The park's management team of the mid-1990s was a tremendous source of contention to many Disneyland fans and employees. Headed by executives Cynthia Harriss and Paul Pressler, each with a retail marketing background, Disneyland's focus gradually changed from attractions to merchandising. The leaders came under increasing criticism for a host of cost cutting initiatives and profit boosting schemes.
Under their direction, few new attractions were built and many were closed down. Shops that once carried a variety of items themed to their locations now carried general Disney character products. Themed restaurants and shops were closed and replaced by outdoor vending carts which caused crowds to clog walkways. The decision to remodel Tomorrowland, derided by some fans, was attributable to Pressler, as was the closure of a great many popular attractions within the area. Dewitt "T" Irby, a retired U.S. Army officer hired as facilities manager, was blamed for the destruction of much of the tooling and attraction components in storage in the backstage areas in an effort to streamline operations as recommended by outside consultants.
After nearly a decade of deferred maintenance, Walt's original theme park was showing visible signs of neglect. Paint was peeling off buildings, burnt out light bulbs, which were once replaced before they could burn out, were so numerous as to make the facades they outlined look like toothless poor relations of their counter parts on reruns of the various Disney TV shows. Disney purists such as Internet columnist Al Lutz decried the perceived decline in customer value and park quality, and railed for the Pressler regime's dismissal.
In 2003, both Harriss and Pressler stepped down to take over operations of national clothing retailer The Gap. Irby stepped down the following year.