Disneyland Executive Shuffle

Written by Al Lutz. Posted in Disneyland Resort, MiceAge Update

Tagged: ,

Published on April 29, 2014 at 3:00 am with 74 Comments

The busy spring break period has ended and the Anaheim parks get a few short weeks of relatively light crowds before Grad Nights and summer crowds return. But late last week the Anaheim parks had a major executive shuffle that could make Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary next year more interesting. In this update we’ll fill you in on the executive news, explain the latest on the fiscal freeze that took hold of many projects for the parks a few months ago, and tell you what TDA now has up their sleeve for the Anaheim property they are eyeing beyond the parks.

They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So grab that Golden Delicious and a cleansing glass of wheat grass and let’s see what the Disneyland Resort is doing to ensure a healthy future.

Executive Shakeup 

Late last Wednesday afternoon rumors buzzed through the Team Disney Anaheim building that the next day would bring a major executive shuffle that had been brewing since January. And on Thursday morning the news was that it involved nearly every major Vice President in Anaheim that reports to President Michael Colglazier. In short, after a few short years in America, Disneyland Resort Hotels VP Daniel Delcourt will return back to France with a promotion to head up Disneyland Resort Paris. Replacing him as the VP of the three Disney-owned hotels in Anaheim will be long-time Disneylander and current VP of Disneyland Jon Storbeck. Moving over to fill Jon’s big shoes is current DCA VP Mary Niven, the woman who deserves much of the credit for shepherding the 1.2 Billion dollar makeover of DCA to fruition since she took that role back in 2009. Replacing Mary is a likeable woman named Kris Theiler, currently a VP in the parks division’s industrial engineering group, a team which is far more influential than you might imagine.

But it’s Mary’s move over to Disneyland that is the real coup here and what will be worth watching in the upcoming months and years. Mary started her Disneyland career with not the most promising of beginnings, as she was brought on board by Cynthia Harriss in 2000 during a very dark period in Disneyland history, when Cynthia and her top lieutenants seemed to be doing everything wrong and for all the wrong reasons. Mary had just come from a stint being in charge of food service for UCLA and its 40,000 students and 25,000 faculty members, and she started as the VP of Disneyland’s food and beverage department (a VP title that no longer exists). But she survived the implosion of the Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harriss era in 2003, learned a lot about Anaheim’s culture as the Resort rebounded to new heights during the 50th Anniversary, and was then wisely tapped to lead the DCA operational teams as they struggled through the extreme makeover of that park from 2009 to 2012. The result in 2014 is a reborn DCA that sparkles with new rides and shows and charm, and also has a vibrant Cast Member culture that is deeply proud of the wildly successful park that DCA has become. And Mary Niven deserves a great deal of the credit for all of that.

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We’ve covered these various topics in the past, but it bears repeating that Mary was instrumental in all of them. While WDI gets the credit for the amazingly Imagineered new buildings and physical environment at DCA (helped by a huge budget from Burbank), Mary deserves the credit for the fresh operational perspective that pushes DCA to a higher category of theme park. She’s the one who challenged her team to come up with an alternate entertainment venue to help spread out nighttime crowds waiting for World of Color, and cut through miles of red tape and shoved aside old conventional wisdom to get Glow Fest quickly installed and operating in the summer of 2010. Glow Fest created the fresh nighttime party zone that morphed into elecTRONica and then Mad T Party and is loved by locals and tourists alike in an otherwise sleepy corner of the park.

It was also Mary who took a giant gamble by installing Fastpass into a major nighttime spectacular, an idea never considered much less approved at any Disney park before. And within days of World of Color’s premiere, the Fastpass ticketing for that show became a huge hit with visitors and sent customer satisfaction ratings through the roof for its convenience. (Meanwhile, folks are still camping out on blankets hours in advance over at Fantasmic!). Moving the Fastpass machines away from the entrance of Radiator Springs Racers, the most popular ride at the Resort with a very congested entry area, was also Mary’s radically brilliant idea.

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Mary also tried on an Imagineering hat when the WDI team working on Buena Vista Street was struggling to come up with a Walt-based history show for the interior of the Carthay Circle Theater building. The Imagineers were stumped on how to tell the Walt story that hadn’t already been heard a hundred times before by fans, or that already didn’t exist at the lovingly crafted lobby exhibit 100 yards away at Disneyland’s Opera House. But Mary felt the new DCA would be worthy of a posh fine dining restaurant, and she convinced WDI and the Burbank bean counters to go big with a very lavish restaurant and cocktail lounge on two levels inside the theater, and then carved out space for a second lounge to help expand the Club 33 membership list. And as in previous World of Color and Glow Fest campaigns, she slashed through Disney’s red tape to make sure the restaurant was done correctly, down to the custom logo fine china, the unique napkins, and the Luxardo cherries in the cocktails that sent Disney’s corporate buyers into fits. Mary also got involved in the Red Car Trolley and cancelled the recorded spiel that WDI had planned for the street cars, and instead coughed up the money to staff a second conductor on board to give a live narration a la’ Storybook Land or Jungle Cruise. Mary, after all, is very aware that it’s the parks Cast Members that can make the difference in this increasingly impersonal age.

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When DCA was in a massive state of construction a few years ago and its CM’s found construction walls moving almost daily, Mary created a Cast Showcase to help the DCA CM’s cope with it all. The DCA Cast Showcases that Mary and her team created each spring from 2010 to 2012 brought a fancy industry trade-show type experience to the parks rank and file CM’s, and treated them to a multi-room sensory tour with professional actors and slick custom displays explaining what was happening to the park next and how important the CM’s roles were to bring it to life for guests. Never before had front-line park CM’s been treated like Burbank executives receiving swanky product reviews and slick multimedia presentations, complete with swag bags and mocktails for all attendees. The DCA Cast Showcases were expensive to pull off, but they worked wonders for morale and helped build the growing sense of pride in DCA Cast Members. In 2012 Mary also insisted on tacking an extra day of training for all DCA Cast Members, both new and existing. The training day is called Our California Story, and it deals exclusively with how a DCA Cast Member will be expected to support the stories the park is telling. Disneyland’s execs hadn’t considered such a radical idea, but they finally play catch up next year when Disneyland gets a version of the class Mary invented for DCA.

Through both massive projects and tiny details, Mary has proven herself to be a great theme park executive. If she thinks it’s worth it, she’ll go to bat with her bosses to get the money and resources to make a good idea happen, instead of living only with what Burbank and TDA gives you and never rocking the boat like too many other park executives have done in the last decade. She’s had her operation teams blend classic Disney hospitality with a fresh and modern perspective that’s willing to take risks, and almost all of those risks have paid off hugely for the park’s visitors and Cast Members. And now she takes that approach to the flagship Disney theme park and granddaddy of them all, Disneyland.

While Disneyland is now in much better shape cosmetically than when Mary arrived in the dark Paul Pressler era, it’s a park that too often clings to an operation that may have made sense in the 1990’s but that is out of touch today. While the DCA teams were taking huge risks and re-inventing the guest experience in a radically evolving park, Disneyland plodded along with the same format and operating philosophy simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. It will take at least six months for Mary to begin to make an impact, and there won’t be much she’ll change this summer. But in July the Anaheim executives all carve out their operating budget requests for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year that starts in October, and that’s where Mary will dig in and get ready to make her mark in ’15 and beyond. While the budget for the nostalgia-themed 60th Anniversary was slashed with most other park budgets six months ago due to the panic over MyMagic+ out in Orlando, it will be very interesting to watch where Mary pushes Disneyland by 2016 and beyond. Anyone ready for Fatasmic Fastpass?

2015 and Beyond

Meanwhile, back in TDA, Resort President Michael Colglazier is retrenching his plans and strategy after Burbank pulled nearly all funding for almost all major projects that were given to him on the five year plan when Michael first arrived in February, 2013. Massive cost overruns with the MyMagic+ program in Florida, plus ominous budgeting issues looming for Shanghai’s woefully behind construction schedule, all sent Burbank bean counters diving under their desks in horror last fall. The result is that nearly every major addition for theme parks in North America is now shelved. Only a few concepts previously announced are moving forward, but in a downsized format. Avatarland for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it appears, has now been scaled back to one flying simulator ride, a handful of shops, and a restaurant.  The plans for a Star Wars themed spaceport remake of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, to be built in two phases bracketing the 60th Anniversary, have been shelved for now. Also canned are any plans to do much of anything with Disney’s Hollywood Studios in WDW, or even consider anything for years at WDW’s Magic Kingdom once the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens next month.

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The fallout from the cancellation of the Tomorrowland plans are that the Submarines continue to sit quietly in mothballs through the rest of the fiscal year. The sad scenario we’d told you about in an update just after Christmas before the ride closed is now playing out, when we’d said…

“Once the lagoon is drained and the subs placed in mothballs, the attraction is planned to sit quietly and wait while the number crunchers in TDA count the savings for the rest of this fiscal year. If Star Wars Land finally gets approved and announced later in 2014 as Imagineering hopes, the submarines will have already been closed and can remain closed as the Blue Sky Cellar reopens with a splashy new exhibit showing the Endor forest and a new E Ticket ride where the submarine caverns currently reside. But if Fiscal Year 2015 approaches in October and the Star Wars project remains in financial limbo, TDA might consider performing a few weeks of a legitimately needed refurbishment to the underwater sets and vehicle battery packs themselves in order to reopen the ride by next Christmas.” –Miceage Update, January 7th, 2014

As photos from the last few months show, the Subs were dutifully powered down and secured in dry dock, a few plywood stairs were installed to allow access to the dry lagoon, and now the entire attraction sits empty and abandoned month after month. They’re going for the labor savings option on this one folks, that’s all there is to it. Star Wars isn’t in the short term plan, but TDA feels they can spare the relatively measly 800 riders per hour the low-capacity Submarines handle, and they are saving a ton of money in labor, maintenance and water fees in the meantime. By August they’ll need to decide if the ride comes back for Christmas or if they’ll wait until next year, and a few weeks of work will be needed in October or November for the boats and their troublesome battery packs (which will be charged to the new fiscal year’s tab). But until then, the dry lagoon is simply a way for TDA to save a big chunk of cash.

MyMagic Transit Plan

While any hint of a new ride inside the parks may be hard to find, quite a lot of work has ramped up at TDA on projects beyond the parks. Using a separate budget than that allocated for attractions and theme park expansion, Michael Colglazier has been leading his planning team on a strategic hunt for more property in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the Resort. Eventually the MyMagic+ program and Shanghai Disneyland will sort themselves out, and the Anaheim parks will expand again and add new rides. But to be ready for that expansion TDA knows it simply must solve the maddening parking situation for both visitors and Cast Members.

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This spring Disney has been speaking with Anaheim politicians to cook up a plan that will create a public-private agreement to add more parking for Disneyland and help complete Anaheim’s streetcar system they’ve been planning for years. The plan would build an 8 story parking structure on the current site of the Pumbaa parking lot, but would also need expansion land to the north to be able to route the streetcar tracks through a transit plaza that leads to an overhead ramp directing pedestrians over Harbor Blvd. (think the pedestrian bridges over intersections in Las Vegas) and depositing them on Disney property on the opposite side of busy Harbor Blvd. To do this Disney is going to need to purchase at least part of the business park sitting just north of Pumbaa, while Anaheim will be expected to do the dirty work and use eminent domain laws to take over the existing Park Vue Inn and adjacent IHOP restaurant to build the tracks and multi-level pedestrian walkways to and from the park.

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The owners of the Park Vue Inn and the modest looking IHOP, which happens to be one of the most successful units in the IHOP chain, learned of this plan a few months ago almost on accident when a neighbor happened to see the streetcar route plotted on a map in Anaheim’s City Hall. And the streetcar line runs right through the Park Vue Inn. For Disney’s part, they desperately want the parking capacity and are willing to purchase the business park in order to get more parking spaces built and allow Anaheim access to the property in a goodwill gesture that will make the streetcar route cheaper and easier to build. That makes it a win-win for both Anaheim and Disney, but the property owners likely to be bought out and evicted don’t see it that way.

But the parking capacity is desperately needed, even if the streetcar system may turn out to be a boutique line that really only serves conventioneers traveling from the Convention Center to the hotels and restaurants a few blocks to the north and east. TDA also has to consider the several thousand Cast Members who park their car in Pumbaa daily and then willingly walk over a mile to and from their work locations in the parks just to avoid the decrepit and depressing shuttle buses from the further out satellite lot on Katella. To alleviate the CM parking situation, TDA has already purchased two pieces of property on the corner of Harbor and Ball, formerly the site of a large RV park and an old service station. That property will be turned into a few thousand Cast Member parking spaces, plus a satellite command center to be used by park executives and security teams in the event of a major earthquake or emergency in the parks. Once that lot has been developed for CM use next fiscal year, then the Pumbaa plans can go forward in conjunction with Anaheim’s streetcar project. For anyone who has tried to find a place to park on a busy Sunday afternoon, it won’t be soon enough.

The Future of Fantasy

While TDA works on infrastructure beyond the parks, there are a few smaller projects inside the parks that were turned back on after the budget freeze this past winter. The Alice In Wonderland refurbishment will tackle more than just the outdoor track portion, as the plussing up of the interior show scenes got the green light. New animatronics with projected faces and much more fluid animation than the 1980’s figures they replace will debut when the ride reopens in early July. And just after summer, Peter Pan’s Flight will be the next dark ride scheduled to close for a major show refurbishment. More of the projected animatronics will be installed, replacing the rather clunky moving manequins from the last major upgrade the ride got in 1983, plus new digital projections, and upgraded audio and lighting. Following in quick succession for heavy refurbishment will then be Mr. Toad and Snow White and Pinocchio, so that by the spring of ’15 all five of Fantasyland’s classic dark rides will hopefully have been thoroughly refreshed. While the Alice rehab is taking six months due to the safety work, the other dark rides will only be closed for about 60 days each to install their new show scenes prebuilt off-site at WDI’s production facility.

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The other in-park project to get turned back on recently was the plan we’d told you about back in 2012 to build a themed alleyway behind the eastern flanks of Main Street USA. The new alley would allow easier access into and out of the park during parades and fireworks, as well as update the older facilities along the route like the lockers, First Aid and the Baby Care Center. A similar project got the green light in WDW recently, although as part of a much broader plan to massively expand the pedestrian areas in the Magic Kingdom’s Central Plaza Hub to allow for up-charged dessert buffets and Fastpass+ viewing for parades and fireworks. Disneyland’s plan is really more about smoothing the flow of traffic in and out of the park, especially now that DCA next door is pulling in just over 10 Million visitors per year.

MiceChat Podcast

Our latest podcast is literally a walk in the park. Doug, David and Dusty wander Disneyland’s historic trails and byways and share lots of fun info and stories along the way. We also chat with some MicePod listeners about their experiences in the park.  Then we teleport back to the MicePod studios to discuss the ride count at Disneyland Resort versus Walt Disney World. Which resort wins?  It’s a fun and lively show which will leave you wanting to book a trip to the parks.

iTunes  |   Direct Download

Oh-kay – that the scoop for now. It’s not the glowing news of new attractions and shows that you may have hoped for, but it’s not really bad news either. Some marginal improvements will be made in time for the 60th anniversary of Disneyland and the groundwork is being laid for future resort expansion.

What do you make of the executive shuffle at the Disneyland Resort. Do you have high hopes for Mary? What changes would you like to see her advocate for the future of Walt’s original Magic Kingdom?

About Al Lutz

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. The MiceAge news Editor can be reached at: [email protected]

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  • blisscape

    Great upday! Really cool to see how improvements are panning out.

  • bork bork

    What a depressing forecast for the domestic parks. But thanks for the insider info nonetheless. My family used to go to WDW or Disneyland twice a year, but now we haven’t been in almost two years. Not sure when we’ll be back.

  • Jeff2Stras

    “Disneyland Resort Hotels VP Daniel Delcourt will return back to France with a promotion to head up Disneyland Resort Paris”

    As a french Disney fan, can you tell me more ? As I understand your sentence, Daniel Delcourt is going to take the job of Philippe Gas at the head of EuroDisney ?!?

  • Lakerfan3224

    I have a feeling that anything Star Wars related is getting postponed because they want to deal with the parking situation first. By dealing with the parking situation, they would be able to finally build another park and put a large scale Star Wars Land to compete with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Putting Star Wars Land in Tomorrowland would be a mistake since they would have limited space.

    • Peoplemover Priit

      That’s my hope. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars, but it’s not right for Tomorrowland. A space of their own would be much more fitting.

    • mondo

      Agreed. Hopefully Disney realize this and wont have a large scale Star Wars additions in TL. New attractions that are temporary/ small scale would work fine. Like a new Jedi show, TL ( not Tatooine) Cantina/ character dinning, and a show to replace EO. Nothing major that would rip out classic/ long time TL rides or completely retheme TL.

  • LoveStallion

    Great update. Very informative. Thanks for the work you put into it.

    I guess I don’t have the same unconditional love for Mary Niven. Don’t get me wrong – the DCA makeover has been a rousing success – but I would have enjoyed the previously planned Walt Disney film over a restaurant. And let’s not pretend that was some noble move on Mary’s part. The restaurant might be nice, but any executive knows it’s a stronger move for the bottom line to include a fee-inducing attraction as opposed to a wonderful, free movie.

    Regarding the subs, I have a plea for the writers of the weekly columns here on MiceChat: your work is wonderful and we all enjoy it, but, as has been pointed out in this article, nothing is going to change with the subs anytime soon, so stop wasting your server space and our browser cache with the same photos of subs in still life. If there’s an update worth mentioning, then by all means, mention it, but otherwise, it’s not news. I’m not trying to be curmudgeonly or anything; I just don’t understand a weekly “update” involving the subs when it’s clear there will be nothing to update until the end of FY2014.

    I’m glad to hear the dark rides will still get some love. They deserve it.

    • disneyland255

      I couldn’t agree more on the topic of the subs. If there’s nothing to report on, why report on nothing. Use the space for actual news.

    • Westsider

      A movie about Walt Disney. Now that the facility is two years old, that movie would have been playing to about four people per show now, and two of them would have walked out after five minutes. I’m a Walt fan (obviously), don’t get me wrong. But if Mary canned yet another Walt tribute that even WDI was having a hard time getting excited about, then she’s a smart lady.

      Try getting a reservation for Carthay this Saturday night (I just checked online, they are booked solid) and then tell me that a Walt movie playing to an empty theater every 20 minutes would have been a better option for the majority of park guests.

      • I agree with you. While we would all like to think that a Walt Disney movie attraction would be popular, the truth is that it would likely sit empty most of the time (at least after all the passholders had seen it once). Just ask Golden Dreams, Seasons of the Vine, Tough to be a Bug and Muppets 3D. While it would likely work well at the Walt Disney Family Museum, that’s not the sort of stuff people go to the theme parks for these days. At least a well themed restaurant which sets the tone of a land is something to be proud of.

      • BradyNBradleysMom

        I think the era of making these little movies to show is long gone. In the age of iPhones and iPads and YouTube and video on-demand, what need is there for people to go watch a movie in a theme park?

        An animatronic show I can see. Heck, even a puppet show. That’s something more than what you can watch on your mobile device any time you want.

        I’ve been to both DLR and WDW many times and I have never even watched any of the movies that play in various places. And that was even before YouTube and the ability to watch these things any time I want.

        However, I always enjoy the Hall of Presidents and the Lincoln shows. I like the Country Bear Show too. I’ve always thought that Disney is just incredibly stupid for not building a restaurant in the parks that’s like a Chuck-E-Cheese or the Jekyll Hyde Club in New York (I think that’s the name). This would be a restaurant where you sit and eat in the air conditioning and then here and there little animatronic and live actor mini-shows happen and props and things come to life. Kind of like Adventurers Club but on a smaller scale. I would love to have a meal in there and would pay top dollar for the experience, and it’s a delightful break from the heat and crowds for a little bit.

        To me an experience like that in both Disneyland and DCA would be so much more preferable than a movie. To me Carthay Circle is a little too fancy but I am glad it is there. Each park should have at least one fancy dining option for people who like that or who are having a special occasion. I enjoy going to Blue Bayou every third or fourth trip we make to DLR. It’s a splurge for us, but I love it. If they had a restaurant at DLR that was elaborately themed like Be Our Guest and had some kind of animatronic show here and there with fun interactive elements like that at Disneyland we would probably eat there every trip.

      • Cory Gross

        I wish they had made the Carthay Circle an actual theatre to show Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. You know, recreate the premiere night. That sort of thing.

        THAT would have been amazing, and yes, I would totally take an hour and a half out of a vacation to watch it on a big screen.

      • LoveStallion

        I agree with you. Like I said, a high-quality restaurant is way better for the bottom line than some flick, but those movies are part of the little touches that make Disney parks fun. How often do I see Mr. Lincoln or did I see the Walt Disney Story? Not very often, but sometimes it was nice to know it’s there. Walk Disney possessed such great childlike wonder for the world around him. I wish we could replicate that.

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  • WDWorldly

    Park Vue is a decent, affordable motel for tourists run by small business owners with a relatively inoffensive “mission-style” facade. Its a shame that the neighboring, abominable “Captain Kidd’s Buffet” and ugly Best Western won’t be a casualty of the eminent domain acquisitions instead.

    • billyjobobb

      That buffet was one of the nastiest I ever had. How it’s still there is quite the question.

    • flayrah

      TDR needs parking space. That’s fine. But to coerce the city of Anaheim to do their ‘dirty work’ by enacting eminent domain over existing, viable properties just because Disney wants the land is rapacious. It’s true Capt’n Kidds is by most accounts disgusting and a sore on the ‘entry’ to TDR, but the Park Vue Inn is well maintained with a partially-themed facade that is by no accounts an eyesore or detriment to the Disney experience. We all know one of Walt Disney’s regrets was the inability to purchase more land during the construction of Disneyland, so he would have control over the approach and entry. Today, if the company really wanted to provide an entry experience, they would purchase parking lot land from current ‘for sale’ properties and create an entry facility with bus service similar to WDW Airport Express, or even re-evaluate the opportunities for people mover and monorail. This would also allow for employee parking to take over some current on-site guest parking, as guests would be directed to the new parking/transport facility and themed, controlled approach experience rather than continued expansion of parking around the resort and the devouring of small businesses. Of course the billions that might be necessary for such an improved and controlled entry experience might already be ‘invested’ in MagicPass….

      • HollywoodF1

        The City of Anaheim is not coerced. They do what is in their greater interest. If it is not, they do not do it.

        Disneyland and Anaheim are a married couple where both entities are viable on their own. But Disneyland has no intention of pulling out of Anaheim, and Anaheim has no intention of pulling the rug on Disneyland. They do not always see eye to eye, but for the most part, they live in symbiotic harmony.

    • CCS

      Hear, hear regarding Captain Kidd’s. It was/is, by far, the worst food I have ever eaten while visiting Disneyland, and I have been coming for decades. Since it occupies such prime real estate, I have always hoped that something else would take over that location. Alas, nothing so far.

      • HollywoodF1

        I have to know– what in the world were you expecting? Anyone should be able to make that judgement from the sidewalk.

  • Nland316

    I’m pretty happy that the Star Wars plans are shelved! Hopefully they are replaced by something actually fitting for Tomorrowland! Not set in the past.

    • Star Wars plans aren’t canceled. They are just on ice and may not return as originally planned. There is too much riding on that franchise for Disney to do nothing with it in the parks. I’m sure we’ll hear more about Star Wars soon enough. Though, I’d much rather see Star Wars in a third park rather than in Tomorrowland. Same for Marvel, save it for the 3rd park.

      • mondo

        It is good to hear that you prefer Star Wars and Marvel for a 3rd park.

  • Algernon

    I enjoy hearing about the progress, or lack of progress, on the Subs. Please continue to keep us posted. I hope they can be brought back as the original Submarine Voyage.

    Walt Disney’s opening address said, “here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” Star Wars is not the promise of the future. Tomorrowland should be a showcase for the wonderful things that (hopefully) lie ahead. Star Wars is at the end of the product life cycle. It is the equivalent of Walt Disney having made the original Tomorrowland “Buck Rogers Land.” They should make Tomorrowland into a place where you can go to feel like you are in the future, not in an old sci-fi film.

    • Internitty

      While I do not want to see Tomorrowland turned into Star Wars Land, it strikes me as odd that people say Star Wars is at the end of it’s life cycle or other words to that effect. With 3 new sequels planned, one currently in production and the next already in development plus a series of off shoot films planned, how is Star Wars at the end of it’s cycle? If anything the franchise is about to enter a whole new phase and if the new Star Trek films, which are made by the same director as the first of the new Star Wars films, are anything to go by this will be a highly successful relaunch, one that might even take the bad taste of episodes 1-3 out of fan’s mouths.

    • El Bandolero

      Star Wars is one of the top merchandise franchises currently; most recent data has it at over $1B in annual sales, second onto the Disney Princess franchise.

      This is when there hasn’t been a new movie in nearly 10 years.

      With multiple new movies coming out in the next few years that are hugely anticipated, your comment that it is at the end of its life cycle makes no sense.

      • El Bandolero

        *Second only to the Disney Princess franchise.

    • Make no mistake, Star Wars is going to be gigantic for Disney in many categories: Film, theme parks, merchandise, licensing, etc. This is a cash cow for Disney which is only going to get bigger as the films are released.

    • Marko50

      Wait…what? Star Wars does not belong in Tomorrowland because it’s not the promise of the future…yet the Subs should be brought back? How exactly are *they* the promise of the future?

  • phruby

    Why no mention of the new Star Wars Studio group formed over at WDI to create a big version of Star Wars land for Disneyland and the other parks? Where is the mention of Scott Trowbrige taking over the portfolio management for Disneyland?

    http://www.slashfilm.com/scott-trowbridge-disneyland-star-wars/

  • DuckyDelite

    Thanks for another great update. Keep ’em coming!

    I was hoping there would be some information about Scott Trowbridge. The press releases I’ve read were a little confusing. It sounded like he was going to be in charge of Star Wars and Disneyland. If Mary is taking over DL, who will be taking over DCA?

    Also, talk about burying the lead….”Avatarland for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it appears, has now been scaled back to one flying simulator ride, a handful of shops, and a restaurant.”

    Was this already mentioned before?! They cut the water ride? If so, this is a major fail for Disney. The only major US construction for Disney parks for the next 3 years is a flight simulator?

  • disfa10

    I hate to be rude but SHDL WDW PARIS HONGKONG and TDR are all getting TLC’s now woth Tokyo’s 4.8Billion Dollar Upgrade and expansions,plus Hongkong Disney Resort is about tp open a new offering each year and Paris WDS and Disneyland parc introducing new entairtainment and re imagined WDS with walt Disney Worlds Avatarland and newfantasyland and Dont forget Disney Springs plus the My Magic+ rollout.And dont forget The last but not the least Shanghai Disneylands 800 million dollars expansion before opening with more attractions and shows in the opening.and These things are real facts and not rumours being cancelled because of I dont know maybe a MM+ failure etc.
    making excuses on something.

  • MikeT1975

    As long as Disney is not making major changes to its domestic parks, it is a great time to visit competing parks as they continue to add attraction after attraction. I wonder how many other people are thinking along the same line…

    • stitch1085

      Yes indeed! My friend and I are considering staying at the new Universal hotel instead of a WDW property. There is no real benefit anymore to staying at a resort especially if ALL park guests (regardless of whether you stay at a hotel or not) are allowed the same fast pass entitlements. The Disney Shuttle is a joke, we rented a car our last trip and it was WORTH EVERY PENNY! We are ineligible for the Disney Dining Plan since we have Premier passes (you have to book entire vacation packages WITH THEME PARK ADMISSION to enjoy that perk). It’s ridiculous, what are the selling points of staying at a Disney property? Get crammed on a 45 minute bus ride to and from your hotel! Enjoy Fastpass+ just like EVERYONE else in the park! I’m not saying I want to be treated like a king but come on, give me a solid reason to stay on property. Now, we are seeing a reduction in new offerings, period. Why bother going to WDW at all at this point when Universal is just crushing it with new stuff consistently.

  • zeitzeuge

    You know, not every MiceChat update like this can be full of incredible news and announcements of numerous new attractions and upgrades, etc. Sometimes, it’s the small things like better parking improvements, upgrades to some of our beloved dark rides and shift in management that looks to be quite promising, to help me still believe that at least for Disneyland Parks, the resort is on the right track. I now we might lose Subs, which would be sad. I never realized how expensive it was to maintain, with such a low ride per hour. I know some day the improvements will be made once we get out of the hole that Magic+ has put all parks in. Eventually we’ll get new rides, improved areas and hopefully with Mary at the helm at DL, a better CM and Customer experience. I’m optimistic and try not to see the doom and gloom in every report.

    I appreciate what news you bring, whether major or small. It’s all good to me.

  • bayouguy

    Mary Niven is old school Disneyland. This bodes well for Disneyland. Hope she can withstand Meg’s poison apples.

  • faerla

    I’m excited for the fantasyland refurbishments, and OVERJOYED that Star Wars “Tomorrow” land has been shelved. I have no problem with a Star Wars land, but it should NOT take over Tomorrowland.

    However, if they change the star scene in Peter Pan, I will quite literally have a total mental breakdown. I get the figure upgrades, but that moment when you sail through the stars over the island is pure magic and couldn’t possibly be enhanced with modern technology.

    The unbelievably jerky ending, however…

  • OprylandUSA

    PLUS, add the fact that Tom Fitzgerald is becoming Creative Director at Epcot for a major re-Imagineering of Epcot “looking to restore the original intent of the park in both Future World and World Showcase.”

    • Sifferz

      That sounds absolutely wonderful!

    • CaptainAction

      Yes, but with a just enough budget to retheme the bathrooms. Or scatter some Easter eggs around.

  • EC82

    Disneyland has turned into an absolute mess. During Spring Break, a visitor would find the submarines, Indiana Jones, Big Thunder, It’s a Small World and Alice in Wonderland all closed, with rides breaking down regularly. Disney is spending pretty millions on its deep-pocket-guests-only Club 33 expansion, but won’t re-open the submarines?! The park is, frankly, filthy. Not just untidy or messy, but downright filthy in many places. Temporary, carnival-style ropes are used to create additional queue areas, even while ACTUAL queue areas are closed off for unknown reasons (Exhibit A: Buzz Lightyear). The park is horribly understaffed, and the cast members who ARE working are either poorly trained, unaware of their role in helping guests, or so completely overwhelmed that they don’t have the ability to be polite. Every major area is JAMMED with guests, who are shoehorned into the parks despite the ride closures, and of course the majority of those guests are annual pass holders who do things like hang out with pin-trading books or sit wherever they’d like and enjoy their KFC from outside the parks. I mean, the place has turned into EXACTLY the kind of ugly, carny-style environment that it was designed to counteract. I hope these new executives will be able to do something about it, but until Lasseter, Iger and senior executives put on bermuda shorts, baseball hats and sunglasses, drive THEMSELVES to the Mickey & Friends structure, open their wallets and pay their (un-reimbursed) cash, then try to enjoy a day at Disneyland on their own, I don’t think anything will really actually change. Sadly.

  • EC82

    One other thing — instead of adding a whole “alley” to Main Street to accommodate guests, why not just look at limiting the number of guests who can visit Disneyland daily? You can get sold out at a movie, a play, a baseball game, pretty much any public event — why not make it so Disneyland actually has a capacity each day?

    • Westsider

      There is a daily capacity, and it’s reached quite regularly the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s. Spend an hour out at the Main Entrance getting yelled at by tourists and locals incensed that Disney won’t let them into the park on the busiest day of the year and you’ll never forget that there is a park capacity. In my CM role I’ve had the ability to provide backup to those Main Entrance CM’s when the guests get violent or verbally abusive when the gates are closed. It’s not pretty.

      Disneyland has a capacity, and they’ll risk violent guests hurling dirty insults at elderly lady ticket taker CM’s to maintain it. But they also use the free market system to maintain capacity by raising ticket prices when attendance trends too high long-term. A ticket price increase for both AP’s and day visitors is on the way sooner than later.

      • EC82

        If they have a capacity, then DON’T SELL MORE TICKETS THAN YOU HAVE CAPACITY. This isn’t an airline.

  • sorceress1986

    While I’m sorry to hear about the current budget issues, I get it, and will just have to live with it.

    For some reason, it doesn’t bug me all that much. I do my best to hope that things, like you said, will eventually even out and we’ll be back on track. It’s not like they have to close the parks entirely or anything ridiculous like that. (I’ve been looking at too many slideshows of abandoned theme amusement parks. lol)

    It’ll all come in due course. Hate to be religious on my first actually article comments, but all in God’s time, al things happen for a reason, etc.

    And it appears a lot of logistical stuff, like parking and the Main Street alleyways are still coming down the line, so that’s progress enough for me.

  • tooncity

    Eventually, Disney will gobble up all the little Hotels and Restaurants on harbor using the City’s eminent domain as an excuse. It’s just a matter of time.
    Really is disappointing to hear that we’ll be stuck with the New, New Tomorrowland from 1998 beyond the 20 years after it was slapped together. Closing the subs without a replacement, smacks of Eisner, Pressler and Harris. It’s really a slap in the face to every customer.
    Datedland, is in desperate need of some major updates/New attractions in every section of the park. The glory days of opening Fantasmic, Star Tours, Splash Mtn, Toontown and Indy; all within a few years of each other, almost sounds mythological. Yes, they really did that at one time.
    If attendance would really drop at Datedland, projects would be approved at light-speed. I’m afraid they’re too many lemmings who wouldn’t give up their Annual Pass. The place is just old/dated/stale; and not worth the money for a family of 4 to spend $500 a day for 8 hours of everything they’ve done for the last 20 years.
    Yes, let’s hear it from the Disney religious fanatics. You’re the reason why Burbanks feels like they can get away with it.

  • Erik Olson

    It would have been interesting to have Carthay show trailers, BTS newsreels and excerpts from Snow White, a la SciFi Diner. I’ve eaten too many meals to that same loop in Florida, but the restaurant is regularly full of eager guests.

  • Sifferz

    Mary sounds like a remarkably perfect fit for the position, the dark ride enhancements sound wonderful, and reading this made me start to see the light at the end of the tunnel for when MyMagic+ stops being a money vacuum and simply exists over on the east coast. Brightest outlook I’ve read for the park here in awhile 🙂

  • MarkW

    Any timeline on the construction of the alley behind Main Street?

  • danielz6

    I agree with the comments on the theater. We all love Walt and his legacy, but that’s what the statue out front is for. And of course snow white is a gem. However making the theater a restaurant was the right choice. A film about Walt or snow white would’ve lasted maybe a year then become just wasted space. The food and experience in the restaurant is phenomenal, comparable to SS Columbia in Tokyo. Its one of the best additions to DCA 2.0 imo right along cars and WOC. DCA needed it’s own blue bayou and that’s exactly what CCR is. And the story of Walt and snow whites premier is tactifully told everywhere you look in the restaurant.

    • ayalexander

      Carthay Circle Restaurant being DCA’s own blue bayou? They aren’t even comparable. CCR would have to be located within an attraction. I am excited about the new parking structure set to be built on Pumbaa. Besides, all of the motels along harbor across from the drop off zone have improved their appearances and look nicer, all except Park Vue Inn and the IHOP restaurant. Those two buildings are an eye sore, and I’m glad they are on the demo list. But you what’s odd? I wonder why Disney is keeping the toy story and cast member lots free for future development (theme park wise). Why not have the city bulldoze the properties within the Harbor/Disney Way/Manchester boundary and let TDA build a third park there so it can be close to the main gates of Disneyland. Have Harbor Blvd go slightly underground, so they can build a large bridge to connect the esplanade to the third park gate. Then Katella Cast Member lot can have a massive parking structure built on it, and the same with an additional parking structure on Toy Story lot, and build a Peoplemover with enclosed cabins that constantly transport guests to and from the new structure. While cast members still get to use a shuttle system.

    • ayalexander

      Carthay Circle Restaurant being DCA’s own blue bayou? They aren’t even comparable. CCR would have to be located within an attraction. I am excited about the new parking structure set to be built on Pumbaa. Besides, all of the motels along harbor across from the drop off zone have improved their appearances and look nicer, all except Park Vue Inn and the IHOP restaurant. Those two buildings are an eye sore, and I’m glad they are on the demo list. But you what’s odd? I wonder why Disney is keeping the toy story and cast member lots free for future development (theme park wise). Why not have the city bulldoze the properties within the Harbor/Disney Way/Manchester boundary and let TDA build a third park there so it can be close to the main gates of Disneyland. Have Harbor Blvd go slightly underground, so they can build a large bridge to connect the esplanade to the third park gate. Then Katella Cast Member lot can have a massive parking structure built on it, and the same with an additional parking structure on Toy Story lot, and build a Peoplemover with enclosed cabins that constantly transport guests to and from the new structure. While cast members still get to use a shuttle system.

  • heffalump

    Just visited Disneyland a few weeks ago and got there before 9 AM only to be redirected from the Mickey and Friends parking structure to a far distant parking lot without a shuttle. Is this part of the parking situation Disney is addressing?

    • ayalexander

      If all goes well, yes, this parking situation will be addressed and guests will no longer get taken too far off property.

  • wdwfan22

    Since Al retired you can really tell this site has lost it’s sources especially when reporting Walt Disney World news. Sad to see such a great site fall so hard.

    • Kidgenie

      Agreed.

  • Kidgenie

    Oh… Miceage. Somewhere along the way, you have jumped the shark. With blatant facts swirling about, you refuse to admit error in your information. I know you really want, in the biggest way, for Magic Bands to be this horrifically over budget and catastrophic guest failure, but its not. Now that everyone is using them….. OMG…. there are no massive lines at guest relations or resort front desk to handle and seemingly endless flow of complaints. In fact if you go, you here many complimentary things being said. Disney had an almost perfect transition to magic bands for its day guests, and the system is getting rave solid review from just about everywhere except Miceage. People do what more FP+, because THEY LIKE AND ENJOY the three they got. Fact…. Normal guest going to the WDW parks don’t want less FP+, they want MORE of it. And Disney is responding to that. But where is the article (Kevin Yee excluded) that says “They may have found a way for this to work, at least at WDW”. I mean you could still 100% sure it could never work at DL, but could you at least acknowledge it isn’t the end all be all disaster you been predicting and trying to sell?

    While you report of a spending freeze a few months ago because of MP+, coming from Bob himself, Bob Himself just approved an $800 budget expansion to the SHDL project. Increasing its opening day budget by nearly 20% and with assurances for the stockholders that this will be used for NEW construction and an beef up opening attractions line up and NOT for cost of construction overruns. And seriously, I tired of ever predictable story about XYZ Disney Construction project and how its “Its over budget and behind schedule”. Speaking off….

    The site continues to harp on the subs as being completely closed, first forever!. Better get your last ride in before January 2014!!!! Now all the massive signage in the park around the attraction that says otherwise so clearly it a labor savings ploy for 2014. Not to Mention Bob Iger specifically saying that the Sub would reopen, and that Star Wars Land is planned, but just not for that spot. I can only read so much about conspiracy theories…. and I have lost faith in the accuracy of this web site. I enjoy the chat forums but the rumor mill, and the spin this web site puts on it, is completely out of control.

    • tooncity

      A very defensive and a totally inaccurate description of what I’ve seen reported on this site. Kidgenie you have misrepresented the reports written on this site and changed the facts to support your irrational attack.

      As a Disneyland fan, I am disappointed in the total lack of investment in new attractions, lack of capacity and insane parking situation at the Datedland resort. The fact that Disney charges $500 for a family of 4, to spend 8 hours in a cramped park that hasn’t had a successful update or increase in capacity for over 20 years.

      As a Disney Stockholder, I love my price and I love my huge dividend. Thanks to pp who keep paying more for less.

      I on the other hand, gave up my Ap 10 years ago, you should too.

      • Kidgenie

        Its not an attack so much as it is view point, mine, on where this site has gone. I have used real examples and facts. I do not see by accident or intention, any misrepresentation of what is written on this site. Your statements accuse me have me being both very defensive and irrationally attacking. An odd mix to be accused of both. I will not return the volley. I don’t need to throw away anything away and you don’t need to throw your credentials at me. I certainly have not done so at you.

    • LoveStallion

      Wow. Shanghai got $800 more dollars? What’s that in yuan? Game changer.

    • SteveColorado

      Long-running debate but perhaps it is time to spin-off MiceAge so the WDW fanboys can have their own little site while keeping this DL-centric, as it has been since Al’s DIG days.

  • Klondike

    I for one don’t like the new projection heads. I think they just look strange. I’d rather see a nicely sculpted head with some animation.

    • ayalexander

      I don’t mind the projection heads, they look convincing sometimes, but i do prefer sculpted animatronic heads. Its weird to see “skin” illuminated like a tv set! Madame Leota is fine, she is supposed to appear supernatural, and the Cars mouths on RSR are fine. But c’mon Disney, don’t make a full projection head because you don’t want to cough up some dough for good animatronic animation.

  • donaldfan1

    What a wonderfully “Al” styled update. Thanks and great job!

  • Wyatt Hertz

    Some encouraging news here!

    Now, can we get rid of the jerks who still think the “One Disney” merchandising is anything less than ridiculous?

  • Herc

    Wish they could find land in CA for an Avengers Park since the Avengers are not allowed east of the Mississippi. Uni Studios Orlando has that and I don’t think they will be willing to give it up just yet. Grand plan for me would be a Star Wars Park in Florida and an Avengers Park in CA. Win-win for Disney fans. And not a lot of repetition.

  • 4Apples4Disney

    Excellent update! This column is ALWAYS something I look forward to, thank you for all the hard work it takes to put this together for the rest of us to enjoy.

  • dcaguy

    Oh boy Mary Niven is in charge of Disneyland now. Lets put Glowfest on Main street for the summer.

  • Baloo

    It will be nice if the trolley does happen. I would not be sadden to see the Park Vu Inn and Ihop go. I actually wish they would just do away with every cramped motel in that whole corner property from the McDonald down to DIsney Way.

    Turn this area into a new transportation hub for shuttles and buses that have access from DIsneyland drive. turn it into something that has lots of trees and a nice direct Pedestrian walkway that would have a direct access to the parks.

    It would also allow the city and DIsney to re-do Harbor Blvd so that it dips down, similar to what they did on the west side by DTD and then build a nice street level Bridge from this new buffer zone into the parks.

    right now the crossing on Harbor Blvd is such a nightmare and creates a dangerous situation for families with children. thousands of people cross cross that intersection from Ihop to the resort gates. It really makes no sense to have such a busy tourist destination and not have a proper crossing in this area

  • Baloo

    They could then even use the existing shuttle and bus area for a nice Hotel that would contain ticket booths and proper security gates into the property on the first level.

    this would eliminate the ticket booths and ugly tents that Flank the east side of the esplanade and allow for a small extension of Downtown DIsney for the east side of the property with another large DIsney merchandise store

  • nikalseyn

    It’s too bad the executive shuffle didn’t include the fool who decided to stop any help and/or funding to The Boy Scouts. After ten year of driving down to WDW twice a year and spending about $4k per visit in doing so, we finally had our chains pulled with that singularly arrogant political move. Enough is enough. We travel to the great West on vacations from now on.

  • TodAZ1
  • nerdycm

    The streetcar is a horrible idea from the standpoint of a CM, regular guest, and OC taxpayer. The streetcar will bottleneck Katella even further without even approaching the ridership of the low-use OCTA and ART buses.

    A structure at Pumba would be awesome but I kind of wish there was a way to privatize Harbor Blvd. Whether I park in Pumba as a guest or CM, I don’t like dodging the individuals with mental illness on Harbor. No tourists and CMs passing by have the training or means to help these individuals cope yet they’re still there. Ideally Anaheim and Orange County could transport them to a location that actually has personnel and resources to help them. Anaheim and Orange County simply doesn’t have that currently. The other upside to privatizing Harbor Blvd. would be restricting vehicle access to public transportation and Disney/ Harbor hotels logistics. Getting cars off Harbor would do wonders for cast shuttle, OCTA, and ART trip times.

  • DisWedWay

    Perhaps its Mary who could put the cap on the Cathay Circle Theater with the original neon sign that Walt saw when he first came. Its missing every time I look at it.

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