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  1. #16

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    I could write a very, very long answer to this, but I'm just going to keep it down to the basics.

    There are some who have an almost religious reverence for the Tokyo Disney Resort and Oriental Land Company. For quite a while, OLC essentially earned the sentiment, but, it all began to change in 1996. OLC went public in order to raise the funds for DisneySea. Long story short, there had always been a tug-of-war between the bold dreamers (like Kawasaki Chiharu and then Takahashi Masatomo) and the profit obsessed, bean-counting executives, especially those of Mitsusi Fudosan. If most Mitsui Fudosan executives had their way when Takahashi san was first negotiating with Walt Disney Productions, Maihama would have been just another housing development.

    The dreamers lost their leader when Takahashi san passed away in 2000. His loss, the forces at Mitsusi Fudosan, and the pressure to please stockholders (most of them extremely large institutional investors like banks and insurance companies) have lead to a cultural change at OLC, to a much more bottom-line driven approach. Nothing changes quickly in this country (Japan). It's a cultural thing. So, even with those forces at play that I mentioned, it still took a few years for that change to reach its tipping point, for the money men to fully take the reins. It happened 2007, just after the the fifth anniversary of DisneySea. Despite it opening six years after his death, I see DisneySea's Tower of Terror as the final note of the thirty year long Takahashi Masatomo era.

    The cosmetic problem of peeling paint, which, sadly, is now quite common, especially at Tokyo Disneyland, and a substantial increase in attraction downtimes are the least of the problems that have manifested in recent years. Budgets have been whittled down in all areas of maintenance. For example, not only does the slurry look awful, but it becomes slick when wet in many area due to lack of maintenance. Also, wooden bridges which use abrasive strips to prevent slipping have worn away and have not been replaced. It rains here, a lot. Guests are falling, often. Executives at OLC are well aware of it. Reports to managers about the problems from attraction, merchandise, and food service cast result in no action. In another recent example of cutback related incident, just two days ago a female guest was injured at Mediterranean Harbor during a performance of "Minnie's Tropical Splash" when she was hit by a loose part of an elevated speaker assembly that was dislodged by one of the high-powered water hoses used to soak the audience.

    (A note about the term "cast": For those who don't know, the terms "cast" - casuto - and "member" - memba - are commonly used to refer to those who work at TDR, not "cast member" or "CM" - I normally use "cast.")

    The wages they pay to cast are a disgrace. The starting wage for most cast is 1000 yen (roughly$10) an hour and not only have there been no increases in years, it was actually lowered a few years ago. Cast who take on increased responsibility, becoming a "trainer," a "lead," or a "leader," for example, receive no additional compensation. They will work their hearts out and are lucky to receive an annual pay increase of only five yen (a nickel more an hour). The cast who continue to provide excellent service do it not because of management, but despite them. They are, for the most part, young women who have a love for Disney, a love of their favorite Disney character, and a drive to live up to the Disney standard as they see it. OLC exploits that love to pad their bottom line, paying them barely enough to live on, not giving them free access to the parks (they're given two tickets every three months and the occasional couple of additional tickets when a new attraction opens) and a "Thanks Day" that takes place in one of the parks on an evening every February.

    The low wage has the effect of lowing the number of applicants, lowering the standard for acceptance, very often preventing someone who is best suited for a certain role from taking that role because they must be assigned to a location only because it's the most shorthanded. Having to work with new cast who don't take their responsibility seriously and/or are simply not well suited to the location they've been assigned has lead to not only in increased turnover in the newly hired cast, but also in the veteran cast who reach the end of there rope from stress of having to deal with them (Raging Spirits ...), in addition to the low wage and lack of appreciation they receive from management.


    There's really much more to all of this, but I tried to write what is really just the beginning of an answer to your quite relevant question. The Tokyo Disney Resort's "management nightmare" started a few years ago, we're deep in it right now, and it's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I do believe there's a light there, though. There's only so long they're going to be able to continue riding on their reputation of the past. Hopefully the loss of life won't be involved, as it was at Disneyland ... I know more than one former cast who left and more than one who plans to leave because they don't want to be there when the cuts lead to someone being seriously injured or killed.

    Kagami san is old. My hope is that his successor will be that right man at the right time; that he will follow in the proud footsteps of Walt Disney, Kawasaki Chiharu, and Takahashi Masatomo.
    This is such a valuable post I felt the thread needed a bump.

    Thanks for providing details on management rather than subjective views on personal experiences (not a dock on anyone here). Its interesting that you mention Tower of Terror was the final addition of the golden management. It was planned to open with the park originally so I don't find that surprising and I do believe there has been a significant shift in new additions since 2006.

    Thanks again for the insight!

  2. #17

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    I'm saddened by the situation and don't enjoy writing about it, but you're welcome and thank you. The budget cutting problems at TDR have progressed to such a point that I've actually felt irresponsible for not shining at least some light on them.

    About Tower of Terror, it had indeed been slated for opening day. It was put off not only for budgetary reasons (who could argue that the $3.2 billion cost of the park without it was somehow insufficient?), but also because of, well, romance. As DisneySea's dedication plaque states (from Michael Eisner's opening day speech), "Here we chart a course for Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Fun ..." With Tower of Terror, OLC management felt the opening day image of the park would be tilted too much toward "adventure" to appeal to middle-aged and older couples (empty nesters). They're a large demographic with substantial disposable income that, with few exceptions, is not interested in Tokyo Disneyland, but one of the groups that DisneySea was specifically designed to attract. OLC didn't want media images of screaming guests, plummeting down a massive and menacing tower, to overpower images of romantic meals, beautiful views, and peaceful gondola rides.

    Unfortunately, what's actually occurred over these intervening years has been another example of the lack of leadership in the post-Takahashi san era. The themes adopted at DisneySea were the fortunate and spectacularly executed answer to the problem of Japan's declining and aging population. More than 70% of Tokyo Disneyland's visitors are girls and young women, a segment of the Japanese population that's steadily and, in historic terms, drastically shrinking - http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/h...img/fig2_3.gif

    They're rabid repeat visitors (repeta) and there will likely be enough of them to sustain Tokyo Disneyland for some time to come, but two parks? No. Three parks? Absolutely not. (Yes, there's land for three parks at Maihama and many steps have been taken to ensure it stays that way.)

    DisneySea was created to broaden the appeal, but instead of marketing it properly to the guests it was designed for, OLC has virtually replicated its Tokyo Disneyland approach; advertising kawaii, Disney characters, character-based shows, and pushing Duffy, the park's own kawaii mascot. It cannibalizes guests from Tokyo Disneyland and paints an image of DisneySea that's unappealing to older couples and many males. It makes for good numbers in the present, but it's an extremely short-sighted approach.

    Again I say, OLC needs a bold leader in the vein of Walt Disney and Takahashi Masatomo. It needs someone with the intestinal fortitude to stand up for Tokyo Disneyland's founding ideals, that wringing out every last bit of profit at the cost of safety, a respected workforce, and show, while also ignoring the changing reality of the world around you, is not a viable long-term strategy.

    No one can say it better than Walt Disney -

    "Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back."

  3. #18

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Thanks to all the contributors of answers to the posted question. I'd often wondered the same thing s this has been a good read, and eye opening.

    I think it's been clear in recent years of some kind of change in decision making when it comes to new attractions. Monsters Inc. at TDL and the Pixar-ification of TDS and the possible horrific scenario or Cars Land in Tokyo Disneyland, and although each of these attractions have themselves been well executed, the attractions themselves are poor fits for these glorious Parks.
    I think the true heroes of the Tokyo Parks are the cast members. And hearing about their poor pay makes them even more heroic. They truly deliver beyond exceptional service and hospitality. Sure,they may be strict, but I think that helps with the Parks conditions and guest comfort, and they are always respectful with any requests.
    I do look forward to returning to those Parks one day.
    First visit to a Disney Park was to Tokyo Disneyland in Oct, 2005. I was hooked! Was so blessed to visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in 2009, the original Disneyland and California Adventure in 2010, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in 2011, and an incredible 5 night stay at Disneyland Paris in February 2013.

  4. #19

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    I've only been going to TDR since November 2008. I'm not an expert with lots of knowledge of either the history nor inner workings of TDR or The Oriental Land Company. That said, I do feel there's been a "scaling back" of things, especially where entertainment is concerned.

    For the 25th Anniversary, the song was higher profile, the theme was higher concept and more deeply integrated. There were original shows, including castle shows connected very clearly to the narrative of the central concept, for each "stage" of the event. They really went all out.

    We didn't see that for TDS's 10th, but that was reasonably attributed to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The 30th, though, is equally underwhelming for me so far. The central "Be Magical!" hat is still in front of the Aquasphere and the "Happiness Year" theme seems mostly about decorations and merchandising. If there's a narrative, I'm missing it. It just feels very commercial in both conceptualization and execution. I don't feel anymore connected to it now that it's underway than I did when I saw the very first key visual that I didn't particularly love.

    Anyone can tell that I'd be the first to cheer for more Duffy, but I think we're close to jumping the shark these days. The momentum can't be slowed until after what I expect to be the final Spring Voyage event next year. And to my mind Spring Voyage was absolutely necessary and perfectly timed to solidify Duffy as a "classic" character, though there are likely variant opinions. That said, I hope that after SV14, Duffy leaves Galleria Disney and The Sleepy Whale and settles back in at Aunt Peg's where he belongs. Honestly, I'd like to see McDuck's windows displaying more than Duffy items, too, but it's probably not practical to limit Duffy to one shop that soon.

    OLC has been very good at keeping the theme of releases on Cape Cod since the global Duffy rollout and I'd like to see that reflected in the parks, at least limited to American Waterfront. Shopping will be less convenient, but Duffy dominance really is approaching the level of distracting from both the park experience and the purity of the "Cape Cod is Duffy's hometown" concept. It makes Duffy look over-commercialized and OLC seem cash cow driven to cynics, which is sad.

    I also agree that with Duffy, Over the Waves replaced by the much more character-heavy (and not really narrative) Table Is Waiting, and the newest Jasmine and Toy Story attractions, TDS is skewing farther away from being "the adult park." There seems to be a conflicting message here, though, as there has also been advertising specifically for adults, seniors, drinking and leisurely walks recently. It seems like management isn't sure whether TDS wants to be the adult park or not.

    As for CMs, I've met both over-the-top amazing Cast, and some who oscillated mostly between making me feel like a "foreigner" or a "difficult" customer — or both. I imagine such feelings would only ever happen with a non-Japanese AP-holder, though, never a tourist, although vegetarians who want to eat more than sweets would be well advised to bring their own food. Food substitution and flexibility is one of the areas that was severely cut, with no advance warning, and the changes affect me negatively every time I visit the Resort.

    I'm sad to hear again that CMs aren't paid well, but I've heard it a million times. Though, to their credit, none of my friends or acquaintances who work or used to work for OLC have ever said anything negative. I respectfully don't push them to.

    It does seem that we've been experiencing cut corners and a shift toward commercialization and profit at the expense of theming and experience. And yet, as much as Jasmine's Flying Carpet is still an atmosphere-breaking eyesore, Toyville Trolley Park is magnificently themed, well-placed — and FUN! For all my misgivings before it opened, Toy Story Mania is by all measures a success. I still don't love the giant Woody head, but it actually fits in well with the backstory of Toy Story 2, that Woody was a supernova star, back in the day (although, yes, that "day" was still decades after American Waterfront New York. Still, I love it, as do most guests. Toy Story is as good and classic as the rest of the Disney catalog, and personally I respect Pixar's (historic) originality, so I'm not bothered by it. Turtle Talk, similarly, though not an attraction I enjoy (due to my language limitations), is so well done that I think it earns its place. Although all three of these "pander to the kiddies," it is ironically only the Disney Princess-themed attraction that falls flat.

    I do hope that TDR continues its traditions of immersive, narrative experiences going forward. And just for the record, Duffy commercialization is the epitome rather than the enemy of it. Duffy merchandise releases always tell a particular story and always deepen the relationship between the characters, the fans, and our hometown of Cape Cod. If only OLC would pull back on Duffy availability all over the park and focus on telling rich stories through entertainment and specific merchandise in every area of the parks, this conversation wouldn't be happening. They clearly know how to do it. Duffy is proof of that, and I am very proud of the work that OLC has and continues to put into turning a recycling exercise into their own original character. Now let's see that same quality/narrative/immersion standard applied to Nemo, Hightower, S.E.A., Sindbad, New York vaudevillians and newsies, and the Center for Weather Control. Cape Cod became more of a destination because of this kind of commitment. Here's hoping they spread it around. And the great thing is, as Duffy also proves, they can still make boatloads of money doing it, too! Cake and more cake!^^

  5. #20

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    The "horrific scenario" of Cars Land? Radiator Springs Racers is a fabulous ride--one of the best things WDI has done in a long time. It, and Cars Land, would be a huge hit at Tokyo Disneyland. The problem is that it belongs in Westernland and there's no room to build it there in the park. There's plenty of expansion room, it's just in the wrong spot for Cars Land. It would be great to see Cars Land in Tokyo--it's certainly far enough away from Anaheim that I don't think most folks would be bothered.
    Born in a shoebox and making the most of it.

  6. #21

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    I pecked away at this during free moments over the past few days. It may not look like it, but I kept it short, providing only a few examples and sticking to the most obvious factors at play. The Tokyo Disney Resort is a complex place that exists in an even more complex environment. There's actually much more I could write in relation to the subjects I've mentioned.

    ----------------

    If QPerth was referring specifically to the notion of filling in and paving over Tokyo Disneyland's Rivers of America to replace it with Radiator Springs Racers, I fully agree that it's a horrific scenario. Rivers of America is a beautiful, peaceful, park within the park, that's had thirty years to become lushly established. It serves even more of a purpose at Tokyo Disneyland due to the park's especially wide expanses of concrete.

    I'm not concerned, though. It's not going to happen, for a variety of reasons. First, it must be understood that Disney (the salesmen) are constantly pitching ideas to OLC (the customer) and OLC rejects the great majority of them. It's totally understandable that Disney would try to make a massive sale like Radiator Springs Racers. It's also understandable that some at Disney might think OLC is actually interested, when, really, they're just being polite. It's happened so many times it's not funny. After "Disney City" - "Disney's Hollywood Magic" - "SciFi City" -the giant Fantasia themed shop that was intended for where Bon Voyage now sits - the original phase 2 of American Waterfront, and on and on and on, when will some people learn? The Japanese have a different way of doing business and the difference is particularly pronounced when saying "no" is involved.

    Also, Radiator Springs Racers is an amazing attraction, but there's a very basic problem with placing it anywhere at the Tokyo Disney Resort: the weather. It's either hot and raining or freezing cold. Notice that Journey to the Center of the Earth, the attraction here that also uses the Test Track ride system, spends about five seconds outdoors and it doesn't reach the speed of of Radiator Springs Racers. (Big Thunder also isn't as fast and still it's not very fun in the rain or cold.) If the attraction were to exist here, either the vehicles would need to be enclosed, taking a lot out of the ride experience and still exposing a large portion of the ride system to the elements, or the track would need to be placed almost entirely indoors, in which case it wouldn't actually be Radiator Springs. (Unless it were placed under a large dome. Strangely, more on domes below.)

    About a Cars Land at Tokyo Disneyland or anything else in a different location that would involve extending the park beyond its existing berm, it also isn't going to happen. The only practical area to expand would be into parking lot on the west (Tomorrowland) side of the park. There are long-term plans for that parking lot and those plans are more likely to take a bite out of Tokyo Disneyland than the other way around.

    And (perhaps the biggest "and"), something of such a grand scale (price) simply is not in OLC's budget plan for the foreseeable future. They're quite clear in publicly available information that they intend to spend relatively very little for the next few years. Large American companies generally don't like to change plans. For a large Japanese company, multiply that sentiment many times over.

    About domes: Disney has actually tried selling OLC on ideas involving an extremely large dome. Seriously. An interesting one features a large, heavily themed waterpark with a couple of hotels all under one massive dome. I for one welcome a domed Maihama future. Heck, I want a dome over the entire resort. The weather here is awful! There are like two weeks of nice days a year. (I'm exaggerating, but just a little bit.) Right now it's one hell of a heat wave and the kids are out on their month long summer vacations. The parks' Central First Aid locations are operating at capacity with heat exhaustion/dehydration cases and rebasu are happening all over the place. ("Rebasu" is katakana for the English word "reverse," the common Tokyo Disney Resort euphemism used for when someone vomits. Aren't you glad you know that now?)

    OLC is being understandably cautious about how they'll use the remaining land at Maihama,. There's certainly no rush. Who knows exactly when the time will be right, but I think it's safe to say it'll be at least a decade. It won't happen until attendance is maximized at DisneySea, where there's still land for expansion. Which brings to mind one of the most absurd things I've heard come out of the mouth of an executive. Kagami san has repeatedly stated that there's no room for more attractions at Tokyo Disneyland. Anyone who's familiar with the original Disneyland and its wonderfully creative use of limited space knows it's crazy to say that sprawling Tokyo Disneyland has no more room. But Kagami san isn't crazy and he isn't an idiot. His statement is absurd only on its surface. He's saying it because Tokyo Disneyland can already handle more than 17 million guests a year. Once DisneySea's potential capacity is reached, a number similar to Tokyo Disneyland's, it'll be time for a third gate. Another gate means another ticket, a longer stay at the resort, and more Milial hotels. (Milial Resort Hotels is the company within OLC that operates the Disney branded hotels at the resort, the Palm and Fountain Hotel in Shin Urayasu, and the four Brighton hotels which they acquired, one of them also in Shin Urayasu.) It's a much more lucrative plan of action than adding more to Tokyo Disneyland. I'd love to see more at Tokyo Disneyland, but if being patient means we get a third gate, I'm personally fine with it, as long as it at least lives up to the very high standard that's been set by DisneySea.

    ----------------

    DuffyDaisuki, I agree with you on some points and disagree on some others, but most of all I'm glad the elephant in the room of budget cuts at the Tokyo Disney Resort (and some other important subjects) are being discussed.

    With your experience starting in 2008, you know a park that's taken different approach in some fundamental respects from the one that was conceived and designed during the 1990's and opened in 2001. I was lucky enough follow the parks development and even luckier to experience it before opening day. I appreciate hearing the articulate views of someone like yourself who has a very different perspective due to your arriving AD, rather than BD. (That would be "After Duffy" and "Before Duffy." )

    You talked about "that same quality/narrative/immersion standard." It existed at DisneySea during the park's first two years, but it was more comprehensive and sophisticated than what they've done with Duffy. The park opened with an innovative approach in which environments, entertainment, food, and merchandise were integrated within each area to a degree far greater than had been attempted in the past. Interestingly, some of the most intense friction related to this was between OLC and the chefs from Disney who fought hard for menus authentic to each location. The chefs won initially, but the food at most locations gradually lost its authenticity to better suite the more pedestrian tastes of the young ladies. It was a given that DisneySea would win the Thea for best theme park of 2001, but the Themed Entertainment Association also took the unprecedented step of awarding the park an additional Thea for its innovative entertainment program. A primary element of that program was its extensive use of highly creative atmosphere entertainment. Unfortunately, after the park's first two years, the Treeman, the rock people (I'm not remembering what they were officially named), The Weathermen, the Used Camel Salesman, the monkeys in Lost River Delta, the belly dancers, and many, many other atmosphere entertainers disappeared, replaced by walk-around Disney characters, again to better appeal to ... guess who. Instead of sticking with a higher, adult oriented concept, marketing it properly, and allowing it to evolve, OLC got scared. They scraped it and fell even further back onto the Tokyo Disneyland model.

    Two examples of the higher level of integration as it related to merchandise:

    When the park first opened there was a nice selection of Nautilus themed goods at the (then more appropriately named) Nautilus Gifts in Mysterious Island's caldera. As someone who appreciates the works of Jules Verne and the wonderful Harper Goff Nautilus design, I was glad to see them. It was some cool stuff. But that was the problem. The stuff was cool, not kawaii. Sales were dismal. The audience was wrong. The park was filled with girls who didn't know a thing about Captain Nemo or the Nautilus and couldn't care less about buying something themed to it. They came to DisneySea expecting Tokyo Disneyland 2, because that's how it had been marketed to them. They were in the most ambitious, arguably, the most beautiful theme park in the world ... and they were disappointed. DisneySea was not made for them, but it was marketed to them. They stood there in Mysterious Island's caldera, with not a shred of kawaii in sight, and wished they were at Tokyo Disneyland.

    On opening day, only about five percent of the goods at Aunt Peg's Village Store were Disney themed. It was a shop of New England themed nicknacks; ceramic and wooden items, like little lighthouses, country kitchen items, etc., many of them handcrafted, as if they were made by the residents of the area. They were the sort of things the wife in an older couple would purchase to decorate their home and remind them of the relaxing, romantic time they had at DisneySea's Cape Cod. But, again, the customers for those goods weren't there.

    To be clear, it would have taken a focused, long-term, and well executed marketing campaign to convince the disinterested older demographic that a Disney park exists that would be of interest to them, to convince them that DisneySea is not Tokyo Disneyland. Unfortunately, efforts in that respect were and continue to be halfhearted at best and drowned out by the far louder advertising for things like Duffy seasonal events and Campus Days.

    Giving OLC some credit where it's due, they've done a better job of promoting a campaign that encourages young women to bring their mothers with them to the parks and they recently put more emphasis on a "three generations" strategy. It's a start. Now they need to stick with it, expand it, and take advantage of the fact that DisneySea is a park which can appeal to the three generations of a family, if, again, it's allowed to be what it was created to be.

    As a gaijin, I find that I'm generally treated better (given more leeway) than the average Japanese guest. I really wonder if the treatment you've received from some cast is because you're not Japanese. Like pretty much every service worker in Japan, they're not well equipped to handle situations outside of what they've become accustomed to. It's a startling difference from the American cast members I'm most familiar with, the ones at the original Disneyland. There the philosophy is about providing individualized service, while the philosophy at the Tokyo Disney Resort, and really, in Japan as a whole, is about following the rules to the best of ones ability - procedure placed over outcome. American trainers during the earliest days of Tokyo Disneyland (before the park's opening day) made a concerted effort to to get the idea of individualized service across to Japanese cast, but their efforts were no match against one thousand years of deeply ingrained culture.

    I was not aware that food substitutions and flexibility were cut. Actually, tying in with what I just wrote above, I didn't know there was much of it to begin with. That's too bad. It seems like they were heading in the right direction and reversed course.

    You mentioned bringing your own food, though. That is a massive change in enforcement (not policy - official policy is still no outside food) at the parks. When Tokyo Disneyland first opened, the rule forbidding the bringing of bento into the park was unprecedented, shocking to guests, and treated as scandalous by the media. Now in 2013 were one step away from guests starting a campfire and making curry while they're waiting for a parade.

    Everyone knew food wasn't allowed in to increase food sales in the park, but OLC had a great official position on it. They said guests eating things like rice balls and meals out of bento boxes would destroy the illusion that Tokyo Disneyland is America. The same reasoning was used to ban vending machines and food models from the park. Interesting that we now have vending machines, food models, and outside food in the parks. Yes, those changes and the numerous others that break the "America" illusion all go back to the different OLCs before and after Takahashi san.

    -----------------

    Some general comments on Duffy, cast, management, etc.:

    For anyone who isn't familiar with the depth of the phenomenon surrounding Duffy here in Japan, I should mention the bear is actually a sensitive topic. There are character fanatics (a word I'm not using lightly) for Mickey, Donald, and pretty much every other Disney character, but none of those characters have created an emotional attachment as deep as the one which exists among so many devotees of Duffy. My observation is that much of the reason for it (not all - some people have very different reasons) is summed up in the title of the show at DisneySea's Cape Cod Cook-Off: "My Friend Duffy." Japan is a lonely culture, Kanto (the region where Tokyo is located), even more so. That kind of flies in the face of the image of Japan as a virtual hive culture, doesn't it? But they've found a way to be hive-like and lonely at the same time. For example, crowds in train stations and busy streets move with an almost eerie fluidity, but there's a powerful social taboo that prevents strangers from speaking to each other beyond the occasional mechanical politeness of phrases like "excuse me" or "I'm sorry." The loneliness problem gets worse, though. It's common for best friends, people who've regularly spent time together for nearly their entire lives, to know almost nothing about each other. They just don't ask questions or share information about themselves beyond the superficial. To them, that's just the way it is. But the way it is leaves a void. I believe there's much positive to be said about Japanese culture, but here - no. Here it conflicts with basic human need and it's one reasons the suicide rates are so high in Japan. Too many people feel they have no one they can talk to, so they keep everything bottled up. Many wonder why so many Japanese, especially women, are so obsessed with Disney and other characters. Well, there's what's at the heart of it for many of them. The characters are surrogates that fill the void, assuming the role in their minds (consciously or not) of the comforting friend, ideal partner/spouse, or even deity. (Disney is much more religion in Japan than is any religion.) Their favorite character is the one who knows, understands, and cares about them, and I've observed no character that has been more successfully tailored to fill that void than Duffy.

    It's pretty creepy, exploiting loneliness for profit, but it's far from unprecedented and I feel it's safe to assume that Duffy, that damned bear, has actually saved lives. I'm not kidding. He's been there when people have needed him.

    From the cast perspective, the ones who have to interact with the Duffy people (merchandise cast, mainly), they're generally pretty disturbed and annoyed by them. (They do their best to not let it show, of course.) Let's just say many in the Duffy camp aren't in possession of the best social skills and they're sometimes kind of disconnected from reality. It makes them kind of obnoxious from the cast point of view. Merchandise managers at Tokyo Disneyland are pushing for Duffy at their locations because all they really care about it making their numbers look good. Merchandise cast are not only against it, they dread the possibility. Sharing the sentiment of a growing number of guests, many cast also see the spread of Duffy as a prime example of OLC's increasingly crass commercialism.

    I said "that damned bear" only because he is at the forefront of what was the wrong choice for DisneySea. DisneySea's Cape Cod was conceived and built as a recreation, a firmly rooted in reality compliment/peaceful contrast to the New York side of American Waterfront, not a fantasy realm that's home to a traveling bear. (The boat building duck was relegated to the theater.) How it happened: After its first couple of years, DisneySea's attendance numbers were under-performing, for the most part due to the poor marketing I touched upon earlier. OLC management was presented with a choice. They could either go outside of their comfort zone and properly sell DisneySea to the audience it was created for, or double down on the kawaii. What they decided is obvious.

    DisneySea has a powerful identity of its own. Not only does that identity deserve to be highlighted, it makes good long-term business sense to do so. The longer they push the kawaii image, the harder it's going to be to change gears when it becomes necessary, and it will become necessary. In my opinion, Duffy's home should have been in Tokyo Disneyland, perhaps in Fantasyland, Critter Country or, I think best of all, the Rivers of America. The Lucky Nugget Cafe is just sitting there with its show-less, forgotten stage. There could have even been a Duffy mini-land on that nearby big unused portion of Tom Sayer Island. (But wait, Tokyo Disneyland doesn't have any more room.) It would be kind of a Duffy Alcatraz that isolates them from the rest of us. : ) It's hard to imagine that Duffy will be evicted from Cape Cod any time soon, though.

    Tokyo Disneyland's own Matterhorn was intended for the real estate that's now Toon Town. I love the Matterhorn, the "mountain" itself and the ride (especially that left side). The first time I rode it I was just tall enough to do so and number of times I've been on it probably numbers in the hundreds. I think it would have been wonderful to have one at Tokyo Disneyland. I'm understanding of why the decision was made to go instead with Toon Town, though. Give the girls a choice and they'll take a kawaii cartoon land (with MICKEY'S HOUSE!! OH MY GOD!!!) in a second over a scary coaster with a scary monster. I'd pick the Matterhorn, but I like Toon Town and a Mickey's House in Tokyo Disneyland is a glaringly obvious choice, again, considering the park's young femail audience. Tokyo Disneyland is their land. So be it. I have nothing against these girls. (I married one. She's delightful.) I still enjoy Tokyo Disneyland quite a bit and I absolutely love its fascinatingly odd history, which is made even more intriguing by how difficult it can be to uncover. But, for the benefit of everyone else, including OLC, I hope the course of DisneySea will be returned to it original heading. It requires dedication and a bit of bravery, as it's relatively uncharted territory for OLC, but there's plenty of treasure to be found along the way.

    -----------------

    Since the passing of Takahashi san, management has been ham-hanedly reactive and, frankly, increasingly inept. Raging Spirits, for example, was a knee-jerk (almost panicked) reaction to complaints from boys and young men that DisneySea didn't have enough thrills. Putting aside that Raging Spirits, while beautifully themed, is just not a thrilling little coaster, DisneySea is not intended to be, and lets hope it will never be, Fuji-Q or some other hypercoaster thrill/amusement park. It's a theme park and there's no other one on Earth more deserving of the description. How to get more boys and young men excited about DisneySea without covering it in tubular steel coaster tracks is probably the toughest nut to crack in broadening the appeal of DisneySea. That's a whole other cans of worms, though.

    Cast are increasingly viewing the OLC executives as amateurs because that's how they're acting. The hallmark of the Paul Pressler days at Disneyland was the problem of clueless suits, holed up in the TDA building, making decisions regarding park operations based on the bottom line, while disregarding decades of lessons learned. Well, that's pretty much what's happening at OLC right now, but with the added "bonus" of greater cast exploitation, made possible by the lack of proper employee unions in Japan. Executives are making decisions and implementing changes that often betray the fact that they have little understanding of the in the trenches workings of the parks. They're coming from a "Hey, this idea will save/make us some money!" perspective. It's happening more and more often that they attempt to impose some half-baked change that's immediately scaled back or completely abandoned due to its impractically. Among other things, it's bad for cast morale, as it makes the executives above them come off as, again, inept amateurs, with no real concern or understanding for them and only the motivation to wring out as much profit as they can.

    All that said, I think I should be clear that I don't think Chairman Kagami is a bad person. He's a kind gentleman who always has a genuine smile and an enthusiastic wave for the rank and file cast. I've just observed that, without a strong force like Takahashi san, financial concerns have taken over the decision making process at OLC, that, however unpleasant it is to imagine, there's team of Paul Presslers, men without a full appreciation of their responsibilities, who are calling the shots. Just like the bad old days at Disneyland, the parks are being run more and more like some sort of regular business. But they're not a regular business. They're Disney parks.

    ------------------------

    I'll close with what I think is a touching and relevant story that, among other things, helps to illustrate Takahashi san's leadership and Kagami san's relationship with him. I've added some context and some additional details, but the story was actually told by Kagami san himself, in his sometimes surprisingly revealing book:

    It's the morning of September 4th, 2001, the grand opening day of Tokyo DisneySea, as well as the late Takahashi Masatomo's birthday. It's also a day considered lucky on the Japanese astrological calendar (something taken seriously by many Japanese). After the opening ceremonies of Tokyo DisneySea and Hotel MiraCosta, and a few obligatory media interviews, Kagami san rushed alone to Tama Cemetery, the resting place of Takahashi Masatomo.

    He wished Takahashi san could have been at DisneySea to announce its grand opening, even if he'd had to do so from a wheelchair. (As do I ...) At the cemetery, silent but for the sound of the summer cicadas, he thought about how Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea would have never come into being without Takahashi san. At his graveside, he reminisced about a day eighteen years earlier, the September 4th, 1983 celebration of Takahashi san's 70th birthday. At the time, Kagami san was Tokyo Disneyland's General Manager, but in the days leading up to the 4th, he was also the secret organizer of Takahashi's surprise birthday party. After Tokyo Disneyland closed at 6pm that evening, Takahashi and his wife, Hiroko, were lead to the backstage area behind Country Bear Theater, where Tokyo Disneyland's marching band was performing for them. The band then lead them to the Mark Twain dock where there was a party with food and a show performed by some of Tokyo Disneyland's dancers. Takahashi san and his wife then enjoyed a trip, for just the two of them, around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain. Takahashi san and his wife had done so much to reach this point, even selling Hiroko's family house and her artwork to raise the money for Takahashi san to entertain (buy alchohol for) the Urayasu fishermen during the years of negotiations with them to win the rights to the part of Tokyo Bay that would become Tokyo Disneyland. It was Takahashi san's birthday, but Kagami san felt it was the best present he could give to help make amends to Hiroko for all she'd had to deal with. Kagami san said he will never forget the smiles on their faces that evening.

    At the cemetery, Kagami san also remembered something that Takahashi san would often say, even years before the concept of DisneySea was presented to OLC: "When we build something new, we have to accept challenges. We need to have imagination that extends across seas." (Kagami san adopted "Imagination Extending Across Seas" as the title of his book.) Kagami san appreciated that it wasn't just talk, that Takahashi san's philosophy, his high standard, became reality with Tokyo DisneySea. It's a standard, a respect, that is rooted in Maihama being land reclaimed from Japan's most treasured gift, the sea.

    Kagami san placed flowers at Takahashi san's grave and said to him, "Today is the grand opening of Tokyo DisneySea. It happened because of your many years of work. Many guests were waiting (to enter the park) today. They came to DisneySea with great anticipation. Please watch over us at this crucial time."

    *****************

    Kagami san's story conjures up many thoughts and emotions in me; sadness that Takahashi san didn't live to see the opening of DisneySea, but admiration of his triumph in actually getting such an amazing park built; his dedication to building Tokyo Disneyland and the patience of his wife (a situation reminiscent of Walt and Lillian) and what gratifying relief they must have felt while riding the Mark Twain on that day in 1983, as the success of the Tokyo Disneyland was becoming fully apparent. There's Kagami san's touching reverence for Takahashi san, a man he had known, worked with, and admired for forty years, exemplified by how important it was to him to go to his graveside and speak to him as soon as he could on DisneySea's opening day ... But, finally, when I think about the idea of Takahashi san watching over what's happened since his passing, I would want him to be pleased and proud of the stewardship of his achievements.

    I really wonder if he would be.

  7. #22

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Very interesting post resort cruiser.

    In many ways Disneysea development sounds like Epcot centre. Designed to appeal to adults but changed over time to a more magic kingdom demographic.

    Tokyo Disney may not be perfect but its still my favourite resort and reminds me of how Disney used to be. I for one would be sad if the parks here end up like their stateside and European counterparts

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    That was a fascinating post. I do feel you went a bit too... much? with your assessment of the lonely Duffy fans, but otherwise everything makes sense.

    I have to say, I don't completely agree with your view of DisneySea. While many American counterparts marvel at the visual aesthetics of the new park along and question the obsessive character-craze of the Japanese culture, I do appreciate the infiltration of characters into the second gate. In its first year of operation, it just felt cold. It might be blasphemous, but it felt like I was at some Universal Studios park. Breathtakingly gorgeous and immersive, but no "magic." Nowadays, compared to the early years of the park, I feel that the guests are much more connected with the atmosphere when I see silly but fun Minnie's Tropical Splash, etc. And that judgment is purely based on my arbitrary observation, but it's exactly why I love the park these days more and more. I guess I really feed off of other guests' smiles when I'm visiting.

    When I watch videos like this 30th Anniversary CM Pep Rally (albeit it essentially is a promotional video of TDL), it precisely shows the passion and love that the Japanese CMs have for their parks: *ャスト2700名の決起集会「ハピネス ペップラリー」 - YouTube

    And when you observe any of the Soryo Kobu Embu/Final shows at TDL, it becomes hugely apparent of how intensely attached these visitors are to Disney's creations. I don't think you can expect any decent involvement in the stateside if DLR/WDW were to stage Soryo Kobu, Blazing Rhythm, Caliente! Caliente!, etc. Sure, there was ElecTRONica, but where's the Disney in that??

    I'm sure there are vocal opponents who criticize the lack of new seasonal events, copying of overseas attractions, etc. But frankly I don't think that the park is going downhill as some are suggesting. I'm far more concerned with the yearly admission increases, the installation of MagicBands, lack of any new attractions/entertainment, etc. over at DisneyWorld from a repeat visitor POV...

    Feel free to disagree with me!

    I do want to randomly state that I just miss the 2003-2005 era when TDR had its best offerings in my opinion, with Dreams on Parade, the lagoon/land spectacle Style!, new Halloween parades changing each year, debut of the Legend of Mythica, BraviSEAmo!, Aladdin's A Whole New World, Rhythm of the World, etc. Not everything was perfect, of course, but each one of them was fun.

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    Thumbs up Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    First of all, thank you for the interesting read. It is so rare that people take the time to articulate truly thoughtful and provocative responses, and I appreciate that. You are clearly very passionate about TDR and especially, it seems, TDS. I feel much the same way as you, but on some points do not draw the same conclusions. I like to think it's because I have my own mind and not simply because I am "AD (After Duffy)," but I suppose that is hard to determine.^^

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...If QPerth was referring specifically to the notion of filling in and paving over Tokyo Disneyland's Rivers of America to replace it with Radiator Springs Racers, I fully agree that it's a horrific scenario... I'm not concerned, though. It's not going to happen... The Japanese have a different way of doing business and the difference is particularly pronounced when saying "no" is involved...

    And (perhaps the biggest "and"), something of such a grand scale (price) simply is not in OLC's budget plan for the foreseeable future. They're quite clear in publicly available information that they intend to spend relatively very little for the next few years. Large American companies generally don't like to change plans. For a large Japanese company, multiply that sentiment many times over.
    I agree with ALL of the above, unequivocally and without reservation.^^

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    I'd love to see more at Tokyo Disneyland, but if being patient means we get a third gate, I'm personally fine with it, as long as it at least lives up to the very high standard that's been set by DisneySea.
    This is a potential tangent, but how likely do you really think it is that something of TDS calibre will really be built again? I'm just not sure I expect that, though it would be very nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    DuffyDaisuki, I agree with you on some points and disagree on some others, but most of all I'm glad the elephant in the room of budget cuts at the Tokyo Disney Resort (and some other important subjects) are being discussed.
    As far as I can tell, it seems that you agree with two things I said. First, that my few but significant negative experiences are connected to my not being Japanese, but it's hard to be sure if your "treatment" means "negative treatment" or "'VIP' treatment." I'm not entirely sure I understand your intention. I think it's either that you think the Cast were unfortunately and inappropriately insensitive to my needs as a guest due to their proclivity for adhering to company guidelines, in which case you seem to be empathetic. Or I understand it as you suspecting that my "gaijin" (I do not use this word, and certainly not self-referentially) expectations for "special" treatment led to my being unfortunately and inappropriately insensitive to Cast members' understandable mandate to adhere to Company policy. As I said, I'm not confident which, if either, is an accurate read:

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    As a gaijin, I find that I'm generally treated better (given more leeway) than the average Japanese guest. I really wonder if the treatment you've received from some cast is because you're not Japanese. Like pretty much every service worker in Japan, they're not well equipped to handle situations outside of what they've become accustomed to. It's a startling difference from the American cast members I'm most familiar with, the ones at the original Disneyland. There the philosophy is about providing individualized service, while the philosophy at the Tokyo Disney Resort, and really, in Japan as a whole, is about following the rules to the best of ones ability - procedure placed over outcome. American trainers during the earliest days of Tokyo Disneyland (before the park's opening day) made a concerted effort to to get the idea of individualized service across to Japanese cast, but their efforts were no match against one thousand years of deeply ingrained culture.
    The above in bold could not describe the heart of the incredibly rare service snafus any more accurately or succinctly. I have written about this countless times, and it is very sad sometimes, the raw power of cultural friction. Particularly because, as with the isolation epidemic which I'll get to later, this is one of those areas where I think the "Japanese way" (though you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who could carefully articulate what that means in a manner most Westerners would find logical, satisfying or convincing) is just stubborn wrong-headedness. It is the following of rules because they exist rather than because they actually meet goals. Like the fact that I can't get mustard without chicken nuggets at McDonald'seven if I'm willing to pay extra for iteven after receiving no discount for not having ham/bacon on my English muffin Frustrating!

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    I was not aware that food substitutions and flexibility were cut. Actually, tying in with what I just wrote above, I didn't know there was much of it to begin with. That's too bad. It seems like they were heading in the right direction and reversed course.

    You mentioned bringing your own food, though. That is a massive change in enforcement (not policy - official policy is still no outside food) at the parks. When Tokyo Disneyland first opened, the rule forbidding the bringing of bento into the park was unprecedented, shocking to guests, and treated as scandalous by the media. Now in 2013 were one step away from guests starting a campfire and making curry while they're waiting for a parade
    Just for the folks at home who may not have actually visited TDR, I think we should clarify that last bit as pretty highly exaggerated. Many guests bring water bottles, a couple rice balls or snacks, stuff like that. I can probably count the bentos (set meals/lunch boxes) I've seen on one hand, and nearly always only in the morning. In fact, it's usually just a piece of bread, and the VAST majority of Japanese guests queued up for two hours before the gates open are not eating at all, probably due to the (perfect example of the previous point) utterly nonsensical "Japanese" taboo against eating in public. We can discuss that if necessary, but I'm just gonna leave it for now. I fear I'm running askew again.^^

    I typed out the story of my food debacle about a year after it happened, but I never posted it, mostly because I really do really love Oriental Land, and also because it was very painful. It stretched over years, and had it not been for Spring Voyage, I would most likely never have returned to TDR, although I understood completely how the OLC execs saw it that was precisely the problem. It still feels very raw when I think about it, so I'll just be posting what I wrote at the time, without a lot of edits. Be warned that it will be long. It is only one of two truly awful situations I have faced at TDS. Both were terribly heartbreaking because it was abundantly clear that the staff actually could not conceive or were absolutely unwilling to be compassionate regarding my experience or perspective. They weren't trying to be jerks; they really were just 100% sure that they were right and that my feelings or perspective just had no relevance, as if I were delusional and they couldn't understand why I didn't just capitulate. Actually, the second situation was not about me directly, but about my friends, and they simply walked away and have vowed never, ever to return...that happened on my birthday this year, right at the end...totally ruined it. Sadly, as you say, that is par for the course in Japan. Though tourists are highly unlikely to ever feel aware of it, and many or most (definitely not all) Japanese, especially in Kanto, are in deep denial about nearly anything that could possibly be perceived as negative (ie: less than glorious and superior) about Japan. That denial, of course, is the same thing as the problem itself. It's a very challenging situation. Anyway, here's my tale of woe:

    Quote Originally Posted by DuffyDaisuki
    It was 2010 and I was especially giddy when I entered the park not only because it had been a while, but also because I had just gotten my second-ever Annual Passport. And the photo was actually my favorite photo of myself I had EVER seen - not my favorite AP photo - my favorite picture of me of all time. The incredible CMs had made jokes to make me smile and theywere unsatisfied with the first one (which I never saw) and insisted that I pose for another. I instantly d and cherished it, and the experience for its own sake But I'm getting ahead

    From my first visit to DisneySEA back in 2008, I had trouble finding vegetarian food. Even salads often have seafood or ham or something. I had already been to Tokyo Disneyland, where the only non-sweet food I could find that I liked was a pizza slice that I was allowed to order without meat, after a considerable amount of waiting and hassle and feeling like I'd done something wrong, despite the many times the CMs reassured me that they were happy to help and sorry it was so much trouble.

    Anyway, back to TDS. After getting my first AP, the very first time I went to New York Deli, I ordered and got a reuben with no meat and pesto mayonnaise on the side with my French fries. I didn't have to wait to talk to a manager, didn't feel like a "problem Guest," and didn't have to pick shrimp off a salad and "just deal with it." They even put the pesto mayonnaise on its own dish and made it in a Mickey shape. This tiny magical moment made me deeply happy and formed one of my very first Disney Park memories, finally finding a place in the parks where I felt welcome to eat. This was an especially big deal because so often in Japan, wanting things "your way" is perceived as barbarically selfish and rude. It was one of those moments that made TDS my favorite park early on and I wrote a "thank you" note to Guest Relations as well as calling on the phone to let them know how much I appreciated how easy that experience had been. All prior restaurant experiences had been...different. It's hard to even find things that can still taste good with no meat, and often removing meat is simply impossible. Anyway, the meat is not the issue when it comes to the "shock;" it's all about the mayonnaise, if you can believe it.

    I only ever ate at New York Deli after that; it was my "safe place." They did it every time for months, and then one time they said "no" to the pesto mayonnaise on the side. So I explained about all the times I'd had pesto mayonnaise before, they made me wait forever, and finally sent a manager out who agreed to do it and apologized for making it such a hassle. I was so worried I'd done something wrong that I actually called Guest Relations. The rep I spoke with, whom I spoke with often, insisted it was fine for me to ask for the mayonnaise and apologized for me being made to feel I'd done something wrong. "That's never something we want Guests to feel." It was fine for a while again (I only ever eat at one place), and then again it was on and off I'd have to insist, but in the end they always gave it to me. I felt terrible every time I had to insist - embarrassing standing there as people are waiting and each time wondering what "the foreigner" was doing wrong. I only went to one place, only ordered one thing, and did both often. I even called Guest Relations again to make sure nothing had changed, and two different CMs insisted, after confirming with Food Services, that I was doing nothing wrong. I could have the sandwich with no meat and the pesto mayonnaise, and they were very sorry for taking my time and for making me feel uncomfortable. They told me repeatedly not to feel sorry and they apologized for my inconsistent experience. Still, I was starting to be fed up with the doubletalk and when my AP expired in 2009, I didn't get a new one.

    Even on my birthday in 2009, reserved and paid for earlier in the day back when you had to reserve in the parks for the Polynesian Terrace, we talked at length about vegetarian menu options for later that night. And yet, when we arrived, not on time but early, by the time we were seated, the chef actually had to come out and we had to go through a whole deal about how difficult it was to make vegetarian options and finally decided on a pesto spaghetti which is, to date, the best pasta I've ever had IN MY LIFE - anywhere. When friends and I tried to go back to the Polynesian again in 2010, we were told that there were no vegetarian options nor substitutions available. I would have to pay full price if I wanted to attend the show and I could simply not eat anything I didn't want to eat from my dinner. Needless to say, we passed.

    Then, on the dayI got my Annual Pass last year (2010), I finished all my shopping and headed, exhausted and starving, to New York Deli for my sandwich and sustenance. We went through the whole waiting and ask a manager rigamorole, and in the end they refused to give me the pesto mayonnaise. This is after a considerable amount of embarrassing hassle. I was so frustrated. It had ruined my day. Once again, in spite of countless insistence to the contrary, I was made to feel like my request was the problem, like Iwas the problem, but they had created the expectation by making my first visit magical and continuing to provide me with the ONE thing I really liked to eat. I even said, "Please just let me have it today, and now I've been informed of the change. I won't ask again." They refused. Over mayonnaise. I couldn't believe it. I had done the Post a few times at this point and felt totally insulted and unvalued. I was advertising my heart out for them, exactly because I believe in this one character as the mascot and symbol of Oriental Land Company's greatness. I was making them thousands of dollars they would otherwise not have from people all over the world who might never be able to come there. I was spreading the word about this company who had given me a Disney I had only dreamed of. I was standing there, nearly in tears, with thousands of dollars in merchandise I'd just bought and an AP I'd used solely to go there to shop...that same day, for the first time after giving up in 2009...and I couldn't have mayonnaise just one more time, even though, as they admitted, the rules had pnly recently been changed??

    Keep in mind, too, that when I get something without meat (cos very few non-sweets don't contain it), there is no substitution or discount. I was so upset that, like I said, I actually started crying. They still didn't budge.


    I started to leave the park and I just felt sick about having spent all my free money on the AP again for a company that didn't care about me at all. Instead of leaving, I went to Guest Relations and asked to talk to someone. The CM at the counter could see that I was extremely upset and she really, sincerely, wanted to help, but wasn't empowered to solve my problem. After a long while (with Japanese guests staring at me), they pulled me into a private room and I talked with three different men - management from Guest Relations, Food Services, and another man who'd been brought in to translate, but whose English ability was actually far beneath many, many CMs that I've encountered (or at least it was...sometimes), making our conversation incredibly time-consuming and frustrating. The girl from the Guest Relations counter also came in. She was the only one who said she understood how I felt. I was deeply moved by her kindness and her bravery, and I know she kept her job because I have thanked her in person since then.^^ She could understand English, though her speaking was limited.

    If memory serves, the man from Food Services was at least listening to me, though he seemed to mostly be waiting for me to just get over it and shut up. The man from Guest Relations seemed completely inflexible and annoyed at how "troublesome" I was (he actually SUGGESTED I bring food from home), and the translator seemed only half to be paying any attention at all, and totally "reinterpreting" what I said. Finally I said, "If my love for your park is really so worthless to you that you won't put mayonnaise on a plate ONE more time and you want me to feel like a horrible person because your policies are inconsistent, then I don't want to come here anymore. You are making it impossible for me to feel comfortable giving you my money. Please refund my Pass." And they said they would. And I cried more.


    A friend was on her way to meet me already, so I told them I needed time to really think and make a decision, and I went outside to call her. She was so worried about me; she had never heard me so upset. I wished she could be there. She told me she couldn't believe they let it get that far and that if I really wanted to send them a message about accommodating vegetarians and guests' needs, I should accept it if they were willing to give me a refund. She had been with me different times and knew about the inconsistent decisions at New York Deli, and the way it had made me feel at times. She suggested that maybe seeing that I was thatupset would really make a difference. So I did it, I returned my beautiful, perfect AP. And she met me, a few minutes after. I showed her the photo of my amazing AP, and she saw my tears and told me she thought I'd done the right thing, and that I shouldn't give them any more of my money. I tried to stick to that.

    But I still loved Duffy, still loved what OLC meant to me when it was good, and still loved the MiceChat Duffy community. So I decided to go only for Duffy items, just for shopping, just buying a ticket each time and hoping I had a chance to ride something. Other than that, I wouldn't go at all. It worked out for a while (because there were no new releases), but last year's Christmas event at TDL was such an amazing theme and one of my friends from Nagoya had just moved to Tokyo and was eager to go, so we went. And I went to the one place, Pizza Planet or whatever, where I'd been before that I could eat...and they told me they couldn't make a pizza with no meat...AT ALL. I insisted that it should be ok, I just want no meat; I didn't expect them to add anything. This was in line with what they had told me when I gave back my AP. I could have no meat, but no extras on the side. They said no. I called Guest Relations. The head or one of the top managers from Food Services came to meet me in the restaurant. He kept on talking and talking for nearly two hours. I would say, "fine," he would say that I didn't really seem happy and he wanted me to be happy, but he also wanted me to understand that it was "difficult" for them to spend the time to make special food for Guests. He seemed somehow oblivious to the fact that I had paid for a One-Day Passport and he was taking up two hours and just kept talking every time I tried to say, "I get it" and get back to my day with my visiting friend from out of town. I would say, "fine," he would smile like he'd just eaten something really delicious and continue to insist that I didn't really seem happy...on and on. His English was excellent, and either he was trying to tell me that he really did care and that his own bosses made things "difficult" or he was trying to tell me to look 100% satisfied so that if I ever complained again they could say, "But you looked 100% satisfied." I was never really sure which.

    I was upset about all of this for a long, long time. Heartbroken. I really never wanted to go back. But then Spring Voyagehappened, and I just had to. After making my hotel reservations at Miracosta, including dinner at Oceano, I received a phone call from a/the manager of Food Services. I guess he got my number from my AP record. He also spoke excellent English, and he told me they hadn't planned the menu yet for Spring Voyage, but that they would be able to offer vegetarian substitutions, so I shouldn't worry. He said that he knew about all the problems I'd had in the past, and he apologized both personally and for the company. He asked for my email address and said he would write me. But weeks went by with nothing and our reservation was coming up. We just decided to go to the restaurant and deal with whatever happened. At least we could watch the show from the terrace. Well, it rained that day and Fantasmic!was cancelled, and although he had finally gotten in touch with me and assured vegetarian cooked dishes, when we arrived for dinner, we had to have the chef come out and then I said "anything is ok," embarrassed and tired after a rained out birthday, and I ended up with the worst putanesca watered down pasta I've ever had, ever. It might have been my mood, but my friends agreed.

    Since then, I just let it go, accepting that I love the way OLC handles Disney and Duffy and the overall park experience, even if I hated the way they treated me when it came to this particular issue (and a few others, one I'll get to later). I think of all the other times countless CMs have filled my life with magic and put a smile on my face and I remember how much I missed TDS during the year and a half that I refused to buy the Annual Pass. I accept it. It's not the Duffy Team or the CMs I speak to regularly calling those shots.
    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    With your experience starting in 2008, you know a park that's taken different approach in some fundamental respects from the one that was conceived and designed during the 1990's and opened in 2001. I was lucky enough follow the parks development and even luckier to experience it before opening day. I appreciate hearing the articulate views of someone like yourself who has a very different perspective due to your arriving AD, rather than BD. (That would be "After Duffy" and "Before Duffy." )
    It's of course true that I only know what I know. I don't feel that necessarily makes me "ignorant" anymore than someone born after the civil rights movement is not more ignorant than those who were born before it. I certainly have had different experiences and hold different perspectives, not only about Disney, but likely about Japan and the larger world. The fact that I first visited a Disney park in 2008 is a fact, but it does not invalidate my point of view, but simply contextualizes it. We all have them.^^

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    You talked about "that same quality/narrative/immersion standard." It existed at DisneySea during the park's first two years, but it was more comprehensive and sophisticated than what they've done with Duffy.
    This just seems like an apples and oranges comparison to me. You're talking about the whole park; I'm talking about Duffy. My point is not about the whole park. My point is that with Duffy, there is a very high standard of integration where the merchandise IS the character. The quality IS the sincerity. The design IS the narrative. The park experience IS the fictional story and vice-versa.

    Duffy fever in its heyday (which I feel has died down a bit) made American Waterfront feel like America when the teddy bear was first invented in the early 20th Century; it was fantastic immersion with the backdrops of Cape Cod, and especially New York, where the teddy bear was (debatably) invented by the Ideal Toy Company.

    Now Duffy is still evolving, but the details of the Cape Cod Village Greeting Place and its fantastic "magic" of making Duffy into a classic character (solving his fundamental "problem," which is that he's not) represent some of the very best Imagineering in the park. The Village Greeting Place is an astonishing achievement of storytelling and place-making, contextualizing, immersing - not marketing. Only a cynic who hates Duffy would see that incredible design, compelling on so many levels, as a simple money grab. Clearly the artists who created it were doing so much more than that, or they're just that good.

    "My Friend Duffy" on the other hand is everything that's wrong with the Duffy push, but I just can't shake the suspicion that there was a LOT of US involvement with that...

    Maybe there was greater immersion and more diversity in the rest of the park "Before Duffy," which I said previously is my understanding. That's what I've heard, and it looks to be true. But that does not mean that what's happening with Duffy and Cape Cod is antithetical to it. Cape Cod is still a relaxed, laidback place. In fact, that energy is what Duffy is all about. And especially this past year, Duffy merchandise has become more and more park replica merchandise that brings the experience home. I think that's the same, conceptually, as the Cape Cod that you describe. Duffy quality is still about handcrafted beauty and homemade flavors. But it's true, the character has made Cape Cod his hometown. In my opinion, both are better for it.

    I wish Nemo was as much of a presence in Mysterious Island. Hearing you talk about the old Nautilus Gifts fills me with envy that I missed that. I wish there were more vaudevillians and newsies running around New York. I wish we could meet the members of SEA strolling around Fortresss Explorations, and I wish I could buy merchandise with the SEA emblem... I don't wish for Duffy not to be. I don't see Duffy as the problem. I see the problem as not doing everything in the park with the same "go for it" passion and courage with which the Duffy Team dares to create their very best work and trusts in their talent and heart that it will sell well enough to keep them employed, keep them inspired, and keep them Bringing the Love. There is a very real, very beautiful, highly (though simply) communicated message to Duffy. He, and ShellieMay, are not just about buying cute things. If you don't hear it, if it doesn't connect with you, that's okay. But it's not about being lonely and pitiful, and it's not just about selling stuff. It's a model for how everything could - and should - be. And if EVERYTHING was, Duffy wouldn't look like such a problem to the people who just don't get it...or don't want to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    The park opened with an innovative approach in which environments, entertainment, food, and merchandise were integrated within each area to a degree far greater than had been attempted in the past... A primary element of that program was its extensive use of highly creative atmosphere entertainment. Unfortunately, after the park's first two years, the Treeman, the rock people (I'm not remembering what they were officially named), The Weathermen, the Used Camel Salesman, the monkeys in Lost River Delta, the belly dancers, and many, many other atmosphere entertainers disappeared, replaced by walk-around Disney characters, again to better appeal to ... guess who. Instead of sticking with a higher, adult oriented concept, marketing it properly, and allowing it to evolve, OLC got scared. They scraped it and fell even further back onto the Tokyo Disneyland model.
    I can't comment on the food, as I only ever eat at one place, but the atmosphere entertainment does still happen, although I agree that it's lessened that what I've heard about in the past. I would love to see the Mayor of Porto Paradiso wandering the streets, and stilt performers! I have never seen the Treeman, rock people, or monkeys; but all the other atmosphere entertainment you mention, I have indeed seen and multiple times. Plus, the drummers in American Waterfront and the "custodian comedian" (I forget the proper name). They also seem to be pushing atmosphere shows with Halloween this year, which I think is great. Maybe they notice that TDS is more firmly established now and the plan is to bring back that feeling of unique atmosphere to each area. Maybe Duffy is just the beginning. I hope.

    I heard there used to be wandering sailor pipe-players and Irish dancers in Cape Cod. I'd love to see that! That's not separate from Duffy in my opinion, as the Cape Cod Village Greeting Place makes very, very clear. The problem is the gap between "My Friend Duffy" and "Cape Cod Duffy." It's a big gap, but the vast majority of Duffy realization in TDS skews to the Cape Cod side, though I'm not confident many or most Duffy fans even notice...and I'm not sure they wouldn't prefer "My Friend Duffy" anyway - it's a MUCH easier concept. But that's not what the Team designs, even though they design work that appeals to that audience. That's what EACH Port should do, individually. I agree with you.^^

    One of my favorite events (that I only know from research) is Cape Cod Jamboree Nights. It was a summer event, focused on Cape Cod, that went as far as having its very own pamphlet like the TODAY guides. It was in the summer of 2005, and highlighted the "Disney Bear" in Cape Cod costume as a wonderful souvenir. It was just a few months before he would be called "Duffy." It was thoroughly immersive, with custom drinks and highly specific food, and a bonafide Irish band in Skelpin that actually played every night for the whole summer. Real drinks, real dancing, real music by a real band...to make Cape Cod into a real place.

    Bonfire Dance had the same effect for Arabian Coast, in that it tied with the narrative of the Sultan's long-awaited arrival and told a story that felt like part of the Port. Porto Paradiso Water Carnival, the precursor to Mythica, is another one that I wish I'd had the chance to see in person.

    For me, the thing about these is that Cape Cod, through Duffy and tight integration still has that special, specific sense of place. There is always Cape Cod's own Halloween, Christmas, Valentine, spring and summer event. It is always separate and unique, and that is because of Duffy. I don't wish that Duffy didn't do this. I wish he only did it in Cape Cod, or at least in American Waterfont. And I wish there were teams that were just as good at telling stories through selling products for the other areas of the park. I don't think it has to be just "kawaii" anymore; I think it has to be magical. I feel confident it can be done. Duffy proves it. But the work, from conception to realization, would have to be as good and as consistent as the Duffy Team's. There's the challenge.

    It's not that I ever WANTED to spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours on a teddy bear. It's not that I'm so lonely and miserable that the teddy bear is my surrogate friend. It's that the Duffy Team proves to me, repeatedly and consistently, that there is a way for a mass-producing corporation to engage directly with fans through the pure quality of its commercial work and for that connection to be meaningful, inherently. Isn't this what Disney is all about? When it's good, isn't that what we love? Maybe Duffy's not "it" for you, but that doesn't mean the people who love him are just a bunch of broken empty shells, and it doesn't mean the artists consistently delivering undismissable work are in it for the money, no matter what the executives' agenda may be. Maybe they are, but I just don't see soullessness when I look at the output of Duffy, nor at most TDR merchandise. I can see design choices and the satisfied grin of someone who "nailed it" on most of the products for sale at TDR. The problem is that the vast majority of the merchandise, though well-made, is not specific to one Port. I agree that this should change.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...When the park first opened there was a nice selection of Nautilus themed goods at the (then more appropriately named) Nautilus Gifts in Mysterious Island's caldera. As someone who appreciates the works of Jules Verne and the wonderful Harper Goff Nautilus design, I was glad to see them. It was some cool stuff. But that was the problem. The stuff was cool, not kawaii. Sales were dismal. The audience was wrong. The park was filled with girls who didn't know a thing about Captain Nemo or the Nautilus and couldn't care less about buying something themed to it. They came to DisneySea expecting Tokyo Disneyland 2, because that's how it had been marketed to them. They were in the most ambitious, arguably, the most beautiful theme park in the world ... and they were disappointed. DisneySea was not made for them, but it was marketed to them. They stood there in Mysterious Island's caldera, with not a shred of kawaii in sight, and wished they were at Tokyo Disneyland.
    I'm not sure this would be the case today. Both Nemo and Hightower have a cool factor that could appeal to girls, as well as boys. Hightower's is mysterious and interesting, and Nemo's could even be cool and "sexy." I think OLC should be far more aggressive about appealing to boys and men. Japanese boys and men love Disney just as much as women do in many, many, MANY cases. But like sugar in coffee or any kind of sweets, the marketing makes that "for girls," so in following the established "rules," they are not "suppossed" to like it. How many American men can imagine not eating cake, muffins, donuts, streudels, pancakes, sundaes, parfaits, puddings or pie...simply because you were told your whole life that these things are "for girls." But that's how it works here.

    So many aspects of TDS are very, very masculine. Especially Mysterious Island, of course. But also New York and Lost River Delta. And no place in the park is very feminine except for Mermaid Lagoon (although even there, we see statues of both Triton and Eric at the entrance). TDS is not a "girls' park." Disney is not a "girls' brand." Duffy, too, is neither a "girls'" nor a "kids'" character; it was adult collectors who established the boom in the first place. I agree with you that OLC ties its own hands with some of its marketing, but this is a fixable problem. Although, as you so rightly said, it requires challenging centuries ,and more significantly, decades of self-limiting conditioning. Can they do it? I'm not sure. But Halloween at TDS looks a lot more like it this year!

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    On opening day, only about five percent of the goods at Aunt Peg's Village Store were Disney themed. It was a shop of New England themed nicknacks; ceramic and wooden items, like little lighthouses, country kitchen items, etc., many of them handcrafted, as if they were made by the residents of the area. They were the sort of things the wife in an older couple would purchase to decorate their home and remind them of the relaxing, romantic time they had at DisneySea's Cape Cod. But, again, the customers for those goods weren't there.
    As I've said, I think there is a total turnaround here now. Duffy is definitely about this kind of merchandising. And while it is now about character goods, the atmosphere and aesthetic inform and enspirit that character. I think this is an example of how the character solved that problem. In Cape Cod, it needed to be Duffy. In other areas, it doesn't. I would really to see some Sindbad stuff instead of just Chandu stuff over in Arabian Coast. The attraction seems to be gaining popularity lately; I think it could happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    To be clear, it would have taken a focused, long-term, and well executed marketing campaign to convince the disinterested older demographic that a Disney park exists that would be of interest to them, to convince them that DisneySea is not Tokyo Disneyland. Unfortunately, efforts in that respect were and continue to be halfhearted at best and drowned out by the far louder advertising for things like Duffy seasonal events and Campus Days.
    Swap out "Disney park" with "teddy bear," and swap out "DisneySea" with "Duffy" and "just another plush," and you have described the work behind the Duffy phenomenon exactly. Except that the team did in fact implement a "focused, long-term, and well executred marketing campaign." Instead of halfhearted efforts, though, the Duffy Team gives it everything they've got, every time. The problem is not that this team is successful and celebrated. The problem is that there isn't a similar team with a similar drive and similar talent for every Port of Call. Attacking the place where it's actually working just seems very, very counter-intuitive, not to mention counterproductive, to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Giving OLC some credit where it's due, they've done a better job of promoting a campaign that encourages young women to bring their mothers with them to the parks and they recently put more emphasis on a "three generations" strategy. It's a start. Now they need to stick with it, expand it, and take advantage of the fact that DisneySea is a park which can appeal to the three generations of a family, if, again, it's allowed to be what it was created to be.
    I couldn't agree more. Everything about TDS shows this "three generations" vision; even when the marketing is wrong, the atmosphere and intention are palpable and undeniable. It's in the "bones" of the place. I would add to this, though, the very serious importance of opening the brand to males and aggressively marketing to boys and men. That, too, is part of TDS DNA. And if this summer's event has been any indication, this is a harder nut to crack.

    I've been writing for hours and hours now. I'm gonna save my reply to the "serious Duffy hate" below for later, when I've had more rest. Plus, this is probably enough to trudge through for now. It's so nice to talk with someone who posts long enough to really know what you think. Thank you again.

  10. #25

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    Thumbs up Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    For anyone who isn't familiar with the depth of the phenomenon surrounding Duffy here in Japan, I should mention the bear is actually a sensitive topic.
    This makes it sound far more divisive and dramatic than it actually is. Duffy love is anything but marginal, and Duffy hate in Japan is a very, very small group relative to those who love Duffy, those who like Duffy, and everyone else who may be indifferent. Also, considering you're talking to someone who is so clearly respectful of you and so clearly a devoted Duffy fan, I hope that perhaps you'll show a liittle more sensitivity in your presentation of what you yourself call a sensitive topic in the future, so we can have a more balanced conversation. Unfortunately, some of what you have said, or at least the way you've said it, inspires real anger in me; not only about Duffy, but also about the Japanese people. In some places, I may not control my temper as well as others, but I am earnestly endeavoring to do so, and I am sincerely interested in conversing with you. I want to believe that you really don't simplify people down this much, and that some of this "came out wrong."

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    There are character fanatics (a word I'm not using lightly)...
    ...Though it's hard to escape the lofty swagger of your tone, right from the get-go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...for Mickey, Donald, and pretty much every other Disney character, but none of those characters have created an emotional attachment as deep as the one which exists among so many devotees of Duffy.
    While I would be thrilled if this were true, that Duffy fans' devotion is deeper and stronger than those of even Mickey and Donald fans, it's just absolutely ridiculous. I don't say that lightly. It is so at odds with even the most casual observation of reality that I was instantly dumbfounded by the gap between where this post starts to go and the keen insight that preceded it.

    Mickey fans are HARDcore! They have notebooks of signatures and album after album of photos. They have bags that are covered with Mickey plush badges from every conceivable event. They have Mickey clothes and Mickey smartphones and use Mickey kitchen appliances... Oh wait. We could insert any of the Illustrious Eight here, as well as Marie, Genie, the Toy Story gang, the cast of Big Band Beat, etc. Japanese fans are FANS! At least the hardcore, but the whole nation is different in its relationship to Disney. Somewhere I have written an analytical post about this difference and the way that the Japanese goodwill toward Disney is very like Americans' before we woke up to the massive dangers and evils of the megacorporate military industrial complex. Perhaps later, I'll look around for it.

    Anyway, the idea that the AVERAGE Duffy fan's character love exceeds the AVERAGE love of any other character's fandom is just patently preposterous. The Disney characters are loved in Japan. By kids, teens, and adults. That's real, and it's AWESOME! The energy it adds to the park is kinetic and exciting. But Duffy fans don't love Duffy more than Mickey fans love Mickey. It's just that when someone is a Mickey or Donald fan, no one feels the need to ask them to justify it.

    And before we move on, let's talk about Tokyo Disney "fanatics" and what that word means, cos I reallly don't think folks who don't live here will have a clear picture of it, and I also think it covers a wide spectrum so we should make sure we're talking about the same things.

    I would call anyone with an Annual Pass or who goes to the Resort more than twice a year a definite "fan." Some fans might be children, but for argument's sake, I am excluding anyone under 20 from the purposes of this conversation, as I think most people think of children's love of Disney in a very different way from adult fandom, no matter what they think about adult fandom.

    I think the vast, VAST majority of TDR guests fall into the group above, kind of interspersed with people who are coming with friends and just there to have a good time. There are actually some fans of the Tokyo Resort who love it exclusively for the quality of service and beauty of experience, Disney not required. Though as I said earlier, Japanese fans' ability to genuinely love characters with NO "weirdness" or "shame" is inspiring and impressive. But the degree is the thing.

    For every 100 guests who shout "Mickey, Mickeeey!!" with reckless abandon and swoon when he waves or blows a kiss, there are 200 who smile and enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the characters, but are there just to hang out, not to be pulled into the Disney consumption machine. And for every 200 happy guests and every 100 fans, there are those 10 Disney otaku who put Disney in a focal point in their lives a lot of the time, not just when they enjoy going to the Resort. And for every 10 otaku there is that one really extreme "maniac." And for every 3~5 maniacs, one of them is truly disturbed.

    I am using "otaku" more like the way I used it in the US, not like the fairly strongly offensive word it is in Japan. Disney otaku are on message boards. If you're reading this, you're an otaku. The majority of park guests, even light fans, are not on message boards chatting about the parks, their history, or their operation. The majority of guests go, have fun, go home. They may go again. They may go often. But they are not talking about it all the time. They are not building online relationships with strangers about it. They go with their family, they have a good time. But it is not a significant part of their lives.

    Disney otaku make up at least 10% of the not-completely-casual guest list. They are likely to be more decked out in Disney than other "fans," who might just wear a headband or cap. They are more likely to have Disney branded designer handbags or phones, other fashion. They are more likely to know about upcoming Disney events. They know when, where and how to pre-order D23 tickets. They are people who actively seek the Disney in their lives. Everyone who has come out of lurking and posted on MiceChat for any reason other than to get specific advice for an upcoming trip falls into the category of "otaku," in my mind, myself included.

    Within this otaku group, there are many interests. Some love Vinylmation, some Princesses, some Duffy. Some don't love merchandising at all, but rather books of park history and trivia. Some love artwork. Some love only the classic animation. Some love the "Golden Renaissance" best. There is a lot of variety. Some want Disney in their house and garden. Some only for the baby/kids' things. Some like subtle "Mickey mark" designs. Some want characters plastered on their T-shirts. There is a LOT of variety.

    Maniacs, on the other hand, vary less. They will be, at nearly all times, covered head to toe in Disney in some way. There are relatively affluent "maniacs" who prefer the more subtle Disney items and have a higher degree of social functioning; they are harder to spot. I'll focus on the ones who walk around the parks with Disney T-shirts and bags literally covered with plush badges, carrying so much Disney love they might burst at the seams.

    While all of this group is overzealous, even by my standards, with the need to physically be seen as a "superfan," they are not all mentally damaged or disturbed. Some are awesome, just doing what they like, but that number is, indeed, relatively small. And some are compensating, surely, but not disturbed. Others are talking to their plush or very angry if you brush into them or talking to themselves or very angry if your shadow falls on Duffy's good sunlight... These people have real mental issues, likely untreated. I often think that many of them are using Disney as self-medication the same way some people with untreated mental disorders use crack, meth and heroin in the US. I'll take Disney over that any day.

    There are more people with accessibility issues and disabilities around the Disney Resort than nearly anywhere in Tokyo, or arguably, Japan. It is a WELCOMING, SAFE place. Not just because of Mickey and friends, but because of the extraordinary job that OLC does creating the atmosphere and setting the vibe. It is a good place, and broken people definitely are attracted to it. But it is not remotely the majority, and it is absolutely not limited to, nor concentrated in Duffy. And in NO WAY is it the majority of Duffy fans.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...My observation is that much of the reason for it (not all - some people have very different reasons) is summed up in the title of the show at DisneySea's Cape Cod Cook-Off: "My Friend Duffy." Japan is a lonely culture, Kanto (the region where Tokyo is located), even more so. That kind of flies in the face of the image of Japan as a virtual hive culture, doesn't it? But they've found a way to be hive-like and lonely at the same time. For example, crowds in train stations and busy streets move with an almost eerie fluidity, but there's a powerful social taboo that prevents strangers from speaking to each other beyond the occasional mechanical politeness of phrases like "excuse me" or "I'm sorry." The loneliness problem gets worse, though. It's common for best friends, people who've regularly spent time together for nearly their entire lives, to know almost nothing about each other. They just don't ask questions or share information about themselves beyond the superficial. To them, that's just the way it is. But the way it is leaves a void. I believe there's much positive to be said about Japanese culture, but here - no. Here it conflicts with basic human need and it's one reasons the suicide rates are so high in Japan. Too many people feel they have no one they can talk to, so they keep everything bottled up. Many wonder why so many Japanese, especially women, are so obsessed with Disney and other characters. Well, there's what's at the heart of it for many of them. The characters are surrogates that fill the void, assuming the role in their minds (consciously or not) of the comforting friend, ideal partner/spouse, or even deity. (Disney is much more religion in Japan than is any religion.) Their favorite character is the one who knows, understands, and cares about them, and I've observed no character that has been more successfully tailored to fill that void than Duffy.

    The part in bold is true, as nearly everyone who lives in Japan longer than a year without "catching" the Japan-can-do-no-wrong virus notices very painfully. It never goes away because it is the saddest, saddest thing. It's not something you can loftily soar above, pontificating. It's a heavy weight that pulls you down. Seeing these people, so full of love and imaginatioin, some of the most creative, sensitive, fearless, loving, gentle, beautiful souls on the Earth...being twisted and perverted into obsession and delusion, submissive, fragile, terrified, suspicious, violent, vicious souls who protect their hoarded little corner of the train, the park, the world like a terrible dragon. They are ready to roast themselves or those around them at a moment's notice, sometimes without any perceivable warning. All because they live in a society that is filled with oppressive contradictions and ever-present judgment, based on a set of rules that are rules only because they were told so, that often do not hold up to any kind of scrutiny. But the very act of questioning them leaves one branded as strange, not like us, outsider, gaijin, weirdo, foreigner, creep. So they don't, and there's a schism. And then they find Disney (or any of a million other hobbies, of which Disney is among the safest and least creepy, actually). And they feel safe, they have a channel, an outlet. With any luck, they will make some real friends, and help each other see that they can be Japanese without judging each other, without measuring up or measuring anything, and they can save each other's lives. If not, maybe Mickey or Duffy will do it. And maybe they will sink into delusion. That's real. That happens. But it is rare. The phenomenology of it is unique to Japan, but the psychology is not entirely. Regardless, it is a small group of the population that goes this far, and both of the things implied above are quite simply untrue, by any sane understanding of reality: The VAST majority of Duffy fans are MILES AND MILES away from this group, and most of this group is ABSOLUTELY not flocking to Duffy. There are many broken maniacs supporting every character under the sun. My personal experience would put Chip 'N Dale at the top.

    Duffy fans - "normal" (whatever that means), average Duffy fans - do bring a teddy bear to the park and walk around with it. That's enough for some people to call "crazy" right there. They do spend money on bear clothes and character goods. The same people who buy Disney art books and model figures would call that "strike two." They do pose Duffy in the parks, set him up at parades, make sure he's "looking" out of bags, make him "wave" at friendly people, spend lots of time taking careful photos...and they do - GASP! - actually love and feel a not-unlike-childhood bond with their fluffing teddy bear. "Strike three," says the man who can recite the history of Disney with lots of inside knowledge of the cuff and with great accuracy. I don't think there's anything "wrong" with these fans at all. Duffy connects them to the child-heart/mind. I think Disney does that; I think that's awesome. Duffy works for them. These people do not think Duffy is alive. They pose him in the parks to entertain and connect with other guests, to be part of the atmosphere experience, and because they truly love what Duffy is about and want to share it. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I have met several people through Duffy love. I have met some who were obsessed, sure. But mostly they just think he's "cute," or at least, that's what they think they think. But the ones I like best are the ones who see the message and think it matters to be part of nurturing it. Duffy is NOT my "religion;" but I do believe in him and the Team developing him. Mickey would not be Mickey if there hadn't been folks who believed in him, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    It's pretty creepy, exploiting loneliness for profit, but it's far from unprecedented and I feel it's safe to assume that Duffy, that damned bear, has actually saved lives. I'm not kidding. He's been there when people have needed him.


    This just sounds so cold, judgmental, and above-it-all for something referencing suicide. I don't think that OLC is "exploiting loneliness for profit." Duffy is NOT like those talking doll things that were over-represented in Western media ten years ago. He is not being marketed to comfort lonely office ladies. More and more, Duffy is very clearly being marketed to kids and families, as I think OLC was concerned about the negative backlash brewing among SOME Cast members and fans toward a visibly growing adult fan/collector community based around a teddy bear. Looking at the "brony" phenomenon that sprouted from "My Little Pony," I can see why they were apprehensive. The difference is that adult collectors were undeniably the FIRST fan base for Duffy and the target audience for much of his marketing. The focus on kids, while wonderful for ensuring Duffy's future, should not push out adults or make them feel "creepy." There is a depth of storytelling possible with Duffy and Cape Cod that is worth pursuing in a way that might be complex to children, and the quality of products tells that story and appeals strongly to the adult ability to perceive such quality.

    OLC, to my mind, has been making their own "Mickey." Duffy is not about, in my opinion, exploiting loneliness, but rather about celebrating the OLC way of doing things. He is a symbol of their commitment to quality, and of their ability to provide meaningful communication solely through merchandising because of that commitment. This underscores everything that OLC does well, and Duffy epitomizes it. He is as much a symbol of OLC's high standards and carefree character joy as Mickey is a corporate mascot. I think that's why they push him, not cos they think it's fun to watch broken people give up their cash. That's just gross, and in my experience, even when negative, that is NOT the way OLC operates.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    From the cast perspective, the ones who have to interact with the Duffy people (merchandise cast, mainly), they're generally pretty disturbed and annoyed by them. (They do their best to not let it show, of course.) Let's just say many in the Duffy camp aren't in possession of the best social skills and they're sometimes kind of disconnected from reality. It makes them kind of obnoxious from the cast point of view.


    What a horrible, terrible, arrogant and erroneous thing to say. And just plain mean, considering that I'm the other main contributor in this thread. You generalize about "the Duffy people" and "the Duffy camp" as if everyone who loves Duffy is the same. You generalize about the Cast members as if all of them are intolerant jerks (like you sound in the above, sorry) who resent that they "have to" interact with Duffy fans who always "annoy" and "disturb" them. Yuck to all of that! Just...ugh. So, so different from your earlier voice. I cannot understand where all of this hate is coming from and how rational thought and respectful decency are suddenly just abandoned for a version of events totally distorted by the "facts" as you WISH to see them, the definition of delusional.

    These rude, judgmental, awful CMs definitely do exist. I've dealt with them. One time I was shopping for a bunch of other people and my total was, naturally, huge. Some guests walked by, pointed at the total, talked about me like I wasn't standing right there and LAUGHED IN MY FACE. The CM who was bagging my stuff looked up to smile WITH THEM, making it clear that he thought I was "weird," too, sparing himself from the potential for being associated with disapproval from these other guests.

    Now these other guests were a couple of high school or university boys who may have just really thought it was funny and surprising to see someone, especially a man, especially a foreigner, spending so much. They may have been judging nothing at all. Their behavior was rude, but I wasn't offended. But when the CM chimed in with them, he MADE me the joke, he made it clear that I was pathetic, at least in his poor eyes, the geeky portly sap (yeah, I was bitter^^). He ruined my experience and my day. Fortunately, he is not, in my experience, most CMs. Perhaps you have a different experience; perhaps we tend to keep the company of like-minded people. I think CMs who are only customarily polite to guests but secretly resent them are a very few, and I wish all of them would quit. It's strange how smug and proud you sound about these self-righteous snobs who are IN THE WRONG JOB!

    To quickly finish the above story, before I could leave, other CMs started showing up until there were no less than four of them, all standing around chatting with each other, looking over all my stuff. I had already paid and had come before work, so I was in a bit of a hurry. I kept asking Tubby Glasses the Smiling Judge what the problem was. He just looked at me exasperated and said, "Ch...cho...chotto matte./ W...wai...wait a minute." No "kudasai/please." RUDE. But I was not a person to him anyway. I was first of all a foreigner and second of all an otaku, third of all a creepy weirdo and maybe even a pedophile. I was labeled and ready for the trash heap and that's exactly how I felt; I guess the folks you're referring to are about as good at "not letting it show" as this guy was. I hate it, and I always know.

    Even if I was a creepy weirdo, which I am so decidedly not, this guy has no right to judge me. Even if I wasn't a customer spending LOTS of money, what he did was pretty crappy on a purely human level. But the Japanese mentality is, "if you're weird, you deserve it. Don't be weird." And your tone sounds like someone who really buys into that. I really, really don't.

    Finally, I got a little annoyed and, in Japanese, demanded an explanation. And Tubby G admitted that he had forgotten to charge me for one of the items, distracted as he was by judging me and smirking with other guests, and that I would need to fork over ¥3800 for another ShellieMay. Although four CMs each individually counted every item and took turns going over the same receipt and a manager came to observe all of this, not one of them fellt the need to even attempt to explain what was going on, and nearly all of them laughed at how "hysterical" it was that a foreign man would be buying all this stuff in the first place. He judged me, mocked me, wasted my time with a mistake he made because he was judging and mocking me. But I didn't complain about it, because by that time I had learned that OLC is more "Japanese" than I first thought and that any criticism from a "creepy lonely weirdo" like me is easily dismissed because I must be a creepy lonely weirdo or I wouldn't like Duffy in the first place. Both the bravado and the irony are seriously tiresome.

    But please go on. Elaborate on "my" poor social skills, obnoxiousness, and reality disconnect. You clearly understand me, and all Duffy fans since we're all alike, so well. Please, please elucidate me, O Wise One! (I warned you that you hurt my feelings!) I get that it's hard for non-Duffy fans to understand. That's okay. What bothers me is the judgment, the self-righteousness, and the arrogance. The attitude you embody in the above quote and that you say in a blanket way is the attitude of CMs in general toward Duffy fans is not a way ANYone should feel about ANYbody. It's just rude, presumptive, and hurtful. I don't know why anyone would choose to approach life that way, and I think those who do are the obnoxious ones, lacking in social respect and understanding, and disconnected from reality because rather than observing and listening, they already think they know it all. That's really a dangerous position in any instance, but most especially when you're wrong and have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Just because you can find other people who feed your delusion, that doesn't make it not delusional, even if they're the majority.

    I know that lots of folks on MiceChat and in the world will struggle with the idea that grown people, particularly males, who love a teddy bear character could be healthy and "normal," and maybe even in touch with a positive kind of gentle openness that is worth seeking. I know that's hard; I'm not deluded. But I don't think everyone who doesn't "get on board" is a jerk. Just the jerks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Merchandise managers at Tokyo Disneyland are pushing for Duffy at their locations because all they really care about it making their numbers look good. Merchandise cast are not only against it, they dread the possibility. Sharing the sentiment of a growing number of guests, many cast also see the spread of Duffy as a prime example of OLC's increasingly crass commercialism.


    As I said earlier, Duffy needs to go back to Cape Cod where he belongs, though that presents serious crowd management problems. There is an equally "growing number of guests" AND Cast who Duffy. Anyone can present a one-sided, self-serving argument. I worry that if Duffy doesn't get low profile after Spring Voyage next year, though, there really will be a serious backlash. It's, among other reasons like the fact that it would just be awesome, one of the reasons I was really hoping for unique Spring Voyage merchandise in each of the separate Ports this year. Sadly, that didn't happen.

    Unlike your insulting "understanding" that all Duffy fans, or at least the majority, are broken losers, I can actually see why both guests and CMs would be critical of the "Duffy everywhere" that seems so out of control lately. It helps put it back in perspective a bit to remind ourselves that Duffy items are actually only available at four shops. Four.

    I imagine most Duffy fans are against the idea of Duffy at Disneyland, too. Duffy is exclusive. DisneySEA is exclusive. Both are emblematic of everything the OLC does so well (unless you're a cynic who doesn't "get" Duffy, which is both common and reasonable, though not the ONLY or "right" perspective). Duffy in Disneyland or - GASP! - Disney Stores or - GASP! - online ordering is the end of Duffy for me. I want him back in Cape Cod, or at least limited to American Waterfront. Not because I hate Duffy, but because I love him, and the character identity/brand (impossible to separate) is being diluted by oversaturation and totally misunderstood by some/many. It makes me sad. Like CARS Land, I don't think TDL Duffy is very likely. I really deeply hope not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    I said "that damned bear" only because he is at the forefront of what was the wrong choice for DisneySea. DisneySea's Cape Cod was conceived and built as a recreation, a firmly rooted in reality compliment/peaceful contrast to the New York side of American Waterfront, not a fantasy realm that's home to a traveling bear. (The boat building duck was relegated to the theater.) How it happened: After its first couple of years, DisneySea's attendance numbers were under-performing, for the most part due to the poor marketing I touched upon earlier. OLC management was presented with a choice. They could either go outside of their comfort zone and properly sell DisneySea to the audience it was created for, or double down on the kawaii. What they decided is obvious.


    I totally see your point here, about the marketing. And I imagine that you are totally correct about Duffy's role in "bringing the kawaii" and about why that worked. Totally, totally. You are correct, sir. What you miss, at least from my view is the AMAZING and INCREDIBLE thing about Duffy's very particular magic. He IS Cape Cod. All of the peace and downhome charm wasn't removed when Duffy arrived; it was embodied. Duffy is, in my opinion, the "rightest way" to do character product marketing that I have ever, ever seen. The multilayered attention to detail in design and execution of strategy, atmosphere, message, and of course product is fully integral and staggeringly precise. Duffy is an unprecedented triumph of smart people making what look like genuinely heartful choices. And if it's all smoke and mirrors, promote these people - because they know EXACTLY what they're doing! Let them work their magic for every Port in the park.

    Japanese Disney fans characters and immersion. That's a major part, among many things, that makes the Japanese Disney fandom so unique, beautiful, and amazing. They also love ridiculously high quality goods that push that immersion. So if it didn't work before, maybe the timing was wrong. Maybe you didn't have the geniuses that make up the Duffy Team. TRY IT AGAIN!

    Make Nautilus Gifts about treasures recovered from the depths of the Earth and the ocean. Make sure ALL guests understand the seismic readings that take place after Prometheus erupts, not just the otaku and maniacs. Sindbad's story is one of the most beautiful Disney experiences ever crafted, with a fantastic song and a true hero whose message is basically the same as Duffy's. I think, on the whole, this is OLC's message. Disney can't even dream about being taken seriously with such a message anymore. But with the exception of the Cast that you so proudly championed above, the ones who silently judge and resent the guests who pay their salaries because those same guests love a product that those same Cast fail to understand and yet earn their rice by selling...yeah...except those Cast members who I really wish would walk away and never come back, the VAST majority of my experiences with every level of OLC have been with people who, whether I liked what they were saying or not, seemed to very genuinely want to be putting good in the world and making people happy.

    Ironically, "The Happiness Year" looks and feels mostly like a fairly generic US Disney ad campaign. What has saved it for me is, you would say "ironically" perhaps, Duffy. Duffy feels like Oriental Land - at its best. Product quality, purity of message, focus of locality (though they NEED to put him back in American Waterfront ONLY!), and genuinely devoted fans who truly connect with artists and the message between them... Duffy is a RIGHT way, not a slippery slope, in my mind. But the money execs have to listen to the message execs and they have to be careful with the way they make choices. It hasn't jumped the shark yet, but I agree...it's close. And YET...the actual output and Cape Cod experience are undamaged by this risk. Duffy design and vibe-setting continue to exceed fan expectations and bring genuine delight, along with the huge sales. Duffy is not a failed commodity yet. And I hope OLC has the good sense to manage him well, so that he gets at least as old as Mickey is now. Duffy deserves it. There is so much unbridled potential in him for a message that the world needs. I'm not saying that as some kind of "Duffy religion." I think it is every character's job to offer the world something it needs. And I think Duffy does, but not in the same pathetic, insulting way you describe above. I think Duffy is all about positivity, giving, and Love. That message doesn't get old, especially when it's genuine, as I feel it is for very nearly EVERY person I have EVER met working on EVERY level of The Oriental Land Company. Maybe that wasn't as true in the past. But there are definitely people who know what they're doing now. Maybe TDS's 15th will be a "renaissance" of sorts, a celebration of all the unique nooks and crannies of the world's most splendorous theme park, a dream you can literally walk inside.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    DisneySea has a powerful identity of its own. Not only does that identity deserve to be highlighted, it makes good long-term business sense to do so. The longer they push the kawaii image, the harder it's going to be to change gears when it becomes necessary, and it will become necessary. In my opinion, Duffy's home should have been in Tokyo Disneyland, perhaps in Fantasyland, Critter Country or, I think best of all, the Rivers of America. The Lucky Nugget Cafe is just sitting there with its show-less, forgotten stage. There could have even been a Duffy mini-land on that nearby big unused portion of Tom Sayer Island. (But wait, Tokyo Disneyland doesn't have any more room.) It would be kind of a Duffy Alcatraz that isolates them from the rest of us. : ) It's hard to imagine that Duffy will be evicted from Cape Cod any time soon, though.


    I totally agree with the first bold sentence, while the second sentence in bold is one of the most offensive us/them things I have EVER encountered, so self assured and pompous (the smiley does NOT save it). I will choose to not think too much about the second sentence so that I continue talking with you because I appreciate the quality of elements of your posts. But how anyone can have such a disgustingly judgmental us/them self-righteous high and mighty attitude and still see the people they judge as the problem just always escapes me. It is among the sickest parts of human nature in my mind, and the perverse irony of hearing you "preach," as if from high up above it, about the very REAL, very deeply troubling social isolation problem that exactly this kind of judgmental, divisive thinking creates in Japan and especially Tokyo is not lost on me. Is it really lost on you? If you were trying to be funny, for me at least, you failed. I don't see Japan as a mysterious onion to peel back and study, patting myself of the back for having it "all figured out" as I go. This is my home, and I love it, and the people in it. For all their virtues and flaws. Some of what you are saying and the way you say it, I find shockingly painful on many levels.

    Aaand, we're back..."Kawaii" is ABSOLUTELY the wrong direction for TDS as a whole. And in my opinion, Cape Cod is more "charming," rustic and timeless than the version of "cute" that is generally implied by "kawaii" when used in English. But that's just my opinion.

    I also feel VERY STRONGLY (I'm using caps because bold is kind of a pain to do a lot and they show up in quotes^^) that Duffy's placement at DisneySEA was perfect. Nowhere else could have invested him with exactly the same soul as Cape Cod, as evidenced by the fact that without Cape Cod (global Disney rollout), Duffy becomes more of a generic "Disney bear." Critter Country would have made Duffy just one in a crowd, Fantasyland wouldn't really make sense (though Tokyo's arguably doesn't really make sense in some respects!). And while Rivers of America would have some of the water roaming atmosphere of Cape Cod, and could have done a callback to Steamboat Mickey; rivers are not as vast as the ocean and Duffy's appeal would have been American rather than global. Duffy walking in dreams to bring love to the world was not possible outside DisneySEA, not in the same way. Cape Cod also allows for both downhome comfort and Ivy League classicism and elitism, both of which strongly inform Duffy's very particular, meticulously-crafted appeal.

    And as TDS is the uniquely OLC park and Duffy was the uniquely OLC supernova star from conception, it made sense. And Duffy fever has been good for TDS. I do think, though, that after Spring Voyage, things should quiet down. It is my experience that the OLC is not staffed entirely by total idiots. I see Duffy as potentially the first steps in the long-term, visionary mission to restore/invent the DisneySEA that the park was designed to be. Maybe I'm just a naive idiot, of course. I mean, I love a freaking teddy bear character and I'm obviously friendless and suffering from deep-seated mental problems that make me an obnoxiously creepy social pariah. But I see a plan. I don't think something as consistent and overwhelmingly successful (on all levels, if not for all people^^) as the ongoing Cape Cod Duffy project happens without some very smart people doing some very well thought out things. Of course, time will tell.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Tokyo Disneyland's own Matterhorn was intended for the real estate that's now Toon Town. I love the Matterhorn, the "mountain" itself and the ride (especially that left side). The first time I rode it I was just tall enough to do so and number of times I've been on it probably numbers in the hundreds. I think it would have been wonderful to have one at Tokyo Disneyland. I'm understanding of why the decision was made to go instead with Toon Town, though. Give the girls a choice and they'll take a kawaii cartoon land (with MICKEY'S HOUSE!! OH MY GOD!!!) in a second over a scary coaster with a scary monster. I'd pick the Matterhorn, but I like Toon Town and a Mickey's House in Tokyo Disneyland is a glaringly obvious choice, again, considering the park's young femail audience. Tokyo Disneyland is their land. So be it. I have nothing against these girls. (I married one. She's delightful.) I still enjoy Tokyo Disneyland quite a bit and I absolutely love its fascinatingly odd history, which is made even more intriguing by how difficult it can be to uncover. But, for the benefit of everyone else, including OLC, I hope the course of DisneySea will be returned to it original heading. It requires dedication and a bit of bravery, as it's relatively uncharted territory for OLC, but there's plenty of treasure to be found along the way.


    It's like you channeled both Sindbad and Duffy in that last sentence! And as far as a Disneyland with no Toon Town, that's just crazy. I never go to Toon Town. I mean, I've been there, but I don't go there. But that's the "Disneyest" place. There is a need for that. I think of myself as more of an "Imagineering" fan than a "Disney" fan so TDS appeals much more to me. But TDS could not be as Disney-free as it is if TDL was not so very Disney, and Toon Town is, with Cinderella Castle, literally the heart of that. I wouldn't mind the Matterhorn, I guess, though I've never ridden it. But Prometheus will always be my favorite. I've already decided.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Since the passing of Takahashi san, management has been ham-hanedly reactive and, frankly, increasingly inept. Raging Spirits, for example, was a knee-jerk (almost panicked) reaction to complaints from boys and young men that DisneySea didn't have enough thrills. Putting aside that Raging Spirits, while beautifully themed, is just not a thrilling little coaster, DisneySea is not intended to be, and lets hope it will never be, Fuji-Q or some other hypercoaster thrill/amusement park. It's a theme park and there's no other one on Earth more deserving of the description. How to get more boys and young men excited about DisneySea without covering it in tubular steel coaster tracks is probably the toughest nut to crack in broadening the appeal of DisneySea. That's a whole other cans of worms, though.


    Duffy...though it may already be too late...so many men are so afraid and the branding has already skewed toward young women, but the little boys...they might grow up more fearless and more heartful than their dads who are scared to eat chocolate except on Valentine's Day.

    Nemo...a hero that girls want to love and boys want to be. Giving guests more opportunities to feel like "crew" in Cape Cod (would require development of the salty Cape Cod sailors, but could be done), Arabian Coast, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, and of course Mysterious Island would be a good start. It's unfortunate how much of a passive/kids simple character-oriented thing the "Greeting Trails" in Lost River Delta turned out to be. I thought it might be more like Tom Sawyer Island. But I suppose that ship has sailed. Nemo has limitless potential; maybe this marketing could even bring the steampunk trend to Japan...is that still a thing?

    Sindbad is a great adventurer, capable of action, but rooted in the gentle message of the park, seven seas, one world. I want more Sindbad! I would a version of his storybook that told the story as if the current version is a continuation of the second version, as if the character had a fundamental change of heart and saw the error of his ways. Every time I go through the attraction, I experience it in this way, and I love how rather than seeming like a man filled with regret or atonement, he is simply overwhelmed by the joy of living the "right" way and giving to others, to the point that he spontaneously bursts into song! I LOVE SINDBAD! Another case of OLC thinking that they have to market "kawaii," and missing the opportunity to do something deeper with broader appeal and more meaningful message. Though I freaking LOVE me some Chandu, too! Don't be confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Cast are increasingly viewing the OLC executives as amateurs because that's how they're acting. The hallmark of the Paul Pressler days at Disneyland was the problem of clueless suits, holed up in the TDA building, making decisions regarding park operations based on the bottom line, while disregarding decades of lessons learned. Well, that's pretty much what's happening at OLC right now, but with the added "bonus" of greater cast exploitation, made possible by the lack of proper employee unions in Japan. Executives are making decisions and implementing changes that often betray the fact that they have little understanding of the in the trenches workings of the parks. They're coming from a "Hey, this idea will save/make us some money!" perspective. It's happening more and more often that they attempt to impose some half-baked change that's immediately scaled back or completely abandoned due to its impractically. Among other things, it's bad for cast morale, as it makes the executives above them come off as, again, inept amateurs, with no real concern or understanding for them and only the motivation to wring out as much profit as they can.


    With all the hyperbole and unsourced, unspecified panic speak here it's a little hard to take seriously, but I believe some degree of this could be true. It does seem like my very best experiences at OLC are decidedly because of the Cast members most local to me, not the upper echelons of management. And as far as quick change and backstepping, schizophrenic misdirection...well, to me that just sounds like Japanese corporations. As far as "Saves/makes money? Let's do it!" that sounds like every corporation. Look, I can ridiculously overstate my point for dramatic impact, too!^^ I wish I know what you're basing any of this highly, highly negative rant on. I wish I knew, specifically, what plans were "half-baked" or just for money. "Power of Music" might fall into half-baked, but someone put a lot of effort into it and seemed to really believe in it. I didn't like "Club Monsters, Inc," but I haven't loved any of the summer events except Bonfire Dance. I was thrilled about the concept of "Natsu Matsuri," but it's just way too modern/character/kitschy/garish for me. It doesn't seem Japanese enough. I was hoping for truly authentic Japanese summer festival merchandise and decorations, just with Mickey marks. Some people seem to like it, though, so that's alright.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    All that said, I think I should be clear that I don't think Chairman Kagami is a bad person. He's a kind gentleman who always has a genuine smile and an enthusiastic wave for the rank and file cast. I've just observed that, without a strong force like Takahashi san, financial concerns have taken over the decision making process at OLC, that, however unpleasant it is to imagine, there's team of Paul Presslers, men without a full appreciation of their responsibilities, who are calling the shots. Just like the bad old days at Disneyland, the parks are being run more and more like some sort of regular business. But they're not a regular business. They're Disney parks.


    I certainly don't have the inside knowledge to speak with the authority of tone in your voice, not that you have really given any indication of why anything you say should be considered more than your opinion. I'm just giving you the benefit of the doubt that you really do know more than me because a) I don't know much! and b) a lot of what you say matches what I do know...or think I know.

    What you say above seems true to me, and Duffy probably did grow out of this "kawaii-for-profit" paradigm, but that's not what Duffy is or has to be...or IS. Just as someone using a shoe to beat a stranger's child in a public place, or using a fork to stab out the eyes of a waiter she didn't like has repurposed the original intention of the product, Duffy is more than just a cute thing to buy to a lot of fans. Though, admittedly, there are a lot for whom that is not the case. I don't feel in charge of the way that people are fans, though I often wish I could be.;p

    Duffy probably was accepted by executives, at least some of them, as a sacrificial cash cow. However, that hasn't stopped the writers, illustrators, designers and artists from doing absolutely astonishing things with the character. It hasn't stopped the fans from connecting, wholeheartedly, with the work. And it hasn't stopped Cape Cod from being the same place it was during Jamboree Nights. I say, if they can make the money and still provide the experience, they've got that management thing down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    I'll close with what I think is a touching and relevant story that, among other things, helps to illustrate Takahashi san's leadership and Kagami san's relationship with him. I've added some context and some additional details, but the story was actually told by Kagami san himself, in his sometimes surprisingly revealing book:

    It's the morning of September 4th, 2001, the grand opening day of Tokyo DisneySea, as well as the late Takahashi Masatomo's birthday. It's also a day considered lucky on the Japanese astrological calendar (something taken seriously by many Japanese). After the opening ceremonies of Tokyo DisneySea and Hotel MiraCosta, and a few obligatory media interviews, Kagami san rushed alone to Tama Cemetery, the resting place of Takahashi Masatomo.

    He wished Takahashi san could have been at DisneySea to announce its grand opening, even if he'd had to do so from a wheelchair. (As do I ...) At the cemetery, silent but for the sound of the summer cicadas, he thought about how Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea would have never come into being without Takahashi san. At his graveside, he reminisced about a day eighteen years earlier, the September 4th, 1983 celebration of Takahashi san's 70th birthday. At the time, Kagami san was Tokyo Disneyland's General Manager, but in the days leading up to the 4th, he was also the secret organizer of Takahashi's surprise birthday party. After Tokyo Disneyland closed at 6pm that evening, Takahashi and his wife, Hiroko, were lead to the backstage area behind Country Bear Theater, where Tokyo Disneyland's marching band was performing for them. The band then lead them to the Mark Twain dock where there was a party with food and a show performed by some of Tokyo Disneyland's dancers. Takahashi san and his wife then enjoyed a trip, for just the two of them, around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain. Takahashi san and his wife had done so much to reach this point, even selling Hiroko's family house and her artwork to raise the money for Takahashi san to entertain (buy alchohol for) the Urayasu fishermen during the years of negotiations with them to win the rights to the part of Tokyo Bay that would become Tokyo Disneyland. It was Takahashi san's birthday, but Kagami san felt it was the best present he could give to help make amends to Hiroko for all she'd had to deal with. Kagami san said he will never forget the smiles on their faces that evening.

    At the cemetery, Kagami san also remembered something that Takahashi san would often say, even years before the concept of DisneySea was presented to OLC: "When we build something new, we have to accept challenges. We need to have imagination that extends across seas." (Kagami san adopted "Imagination Extending Across Seas" as the title of his book.) Kagami san appreciated that it wasn't just talk, that Takahashi san's philosophy, his high standard, became reality with Tokyo DisneySea. It's a standard, a respect, that is rooted in Maihama being land reclaimed from Japan's most treasured gift, the sea.

    Kagami san placed flowers at Takahashi san's grave and said to him, "Today is the grand opening of Tokyo DisneySea. It happened because of your many years of work. Many guests were waiting (to enter the park) today. They came to DisneySea with great anticipation. Please watch over us at this crucial time."


    That was a great and relevant story that I enjoyed as much now as the first time I heard it. Among the many things it makes me think, it reminds me of the fact that Duffy in both concept and execution consistently lives up to uniquely high standards of vision and construction, and that the Cape Cod seaside would not be built into that were Duffy at the Rivers of America.

    It also reminds me of a post I wrote ages ago, referencing RATATOUILLE in my attempt to explain Duffy's challeges with being "new," and the value of his having "champions."

    LINK
    .

    Shockingly, that post is also looong.


    Quote Originally Posted by Resort Cruiser View Post
    Kagami san's story conjures up many thoughts and emotions in me; sadness that Takahashi san didn't live to see the opening of DisneySea, but admiration of his triumph in actually getting such an amazing park built; his dedication to building Tokyo Disneyland and the patience of his wife (a situation reminiscent of Walt and Lillian) and what gratifying relief they must have felt while riding the Mark Twain on that day in 1983, as the success of the Tokyo Disneyland was becoming fully apparent. There's Kagami san's touching reverence for Takahashi san, a man he had known, worked with, and admired for forty years, exemplified by how important it was to him to go to his graveside and speak to him as soon as he could on DisneySea's opening day ... But, finally, when I think about the idea of Takahashi san watching over what's happened since his passing, I would want him to be pleased and proud of the stewardship of his achievements.

    I really wonder if he would be.


    I often wonder that, too. In my mind, Takahashi-san was a man motivated very deeply by a vision of unity and happiness amid diversity. I have intentionally avoided reading too much to make sure I never know that this is not the case. It saddens me that he didn't get to see TDS opened, because of all that he had invested. But it inspires me that he would be happy anyway, because we all get to enjoy it. I think there may be many things with current operations that he would be critical of. But the Takahashi-san who lives in my mind would be delighted about Duffy because the people working on it are doing their best work and the people buying it truly love it. He would love that this was a character who faced many challenges and a serious lack of real love before he drifted to DisneySEA and was given a home, and a name. He would love that this symbol of how OLC can do Disney even better than Disney, was a character exclusive to and representative of Tokyo DisneySEA. He would love that Duffy was only possible in Japan and that he makes people happy, and that the quality standard allows staff the budgets they need to do incredible work, while the fan support allows the work to continue. He would love Duffy's message of adventure, sharing, and every form of love being the most valuable treasure in the world, just like Sindbad and Chandu. I think he would be pleased and proud of the Duffy team. I think he'd think they were "doing it right," and I think he would trust them as stewards of the ship he built and launched. But, of course, I don't know him, and I'm biased. So, y'know, I can only wonder, too.^^

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    Thumbs up Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Quote Originally Posted by alfiebyrne View Post
    That was a fascinating post. I do feel you went a bit too... much? with your assessment of the lonely Duffy fans, but otherwise everything makes sense.
    "A bit much?" Ya think?

    Quote Originally Posted by alfiebyrne View Post
    I have to say, I don't completely agree with your view of DisneySea. While many American counterparts marvel at the visual aesthetics of the new park along and question the obsessive character-craze of the Japanese culture, I do appreciate the infiltration of characters into the second gate. In its first year of operation, it just felt cold. It might be blasphemous, but it felt like I was at some Universal Studios park. Breathtakingly gorgeous and immersive, but no "magic." Nowadays, compared to the early years of the park, I feel that the guests are much more connected with the atmosphere when I see silly but fun Minnie's Tropical Splash, etc. And that judgment is purely based on my arbitrary observation, but it's exactly why I love the park these days more and more. I guess I really feed off of other guests' smiles when I'm visiting.

    ...it becomes hugely apparent of how intensely attached these visitors are to Disney's creations. I don't think you can expect any decent involvement in the stateside...

    Feel free to disagree with me!
    Of course I wasn't there when the parks opened. I was in Japan, I just wasn't even remotely interested in Disney. It is ONLY because of The Oriental Land Company and Duffy that I have learned to let myself "re-care" about things like this in my heart and imagination. Thank you, OLC and Duffy, and Duffy fan community, and the future when Duffy's legitimacy is no longer subject to constant, unnecessary debate.

    Though I wasn't there, I've seen lots of photos, videos, merchandise and heard lots of stories from various fans and OLC employees about the history of this great park. I agree with both you and Resort Cruiser.

    While I find the Incredibles jarring in Port Discovery and the Bunnys a bit out place in Cape Cod, I find Cruella adds life to American Waterfront, and I love coming across Goofy and Max in Lost River Delta. Goofy actually has probably appeared in more various places than any other character for me. Jafar and Jasmine are two more who are always excellent, as is Ariel, though she can't "wander," poor thing.^^ Characters raise a lot of energy here and there is no reason we can't have a park filled with characters AND a park filled with atmosphere appropriate to each Port. It does not have to be a choice. I want BOTH.

    Quote Originally Posted by alfiebyrne View Post
    I do want to randomly state that I just miss the 2003-2005 era when TDR had its best offerings in my opinion, with Dreams on Parade, the lagoon/land spectacle Style!, new Halloween parades changing each year, debut of the Legend of Mythica, BraviSEAmo!, Aladdin's A Whole New World, Rhythm of the World, etc. Not everything was perfect, of course, but each one of them was fun.
    I also miss BraviSEAmo! sooooo much more than I expected to. It was also disappointing that its retirement had no merchandise push to preserve the memory; I expected a figural sculpture at least, best if it was a music box. Dramatic DisneySEA and Style! was just so over the top and amazing. You are so lucky you were actually there for that. Mythica's retirement next year is going to break my heart. I hope that what replaces it is also about delivering the message of the park, like Duffy and Sindbad. I hope it's not just a "Disney" show like Fantasmic! I hope its message is more powerful and meaningful than, "Look, you love Disney. Go buy stuff." Guess we'll see!

  12. #27

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    This thread is fantastic and actually what brought to this websites when searching for some background information about TDR. Thanks a lot for the contributions, especially Resort Cruiser and DuffyDaisuki for the huge amount of information. I definitely need to read Kagami-Sans book.

    For myself I live in Japan since 4 years, so I don't know how Disneyland and Disneysea where before that. Some thoughts of mine:

    I think TDL is not as well maintained as it's often written, I wonder actually what they are doing when attractions are closed for maintenance as for me it seems like nothing got changed/cleaned during the maintenance. You can see a lot of dirt around Air Conditioning, eg the Huey, Dewey and Louie's Good Time Cafe. The Tomorrowland Area up to Toon-Town/Fantasyland needs some heavy refurbishment in my oppion. For me, while I love the attractions itself, its worst themed area in the whole TDR. I would have nothing against a Cars Land/Attraction (I can't judge what place is necessary as I never saw it in the States), why not remove Grand Circuit Raceway and do something there?

    But generally I am satisfied with other plans that OLC announced for TDS. While there’s no big announcement they keep changing and updating. I lack comparison with earlier special events, but I think Easter Wonderland theming and parade were gorgeous. Natsu Matsuri is terrific. I like that they changed the songs for the characters and built the story (as absurd it may be) on last year’s Natsu Matsuri. That’s the kind of details I expect and love.

    But I'm disappointed about the new parade. While I love the general theme and especially the song, the parade somehow feels smaller with only a few spectacular floats (4 floats with no characters on it) and less dancers than the last one. A lot of friends feel the same, and especially my female friends are very disappointed that theres only one prince left with Aladdin and the other ones from the last parade got removed. I also feel that the current 30th theming is weak. Why I can somehow understand that there was no new Spring Theme, I would have expected more, at least until the summer season.

    For TDS, I'm fascinated to hear about the original concept of TDS, I would love to have seen that. It may be a concept that would help now when OLC tries to attract more senior visitors. On the other hand I'm sometimes amazed at the amount of older people in the park. Nonetheless I think TDS is doing a good job in getting more future proof. Toy Story Mania was the right attraction to attract more guys and the whole area is just awesome. While Jasmine's Flying Carpets is no big thing it's wonderfully made and I actually enjoyed riding it. Still TDS could use another big ride.

    What in TDS upsets most are the visible tracks in Aquatopia. I can't understand why the area doesn't get cleaned when the ride is closed for maintenance. Also here I actually wonder what is being done during maintenance, of if rides are just closed for reducing operating costs.

    While I'm not a Duffy Fan (he's not part of my childhood memories, while the rest of Disney is) I have no problems with the Duffy Fever going on and that he's getting more prominently featured in the park. Mickey&Duffy's Spring Voyage was actually very charming and generally I’m also very satisfied with the quality of the seasonal events at TDS (but again, I can't compare too much with previous events). What I especially like is the small changes even for the same show, e.g. the magic tricks before Springtime Surprise.

    Resort Cruise, I think your analysis about loneliness in Japan is correct and the Duffy is one part of it. I think OLC is also doing their best to offer Duffy as a Best Friend (with Duffy photo-spots etc), but it's not limited to Duffy.

    I hope that the newest announcements for TDS (renewal for Mermaid Lagoon Theater, discontinuation of The Legend of Mythica). The Legend of Mythica is imo the best show in TDR. Sometimes I can't believe who many boats and vehicles they put onto that lake. I really hope the next show will have similar dimensions. Also for Ariel, my fear is that the renewed show will be much more suitable for children. Currently Ursula is probably to scary for younger children, but I think the design is amazing.

    DuffyDaisuki, it tears my heart hearing your story about the staff keep acting according to the manual until the bitter end. It is things like this where the usually superior Japanese Service ultimately fails. Still I love the service, but I also have the feeling that as a foreigner I get sometimes a little bit more attention than the Japanese Person. On the other hand this is not limited to TDR.

    Speaking more about OLC as a company. I completely agree that salaries at TDR are a disgrace and from a social point of view it's actually a scandal that such a park is run mostly by part time workers/contract workers. But this is less an OLC thing but more the hard reality in Japanese Business. How many chains, especially restaurants and kombinis mainly have part time workers as staff? Actually the hourly compensation at TDR is higher than the minimum required by law and out beats the business mentioned before. I would also prefer working at TDR than at a sukiya branch, so for me it's no wonder that OLC doesn't have problems to recruit their staff, even if the quality may be lower, but I can't judge on that.

    So OLC is just doing what everybody else is doing, and they can be hardly blamed on. While the lack of a creative vision is dangerous, just judging from the numbers OLC didn't such a bad job the last years. For me it looks the balance in keeping shareholder satisfied and else keep tdr visitors coming again and again to the park is not that bad at the moment. The good thing is that Japanese are sensible to quality and if OLC keeps saving too much this will have an immediate effect on attendance numbers.

    So why not everything is not as perfect as sometimes written, I have my hopes that TDR stays such a wonderful place. And why Kagami-San is not Takahashi-San, the story told about those two shows that Kagami-San still understand on what Disney is actually built on.

  13. #28

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    This thread is fantastic and actually what brought to this websites when searching for some background information about TDR. Thanks a lot for the contributions, especially Resort Cruiser and DuffyDaisuki for the huge amount of information. I definitely need to read Kagami-Sans book.
    Thanks for posting, and welcome!^^

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    For myself I live in Japan since 4 years, so I don't know how Disneyland and Disneysea where before that.
    If you don't mind my asking, where are you from originally?

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    The Tomorrowland Area up to Toon-Town/Fantasyland needs some heavy refurbishment in my oppion. For me, while I love the attractions itself, its worst themed area in the whole TDR. I would have nothing against a Cars Land/Attraction (I can't judge what place is necessary as I never saw it in the States), why not remove Grand Circuit Raceway and do something there?
    I agree that Tomorrowland could use a facelift. And I've never bothered with the Racers, but that tells you how sad I'd be to see it go.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    Natsu Matsuri is terrific. I like that they changed the songs for the characters and built the story (as absurd it may be) on last years Natsu Matsuri. Thats the kind of details I expect and love.
    I didn't really notice there was a story element to Natsu Matsuri; what is it? I thought the dance contest was just a theme, rather than an actual narrative.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    But I'm disappointed about the new parade. While I love the general theme and especially the song, the parade somehow feels smaller with only a few spectacular floats (4 floats with no characters on it) and less dancers than the last one. A lot of friends feel the same, and especially my female friends are very disappointed that theres only one prince left with Aladdin and the other ones from the last parade got removed. I also feel that the current 30th theming is weak. Why I can somehow understand that there was no new Spring Theme, I would have expected more, at least until the summer season.
    I agree with all of this, except that the princes make no difference to me. Both the parade and the 30th overall feel relatively generic Disney to me. I'm hopeful they really up the stakes for the finale. And bring back balloons at least for a limited period. It would be kinda cool if they went all outabd even brought back classic designs.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    For TDS, I'm fascinated to hear about the original concept of TDS, I would love to have seen that. It may be a concept that would help now when OLC tries to attract more senior visitors. On the other hand I'm sometimes amazed at the amount of older people in the park. Nonetheless I think TDS is doing a good job in getting more future proof. Toy Story Mania was the right attraction to attract more guys and the whole area is just awesome. While Jasmine's Flying Carpets is no big thing it's wonderfully made and I actually enjoyed riding it. Still TDS could use another big ride.
    I have always experienced TDS as the "adult" park, as have friends I've visited with, whether hardcore fans or first-timers. I don't feel that atmosphere has been lost. Even the folks who prefer TDL agree that TDS is more layered, nuanced, and detailed. And I agree with you about TSM; it's got great cross-gender and kid appeal, which is good for "future-proofing." I wish they'd just at least paint Flying Carpets in the earth tones of the area so it's integrated, or develop around it to achieve the distinct "palace look" they were apparently going for. As it stands, it is just very jarring visually.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    What in TDS upsets most are the visible tracks in Aquatopia. I can't understand why the area doesn't get cleaned when the ride is closed for maintenance. Also here I actually wonder what is being done during maintenance, of if rides are just closed for reducing operating costs.
    I totally know what you mean! I just can't understand it There is no illusion whatsoever that your hovercraft is floating on deep water. I have never understood why more people don't find this perplexing. Aquatopia would be MUCH more compelling if only this were changed.

    I rationalized it because an acquaintance of mine once told me that Aquatopia is intended to actually be an attraction in-story, like a fun ride to welcome visitors to the newly opened to the public Center for Weather Control. If that's true, I'm more accepting of the visible tracks, but that's not the story on the website and they don't really push that point home with the park experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    While I'm not a Duffy Fan (he's not part of my childhood memories, while the rest of Disney is) I have no problems with the Duffy Fever going on and that he's getting more prominently featured in the park. Mickey&Duffy's Spring Voyage was actually very charming and generally Im also very satisfied with the quality of the seasonal events at TDS (but again, I can't compare too much with previous events). What I especially like is the small changes even for the same show, e.g. the magic tricks before Springtime Surprise.

    Resort Cruise, I think your analysis about loneliness in Japan is correct and the Duffy is one part of it. I think OLC is also doing their best to offer Duffy as a Best Friend (with Duffy photo-spots etc), but it's not limited to Duffy.
    Spring Voyage is great, but I hope they change it up even more for the finale and go out with a bang And then tone Duffy way, way down. With the steampunk trend poised to start gaining real traction in the next few years, it seems a great time for a major Mysterious Island-Port Discovery Event. PD needs another attraction, I think.

    As for Duffy marketing, I feel they are increasingly, actively, very intentionally trying to distance Duffy from the lonely hearts fandom. Rather, over the past year I perceive an agenda to establish Duffy as a KID'S best pal, and Cape Cod/Duffy merchandise as part of seasonal decor. I really think adults are being trained to see the bears as display pieces rather than "buddies," but that's perhaps just my sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    I hope that the newest announcements for TDS (renewal for Mermaid Lagoon Theater, discontinuation of The Legend of Mythica). The Legend of Mythica is imo the best show in TDR. Sometimes I can't believe who many boats and vehicles they put onto that lake. I really hope the next show will have similar dimensions. Also for Ariel, my fear is that the renewed show will be much more suitable for children. Currently Ursula is probably to scary for younger children, but I think the design is amazing.
    I'll admit to being very sad about Mythica leaving, though equally inspired that OLC is investing the money when they really don't have to Mythica could probably go on forever and people would always love it. At first I was very apprehensive, but recently I've spent some time really getting to know the Porto Paradiso Water Carnival which came before Mythica. That show was AWESOME! I've decided to be optimistic until given reason not to be.

    I just hope it follows the traditions of its predecessors, which have similar romantic and lavish levels of detail. I hope it's not like "Table Is Waiting," which completely abandons the Broadway musical theater style of "Sail Away" and "Over the Waves" for a non-narrative, silly, character showcase revue. I love the costumes, but I'm not a fan. And I honestly think it takes away from the majesty of the S.S. Columbia. AND I HOPE DAISY IS PART OF THE NEW LAGOON SHOW!!^^

    As for the Mermaid Theater, I imagine the new show may be somewhat more kid-friendly. Ursula IS too terrifying for the youngest audiences. I'm excited by the potential for immersion with the new show, though. Since it's all musical, how great would it be if they actually recruit talented singers? While I love hearing Jodi Benson's immaculate voice, I generally find the lip-syncing distracting, as well as the language switch. Somehow, I prefer the "toon" characters' Japanese voices a lot of the time, but find the face characters jarring when they "speak" Japanese. Even Ursula seems "cool" in Japanese, but something about Ariel in Japanese is just off. It'd be cool if she spoke Danish!

    The moment that the new show appears based on, King Triton's concert, is an opportunity for the audience to really be just like the audience of merfolk in the film. I love this! I hope the seahorse trumpeter makes an appearance, I like that character a lot. He's like the saner Sebastian or something.

    This goes well with the TDS tradition of focusing on a "special day." It's always the 4th of July in Cape Cod (even when it's Halloween and Christmas!), the day of the Columbia's maiden voyage in New York, the grand public opening of the CWC in Port Discovery, and two terrible accidents during exploration/excavation in Mysterious Island. The ride vehicles from each attraction are always just breaking the surface in the central area, which in my mind serves as both caldera and a kind of atoll. I like the "special day" approach a lot.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    DuffyDaisuki, it tears my heart hearing your story about the staff keep acting according to the manual until the bitter end. It is things like this where the usually superior Japanese Service ultimately fails. Still I love the service, but I also have the feeling that as a foreigner I get sometimes a little bit more attention than the Japanese Person. On the other hand this is not limited to TDR.
    It really was a shame, and it makes me sad if I think too long about the fact that the "solution" was for me to just bear it. So I don't think about it much. It's true that the defined rule being more important than the living, breathing human experience is par for the course in Japanese institutions of any kind. Unfortunately, it is something one adjusts to, or else life is just a relentless battle. On the contrary, I have had TONS of very special, genuinely personal magical moments in Japan and the majority of them have been at TDS. In some ways, these CMs are all the more amazing because they actively choose to approach things personally and connect in a way that is not always encouraged by company policy. I them for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    Speaking more about OLC as a company. I completely agree that salaries at TDR are a disgrace and from a social point of view it's actually a scandal that such a park is run mostly by part time workers/contract workers. But this is less an OLC thing but more the hard reality in Japanese Business. How many chains, especially restaurants and kombinis mainly have part time workers as staff? Actually the hourly compensation at TDR is higher than the minimum required by law and out beats the business mentioned before. I would also prefer working at TDR than at a sukiya branch, so for me it's no wonder that OLC doesn't have problems to recruit their staff, even if the quality may be lower, but I can't judge on that.

    So OLC is just doing what everybody else is doing, and they can be hardly blamed on. While the lack of a creative vision is dangerous, just judging from the numbers OLC didn't such a bad job the last years. For me it looks the balance in keeping shareholder satisfied and else keep tdr visitors coming again and again to the park is not that bad at the moment. The good thing is that Japanese are sensible to quality and if OLC keeps saving too much this will have an immediate effect on attendance numbers.
    I'll agree that at the moment I still see no cause for serious alarm, as I feel there's a healthy balance between prioritizing shareholders' dividends and guests' experiences. But Japan needs change. "It's okay because everyone else is doing it" and "That's EVIL because I don't know anyone who does that" are in general the way all modern "morality" is guided. I find this problematic. A company making unprecedented profits off a cuddly teddy bear and singing, dancing lovable animal characters absolutely should be an extraordinarily positive place to work, inclusive of salary terms and vocational self-respect. Working at TDR is not the same as working in a convenience store or cheap food-ticket shop. The fact that such a comparison is even reasonably possible is unfortunate. Duffy wants to give some money to the employees on the ground who make the magic happen. I really cannot understand why CMs can't be allowed to come to the parks for free on their days off and why they don't receive monthly vouchers for family and friend discounts. They definitely earn it!

    Quote Originally Posted by slapshot View Post
    So why not everything is not as perfect as sometimes written, I have my hopes that TDR stays such a wonderful place. And why Kagami-San is not Takahashi-San, the story told about those two shows that Kagami-San still understand on what Disney is actually built on.
    All I can say is that Mr Kagami has a smile I trust and I'm still loving DisneySEA. I don't see that changing soon.

  14. #29

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    It's quite demotivating as far as posting to this message board goes when most of the comments made in response to my writing are not to what I've written, but emotional responses to what readers have perceived that I've written. It's not that hard to take a look back at what one is responding to and confirm that one's comment actually makes sense in relation to it. Instead of participating in a discussion, I would have been endeavouring to clean up a mess, repeating information and reiterating points that I'd made clear in the first place, stressing the aspects of them that were ignored. I simply will not spend my time doing that.

    I find it unfortunate. I had what I think are some pretty good ideas to inform the discussion in this message board in some entertaining ways. I've seen a lot of really off-the-wall conclusions being reached by posters here that are based on little to no information. I felt I could do something about it and have some fun while I was at it. I see no point in continuing to post at this site, though, beyond this one and the post I will send immediately after it.

    The post is entitled "Surprise Bonuses, Why They're Only a Start, and Why Wages Are a Serious Issue." I wrote it last week and, for a couple of reasons, I haven't felt motivated to post it. There's some serious stuff in it and I take no pleasure in writing and sharing it, and, as I've written above, I have no expectation that it will be taken at face value. But I'm posting it, because it's important. My choice to post it has been made even clearer by, among other comments, the one which compared working at the resort to working at a restaurant or convenience store. There's an extremely important difference that I discuss in that post. It's one thing to brush off the immorality of OLC exploiting its workers (something I just can't do), but the indefensibly low wages OLC pays has a real effect on safety.

  15. #30

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    Re: Has Tokyo Disney Resort Had It's Management Nightmares?

    I'd comment, but frankly all the long replies to replies just caused me to shut down. If I have to scroll three pages and the post is still rambling on I don't read it.

    If you have some insightful and accurate information to share, I would certainly appreciate it if you continued to share it here. My only suggestion would be to keep it concise and to the point!

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