Disneyland Ups and Downs

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features

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Published on July 26, 2013 at 4:00 am with 77 Comments

We have a mixed report for you this week from the Disneyland Resort.  While the park is stunningly beautiful in some areas, there are a few spots that could use a little bit of help.  We look at some abandoned projects around the resort and wonder why they have not been attended to.  We also take a return trip to Splash Mountain to see if the problem with the broken animatronics has been addressed.  But, in all fairness, there are other matters that management is grappling with at the moment.  The Big Thunder Mountain refurbishment is the biggest visible project in the resort at the moment and we scan the copper-colored peaks for any new developments.


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Disneyland is rolling along through the busy Summer season as if on auto-pilot. The park has been entertaining guests in a mostly uneventful season. Though it seems like the crowds have been a little lighter, they are really just better spread around the entire resort, making things feel more manageable than what we have come to expect from the summer season. We can thank Cars Land for that.

 TOWN SQUARE AND MAIN STREET

The characters set the right tone in Town Square, greeting guests at the beginning of the day and interacting with as many as they can.

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New flowers were planted in the tip of Town Square.

Still no visible progress at Starbucks.  But you can be sure that things are moving at a frantic pace inside.

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JOLLY TROLLY RETURNS TO TOONTOWN

After a brief hiatus, the Jolly Trolly has returned to Toontown.  While still stationary, it is now gleaming and sparkling with fresh paint and surface treatments.  WONDERFUL, now, get it moving again!

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BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN REFURBISHMENT

There was a brief closure of Thunder Mountain Trail this week as part of the Big Thunder Mountain refurbishment.  We also noticed that they are attempting to cover up the dynamite-eating goat when it is not being worked on.  Here are pics from the project site.

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From Fantasyland, heading towards Big Thunder Ranch.

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What’s that?

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Goat under bag with a hole in his side.

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Construction crews climb the outside.

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Approaching the trail from Frontierland we see this sign advising you to walk all the way around, via Fantasyland, to get to the back side of Frontierland.




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It appears that the facade work on Rainbow Ridge is nearly complete.  It looks great from here.

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SPLASH DIMINISHED?

Two weeks ago we covered the questionable state of Disneyland’s Splash Mountain attraction.  While many animatronics along the rides path were not fully functional none were as noticeably frozen as the figures on the large steamboat at the finale of the ride. You can’t expect things to be fixed over night these days, so we allowed a couple weeks for maintenance to be performed.

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Two weeks later, the same figures are still non-functioning.  What is really bad, however, is that many readers pointed out that the same figures have been frozen since as early as May.  What is the real issue here and why has it not been fixed?  There has to be more to the situation than fall protection as the entire steamship is surrounded by water which normally negates the need for fall protection in most cases. And  ropes can be attached to a safety harness for compliance as well. There has been more than enough time for maintenance routines to be created for each and every animatronic on this attraction.

Splash Mountain is a key attraction in the resort. Leaving it in this diminished condition is a real shame and far below the standard we expect from a Disney attraction. It can and should be fixed. A consultation with their OSHA overlords is advisable.

TEMPORARY LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Disney theme parks are notorious for allowing a temporary situation to become a permanent fixture. Remember when America Sings closed on April 10th, 1988?  A promising sign hung outside for literally years that read, “Sorry, We’re closed to imagineer a brand new attraction.”

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The building was not used again for an attraction until the infamous Tomorrowland 1998 redo that brought Innoventions and left many asking the question, “10 years for that?”  That same year, after being part of the debut of new Tomorrowland, the Submarine Voyage was closed in September with the promise of a new attraction by 2003.  Again, nothing.  Then, finally in 2007 the Subs returned, after nine long years, with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but a wonderful return by the original ride system.

Along with the tomorrowland redo of 1998, came the ill-fated Rocket-Rods.  We all know what happened.  With the redo of the land the PeopleMover was removed in favor of what was hoped to be the new flagship attraction in the land.  Not only was it met with mixed reviews, but it was highly problematic.  Rocket Rods closed on September 25 of 2000, just two short years after opening.  Promises of refurbishment were broken when in April of 2001 it was announced that the ride would not be returning.

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So, here we are, 13 years later with no replacement for what was supposed to be a temporary solution, still looming over Tomorrowland. Rocket Rods appears to be the record holder for this ignominious distinction.  But really this begs the question, “Why is this acceptable?”

Yes we have seen the complete rebuild of Space Mountain, which was worth the wait.  No question.  Yes the replacement of the Rocket Rods queue with an interactivel new dark ride, Buzz Lightyear Astro-Blasters, was a success.  Yes we have also enjoyed the overhaul of Star Tours and it is truly a brilliant ride redo that breathed new life into an aging experience.

But, when guests are faced with a 33% price increase over the past 5 years, why is something like a rusting track deteriorating in the skies above Tomorrowland something that is acceptable? It might as well be a billboard advertising that the future is broken. Hopefully the rumors of a new attraction utilizing part of the PeopleMover track will prove true and come sooner rather than later.

We are also going on three years now with the temporary CalOSHA fixes for Alice in Wonderland.  It was reported that we could be seeing a total overhaul of this classic that would address the issues by the 60th anniversary of Disneyland. But why is this taking so long?

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When Disneyland is commanding around $92 a pop for one day one park tickets, is it reasonable to expect a little more than this in a little less time?  What do you think?

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Thankfully Disney California Adventure is still looking wonderful and things are still, for the most part, looking and running just fine.

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New pop-up vending has appeared near Disney Junior Live that capitalizes on the properties from the show.

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The Tower of Terror looms behind the Redcar.


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Tony Baxter Interview

The MicePod’s Season Pass Podcast has an AMAZING two part interview with beloved retired Imagineer, Tony Baxter.

Part One

Part Two


That about wraps things up with news and information from the Disneyland Resort.  We love the resort and want it to be the very best that it can be.  Sure there are little bumps along the way, but Disneyland is still a magical place that creates memories that last a lifetime. We just hope that the powers that be will take it upon themselves to address the few glaring issues in time for the big 60th anniversary in just 2 years.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! We’ll see you again soon. . . In The Parks!

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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77 Comments

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Comments for Disneyland Ups and Downs are now closed.

  1. Just wondering: Does anyone know if the serious decline in upkeep of things like Splash Mountain, have anything to do with the new park president from Florida? Even if it started as an OSHA issue, you would think having that ride in such poor condition all summer would be something you would want to be fixed ASAP.

    • Only time will tell, right? He hasn’t been around long enough to get a serious sample, but given his spotty track record at Animal Kingdom, I guess I’m unfairly expecting the worst from him.

    • The Splash Mt. frozen animatronics are directly related to the self-imposed safety regulations TDA brought on itself to try and impress DOSH inspectors. It should also be noted that all of the same types of fall protection issues exist in Florida, and Orlando executives know about them after Meg Crofton took a tour of all the impacted Anaheim attractions, but the same fixes have not been applied to identical WDW environments. CM “safety” is more important in Anaheim than it is in Orlando, due to political differences between Sacramento and Tallahassee.

      And Michael Colglazier? This is a man who was in charge of Animal Kingdom before his promotion. He only had six (6) rides to take care of, and he couldn’t even do that. We all know about the Yeti on Everest, but have you seen the condition of Kali Rapids or Dinosaur lately? They are in horrendous shape, and there’s not a rehab planned in sight. A group of us Disneyland CM’s went to WDW last year, and the inferior show conditions of WDW were at their absolute worst on the half dozen rides at Animal Kingdom. Just pathetic. But that’s Michael Colglazier’s legacy.

      It’s up to Mr. Colglazier to prove he can actually run a theme park. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just a theme park. But it’s not Michael Colglazier’s park, it’s Walt’s park and Mr. Colglazier better darn well start acting like it. Mr. Colglazier has 29 months left in his Disneyland contract, let’s see how this one ends. Tick, tick, tick…

    • I think that it’s still pretty early to be holding Mr Colgazier responsible for these types of old things at the moment. He is still a relative newbie as president to the resort. Always approachable, Michael has always been welcoming and eager to hear what the guests in the park have to say and has even asked guests for their thoughts on things. So, we decided to share our thoughts on the ongoing maintenance issues.

      Some of these issues may be outside of Micheal’s view at the moment, but we hope he quickly adds them to his list (especially Splash, which just looks broken to the average guest, regardless of reason for the stationary animatronics).

    • I remember when Ed Grier was President…and things went to hell in a handbasket. So was it all Ed’s fault? When he was replaced by George Kalogridis, things turned around. So yes, the President of the Disneyland Resort does have an impact on what goes on there.

  2. Thanks for the video of Splash. When you started discussing this a few weeks ago, it looked troubling in my mind’s eye, but now with video proof, it looks a million times worse. Just wow. I’ve never seen it look so pathetic.

    I guess I had long since given up on the Peoplemover/Rocket Rods track. It’s just there. Personally, I think the bigger problem is having the Astro Orbiter right at the entrance to Tomorrowland. The old ride was more fun than Dumbo because it was so high up. The current location is pointless and also creates traffic logjams.

    Thank you for the great comparison between price increase and park upkeep (or lack thereof). That makes for a really great thesis and I hope it can gain traction. Disney, of course, won’t care, so long as the parks are filled, but if you keep ringing the bell, perhaps more will listen. It’s hard to argue that price increases well beyond inflation are justified when the park experience itself is becoming increasingly half-a**ed.

  3. Your points on Tomorrowland are spot on. I would also add the issue with Fort Wilderness and why it was never maintained.

    • Thank you Scott, good point. The fort is a great example of something which was not maintained and then lost.

    • And don’t the lost of Cascade Peak. That was a beautiful waterfall. I still have some nice pictures of it.

      The Tiki Room had a long stint of disrepair as well. I remember calling Dole and saying, “You guys are sponsoring this mess! Have you SEEN it?” It was eventually rehabbed and as still in pretty good condition today.

      For the super premium prices they charge, there SHOULD be super premium upkeep. I too blame importing execs from Florida. They just don’t value a top notch experience like the folks in Anaheim do.

  4. Father, Son, and Holy Goat

  5. Father, Son, and Hole-y Goat

  6. So disappointing on the Tomorrowland stuff, but that land has stumped Disney for years on making it live up to it’s moniker. I’m not making excuses though, get a plan together!
    I am hopeful to be making it out to California next summer and see everything since my last visit in 08. Seems I make it out every 7 years or so to visit relatives.
    I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed America Sings. I sure wish Disney would incorporate that again and update it, something like that or the old Mickey Mouse Review that Orlando had. I got to check out Rocket Rods and that was a big disappointment. Perhaps the People Mover should come back. The TTA in WDW is one of my daughter’s favorites even thought she’ll soon be 15.
    I do have walls and scrims, cover ups, empty sites and the like but at least Disney tries to make things look the best they can but yes it concerns me because part of the magic is lost. I just don’t understand leadership these days, those coming soon signs only fool people for so long.

  7. If you think Splash Mountain is bad, you should ride Indiana Jones sometime. Recently, I’ve ridden the Matterhorn, and seen one of the Yeti frozen. I’ve been on the Jungle Cruise and seen one of the African Bull elephants frozen. It used to be that something like the elephant or the Splash Mountain figures would cause the ride to be shut down until they could be fixed. It’s very bad show to have such prominent figures frozen in place, especially when you consider that the ongoing Splash Mountain problem can also be seen from the Disneyland Railroad. That’s thousands of people every day that roll past that scene. I can’t see how Disney is not mortified. And this is the summer which means no discounts and only Premium annual pass holders. You know how much money those people are paying to roll or float past broken show scenes. Does Disney honestly think people don’t care? Do they really believe that family of 4, that spend nearly $1000.00 for a day at Disneyland (including meals and trinkets), isn’t going to go home and tell their friends and neighbors that they saw broken figures everywhere. Perhaps their next theme park day will be spent at Leggoland.
    And it is not too early to blame the current president – especially given his track record at Animal Kingdom. He has the power to fix this problem and he’s not doing it. At least remove the broken figures from the attraction. That would look better than what they’ve got now.
    I guess he’s lucky that all corporate attention is currently focused on DCA. But he better watch out, because the 60th is coming and that attention is going to shift back towards Disneyland.

  8. Thank you for making these points. I wholeheartedly agree that Disneyland management should not be making “withdrawals” from the Disney brand. They charge a premium price and they need to be putting a premium experience out there. Especially when the families have to make such a big effort to get to the parks. It really takes some effort to learn where to go and how it all works. Keep up the good reporting and keep asking the difficult questions!

  9. Excellent update, Norm!

    We were there last weekend (and actually passed you in front of the NW corner of Splash Mountain) and were disappointed by the comatose AAs front and center of the riverboat. They might be less annoying, but it seems like a potential bad sign since the new head of Disneyland is the handsome, Harvard guy who officially presided over WDW’s infamous mascot, the ever-broken Yeti at the Animal Kingdom. He might be even more like Iger than Thomas Staggs, another leader who is no demon for details.

    We also noticed and enjoyed a hundred excellent details of things that WERE working (like the projected pirate face/skull) on a chained pirate in a Tom Sawyer Island cave, a very good canoe trip, the thrilling dives of Aladdin’s magic carpet, and the smoothness of our car in the front of California Screamin’.

    Off topic: but I hope the Universal Hollywood Horror NIght is on a Friday or Saturday. Front of the line passes, right? Dinner at Karl Strauss before?

    • Michael Colglazier got his BA from Stanford in ’89 and his Masters from Harvard Business School in ’94. He apparently never took a mechanics class in either school, and he apparently has never had to maintain his own property. He likely has no idea the Splash Mt. animatronics are as bad as they are, but he also has no skills to fix them.

      A shame he doesn’t have an entire Facilities department to do it for him. Oh, wait…

      • Funny, Westsider! I am so very jealous of anyone who is president or WDW or Disneyland. MC is a nice, good-looking, STANFORD-Harvard guy that Iger sees as his Mini-me. And so I rant about malfunctioning AAs. :) (Seriously, the highly conspicuous Splash AAs on the big boat do bug me just a little–so thanks again for calling attention to them, Norm!)

        How about Michael C’s face photoshopped on one Splash bird for each week or month they remain catatonic?

        How about Kevin Yee flying to California just to trouble shoot our Splash Mtn.?

        We are all Al Lutz! :)

        Now go to your widows and shout out with stern expressions: “Remember the Ghost Town Music! The wand above Spaceship Earth! The crab! The craaaaaaaaaab!”

      • LOL! I’m not sure my “widow” could do anything about it. All we have in this house are black widows.

  10. It’s ironic that DCA is now the sparkling, relevant, popular park that packs in excited crowds. While Disneyland is the aging, dusty park coasting on nostalgia fumes while the kids in the stroller say “When can we go back to Cars Land?”.

    How do they fix Disneyland by the 60th?

  11. Ok, we get it, things at Disneyland need repair. But can these rants about the repairs be done in special update rather than the “In the Parks” updates? We are going on three weeks now with rants about Splash and the broken animatroincs. Yes, we want them all fixed, yes we want the rocket rods back, yes we want Alice fixed to her former glory. But constantly complaining about it on a weekly basis is getting annoying (especially when the same issues are covered over and over, endlessly). I always viewed the “In the Parks” as an update of what is occurred at the parks for that particular week (yes, there were some occasional photos about things that needed fixing). But now, the “In the Parks” has turned into a update simply complaining about all of the things Disney needs to fix. Can we please revert back to the original “In the Parks,” and if readers want to hear about everything at Disneyland that needs to be fixed, create a special update focused on the repairs that need to be done?

    • What else is there? They are working on Big Thunder and Starbucks. That’s it. Nothing else really going on except the poor upkeep at Disneyland. This IS the news.

      I realize that it’s hard for some Disneyland fans to hear the truth, but the fact is that this is the current state of the park. When things are good, we let you know, and when there are problems, we shine a spotlight on them until they get fixed.

      You want a positive update? Tell Disney to fix what’s broken.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I love “In the Parks”, and I do think that there does need to be information on the repairs that need to be done in the park. However, I feel that the extent to which this week’s update focused on the repairs, went way to far.

        Disneyland and DCA are huge parks filled with details. I can think of numerous topics that could be explored in a “In the Parks” rather than harsh and overly exhaustive focus on the repairs that need to be done. Some topics (off the top of my head) include: props/decor in the Main Street Stores, references or hidden gems in the ride queues, the “gags” of toontown, “lost” areas of the resort (motoboat cruise, chalet, etc) hell, even the variety of lightposts throughout the resort and lands the variety of ground pavings could be interesting.

    • Seems like a good mix of the good things and the bad things to me in this update. We don’t need to create an illusion that all is great so we can stay in a happy bubble — that’s supposed to be Disney’s job, and they’re being caught flat-footed in maintaining the magic. The squeaky wheel gets oiled — so I appreciate the updates like this being front and center. I really don’t want to be getting my kids all excited with youtube videos showing the final scene in Splash and then have it eerily frozen like that when we visit.

    • Who wants the Rocket Rods back??

      • We We We!!! Absolutely loved the Rods… and only having them for 2 years was way to short. We loved them so much we waited for over an hour once, which for us was a huge wait since we went to the park in early December during off peak times… and we always had to ride 4 times, so each of us could be in the front once… always a good argument between our 2 sons which would get to ride in front first… same battle they always had with who got to “drive” on Indy Jones! Always amazed us that people didn’t love this ride… what was wrong with it (other than it was always breaking down!!!)

      • Not me. I want the Peoplemover back, perhaps on a new OSHA approved track. And I want the Astro-orbiter on top of its exit/entrance.

      • I rather have the Rocket Rods back than have Star Wars Speedbikes, (if that is what they are planning :/
        Top of the list is a updated Peoplemover,then a PM type ride, then RR, and last Tron Lightcycles (they really should be indoors only).

    • It seems like you’re only focusing on the negatives yourself. The photos at the end are all positives about DCA, which is still part of the resort.

      Big Thunder, I consider a positive. Starbucks? I won’t get into that.

      There really isn’t much else positive in the news category for Disneyland itself. The obvious lack of maintenance is extremely disappointing. Yes, I wish we knew why things were taking so long to fix or update, but we can only go by what we see. Anything unofficial from a source, CM, etc. is just that, unofficial… a rumor even.

    • That’s actually a good point. An update or article focused on upkeep issues might have been a better place to talk about these concerns. But with news being a little light this week we decided to include this opinion piece on the matter.

      The point of the piece wasn’t so much about complaining that things are so awful, but just why can’t these things be right? Overall the park is in wonderful shape. The big thunder refurb is a good thing. We even think fantasy faire village is great.

      The point of the piece was simply to share Disneyland’s track record with temporary solutions and ask why it always seems to take so long to address the issues. The silver lining that you could take away from all of this might be that, most of the time, they do get to the solution.

    • Skim.

    • Oh please, get over yourself. Go read LaughingPlace.com if you want just sunshine and jelly beans.

  12. Sorry to see Splash Mountain still having those issues. Do you think maybe they’re going to do a major refurbishment on the ride once Big Thunder’s back up, and that they just don’t want two big rides on that side of the park down at once? We were planning on a Disney trip this December as kind of a Christmas gift to each other and the kids, but decided that it would be better to wait a couple years to give them time to fix these things and polish up those Fantasyland rides for the 60th.

    • Micah, do your December trip (though maybe avoid the Christmas/New Year crowds. Norm wrote, “Overall the park is in wonderful shape.” I agree.

      Disneyland might be in better shape today than it ever has been or ever will be, so now is a great time to go. The three or four big, broken AAs on the boat on Splash Mtn. stand out so because of the contrast with the rest of the resort.

      If Disneyland’s Splash Mountain were swapped with WDW’s no one besides Kevin Yee and the other Miceager columnist (sorry I forgot your name) might care. People travel further to get to WDW, so these less frequent guests don’t notice the details as many of us do in Anaheim. WDW’s Magic Kingdom will continue to get its 17,000,000 a year for a long time, till Disney lets it become a late night comedy show joke. (And that will happen if things don’t change.)

      • Hi, jcruise –

        I’m not in Anaheim (am up here in Oregon), but I used to live in SoCal in the 80s/early 90s and got a few Disney trips in then. I haven’t been back in 22 years, and I’ve been itching to take my little ones there. I have particular fond memories of certain spots in the park — the ambiance of Adventureland with the Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise and a Dole Whip, drifting past the Blue Bayou on Pirates with the fireflies twinkling, riding Big Thunder at night, and the cheery, uplifting theming that adds such depth to Splash Mountain. Those little ambiance details have always mattered tremendously to me, even though I’m a rather infrequent visitor. I don’t expect absolute perfection, but I’d rather have a ride completely closed down for maintenance, showing that Disney cares about getting it right, rather than it being left open to limp along with mediocrity. Anyway, I am super stoked to experience these rides again, when Big Thunder comes back up from refurbishment and they’ve had a chance to really put some ‘spit and polish’ into things like the Fantasyland rides. So the 60th just seems like a better time to aim for in that regard.

  13. ““Why is this acceptable?”

    Because people continue to pay the high increases and passholders continue to pay the high prices for an annual pass.

    Why spend so much on fixing stuff if you are going to keep coming.

  14. I’m not going to say it’s acceptible, but is it possible that the reason they are not fixing the Splash AAs is that they are planning a major overhaul like they are doing to BTM right now? It’s poor planning, keeping things in non-working order while the timing for an overhaul is a year away. Not to mention bad show as many here have mentioned. And I can’t agree more with you, Dusty- if you feel you can charge a premium price, you better be ready to back it up with a premium show. The audiance WILL notice, and it will come back to bite you at some point. The falling numbers at WDW compared to the other local businesses are becoming obvious, don’t you think?

    • Then fix it before the overhaul, please.

    • It’s true. There has to be some sort of reason be it safety regulations or some other situation. But, the sad fact is that it has been that way in splash for a few months now.

  15. Exactly on point,There has been a problem for awhile, so we can’t necessarily blame the new guy since most started before his arrival. But then again, he hasn’t done anything to remedy the situation. They have been on track to squeeze every penny out of a patron. Very sad , Let’s hope they will start responding to work orders before the 60th. I hear there is a shortage of engineers, I wonder if this could be the problem? Staffing issues could be a concern, seems as if their numbers are dwindling without replacement. Maybe accounteer could have some input on the this .The amount of money coming in doesn’t seem to even come close to that spent on basic maintenance . I know they are in the business to make a profit, but enough is enough when you can’t even maintain the attractions you already offer must less anything new. And that is a management issue, poor management. Universal has seemed to get it as of late. Disney better wake up or lose some of that all important revenue.

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