Of course,l Disney's got money following in from about a gajillion different industries, but theme parks remain strong for the Mouse.

Park earnings ose 8 percent to $405 million for the quarter. Per guest spending was up at Walt Disney World, though Disneyland (coming off its 50th Anniversary) saw a decline in attendance and spending. Disney's CFO told reporters that theme park bookings were up 3 percent in the first quarter of its fiscal year, when compared with the same period one year ago.

The only bleak spot was Hong Kong Disneyland, where attendance and spending remains in the tank for that underdeveloped Magic Kingdom park.

Of course, 2007 performance for all theme park companies depends upon... you. What are your plans for theme park visits in 2007? Are you planning to visit more, less or about the same as you did in 2006?

Comments (12) | Archive Link

Storms slam Central Florida; theme parks open, but crowds light

By Robert Niles
Published: February 2, 2007 at 11:16 AM
At least fourteen people were killed in Central Florida this morning, as tornadoes ripped through the area. All the major theme parks opened as scheduled this morning, but initial reports have attendance lighter than normal, even for this typically slow time of year.

Live coverage is at The Orlando Sentinel.

I'm in Southern California, where the weather is mild and calm today. (My mom has a theory that however the weather is in Orlando on a given today, it is the opposite in L.A. That surely holds today.) For our Orlando-area readers, how are you hanging in there today? Hope all's well. Tell us your stories in the comments....

Comments (7) | Archive Link

Keep reading: January 2007 Archive



Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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