Disneyland and the Exceptional, Acceptable, or Regrettable – Part 3

Written by Sam Gennawey. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Samland

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Published on May 02, 2013 at 3:00 am with 36 Comments

It was not my intention to milk this topic for a third installment, but everybody seemed to be having so much fun with it that I threw caution to the wind and here we are again. This week I will going beyond the Disneyland berm. Buckle up.

If you’d like to get caught up, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2

For a recap, here is the set-up for the column:

How do you get people to evaluate and document what they see and how they feel within the environments that they live, work, and play? That is a question I am frequently asked during my day job. After facilitating something north of 750 community meetings and charrettes, I have come to learn that a process built on curiosity, clarity, creativity, will generally gain the confidence of the people and they will feel the magic (when apprehension turns into awe and delight) and work toward a great big beautiful tomorrow. Given the chance, the right tools, and the right strategy, community stakeholders tend to make good choices. Amazing, eh? Like I said, it’s my day job.

Do you have to go to school to learn what are the proper elements that make up spaces that are alive, functional, and beautiful? No. Inside, everybody knows what is right. Most of the time they just do not know how to articulate what they are feeling. My experience has shown me that the best places are those that share these three elements in abundance; quality, variety, and surprise. Places that have a higher degree of life tend to be filled with such moments. Isn’t that why we go back to the parks so often and fight to keep them whole?  Although each of these elements may seem subjective, ask enough people and you will be amazed how common their wants and desires are.

When you look at a specific place, I try to keep this in mind. Every act of construction should be an opportunity to either repair, enhance or embellish the public realm. If not, just leave it alone. Kind of like the theory that people are less critical when rides change at the parks as long as they are being replaced by something superior.

With all of that said, it is hard to manage something you cannot measure. So I suggest this ranking system. Identify a specific space or experience and tell us whether it is exceptional, acceptable or regrettable. Go ahead. It will feel good.

By the way, if you are interested in preservation issues, it is not too late to go to the California Preservation Foundation Conference at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Garden Grove on Friday. I will be on a panel discussing cultural tourism. The event started on Wednesday with most of the action taking place on Thursday and Friday. For more information visit http://www.californiapreservation.org/conference.html.

Also, if you want to learn about exciting new things that are happening in Santa Ana, TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) is hosting a walking tour of the Santa Ana Arts District and a panel discussion on May 9th Called Downtown rEvolution. There is also a networking mixer. I will be moderating the panel discussion. It only cost $15 for non-members.  To learn more, visit: Downtown rEvolution

EXCEPTIONAL: Universal’s Creative Way to Make You Want to Pay More

One of the next big problems for the theme park industry is the $100 a day one park ticket. Right now the price of a ticket to Disneyland is $87 and a ticket to one park at Walt Disney World is $89. Even Universal can be pricey. One day without a deal in Hollywood is $80 and in Florida it is $88.

That $100 is just a big, big gulp. The first one to do it (likely Disney) is going to get bashed in the press. Now this happens every time there is a price hike but that milestone is also going to be a millstone, deserved or not.

Disney and Universal are going two different directions. If you plan to fully utilize the new Disney MyMagic+ program, you will realize that park-hopping is really a bad idea. The system wants you to stay in one park. Decide to go to a second park and watch your perks melt away.

With the addition of a Harry Potter simulated train ride attraction connecting the two parks at Universal Orland Resort, all of the sudden you have one giant park that already costs more than $100. If you only have a one park pass at USO in the future, you are going to feel like you are missing out. Open that wallet. 

Disney might want to get in on this act by connecting all of the parks directly with Monorails. A lot more folks would pop for those expensive Park Hopper tickets, don’t you think?!

EXCEPTIONAL: Animation Building Loop

At the heart of the Disney experience are the animated movies. The lobby for the Animation Building may be one of the best 20 minutes you spend at the park. Surrounding the large space are comfortable sofas for the adults and plenty of room for the kids to run around. On a hot or rainy day, it makes for a fine retreat.

This is the second loop since the Park’s opening in 2001. The updated reel includes a lot more Pixar projects and gone are such stellar titles as Atlantis. Some of the screens are static drawings, frequently concept art. The smaller screens are sometimes animated or show more concept art. The blend makes for a wonderful tribute. Grab a drink. Find a seat. And enjoy one of the best moments at DCA.

REGRETTABLE: Exposed World of Color Fountains

Imagine if the show infrastructure for Fantasmic was unable to reset. The light poles remained in the up position all day, the stage on the island was in production mode, and all that ugly infrastructure was on public view all day long. This would make the Rivers of America a lot less magical, wouldn’t you agree? Then why is it they can’t fix the World of Color fountains in the Paradise Pier lagoon?

I am sure when they were working on the concept for the World of Color show, they thought they could pull off some magic like the way they hid a Fantasmic out of view until it was time for the show. The clever solution was to place the fountains on a platform that could be sunk below the water during the day, rise up for the shows, and come up all the way out of the water for maintenance. Did not quite work out that way did it?

Maybe it was the earthquake that hit the area just as the show was opening. Maybe it is just being lazy. Maybe it is just too expensive to make repairs. Whatever the reason, it’s ugly.

What to do? How to make lemonade out of the lemons? They created a show called Instant Concert: Just Add Water. Does it feel like a band aid? Yes. I say now the Park is a hit, why not spend the extra money and fix the problem!

REGRETTABLE: The Marketplace and Starbucks

I have no problem with Starbucks being served at Disneyland. However, I do have an issue with where they plan on putting the dispensary. May I suggest that the former location of two previous coffee venues between the Mad Hatter and the Disney Showcase? Back in the day, this used to be the home of Hills Brothers. The location is in the right place, as soon as you enter the park. It is just out of the way to not break up the flow of guests entering the park. And it would not mean taking over half of a block on Main Street for coffee. Walt always wanted something in this space and the current blank wall is in a prime real estate spot.

ACCEPTABLE: Radiator Springs Curios

Due to the success of the Wizardry World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, the entire theme park industry is going through a time of reflection. The fact that Universal is out Disneying Disney came as quite a surprise to many. For awhile, Disney was suggesting that the new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom was going to be the answer, but that project becake less and less exciting every day. Instead, the publicity machine started to suggest that Carsland at DCA was truly the answer. And they may be right. It has been a long time since Disney did something with this much attention to detail.

With the success of Carsland and its retail shops, my hope was that this would be the return to creating retail experiences that augment the theme of the land in which they belong. This was something that Disney pioneered but gave up on long ago in favor of selling generic OneDisney merchandise, plush and Vinylmations.

When the land first opened there were three stores. Ramones was an instant hit filled with all sorts of unique merchandise (and the one time when I was happy to see a store expand). The whole Low & Slow line of products is especially cool. For those looking for Cars related toys, Sarge’s Surplus Hut was the place to go. And then there was Radiator Springs Curios. So much time spent on the outside and so little thought on what was inside. Here you could find the same stuff you could find just about anywhere else at the resort. Somebody must have been paying attention.  What was one of the best themed stores now has the merchandise to match. The store provides the link between Carsland and Route 66. Now if they could just add a couple of benches on the porch that are people sized…

REGRETTABLE: The new Matterhorn bobsleds

I love the Matterhorn and was downright giddy when I learned there would be a single rider line added. Then I got into one of the new bobsleds. Really? I am not tall. 5’9” I believe. What lawyer designed these things? Maybe they should give out knee pads for anybody over 6’. And by adding all of the seatbelt safety gear, the things must weigh a whole lot more than before and I frequently hear about how rough the ride is now. If you need a lesson in torturing guests, the new bobsleds are your example.

And that wraps up this series . . . or does it?! What do you find Exceptional, Acceptable or Regrettable?

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About Sam Gennawey

Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.

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36 Comments

Comments for Disneyland and the Exceptional, Acceptable, or Regrettable – Part 3 are now closed.

  1. I’ve enjoyed this column, and I hope there’s more to come. I agree that the Animation building is seemingly a hidden treasure. It’s not hard to miss it on your stroll through street towards TOT. But for such an advertised show like WOC to have platform issues is a total travesty.

  2. How about the three (four?) aerial carousels at the Magic Kingdom:

    Exceptional – The new dueling Dumbos. The classic spinner attraction just got classier with the addition of the impressive water and lighting.

    Acceptable – The Astro Orbiter (or, Star Jets, for us old folks). This one is somewhat unique because it’s 80 feet above ground level and add counter-spinning planets that add a kinetic energy and the sense that you’re moving faster than you really are. However, it’s looking pretty rough lately. I doubt much has been done with it since its 1994 re-design. A good coat of paint and a refreshing would go a long way.

    Regrettable – The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, proudly presented by Disney’s own Department of Redundancy Department. First, explain to me how a middle-eastern inspired ride fits in a south-pacific plaza. TDO can keep throwing afghans, fez hats, and handmade baskets into the plaza but they’re not fooling anyone. It was designed to look Polynesian. Finally, the Adventureland Bazaar that was previously in this location was more properly themed and likely made the company more profit than another spinner ride.

  3. This really is a great column. Keep ‘em coming!

    Universal’s two-park Harry Potter plan is perhaps one of the most ingenious moves I’ve ever seen a theme park attempt. It virtually guarantees a two park (and probably two day) visit from nearly every park guest.

  4. do they still do the show just add water? if so, when do they do it?

    • There are multiple show times throughout the day. You can check the Disneyland show schedule for details. but for example here are today’s Instant Concert!….Just Add Water showtimes:
      11:00am, 11:55am, 1:20pm, 2:35pm, 3:15pm, and 4:30pm.

      • Hey, I like “Just Add Water”. I just can’t believe it took them so long to do something during the day with the WOC infrastructure. I think it’s a cute show and I try to catch it with my friends when we’re at DCA.

  5. I remember the Hills Bros. coffeehouse restaurant that was located on Main Street. I also thought that that might be a better location for the Starbucks. As you said, it is right after you get into the park, and it also allows for a space for the line to form out-of-the-way. My fear is just a market house which adds some of the best charm of all of Main Street will become just as cold and corporate as a Starbucks.

  6. I wish you posted a photo of your preferred location for Starbucks. I think it doesn’t matter.

  7. Amen and amen on the Mattehorn bobsleds. Before I rode them, my main gripe was reducing maximum sled capacity from 4 to 3, and also denying hormonal teenagers a rite of passage in sharing a seat with that special someone.

    But now that I’ve been on it, MAN are those sleds terrible. I’m 6’2″. It’s brutal. No legroom at all. And the HANDLES?! They are in such odd locations. The natural movement of my arm to grab a handle does not lead me to any of the handles. They are quite quizzically placed.

    And yes, it is rough and slow. No more zip around the mountain. It’s like a bludgeoning crawl. IMO, the new bobsleds are the biggest blunder Disney has committed at DL since New Tomorrowland.

    Oh, and thanks for also mentioning the equipment for World of Color. I’ve never understood why it can’t be submerged.

    • I think I must be the only one here who did not have a bad experience in the new Bobsleds. I am 6’3″ and I actually liked them better than the old ones! However I rode in the front seat which might be a bit more roomy than the other seats…

    • I don’t understand the gripe about the bobsleds. You can fit your legs quite a ways up the slots on either side of the seat in front of you. I agree the handles suck, but the bars around the seat in front of you make for a good placement.

  8. Regrettable- Wheel chair and electric carts rented in hub. If you need one, walk from car to tram or bus, then from bus or tram to center of hub. I guesstimate that’s roughly 1/4-1 mile. Should move rentals to areas by loading for buses and trams. I don’t need them, but have had family that did. It was a pain for them.

  9. With $299 tickets Universal is really getting creative with pricing: http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/tickets/vip-experience/

    Paramount and Warner Brothers have excellent “VIP” small group tours for much lower prices.

    Every time I go to Universal they’re constantly pushing $129 front-of-the-line passes.

    Will there be more of an upper class / lower class difference in experience soon at Disneyland (I know you have to be able to afford pricey Disneyland Hotels to get into the parks early these days)? Disneyland resort hotel guests can ride Radiator Springs without a line and then get a fastpass ticket without waiting in the hour long line to get fast pass tickets to ride the racers without waiting in its line again. Poor guests like me have to rush, push and shove to the fast pass line at line drop or wait 2-3 hours in the hot sun. I don’t think Magic+ will make things equal for all classes either.

  10. Hello Sam, Since the WED Days and their Lake Independence Ski Resort project, it was said that Disneyland Adult one day Tickets (No DCA then) would be based just below the price of a one day adult lift ticket to snow ski at Mammoth Mountain in California. As you mentioned the $100.00 dollar mark I had to look at current prices at Mammoth Mountain for peak season Adult one day lift tickets. I found them between $99.00 to $104.00 on a walk up purchase basis. So Disneyland is still just below that mark by $12.00 and Walt Disney World by $10.00 or so. Of course Seniors over 80 can ski free at Mammoth, and I know a few that still can. Maybe Disneyland could offer Seniors free admission, and maybe they could bring their families or just enjoy it on their own??

    • PS Sam I hope the new Big Thunder Trains and tracks don’t go the way of the Matterhorn sleds and new improvements. A lot of the fun in the original Big Thunder trains is having some movement to counter the original built in track and show variations. The original train design goes back to Marc Davis and ride vehicle designer “Guru” George McGinnis. I wish they would put the wheels back on the engine and keep her rollin full steam ahead through the new restoration. It would be regrettable to loose that ride vehicle.

    • I had no plans to get that old (80) but this might be an incentive to find myself a nursing home near TDR with a shuttle…

  11. Minor spelling error “but that project becake” I am guessing should be became.

    • No way, Sam was talking about “Project Beefcake”. You know, the super-secret project to inject testosterone into an otherwise Pricess-heavy Fantasyland. The rumor goes that Imagineering’s first step was to find ways to bring more muscle-bound male charecters into the park. Need proof? Look no further than Gaston’s Tavern (known inside Disney as Test-Phase Alapha).

      …or maybe I’m kidding. =)

      • Or maybe it would be nice to give us females an incentive to be princesses besides unwieldy, fluffy dresses…

  12. Found it a bit amusing to be reading about the world of color fountains while currently in the park, then seeing the lagoon with all the fountains submerged. The center section popped up around Just Add Water show time, then went back down again.

    • Unfortunately, that’s a rare condition these days. They are at surface level more often than not. And boy are they ugly.

      • In the morning perhaps especially when the park opens at 7 or 8 in the peak season. Being able to see the lagoon 5 days a week, I have noticed that they typically submerge before noon after prep work for that evenings show is complete. Many times when the park opens at 10, they are submerged. Ideal? No, not at all, they are ugly, but they aren’t always up.

  13. I hate the new bobsleds, I am 6ft2 and I used to run for that ride first, now I can only ride it once a trip, if that because of the pain. I recently asked a cm if they could bring back the old sleds, and he said no because of the reconfigured platform for single riders.

  14. I also have seen the World of Color fountains submerged every time I’ve been there but they raise them for the Just Add Water shows and then again at dusk as they begin testing before World of Color. There was a period of a couple of months after the earthquake where they couldn’t be lowered but they did eventually fix it.

  15. Thanks Sam, I agree spot on with everything you said. Keep these articles coming!