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  1. #1

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    Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Yes. Read it.

    According to a very reputable source, Lee MacDonald of Tales from the LP fanzine, Shanghai DL's design and development work will be outsourced in much the same model as UNI Creative now uses to save money.

    If the park, led by veteran Imagineer Bob Weis, turns out to be successful (and one would expect he'll hire a wide range of former WDI and UNI designers at rock bottom pay scale) you can kiss the WDI you've known since Walt created WED Enterprises a fond goodbye.

    Because that will be the model for the future. And WDI, a magical factory that has employed thousands as one time, will likely have a staff well under 100.

    So ... Michael Eisner killed Feature Animation (and it sure looks like it isn't staging a comeback) ... and Bob Iger may be known as the guy who killed WDI and made TWDC largely a content distribution company and not one that largely creates.

    ~Pass the Pixie Dust ... and Make It a Double!~

  2. #2

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    thousands of dreams of becoming an imagineer crushed....

  3. #3

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    As far as what this means for the Shanghai park's quality, I'm not too concerned. You can't do much worse (by Disney standards) than what WDI has done in recent years with DCA, WDSP & HKDL. And look at UniCreative's latest output (Wizarding World) - it's pretty spectacular. At the same time, Uni Singapore was created under this outsourcing model and its execution is 2-3 notches below the Disney standard... so maybe this is something to worry about.

    Many of my favorite senior design & development people (Horney, Goozee, Delaney, Nina Rae Vaugn, Jowers, Kirk, Armitage, Paul Comstock, Freer, Gilleon, Johnston, Jafari, etc., etc.) were all let go from WDI and will hopefully be utilized for Shanghai, if this outsourcing thing happens. Their fees are premium, not rock bottom, but Disney saves by not paying them once SDL is done.

    ***

    What concerns me most about this change in the WDI business model is the lineage/passing of wisdom & knowledge (i.e., from Marc Davis --> Tony Baxter --> Younger generation). Someone else brought up Bob Gurr and the DL monorail fiasco as a good example of this. The Yeti blunder is another example. Maybe, an older, more experienced Imagineer could have foreseen that issue. There is tremendous value to the intellectual capital that these senior Imagineers have acquired over decades... probably worth keeping them on the payroll. Was it John Hench who said of DCA, "I liked it better as a parking lot." As an executive at WED, Hench had sway within the company (under Walker) - the kind of sway seems to be long gone from WDI. Now WDI simply follows executive directives from managers who don't understand what makes great theme parks (Pressler, Rasulo) and they've become adept at turning things like the Living Seas into things like Finding Nemo.

    I'm also concerned about the WDI library of artwork, models, blueprints, etc. Even if this drastic reduction happens, I hope that the Morgue is sustained in perpetuity as the ultimate resource in park design & development.

    Theme parks are not a growth business (or even a steady one, like Hollywood films). New (Disney) parks and rides come in spurts and are hugely expensive and risky investments. And WDI continually displays that, while they are the good with design, they are not very efficient in their use of dollars (i.e. Fantasyland expansion projected to be more costly than Potterland).

    ***

    You mention, "if Shanghai is a success." Disney opening a successful theme park has become a very rare occurrence in the last 20 years. It will be interesting to see if non-employee consultants can tell management what they've been doing wrong since they won't have to be the job-preserving yes-men they might be if employed with the company.

    Pressler: 'The Chinese will embrace a $450m park with 12 attractions, won't they?'
    WDI: 'Yes, sir, and we can save even more money by replicating Main St & the castle; we'll call it an homage.'

    Rasulo: 'What can we do to improve WDSP attendance?'
    WDI: 'There's a Toy Story movie coming up, how about we dress up some flat rides with plastic toys.'

    Hopefully, that component of WDI will not be involved with Shanghai.
    Last edited by RandySavage; 08-05-2010 at 11:19 PM.

  4. #4

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    It's all about the darn money again, isn't it? A bunch of Scrooge McDucks they are.

    Disney must be turning in his fridge... again.

  5. #5

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    I don't know about this... I guess I'll believe it if I see it.


    Where did he report this? I'm curious to read it myself.

  6. #6

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post
    As far as what this means for the Shanghai park's quality, I'm not too concerned. You can't do much worse (by Disney standards) than what WDI has done in recent years with DCA, WDSP & HKDL. And look at UniCreative's latest output (Wizarding World) - it's pretty spectacular. At the same time, Uni Singapore was created under this outsourcing model and its execution is 2-3 notches below the Disney standard... so maybe this is something to worry about.
    The only concern I have for the park is capital. Weis is an excellent leader and will hire the best team available, mostly comprised of former Imagineers. His fixes for DCA will undoubtedly prove to be the much-needed revamp it has needed since day one. I only hope that Disney has learned its lesson from DCA and HKDL and won't cheapen out with Shanghai.

    Many of my favorite senior design & development people (Horney, Goozee, Delaney, Nina Rae Vaugn, Jowers, Kirk, Armitage, Paul Comstock, Freer, Gilleon, Johnston, Jafari, etc., etc.) were all let go from WDI and will hopefully be utilized for Shanghai, if this outsourcing thing happens. Their fees are premium, not rock bottom, but Disney saves by not paying them once SDL is done.
    Actually, even with premium fees being charged, Disney still saves during the project because the tax structure for consultant labor is different, plus benefits like health care and paid vacations and holidays don't factor in.

    What concerns me most about this change in the WDI business model is the lineage/passing of wisdom & knowledge (i.e., from Marc Davis --> Tony Baxter --> Younger generation). Someone else brought up Bob Gurr and the DL monorail fiasco as a good example of this. The Yeti blunder is another example.Maybe, an older, more experienced Imagineer could have foreseen that issue.
    I thought "an older, more experienced Imagineer" was overseeing the EE project (Joe Rohde).

    While I agree with the premise of keeping old school Imagineers to teach the younger generation, I don't believe having the old school continuously present will prevent fiascos like the DL monorail and the Yeti from happening.

    In the case of the monorail, TDA needed only one man to help them with this problem, Bob Gurr. It was very specific knowledge that Gurr had, which the re-engineering team needed. Bob was ready and willing to help them, but the team arrogantly didn't think he was needed. That's far different than keeping the old school guys around to train and educate the new kids.

    In many situations, such as the one with the Yeti, having the old school guys on the project doesn't necessarily guarantee smooth sailing.

    There is tremendous value to the intellectual capital that these senior Imagineers have acquired over decades... probably worth keeping them on the payroll.
    But there aren't many of them left, and I'm not necessarily convinced that keeping them in permanent full-time positions is the best use of their time and Disney's money. Make them available as needed, certainly. But if everything is going to be outsourced in the future, then who, exactly, will be receiving their years of wisdom and experience during the downtimes? The consultants? They'll be gone. Why would the old school need to remain between projects if there's no one around to train during those times?

    Was it John Hench who said of DCA, "I liked it better as a parking lot." As an executive at WED, Hench had sway within the company (under Walker) - the kind of sway seems to be long gone from WDI. Now WDI simply follows executive directives from managers who don't understand what makes great theme parks (Pressler, Rasulo) and they've become adept at turning things like the Living Seas into things like Finding Nemo.
    First off, don't get me started on the Nemo overlay for Living Seas. I'm one of the few people I know who actually likes the treatment, because of how it hooks the young kids into learning something about the oceans. Anything that gets their attention to want to engage their brains and learn something new is a winner in my book. I see more kids actually engaging with the exhibits now than with the previous Sea Base Alpha theme. (Plus, Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Pixar films.)

    As for managers not understanding what they're in charge of (Pressler, Rasulo, Staggs, et al), that's quite correct. Say what you will about Michael Eisner and the bad decisions he made for Disney. With regard to the parks and Imagineering, Michael got it. He understood about the process, and what made a good, repeatable attraction. Too bad he was overly concerned with using the parks and resorts as the company's ATM machine.

    I'm also concerned about the WDI library of artwork, models, blueprints, etc. Even if this drastic reduction happens, I hope that the Morgue is sustained in perpetuity as the ultimate resource in park design & development.
    I have the same concerns as well. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that the Disney Archives and possibly the Morgue will be ransacked in the future to fill a museum of Disney's own making. The lure of taking those items and housing them for fee-based viewing is too enticing. I think Iger is somewhat envious of what Diane Disney Miller and her team have done with the WDFM in San Francisco. I could see Disney building their own high-tech interactive museum in SoCal, and stuff it with all of these items currently stashed away. Who could blame them? I love the WDFM, and the thought of a Disney Archives museum is also quite appealing.

    If designed and built correctly, Disney could make a small fortune.

    Theme parks are not a growth business (or even a steady one, like Hollywood films). New (Disney) parks and rides come in spurts and are hugely expensive and risky investments. And WDI continually displays that, while they are the good with design, they are not very efficient in their use of dollars (i.e. Fantasyland expansion projected to be more costly than Potterland).
    Which is precisely why the themed entertainment industry has been embracing this model for the past decade. Disney is late to the game; it was always a matter of time before they embraced it as well.

    You mention, "if Shanghai is a success." Disney opening a successful theme park has become a very rare occurrence in the last 20 years. It will be interesting to see if non-employee consultants can tell management what they've been doing wrong since they won't have to be the job-preserving yes-men they might be if employed with the company.

    Pressler: 'The Chinese will embrace a $450m park with 12 attractions, won't they?'
    WDI: 'Yes, sir, and we can save even more money by replicating Main St & the castle; we'll call it an homage.'

    Rasulo: 'What can we do to improve WDSP attendance?'
    WDI: 'There's a Toy Story movie coming up, how about we dress up some flat rides with plastic toys.'

    Hopefully, that component of WDI will not be involved with Shanghai.
    I have confidence in Bob Weis and his team to deliver a quality park.

    I have less confidence in Iger and his team to have learned the lessons of going too cheap from day one with DCA and HKDL.

    In the end, I believe Shanghai will be a solid park, hopefully better than HKDL at opening.
    "Dope smoking insects and reckless driving always work." -- Cousin Orville

  7. #7

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    ^ As someone who likes the design process more than the end product, I would definitely visit the WDI museum!

    What do you think about the Chinese partners in Shanghai seeing the mistakes made in HKDL?

    In HK, the Chinese owners are resistant to investment (having to answer to the taxpayers who are co-financing HKDL). But the park is so desperately in need of more rides, that HK greenlit a pretty massive expansion. If I were part of the Shanghai consortium, I would look at the money losing HK project and say, "what mistakes did they make and how can we avoid them?"

    Isn't it clear, even to a Chinese businessman with no knowledge of theme parks, that HK's major problem is that there are no big draws, that it was built on the cheap, with - most importantly - not enough to do (attractions). No elaborate queues or pre-shows leading to staple, immersive Disney attractions. No compelling experiences (it's 3 biggest rides Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise and Small World have Six Flags switchback queues - underscoring the importance of building the experience through queue and pre-show).

    I would also want to differentiate my Shanghai park in every way possible from HK for a number of obvious reasons.

    For these reasons, I have some hope for SDL.

  8. #8

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    WDI has been gone for quite some time now.


  9. #9

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post

    Because that will be the model for the future. And WDI, a magical factory that has employed thousands as one time, will likely have a staff well under 100.

    So ... Michael Eisner killed Feature Animation (and it sure looks like it isn't staging a comeback) ... and Bob Iger may be known as the guy who killed WDI and made TWDC largely a content distribution company and not one that largely creates.
    Well Disney is now being outdone in animation...so...

    And if the outsourced firms can do things better than WDI can...

    But you know this Spirit, sometimes companies get a bit too big and bloated in their ways. If this means WDI can get streamlined and back on track, maybe it is a good thing. Their method of binge & purge their lower staff on each park while retaining only high-paid execs hasn't had a great record as of late, (depending on the park execs "buying" from them of course).

    It certainly isn't the first outsourcing. It is just the biggest. Not defending it...just adding. Former Imagineers can still add the same value they did before, this time just representing their own firms for a more affordable price.

    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post

    Many of my favorite senior design & development people (Horney, Goozee, Delaney, Nina Rae Vaugn, Jowers, Kirk, Armitage, Paul Comstock, Freer, Gilleon, Johnston, Jafari, etc., etc.) were all let go from WDI and will hopefully be utilized for Shanghai, if this outsourcing thing happens.
    Yup.


    What concerns me most about this change in the WDI business model is the lineage/passing of wisdom & knowledge (i.e., from Marc Davis --> Tony Baxter --> Younger generation). Someone else brought up Bob Gurr and the DL monorail fiasco as a good example of this. The Yeti blunder is another example. Maybe, an older, more experienced Imagineer could have foreseen that issue.
    Good point.

    I'm also concerned about the WDI library of artwork, models, blueprints, etc. Even if this drastic reduction happens, I hope that the Morgue is sustained in perpetuity as the ultimate resource in park design & development.
    That it will be. Disney will retain ownership of everything they do, as they always do.

    Pressler: 'The Chinese will embrace a $450m park with 12 attractions, won't they?'
    WDI: 'Yes, sir, and we can save even more money by replicating Main St & the castle; we'll call it an homage.'

    Rasulo: 'What can we do to improve WDSP attendance?'
    WDI: 'There's a Toy Story movie coming up, how about we dress up some flat rides with plastic toys.'
    lol

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueSkyDriveBy View Post

    In the end, I believe Shanghai will be a solid park, hopefully better than HKDL at opening.
    Just quoting this, but I like your whole post.

    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post

    What do you think about the Chinese partners in Shanghai seeing the mistakes made in HKDL?
    They might bitch about it...but I don't know if that means they see it. I wonder how much of that complaining from HKDL is not taken from us here on the 'net? They see only quantity over quality. You could give them WDS with 50 off the shelf rides they would like it better than a quality establishment like the current HKDL. The detailing of HKDL's Main Street appears the same as a giant Buzz doll in their mind.

    Not to stereotype all of them. But that is my general perception of what I've seen.

  10. #10

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post
    Isn't it clear, even to a Chinese businessman with no knowledge of theme parks, that HK's major problem is that there are no big draws, that it was built on the cheap, with - most importantly - not enough to do (attractions). No elaborate queues or pre-shows leading to staple, immersive Disney attractions. No compelling experiences (it's 3 biggest rides Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise and Small World have Six Flags switchback queues - underscoring the importance of building the experience through queue and pre-show).

    I would also want to differentiate my Shanghai park in every way possible from HK for a number of obvious reasons.

    For these reasons, I have some hope for SDL.
    It seems to be though that, even what describe could be a total flop in Shanghai. There seem to be some very different thoughts regarding what is wrong with Hong Kong Disneyland.

  11. #11

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    Question Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    I am confused by this from the roundup:

    WDW1974 shares a rumor that the future Shanghai Disneyland, planned to be the smallest of all the Disney Parks, will be outsourced by Walt Disney Imagineering.
    Meanwhile, I recall a article by Jim Hill Media in Jan 2009 saying the opposite thing:

    Monday Mouse Watch : Shanghai Disneyland begins its approval process - Jim Hill - Editor In Chief - JimHillMedia: Walt Disney Company news, reviews, history & commentary, Jim Hill

    ....those familiar with the design work that WDI has already done on SDL suggest that this all-new version of the Magic Kingdom will be the largest ever (in sheer land size, anyway). More importantly, that the park itself will feature several noticable departures from the look & layout that one normally associates with a Disneyland-type theme park.
    ????

    Did I miss something about the plans for Shanghai Disneyland?

  12. #12

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Shanghai is not being outsourced. At this point in time, WDI is at work on it, all in-house.

  13. #13

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    There is a complete and total disconnect between "park size" and "resort size" among Chinese govt. officials and the Chinese and international press.

    Actually, to most people outside these forums, "park size" and "resort size" are interchangeable terms. There have been all sorts of reports on Shanghai, some saying SDL will be the largest, others saying the smallest. My analysis of the latest, most reliable reports say that the "park size" will be fairly large (TDL-scale) - but the park size is being compared to the HKDL "resort size" in the press (possibly on purpose) and being called "smaller than HKDL" in order to downplay HDKL's financial problems.

  14. #14

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    This is both accurate and wildly inaccurate.

    Yes, a great amount of design and all construction, propping, etc, will be outsourced. But overall design, engineering of infrastructure, the major components, etc, of Shanghai will be overseen by WDI, and have been for sometime.

    Hong Kong presented serious sourcing and budget problems with vendors that were solved gradually by locating artisans and engineers and other companies already proven as capable of providing Disney-level quality in fabrication in Asia. There's a small team responsible for finding and vetting the new vendors for Shanghai, and one of the key guys on this team has been with WDI for decades. I know personally that this is by no means is about deep-sixing WDI. This is about FREEING WDI in the USA and EUROPE to concentrate on stateside projects, of which there's no shortage over the next few years.

    It doesn't make sense for WDI to dismantle itself or outsource itself into oblivion, but Shanghai, unlike Hong Kong, is not being done in a WDI "lull period". So to keep them from overextending (and going even higher in overhead stateside than they regularly do now) this is a practical approach.

    Overall, and I know this encourages nobody, the paradigm for this is really DCA. A huge amount of DCA was outsourced in design, but the "bones" of the place were really done in house in Glendale. To varying degrees, the most complicated elements were virtually entirely executed by WDI, while other elements and a lot of interior design and finishings, were outsourced to smaller boutique outfits.

    So:
    1) Yes, Shanghai will see the largest outsourcing WDI's ever done for a park. They kind of have to - the distance to the park is prohibitive to make design and fabrication cost-effective.
    2) No, it will not ALL be done by outsourced vendors. The 'bones' of the place are being strictly overseen by WDI. General codes, show throughlines, quality control supervision, etc, are WDI.
    3) No, it's not a test run for dismantling WDI in the future or some kind of model for how they can do without Imagineering. Anyone familiar with Iger knows he's got great respect for this division - arguably moreso than Eisner in his heyday.
    4) Layoffs and hiring en masse have happened at WDI in cycles since the 70's, especially after EPCOT Center opened. Since then, it's been a brutal cycle of hiring and massive layoffs as projects have come and gone. They're always looking for ways to trim costs. They've outsourced - to some degree, since the very beginning of MAPO.
    5) Hysteria is fun to chatter about - but that's all this is.
    6) You really think John Lasseter would sit still if flatlining WDI were on the table?

  15. #15

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    Re: Shanghai DL To Be Outsourced by WDI...

    Wanted to add that WDI has been working on designs for a long time, and that Jim Hill (and I'm not really a Jim Hill fan) is accurate when he says that it will reflect Chinese sensibilities. Anyone familiar with Chinese gov't micromanagement AND Chinese culture knows this is inevitable, and is actually resulting in some great design distinctives.

    I've not inquired as to the overall breadth of the park itself, but my understanding is it will most definitely be LARGER than Hong Kong Disneyland, not smaller.

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