A Great Big Broken Down Tomorrow

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Features, The 626, Walt Disney World

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Published on December 30, 2012 at 4:03 am with 71 Comments

For years now, there has been a definite decline in the maintenance and upkeep for show elements at Walt Disney World. One of the most noticeable, as fellow MiceChat columnist Kevin Yee has pointed out numerous times, are the animatronics on Splash Mountain. While I do have to give them credit for fixing some of that over the past year, maintenance is a problem which affects the entire property, from the Parks all the way to the resorts.

For guests that only go to the vacation kingdom of the world every few years, some of these things may be barely noticeable. However, for frequent guests, and for those with a keen eye for the rich details Disney puts into their shows, it’s incredibly obvious.

Disney used to put a lot of love and care into their attractions and show elements. If something wasn’t working correctly, they made sure they did their best to fix it right away, sometimes at the expense of an attraction’s closure until things were made right again.

There’s no denying that the Parks are falling apart, and something needs to be done about it.

Let’s take a look at the Carousel of Progress first.

Even before you get into the attraction, you can see it’s in a sad state. The rotating theater has scuff marks all over it from years of abuse and neglect.

The walk ways leading into the show are dirty and look like they haven’t been cleaned since the last Tomorrowland makeover. Paint is chipped away on almost every corner, and it just looks miserable.

Inside, it’s even worse. The seats are incredibly filthy and falling apart. Most are filled with holes, and some are half broken.

The carpet is in serious need of cleaning…or at least being ripped up and completely replaced.

And don’t even get me started on the show itself! While the animatronics are, in my opinion, in better working order than they were a year ago, they still aren’t at 100%.

Some of the movements are a bit jerky, and sometimes, depending on the show, Father looks like his inner workings are sticking out of his neck.

The last time I saw the show (November 2012), I noticed how noisy the attraction had become as well. During each scene, when the vignettes are being rotated to prepare for the next, the sound of the turntables moving is incredibly loud, and takes away from the show itself. In truth, the attraction may have always been like this, but I’m just noticing now because some of the audio in the scenes were unbalanced.

For some scenes, especially the last one, it seems like the audio is way too low, as if their speakers are in need of some serious repair work. This is most noticeable in the very last scene, where it seems like some family members are much louder than others. Some were very hard to hear!

For an attraction that is considered one of the defining moments of Disney’s history, it certainly deserves more love and care than it is getting. Without Carousel of Progress, we wouldn’t have some of the attractions we know and love today, as the technology created for the show lead to some bigger and better things further down the road. The crowds, while not massive, still come to see and enjoy the show. On my last viewing, even the younger kids seemed to have enjoyed themselves watching it. So, it’s still a crowd pleaser. It just needs a very careful refurbishment to bring it back to its former glory.

It’s not just major attraction elements that need a little love, either. Take a look at these buckets filled with candy going around your head in the Main Street Confectionery.

They are completely dirty, and look gross. Not exactly the type of thing you want to see in a candy-making shop, is it?

How about those nets that now lay above your head at such attractions as Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom and around the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom? I’m sure most of you know by now just WHY they are there, right?

To protect guests from falling debris.

Yes, that is correct. Pieces have begun to fall off both of these enormous structures, and these nets are to protect folks from getting hurt.

I’m not sure about you, but those nets, however strong they may be, don’t exactly make me feel safe. While there have (thankfully) been no injuries reported from such an event yet, I sure as hell don’t want a falling chunk of mountain to hit me in the head. It’s a little scary, don’t you think?

And the better question is WHY are these massive structures falling apart? Especially considering the Tree of Life really isn’t all that old to begin with, it’s pretty frightening to think that it’s beginning to deteriorate already, and could potentially harm someone.

While the nets are a good solution, they are only temporary. Something really needs to be done about this, not only for the show aspect, but for the safety of the guests as well.

I think the one that upsets me the most is Maelstrom over at EPCOT. No, I’m not just talking about the film at the end (though, that would be nice). I’m talking about the ride itself: it’s in terrible shape.

Mold and water damage adorns the ceiling in the loading area, along with the rest of the ride. Take a look at those air vents…nasty, right?

“But Jeff,” you might say, “I never look up there, so who cares? The ride still works, right?”

Well, yes, it does. But it still looks terrible.

The polar bears are in serious need of a cleaning as well. They are dirty and probably filled with the same dust that fell on them on the attraction’s opening day.

Take a look at some of the paint peeled and chipped away on these show scenes.

These types of things are VERY noticeable in places.

It’s right in front of the guest’s eyes!

The sorriest state of affairs in the ride are these photos.

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. The rock work in front of this polar bear is completely missing. Everything is exposed, and you can see the polar bear right through it.

HOW IS THIS ACCEPTABLE?!

Short answer: it’s not. In fact, this is exactly the type of thing that Disney World continues to get away with because not enough people take the time to complain about it. Disney figures that if no one says anything, then why bother fixing it, right? This is the type of mindset that exists throughout the entire resort these days, and it’s just not acceptable.

The few items I mention are just a small portion of the things broken at Walt Disney World. But if no one stands up and says anything, that list is just going to get longer.

I need to say that I am absolutely NOT bashing the maintenance department at the Parks. These wonderful folks are out there night after night, fixing the things we love, making sure that they are running for people to enjoy. They go where they are told, and they do their jobs wonderfully. This isn’t a front lines, lower level problem…this is the fault of upper management of the Parks.

I get that there are a lot of things to do and fix at Walt Disney World. I also get that it costs money to repair these things. It even affects crowd control when attractions are down for refurbishment. But things that are in such a noticeable state of disrepair as some of the attractions above are in is simply unacceptable. It’s not only “bad show,” but it also seems like those little details that Disney used to care so much about before are now not even on their radar.

Which is why I am asking for a call to arms on this, guys and gals. If you see something wrong, if a show element is not working, if something needs repair…say something. Go to Guest Relations and let them know what you’re unhappy about. Let them know what needs to be fixed. In addition to that, it really helps if you voice your opinion publicly, such as here on MiceChat. Go to the forums and make a post about it. Tweet your feelings on Twitter. Make yourself heard.

Nothing will ever get fixed unless we voice our opinions on it.

Walt Disney World is a place I grew up loving, and still do to this day. I’m not pointing out these flaws to be mean and just to complain about something…I’m doing it because I genuinely CARE. No one wants to see something they love fall into such a sorry state. That’s why we need to open our mouths now, before it gets even worse.

We’re not looking to bash Disney, so make sure you voice your opinion in the most respectful way possible. It’s a place we all love, and we just want it to get better. We’re not out to get anyone…we’re out to help fix something that holds a special place in our hearts.

It wasn’t too long ago that Disneyland was in a similar state. But thanks to people being vocal about it, consistently and respectfully, it forced them to make a change for the better. They spent a significant amount of time and money to try to bring Disneyland back to a better working condition. And when they did that, the entire future of the resort moved in a direction that changed its prospects for the better. Look at it now! Disneyland has made major strides, looked toward its future, as well as maintained the legacy of its past, and have been breaking records for both attendance and profits.

If we Walt Disney World fans want to have a higher quality product on the East Coast again, we need to stop being afraid to speak our minds. Too much has been scaled back, too much has been left broken, and too much has been left unsaid. We’re slowly losing the magic that once made this place so wonderful. We need to get it back. So, please…help me up here on this soap box. There’s room for everyone. We just need to start being heard. The space in the comments section below would be a great start.

A big thank you to fellow MiceChat contributor King Eric for the use of his photos and his vigilant eye when it comes to these things!


by Jeff Heimbuch

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!

Jeff also writes another column called From The Mouth Of The Mouse. We invite you to check it out.

Jeff co-hosts the weekly VidCast Communicore Weekly as well!

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About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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71 Comments

Comments for A Great Big Broken Down Tomorrow are now closed.

  1. Unfortunately at Disneyland, there was the other issue that spurred major maintenance changes — guests literally had to die due to no fault of their own.

    Management is so short-sighted at WDW that damaging the brand is the least thing on their radar. It’s not like Disney is in the red and doesn’t have money for this stuff. I suppose their bean counters figure that a few million spent when a child gets killed by a poorly-maintained attraction is cheaper than maintaining it to begin with. And that’s just immoral, in my book.

  2. Many good and fair criticisms here, but I must point out that it’s not fair commenting on a blacklight scene or prop based on a photo taken with flash. Blacklight scenes are painted specifically for blacklight show conditions, and many imperfections do not show up at all when properly lit.

    • I respectfully have to disagree. While those photos DID use flash, the things they highlight can still be seen by guests, even with only show lighting…especially the polar bear scene.

      The chipped away paint, the broken set pieces, and all of that are bad show, lighting or not.

      • .. and you haven’t even discussed the smell. The last time we rode Maelstrom it smelled like a pair of old socks, most likely a result of the mold. Not pleasant.

  3. EW EW EW EW EW EW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So glad I’ve not spent my money and time going there.

  4. Disney was brilliant to add ‘B’ mode to operate a compromised ride through the end of the day until the problem could be fixed properly. ‘B’ mode was never intended to be all the time, nor slip into into what we jokingly refer to in our family as ‘C’ mode (chipped paint) or ‘D’ mode (missing parts). Everybody notices this stuff, except the bean counters when they try to put a price on an intangible experience.

  5. I honestly think if TDO executives were required to spend 4-5 days a month in the actual parks/ resorts, then we wouldn’t have an issue. When all you see is paper work telling you about an issue, it means very little. When you see how awful it is with your eyes, you will be more inclined to sign off for a fix. WDW would be significantly better if management was actually required to be a guest of the parks.

  6. Thanks for the article, Jeff! When I was working in Florida a year ago, it broke my heart to ride on Splash, and I started to avoid it. And MiceChat is a great place to post concerns – Disney management ABSOLUTELY sees it! I was able to do a meet and greet in California during my college program with a few people in various communications departments, and they told me MiceChat is one of the sites they specifically check out periodically to see what is being said. These folks were higher up the food chain as well, and they care greatly for the Disney magic and love it just as much as we do. There are people with pull in the company who want Disney at Walt’s standards – we just need to give them enough “ammo” to back them up when they propose changes, upgrades, etc.

  7. Man I hope they fix the carousel of progress, I saw it for the first time last year with a couple great people and would love to see it again.

  8. And great articles And photos everybody

  9. Just chiming in to say that as a repeat Disney visitor.. who usually lets a couple of years pass between visits.. I have seen first hand all of the above and much, much more. Our last trip was in 2010 (we stayed for 18 days with a family of four and deluxe dining so while our trips are infrequent we are certainly “big ticket visitors”.. and that’s not even counting the fact that we bought so much stuff, including some big ticket art, that we had to have boxes shipped home) and we were astonished to see how bad things had gotten since our last trip. Not just in a few isolated places, although some were worse than others, but generally across the parks as well as within the resorts, and yes Downtown Disney as well. I could give you a shopping list of examples, but it would make for a very long post. It’s not a new development either, in fact after our previous trip in 2008 we actually considered going elsewhere in 2010 because of it, but we love WDW.. it’s our favorite place to be. So it’s not a matter of sour grapes or complaining just to complain.. we love “the world”.. and we know from experience how wonderful it used to be, and we do not want it to continue on the path it is.

    To say it’s better to have the rides open in subpar shape than down for maintenance is a cop out.. and it only encourages the neglect to continue. Look at Everest- running full speed with the main attraction of the ride broken for how many years now? We were some of the lucky ones who saw the yeti when it was working and I can say with complete honesty that it is only half the ride it was before. Yet they refuse to fix it because people keep riding without.. so why bother? The state of the rest of the parks and resorts is just simply not acceptable.. no “we don’t want to shut down the ride to refurbish” excuses there. They either do not have enough staff to do the job.. don’t want to spend the money.. or don’t care. Not to pull the “Walt card” but he really has to be pitching a fit where ever he is now knowing his masterpiece is being treated this way.. and the families he created these parks for are being shortchanged and quite possibly put at risk of physical harm.

    For the record, we did offer “constructive criticism” on several occasions, both while on our trip and in a rather long email direct to Disney when we returned. From the frequency of similar articles to this that I have seen in the last few weeks I can only assume that criticism was ignored.

  10. Please, all you corporate execs, by all means, fix that place up!

  11. Hmmm I guess it’s time to just shutter the Carousel for good. They did it at Disneyland. Time for WDW I guess!

  12. I’d just like to add that a show shouldn’t be allowed to deteriorate just because it might not be around much longer.

    I think every attraction that hangs out its little sign to invite us in is representing the overall experience of the park. Not every ride presents itself as an “E-ticket” but there needs to be some pride in how it’s presented! Since when is the Disney standard “oh well–it’s too much work to fix that–it’s good enough.” And what about honoring all the hard work of the artists who created it, and the Disney family? Not to mention respecting the intelligence of everyone who shells out the cash to travel there.

    Yup–it’s a lot of work maintaining quality.

  13. I work in maintenance and we try our hardest to keep the park in top shape, but lately
    with recent changes its getting harder to do our jobs. If you want to blame people with whats going on in the park with upkeep. You can blame the chief engineer whos listening to the bip department and they are the bean counter for the engineering department at disney.

    • It must be tough for you guys. Thanks for your hard work and all you have to go through.

    • Bigb can you private message me, I would love to talk to you more.

    • You, sir, are doing an excellent job. You do what you are told, and do a damn fine job of it.
      It’s definitely the higher ups that are to blame. I thank you for all that you do! If you ever want to chat sometime about your job, I’d love to!

  14. Thanks Jeff and Eric. I would love to see CoP get some TLC. Please? ;]

  15. I know Kevin often speaks about the “Declining by degrees” and your article and upsetting pictures simply restate what direction they’re continuing to go in. I too am a visitor (international) who visits the WDW Resort every 2 or 3 years. We stay for 3 weeks in their moderate hotels, buy Premium Dining & Attraction Packages and spend thousands on souvenirs that we must ship home in boxes. My first visit was in 1986 and I can tell you it was a much different Disney that managed these parks than the current clan. I too love the World and what it has to offer, but it doesn’t encourage me to see the place falling apart (physical and experiential) like it has been over the last 6 – 10 years. In fact, on our last visit (2008) we were so surprised at what they were branding as a Disney product that we joked that it appears to now be managed by Six Flags. We have not returned since, instead choosing to visit Disneyland every year. While this might still seem like a win for Disney, the truth is that Disney now gets so little of the money we would spend at Disney World. Overall, Disney is making less than 35% of what we would have spent on a Florida trip. The reason for this is simple (listen closely TDO). We don’t FEEL like you care about us when we visit Disney World. We don’t FEEL like you respect us or our money at Disney World. We don’t FEEL like you give a care about our experiences or the ongoing frustrations we as your customer are subjected to. We can see that you have such little self respect there, so why subject ourselves to that any longer? There is a magical spot in California where they make us feel wanted, appreciated and valued. This in turn makes us happy and that is why we return every year. We leave Disneyland feeling happy, rewarded and valued every time. You don’t even try to make that happen anymore. It makes me so sad and angry. We are talking about a return to Florida again, but we are seriously looking at staying at Universal and spending most days in their parks, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. We feel appreciated at all of these parks. Disney will get a day at each park too, but there will be no hotels, dining and souvenir purchases. You simply don’t earn it anymore. Your current management team has to go.