After every game, my favorite football team's chatboard posts a report card critically grading each squad's performance. Rather than just another trip report, I thought I'd do the same for DLR after my 3 days' visit last week.
Voices of Liberty, Minnie's Fly Girls (with the lip-moving, eye-blinking Minnie), Dapper Dans, WoC, Fantasmic, Mad T, Goofy's Instant Concert, the new venue for Billy Hill, Soundsational and Pixar parades, Phineas & Ferb, the fireworks, News Boys, BV Street characters...all are stellar. What a turnaround the Entertainment folks have achieved since the dark daze of Light Magic etc.
Uncharacteristically, DLR entertainment was the highlight of my trip.
Cars Land seems to have regained some area-specific merchandise quickly and the BV Street store doors were wide open again. The regrettable Candy store hostile takeover of the Penny Arcade is not as unwelcome as is the loss of being able to play its Disneyland Organ ..which is the death of an institution originating in 1955. (This needs to be memorialized on Yesterland.) Now it gathers dust taking up "precious" retail space; it'll be removed during the next remodel I'm sorry to wager.
But in general, stores were attractively stocked and merchandise well-displayed throughout both parks (and Downtown) and the CMs in them struck me as happy and super helpful.
The magicians in the Magic Shop were delightful as usual...but note: they're subcontractors and not CMs. I've wondered for a while now whether Starbucks knew about that precedent?
Didn't stay in a Disney property this trip. Care to offer your own grade here if you were there last week?
Never used the parking lot or trams this trip either. Care to offer your own grade here if you were there last week?
Wow, where to begin?
DLR attractions have become like Seattle weather: when it's working well it's wonderful, otherwise it's awful. But who moves to Seattle for the weather? In just 2½ days of casual meandering (not trying to "do" everything), the breakdowns encountered were STAGGERING: Indy (of course), Jungle Cruise (yes, Jungle Cruise), Space Mountain (twice), GRR, Star Tours 2, Racers (thrice), Buzz, Silly Symphony, HM, PoC, Splash Mountain, Soarin' and Pooh. It's as if MG Dewitt T. Irby, Jr. is still at TDA (shudder). Can Al use his inside contacts to glean some ride downtime info??? The MTBF (mean-time between failures) rate of DLR attractions is shrinking terribly.
Among the problems with breakdowns is that Fastpass holders over-accumulate during up-time. At GRR the FP Return line stretched to Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and doubled part way back. At Space Mt, the FP Return line stretched almost to the entrance of Pizza Port. At Soarin' the FP Return line curled to near the front of Taste Pilots' Grill. The Racers FP Distribution line at 8am already stretched past Carthay and closed for the day by 8:25am. (By the way, Racers didn't open until 11am that morning.) Then at HTT and Racers later in the evening, they enforced the FP closing time printed on the passes! Guests with FPs were turned away from both attractions and angrily went to Standby queues or left.
Worse is the effect that that has on the Stand-by line - horrendous! I haven't been in an FP attraction's Standby queue in years but I took the plunge and waited in Space Mountain's. I was ABSOLUTELY APPALLED at what I saw: because the line barely moves at even a crawl, guests' behavior goes downhill fast. I saw kids running up the sides of the slanted planter walls over Cpt. EO roof, climbing to the top, slipping falling, scraping themselves, parents playing chasing games with smaller children in the open area, teenagers wrestling, playing tag, sitting on (and in one case) breaking the queue chains, twirling a queue chain around and smacking the head of a toddler further back in line, splashing people at the drinking fountains, sitting on the railings, throwing things onto guests exiting to Cpt. EO and the Starcade.
The posted wait time was 45 minutes but was 80. You used to be able to set your watches by the wait time posted at the start of a line...no longer.
Does Tony Baxter or John Lasseter ever use a Standby queue?!?
I work the FP system very well and benefit from it tremendously, but I think it's worth resurrecting an old debate: DUMP THE FASTPASS SYSTEM. There is NO way the average queue time for the average guest on the average day is reduced...which entirely defeats its purpose. Is FP a legacy of the Pressler era??? (Because APs were blacked out, we repeatedly ran into guests who hadn't a clue about FPs. One family asked me if they had to pay extra to use that "line next to ours that doesn't have anybody in it.")
Quiz: What's the most heavily themed queue in DLR?
But hey, you wouldn't know that because the extensive queue is now just a lengthy walk in an empty hallway below the train tracks in order to allow for FPs. Now masses of people stack up outside the temple entrance which often creates further mobs at the Indy entrance which further congests an already crowded Adventureland...near the entrance to the treehouse which complicates matters yet further.
Lose FP and Single rider. DLR is a family show filled with adventures, not an carney park full of rides.
Anecdote: GRR loading stopped when 3 guests without shoes were about to board a raft. The posted wait time was 80 minutes and the FP return line was about 15. Nevertheless, the turntable halted as they sat down by their raft, fished socks and shoes out of their bags, and eventually got them on. Rafts accumulated at the turntable or were held before their drops, while everyone watched them put on their shoes. Guests overhead in the standby queue started hassling them, making them flustered, embarrassed and fumbling.
Does this seem like the Happiest Place On Earth to you?
FOOD SERVICE: C+
Business schools teach that a retail backlog equates to lost revenue, because approximately a third to half as many people as there are in the line are choosing not to wait.
Case in point: twice I saw the dole whip line stretch back almost to the Tiki Room exit stairs. Why?!? There are only 4 products sold there; how hard could it be to speed up the process of giving them out? Add one more machine and 2 CMs and they could quintuple its profits, reduce Adventureland's congestion and increase people's happiness. Can't they better predict that the number of say, pineapple spears sold today at 2pm will be near what it was that time on the same day a week ago and prepare better?
There are only a few types of sundaes sold at the Golden Horseshoe...why does each fulfillment feel like it's a custom-order and take FOREVER??? And what was all the fuss about training the Starbucks CMs?!? (They were dismal...I even gave them a second try a day later out of disbelief they could be so poor.) Has anyone ever been served by a speedy ODV CM?
We tend to harp about how profit-centric TDA has become, lamenting that it often translates to a lack of investment. For crying out loud, make some minmal investments in speeding up food order delivery and you will dramatically increase profits.
You get my point. Food quality will never please everybody, so at least make the service unquestionably great.
Highlights: At Carnation Cafe Oscar Martinez paid our table a lengthy, amiable visit and told us stories about Disneyland's early days. Also, 1901 feels like you're a guest in the living room of Walt & Lillian's Holmby Hills house after a ride on Walt's backyard train. Carthay's cuisine is pretentious, but the place will give Napa Rose a run for the money.
PARK MAINTENANCE/CONDITION: A-
Remember this era?: DISNEYLAND INFORMATION GUIDE - DisneylandBlues DLR is definitely NOT declining by degrees (although Splash Mountain is starting to echo its Orlando counterpart's woes). DCA has improved by leaps and bounds of course and Disneyland is in a fine fettle. Clean and fresh nearly everywhere. Still too many popcorn lights out on Main Street, too many queue railings with peeled off paint, too many dried gum splotches on the esplanade paver stones, and so on, but wow, what a place! It still really has such magic.
Any categories that I missed which still need a grade?
P.S. - My quintessential moment for the week came passing a guest by Soarin's exit and overheard him say on his phone "You're throwing away your money if you come here during the summer." We know that's not true when you learn how to make DLR work for you, but think how much that kind of word-of-mouth kills the effectiveness of TDA's huge marketing budget.