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Is Disneyland's Magic Dead?

One of the reasons I like Disneyland is the attention it gives to theming. The costumes, atmosphere, and the way employees act. But has it gone downhill?

From Damon Lee
Posted February 26, 2002 at 6:37 PM
One of the reasons I like Disneyland is the attention it gives to theming. The costumes, atmosphere, and the way employees act. But has it gone downhill?

If you where to visit the park recently and walked past the Haunted Mansion you would see green tarp off area covering the bell tower and all over the right side of the building. I don't know about you, but it's hard to imagine myself in a haunted house with green construction walls on the roof.

You can also see it with the employees who work the Fastpass system. On weekdays, they wear a universal costume so they can be switched easily, but it's funny seeing a guy wearing a white polo and blue pants when walking down the queue line of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and hearing him saying "Howdy".

I think Disney needs to look at what made it great--its theming--and make some changes.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Nathan Ellstrand
Posted February 26, 2002 at 7:29 PM
Very good topic.

I would have to say that Disneyland's magic is not dead, but in some ways going downhill. Disney is cutting back on a lot of things, just to save money, but that is not helping on showing what a great park it is. It started the theme park craze and sets the standards for all the theme parks in the world, so they should spend more money on detail and live up to Walt Disney's expectations.

But, I have to disagree with your two examples. First, the Haunted Mansion has green tarp on it because Disney is doing something with it, and it's not all that bad because it is the off-season. Second, the costuming is a really big situation, it is hard for the cast members to get from one area to another in the park, without being out of place. So, if they need another cast member to operate a ride, they get the last remaining person, again it's the off-season.

The magic is not dead, it just needs to be worked on.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted February 26, 2002 at 7:31 PM
I'm sorry but I have to agree with the two examples. The tarp is there because simple maintenance has been ignored over the past few years and it has now turned into MAJOR maintenance. Also, the different costumes are necessary because of low staffing due to Disney FIRING so many people.

It is obvious that one of the things that made Disney what it is today - attention to detail - is now being ignored to appease stockholders. Notice I didn't say that they were doing it so they wouldn't operate at a loss this year. It takes only around 1000 people or so for a Disney park to make a profit (maybe not Epcot) each day. Disney lost millions of visitors last year and STILL turned over a tidy profit. And they did it by taking away a lot of the stuff that has made them the Theme Park King. Disney will learn from this lesson by continuing to add as little as possible and balancing any new projects by providing less of the things we have grown accustomed to. Why? Because enough people are still going!

Still, many longtime AP holders have refused to renew, even at rock-bottom prices, so if Disney has a poor summer then maybe... MAYBE... they will realize its time to bring some magic back into the parks, money be damned!

From Damon Lee
Posted February 26, 2002 at 8:16 PM
I know its the off season and all but it is still bad. With the firing and low budget they couldn't even finish on time. Haunted masion was down for quite awhile for its reahb, it was even pushed up from its orginal return week. Now the green tarps have covered the bell tower for the past two weeks. Hard to beleave they still beleave in the magic when it should take 2 week to paint one bell tower.

From Anonymous
Posted February 26, 2002 at 10:23 PM
your complaints are stupid. Reasos to complain isa cut back in entertainment, no rid devopment, and of the rides being devoloped they are cheaply themed, but just cause there isa tarp over a building for consruction and the fastpass people where one uniform there should be no reason to complain.

From Robert Niles
Posted February 27, 2002 at 12:42 AM
Theming, and storytelling, make the magic. Without the theming, and with story-driven rides replaced by typical carnival fare, you have... a mediocre Six Flags park.

Disneyland's not even close to that level, yet. But it's headed in that direction, which it has never done before.

Granted, I'll take a tarp over Mansion and walls around the Carousel over the faded, chipped and peeling exteriors they had before. But Kevin's right. They never should have been allowed to get in that bad shape. If Disney management hadn't sacked all the people who did overnight touchups and ongoing maintenance, the park wouldn't have to be hiding some of its most cherished attractions behind shrouds now.

From Francois Chan
Posted February 27, 2002 at 3:40 AM
Disney execs have lost the meaning. It's simple as that. They've lost the meaning about what it is to be Disney.

And maybe Kevin is right--things won't change as long as people keep going to Disney and providing it a profit. However, I'm afraid a boycott may backfire just as easily--if attendance figures are down, I could easily see near-sighted Eisner seeing this as an excuse to turn Disney away from the great theming that makes Disney so special. He'd probably argue that what people want is another Six Flags--big coasters, little theming...blah. And, in truth, if Disney did turn from the Magic Mouse into Magic Mountain, they'd probably still turn a profit.

I don't think boycotting Disney is going to solve the problem--I think educating people about what makes a themepark great might. I mean, honestly, how many themepark conoisseurs do you know outside of this site? Most teens I know think Paramount's Great America is the best themepark they've been to! That's the problem. Therefore, we've got to educate the public (and, in turn, the Disney execs) about what makes a themepark exemplary. Perhaps this is a snotty attitude, but we've got to give culture to the uncultured (if you accept themepark appreciation as something conoisseurs can appreciate...)...

From Rob Owens
Posted February 27, 2002 at 4:55 AM
I agree that the magic of Disney is what continues to attract the customers. I live in the UK and the next best thing we have over here is Alton Towers. However, the theming there, whilst good, is no where near the standard of Disney. This is what continues to attract me and other UK tourists to WDW.

Perhaps it's about time that Eisner and co realise that it is the customers who make Disney the success it is today and with the progress other parks such as IOA (my favourite) are making, there is a strong chance that Disney may end up playing catch-up.

Also, with all these sequels being realeased isn't it about time that Disney create a new film for Mickey Mouse otherwise the new generation of kids may end up losing touch with the main character who has made Disney great over the years.

From Damon Lee
Posted February 27, 2002 at 5:24 AM
When I sit back and look at all the responses I notice two differnt type of people with very strong opinons. One is the people who love the magic, and the other is the strong business sence. Two bad there isn't a exsecutive in disneyland with both those qualitys. hehe

From Philip Curds
Posted February 27, 2002 at 6:55 AM
Has Disney lost the plot?

Well, to answer such a statement, you must see Disney in two regards, firstly, there theming as all of you have realised is on par with none, however, when you compare the quality and excitement of new rides, Disney lacks way behind both Cedar Fair and Six Flags. The reason for this is that Disney has consisently denied the use of coaster manufacturers with the exception of Vekoma and Intamin, both of which have supplied perhaps, the biggest pap of rollerocasters ever seen on the planet. I mean California Screaming, is the WORST Intamin coaster in the world, perhaps a little strong I hear some of you say, well I'm sorry but Intamin can make far better rides than that, just look at Millenium Force! As for RockN'Rollercoaster, I just laughed at the pathetic attempt by Disney at MGM to make a rollercoaster with some speed, I mean going around and around in a stageset is pointless, okay, I'll agree the launch was kinda fun, so too was the theming, but the endless spiralling was awful! Now, I come to Animal Kindgom, what prat was put in charge of that themepark, it quite possibly has NOTHING to offer the visitor, a rapids ride, oh, great, cannot wait to ride a 1980's designed themepark industry ride in 2001 (the year I went!). Finally, what about California Adventure, Soaring Over California, jesus, that was amazing for someone who wanted some wind in their face for 10 minutes but wasn't exactly the speed/intensity of an 'X' or 'Millenium Force' coaster, nice try, but please Disney get your finger out, no teenagers are ever going to come to a park which hasn't thought about DECENT rollercoasters and thrill rides!

Sorry, for slagging Disney off, I love the theming but I cannot stand the coasters and thrill rides, they are way below average!

http://www.themelondon.freeservers.com - PRO-THEMEPARK LOBBY, LONDON

From Rob Owens
Posted February 27, 2002 at 8:04 AM
It seems to me that Disney is spending too much of their time building hotels at WDW rather than looking at the parks themselves.

I think it would be wrong of Disney to rip out the kiddies rides and dark rides from MK and build white knuckle rollercoasters as it is just as much a park for children as for adults but Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain seem dated now and surely there is enough space on the outskirts of the park to include a few coasters without spoiling the 'magic' of Disney.

At the moment I go to Magic Kingdom for the atmosphere, parades, etc and go to IOA for the rides but I'm a tourist - would that be enough for regulars to warrant continuing to spend their hard earned dollars at Disney?

From Kevin Baxter
Posted February 28, 2002 at 3:16 AM
Damon, it is funny that you mention the creative/business sides to the Disney argument. On another thread somewhere on this site I pointed out that one of the main reasons Disneyland was a success was that it had the creative mind (Walt) and the business mind (Roy) behind it. Had Walt not had Roy, Disneyland either would have been a money-bleeder for years, or would have never been built since Walt wasn't using his own money, after all. The Roy Disney's of the theme park world are possibly MORE important than the Walt Disneys. The theme park world is filled with creative people who can create magic for these parks. Just look at all the great post-Walt attractions there are in the Disney parks alone. But the theme park world just doesn't have enough people who understand both creativity and money, or we just don't have enough people willing to deal with both, which really is a thankless job.

And as for money, there is plenty of it in Eisner's salary alone. He made over 100 million last year. How much of that can he actually spend on himself? How about spending a little on the people who have made you so obscenely rich?

From Joe Lane
Posted February 28, 2002 at 10:51 AM
I don't have a problem recognizing Roy as part of the success behind Disney, but unless I'm mistaken, we have neither a Walt nor a Roy at the wheel of the Disney company. It appears to me, comparing Disney's popularity and total income verses the falling quality of the parks, that what we have is a bunch of greedy suits who just want more money than anyone could possible NEED and is abusing a creative source to get that money.

When Walt decided he wanted to build a park, his wife protested. She complained why would he want to build an amusement park because they were always so dirty. Walt replied, saying Disney would be different. It would be clean and it would be maintained. Looking at websites, like wdwblues.com, we have a large list of examples of neglegence on Disney's part. Looking at ride quality, we see Disney hiring outside companies to build "off-the-shelf" attractions that offer no spark to the imagination whatsoever. The most creative thing I've seen at the park so far is a tombstone at the Haunted Mansion at WDW.

So is the magic dead? In my opinion, no. For those of us who frequented Disney so often years ago, Disney has become lackluster. Their goals seem to have changed from being a place to escape from the reality of the world to a place that cuts corners to save as much cash as possible. This is not the Disney we grew to love.

However, I can guarentee that when a little one has his or her first visit to any Disney park, they can feel that magic as strong as we once felt it, if not stronger. If you ever have the opportunity, go with a child on their first, maybe second trip to Disney, and you can see in their eyes the magic that seems to act like a drug: after years of use, it doesn't affect us like it used to.

This is why Disney is so strongly a family park, and that family is one of a child and parents, or adults who can appreciate what little nostalgia they can find nowadays. I've given up on my arguement that Disney is bad just because they don't cater to the teen demographic--and most teens won't understand this because they feel Disney is obligated to serve them intense thrill rides, and in truth, it isn't. Disney is a family park, it was when Walt created it years ago and it is now--it's not a place for rebellion, or in this case, rebellious teenagers. The irony of the situation is the rebellion at the top of the comapany as the suits fight for their personal gain.

The magic lives on, for now. In less than five years, we will know whether Disney will continue to succeed or if they will fall.

From Anonymous
Posted February 28, 2002 at 11:49 AM
The problem is Disney is trying to please everyone which makes it hard to focus. For example, it does have an obligation to its shareholders, so it has to make appropriate cost reductions and real estate decisions. It does want to appeal to teens and adults so it has to build rides appropriate for that group...same for the young children. It wants to make things better for employees (but has been largely unsuccessful for years). Throw September 11th into the picture and you really have a mess. It's not just Disney, it's anything related to the hotel, travel, and entertainment industry...so it's not fair to single Disney out. Can improvements be made? Yes, but like all corporations (which Disney is), it has constraints to work with. I think when the economy gets back on its feet, things will improve.

From Robert Niles
Posted February 28, 2002 at 2:04 PM
To Kevin and Joe:

Your points about Roy should remind us of the importance that I think Frank Wells played in the Disney company. It was after his death that things started to fall apart, creatively, for the company. How ironic that the death of the "money guy" would cause a creative failure, but Kevin's description of Walt and Roy's relationship shows how those money guys play an indispensible role in the creative process.

As for the anonymous poster: Six Flags doesn't seem to be having any problems. It reported record attendance last year, and Magic Mountain (its year-round park) has been solid during the off-season. Granted, Six Flags does not offer Disney-level quality (or Universal or Busch level, for that matter), but it does know its market (local and regional roller coaster fans) and it serves them very well. And that market responds, buying plenty of tickets and annual passes.

If Disney served its market (theme park fans) as well as Six Flags served its, I doubt Disney would have anywhere near the attendance and income problems it is facing today.

From Anonymous
Posted February 28, 2002 at 3:19 PM
Mr. Niles...you need to remember that people from all over the world come to visit the Disney Parks and Resorts, and plan their vacations well in advance compared to the parks you mention which cater mostly to the locals. The September 11th events have had a more substantial impact on Disney because many people cancelled or postponed their vacations.

I agree that Disney is not like it used to be but the question these days should be: Is their a market for the old Disney? Personally, I don't think so, but that's just my opinion. Disney is changing with the times - it has to in order to survive.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted February 28, 2002 at 9:52 PM
September 11 was a convenient excuse for Disney. People weren't going to the parks PRIOR to that date. Especially not to the West Coast parks. Which shouldn't have affected them so badly, since about 70% of their daily visitors are locals. Less than 50% of WDW's attendance is due to locals, but when we were there in early November, which is normally a dead period, the parks were more crowded than I have ever seen during an off-season. Those parks only lost, on average, about 2000 people a day. That ain't so much when you know that Animal Kingdom, the least popular park, still averages 20K each day.

Don't forget, the parks made quite a bit of money this year. Theme park revenue was up 11%! That means they made MORE money from the parks in 2001 than they did in 2000, which was a record-breaking-attendance year. Of course, Disney claims this was all due to cost-cutting. Yes, Disney made loads being cheap, but they would have made loads anyhow. The parks don't need anywhere near 20,000 people to break even. They don't even need half that.

Everyone should know by now not to listen to Disney's side of the story. DCA isn't even a failure, according to them. They were forced to drastically cut AP prices, hand out freebies to half the state, offer ridiculous discounts to even more people and yet the park was STILL hurting Disneyland's numbers. But that isn't a failure!

From Francois Chan
Posted March 1, 2002 at 7:17 AM
To Rob Owens (but not just):

Thanks for pointing out in your earlier response about what a mistake it would be for Disney to rip-out its dark rides and kiddie rides in favor of unimaginative, white-knuckle rides. The magic of Disney, after all, lies in its theming, in its ability to not only provide the thrill but the wonder and atmosphere of something more subtle.

But perhaps I have an odd take on this whole issue--I really don't care if teenagers, or other dull people, are attracted to "Soaring Over California" or not. I only care about whether or not it's a quality ride. Keep the dullards at Six Flags and Great America or else educate them--hey, "X" and "Millenium Force" rides are great and enjoyable if you want a thrill, but is that all you can appreciate in a themepark? Perhaps so...I don't know. Do you drink wine just to get drunk? I don't know.

I also have one other point--it seems all very well and good to point out Disney's cheapness and to constantly insinuate that Walt wouldn't have succeeded without Roy and other people (but then, what person can really succeed in large projects without the backing of others?), but, as the saying goes, it's always the perogative of half-wits and children to point out that the Emperor has no clothes--the Emperor remains the Emperor and the half-wit remains a half-wit. In short, nothing changes. It's late, and perhaps I'm not making any sense, but what I'm saying is that we have complaints...what are we going to do about them? It's all very well to bark at this site, but how can we get our message out, in a constructive way, to people of influence. I say this humbly because I, honestly, don't know how to go about this. How do we do this? How do we change what's going on? Is boycotting really the answer? It doesn't seem like an effective measure to me...what then?

From Anonymous
Posted March 1, 2002 at 10:47 AM
For what it's worth, here are my final thoughts on this discussion:

(1) Yes, Disney has taken cost-cutting measures to a new extreme.
(2) Good excuse or not, September 11th had a profound effect on both WDW and Universal Studios Orlando, and everything travel-related. WDW was affected moreso because its attendance is comprised less of locals than its California counter-part AND because it was said to be one of the terrorist's intended targets.
(3) Yes, Disney is trying to be all things to all people (shareholders, young children, teenagers, mature adults, and to a lesser degree, employees, etc.), but what choice does it have? It cannot be the old Disney, there is not a market big enough for it for this is no longer the Leave It To Beaver generation. It cannot be a Six Flags without sacrificing tradition and market share. The world is changing and so is Disney (look at how much TV, which Disney is also involved in, has changed over the years for example)...but Disney needs to do a better job doing whatever it sets out to do. Does the saying "anything worth doing is worth doing properly" apply here? Sounds good in theory, but not always an economic option.

Thanks for the discussion. Happy theme-parking!

From Anonymous
Posted March 1, 2002 at 11:30 AM
Disneyland SUCKS. It worse than rubbish

From Francois Chan
Posted March 1, 2002 at 1:22 PM
I'm going to ignore the last response about Disney being rubbish as just stupid, but I do take issue with the earlier response about how "anonymous" feels that Disney's style of themepark cannot survive in the changing world, that thrill parks will replace themeparks.

Yes, I'm afraid that is a trend the world is taking--kind of like how bad Hollywood films have made it so difficult for anything of quality to be put out there. However, I think it's only a matter of educating the dull, unimaginative people that there's more to appreciate in a well-themed park than in a simplistic, stupid one (which they're all brainwashed into liking). I talk to my teenage students (yes, I work with teens and kids) quite often on the topic--most of them are brainwashed into believing that Disneyland is "gay" (pardon the terribly politically incorrect term--I'm just quoting them) because it's just for kiddies, but Paramount's Great America has better rides because they're faster. The funny thing is, after I talk to them, I discover most of them have never been to Disneyland, that they're making a snap, brain-washed judgement. I calmly point out the other things (like atmosphere) that one can enjoy at Disneyland (or IOA which I blather on about incessantly as well) and, after some of them eventually do visit Disneyland, they change their minds, they see the park in a different light.

Unfortunately, Eisner and Pressler have gotten so cheap, Disney may fail to impress any new visitors to its parks. When Disney falls into disrepair, it is surely the sign of the end (and the coming apocalypse?)...

From Robert Swinarski Jr
Posted March 1, 2002 at 4:33 PM
I find myself agreeing with most, if not all of the posts so far (except maybe the one about being rubbish...), though I have not been to Disneyland (I'm on the other coast). There were a couple of points that I would like to comment on:

1) Disney could not be six flags unless they priced themselves into a "let's go this weekend" category. That's not going to happen, ever. The themed rides are more about imagination and losing yourself in the theming (as Robert N mentioned), which is what makes the park magical.

2) The story about Walt wanting to create a "clean theme park" was the same one that Disney tells all of their new employees (or did up to 3 years ago)- the joke was that the park was created because of some gum stuck to Walt's daughter's shoe. To this day, gum is not allowed for cast members while working with the public or for sale in the gift shops, but I don't think they are..ahem...sticking to that rule anymore.

2) The rehabs have gotten out of control over here at WDW as well. It used to be unthinkable to see paint peeling or actually see construction when visiting the parks. Not anymore. It seems like you can't go to any part of Magic Kingdom without seeing some construction or rehab (and no worker near it) going on.

3) The main reason that the uniforms are getting away from the theming is because Disney elminated the "Wardrobe" department a few years ago to save money. Cast members now take the clothes home and wash them, instead of them being done on property and often instead of them being properly washed. When Wardrobe was elminated, the CEOs and management patted themselves on the back for saving a few dollars, and cast members that had seen how important the department was shook our heads and started looking somewhere else for work. It was a good indicator that the show was not as important as it once was, and that is really a shame.

It makes me angry enough to own annual passes to every theme park in Central Florida (SW, BG, US, IOA and Cypress Gardens), but not a single Disney annual pass. Scary to say, I don't miss Disney at all. I still go when relatives or friends come down to visit, but I suspect that many local residents and "snow birds" (notherners that come down for the winter) feel the same way. This is an important source of income for WDW, and they are squadering it away so that IOA and US can get my money when I buy dinner and pictures at their theme parks.

Disney needs to wake up before it's too late, but I'm afraid that it will be a long uphill battle when they do get off of their high seat and realize that it was not as tall as they thought.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted March 2, 2002 at 4:10 AM
A lot of people have been worrying about "boycotting," that is won't work, that it will just make Disney even cheaper. I have to disagree. Sure, boycotting won't make Disney keep the place maintained, but it will most certainly make them add some actual new attractions! Right now, that is one of the biggest complaints. DL hasn't had a new ride in a decade. AK is still way too tiny. DCA bites. Etc. If those of us who desire new attractions more than anything else don't go, then there is ONLY one way to get us to come back. When we come back, we can all start complaining about the rest of the problems at the Disney parks.

Francois, DL has always had problems with the teenage market. You don't tend to see a ton of them when you are in the park. But that has little to do with the fact that they don't appreciate the theming. The theming just takes a backseat to the experience when kids hit that age group. Now take IOA, which is themed far better than DL is. Teens love that park. Fact is, we ALL would prefer intensive theming to no theming at all, but some of us require a little more excitement with their theming. I can appreciate DL, but IOA is MY ideal park.

As for the 9/11 stuff: yes, it DID affect them. For approximately two months. But those two months are two of the slowest for WDW anyhow. November and December were VERY GOOD months for the parks. What hurt WDW the worst was the summer. If you search about this site you will find threads where we were stating the problems ALL Disney parks were having over the summer. WDW's busiest season had hotels at less than 50% capacity when most run near 90%. Universal Orlando's were filled almost to capacity all summer. DL's and DCA's problems started the exact moment DCA opened. That info can be found ALL OVER the internet. Like I said, the events in September were just the catalyst for Disney to finally do what it wanted to do after a pathetic summer.

From Francois Chan
Posted March 3, 2002 at 6:26 AM
Kevin,

I wasn't aware anyone else was expressing concerns over boycotting Disney except me--at least I haven't read any concerned posts regarding the matter. Anyway, to make things clear, I'm not against boycotting Disney, per se--I am concerned over boycotting Disney without any proactive measures. You say that a boycott of Disney would force them to bring in new attractions? Perhaps...but what sort of attractions? A mindless thrill ride with little theming would easily bring in more visitors and end any boycott. But is that what we value Disney for? You, and everyone else, certainly agree with me that the answer to that is "no." And, if you think about it, you'll agree that a simple boycott could easily be twisted by Eisner into an excuse to "dumb" Disney down to a mere thrill park like Six Flags just to get the common Joe in. Therefore, a boycott (which I'm still wary of) if used needs to be accompanied with some measures that educate and inform the public and the executives at Disney as to what we actually want. That is my argument--you see the value in that.

As to the teenagers--I'm not sure if you're refuting me or agreeing with me when you tell me that Disney has always had trouble with the teen market. Yes, I know that--that was my point. The teens I talk to generally dislike Disney until I point out its good points, the value of themed rides. But I really do think you're giving teens too much credit when you say that they do appreciate heavy theming. No they don't. Teens I talk to tell me they don't get New Orleans Square. Of course they don't--except for, perhaps, the 16 and up group, New Orleans goes over their heads. You point out that teens love the theming of IOA more--well, perhaps you're right. The juvenile theming of Marvel Superhero Island is far more interesting to adolescents than the childishness of Fantasyland or the maturity of New Orleans Square.

I'm happy that IOA is the complete park for you--IOA is, after all, the more complete park than Disneyland or World right now. But I feel you misunderstand me--I'm not against excitement with my theming. But thrill is not the only thing I enjoy, and I'd hate to see rides like the "Pirates of the Carribean," which I appreciate for completely different reasons than I do "The Goliath" or "The Incredible Hulk Coaster," go extinct because people are too thick to appreciate anything but thrill. In fact, I wonder if your criticism of Disney sometimes is unfair because you're judging for thrill rather than theming--for the most part, you're right though. Disney is in shaky hands--Eisner and Pressler are threatening to take our beloved Disney and destroy it. And if they do that, and still make a profit, how long before IOA executives, realizing that they can be cheap and still make a profit, follow the same model?

You see, I'm not against boycotting Disney until it changes its act; I just don't think boycotting will get the changes you or I or any other themepark conoisseur wants because themepark execs only have to sell to the lowest common denominator to make a profit. It's not just about attacking Disney, it's about educating everyone about what to appreciate in a good themepark because I really feel that people don't know.

Yes, I know I'm a snob.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted March 3, 2002 at 9:16 PM
Actually the whole bit about someone being too thick to "get" Pirates is a bit snobbish. I don't much care for it and I am only thick below the head! (Funny but selling women as sex slaves never seemed all that entertaining to me! There was a Simpson ep where the gay parade was going up their street and one of the floats was Lesbians of the Caribbean. The pirates were chasing the women but the women were yelling, "We choose an alternate lifestyle!" Now THAT was entertaining!) I think dark rides are quite appreciated in this country. The Haunted Mansion, to use a less controversial answer, is still a crowd favorite. The Nightmare rehab was the main thing bringing people into Disneyland last winter. It's a Small World is still popular also and that isn't even as sophisticated.

Unfortunately, there probably won't ever be another Pirates-type ride for anybody but kids (see Pooh and Cat in the Hat) since the Animatronics are quite cheesy. People nowadays seem to prefer their robots on stages (American Adventure, Hall of Presidents, Mr Lincoln) and their rides to have a little excitement. This doesn't mean everyone is stupid. It just means that we aren't in the 60s anymore. Entertainment has changed. Still, the two can be combined. Look at Splash Mountain or Jurassic Park or Jaws. The public, which spends good money on such entertainment, wants more rides like this. And true theme parks want to make rides like this because they are easily the most popular. Roller coasters, while appealing to many, fill a smaller niche than exciting family rides like the ones I mentioned.

From Francois Chan
Posted March 3, 2002 at 9:50 PM
Well, I've already admitted to being a snob, so...

And I've heard your reasoning for disliking the "Pirates of the Caribbean" before, and, as I've mentioned before (long ago on a message board far away) that political correctness and its hypersensitive fanaticism will eventually destroy the "Pirates of the Caribbean" which gets watered down more and more with each decade. Remember when the pirates used to chase the women around? Now the women chase the pirates who are stealing bread. And the fat gluttonous pirate who offers to share his turkey leg, once upon a time, sought his bride who hid from him in a barrel, poking her head out once in awhile. Eventually, I suppose the fat pirate will need to be replaced by one who isn't weight-challenged. Eventually, we'll rename the ride, "Disenfranchised sailors of an unspecific water body."

But no, you're right--this is not an appropriate ride for young children, perhaps. But how soon will political correctness eliminate the scene where the pirates try to extract information from Carlos by drowning him in a well? And what if, someday, people, one day, complain about the vigilantism running rampant in "The Amazing Spiderman?" Perhaps the portrayal of government officials as oppressive and villainous exploiters in "E.T." will need to be dealt with in the future as well.

I'm being unfair in reacting to your argument, I know. The slippery slope runs both ways--if we aren't sensitive to certain issues, we could someday have pirates raping women on the ride ("XXX Pirates in the Caribbean" perhaps?).

But then again, artistically, it's so much more frightening to see the Walt Disney approved version of pirates. Although colorful and filled with song, the ride confronts us with the joy and terror of pirates. Politically correct or not, the ride has lost so much of its impact precisely because the elements you've complained about have been watered down. Have you considered that? Matthew Groenig (a person I've noticed you're fond of using examples from) has a statement on watering down the world as well--Ned Flanders.

In response to your other point, I still don't think you're getting me. I do not dislike exciting rides. I just think rides with themes are better, a different flavour of ice cream, perhaps. Whilst exciting rides with excitement AND theming are still enjoyable--let me put it plainly, I LOVE THEM. But, I am disheartened that no more rides like the Haunted Mansion or the Pirates of the Caribbean will be made in the near future because, as you said, people value excitement over theming. It's almost as if people consider theming a nice extra, but the excitement is the main course. And you're right, that's how it is. Unfortunately, I don't like it, and I do think people who can't appreciate a slow ride are, generally, more low-browed than others, the type of people who buy "Speed" and "Speed 2" on dvd and can't sit through a Hitchcock film or 2001:A Space Odyssey without fast-forwarding through the slow parts.

I'm a terrible snob, I know. But as I watch Hollywood crank out terrible film after terrible film, as I watch Disney decline under Eisner's care, and as I begin to see the first signs of atrophy at IOA, only 4 years after its debut, I worry. You're not?

From Francois Chan
Posted March 4, 2002 at 12:49 AM
Oh, I haven't answered everything you've said, have I?

About animatronics being cheesy...you know, I actually prefer animatronics over 3d movies because A) I don't have to wear no silly glasses and B) I've always liked the idea that I'm looking at something rather than nothing. Personally, I think computer special effects are great, but overrated--people are far too easily wowed by them. You're a big fan of Universal--ever see that old "King Kong" movie or "Mighty Joe Young?" The stop action animation there was mighty cool although perhaps a bit dated. Ever seen Ray Harryhausen's work? Check out "The Seventh Voyage of Sindbad" or "Mysterious Island" or "Jason and the Argonauts."

So, cheesy? I don't know. Perhaps not en vogue right now since computer special effects are so easy.

I guess what I'm saying is that animatronics and stop action photography are similar to me in the sense that both are lost arts. Lost in the sense that no one is really doing them, and lost in the sense that we've lost our ability to appreciate them. I mean, there's something about the Pirates of the Caribbean (or Indiana Jones or Men In Black) where you are actually immersed INSIDE the ride rather than just watching light play across a movie screen.

From Damon Lee
Posted March 5, 2002 at 5:19 AM
I don't like everyone talking down about pirates, thats the attraction I work. Yes some of the animation is old, even some of the pirates are the same sence 1976. So of course when you compare to other rides it does look bad but its a classic. Well enough of my rambeling.

From Tim Hillman
Posted March 5, 2002 at 8:45 AM
I've got to disagree with statement #3 made by anonymous on March 1. Disney is NOT trying to be all things to all people. About the only people happy with Disney right now are the executive boardmembers and upper management. Everyone else looks to be getting the shaft. If you have been following the other threads on this site you would know that conditions for castmembers are getting worse, maintenance of the parks is being delayed and postponed, prices are going up, and the stock price of the company is lousy when compared to a few years ago. Disney is starting to look like Detroit in the 70s when the Japanese cars started hitting the market. This management group just doesn't get it and they need to be replaced by some people who have some respect for the Disney image as well as a vision for the future.

Yes, Disney is losing the magic, and they need to get to work to repair their image. I'm starting to feel like Clark Griswold in "National Lampoon's Vacation" after he punches the moose in the nose when he discovers the park is closed for maintenance. We buy their products. We watch their shows and movies. We sing their songs. They owe us.

I'm tired of smelling the sizzle without getting the steak.

From James Adams
Posted March 5, 2002 at 11:29 AM
I tend to agree that Disney is looking somewhat less magical. Even the movies are a little less magical when you compare Peter Pan 2 with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

BUT, consumers tend to have a view of Disney managers as rolling in gold coins laughing. That's just too simplist, of course they are interested in money - Disney's not a charity. But the Disney execs are not morons either, they understand that it takes public popularity to make money. The issue is more complex, Disney is a megacorporation. That means that they have a hand in almost every financial arm in the country. It's called diversification and it's the only way to turn a decent profit for a megacorp. It's also the only way to survive when the economy suddenly shifts. However, this means neglecting parts of the corporation at times.

Perhaps Disney has gotten to large to manage? Rome began to fall because it became too expanse (in part). However, it does still feel magical whenever I go to Disney lately. But I agree that some of these cutbacks as disturbing and I am left unclear about Disney's fate.

As for The Pirates of the Carribbean - It think it's great. I like both themed and thrill rides. They both need to be there. Also, I am with Francois, I do NOT want to see Disney become any more politically correct than they already are. So what if Pirates are a little dated, politically. Kids don't realize it until they become jaded by age.

From Robert Niles
Posted March 5, 2002 at 1:48 PM
Tim's analogy to Detroit in the '70s is spot-on, in my opinion.

America's demographics are changing. Generation X is having kids now, so we are entering another baby bust. Family-friendly entertainment will go out of vogue for a while as media companies look to appeal to the swelling numbers of people in the late teens and early 20s.

This creates a challenge for companies like Disney that have positioned themselves as family-friendly. Now they must reposition to caputure the young single adult and empty nester markets.

Fortunately, high quality will win those customers, as high quality wins among every demographic. But instead understanding that Disney must change by bringing its legacy of high quality to these new markets, Disney management's decided to react to the changing market by cutting expenses and going cheap to its traditional family market.

Yes, Disney's changing to react to a changing market. But it is making the wrong change.

Six Flags is seeing its attendance increase across th country because it has positioned itself to go after the growing teen/young adult market. But Six Flags has done nothing to get the empty nester baby boomers. Neither has Six Flags consistently invested in the high-quality attractions that would ensure it becomes the leader in the young adult market.

Universal is uniquely positioned to beat Six Flags on quality among young adults, and to offer resorts and attractions that appeal to the baby boomers. But Universal's going to have to increase its investment in facilities and marketing if its going to take advantage of its position and grab this available market share.

Those that follow Disney in going cheap will lose market share as Disney will in the years to come.

From Francois Chan
Posted March 6, 2002 at 4:14 AM
Serious question...

How do we get this page of message threads emailed to the desk of Mr. Eisner? I mean, I really feel if they somehow became aware of the grumbling and growing distrust of the Disney product and reputation, they'd at least ponder some of their decisions...

From Rob Owens
Posted March 6, 2002 at 5:19 AM
I agree with Robert. Disney will fall by the wayside if they cannot attract the teen market (who have money to spend). But Disney do not only have one park in Florida and one in California anymore.

Why not adapt one park in each location (eg. MGM at WDW) and give it a revamp for the teen market. Plenty more thrill rides, action movie references, etc. Send Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast to Magic Kingdom for the younger end. This will attract the teens who may then try out the other parks if only for a half day. At least when they have kids and mature further they'll know Magic Kingdom is there to cater for their needs.

Oh sorry, I forgot. This involves spending money so forget the above and instead produce a cheap t-shirt for teens to buy saying 'Come to Disney, Its not lame - honest'.

Roll on Emperor's New Groove 2 - The Revenge of the Llama.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted March 6, 2002 at 7:34 AM
Disney actually TRIED to appeal to a hipper teen/young adult audience: DCA. To be fair, they aren't failing miserably because that is what they shot for, but because DCA isn't appealing to ANY age bracket. If California Screamin' is the most thrilling thing they offer to those of us they consider "hip," they seriously miscalculated.

The problem is, they thought they could emulate Six Flags by going cheap. Well, Six Flags is NOT even close to cheap. Sure, they skimp on the theming, but one-of-a-kind coasters are still mighty expensive. Think about it. Disney created a coaster that has been compared to The Revolution at Magic Mountain. The Revolution is the world's FIRST looping coaster. Not really shooting for the moon there, were they?

The pathetic thing is that many people claim real coasters would ruin Disney because they lack theming. I say look at Universal which created THREE heavily themed coasters for IOA. The Hulk's first half is part of the atmosphere, but doesn't hog up much space because they built the last half out of sight. You don't see or hear much of Dueling Dragons until you are right in front of them and then you still have to move to behind the scenery to get a really good look at them.

Busch Gardens has also done a fairly good job of theming some of their coasters. While some of their coasters have no theming but the beautiful natural scenery, others have grand entrances and fancy tunnels - Montu - while others have actual theming throughout - Big Bad Wolf.

DCA might have succeeded if they had followed the lead of Six Flags in the thrill department but kept the Disney innovation. There is nothing that says a park can't do well if half of it appeals to the "hip" crowd while the other half appeals to the families that have been your bread and butter.

From James Adams
Posted March 6, 2002 at 9:22 AM
Islands of Adventure focuses on a teenage and younger adult audience and they are suffering financially just like Disney. Universal Orlando has been in a panic just like Eisner and yet they are tapped into the "teen" market. Busch Gardens which caters to a similar market has been failing miserably lately. Just recently they had one of their largest lay- offs yet.

Face it, the market is just in a low point for tourism. Who knows if things will turn more positive. But, if they don't, you can bet that Disney will NOT be the only theme park to suffer.

When great parks like Islands of Adventure start blowing Disney out of the water in ticket sales, then maybe Eisner will consider other options. Currently, however, they continue to turn a larger profit than Universal Orlando which is (in my opinion) doing everything right.

From Anonymous
Posted March 6, 2002 at 12:57 PM
"The pathetic thing is that many people claim real coasters would ruin Disney because they lack theming."

From Robert Niles
Posted March 6, 2002 at 2:20 PM
In response to James:

Yes, Universal's attendance was down last year, as was Disney's. But the demographic changes that are happening now will leave Universal in a better position than Disney in the years to come. The question remains to be answered whether Universal will take advantage of that position by continuing to open innovative rides, and by starting to promote its parks more.

Universal's suffered because of uncertain ownership over the years. Now that ownership has stabilized with Vivendi, that company must decide if it wan't to leverage the asset of Universal's position in the market or not.

Disney cut costs deeper than Universal did. That accounts for its recent profits.

Part of the reason that attendance was down last year at the big parks was the recession. But part was the beginning of the change in demographics and the public's decision that it was collectively getting tired of the same old family theme parks.

Six Flags bucked the trend by offering new coasters for those who still wanted to go to a theme park but wanted new and different thrills.

The challenge for the other parks is how they will communicate to the aging public that those parks are now different, more relevant and better than the Disney parks the public's visited in years past. That means new rides, new themes and new marketing campaigns. And no nostalgia trips.

If no parks step up to do this, all U.S. theme parks will continue to see attendance decline, or at the very least, rise at much lower rates than other entertainment venues.

From Anonymous
Posted March 6, 2002 at 12:57 PM
Re: "The pathetic thing is that many people claim real coasters would ruin Disney because they lack theming."

I don't know if anyone is concerned about "real" coasters (by "real", I assume we mean big coasters with massive g's) ruining Disney--I think people are concerned that Disney's attention may shift from the imaginative theming, which makes it so delightful to all ages, to simple thrill rides which appeal predominantly to one segment of the population.

I'm certain that no one would complain about a "real" coaster at a Disney park if it also incorporated great theming--Space Mountain, which might be tame when compared to other "big" coasters (but still great fun!), is a good example of how coasters and theming can be blended together in an innovative way. THAT'S the Disney trademark we expect (the one that Eisner isn't living up to)--great theming on both family attractions and thrill rides.

Nothing is wrong with Six Flags--their rides are by no means cheap. But Disney must live up to a different standard; what we fear is that Disney may cop out and clone themselves as Six Flags just to draw in the teen market. That's certainly not something I want to see. Disney should retain the "magic" that makes it so special.

From Anonymous
Posted March 6, 2002 at 12:57 PM
Re: "The pathetic thing is that many people claim real coasters would ruin Disney because they lack theming."

I don't know if anyone is concerned about "real" coasters (by "real", I assume we mean big coasters with massive g's) ruining Disney--I think people are concerned that Disney's attention may shift from the imaginative theming, which makes it so delightful to all ages, to simple thrill rides which appeal predominantly to one segment of the population.

I'm certain that no one would complain about a "real" coaster at a Disney park if it also incorporated great theming--Space Mountain, which might be tame when compared to other "big" coasters (but still great fun!), is a good example of how coasters and theming can be blended together in an innovative way. THAT'S the Disney trademark we expect (the one that Eisner isn't living up to)--great theming on both family attractions and thrill rides.

Nothing is wrong with Six Flags--their rides are by no means cheap. But Disney must live up to a different standard; what we fear is that Disney may cop out and clone themselves as Six Flags just to draw in the teen market. That's certainly not something I want to see. Disney should retain the "magic" that makes it so special.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted March 7, 2002 at 7:24 AM
Exactly! My point is that many people seem to be pointing fingers at DCA and claiming its failure is because it appealed to the wrong demographic. Maybe Disney would have been better off trying to appeal to that demographic with its third Anaheim park instead of its second. One of the reasons WDW does so well is that each park holds interest for a different segment of the population. Many people go to all four parks, but some don't. Some people, like me and my travel companions, ignore MK like the plague but visit the other three. Families with young kids tend to give Epcot or AK or the Studios the short shrift. Yet there is still enough there for everyone.

At the "Disneyland Resort" (I just saw advertising in a California tourist brochure where they called it the "Anaheim Resort." Is the "DR" name as unsuccessful as "Universal Escape" was?) they don't have different-style parks that still complement each other. They have polar opposites. All DCA is currently doing is showcasing the difference between Disney Past and Disney Present. If Disney had plunked down Islands of Adventure into that parking lot, that park would be challenging Disneyland for the attendance crown this year.

That may be IOA's biggest fault, after the pathetic lack of advertising for it. If that baby was anywhere close to USH, it would have exploded out of the gates and would have probably weathered 2001 as well as Six Flags or SeaWorld.

From Anonymous
Posted March 7, 2002 at 4:14 PM
Let's face facts; Disney as a company has become creatively corrupt. Mike and his gang have step by step systematically destroyed the things that made Disney different than Six Flags and others.

The costuming example cited in an earlier post is a great example. There was a time when costumes from different lands of MK could not be seen in other lands. For instance, you should not have seen someone in a Space Mountain costume in Fantasy Land. Today however you can witness that same person in a Space Mountain costume gassing up their car at 7-11 or hanging out having a drink in a local bar. I can't wait to see someone is a Small World costume on the front page of the Orlando Sentinel being hauled off in cuffs for murdering someone. Facetious? Yes, but the distinct possiblity is there.

Maintenance. Look at the peeling and faded paint in just about every park and resort. You never used to see such sites at a Disney park or hotel. Now they skimp on the annual maintenance budgets forcing managers to put bandaids on everything, rather than fixing it right. A great example is the Contemporary Resort. It was rotting away for years due to rust (that old "A" frame wasn't such a good idea after all) with guests falling through the floors (well hidden by Disney as I'm sure none of you ever heard about this). Only when a few managers with some guts assessed the true state of the facilities and tell the truth did senior "leadership" finally cough up the money to fix the place. Half the buildings at the world pavillion at Epcot are rusting away as well.

Films. Peter Pan 2? How creative, why not a Cinderella 2....ooops. When are we going to see some new ideas insteads of cheap rehashes?

Rides: Triceratops Spin? It feels just like you're at the local county fair. Buy it off the shelf, paint it Disney colors and no one will ever notice, at least that's what they think. When was the last truly innovative new attraction opened (outside of Disney Seas, but that's more OLC than Disney)? Probably 1994 when Tower of Terror came along. Since then Disney has either adapted existing technologies or bought off the shelf rides. Hell, they fired 90% of Imagineering...and look what they built down the street at IOA.

Resorts? Has anyone seen Pop Century? It's hideous and cheap with giant "Right On" and "Keep on Trucking" signs on the 70s building.

The bottom line is it's time for new management. Eisner may have saved Disney from the corporate raiders in the early 80s but he's since decided to worship at the temple of the almighty dollar (hey, that could be a ride). A balance needs to be struck between profit and creativity, just like it was with Walt and Roy. If not, Disney will simply join the pack with Busch, Premier and other "amusement" park companies.

From Daniel Kiser
Posted June 1, 2002 at 2:18 PM
Everybody is right! If only Walt were here then he could solve the problem or Eisner could hear our complaints! Two weeks to paint a bell tower! The Haunted Mansion is one of my favorites I don't know why they just let it go old and repair it for a longer period of time. They could just spruse it up during the night and it would hardly be closed for rehab!

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 2:51 PM
Ok guys. I work at the park. First off, haunted mansion is covered because its being redone for the holidays and they are shooting the commercial. Spaace mountain is being redone for 2005--- they are making it all new with an upside down rollercoaster.
As far as the costumes... when a character can't go out because he was pulled (they dont need a goofy in that area today) they put him in the host outfit so he can go anywhere in the park (blue pants white polo). We are incredibly underpaid and they have so many rules in our union its not even funny. The magic is NOT dead.. maybe for people who have been there 5000 times and know that there are 8 mickeys in the park at one time, but still--- the kids LOVE it and not only the kids--- adults too.

From Ben Mills
Posted September 5, 2003 at 4:17 PM
Wow! Who told you that Space Mountain was going to have loops? If that is the truth, why did they announce that it would be the same track in an official press conference?

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 11:26 PM
in our orientation our trainers told us that. I know where i work is directly behind space mountain and we watch them rip the whole thing apart every day... so maybe my trainer was wrong... but in any case they are updating it--- managers have even told us how it will be but who knows.

From Jeff Arons
Posted September 6, 2003 at 5:01 PM
With all the recent accidents (including the 9/5/03 Thunder Mountain accident), decreasing popularity, plus the fact that Disney is not turning into the park that Walt would like, I'd say Disney is losing some of its magic, but it is not dead yet and Eisner can turn it around (fat chance) and into the park that Walt dreamed about.

From John McGrew
Posted November 29, 2003 at 1:56 PM
Disneyland's magic is fading, that is for sure. Peeling paint, burned out bulbs and fading costumes are symptoms of the problem. Disney seems to have lost its way. It has forgotten why it exists. Walt created Disneyland to make people happy, not to get rich. I can't imagine Walt hiring someone like Michael Eisner. Someone who would say, "We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only obligation."

I haven't been back to Disneyland in over 10 years, but not because I'm boycotting. I haven't gone back because the magic has faded. Recently I offered to take my kids, but they declined. "It just isn't like it used to be, dad."

From Ben Mills
Posted November 29, 2003 at 2:44 PM
Am I the only one who believes that Walt might possibly have built Disneyland as a way of making money? Yeah, I'm sure he had a lot of fun designing it - who wouldn't? - but let's be honest: would he really have built something if he thought that there was little or no profit involved? He might have been the sort of guy that the public think of him as - a kind, generous man who devoted his life to making people happy no matter what the cost to him. Or maybe this reputation he has is anything to do with the Disney Dorks of the world, letting us know it every second of the day.

From Robert Niles
Posted November 29, 2003 at 6:59 PM
Let us also not forget that one of the ways Walt saved money in building Disneyland was by hiring his movie set people to build much of the park. In fact, according to some of my supervisors back when I worked for the Mouse, he successfully argued to Orange County that many of the buildings in Disneyland were "sets" and therefore not subject to stricter building codes. In short, Disneyland never was built to last. It was built to look good, sure, but not to last.

It is to the credit of those who succeeded Walt that they invested the money to maintain Walt's "sets" and keep the park looking good for as long as it did. Unfortunately, later managers failed to keep up with the aggressive maintenance that a place built like Disneyland requires, and the so-called "magic" faded quickly.

Restoring Disneyland to its previous luster will require more than a few coats of paint, however. To ensure Disneyland's position for the next 50 years, the company will need to rebuild most, if not all, of the park to much higher construction standards than Walt ever did.

From joe simons
Posted November 30, 2003 at 3:27 PM
yes I agree. The magic is dead in disneyland. The last time I was at disneyland 2 years ago I noticed that the park was in not so good condition. The paint was faded and peeling off. the disney carictors dident walk around the park anymore. the coustumes wernt in the best condidtion. now I hear that the park is losing money. gee I wonder why. oh thats right its becouse they dont care about the park conditions. all they care about is the money. thats not the disneyland I remember.

From Zach Hoffman
Posted December 2, 2003 at 6:32 PM
I agree that Disneyland's magic is dying, but far from dead. The parks are still better than any Six Flags park. Also, all the theming that is still there is what makes it so magical, not really what rides are open and closed.

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