MiceAge Disney Parks Update: Iger’s Ire

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

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Published on November 26, 2013 at 3:00 am with 225 Comments

The holiday season is in full swing, and huge crowds have descended on the Disneyland Resort this week. Both parks have never looked better with Christmas decorations covering nearly every land and corner of the resort. The new Winter Dreams and Viva Navidad shows in DCA are wowing audiences while the older Christmas classics still shine at Disneyland Park. With DCA now fixed and on a path to pull in over 10 Million visitors in 2013, it almost seems as if the Disneyland Resort has entered a new golden age. But in just the last two weeks dark storm clouds have gathered on the financial horizon, and a cold wind is blowing in from Burbank this winter that will be putting an immediate chill on Anaheim’s future. In this unfortunately downbeat update, we’ll fill you in on why so much of Anaheim’s future is now on hold, why it all happened so suddenly, and what just got the axe and what is hanging by a thread.

 

There’s bad news ahead. Got that comforting bowl of oatmeal ready? Oh, heck, might as well skip straight to the Bloody Mary, you’re going to need it.

 

My Magic Bust

Ever since Cars Land and the refreshed Disney California Adventure opened to rave reviews and huge crowds in June, 2012 the question in TDA has been “What’s next?” for Anaheim. And as the Disneyland Resort pulled in profits much stronger than predicted through 2012 and into 2013, Burbank and TDA were comfortable enough to let the Imagineers come up with plenty of new projects for both Disneyland and DCA. And we’ve been here to fill you in on which of those projects were moving forward and that had both the Imagineers and TDA planners so excited. But while times were fat and happy in Anaheim in recent years, the mood has been darkening this year out at Walt Disney World. While Anaheim spent the last few years investing heavily in new rides, shows and expansions for the parks, the Orlando team was investing in sterile technology and decidedly un-glamorous infrastructure needed to run the massive NextGen programs. The NextGen additions have only shown up in the parks recently as MagicBands, gateless theme park entrances, Fastpass+ entrances on rides as minor as the Teacups, and some interactive queues.

 

The NextGen project kept demanding more money and more time, as internal deadlines to go live with key elements of the plan tied to the MagicBands went by the wayside and were replaced by an endless series of small-scale tests instead of broad implementation. With each key element going live, the Operations teams in the field would report back with a laundry list of problems and customer aggravations with the system. It should be noted that the Operations folks saw all these problems coming years ago, but their protests and suggestions to not ditch time-tested procedures or overly complicate the customer experience fell on deaf ears.

 

But what the NextGen backers like Jay Rasulo lacked in basic theme park operations experience, they made up for by being high up the food chain in Burbank, and the program kept pressing forward while it went over budget and behind schedule. The execs pushing NextGen and glossing over its early failures have no front line experience running a theme park, nor do they have passion for providing the park visitors with a great experience, which is the fatal flaw behind the MagicBand’s problems.

 

The end result is that as Disney entered its new 2014 fiscal year a month ago, the results of years of NextGen investment weren’t paying off as they’d been promised to do strongly by Fiscal Year 2014. Not only is NextGen not paying off financially yet, it’s created a laundry list of additional fixes that will require more investment into 2015. While the executives in charge of the NextGen project have been dancing around the issue for the past year, by November the results thus far were clearly a disappointment to Burbank. And while the NextGen project was rolled out first at WDW, it was sold to Burbank and budgeted under the assumption that most of the concept could be duplicated in Anaheim as well. But one thing the NextGen project has done well is churn out tons of customer data and given the Operations folks lots of new experience with frustrated visitors and knowledge of what doesn’t work with the system. Much of that data conflicts with Anaheim’s demographics (dedicated locals and casual tourists on a bigger California vacation) and makes NextGen even less workable for the Disneyland Resort. Which makes the WDW financials look even worse to Burbank.

 

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Some in Anaheim will breathe a sigh of relief over that, like the Operations folks who took one look at the plans for a new Disneyland main entrance devoid of turnstiles or gates just steps from Harbor Blvd. At WDW the theme parks are relatively protected by being deep within Disney property, and behind layers of protection in the form of parking toll booths and various transportation systems required to get you to the entrance. But in Anaheim, the park main entrances sit on the busy Esplanade that has no safety valve to prevent large crowds from walking in off the street. The recent crowds who crushed against the park gates trying to get in to the 24 Hour Party would be uncontrollable if the gateless MagicBand system proposed for Anaheim was installed at Disneyland’s main entrance.

 

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Under this darkening cloud of financial news, Bob Iger and all of Disney’s top executives had a very tense series of meetings and presentations in Orlando two weeks ago. The NextGen program was discussed at length at this executive gathering, on the record and off, and it was impossible to sugarcoat the fact that the NextGen program is wildly over budget, way behind schedule, and not pulling in the extra profits it was supposed to. A furious Bob Iger returned to Burbank and has now told WDI to halt all work on all major projects planned for the American parks, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. And in a follow up meeting with Tom Staggs last week, WDI and TDA had the financial rug yanked out from underneath all of the smaller projects being worked on specifically for Anaheim and Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. The result is that dozens of Imagineers who were working on Star Wars and other plans for Anaheim have now been told to stop their work and are reassigned to work on Shanghai Disneyland (and its conveniently separate budget) for at least the next 90 days.

 

Luckily, there are still some key attractions for Shanghai that are behind schedule in Imagineering and could use the extra help, like the Steve Davison produced musical boat ride through the massive Fantasyland Castle there. But after the 90 day hold period, if the moratorium on theme park spending isn’t lifted, layoffs will begin to spread through the Imagineering campus in Glendale. The financial freeze isn’t exclusive to Glendale either, as Disneyland President Michael Colglazier is now tasked with carving out as much extra savings as possible from the 2014 operating budget for Anaheim, and those cuts will be coming this winter.

 

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This is a big deal folks. While individual projects at WDI have had their budgets put on hold in the past, sometimes never recovering, this is different. The concept of stopping all work on all projects for all existing theme parks, except for the Oriental Land Company owned Tokyo property and Shanghai Disneyland, is a rare wide-reaching blow to WDI. What follows is a status report on the various projects and rumored plans we have been telling you about for Anaheim over the last year.

 

Star Wars in Tomorrowland – On Hold

Originally the plan to add Star Wars to Tomorrowland was going to be divided into two phases; a first phase involving some placemaking and a replacement for Captain EO to be finished prior to the 60th Anniversary, and a second phase kicking off in late 2015. The second phase included the Speeder Bike E Ticket ride, Ewok village and forest where Autopia currently is, a Millenium Falcon walk-thru where the PeopleMover platform is, tearing out the decaying PeopleMover tracks and moving the Astro Orbiter up on top of the Space Mountain concourse, and turning Tomorrowland Terrace into an interactive Tatooine Cantina restaurant show. All of that is now on hold indefinitely. Although Anaheim gets off a bit easier with its Star Wars plan on hold, as the plans for many of these Star Wars elements coming to Disney Hollywood Studios in WDW have just been cancelled outright.

 

Monstropolis in DCA – Cancelled

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This was the plan to turn the sleepy and decidedly unattractive corner of DCA’s Hollywood Land section into a Monstropolis mini-land. The existing Monsters Inc. dark ride was to remain, but MuppetVision and Stage 17 would be torn out to become an elaborate family-coaster based on the famous door sequence from the Monsters Inc. film. A new restaurant was planned, and that entire section of the park was to be reskinned and extensively rebuilt. This one got cancelled outright rather than the hold status of Star Wars, as Cars Land looks like it can continue to headline a very profitable DCA for at least several more years. There are some in WDI who feel the completed plans for Monstropolis at DCA will never see the light of day again.

 

Fantasyland Dark Ride Re-Imagineering – On Hold

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This is the plan to plus up and dramatically upgrade the five classic dark rides in Fantasyland; Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinnochio’s Daring Journey and Snow White’s Scary Adventures. This was being lumped into a marketable plan for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, and the five major refurbishments were to begin in phases this winter and be completed by early ’15. The only thing still a go is the outdoor track replacement this January at Alice In Wonderland. But all of the show upgrades once planned for Alice, like the impressive new Queen of Hearts animatronic with the digitally rear projected face, are now on hold.

 

The Little Mermaid Re-Imagineering – On Hold

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This was the concept to fix the big Under The Sea room in this Omnimover ride with new lighting and less obtrusive infrastructure for the ceiling-mounted mechanics. New projection effects, tweaked animatronics, and reworked staging for several of the smaller scenes in this ride were also planned. A three week rehab was going to be needed, which particularly dooms this one because the Orlando team hates the idea of closing this ride in Magic Kingdom. This had to pencil out for installation in Anaheim only in 2014, with Orlando not willing to commit, which makes it iffy if this plan will be reborn.

 

Soarin’ Over California HD – Still A Go

This is the plan to close Soarin’ for almost four months, from early February to early June of 2014, to install all new digital projectors and upgrade the audio and theater experience. This would be phase one of the project to switch over to the new world-wide Soarin’ film that will debut first at DCA in 2015 before it opens at Shanghai Disneyland in early 2016. Soarin’s HD upgrade is still happening at DCA since the projectors and new equipment were budgeted as part of the Shanghai project. Although the mandate to stop all work everywhere at WDI has key Imagineers wondering if Soarin’ HD will also end up being put on hold a week or two from now, if the sharp pencil boys can figure out a way to delay the equipment contract for the DCA theaters. In Soarin’s favor, the new film in ’15 could be puffed up into a major marketing push for Disneyland’s 60th, due to the sudden lack of much else for that anniversary.

 

60th Anniversary Plans at Disneyland – On Hold

Anaheim’s planning for these concepts had just kicked off, with the first 60th Anniversary confidential strategy meeting in TDA’s executive conference room held back in early October. Just seven weeks ago the TDA executives were upbeat and planning for a big party in 2015. A new nighttime parade for Disneyland, a new day parade for DCA, plus new fireworks and various décor packages around the Resort were all being planned. The Fantasyland dark ride project was also going to be included in the 60th from a marketing standpoint, but that money was coming from a separate budget.

 

But everything for the 60th is on hold now. It’s the new parades that are most in jeopardy, as they have a much longer lead time for design and construction than new fireworks and decorations. Unless Burbank lifts the spending moratorium by spring, the new parades won’t make it. TDA is now working under the assumption that there won’t be much of anything for the 60th. With nothing new of any substance, the 60th Anniversary might devolve into a few sparse decorations, Twitter meet-ups from the chirpy Social Media group, and 60th logo t-shirts for sale in The Emporium.

 

DIVE! DIVE!

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This full-stop from Burbank has taken lots of folks in TDA by surprise. And there’s already a few glaring examples of this sudden mandate from Bob Iger. Most notably, the Submarine Voyage just showed up on the latest refurbishment calendar for Disneyland.

 

By now Bob Iger was supposed to have announced the plans for the Star Wars invasion of Tomorrowland. Bob had said on an investor conference call back in early August “We’re going to continue to invest in Disneyland. We’ve got some pretty exciting things that we’ll be announcing over the next couple of months.” And even as recent as November 8th Bob told Bloomberg News “The only thing I can share, which actually I don’t think we’ve talked about much, is there is a fair amount of development going on at Disney Imagineering right now to expand the Star Wars presence in California and in Orlando and eventually in other parks around the world.” But that statement was a few days before he flew out to Orlando and was updated on just how dire the situation with NextGen was, and then became quite aware that the Board of Directors was not going to allow him to keep spending on the parks with NextGen in such a sorry state.

 

The Submarine Voyage was already slated to close in January as a cost-saving measure, in advance of work beginning on the Ewok village and Speeder Bike course above. The subs are currently showing up on internal planning calendars as being closed for refurbishment from January 4th to September 26th, 2014. But that’s just a result of the clumsy way TDA’s planners track unknown refurbishments, as they slot it to run for the rest of the fiscal year until a real end date can be decided on. Friday, September 26th is the last working day of Fiscal Year 2014 for the cubicle worker that publishes the planning calendars, and thus that shows up as the end date for this fake “refurbishment” that is really just a permanent closure.

 

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But that plan to close the subs had been approved by TDA last month when they were working under the timeline that had Star Wars being announced before the holidays. The submarines themselves are in dire need of repair, mainly due to their electric propulsion system and the batteries that power them. When the submarines were brought back in 2007 for the Finding Nemo voyage, the old diesel engines were scrapped in favor of new electric drive motors powered by batteries that are charged underwater via a type of linear-induction system. This made the submarines cleaner and earned the Resort smog credits with the Southern California Air Quality Management District, which allows Disneyland to perform many more fireworks shows per year than they normally would. But the batteries and power systems are not aging well, and the submarines are in constant need of repair. Many times, a submarine can’t make it through an entire operating day and has to be towed back to the dock for maintenance on the battery packs.

 

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The lagoon itself is also an expensive facility to maintain, and is due for a full draining and refurbishment if it’s to continue as an operating attraction, especially one with a Pixar connection. Add in the fact that the submarine operation requires a huge amount of Cast Member labor to keep running, for a relatively small hourly capacity of just 800 riders per hour, and the Submarine Voyage has the distinction of being Anaheim’s most expensive attraction to operate by far. That makes it an easy target for panicky TDA executives looking to cut costs, and the Star Wars announcement was supposed to give them the cover they needed to quietly close the 54 year old submarine attraction for a second time.

 

Unlike in 1998 however when Paul Pressler weaseled his way into the first closure with no replacement plan, this closure would be permanent as the caverns show building was to be demolished to build the Ewok’s forested home planet. But now that the Star Wars plan is on hold thanks to the horrible condition of WDW’s NextGen project, TDA is going to go ahead with the closure falsely labeled a “refurbishment” with the hopes that Burbank will reopen the purse strings later in 2014 and the Star Wars announcement can finally be made to save face. Fans of the submarines would be wise to get in their last rides before January 4th.

 

None of this is good news, obviously. Disney’s Parks & Resorts division is the goose that lays the golden eggs for the company, routinely bringing in Billions in operating cash fiscal year after fiscal year, while more volatile divisions like the Studios or TV networks can go from feast to famine and can bleed money suddenly. But the NextGen project at WDW has already cost so much money, and is so far behind schedule, that the lack of profit being generated by its stunted condition is now too glaring a problem for Burbank to ignore. Until the Florida team responsible for getting NextGen off the ground and getting all those tourists to happily plan their vacations down to the minute months in advance can show some real progress and profits from the system, there will be little to plan for at most of the other Disney parks around the world. There are now nervous senior executives with careers on the line, not to mention Bob Iger’s stellar record of wise investment that could be irreparably harmed if the word MagicBand joins New Coke and Edsel in the history book of corporate failures.

 

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In the short term, the Disneyland Resort will still have a sparkling holiday season this year, as the Resort has never been more popular with locals and tourists alike. Winter Dreams is so popular that a third show has just been added nightly through Christmas, and the wonderfully festive Viva Navidad show in DCA is rating off the charts on visitor satisfaction surveys. And Disneyland itself has never looked better this season with lavish decorations over freshly maintained facilities, and finally an end in sight for the fall protection work at older rides and buildings around the park. But when all the Christmas decorations are packed away in January and the crowds go home, this will be a long winter that could lead to a much bleaker future for Anaheim. We will keep you informed if anything changes, but for now there’s not much for Disneyland fans to look forward to through at least the 60th Anniversary.

 

Well, that’s our unfortunate update for today folks. We know this was painful to read, but once you’ve recomposed yourself, we’d love to hear your thoughts below. How would you like to see this situation resolved and how can Disneyland recover in time for the 60th anniversary?

 

We are often asked how you can contribute to help keep these updates coming. Today, instead of sending money, we simply ask that you share this column with your friends and family. It’s as simple as clicking the social links at the top of this page!

 

 

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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Comments for MiceAge Disney Parks Update: Iger’s Ire are now closed.

  1. For a decade, DCA was the “heroin monkey” on Disneyland’s back. Is MyMagic+ now playing the role of heroin monkey, stealing all the infrastructure/investment money?

    • I question how long DCA will continue to see the attendance levels that it is currently enjoying? The park still has a lack of attractions in my opinion. I was never a fan of Monstropolis, but at least it would add another layer to the park. I would much rather see something that better fits thematically for Hollywood Land. I give it another year before the popularity of Cars Land fades…

      • That’s a very good point.

        If a Star Wars land comes to DLR, it might well go into the Simba parking lot (more space than Carsland), and that the Paradise Pier hotel might well be demolished, or even re-skinned. If Star Wars land goes there, then they have enough space for WDI’s *very* lavish plans, and guests are kinda forced to walk past Paradise Pier and Mermaid. The Viva Navidad celebration was strategically placed in one of DCA’s least visited areas for a reason.

      • I completely agree with you parker4fm. I would go so far and specify that it has a lack of attractions with a re-ride-ability worth paying the admission price. Many of the attractions are fun and entertaining, but there is something about the DL attractions that allow for them to be re-ridden, over and over again. I’ve been to both parks way too much, and I have to say that there is almost never a time where I’ve brought guests to RSR in the morning, and they beg to go on it again before they leave, unlike Pirates, Mansion, Space, Splash, Thunder (when it was/is open), and a few other attractions that hit the spot.

        I think the allure of Carsland will wear away sooner than later.

      • I completely agree. I think going forth with these projects might be too much too soon. While the attractions at DCA are great for a first-time experience, I don’t know many who really have much of a desire to go back for more as they do the attractions in DL. I have always expected Carsland’s popularity to wane because of this. If they must install a Star Wars anything, I think it’s more important to put in DCA, where more attractions are definitely needed. There is room, and I think it makes more sense going there thematically.
        Where the rest of the article is concerned, I’m not very supportive of the NextGen things at the moment either. Some things need to be kept simple.

      • I agree with you, I thought that a Monsters Inc. area did not make sense. Unless they have a third successful Cars movie than I also agree with you on your Carsland point.

    • Indeed. And we all saw this coming a million miles away. You can not add significant value to a theme park by building a better way to squeeze money out of your guests. At least build some rides before you shake them upside down to see what’s in their pockets.

      Ideally, MyMagic+ should have rolled out with a massive expansion like Star Wars Land instead of pretending to be its own draw (which it will never be on its own).

      The sad news here is that instead of rapidly redirecting his attention to other projects and firing everyone involved with the MyMagic+ decision, Iger is instead canceling the thing that will really drive revenue and increased attendance (new attractions) so they can pump even more money into MyMagic+. My hope is that he will get over his anger and sort out the priorities logically. You can’t grow a theme park empire without new attractions!!!

      WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME DISNEYLAND PARK GOT A MAJOR ATTRACTION MR. IGER???? YOU ARE FAILING TO MAINTAIN YOUR BRAND!!!!

      That’s Billions (with a “B”) of wasted money for Disney while Universal rapidly builds Massive Harry Potter expansions in both California and Orlando. At least Universal will have something new for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. Perhaps that’s the message Iger should be taking to his shareholders.

      • +1 Mr. Sage….

        The with WDI and ‘new’ DL attractions is that they probably classify the ‘re-imagined’ attractions towards their ‘new’ major attractions list. While there is some weight behind that thinking, there is no allure that will bring the new guests. Obviously, RSR was a success, as it continues to spark curiosity and forces guests to purchase a ticket to a park that they’d probably pass up; however, when they open the ‘re-imagined’ Thunder Mountain, do they really think that is going to boost attendance away from the guests that were already planning a trip to the parks??

        I agree whole-heartedly with you when you say, “You can’t grow a theme park empire without new attractions!!!” Disney needs to understand that…Walt did, and that empire grew annually. This regime grows in profit (as we’ve seen with this past fiscal year), but comes up short with ingenuity, creativity, and experience. It’s a shame. I’m not the only person who will see their pass expire in the coming weeks and not renew.

      • AGREED! The way to add value is to add attractions. While adding infrastructure that helps better schedule your visit might be welcome for some, it’s not going to drive attendence. New rides and attractions will. Hopefully, they can put a relatively-cheap bandaid on the Next Gen program and draw a line under it, thus freeing up money for future park investment like the remake of Tomorrowland.

      • Amen to Puck2DaHead. The new Star Tours is terrific, but how are lines now? Busier than before 2011, sure, but are we talking seven-hour waits nowadays? Nope. Reimagined rides just don’t have the same pull as new ones.

        RSR has shown pretty good staying power, as has Midway Mania. Disneyland hasn’t received an all-new attraction (excluding anything at Innoventions) since… Pooh? Correct me if I’m wrong, people.

      • Why does this news feel like we will be seeing the Disneyland Resort in dire need of repair, paint jobs and everything else in between? I thought those years were long behind us, but it seems like they will be rearing its ugly head again. Is TDO that incompetent to run the WDW Resort?

      • Nail on the head. I mean, I wanted to comment with my thoughts and frustrations, but you really said it all. I can’t believe how pathetic the past this guy and Eisner have been at adding attractions. They get handed a parks brand that has been the world’s premiere example of a theme park and the universal favorite, but then they don’t take a look at what made it that in the first place. Turn your eyes on merchandising, focus on keeping them on site, do everything possible to monetize every square foot and trust the existing attractions to bring them in, while everyone around you starts to catch up.

        I’ll always love Disneyland, but this just hurts to watch sometimes, especially when an angry exec tells WDI to halt their projects. They are the ones who make the attractions that bring in the money… they are the key, and he just shuts them down while trying to fix what was a stupid idea in the first place.

      • Well said, Dusty!

      • They thought that people would swoon over the tech… I bet ipods and iphones came in as part of the pitch. Problem is that most people don’t trust technology, and always wonder what is going on… basically people see it as “great this is helping disney, but does it do anything for me”. They also get confused (just remember, no matter who “idiot proof” something is… you’ll just find either a better idiot or a better scammer to get around it.

        Like Dusty said though… people aren’t going to go over some cool electronic tracking/reservation system… they’re there “for the rides/experience”… 99.99% of people are just fine with the tickets.

        If Disney really wanted to go with the new bands, they would have been better off using them in the same way at first (like a ticket, get fastpasses by swiping them on a machine, etc) and slowly adding new features to them over time.

        It’s funny… Disney is starting to become like Government, they need to break themselves up a bit and work on projects separate… it seems the more Burbank gets involved, the more things get overblown… too many people want to share the credit for that new fangled thing that’s going to make them rich $$$.

      • Good point.

        The NextGen project seems to have developed into a cancer that needs to be cut loose. However, it would be difficult for Iger to justify all those losses in response to cutting the program.

        To me, it’s more of the same dumb decision making that’s gone on recently. Continue throwing money away on NextGen while cutting programs that will drive future revenue..

      • Yo9u are right on the money with this one Dusty!

    • LOL, heroin monkey, I had to google that!

      MyMagic+/NextGen, IMHO, isn’t stealing money from the budget for theme park attractions, the seemingly big $1 billion price tag is for the roll-out of the whole program to all Disney parks, and there isn’t a $1 billion hole in Disney’s budget, which is public information as Disney is a publicly traded company. MyMagic, like the RFID at Great Wolf Resorts, will make money for the Disney parks, so it will pay for itself, and will even pay for future attractions as it will improve the bottom-line for the resorts. Construction of brick and mortar rides costs money, the RFID technology itself not so much, and it has cost savings with regards to hotel room locks/maintenance.

      The Nemo Sub system actually has less maintenance costs than the older one, and uses inductive charging technology that is efficient and reliable, as proven in many other Disney attractions. So, Nemo will probably get a lengthy refurb to bring back some missing effects and for a top to bottom cleaning and other improvements, especially since the ride is one of Pixar’s babies and Nemo 2 is coming out. Yeah, there are broken effects to fix on Nemo, but they’ll have the ride looking great for Finding Dory.

      WDI is steadily working away on a Star Wars land, and as others have noted, the WDI budget isn’t tied directly into MyMagic which doesn’t appear to have any major unexpected costs and is a kinda self-contained infrastructure project which will make money for the parks.

      Iger is a big tease, he hinted at more Star Wars in domestic parks, and hinted that the company hadn’t announced what was going into Shanghai (maybe Star Wars land!) and that Hong Kong might get a Star Wars land as well . . .

      • How can you say that Next Gen isn’t hurting theme park investments when the biggest things to open during it’s expenditure are Mickey and the Magical Map and a Jack Sparrow walkthrough at Hollywood Studios?

      • WDI ISN’T working on Star Wars Land. All work for Star Wars has been halted. The budget isn’t the issue. It’s that Iger said to stop all work.

        Hopefully, the Star Wars for Disneyland will be PERMANENTLY stopped. It should go in the WDW Studio Tours park where it belongs.

      • But it’s cost $1 billion and it’s still not entailing everything originally planned. MM+ has to be pulling funds from these development projects or else they wouldn’t be put on hold.

        And I agree with you, DLFan1995. Star Wars Land should go to the Studios park– It should be their Cars Land. Let’s face it, the only thing that could trump Harry Potter is Star Wars! If anything should go into Tomorrowland it should be Marvel; it would be a marvel staple in Cali, since it’s already in Universal FL. A star Wars in the Studios would give West Coasters a reason to go to Florida and Cars Land should be a draw for East Coasters to come to Cali.

  2. Thank you for the thorough reporting on this truly unfortunate and discouraging news. I hope that after a number of months the executives at the Parks will reconsider future projects and improvement plans. I’ve been a Premium AP holder to the Southern California Resorts for many years. Premium APs are expensive, and though it may be a rose-colored glasses way of looking at it, I feel a full AP is almost like a contract with the Parks to maintain a high level of entertainment value and park experience. This news, as all of the reporting you’ve done on the whole MyMagic mess and the cost cutting in Florida, does not sound like the Executives at Disney are living up to their part of the contract. My hopes for the next year and beyond are that a balance is returned to the upcoming improvement plans for Disney Resort. And I hope that the win-win success of Carsland and the new DCA is repeated – giving people new, truly well thought out and well-realized Park rides and experiences.

  3. Would Parks & Resorts ever consider going to a separate budget per park mentality? They may have operated this way in the past. From the outside looking in, TDA knows that “if you build it, they will come” has worked very well with DCA. They also know that they are a locals park. If their budget is cut due to something in Orlando, this is a very big blow to them. This could ultimately hurt their attendance numbers and revenue, which would bring everyone down. A classic case of two wrongs don’t make a right. So, from that perspective, wouldn’t it be financially logical to separate budgets so that TDA has something to work with to keep their attendance and revenue high? The same thing could be said for Paris and Hong Kong. Disney Studios Paris will still be in rough shape after the new dark ride opens. The park is weak on theme and attractions. Paris overall continues to lose money because it does not have enough to entice guests to come back. Hong Kong will eventually see trouble when Shanghai opens. Each park should be able to utilize some separate budget to keep visitors coming in the gates.

    Yes? No? Fire Jay Rasulo?

    • Shifting to per park would only work if each area was doing well, but WDW often has terrible numbers and relies on DCL and Anaheim to make the overall pill a less bitter one in the financials.

      • The sad truth is that if investments were made on quality attractions, more people would come, attendance and revenue would rise. DCA is a shining example of this. Keep in mind that this isn’t a call for a new ride or attraction every year. It’s a reminder that quality can top quantity. The question still remains, for how long? How long will Cars Land sustain DCA?

  4. Extremely fabricated article. And MyMagic+ rollout has been doing well in many areas. High percentile rollout in table service locations? Merchandise success? Fastpass+ team hiring in the last month providing role promotion for younger cast members?

    It is an exciting time in Orlando and this article is just lies.

    • “Extremely fabricated”? I’m sorry but this is what’s happening. This isn’t our observations, we are reporting on the actual meetings that Iger had in Disney World and their results. We don’t like it any more than you do.

      You may very well have had a great experience with MyMagic+, but that doesn’t change the statistics and budgets that Iger is working with.

      Don’t shoot the messenger.

      • Dusty, with all due respect, there is “information” in this update that is clearly inaccurate. Bob Iger was not, and is not in the dark about the My Magic + roll out. He did not fly back from orlando so shock, frustrated and angry about the “failures” of my magic + that he took the actions stated here. Budgets don’t work like that and would be actions like that are public information with a company like Disney which would have ripple effects on Wall Street that would make the news, and Disney’s Stock Price would be negatively affected. This is now the second major article in the recent month I have seen that I absolutely KNOW Miceage got it wrong. Its not about shooting the messenger. It about being accurate and trustworthy. Please, as an insider I choose to not say what I know, but its pretty easy to find out. Please, Miceage needs to go back and do some research about what is really happening at WDW. Looking at the top of Space Ship Earth might be a good start.

      • I respectfully disagree with you Kidgenie. There’s nothing that we’ve gotten wrong. Disney changes things from time to time and we report on that. But that doesn’t make us wrong. We stay on our toes and report the things that are happening right now in the halls of Burbank, TDA and Imagineering. We realize that there are many who don’t want to hear anything negative, but this is some very big news which needed to be shared. And it fundamentally changes what the Imagineers were working on and what we have already reported.

      • So Dusty, If I am to interpret your reply to Kidgenie correctly,

        When you say;

        “There’s nothing that we’ve gotten wrong. Disney changes things from time to time and we report on that. But that doesn’t make us wrong. We stay on our toes and report the things that are happening right now in the halls of Burbank, TDA and Imagineering.”

        You are basically saying;

        “We’re awesome and we are never wrong.”

        Stay classy (and humble) miceage.

      • Kidgenie, while every aspect of the update may not be entirely accurate, the fact is that Iger returned from Florida and shut down most projects at WDI. That would indicate that he learned SOMETHING while on his trip that triggered those decisions.

        I have no doubt that Magic+ is in trouble (I expected that from the start). Disney has often delved into expensive initiatives that penciled out on paper but cost the company in practicality (SAP). This is probably another example. They should just scale it back to a workable, less extensive program. Use it sparingly for the resorts where it may ACTUALLY be worthwhile.

      • I was just going to ask. What is happening on the top of SSE? We noticed something different this past week.

    • Seriously. MM+ *JUST* rolled out. They’re still installing turnstiles for magic band access. They haven’t turned on any of the location based services. Right now it’s replacing your room key, and that’s it, I’m sure there’s more to come. Overbudget maybe, but way to early to call it a bust. I heard my aunt paid too much for our turkey. Thanksgiving 2013 is going to be a bust.

      • Did she pay a billion for the bird that would have been better spent elsewhere?

      • ^ Hahahhahaha!!!

      • did she spend so much on the turkey that nothing else can be served? Will you be sitting down to a nice roast turkey, and no sides, no pumpkin pie? Me, I could go without the turkey. It’s all about the stuffing and the desserts.

        Serve just a turkey? I’ll skip that.

        And yes, this whole thing is a turkey.

    • I’m also skeptical about the NextGen project being the reason behind cancelling all of these things. Many of the projects seemed questionable to me from the start, and this just seems like an easy excuse to say they’re cancelling them

      Yes, there are issues in WDW. No, it’s not going to have the scope, schedule, or budget originally intended, but I don’t think it’s bad enough that they’re cancelling projects at other resorts as a result. If NextGen is in any way involved, it’s likely cancelling the Anaheim projects so that they’ll have more money for the Anaheim roll-out in a few years

    • Promotion? Hahahahahahahaha They’re bottom of the barrel jobs. One friend got rehired after being on DNR status for dropping an F-bomb on stage. WDW is desperate for bodies to take the customer service blow from this. (Clearly their standards for hiring online plants have fallen quite far, as well.)

    • It looks like Disney turned their public relations interns loose to attack MiceAge today.

      What is “extremely fabricated” about the article, coasterandrew?

      Your little attack response here seems “extremely fabricated”.

      It is an exciting time in Orlando if you own Universal Studios and see how much Disney is screwing up their operations. Yippee.

      • Well said Jungle Trekkie

      • That’s exactly what I was thinking too

  5. Can we PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get this sort of update about DISNEY WORLD? I am begging you!

  6. BEST thing I read in that article: Monstropolis in DCA – Cancelled!!!!

  7. I will be LIVID if The FL redo gets cancelled. That’s all I care about. Uni. must be totally laughing.

    • My thoughts exactly. It seems a dangerous path to hold off on improvements when Universal has already publicly committed a large and recurring amount of cash to adding attractions to their parks.

  8. I wonder how this will affect the DAS program – I suspect it has been meant as a temporary fix to the GAC program until the Magic Bands were available, since then the accommodations could be programed into the band…. at least in my imagination this was to be the case.

    • MyMagic+ hasn’t been canceled. It’s just sucked up all the money for other projects. I’d imagine that DAS will still eventually be rolled into the Magic Bands.

  9. This isn’t surprising, though all the delays and cancellations are sad. With MyMagic+, Disney tried to squeeze money from a place where it wasn’t there. Instead of focusing on improving the guest experience on offering new attractions, they’re limiting the experience. Even guests who don’t go as frequently can recognize a con job when they see one. Disney is trying to fix something that isn’t broken and has over shot with their attempts to make money through NextGen technology. It’s been a mess from the start.

    Of course, the sensible move would be to pull back on the changes, re-think them, and then adjust. Instead, Iger is stopping the things that can actually make people forget about the MyMagic+ mess: new attractions. Brilliant.

    • It seems they have spent money giving guests an experience that they could already get, for free in a slightly different form.

      The FP+ currently only appeals to the mega planners who shedule their days down to the minute, which is a very small percentage of guests. The vast majority of guests don’t even enter the parks with any idea of what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. Unless the FP+ begin to suck up all of the fastpasses and standy wait times shoot up, forcing everyone to plan farther ahead.

  10. But what the NextGen backers like Jay Rasulo lacked in basic theme park operations experience, they made up for by being high up the food chain in Burbank

    Michael Eisner espoused the widely held belief that a good manager can manage anything. I would agree with this for the most part, but theme parks, especially Disney theme parks, seem to be in different category with different rules. The thing is that Jay Rasulo doesn’t lack basic theme park operation experience. How much more experience does this guy need? He’s been around theme parks for 20 years! It’s not experience that counts here. It’s something else. If one cannot appreciate the theme park experience from the perspective of the guest, and truly enjoy doing so with passion, then one ends up with what we have now. I don’t believe for a second that Bob Iger, Jay Rasulo, Tom Staggs, et al, understand the theme park experience the way we do. Let’s just say that Bob Iger is more likely to eat a fine dinner in Paris, France than in the France pavillion at Epcot. This experience isn’t even on their radar. How could it be? Live Bob Iger’s life for a couple of days and a trip to Disneyland will seem pretty lackluster by comparision.

    Not just anyone with a list of business credentials can manage Parks and Resorts properly. The whole thing was started by people who DID understand the guest experience. They understood it because they weren’t insulated from the guests they served. The difference between Walt Disney and Bob Iger is that Walt never allowed himself the luxury of being elite while Mr. Iger lives in a steel and glass box. Walt and his people were connected to the rest of us emotionally, while the modern executives are not. Walt instinctively knew what people wanted. Jay Rasulo doesn’t have a clue. Walt was a businessman and a showman. Jay Rasulo isn’t sure what a showman is.

    So what do people want? That’s a bit of a trick question, because the funny thing about Disney parks is that history seems to show that people don’t really know what they want until they see it. There was no clamoring demand for Disneyland to even exist in the first place. There was no advanced demand for AAs or monorails or Swiss mountains. There was no focus group showing POTC and Haunted Mansion would be universally popular.

    And if marketing surveys are to be believed, then guests wanted NextGen. If you ask what could be improved in a theme park, it isn’t hard to imagine that reducing the time spent waiting in line might be a common response. To simplify, it wouldn’t be hard to come to the conclusion that a new system to deal with these survey issues would be the golden ticket to a prosperous future.

    But the the real golden ticket is giving guests something worth standing in line for. But what should that be? I don’t know. Coming up with that answer is WDI’s job, which they are more than qualifed to do. Let them do it. And they will give us something we never even knew we wanted.

    New room keys, new park tickets and new fastpasses! And somehow this is “magic”. Lame. At the moment everything seems like it’s upside down. Disney is putting the brakes on the things it should be fast tracking and moving ahead with a boondoggle that I find boring and mystifying.

    The one good thing that may come from this is that I now cannot imagine Jay Rasulo ever becoming CEO of WDC. If a Walt Disney only comes around once every 100 years or so, then it’s past due time for another Walt to come along. Any volunteers?

    • You got a good 30 seconds of applause out of me for this comment.

    • Absolutely, one of the best things I’ve read on this site! Well done! I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Great comment!

    • Disney excels in mass produced entertainment. The problem is they’re now thinking like someone that is mass producing entertainment. Anything that is mass produced is going to be watered down. Watering down your brand damages your reputation to a point that makes it difficult to recover.

    • Infrastructure is never as exciting as new rides. Look at Universal’s Harry Potter, Diagon Alley and Transformers. The Fantasyland expansion that is heavy on Meet and Greets and Restaurants while short on D/E ticket rides is a perfect example of how not to do it. Unfortunately, Pandora: The World of Avatar won’t do much to move the needle.

      To answer your question about the next Walt Disney, he is already there. Scott Trowbridge is currently the WDI Blue Sky Studio leader and rising through the ranks.

    • Nail head – direct hit! There was more obvious wisdom in your post than much of anything Iger or Rasulo has said in the past few years. They both have outlived their 15 minutes of fame. If the Board wasn’t filled with sycophants who get their millions regardless of doing a good job or a mediocre job – they could see it is time to rehire at the top.

  11. It sounds to me like Bob Igor is throwing a temper tantrum! Halting all investment into the most profitable part of the company over one project that simply can’t work at all parks is absurd! I hope that the 90 day hold will come to a healthy conclusion and all will be restored by that time. It sounds like Igor is the new Pressler. I suppose I better sell the autograph he gave me while it still has some value!

  12. No love lost here on the Monstropolis front. It was a silly idea in the first place. Give us something original and non-Pixar that also fits in Hollywood.

    Terrible about the subs, though. I don’t love the Nemo overlay, despite its technical achievements, but the subs, overall, add immeasurable kinetic energy to the park, and no other Disney park has anything like seeing the subs along with the Matterhorn. I will deeply miss them.

  13. Hopefully the Writer of this article glances at my post…this article isn’t true, and simply makes no sense. You can’t write articles about rumors. First off, the Budget of MyMagic+ does not have anything to do with Imagineering. Second, Disney’s Profits, stock, and cash flow has never been higher. When they set aside a budget for MyMagic bands that budget doesn’t affect all aspects of the company…that is why it is called a budget. You don’t budget for $1.5billion, and then say we have to layoff people in an unrelated part of our business. Bob Iger recently said that Magic Bands will be rolling out more in the near future. And he most recently once again restated that STAR WARS LAND is still in the making. There are no “closed door” statements with a publicly traded company like Disney, especially when the Earnings call did not state anything about Holding on Star Wars Land. If your “facts” were correct about the Magic Bands were true, you would see the stock of Disney drop immediately, as Wall Street sees any small glitch in the system and reacts…at this very second. Disney Stock is up .71cents…
    You simply cannot make claims to “Monsters Inc land cancelled” as no Official statements were ever made. So they cancelled an unplanned section of the park?
    You cannot write articles based on rumors, then again, this is a website titled Micechat, so perhaps I’m going off about nothing.

    • MiceChat’s track record speaks for itself. They are very close to many people behind-the-scenes who are more than willing to dish anonymously on Disney’s plans. Disney plans things years in advance before they are ever ready to make an “Official statement.”

    • To Jkom, for you to say “First off, the Budget of MyMagic+ does not have anything to do with Imagineering.” Shows that you have NO idea of how multinational corporations operate nor about finance in general.
      First, the point of this article is that MyMagic+ is way OVER budget. Second, MyMagic, WDI, WDW, DL, Cruise line, and to a lesser extent the international Disney parks ALL fall under the Parks and Resorts division. So if one of your operating units (in the case MyMagic+) requires addtional money, then that money doesn’t come from thin air. It has to come from someplace, namely the other operating units. It’s true that MyMagic’s budget was a capital expense, but what this article is saying is that Corporate Disney is halting ALL other capital expenses in the Parks and Resorts division until this mess can be sorted out.

    • When you budget money for magic bands it is under the assumption that once they roll out they will be generating money. If the money they generate isn’t there, there isn’t that money to spend.

      If a business spends a billion dollars on stuffed animals and then none sell, they don’t have the 2 billion they were expecting, so they now gotta cut more than they spent since they were expecting a profit. And if your business isn’t profitable, try raising capital for anything else.

      If magic bands tanks, then the whole outlook for disney stock could slide.

    • I would tend to agree 100% the author of this article is writing off pure speculation and gossip. How does the author know what has transpired with the CEO of one of the worlds largest companies… I find it silly to think that this is first or even third hand information. Until anything even the projects mentioned in this article is officially released, it all should be considered blue sky and not the gospel truth….

      • While there is no way to know for sure, it appears that the author received information that provided context for the content. The fact that Iger did make decisions that stopped work at WDI after his visit to Florida indicates that something was amiss that caused him to do so.

        Nobody said it was the gospel truth. However, all signals indicate that there ARE financial issues and Iger appears to be responding to them.

    • JKom, you raise some important issues, but but your overall business assessment re: stock market reaction to these problems is a little off.

      The stock market reaction is not as prompt and efficient as you seem to give it credit for here. It certainly does not update each second based on private conversations held in executives’ offices.

      As you raised in your post, a lot of this is based on rumors, even though I’m sure Micechat’s staff has their sources just as TMZ’s staff or any other site reporting rumors (a group that by the way includes WSJ, NY Times, CNN, etc.). As of right now, stock traders do not have actionable information, and thus, until the next quarter where public information must be released by Disney, or any official statements or press releases about this, the stock market cannot react. Disney, a large successful corporation, knows not to make those kinds of statements. In case you’re curious, part of my job involves tracking stock market reaction to company shortcomings and strategic changes. It’s called event study analysis. As a researcher, I can’t track the reaction until there is some tangible announcement or press about the event. Thus, I take this article as more cautionary than anything else.

      If losses continue (and if Iger indeed suspends expenditure on new attractions to cut the bleeding, rest assured they will) then Disney will need to acknowledge the reasoning behind poor quarterly performance. At that point, it is reasonable to assume these Disney World infrastructure upgrades (I refuse to use the Disney proprietary marketing terminology) will need to be acknowledged.

      I’ll conclude by saying that lots of people on this site come here because of the very things you cited as problematic, i.e., reporting rumors before they are announced. I feel this is the #1 site for that type of information, and I am glad to see that continue to be featured.

  14. this is very dangerous if layoffs come i worry about some of imagineerings top talent like Joe Rhode, steve Davison it would be crazy to thnink of WDI without them

    • Wow you’re right…horrible thought! I love Joe!

    • It’s mostly the folks working on canceled projects who would be a greatest risk. Joe has Avatar to work on and Steve is doing all sorts of stuff for Shanghai and all the other parks. I’d think it would be other folks who we should worry for.

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