Before there was a Cars Land, Disney floated all sorts of ideas for new attractions at Disneyland. Last week, we brought you part one of this two part story. You can get caught up HERE.

Before we jump back into it, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the wonderful comments on my article last week. I love reading your feedback and they inspire me to write these articles! Without further ado, here is part two…but first, let’s start with some follow-ups from last week.

By far, the majority of the feedback was around the concept of WDI’s costs.  I realize now that I was not NEARLY as clear as I could have been, and I apologize for that.  There were some very passionate responses supporting WDI and, for the most part, I agree with them.  I erred in my article by focusing too much on the concept of open bidding and not enough on overhead and lack of detail (which was in there, but buried).

I completely understand the value of WDI, and as a fan, I believe their contributions provide endless value and set Disney apart from the competition (although Universal Creative has been really impressive recently).  What I should have emphasized in the article was the frustration of being accountable for financials, yet not being able to ever get a truly clear view of what you’re paying for.  Being a stand-alone business unit, WDI has a cost structure they have to support.  Those ongoing costs go into the “overhead” allocation that comes with every attraction.  In addition, WDI acts as a middleman between Disneyland and the various sub-contractors.  Unfortunately there is not great transparency into any of these costs.

One commenter wrote regarding the Ariel’s Undersea Adventure: “…how that thing cost $100 million is one of the fundamental mysteries of the universe.”  That is the exact feeling we had the entire time as we were populating the A&E menu.  How could this cost that much?  How could that be this much?

Going back to my house example, let’s get more specific.  You call a general contractor to re-do your kitchen.  That general contractor then works with an in-house architect, a plumber, the heating/cooling company, the electrician, a finish carpenter, and so on. You hear back from the general contractor that it will cost X amount of dollars.  What do you do next?  Most of us would call a second (and third) contractor to see if $X is reasonable.  In the WDI situation, we had no other general contractor to call. WDI was the only option. So this brings it back around to statement that no one is doubting the value of the general contractor (WDI), but we always found ourselves wanting to understand the bids; unfortunately, to no avail.

Another commenter wrote:

“I have heard from contractors doing work for WDI that there are too many Project Managers telling a contractor what to do; sometimes requiring multiple and costly changes from the original design specs without allowing for change orders. Because WDI is difficult to work for, some contractors are charging WDI more upfront to cover those change costs.”  Overhead.  WDI negotiating with subs despite Disneyland writing the check.  Black box quotes.  Makes you think…

While the sign example was a small one, it plays into the frustration above.  You just got a $115M quote for Tower on one hand, yet on the other you know you just paid a 100x premium for a stroller parking sign.  It all compounds to really make you question the value you’re getting.  I’m not advocating installing a bunch of Superstar Limos. I’m simply bringing up a financial bent on attraction pricing situation.


If your salary was dependent on you making appropriate financial decisions for the resort, is that $115M appropriate?  Consider that this was the value-engineered Tower.  The lobby/pre-show are virtually identical to the original.  The drop shafts and VVCs (Vertical Vehicle Conveyance systems) are identical in function/design to the original built in 1994.  In fact, the total number of VVCs went from six (four load VVCs, two drop VVCs) in Orlando to just three drop VVCs in Anaheim.  One of the most expensive portions of the original at Hollywood Studios was the fact that each ride vehicle was it’s own AGV (Autonomous Guided Vehicle); basically a self powered tank that could roll in any direction and travel across the “Fifth Dimension.” This was engineered out in Anaheim.


Sure, the “mirror” show scenes were added, but overall, I’d say the show content actually decreased. Orlando has four “hallway” scenes and two Fifth Dimensions (including those pricey starfield doors), while Anaheim has three “hallway” scenes and three “mirror” scenes.  Reportedly, the original Tower cost $140M in 1994.  Using simple inflation makes that $212M in 2004.  Going from $212M down to $115M seems reasonable, right?  But is it?  Was the $140M reasonable?  Splash Mountain was $75M in 1989. Should the original Tower have cost almost two times as much five years later?  We never knew, we just had to go with the numbers WDI gave us.  What if we could get the Tower down to $90M, without a significant change in show quality? Bam! That’s $25M to put back into the Resort somewhere.  All hypothetical…but real questions we asked everyday.

Pay the premium prices, get a premium product?
Pay the premium prices, get a premium product?

I also had to laugh at how many of you commented about wanting to see the Mansion signs.  First of all, let me tell you that the “temporary” signs I mentioned were from the Disneyland Sign Shop (someone commented that they were printed on “paper”) and were very professional looking.  The example, however, was not used to argue sign A or B, but to just provide that data point of paying 100x, when the Operations Team (a team that has a significant amount of pride in show quality themselves) felt the alternative solution worked great.  If you boot up Roller Coaster Tycoon and start paying 100x for everything you do, you’ll quickly find the dollars don’t add up.  Speaking of which, I had to smile a bit this week as the annual price increases went through, and some of the same people who advocate for giving WDI blank checks and talk about always choosing the hand-carved wooden sign are the same ones screaming about ticket prices rising faster than inflation.

Two more final comments to touch on:

“You’re on for about 80% of that, but you omitted 20% of the puzzle and, as a result, the article makes it appear that TDA is a decision maker with it’s hands tied when really they’re mostly out of the puzzle.”  As I mentioned in one of my original articles, I’m writing based on my experience when I was at Disneyland.  Back then, (pre-OneDisney) the parks DID have a say.  Disneyland was a self-contained operating entity.  I know things have changed with OneDisney (see my second article, where I used the Foods Finance example), but this is how it was during my time.

“I don’t blame the author for feeling under-appreciated…”  I actually laughed a bit at this one.  I’m writing these articles for one reason only: for fun.  I feel that, as a fan, I’m sharing information that other fans would find interesting.  My career is so far removed from my Disneyland days that it is simply a pleasant memory of a time in my life that I was fortunate enough to get paid to do something I loved.  The extent of my recent Disney fandom is regularly reading MiceChat articles (I rarely hit the forums), and taking my family to visit a Disney Resort once a year (if I’m lucky).  After reading enough articles, I thought I’d write a few!  No ulterior motive and no feeling of under-appreciation!  Just a nice creative outlet for this numbers geek!

Whew…sorry! That took longer than expected. Now back to my visit to WDI!

As I started to explain, the year was 2004.  Funding had opened up on the A&E Menu and WDI invited a small group of us to 1401 Flower Street to get walked through some ideas.  A few of those ideas were regarding the minor items. We were, for example, sat down in a room that had renderings of the re-painted Tomorrowland.  At this time, Tomorrowland was still the bronze/gold/brown of the 1998 version.  There was a display board with images of what was considered “futuristic” in 2004.  This included iPods, IKEA Furniture, and lots of blue LEDs.  “Clean lines” and white/blue aesthetic was what drove the re-paint.  What goes around, comes around.

Beyond the smaller items, the interesting part of the conversation comes with the two pitches for DCA’s next E-Ticket.  At the time, we had a placeholder in the out-years of the A&E Menu for a major E-Ticket.  WDI pitched us on two ideas that day.

The first pitch took place in a conference room, and that was where I saw the first concept drawings for Cars Land.  Much of the same concept art you saw throughout construction was the same as what I saw in 2004.  Specifically I remember items such as these:




You’ll notice this art has a slightly different style to it, and often differed from the final ride (e.g. passing Mater on the road).  I don’t remember many specific differences between what we saw versus what we ultimately got, but one that sticks out in my mind is an Autopia-type ride. In the original pitch, the theory was to build an Autopia-type ride whose track weaved in and out of Radiator Springs Racers (sometimes entering the show building if I remember correctly).  This was the secondary attraction for the younger set. I honestly don’t recall if Luigi’s Flying Tires or Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree were presented at that time.  The majority of the conversation focused on Racers and the maintenance nightmare that Epcot had on its hands with Test Track.  WDI assured us over and over that this would be a much-improved “second generation,” and that it would not suffer the same challenges (and costs) that WDW’s did.  Interestingly enough, despite this flushed out concept, this was not the one that WDI was pushing hard.

What WDI was really excited about required a short car ride over to one of WDI’s auxiliary warehouses where they did full-scale R&D.  We walked through the main door and stood in a hallway where our guide explained that what we were about to see/experience was a demonstration of a technology.  How it could be used was still to be detemined.  With The Incredibles being 2004’s big release from Pixar, there was a lot of conversation about that being the main theme.  We saw some very generic Incredibles concept art in the hallway.

Heading into the main room, a two-person KUKA arm dominated the space.  At this point, the KUKA technology was relatively new with it winning the best new product at the 2003 IAAPA Convention. The two-person model in this warehouse was that exact model from IAAPA; WDI had arranged for it to come directly from the show to their warehouse.

KUKA arm technology used at The Sum of all Thriils in EPCOT
KUKA arm technology used at The Sum of all Thriils in EPCOT

First up, we simply rode it to get a feel for the movements the arm could accomplish. No props or effects, just a simple ride. Each two person group got tossed around for a few minutes as one would at Legoland’s Knights’ Tournament attraction (except we obviously didn’t design our own ride).

After we cycled through two at a time, we moved onto the true “tech demo.”  Picture a clock with the KUKA arm in the middle acting as the minute hand.  The load platform was up a small staircase at the 9 o’clock hour.  We sat down, strapped in, and were handed 3D glasses.  I honestly don’t remember the exact order, but let’s start with a swing across to the 3 o’clock hour.

Here we were, facing a screen with a 3D projection of an underwater trench.  The arm gave a “floating” effect, and then some rudimentary animation kicked in (remember, this was just a demo) of sharks coming down the trench and “attacking” us.  As the sharks lunged at us, the KUKA arm darted from side to side.  Despite the rudimentary animation, the 3D effect worked quite well.

After the shark attack, the arm twisted up to the 12 o’clock hour, which was a mock-up of a spaceship control panel hanging from the ceiling.  The “windshields” were small screens showing a few scenes from The Incredibles on a loop.  They were not 3D; the focus of this station was not the special effects.  It was the fact that the KUKA arm could “insert” its riders into a fully-immersive environment with minimal effort.  The control panel had a ceiling, walls, and controls at your lap.  Everywhere you looked, you saw control panel…you had no clue you were in an empty warehouse up near the ceiling.  It was an immediate and seamless transition from the underwater scene previously seen.

After some time in the control panel, the arm whipped us out and did a large twisting loop down to the floor at the 6 o’clock hour, where there was a basic rubber dinosaur head with a few plants around it.  We stopped with the dino head (with full teeth exposed) literally inches from our faces (there may have been a speaker with a loud roar).  It was quite cool how I could go from an immersive control panel to roaring dinosaur inches from my face in a split second!  And with that, it was back to the load/unload.

While the other groups of two rode, I had a chance to chat with Tony Baxter.  There are two specific things I remember from that conversation.  First of all, he was talking about the technological breakthrough of the underwater trench scene.  Specifically, he was saying how most 3D was in theaters because of needing to get the viewing angle right and how hard that was in a moving vehicle.  I brought up the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Islands of Adventure, and Tony said that the animations for that ride only estimated where the ride vehicles SHOULD be. This was why the 3D sometimes felt out of sync.

This new technology that WDI developed dynamically adjusted the animation on screen to the exact movements of the KUKA arm.  I looked over to the next group of riders and was shocked!  As I mentioned, while I was on the ride, I was looking down a static trench the entire time.  When I was standing on the floor watching the next riders, the trench was moving all around!  When the KUKA arm went down, the far point of the trench went up!  It was amazing to watch. The trench never stopped moving (in perfect sync with the arm), yet while on the ride the trench did not appear to move at all…pretty cool!

Secondly, Tony mentioned that WDI had an exclusivity agreement with KUKA on an eight-passenger ride vehicle. I’m not sure how that specific agreement evolved (presumably it expired due to non-use), but according to industry sources, Universal Creative now have limited exclusive use of the KUKA technology. KUKA did come to life, though, in the Disney parks in much more minor ways. First, as a show element controlling the Anglerfish in Finding Nemo refurbishment of The Living Seas at Epcot, and secondly in Innovention’s Sum of All Thrills exhibit. Fun, no doubt, but a shell of what could have been.

A few other tidbits…as I mentioned, this was really just a demo.  WDI wasn’t quite sure what it was going to do with the arm.  They mentioned the concept of a KUKA arm on a track (see Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey), but talked more about a constantly moving turntable with numerous KUKA arms attached.  It simplifies the ride system a bit, with the wheels never stop moving (speeds loading), yet around the massive round show building the arm would “insert” the riders into various experiences.


Over the ensuing months, I can tell you that the A&E Menu placeholder alternated between “Cars” and “Incredibles” on a regular basis.  WDI seemed genuinely more excited about the KUKA concept, but frankly they didn’t have a flushed out attraction idea.  Cars Land was pretty much fully flushed out and ready to roll…and eight years later, roll it did!

“Hey Accountaneer…without that WDI Overhead you hate, the blue sky group wouldn’t exist, and you wouldn’t have gotten to ride the KUKA arm!!!”  Yes, yes…I know…but fun to discuss though, no?

Whew, that was a long one.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Keep the comments coming and perhaps I’ll come up with a few more article topics!  Until next time…keep your pencils sharp and your beans counted!!!

  • Jafar00

    3First off Fantastic Article. Thank you!

    ” I brought up the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Islands of Adventure, and Tony said that the animations for that ride only estimated where the ride vehicles SHOULD be. This was why the 3D sometimes felt out of sync.”

    So Universal went back to R&D and Transformers the ride was born. Those images are seamless in the transition from 3D Screens to physical set

    The Kuka tech was a game changer and Disney went for the safer, already established tech on Carsland.

    Question: Universal is creating amazing attractions at a record pace. Would it be safe to assume they are bidding out to contractors for the best price, fastest turnaround? I’ve heard crews work around the clock at UNI.

    • That would be true. Universal Creative uses many external design firms (many of which are run by ex-WDI). They tend to be able to build their projects quicker and cheaper than Disney can.

  • DCAfanatic

    Disney better get their act straight and beat out Universal on modern attractions ,cause they’ll be leading the pack on future attractions!

    Universal is really investing on tomorrowland like attractions such as HP and Tranformers. That is what Disney needs.

  • eicarr

    Can you imagine the hours in line you’d have to spend even if they had dozens of 8 person arms? We’ve seen artwork of those arms on wheels on a ride track too( imagine breakdown evacuations).

  • mickey021

    Absolutely love your articles. As a fellow finance guy (though in the far less fun world of banking) who goes through a lot of the same struggles at work, it’s great to read about how what I do happens at the greatest company on Earth. Thanks again for the inside look. Please keep it coming!

  • Tielo

    Thank you again for this wonderful insight article about Disney. I hope you will wright many more.

    It’s amazing that a problematic ride system like Test Track is used again. Despite the promises WDI made the ride still brakes down quite often. Still the whole expansion served it’s purpose because money is poring in but unfortunately a bit is also poring out because of it.
    It’s sad to hear the whole Kuka arm idea never became a ride. I think Universal is using it amazingly on the Harry Potter ride. It was the first time in my life I believed something that was happening to me at a theme park was real. I never saw the arm that made it all possible and the moment Hermione sais Wingardium Leviosa I was actually lying!

    Please come back soon with another awesome insight in the world of finances.

    • yellowrocket

      Yep. And John Lassitter is happy. I wonder what we would have got if Cars wasn’t his pet project.

  • Eric Davis

    BIG FAN of these articles!

  • BC_DisneyGeek

    Another enjoyable article, and another example of why Universal is the current champ when it comes to ground breaking theme park attractions.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    It was interesting your comments on the discussion of what the Tower of terror should cost. I originally rode the WDW Tower of terror and was thoroughly impressed with the ride. It was certainly was one of the most fun rides at WDW that I experienced. After I rode the Anaheim version I was very disappointed. It’s preshow settings just seems so abbreviated compared to the WDW version. The ride experience just was not long enough to really be thoroughly immersive. It was a ride that just felt like the accountants had to cut out all the stuff which made the ride a true WOW. So after the attraction opened and it really did not become a game changer for DCA, It felt like the cutting of costs on the ride ended up actually costing much more in the impact the ride should’ve had. Imagine if for Radiator Springs racers in Carsland the accountants cut out of the budget the street leading to the ride, did not build Cadillac Ridge, and only had one car racing instead of two. I don’t think that Radiator Springs racers in Carsland would’ve had as much impact on attendance as it did. That is how the Anaheim Tower of terror feels to me today.

    • The Accountaneer

      I agree about the reduced ride experience. Here’s the problem though. As I mentioned in my last article, the Resort was losing money, the depreciation burden from DCA was large, and we only had about $100M freed up on the A&E Menu. So…the decision was: do WDI’s $115M version, do another $100M WDI ride (think Mermaid), or do nothing. Given those options, you’re left with today’s Tower. It’s nice to say that we should go out and spend $250M on a new and better Tower but given DCA’s other problems could you confidently argue that dropping that cash was the right move? Or was it better to do the “lite” version and re-group after? What if I told you that you could get the $250M Tower but you have to cut $135M out of Cars Land…deal? It’s a tough puzzle! Unfortunately WDI has not perfected the Money Tree technology so you can’t do everything!

      • Geezer

        Thanks for another interesting article…..
        I’m of the opinion that the parks would be better off building nothing, and saving the budget to do the attractions correctly, than building short term stop-gaps that please no-one in the long term. I’d prefer picking one attraction, say between Pooh and ToT, and doing it right. Why build both in a reduced experience? It has definitely eroded the reputation of the park.

      • StevenW

        My feeling is DCA’s Tower of Terror could be rescued without reengineering of the ride profile. It can create pre and post shows in the loading room behind the elevator door to extend the ride experience. Instead of a quick ride to the elevator shaft, the room itself can change its appearance with lighting and sound effects. The ride needs its own Fifth Dimension and Star Field effect. The mirror room is nice, but not enough.

      • yellowrocket

        It was also Paris’s ToT lite pre-designed version as well, right? DCA wasn’t scheduled to get ToT for another few years, I believe.

      • DLFan1995

        As I recall, ToT was built WAY before there was any thought of a Carsland. SO i don’t see that there would have been a financial option between the two.

        ToT was intended to give DCA an expected big boost that only slightly happened. And that reduction was due in a large part to the low budget version of the attraction.

      • The Accountaneer

        Tower was built way before Cars Land and my point was not that it was A or B but rather that A impacts B. If you tell your corporate parent that you need $250M in 2004 that changes what they decide to allocate to you in future years. No decision is in a vacuum and they all impact future decisions.

        Also, while Tower was approved to give DCA a boost it was not the “Big Boost” you mention (I worked on the business case). The business case was more about extending length of stay…not driving waves of new visitors as Cars Land was intended to do. At that point we knew that DCA had larger fundamental problems and no one thought Tower was the golden ticket to fix those problems…but it did offer some help.

        Hindsight is 20:20 but in the moment I still believe it was the right decision (despite my undying passion for the original ride in WDW…probably my favorite Disney attraction of all time). Consider:
        – DCA had major problems…problems beyond a single attraction
        – WDI had already designed the Tower “lite” version for Paris and we could get some efficiency by building two at once (as @yellowrocket wrote)
        – We had ~$100M available to us on the A&E Menu…given our situation we were not getting any more at that time from Parks & Resorts or Corporate. This is important. This is not a matter of getting $250M for a new attraction and the pencil boys sharpening it down to $115M. This was a matter of the fact that given the business situation, given the financial reality of the Resort, and given allocations from the company…we only had the $115M to spend. Period. $250M wasn’t an option.
        – I’d argue that even had we built the $250M version of Tower, it still would not have impacted the park much…the entire overhaul was needed (Buena Vista Street, Toy Story Mania, Ariel, Cars Land, etc). And then the situation is worse…spent $250M to get the same impact as the $115M got you. Do we really think that dropping WDW’s Tower (or even an upgraded version) into DCA would have made it that much more of a “must-visit” versus the current version? I don’t think so. Not without the park overhaul.
        – And to @Geezer’s point of a reduced experience…95% of visitors to Disneyland do not view it as a reduced experience…it’s still a killer ride. It’s my oldest child’s favorite ride at both DL and DCA (yes, rode Racers too). I no longer live near DL but still live in an area of the country where most people go to DL…not WDW. I’ll often talk to them about their trip before they go and not only have many of them never ridden it at DCA (let alone the WDW one), they have never even heard of it. When they get back from their trip they often point to Tower as a highlight…not talking about that they felt like it was a lacking experience. Sure I tell them that the superior version is in WDW, but they love the DCA one on its own. I’ve even ran into people who rode the WDW years ago and rode the DCA version recently…and they’re hard pressed sometimes to even describe the differences!

        As a fan: Give me the original any day
        As someone who was presented with the facts above back in 2002: it’d still choose to build it
        Given the park today (post-Cars Land): I’d argue that the park would now get its bang for the buck with a more enhanced version. Value is such a “relative” term when building these attractions. I’ll do a future article digging into this a bit!

        Side note: While it has a different theme, TDS’s version of Tower is the same ride system as Paris and DCA…because it sits in an amazing park I don’t hear much complaining about it reducing the experience. Just sayin’… 😉

      • DLFan1995

        While length of stay may have been a focus, I don’t think that ToT would provide more than a “line’s wait” amount of time to a visitor’s length of stay.

        Of course, even a 5th Dimension version probably wouldn’t have done that either, unless it was compelling enough to require repeat rides. But, chances are that the better version might have brought in more visitors more often. Having guests stay in the park longer (length of stay) is probably less profitable than having MORE guests in the park.

      • Disneykin Kid

        Actually, I don’t think the 5th Dimension room would have improved DCA’s version that much, but I think they do need one or preferably two more floors where they stop to see some effects. The mirror effect and the guests disappearing isn’t enough to tell the story, IMO.

  • Meville

    Great article, thanks for sharing. For what it’s worth, I’m glad that Disney did not move forward with the Kuka Arms; RSR is an amazing attraction that most everyone can experiance, not just the thrill seekers.

  • a-mad

    These are great articles… and as a fellow finance guy (… and we all seem to be coming out of the woodwork!) I appreciate the detailed analysis (there’s our word!) of such an interesting and complicated process. It sure gives us greater insight when we as Disney fans wonder why such and such wasn’t built, etc.

    Regarding the KUKA arm technology… I’m curious what Universal will do with it next (if they do anything with it at all…) HPatFJ is an amazing ride (…although it did leave me a little sick – and I normally don’t get sick on these types of rides) and its been incredibly popular – and yet there doesn’t appear to be anything on the horizon to utilize this technology, except for the inevitable clone of the ride at USH. Gringott’s appears to be a coaster with added technology (like the next generation Mummy) and Transformers is kind of like Spider-Man 2.0. I’m wondering if Universal Creative will try and develop something with it soon, or if they’ll wait for the right experience to come along.

  • davidrusk

    Enjoyed your very informative and interesting article. Surely Disney has learned not to do things half-way as they did for DCA. Better nothing new for years then BAM! a fantastic attraction. Something to keep in mind is there are a lot of visitors to Disneyland and WDW who either have never been or go so rarely that the old attractions are new or like new to them.

  • aquaboi77

    As an artist and someone who also has an interest in the “business” side of the entertainment business, I really appreciate your articles. I love what WDI does, but I also understand that compromise can actually make things better in the end.

  • Big D

    That’s very cool that they would give an accountant an opportunity to experience something like that. I’d be willing to be that most companies would not have done that. I understand the conflict between doing nothing at all or getting a watered down version of a ride. I’ve been on Tower in Florida, so it does bum me out a little bit that we didn’t get that ride at DCA. But on the other hand, the ride at DCA is still very fun, and I think in that one case, it was better then nothing at all. And if there was not a superior version in Florida, then the Tower in DCA would probably even be one of my favorite rides. However, I don’t think from Disney’s point of view that it was money well spent. I didn’t see any increase in attendance at DCA when Tower opened, and when I would go (which was at all times of year, busy season and off season) it was almost always a walk-on. Attendance did not increase until Cars Land opened, and now the wait for Tower is usually over 30 min, but on it’s own it didn’t seem to really do anything. So I would guess that Disney is glad now that they have it to soak up some of the crowds from Cars Land, but the time between when Tower opened and the DCA re-do they probably felt that they did not get a good return on their investment.

    • It makes sense that the team working on the Kuka system would want to have all of the stakeholders see the new technology. Especially since they wanted to get the project approved when it was competing with other options. 😉

  • David Hollenbeck

    Great article! While I’m not vigorously opposed to Cars Land in Orlando, it just seems so perfect in Southern California that it should really be allowed to shine there. With that in mind, I would lovelovelove to see Disney both take advantage of the fact that they can’t have Marvel in Orlando and put something that is perfectly suited for Orlando and put in a new benchmark type land in the Studios would be to put in Nomanisan Island and just make sure not to simply retell the story of the film, but take it in new *ahem* incredible directions. Put that and a fleshed out Star Wars land (imagine the Star Tours not just being an attraction, but in a sense, the hydrolators to enter Star Wars land – hey, it’s not my money, right?) and the studios would be back in business, as it were.

    As for the paper signs, I didn’t think that it was like a wet paint sign slapped onto a wall with blue tape, but was just curious to see the differences to see which side of the argument I’d tend to fall on because there are so many variables beyond just cost. I can see where things would get difficult when this situation rears its head one every little thing. Keep up the good work! Also, have we settled on whether it’s acccountineering or accountaneering? 😉


  • DannyLand

    I heard the Paris Tower of Terror was the most expensive tower. but yet it’s the same at DCA.

    • bfdf55

      The DCA ToT is NOT the same as Paris’s version. The Paris version has the “5th Dimension” which was the over-the-top element of the attraction that was removed from all the copies.

      • The Accountaneer

        I think you meant to say WDW has the 5th Dimension, not Paris:

        – DHS: Original (4 load shafts, 2 drop shafts, 5th Dimension)
        – DCA and WDS (Paris): 3 load/drop shafts, replace 5th with mirror scene
        – TDS: same layout/ride system as DCA/WDS, re-theme to Hotel Hightower

      • bfdf55

        Sorry, you’re right.

        One other issue about attraction costs is WHERE they were built. I believe that Florida’s labor costs are a lot less than California’s (and probably Paris’ too).

    • DannyLand

      Paris Tower is made of concrete. DCA Tower is steel. It was build differently even if it looks the same. so it does depend where it was built.

  • scarymouse

    Great articles , very interesting. I wonder why WDI never hired a contractor as a liaison between WDI and the various contractors working on projects, someone with the knowledge of projected cost estimates so Disney would get more bang for their buck. If you don’t have someone with the knowledge of project costs and overruns these contractors can demand any amount of money for a project, and since they are so called the best they get the big bucks . What ever happened to the bidding process. So if you have to cut some elements on a ride because of gouging , its understandable. That said it seems cost effective to have that position to help curtail the cost gouging and keep more artistic elements in the rides. Universal seems to have this down, Disney needs to get their act together, and build better and cheaper and faster projects.

  • Gwendolyn Dreyer

    Just want to let you know that I’m loving the articles!

  • DannyLand

    Im so confused. I know that DCA Tower has 6 elevators. But Does WDW TOT have 6 elevators or 8 elevators.

  • Asa

    Very interesting column, thanks Mr. Accountaneer.

    Since you worked for Disney in the early 2000s, I wonder if you were involved in the development of Hong Kong Disneyland? It would be great if you could tell us something about how that park developed, what kind of budget it had and why the rides were chosen.

  • FarFromHome

    The Cars movie didn’t come out until 2006. How did they have plans for a ride based on the movie ready in 2004?

  • Disneykin Kid

    Always wanted to know why Disney lost the Kuka arm, you said that presumably it expired due to non-use, and that Disney didn’t have a clear idea on how to use it. Universal creative took advantage of that indecision and made the ‘incredible’ Harry Potter ride.

    Although, I think the Kuka arm would be more advantageous for a Star Wars ride, maybe a speeder bike or pod race. Disney seems so far behind in technology, Universal also has the motion base used in Spiderman and Transformers, although, are they more sophisticated than the Indiana Jones vehicle?

    I heard that Universal has a ten year exclusive agreement to use the Kuka arm, when does that expire? It seems like the Kuka arm is just like the auto assembly line robots, how can it be so exclusive?

  • Baloo

    It is I te resting that transformers was brought up in the comments. I just came back from a trip yeaterday to universal studios, A group of friends which interestingly had never been there, and I got up early and arrive before opening.

    We walked rapidly at rope drops and first ride was transformers since I had mention the hype on some boards about the ride. We were on the ride in five minutes ( glad we did not have to wait in the ridiculous long queue space). All seven if us walked out quiet. One of them finally said guess that was ok. Everyone was in agreement that the technology used in the ride vehicle was great but the transitions from scene to scene was so badly done. Going from real scenes to obvious large movie screens. The ride did not have the seamless transition of Spider-Man in Orlando. Out trip to the park ended by 3pm where we did everything and even though tranformors only had. 20 minute wait everyone decided to skip it and do Jurassic park, Simpsons and mummy again.

    By the way this park desperately needs help it gets boring fast which is too bad because the tram tour was great eventhough Lots of filming cut the your short with tram bypassing all of the Main city lots


    “One commenter wrote regarding the Ariel’s Undersea Adventure: “…how that thing cost $100 million is one of the fundamental mysteries of the universe.” That is the exact feeling we had the entire time as we were populating the A&E menu. How could this cost that much? How could that be this much?””

    The Little Mermaid- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure did not cost $100 million. This is a falsehood that is constantly perpetuated by this website. TLM was specificaly intended to be a “D” level attraction and was funded accordingly, at a cost considerably less than the phantom $100 million. If anyone is to be blamed for this “fundamental mystery of the universe” it is the “accountaneers” who only allotted the amount that was given. The attraction was built to the budget allowed and is still performing ( and frequently over-performing) to park management’s satisfaction.

  • stevep52

    As another finance professional & Disney fan, I find these articles very informative and enlightening. Enough so that I finally registered for this site so that I can add my comments.

    When reading this article, two words came to mind – accountability and transparency.

    The finance professionals that get such a rough ride on this site, and others, do not have the power everyone thinks they have. Using the example in the article, if you are remodeling your house and hire an Accountant to manage it, you will give him a budget to work with. The accountant does not have the authority to report back to you and say that they approved an extra 20% because they felt the quality was better. They work within the provided financial constraints (i.e. budget).

    Every Accountant, in doing their job, has a choice to do one of two things – 1) report the score or 2) change the score. By changing the score, they can work with the business to uncover and drive greater efficiencies.This will mean asking questions such as how can we reduce costs without sacrificing quality or how can we get more out of what we currently have.

    With WDI not providing transparency, there can be no accountability. And with that no way to change the score. No way to know if a better TOT can be built without increasing the budget.

    WDI does great things that we are all thankful for. But what if 5%-10% could have been saved on every project? What could have been built then? Accountaneer was unable to answer these questions.

    Accountants do not set the financial landscape. We work with the business to navigate through it. As a result, we are usually the bearer of bad news. It is the bad new that everybody remembers. No one remembers that times we helped the business achieve something that no one thought was possible given the financial constraints we were dealt.

    • DLFan1995

      If you are remodeling your house and have an accountant to manage it, you are wasting valuable capital. If an extra 20% is needed to do the project properly, and they turned it down because they are “sticking to the budget”, then your house may not turn out the way you envisioned.

      Accountants should ONLY be responsible for the disbursement of project funds. They should have NO control over ANY creative aspect of a project outside of keeping project management aware of the project financial status and any discrepancies that may occur.

      • The Accountaneer

        Remember…despite the name of the column, I did not work in Accounting. I worked in Financial/Business Planning. These are the groups that DO work with the teams to determine initial funding, work through how to fund overages, redeploy under-spend, etc. So while it is not having control over a creative aspect, it is actively involved in helping to manage the portfolio. “Changing the score” as stevep52 notes above.

  • DLFan1995

    Sounds like Disney’s Strategic Planning group. A team of real estate, marketing, financial and other non-creative types, who decide how to develop a particular piece of property. While they may be charged with what use a particular property may be best suited for, anything beyond that only gets in the way of those who must actually create the content.

    Often times, “initial funding” (usually an ROM number that has a habit of being adhered to even when it’s discovered that it’s not feasible down the line) becomes a blockade to the creative potential of what was initially intended.

    If a project is actually handled with the responsible oversight being flexible enough to modify financial aspects as necessary (your example) then it’s possible to achieve a successful project. However, not all projects are able to achieve that desired state.

  • ralzap

    Good Stuff, My concern is this progression towards one movie lands. It does not seem to fit. I have to admit I’m to old to have ever seen this movie. The theming is great, but I have no context to judge it. Well, I have context, just not the movie. I love Route 66. I have stayed in the Tee Pee hotel twice. I have seen all of these sites, but not in California. These are all places are in Arizona. I’m glad for Disney making DCA better, but Tomorrow land and Frontier land scream for attention. A Monsters Land, really?

  • laurainwonderland

    I really enjoy your articles. Thanks so much for sharing.