MiceAge Disneyland Update: Down The Rabbit Hole

Written by MiceAge. Posted in Disney, Disney News, Disneyland Resort, MiceAge Update

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Published on November 12, 2013 at 3:00 am with 108 Comments

The Disneyland Resort made it through another busy Halloween season that kicked off with the new Disability Access Service, and they’re barely taking a breath before jumping into the even busier Christmas season ahead. Bob Iger’s comment last week that “Disneyland Resort delivered record attendance in revenue and profitability” for the just ended Fiscal Year 2013 sums up how happy the Burbank masters are with Disneyland and its executives. There’s a few new things in store for Anaheim this holiday season, but the bigger story is the aggressive refurbishment schedule both parks will embark on just after the holidays in January. In this update we’ll fill you in on what to expect for the holidays, how TDA will be tweaking its new Disability Access Service for its guests and playing the Grinch with its Cast Members, and what attractions will be closed this winter and the surprising reasons why.

Got your glazed cronut, coffee brewing from Marceline’s finest? Well, what are we waiting for? There’s more news to uncover!

DAS GOOD

The big story earlier this fall was Disney’s decision to cancel its ten year old Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program and replace it with the more restrictive Disability Access Service. Now that it’s been a month, TDA executives recently had a summary meeting on the new DAS program and the consensus is that the roll out went exceedingly well and the program is working almost perfectly for the parks.

The first few days had plenty of drama, with even some local protesters appearing in the parks and on Harbor Blvd. to protest Disney’s cancellation of the old GAC system. But for their part, the TDA executives and senior managers in the parks were out in force for the first week standing alongside the hourly Cast Members and handling anyone who got too upset or began berating the hourly Cast. General Managers from both parks, as well as Directors of TDA’s safety and disabled programs teams, spent hours in the Guest Relations offices that first weekend handling the most boisterous concerns, and for that the Guest Relations Cast Members were very thankful. A few surprised and upset folks continue to complain at Guest Relations when they try to get a GAC, but for the most part the storm has passed and the park management teams are thrilled with the results, particularly at DCA where all queues are wheelchair accessible.

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There are a few weak links that have been discovered in the DAS program, but the TDA executives have already committed the money to fix and tweak the DAS system further this winter. One of the changes coming to the DAS cards will involve turning on the functionality of the QR codes printed on each card. It seems some Annual Passholders have already figured out that they can get multiple DAS cards for different members of their party, thus allowing the entire party to have multiple ride stamps on multiple cards. The fix for that is activating the QR code and digitally attaching each ticket or AP for each party member to just one DAS card. Tickets and APs belonging to able bodied visitors will only be allowed to be attached to one DAS card, blocking folks from getting another DAS card with the same tickets or APs attached to it. That software upgrade is now planned to roll out later in December.

The QR code is also key to the second phase for DAS cards, which would track the next boarding time digitally instead of using a written time on the back of the card. Cast Members at the attractions and the Guest Relations kiosks are discovering DAS cards with fraudulent boarding times written in, as the DAS holder fills out their preferred rides and times themselves trying to bypass checking in at a kiosk or waiting the length of the line. With the digital downloads the times and rides would be assigned and tracked via the QR code, and a Cast Member at the attraction would scan the code with a handheld reader to validate the boarding time. That digital tracking system is planned to go live in Anaheim in 2014. Overall however, both TDA executives and front line Cast Members are very happy with the DAS program and how it has cut down on abuse and fraud while still offering services for those who need it.

TURKEY TRAFFIC

With the flawed GAC program a thing of the past, the Anaheim Resort speeds towards the busy Thanksgiving week and on to Christmas. In a complete reversal of traditional attendance patterns during the 20th Century, the busiest days in November are now the Sunday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when most Annual Passes are unblocked and almost all local schools are out for the entire week. Those weekdays before Thanksgiving are currently projected to see huge attendances of up to 60,000 at Disneyland and 40,000 or more at DCA. And because Annual Passholders always have a low rider-per-vehicle statistic, those days stretch the Resort’s parking and infrastructure systems to the breaking point and forces Cast Members to park at Angel Stadium.

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Once Thanksgiving Day arrives however, and all the Passholder blockouts kick in, the daily attendance declines by 30,000 or more and the parks become noticeably less busy, while per capita guest spending skyrockets compared to the stingier Annual Passholders. And because it’s mostly tourists flooding the Resort that weekend, with Disney hotel occupancy levels at 95% that weekend, the parking situation lightens considerably and lines all over the parks go away as the tourists spread out to take everything in instead of focusing only on the newest or most temporary offering like the Annual Passholders do. The entire mood of the Resort changes on Thanksgiving Day and through the weekend because of that. If you absolutely must visit the Resort for Thanksgiving holiday, try to avoid the days before Thanksgiving when the Resort will be beyond crowded with APs.

RETHINKING CHRISTMAS

After Thanksgiving, the Resort shifts into peak holiday mode. For three years now TDA has been contemplating big changes to the way they operate the Christmas season. There was last year’s experiment of performing the Candlelight Ceremony nightly for weeks instead of just one weekend, and there have been endless studies and TDA strategy sessions on offering Halloween-style Christmas parties at extra cost at Disneyland in the future.

The plans for extra-cost Christmas parties have now been shelved, as TDA realizes they can’t get the idea to pencil out based on what they’ve already built up in the park over the last 15 years. With the holiday versions of Small World and Haunted Mansion drawing in many times more guests daily than the average audience for the Christmas Parade or the Holiday Believe fireworks, the industrial engineers and the marketers both convinced the TDA suits that there’s no viable way to sell the extra cost parties to savvy locals as worthwhile without massive remakes to both the parade and the fireworks. After all, you’d have to offer the existing holiday attractions to all park visitors, and could only ladle on extra entertainment for the evening parties. If and when the extra-cost Christmas parties arrive, they would need to kick off with all new versions of the nearly 20 year old Christmas parade (1994) and aging holiday fireworks show (2001). TDA is committed to spending its parade and fireworks money on the upcoming 60th Anniversary in 2015-16, so the Christmas party plans with major new entertainment will have to wait until at least 2017, if they ever do surface again at all.

The experiment with Candlelight last year has been written off as a very bad decision which cost too much money in extra labor and lost goodwill and not enough gain from dinner sales, so that’s out too.

Various TDA regimes have unwisely played around with the Candlelight tradition before, moving it to the Fantasyland Theater and trying to attach extra-cost dinner packages to it, and it never really works for them. You would think they would finally learn, or that someone of suitable importance would have enough long-term memory to tell the latest exec in TDA’s revolving-door presidential office to not mess with Candlelight. But TDA just can’t seem to learn from past mistakes when it comes to this 55 year old tradition that Walt started in 1958. For 2013, Candlelight returns to its time-tested original format and TDA’s only real worry will be the rain forecast that weekend. Let’s see how long it takes them this time to forget that lesson learned.

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TDA’s big push this year is obviously the new World of Color Winter Dreams show, which is DCA’s attempt at battling the formidable one-two punch of nightly entertainment that Disneyland has during the holidays with the Christmas Parade and the Believe In Holiday Magic snowy fireworks. Winter Dreams is heavy on segments from the upcoming Frozen movie with plenty of face time for Olaf the snowman, so if that movie doesn’t do well in theaters the Winter Dreams show for 2014 will need to be reworked. Early reviews of the Winter Dreams show overall are mixed, with some observers saying the show’s pacing is very fragmented and blocky, although the Toy Story Nutcracker Suite segment is said to be genuinely charming. The Disneyland Entertainment team has also ladled the viewing area and Paradise Pier backdrop with lots of new lighting effects and techo-gimmicks to be used in the show, some of which could then be incorporated in future versions of the regular World of Color. The Winter Dreams show is planned to soft open on Thursday, with a formal debut on Friday night.

Nearby at DCA, in the Paradise Gardens food court area, another new holiday offering will formally debut on Friday. Dubbed Viva Navidad!, the area will be home to a big new street show, new menus and decorations, plus various character appearances, cooking demonstrations, bands, and Hispanic cultural activities. The street show in particular has enjoyed a huge budget from TDA, and is hosted by the Three Caballeros on a rolling bandstand and Minnie and Mickey zooming in on pedicabs. The 10 minute show will be performed daily throughout the afternoon and evening, and features dozens of dancers and street performers, a full Mariachi band as well as a troupe of Brazilian drummers, and large rolling puppets representing festive ladies from Mexico and Brazil, plus Santa and Mrs. Claus for good measure. The Viva Navidad street party show will take over the parade route from the Silly Symphony Swings to Goofy’s Sky School, as it builds itself to a rousing and rowdy rendition of Feliz Navidad backed by the dozens of dancers and live Mariachis that should prove impossible to not tap your toes to.

This new entertainment and dining offering got such a big budget from TDA because it’s being run by the team who have been trying very hard to reach out to the local Hispanic community in Southern California. The Resort’s overall attendance has grown steadily in recent years, and the domestic and international tourist business is booming in Anaheim with record numbers of foreign guests and rising hotel occupancy rates. The locals are also still well represented, with almost a Million Annual Passholders happy to pack the parks during the “off-season”, which now actually flip the traditional crowd calendars and create scenarios where the weekdays before Thanksgiving are busier than Thanksgiving weekend itself.

But the local Hispanic community has been under-represented among Disneyland’s local visitors, and for the past year TDA has been trying to reach out by hosting Disneyland booths staffed by Spanish speaking Cast Members at local Hispanic street fairs and community events. TDA will be hyping Viva Navidad extensively via Hispanic media and at local community events this month. The upcoming Three Kings Day events in Frontierland and at Viva Navidad will also be heavily marketed in an attempt to pull in more of the local Hispanic community. Remember that when you stumble across the Viva Navidad street party this weekend and marvel at the lavish budget this new holiday offering received.

With TDA going after the Hispanic community and the extra-cost Christmas parties on indefinite hold now, and with the latest Candlelight experiment a big flop, you would think that TDA could have the guts to bring back the traditional Disney Company Family Holiday Party that they cancelled last year. But there’s no way TDA will stand up to the Florida suits on that one, since the Florida version of that cherished California event was cancelled almost 20 years ago in Orlando. The big shame is the casualties of that cancelled Disneyland party this year, who are primarily needy children, families, and senior citizens in Orange County.

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The Disney Company parties were always the big chance for local Marine Corps Reserve units to collect toys for their famous Toys For Tots campaign, a charity that was a personal favorite of Walt himself in the 1950’s and 60’s. Cast Members, Imagineers, and Burbank employees were all reminded to bring a new toy on the night of the parties, and the uniformed Marines would staff giant collection bins out in front of the Disneyland main entrance as thousands of toys and donations poured in on each party night. Last year however, without a company party to attend, the donations to Toys For Tots dried up completely. The local Marine Corps Reserve units were suddenly caught shorthanded after decades of huge donations from the Disneyland parties and the generous Cast Members.

TDA managers were red faced when they handed over the measly collection of toys to the Marines last year, but they somehow weren’t embarrassed enough to consider bringing back the 58 year old tradition of the Company Christmas party to Disneyland.

The answer to that embarrassment this year is an odd choice by TDA; by canceling a second major Cast Member charity steeped in tradition and mandating that everyone donate exclusively to Toys For Tots instead. In previous years over a hundred different Cast Member teams in the parks and hotels would participate in Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family campaigns in December. Specific departments like Parking or Guest Relations, or large individual location teams like the Plaza Inn or Space Mountain, would all rally around an adopted needy family or local senior citizen. The larger departments would take on multiple families, or multiple seniors, with the Salvation Army providing the first names, ages, and their wish lists of clothing sizes and hoped for toys.

Wish lists from the needy families or elderly would be posted in backstage offices and the hourly Cast Members, many of whom live modest lifestyles themselves, would collect spare change or go purchase gift items to fill the lists. TDA’s Cast Activities team would get in on the act by padding the specific gift collections with Disney plush or t-shirts pulled from stockrooms.

In an average recent year up to 200 different local families or senior citizens would be “adopted” by a various Cast Member team. Once all the gifts were collected the present-wrapping parties with potluck dinners, carols and hot cocoa in backstage offices were a big annual event for the teams around the Resort, and there are key Cast Member organizers who would gladly give their own time to make the logistics behind the massive campaign work. The wrapped gifts, all proudly bundled for specific families and seniors, would then be sent to the Salvation Army headquarters in Anaheim by trucks and handed to thankful and teary-eyed Salvation Army staffers for distribution before Christmas.

But for 2013 all Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family campaigns are now forbidden by Anaheim Cast Members. TDA has mandated that all holiday donations from any specific Cast Member or Cast Member team must go to Toys For Tots only in order for TDA executives to save face with the Marines, but without a physical presence by the Marine Corps at the entrance on company party nights to collect those toys. So instead of having a predictable source of charity to the Salvation Army where hundreds of local needy families and senior citizens would get their Christmas wish lists filled, plus the thousands of new toys and large dollar amount given to the Marine Corps Reserve on the company party nights, TDA has now effectively killed off the giving stream to both worthy charities. After shooting themselves in the foot in 2012, TDA is now aiming at its other foot for 2013.

The Cast Members, most of whom just learned of this Grinch-like policy last week, are baffled and saddened by this TDA mandate. TDA may do a wonderful job in decorating the parks for the holidays, but they are doing a horrible job in spreading the holiday spirit backstage for the Cast Members who genuinely looked forward to the chance to give back. Sadly, the TDA decision makers behind this heartless move never worked in the park (or have been stuck in a TDA office so long they forgot) and have no idea how important it was to both the CM’s and the needy in Orange County.

TDA’s sudden ban on Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family definitely needs a rethink, even if the company Christmas parties can’t return for the Cast Members. We also wish them luck in trying to gain back just a fraction of the amount that Cast Members historically donated to Toys For Tots.

REFURBLAND

With the Grinch apparently calling the shots in TDA, once the Disneyland Resort gets through those busy weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, the typical winter refurbishment calendar will kick in for Anaheim. The month of January begins with the typical short closures for Haunted Mansion and then Small World as the holiday overlays are removed. But once Haunted Mansion reopens, the west side of Disneyland will be hit with a one-two punch of refurbishments at both Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain, while Big Thunder Mountain hustles to reopen by Valentine’s Day after it’s rebuild was extended by four months due to the new fall-protection standards.

The scrims that recently went up inside Splash Mountain’s finale’ scene are also related to the toughened fall-protection standards which prevented maintenance Cast Members from accessing the upper levels of that animatronic showboat. A suitable fall-protection system was rigged up behind the scrims, and maintenance Cast Members had a few days to get back up there to tune up and activate the animatronics on those upper levels.

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During the winter refurbishments at Pirates and Splash Mt. new access ways will be installed to allow permanent access to the animatronics and lighting in those older rides again. Remember, these new fall protection standards that have rebuilt the rooflines all over the parks and sent animatronics into a deep freeze are only being applied in Anaheim as TDA tries to impress California DOSH inspectors. All of these same fall-protection issues exist in the Florida parks, with some rides like Soarin’ offering an exact clone of the catwalks and access paths deemed “unsafe” in California. But Orlando execs have elected to ignore the various upgrades and rebuilds that the TDA team will continue to tackle into 2014.

On the other side of the park, January will also finally bring the refurbishment to the Alice In Wonderland dark ride. The long winding exterior track will be torn out and replaced with a wider and slightly shorter outdoor track that will hug the side of the building and provide ample room for maintenance and ride operators to walk besides parked vehicles on that outdoor track. At the same time, WDI will invade the interior of the Alice In Wonderland building and begin to lay the groundwork for the dramatic upgrades in technology and showmanship they have planned for all of the classic Fantasyland dark rides. Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride are the next scheduled refurbishments in 2014 for Fantasyland after Alice, and WDI will go in big with their upgraded technology projects for those dark rides. Once all of the Fantasyland dark rides are complete with their upgrades the plan is to tout their re-launch as part of Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary celebration for 2015.

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Remember that Anaheim still has eight of those classic Walt-style dark rides, from Roger Rabbit to Monsters Inc. and everything in between, while Walt Disney World now only has two of those classic rides left; Peter Pan’s Flight and Winnie the Pooh. It’s an embarrassment of dark ride riches in Anaheim, and WDI wants to keep them entertaining audiences for decades to come with these swanky upgrades.

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Meanwhile, over at DCA, the refurbishment calendar will also ramp up quickly this winter. First up is the planned digital makeover we’d told you about in previous updates that is coming to Soarin’ Over California. The ride is now planned to be closed in February to have the original 13 year old 70mm film projectors swapped out for new digital projectors, and WDI execs are said to be thrilled with how the cleaned up version of the original film shot back in 1999 and 2000 looks now. Soarin’ was one of the last attractions made using film technology before the widespread switch to digital in the mid 2000’s, and WDI is excited over the prospects for this one.

The lobby area of DCA’s Animation attraction has also been closed for the past month for a switch from film to digital projectors, and later this week the attraction will soft open to demonstrate the new HD animation show in that lobby courtyard. The new images for Animation are said to be stunning and almost appear as if they are 3D and have slight animation to them just by panning the camera on a still image. The projections and interactive technology inside the Sorcerer’s Workshop part of the Animation building also got a full digital upgrade and artistic rework.

At about the time Soarin’ reopens with new digital technology, WDI will be capturing the Resort from above for a new Soarin’ attraction. As we told you back in June, the evening of Wednesday March 12th 2014 is blocked off on calendars in Glendale as the evening that helicopters mounted with HD cameras will zoom and swoop over the Disneyland Resort area filming new segments for the upcoming Soarin’ Over The World attraction for Shanghai. There’s now a proposal to launch that new film at DCA in 2015 before Shanghai Disneyland opens in early 2016. WDI and TDA would like to run the new film in one theater while the original Soarin’ film plays in the other theater, forcing visitors to choose which destinations they want to soar over.

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Also planned for a refurbishment this winter is one of DCA’s newest attractions; The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. After this attraction opened to mediocre reviews in 2011, then went under the knife in 2012 to replace the cheesy CGI animation and send Ariel back to the hairdresser, it’s been plugging away in Paradise Pier. Although it rarely has a line longer than 5 minutes, the massive hourly capacity of the Omnimover system means that Mermaid consistently pulls in 2,000 or more riders per hour very reliably for 12 to 15 hour days, for 25,000 or more riders per day.

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The breezy walk-on status paired with the high capacity means that the maligned Mermaid ride is still pulling in more riders per day than a lower capacity ride with a long line, like Star Tours or Indiana Jones or Radiator Springs Racers. It’s those big daily ridership numbers that helped make the case for WDI to go in and close the ride for a second time this winter, as they have more ideas to help with the lighting and overall art direction throughout the ride, particularly with the ride’s big Under The Sea musical production number. TDA’s industrial engineers salivate over the ridership numbers a modern Omnimover like Mermaid can provide a park, so WDI has been given the money for more fixes. Again.

The Mermaid rehab is scheduled to last at least a few weeks this time, and TDA is currently juggling its calendar to determine when this winter or spring will be the right time. We’ll fill you in on more about Mermaid’s makeover when those calendar decisions have been made.

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About MiceAge

The MiceAge crew was started by Al Lutz in 2003, and is committed to bringing you the inside Disney story that you just can't get anywhere else. As much as we'd all like to see more frequent rumor updates on the site, we only publish when reliable news and rumors are available to share. Generally, you'll find a new MiceAge news update from Al and crew once or twice a month on Tuesdays. The MiceAge news Editor can be reached at: [email protected]

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  • JCSkipr79

    I am really excited about Fantasyland’s redo. I imagine there will be projection mapping galore. So will they try and market the redos as New Fantasyland 2.0?

  • Attagirl

    So happy to hear about Soarin’ Over California. That is my favorite attraction and I was there in September and was so disapointed over the condition of the film and screens. I mentioned to my daughter that we wouldn’t be back until they refurbished this. Can’t wait to give her the news!

  • dbres

    Awesome update. They really need to give a party for the castmembers. I’d gladly pay $5 more for them to have a real blowout Employee Holiday Party…just my thoughts.

  • JFS in IL

    Not sure about the DAS, as I have an adult son with autism and hypotonia*, and have been following visitor reports of problems (and some successes) on various forums and websites. I am concerned that when I next want to take my ADULT son with autism he will be denied a DAS since it sounds like many cast members think if is only for CHILDREN with autism who can not understand waiting in line and may well have a melt-down (etc.) I can’t risk my ADULT son being denied a DAS – right now, the mere thought of attempting a Disney trip under the new system makes my anxiety level rise and my stomach hurt. It is hard enough planning and traveling with an autistic adult without not knowing how Joe would be treated at his favorite place on earth (and we are talking Anaheim, not that imitation place in Florida ;-) said the former Inn Betweener).

    * fancy term for muscle weakness – Joe’s almost collapsing in the middle of our first line (Star Tours) two years ago is what drove us to get a GAC in the first place. For many reasons, trying to put him in a scooter or wheelchair isn’t a viable option – I fear Joe will be denied a DAS and told to rent a chair!

    • FerretAfros

      Legally, they’re required to provide accommodation regardless of age, so you shouldn’t need to worry. If you’re really concerned, call them up before your trip and I’m sure they’ll detail what sort of accommodation you’ll receive while you’re there

    • Red5

      Please follow up here on your trip. I would be interested in hearing about your experience.

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  • realsurf

    Good update…
    I’m sooooo tired of this disability debate. Disney has turned itself inside out to accommodate certain guests who wouldn’t be able to enjoy the park but a month in in the new system that cut down on the cheaters and abusers and some of these people are ALREADY gaming the new system.
    For all the haters, how about this system. Any person getting preferential treatment gets to bring along ONE person. The rest of your party of 17 can wait in line like the rest of us and oh, so sorry if it inconveniences your Disney experience…like the stampede of GAC cheaters inconvenienced us.

    • bayouguy

      Oh dear, how awful that you’re so inconvienced with disabled people.

      • realsurf

        Over one third of the riders on Radiator Springs Racers in the first 6 months (I think) were on DAS cards. 33% of the people visiting the park are disabled in some way??? Really?
        I think I was very specific about my comments regarding the ABUSE of privileges that should be reserved for those truly deserving. The self-applied label of disabled is so out of control in this country it’s ridiculous. True story – I had a bout with gout…yes my foot hurt. However the Doctor insisted that I take a handicapped hanger AND he told me I was eligible for disability from my employer and all you taxpayers if it hurt for over two weeks. TWO WEEKS and I should be getting paid to sit on my butt and watch daytime game shows. I never took a day off and never used the handicapped hanger – I was too embarrassed to. But there are plenty of people who are more than happy to take any freeby and work the system for more.
        By the way – people I’ve known who are truly disabled are some of the bravest and strongest people I’ve known – way more than any “poor me” pretender trying to cut lines at an amusement park.

    • Red5

      I think what he meant to say…hopefully…was he is tired of the rampant abuse of the system. First started with wheelchairs and then moved on to the passes. When people come in to Guest Relations and say they need a pass since they can’t wait in line and aren’t happy with the accommodation to return based on the current wait time. That is an issue. Accommodation is required, but dealing with abuse is also a must.

    • Susan Hughes

      I’m with you on this. It PISSES me off to hear the cheaters are still…cheating. Friggin low lifes.

      • wctigger

        I’m disabled, as is my wife. It annoys me too. When ask for help on a ride, it’s NOT because we want on fast, but because we really need the assistance.
        Example: Junglr Cruise. I need the extra ‘boxes’ on the steps to get in and out. When my wife rides, we need the special boat with the lift. If it’s just me, I put the kids in the queue, and wait for them to get up to the disabled loading gate. Yes, it means I jump ahead of 3-4 people ahed of my kids, but I need the extra time and the help of my son to get in and out of the boat. I’ve NEVER heard a single noise from my fellow guests.

        Star Tours is more trickey.we use cell phones when the kids get close and the cast members usually let the kids be first in for the back two rows. So we then get to sit together.

        i’ll do a little work on my side so as to avoid messing up other guests. It’s esy if everyone works together :)

        To be fair, I need to point out my kids are older teens.

  • Instidude

    ” But Orlando execs have elected to ignore the various upgrades and rebuilds that the TDA team will continue to tackle into 2014.”

    Keep in mind that the regulations that DLR is dealing with at California Regulations that go beyond the Federal Regulations defined by OSHA. Back several years ago when the California legislature allowed the state to regulate theme parks under industrial guidelines, it significantly changed for DLR as to what was required by federal law. It’s not that WDW is ignoring the upgrades, it’s that they do not have to do them and still be in complete compliance with the laws and regulations that WDW has to operate under.

    • red barchetta

      Yep, the author framed the argument in a very silly way. Disneyland is only doing this because they’re being forced to.

    • Westsider

      If a catwalk in Soarin’ is shown to be unsafe in California, how is that exact same catwalk in Soarin’ in Florida less safe? Because no inspector in Florida will make them fix it?

      If the company has a standard for safety in California, you would think the same standard would apply in cloned facilities the company owns in Florida.

      • lnsemsf

        It’s no different than the fact that nowhere in Disney World has chemicals known to the state to cause cancer.They’re built with the same materials but California seems to be a little over cautious compared to Florida (and probably several of the remaining 48 states.) It’s just various state laws and regulations that differ, so why do unnecessary re-building?

      • Diznehound

        Not So- California has a much higher instance of earthquake activity forcing building codes and safety restrictions to go above and beyond the call of any other state. Still I find it ridiculous that Disneyland, with all the “magic” and ingenuity at their fingertips, has let this situation go for so long. Animatronics, lighting and safety catwalks should have been repaired long ago. I won’t go back (and certainly won’t be renewing my AP) until everything is up and running as it should be.

      • grrandram

        A catwalk is designed to be a catwalk. It’s only unsafe in California because those “safety inspectors” want to be jerks.

  • 3rdGateFan

    Great things are coming for the resort but 2014 will be a bad year to renew your AP I’ll see you in 2015 Disneyland, and good for Disney for trying to bring in the Latin Community even though it’s still too expensive for Us at least they’re trying!

  • bkroz

    Excited about a few last changes to Mermaid. The ‘Under the Sea’ room admittedly feels a little too dark and not nearly watery enough. It’ll be interesting to see what they cook up. I imagine we can also expect to get Orlando’s “crackling electricity” sound effect and lights on the final defeated Ursula, and hopefully Triton’s beard will be swapped out from “wig” style to the “plastic” style of Florida’s that matches every other figure on the ride – why ours was given “real” hair is beyond me!

    • LoveStallion

      Funny, I think the Under the Sea room is way too brightly lit. And given the circular nature of the room, too much of the lighting apparatus is visible.

      • second blue teacup

        I agree, the Under the Sea room is WAY too bright.

        My husband refers to it as the Kill the Magic room. “Oh look, we’re on a ride!”

  • Gregg Condon

    Great update.

    - Regarding the GAC … it’s sad that Disney has to go through such lengths to stop people from cheating the system. It only takes a few bad apples to ruin it for everybody.

    - No surprise that the AP’s have totally flipped the traditional Thanksgiving Week attendance figures. We used to go the Sun-Tue of Thanksgiving every year in the early 00′s but by 2006 it was unbearable so we stopped going. I’m sure it’s worse now.

    - The Charity thing has me most puzzled. It’s like TDA has forgotten what Charity is all about. By mandating that you MUST give to a specific charity they are insuring that while CM’s will probably give to Toys for Tots (because the CM’s do care) they may not do it as cheerfully as they would have. If Disney wants to continue to make sure Toys for Tots gets the toys they want then they should have bins for daily visitors to drop off toys. Have options to “buy” a toy for a tot at some of the stores for $5 or $10 that park guests can “add on” to their purchase. Many retailers do something similar, I can’t imagine it wouldn’t work at Disney. If it’s good enough for K-Mart. ;)

    - Glad that Soarin’ is finally getting the HD makeover. It’s LONG overdue.

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      Disneyland should run a week long campaign which offers a discount on park tickets or some sort of special prize for donating a toy on entry. Toys for Tots is the perfect holiday charity for Disney and I’d really like to see them try a bit harder to ensure that disadvantaged children (of which there are many in the shadow of Disneyland) are able to enjoy the holidays too!

      • Gregg Condon

        Exactly. Both Six Flags and Knott’s do this multiple weekends.

      • Diznehound

        A lot of Walt’s Original ideas are being scrapped without mercy over the past few years and it’s starting to show- He wanted ALL children to be able to enjoy Disneyland- and now prices have risen to an all time high (with no abatement in sight)- and only the well to do can afford to attend without taking out a loan or saving for years to afford a visit. Holiday donations scrapped?! Way to go, SUITS! That’ll bring more goodwill your way for sure! Bad enough you’ve stopped full time employment for the most part- (You don’t have to pay retirement, or other benefits to your employees.) For a corporate giant like Disney to be so cheap and shabby where donation is concerned is unconscionable to say the least. So Sad.

    • Red5

      I can only speak for corporate…in Burbank and Glendale, but last year Toys For Tots drop boxes were located in major traffic areas and CM’s encouraged to participate. In addition the company still participates on adopting families, but maybe not through the Salvation Army as they are coming under intense fire for their discriminatory practices for same sex couples and families. As for saying donations being considerably off it would help your point if you provided hard numbers as ABC7 has stepped up their program since the Cast Holiday Parties have been discontinued. So, while the DLR numbers are down…which make sense I would venture to bet the overall TWDC numbers are even or better.

  • Susie63

    Do you have dates for the recurs on POTC and SM?

    • Susie63

      *Refurbishment*. Stupid auto correct

  • Wendygirl

    What especially sadden me in this article was the charity angle. The loss to Toys For Tots and the needy families is Scrooge to the max. The excs in TDA that came up with this should be ashamed of themselves!

    Of course I am upset with recent Disney decisions as it is (Billy Hill “retirement”), the magic is dimming for me more and more which is sad because I’ve been going since 1955.

    • Klutch

      Yeah. Too bad we can’t send the Marines in to storm the TDA building and knock some sense into a few folks in suits.

      • Indy Fan 1

        And too bad we can’t build a barricade in front of TDA, wave red flags, and belt out “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

    • second blue teacup

      They are not preventing Cast Members from donating to charity (though the Salvation Army is NOT a charity, it’s a church). They are simply dictating that if they are donating *through their employer* (i.e., Disneyland), their choices have been limited. Cast Members can choose to donate to whomever they wish on their own time.

      Cast Members, if you’re only going to donate because it’s easy, how really dedicated to donating are you?

    • tom sawyer

      I want to hear why the Billies are “retiring” from Disneyland…maybe next time right?

  • bayouguy

    DAS was not the uber roadblock I was anticipating. I wouldn’t be patting myself on the back if I were Disney though. It’s not good PR to infuriate and insult the disabled population, The Marine Corps, and Salvation Army all within a year’s time.

    • SimbaLynn

      I am glad to hear that you don’t think the new DAS isn’t as bad as it has been presented, I am really concerned that without accommodation I won’t be able to go to either Park any longer. I don’t know if I want to spend the money to fly to CA for the 60th if it will just be one big hassle with the rides. Please keep us updated.

      And I agree, not very good PR to upset so many different groups in one year.

      • SimbaLynn

        sorry – is as bad

  • solarnole

    WDW only has two dark rides. I guess nothing counts as a “classic dark ride” in the other three parks but Winnie the Pooh which opened in 1999 does. Spaceship Earth and the Great Movie ride are the two of the longest most well done dark rides at any Disney park. I sense some castle envy.

    • red barchetta

      The anti-WDW rhetoric here is hilariously comical, I agree

    • Malin

      It’s sounding like your paying WDW a compliment. But I agree two very good dark rides.

    • Westsider

      Classic dark rides are different than Omnimovers and Epcot pavilions. Disneyland opened in 1955 with three classic dark rides. In 1958 it got a fourth, and then four more over the next few decades. Peter Pan, Mr. Toad, Snow White, Pinnocchio, Alice, Roger Rabbit, Pooh, and Monsters Inc.

      WDW opened in 1971 with three classic dark rides. Then it closed one in 2012. It now only has two left; Peter Pan and Pooh.

      Nothing envious there. Just stating simple facts. There are only two classic dark rides left in WDW. Disneyland Resort has eight of them.

      • CaptainAction

        No kidding!
        We, as Texans who used to go every other year to WDW or Disneyland, were really hoping that WDW was going to make lots of new dark rides in New Fantasyland.
        We would have loved to have the classic dark rides from Disneyland at WDW.
        When WDW closed Snow White and opened stores, restaurants, snack stands, and meet and greets, we were VERY disappointed.
        Little Mermaid is our least favorite dark ride and we were disappointed in CA and WDW by it.
        Fantasyland at Disneyland creams WDW. Disneyland Paris comes close. WDW isn’t even in the ballpark.
        We don’t even get excited anymore about WDW. It’s just grown so tired and old. Our last trip, my wife and I could feel the lack of excitement from all our family members as we got off attractions. Way too expensive for this reaction.
        they need to build new attractions.

      • Diznehound

        That’s ’cause we’re the ORIGINAL- (Sorry about the snarkiness of that, but I couldn’t resist)- I’ve never been to Florida, mostly because I wouldn’t be able to see it all in one trip and I’m too big a fan NOT to- but I think they should add more dark rides- the ones we have here are Classic- and should be in all the parks.

    • CCS

      I think Anaheim has nine dark rides between the two parks, not eight: Roger Rabbit; Monsters, Inc.; Ariel’s Undersea; Winnie the Pooh; Snow White; Pinocchio; Mr. Toad; Alice in Wonderland; and Peter Pan (but who’s counting… :) .

      • second blue teacup

        Ariel’s Undersea Snoreventure is an Omnimover ride.

      • Westsider

        A “dark ride” is not a ride in the dark. If it was then the Exxon Pavilion and Imagination and Test Track at Epcot would all count as “dark rides”. They don’t.

        A classic dark ride is a small car traveling on a busbar ride system, past simple and intimate sets traditionally lit using black light fixtures. The black light bulbs are no longer necessary with modern lighting, though plenty of black light fixtures still are used in some scenes still today.

        But a “dark ride” is a very specific type of amusement park ride. WDW only has two dark rides left, while Disneyland Resort has eight of them. As WDW management abandoned dark rides, it’s apparent that those who only go to WDW don’t really understand what they are talking about when they use the traditional term “dark ride”.

        But Disneylanders understand. Eight times over.

  • Algernon

    Maybe Disney better take look at its outrageous admission prices as to why the Hispanic community is so under represented. As most of them tend to be newer immigrants, they have lower incomes and much larger families, making Disneyland completely unaffordable. They can have all the Spanish speaking booths they want, set up everywhere, but if people can’t afford it, they aren’t going to go.

    Oh well, at least the Club 33 elites can afford still to go…for now…

    • thebear

      Hispanics are new to California? That’s news to me. And they tend to have larger families? Kind of quick with the assumptions.