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Year of a Million Taggers

While the DCA extreme makeover gets underway, and more TLC is lavished on Disneyland's aging attractions, the TDA executive team still has their hands full with plenty of problems plaguing the daily operation of the parks and hotels. That embarrassingly high turnover rate that has edged over 100% annually for many departments is still there. The Casting Center in TDA is still scheduling an endless series of Job Fairs through the fall as the thousands of CM's they hired over the summer quit or are fired after just a few weeks or months on the job.

The Olsen Twins!
The new Dia de los Muertos theme in Frontierland was mentioned in
Spanish-speaking media outlets in the continuing Hispanic marketing strategy.

Disneyland is paying on the very low end of the pay scale for Orange County jobs, and the pressure cooker that is Disneyland with 45,000 customers in the park usually scares the new hires away after just a few weeks on the job. The smart ones stick around the full 30 days required for them to get their 250 dollar hiring bonus, and then they quit or just stop coming in for their shifts. And worse yet, the minimum wage in California is set to raise to $8 an hour in three months, which will put most Disneyland jobs at just 20 to 40 cents more than the minimum wage.

As is typical of TDA for the past 10 years, their response has been to call for yet another round of focus groups and surveys to be drafted this fall to determine just why it is that their turnover rate is so horrible and why most of the applicants coming in to Casting are so bad. You can't make this stuff up folks. The response here from TDA's Human Resources department makes the daily Dilbert cartoon look like their how-to manual. The few tenured CM's still working out in the parks, and there are a few left, stare in horror at the new CM's and the lowered standards they bring with them. But TDA has yet to do anything about it, except pay it lip service and fire up another round of focus groups to talk about what might be causing the continuing personnel problems. The same thing they did in 2006, and 2005, and 2002, and 2000, and 1998.

Is there a matching footstool?
Miss Pumpkin and friends spice up Halloween on Main Street.

What's worse is that the management around the Resort can't get any of the executives to acknowledge the pain they are going through, and the writing on the wall that the turnover problem represents. And by writing on the wall, we don't necessarily mean the increasing graffiti that is popping up all over backstage as the new CM's have taken to tagging the bathrooms, hallways and break rooms they pass through. To their credit, the Custodial department is now trying to clean away the tagging as soon as it appears, but it's increasingly a losing battle.

The appearance of gang-like graffiti is the most shocking to the tenured Cast Members, as Disneyland behind-the-scenes was always a close family of friends who took pride in where they worked. That feeling of pride doesn't exist anymore, and certainly not with the types of Cast Members that are working there for 4 to 10 weeks at a time before they quit or get fired. But with so many bathroom stalls and break room walls to tag, why stay just four weeks? Why not make it eight or ten?

So waxy. So good.
The Candy Corn Acres theme was chosen for DCA's entrance because it all can easily
be moved to the farm area for next year when the area is under construction.

We've tried to lay off the guy for the past few months, honestly we have, but the complete absence of Ed Grier in the operation of the parks and hotels is now at its most glaring. There's just no nice way to say this. Ed is never seen inside the parks aside from scripted media events, and he's only rarely at the hotels when a fellow executive from Burbank or Orlando is in town for a lunch meeting.

Now if the latest round of rumors about Jay Rasulo's departure pans out this fall, again the question of how long Ed sticks around will have to come up. (As well as the only slightly less pointless Meg Crofton out in Orlando) But when Ed Grier leaves TDA to spend more time with his family, let's hope his replacement is someone who fesses up to the horrific retention and morale problem amongst the Cast Members he or she will be leading.

John Lasseter, Tony Baxter and Bob Weiss have plenty of great stuff coming to Anaheim in the next five years. The person in charge of TDA should be taking much better care of the folks who will staff all of it. You shouldn't need another focus group to figure that out.

Their house is a museum where people come to see em.
The "bats" entry arch returns to the Tower of Terror for Halloween.

DoMs: Bad for the Brand

They pop up for all businesses, big or small, industrial or entertainment. They claim to love the product so much that they feel they have to blindly support it no matter how reasoned or legitimate any criticism of it may be. Like busy bees, they flit from forum to forum online making life unpleasant for those that even begin to offer an opinion different from their unquestioning "must be positive" view, and Lord help those who feel it can be done better.

These are the Defenders of Mediocrity, or DoMs for short. And they are the single most damaging thing that can happen to the Disney brand.

You've seen their postings: Light Magic? They loved it, it was the best show they never saw because they only heard the MP3 or saw it on YouTube. Rocket Rods? What a great ride, not everything needs to be themed, the red light bulbs were wonderful! Deteriorating Attractions? Walt Disney was wrong about keeping up the exterior, the peeling paint and broken ride elements fit right into the Haunted Mansion theme. DCA? Isn't it swell it's so uncrowded and it has one good ride? Epcot's 25th? Wow, the fans got a slapped together ceremony, and they should be thankful for it and the two boxes of merchandise they offered! etc... etc... etc...

The hat at the Orlando studios park seems apt for this groupl
The hat from the Orlando studios park seems apt for this group.

It's well known the Disney company keeps an close eye online, and more than a few times the immediate and unsparingly honest feedback for their latest offerings has resulted in refinements, reworkings and even the rare shutdown of a show or ride. But the gushing DoM fan postings supporting a product that is of a lower quality than what Disney should offer get monitored too - and more than a few times they have been used to try to convince the higher-ups that customers don't care or notice.

The people who care about quality at Disney are very encouraged by the sea change in management at the company, from Iger on down. Unlike the latter of the two decades under Eisner, or the 10 years with Pressler there is a lot being done right nowadays. But there are still those DoM postings that get printed out by those more concerned about budgets or cutbacks that worry some of the folks spearheading the renaissance going on right now. Walt Disney World in particular suffers from the incredible amount of damage these DoMs can inflict - those little salvos praising the poorest quality shows or attractions can hold back those who want to improve the offerings out there.

How can those who care be helped? All they ask is that if you see a DoM posting making excuses for a botched product or service, that you take a few moments to respond to it. Take a minute to post how important the higher standards Disney is usually known for justify their premium pricing, and that the best quality product is important to you. It doesn't need in any way to be a putdown, it just needs to be honest about what can be done better.

It can give those who care a weapon (in the form of a counterpoint) in their quest to up the quality of what the Mouse offers. And even DoMs will ultimately benefit by getting a better product that they can gush even more about.

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Oh-kay - that should do it for today.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

Yet again we've hit some record numbers lately here on the site, and thanks to all of your kind donations to the payboxes, we've been able to keep the bills paid. As I've said before, we're only here due to all of your efforts.

See you at Disneyland!

Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally.

2007 Al Lutz

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