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

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  1. Great Article Jeff

    I can’t believe how bad WDW has become. While its competators are keeping the parks in tip top condition, Disney management allows it to become dilaporated. This is ot on, especially when IoA is restoring Toon Lagoon. It is loking viabrant, whereas, the images show that WDW needs substantial investment. Personally, the money investe in the Next Gen queues should be used to restore all four parks to their former glory. Fresh Paint, new carpets and the little things that make Disney different. At the present stage, poor Walt must be turning in his grave. Also, one thing I would like to mention is the derelic areas, Discovery Cove and River Country. Wouldn’t it be good if River Country reopened (despite being quaint, people loved it) and have Discovery Island as a wedding venue. As it is an island, it would be the perfect romantic place to get married.

    Thanks Again Jeff, and letgs get our voices heard.

    Trumpet

  2. As a four-year Florida transplant from California, I too have seen things decline dramatically in the short time I have been here. It definitely reminds me of Disneyland in the Pressler years. I went to MK yesterday and they closed the parking lot directing everybody (even handicapped) to the Epcot overflow lot only to then see roughly one quarter to one third of the MK lot empty below the monorail! Made for a long frustrating trip back to the car late at night with no tram service and a half-mile walk from the Epcot monorail. Splash Mountain was worse than I had ever seen it. The geese in the opening show scene were ALL slumped over and not moving or singing, the soundtrack cut in and out thruoghout the entire ride and the musician animals in the cart in the finale scene were also slumped over dead as well as several chickens missing from the riverboat! Every queue line was dirty and filthy with trash lying over the floors, discarded drink cups where scattered throughout the brand new Ariel’s Undersea Adventure ride. It’s obvious they don’t even try to keep things clean anymore.

  3. Oh Wow! If ever I felt the need to comment, this post was it!!
    I’ve been a die hard WDW fan since 1988 and venture back about every 2 to 3 years. We too make the most of our visits and max out the credit card on deluxe accomodations and everything else Disney has to offer. This post really is an understatment about how the resort as a whole is degrading. Each trip has gotten worse and though we were due to return in spring of 2013, we said NO! A few years back I honeymooned at the Grand Floridian. It was horrible and not what I always envisioned Disney’s flagship resort to be. The room and balcony was filthy, the toilet leaked and the carpet was ratty. Several complaints to the front desk did score us 2 free nights on a future visit (which we never redeemed).

    The state of the parks however is far worse than any of the resorts. Three years ago I talked my best friend into coming along. She had never been to Disney and after all the time of listening to me hype it over and over, she agreed. After two whole days, I asked her what she thought. Her exact words were “I honestly don’t get it! This feels like any other Six Flags park. It’s an amusement park filled with ok rides and shows…big deal!” I felt horrible after hearing this like there was a huge need to defend that which I love. She said “I haven’t seen any red carpets being rolled out and no one has even made an attempt to make my day MAGICAL!” I was getting bombarded with all of the comments I had thrown at her over the years concerning the “Disney Difference” and what makes the place so different and special. I then realized that what she was seeing was not the WDW I grew up with. She was seeing a cheapened version of a product I worked very hard to sell her on. It was a long week and she thanked me for having her join in…but she would never have a need to return.

    I returned the following year (2010) and had to agree that it felt much more like any other amusement park then a Disney resort. Though I knew in my heart, it had felt that way the past several visits. CoP broke down half way through the show. The whole 5 of us inside had to simply wait it out until the attraction reset and started over. Splash looked horrible just as this story states. Dead critters, burned out lighting, garbled audio….though the absolute worst example of managment that I have EVER heard was about a year ago when Pirates broke down during late extra magic hours and passengers were stuck in their boats for 2 and 1/2 HOURS!!!!! RU KIDDING ME!?!? There is NO reason on Earth to leave people stuck in an attraction for that amount of time AND at that hour of the evening!!! Disney defended its actions but they should have done more. It’s getting to the point where I don’t trust attractions because I’ve been stuck for some significant amount of time in quite a few of them. We’re not talking about stopping an Omnimover for a wheelchair. We’re talking “something is wrong and we’re not sure what!” This stuff never happened years ago but it’s a common occurance now. It breaks my heart to see the parks become a shell of their former glory. I still never consider my life in danger while at WDW, but I find myself getting anxious while thinking about getting stuck in a broken attraction for who knows how long! Seeing the decay, the dirt and the “used car” sensation of the WDW resort has left a bad taste in my mouth for a dessert that I once cherished every delightful spoon full!!

    Sarah

  4. This article is something that all of us stockholders need to see. I am forwarding the link to shareholder-information. We all complained when we would get our quarterly reports on very high end paper costing us profits, yet this is an investment that needs repair and can lose us profits.

  5. I wish Disney HAD no stockholders. The millions of people (myself included) who think they’re going to get rich off the dividends are one reason, I believe, that Disney continues to cut corners in every possible corner. Make it a nonprofit, and….well, I can wish.

    CoP’s carpet, I thought, was replaced in the last few years, right? It wasn’t always that corporate mixed color stuff from the picture. Same with the seats. Do they really fall apart that fast, especially when the rear rows are seldom even used? The sound continues to be the main problem. The side vignettes have always squeaked a little but if the volume is up enough, you won’t hear it. Do some serious painting and reupholstering, combined with new speakers throughout, and I think CoP has a nice life ahead of it.

    The worst part about the dirty Goofy’s candy buckets is they DON’T MOVE. Or, has that been fixed? I’d be willing to put up with dirty if at least the animation worked again. Same thing in Gag Factory at DL.

    • They don’t move…. so you have LOTS of time to notice the dirt.

  6. WDW should just pair down attractions if upkeep can’t be maintained. I realize that unlike DL, WDW is more about being a “Resort” with “beaches”, buses, roads, shopping malls, golf courses, watersides, waterways, artificial lakes etc. to enjoy and be maintained$$$$. If they’re making hotel room/timeshare money off of people visiting waterslide parks, bowling alleys, sandwich shops while taking lengthy shuttle bus rides to reach them, then the parks don’t need to be full day experiences. People should be enjoying the shopping, spa and steak dinners back at their Disney Resort or Timeshare.

  7. I remember going to WDW with my Dad in the Eighties. He was a man who was very hard -pressed to find something good to say about anybody or anything – and I’ll never forget him marveling over how spotlessly clean and well-maintained everything at WDW was back then.

  8. I’m concerned about the safety, but also the show quality and the story that was originally meant to be part of the attraction. If things are falling apart in Splash Mountain, obviously they need the covers and it needs to be fixed, but this seriously takes away from the story and scene setting. It’s the equivalent of having the first part of a movie be blanked out or cut altogether due to the film being damaged, or to put it in more current terms, it’s like when you’re watching a DVD/Blu-ray and the disc is scratched causing the movie to jump ahead. It’s just not the same and can really impact the story.

    I noticed there was also no mention of our favorite broken animatronic, the Yeti. Can we just assume at this point that he’s never going to work as intended?

  9. [...] A Great Big Broken Down Tomorrow   by Jeff Heimbuch at MiceChat.com [...]

  10. Thanks for the great article. Keep up the good fight and hopefully WDW will turn itself around !

  11. After 7yrs in MK Attractions I can vouch for EVERYTHING said here. The managers DO NOT CARE. MK managers are ONLY there to………breathe and take up oxygen and play bad cop with the CMs. The hourly counts are THE, BY FAR, MOST IMPORTANT key of WDW ops. Ghost Host audio and Leota not working? Who cares. But if Mansion or Pirates isn’t meeting 2,500 an hour, then it’s a full 911 emergency. The managers give two rats behinds about the Show Quality. Nothing like doing a Cruise all day with………….wait for it……..Inspiration Falls, Schitzer Falls, Hippos, Dancing/Attacking Natives ALL BROKEn. Try finding material to cover those in broad daylight of guests! And let’s not even get into how the managers do not defend CMs on ANY guest situation. I even saw a Coordinator give a guest a No Strings Attached to guests cause there tween brats verbally abused me in The Cruise and I called them out on it! WDW is the worst employer out of The Big Three in O-Town.

  12. [...] was most happy to find MiceAge’s Jeff Heimbuch’s recent critique of withering Disney attractions, because this has to stop. Now. Magic Kingdom’s Splash Mountain and Carousel of Progress were [...]

  13. Couldn’t agree more. Took my wife down there in 2012 for her 40th and we ended up spending most of our week in the resort as the parks were so disappointing. I have been going to wdw since 1978…about every 1-3 years and boy have things changed. Last year the monorail was not only a rough and bumpy ride, but it reeked of b-o and urine…it almost smelled like a real subway car! Epcot is our favorite park and the sad state of some of those buildings in future world…depressing. The Oddyessy, the living seas and even journey into imagination all looked like they had seen better days. Spaceship Earth was also a lot jerkier and bumpier than I had remembered. I can certainly vouch for CoP in MK as well.
    I thought it was a case of me possibly losing the magic in the whole experience now that I am middle-aged…glad to see others have seen and experienced similar. Would love to see WDW return to the glory days of the 80s.

  14. (This is my only ever post on these forums, though I’ve been an interested reader for several years. I feel compelled enough to contribute here).

    Firstly I’d like to say that unlike some of you other people my family and I live across the pond (in England). Consequently we only get to visit occasionally, and we have to eke out our money by staying in off-resort budget hotels to offset the cost of flights. Nor do I spend a fortune in the Disney shops, though I always buy *something* – usually one of the ‘behind the scenes’ books. I am probably not, therefore, one of Disney’s prime targets.

    However, my best holiday ever, ever, ever, without a shadow of a doubt, (and I’m a man in my mid-fifties so I’ve had a few), was my first visit to WDW in the early 1990′s. I arrived with no preconceived ideas except perhaps a fair degree of scepticism, but I was quite literally moved by the place – enough to fall in love with it. I recall my distinct sadness on our last day listening to the MK monorail announcement “If this concludes your visit to the WDW Resort…”

    Since then I’ve been back probably half a dozen times, each time having saved hard to pay for the trip, and bursting with childish excitement for weeks beforehand. My kids think I’m a touch insane. Sadly, each visit has been slightly less inspiring than the previous one. Why? Because on every occasion something good that was there before has, well, *gone*.

    On that first trip, everything seemed to just *work*. I remember the street cleaners with beaming smiles handing out Mickey stickers to my son in his pushchair, and zipping around whisking up every speck as soon as it was dropped. I remember the faultless gleaming paintwork, the immaculate gardens, the pristine and romantic look of the place at night. I remember the smells, the playful music from the hidden speakers, the technicolour parades, the hugs from unnervingly-friendly characters. I even remember the spotless pink pavements, for goodness’ sake – I mean, on how many holidays do you take notice of the pavements?

    Nowadays, though, there don’t seem to be any cleaners, let alone stickers, but there’s plenty of litter. Paint is chipped, hidden behind tarpaulins or crudely just labelled as wet. Bulbs are blown all over the place. Pavements are cracked and spattered with gum. Attractions and rides have disappeared, been dumded-down, replaced with benches or shops, and many look worn out. The characters are still there, of course, and they’re as friendly as ever, but somehow the place just isn’t the same. And no-one in control appears to show any signs of caring.

    Now I know the first time of doing anything is special, and I know there have been major improvements at Disney over the years (the opening of AK being one) and that more things are ongoing, but why is it that everything nowadays, everywhere (not just at Disney), seems to get slowly worse rather than better? I used to think that things ought to improve over time, like evolution, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way – things get left to rot until a major renovation is necessary, or they’re ripped out and replaced by something different (and not necessarily better).

    Is it all down to money, or just changing attitudes? Does it really cost that much to replace a few lightbulbs, or apply a lick of paint out of hours? Does it really cost that much, relative to Disney’s balance sheet, to employ enough people to do those things?

    I sound like my dad now, but it’s how I feel. For a brief while, WDW was somewhere special to me – no, it still is, sort of. It unexpectedly found a place in my heart which I never even knew existed. But every time I go there now, a little bit more of that ‘specialness’ has vanished, pffft. It’s heartbreaking. If I could, I’d do something about it, but what? I’m just an increasingly disillusioned, helpless, British tourist.