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

Written by Sam Gennawey. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Samland

Tagged: ,


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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  • DobbysCloset

    Agree about the animation building — easy to spend hours in there, just watching clips and attending the “Draw a Character” sessions (is that still offered?)

    For me personally it sounds like the new bobsleds might be an improvement. I’m 5′ and a single rider; it was always uncomfortable mentally if not physically to find myself sitting between some male stranger’s legs.

  • partyhare

    I must to say, the first time I stepped into the lobby of the Animation Building, I was totally wowed away. Totally in awe and taken away from reality, totally immersed and swept up in the music, art, and total concept. Absolute Disney magic and creativity and easily the best part of early DCA. I can still spend long spans of time in that lobby, taking it all in.
    World of Color is regrettable. The show is not great story wise – forced emotional highs and lows with poor transitions. Ugly fountainheads in the water – the key thematic element that makes this a seaside amusement area was totally broken. But its biggest problem – WoC kills the whole nighttime magic of a seaside amusement pier. The rides shut down! Paradise Pier loses its environment, all in service of a water show forcing people to herd into little pens. Nighttime at a seaside park is the most magical time, but DCA killed it.

    • lego606

      I don’t get why for they need to shut down the Pier except $. There’s no falling fireworks like in Fantasyland or anything.

  • Spacepainter

    LOVE the Animation Building, by far one of my favorite places to chill at DCA. It’s great if you are waiting for your Animation Academy class to start!

  • SoCalFan

    Uh, the WoC fountains are RARELY out during the day anymore. The majority of the time they are submerged, except for the one platform that raises with the Goofy show and then is lowered again right after.

  • Captain Pitchfork

    Great article. Well stated. I agree with the Bobsled assessment. I bragged for years to my brother and his kids that we have them and WDW does not. My Niece visited forher first time just after the sleds changed and she couldn’t see the big deal. I had to tell her about the change and she had missed the ride when we enjoyed it.
    Keep up the great writing, I admire your skills!!

  • wdimike55

    Regrettable – Stroller parking. It feels like the amount of strollers in the parks has increased considerably over the last 10 years. Are more parents bringing younger kids? Are parents relying on strollers for too long with kids that have outgrown them? Is this all related to childhood obesity rates? I’m not sure what the solution is but it’s getting ridiculous.

    Exceptional – The alternate path around Grizzly River Run in DCA. It’s a nice retreat and scenic detour from the hustle and bustle of the main walkway. I hope they continue with plans to expand Main Street in Disneyland with a themed back alley way.

  • javalos1991

    Those bobsleds hurt like heck! I was expecting a smooth ride with comfortable seating but nope. Would love for Disney to replace the track on the Matterhorn like they’re doing for railroad.

  • Westsider

    Starbucks can’t go in the old Hills Brothers Coffee House area near the Mad Hatter. Per Al Lutz, that’s to be the entrance to the new Eastside Alley running behind Main Street by 2015.

  • Soulquarian

    I must be the only one that has 0 issues with Starbucks. Given the template we have at DCA, I don’t see why anyone would expect this one to be “corporate”. The only issues are that it’ll be a busy place and there are no more refills…

  • OrangeFlash

    Once more, with feeling:

    EXCEPTIONAL: Breakfast a Flo’s. As someone who grew up with the California desert, it all FEELS right. Even the plants are perfect.

    ACCEPTABLE: The new Princess Fantasy Faire. The little details are the best, like the puppet box, and pretzels designed by Belle’s dad. (I wonder how long before Leia shows up to meet ‘n’ greet?)

    REGRETTABLE: The decline of book shopping in the resort. Compass closed, the old Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square had more books than the new one on Main Street, the Book Store and Candle Shop is long gone, candy has overtaken the last book store on Main Street, and we’ll what becomes of Disneyana after it moves.