We’re in the home stretch now with just over a week before the formal debut of the World of Color, and the full fury of the Walt Disney Company’s marketing muscle is about to be unleashed to hype this impressive water show. While the Anaheim team begins to burn the midnight oil on the plans for June 10th and 11th that seem to change daily, there are a few elements being locked in place regarding the queuing and ticketing process to be used for the premiere, and we’ll fill you in on those here so you can decide if you want to brave the opening weekend crowds.
As always, we’ll also fill you in on a few other rumors and some recent changes around Anaheim that have most Disneylanders scratching their heads. (And not just what seems is an incredibily bone-headed move to only offer last year's new and very popular Halloween fireworks this year at the extra cost trick or treat Disneyland events.)
Got that pop tart zapped yet? Have that juice box straw in already? Then let's get going shall we? -
Whirl of Color
The big executive performance of the latest version of World of Color for Bob Iger, Tom Staggs and many other top execs that took place last Wednesday night ended with the final thumbs up from Bob that Steve Davison had been waiting for. With that, it’s now up to the operations teams in Anaheim to get this show running up to three times per night for a packed Paradise Park. Before that can happen however, there’s the typical media events for days beforehand, and a celebrity party that also has to play out the night before. Most of that marketing business will take place after DCA closes at 5:00 PM on June 10th, with the 9:00 PM show performed for a viewing area full of B and C List Celebrities (or anyone remotely involved with a Disney Channel franchise). But as the limos head back to Los Angeles and the media frenzy winds down, and while Disneyland ramps up next door for an all-night Grad Nite party, the crowd control crews will begin to mobilize for an expected crowd of people camping out overnight to rush the park in the morning and grab the first World of Color Fastpass tickets.
While the logistics for those campers and early birds still have some details to iron out, and anything can change, there are a few key elements and a basic timeline that are pretty much locked in place. Sometime in the early morning hours of June 11th, once the five hundred or more school buses arriving for Grad Nite have all been parked and taken care of, a satellite parking lot (most likely the Pumbaa Lot on Disney Way) will be opened to accept early arrivals. Those fans arriving that early will have to remain in that lot until the DCA entry area can be cleaned up after the Grad Nite and media party festivities, before they will be allowed to walk across Harbor Blvd. to begin lining up near the entrance to DCA.
Around 8:00 AM the first groups of overnighters will be allowed to go through the bag check tents and gain entry to DCA to form a queue for the World of Color Fastpass machines at Grizzly River Run.
Now here is where it gets interesting, as the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) planners fully expect a similar line to be forming on the other side of DCA at the exclusive turnstiles from the Grand Californian Hotel. The executive team at the hotels is trying to wrangle a deal where those hotel guests would be allowed in to the Fastpass machines first to grab their tickets, in order to provide the “exclusive access” to the park’s amenities that gate was built for in the first place. But if the numbers are too big in either group of queuing visitors, a tricky game of merging those two different lines will have to be pulled off somehow.
The problem of which group gains access to the Fastpass machines first really shouldn’t matter however, as the computer program that will be distributing the tickets will be purposely randomizing the sections throughout the distribution process, so that the first tickets distributed won’t necessarily be the best viewing areas in the Yellow or Red zones. The computer program could spit out the very best zones first, or the least helpful zones over in the Blue section. But the worry is that the hotel guests paying big bucks to stay at the Grand Californian won’t perceive that they are getting an exclusive benefit if they are meshed in with a big crowd of locals who look like they spent the night in a parking lot (because they did). You can be sure the hotel management will be cracking down this summer on anyone who isn’t a hotel guest from using that entry gate in the mornings, a long-standing official policy that hasn’t been enforced consistently since DCA opened to underwhelming demand.
Once the Fastpass process begins for World of Color, and remember that all regular Fastpass policies apply here so you won’t be able to take a stack of friends AP’s to the park to get tickets for them while they are still at work, the distribution should go rather quickly as they are limiting the Fastpass tickets to less than 2,000 tickets per show, or less than just 4,000 per day. (As a point of reference, a popular E Ticket attraction like Haunted Mansion Holiday or Thunder Mountain has the ability to distribute around 25,000 Fastpass tickets in a single 16 hour day, and yet still run out on the busiest days.) The planned third show at 11:30 PM won’t offer Fastpass at this time.
Visit the DCA Project Tracker thread at MiceChat
The viewing area is now thought to max out at around 4,000 spectators, and up to 2,000 spaces are being reserved at each show for the extra-cost Dining Packages that Anaheim’s infamously disorganized Food & Beverage Department is rushing into production. By 10:00 AM, DCA will open as normal for the day, and the World of Color Fastpass distribution process could be winding down not long after.
With the World of Color Fastpasses all distributed, the Grizzly River Run CM’s will switch the machines back over to the regular Grizzly Fastpass system, and all of those ticket holders will be free to enjoy the Disneyland Resort and wait for evening to arrive. Or perhaps just go home and nap. Don’t bother trying to stake out a spot in Paradise Park beforehand, as the crowd control folks will be sweeping through that area in the late afternoon to clear everyone out and set up their ropes. Paradise Park will be an off-limits area for a few hours in early evenings to prepare for the onslaught of Fastpass ticket holders.
As night falls, things will begin to get very interesting around the Resort. Disneyland, of course, will be going full blast with its usual Summer Nightastic roster of Fantasmic!, fireworks, dancing, entertainment and big crowds. DCA is going to try to capture a bit of that famous Disneyland After Dark magic by setting up a street party in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area that we’ve told you about in previous updates. The name for this party has changed yet again, and it will debut next Friday as “Glow Fest”.
Glow Fest may not have decades of tradition behind it and that special touch from Walt that Disneyland’s evening entertainment enjoys, but it will have a valid liquor license and plenty of LED lighting, and the DCA team is going to give it their best shot. With the two new evening Aladdin shows at the Hyperion Theatre, that area of the park will probably be the busiest it’s ever been during these Glow Fest hours, or so the crowd control planners hope. The big-picture attempt with Glow Fest will be to try and pull people away from the rides shutting down around Paradise Pier before show time to allow for a more orderly load-in process for World of Color. This is also an attempt to minimize the amount of time people are waiting on their feet for the show, as there won’t be any seating in Paradise Park and the crowd control planners want to keep everyone standing to maximize the space available.
Once the load-in of Paradise Park is complete around 8:30 PM, and there are still quite a few unanswered questions on just exactly how that march from the Sunshine Plaza to Paradise Park will work that first week, the next phase of the evening entertainment begins.
Fantasmic! usually sends out the River Rascals jazz band on a raft a half hour before show time to entertain the waiting crowds, but a raft or boat wouldn’t work in Paradise Bay that close to the barely submerged World of Color fountains. Instead, crowds waiting in Paradise Park will be treated to pre-show entertainment dubbed “Carnivale of Color”, which consists of bright stick puppets being paraded through the air that will perform musical shows in and around the terraced viewing areas of Paradise Park. And then at the stroke of 9:00 PM, God willing, the first public performance of World of Color will begin.
With the first show ending a bit before 9:30 PM, more questions are still unanswered about how exactly they will simultaneously empty the amphitheater, get a crack Custodial crew in there to clean it up, and quickly parade the next waiting crowd from Glow Fest across DCA and in to Paradise Park for the 10:15 PM show.
Trick or feat?
While the above overall plan seems rather logical, there’s some fuzzier thinking surrounding DCA’s actual closing time. After the Disneyland.com website originally showed an 11:00 PM nightly closing time for DCA in June, those late closing times were reverted back to a more traditional 10:00 PM. That odd operating change on Disneyland.com was a peek into the debate raging behind the scenes on how to strategically handle the crowds expected to fill three shows per night.
Originally TDA had plans for 11:00 PM park closing times and a third nightly show scheduled at 11:30 PM. But then TDA executives began to second-guess the popularity of World of Color, and considered DCA’s long curse of never quite living up to expectations. The worry was that if the show wasn’t the huge hit they expected, that pictures and reports on the Internet of a mostly empty third show and a deserted nighttime DCA, while Disneyland streets still brimmed with tourists through Midnight, would sabotage the plan to re-launch DCA as a successful theme park that people were actually willing to stay all day for.
So to play it safe, TDA is engaging in a bit of scheduling trickery and good old-fashioned marketing showmanship. For at least the first week after World of Color’s debut, DCA’s shops, restaurants and attractions are all planned to be staffed with Cast Members as if they are still closing at 11:00 PM, with a third World of Color show scheduled for 11:30 PM, even though all public materials will claim a 10:00 PM closing time and just two scheduled shows. The Resort’s support services like Guest Relations, Custodial, and Security are also all ramping up as if DCA has an 11:00 PM closing time and three World of Color shows. That way, when the crowds do descend on the park TDA can pretend to extend the hours each day “due to popular demand”, and play it off as though World of Color is such a huge hit that they have to suddenly offer extra shows and extend the hours of a newly popular theme park.
The conventional wisdom in TDA states they’ll easily get the big attendance numbers most days to pull that off, something north of 28,000. Next Monday and Tuesday are the last few days before summer block-outs begin for hundreds of thousands of SoCal and SoCal Select Annual Passholders, and those two days will definitely be the busiest days of the summer for World of Color, as well as the maxed out parking lots around the Resort. But the worst case scenario is that if the huge crowds don’t show up when most AP’s are blocked out, they can still close at 10:00 PM without losing face, and they’ll just eat the extra labor they staffed for a week or two until they can formally scale back the Cast Member’s schedules.
Brilliantly clever or downright sneaky, you decide.
Obviously World of Color is going to be the big story of the summer, and the crowd control and logistics plans for this show will likely change many times between now and Labor Day. But there are still a lot of other smaller projects coming to both parks. We’ve told you many times before how Tony Baxter continually juggles the budgets he receives from TDA to plus up existing attractions around Disneyland, such as the snazzy technical upgrades about to be finished at Snow White’s Scary Adventures.
As you read this update on Tuesday, Tony’s last big E Ticket at Disneyland, the fantastic Indiana Jones Adventure, will be closing for a quick 3 day rehab so Tony’s team can work their magic. The prime motivator behind this short rehab is the installation of a brand new, and far more advanced, animatronic Indy figure at the rides big finale’. The animatronic Indy that stands triumphantly at the shattered granite ball your troop transport just dodged will be swapped out for a much more realistic version.
Tony wanted to get that last figure replaced and upgraded during the Indiana Jones rehab last year, when they also replaced the Indy figure holding the temple doors closed at the rides beginning and upgraded lighting and special effects throughout the rest of the ride. But as regular readers know, Tony only has so much money to work with from TDA, even though the current TDA executive team is the most sympathetic to Tony’s projects of any leadership team in decades.
But Tony was recently able to secure more funding to complete his Indiana Jones animatronic upgrades, and when the ride reopens on Friday that final animatronic in particular will look far more convincing than the original 1995 version.
Nothing but Blue Sky
Back over at DCA, the construction frenzy will be accelerating on the big Mermaid facility and the Cars Land mega-project throughout the summer behind the walls, while a few small projects will get underway out in the open. Next door to the new Silly Symphony Swings (that has already improved the aesthetics of that area over the cheap peeled orange from ‘01), a classy little beer and pretzel bar dubbed Bayside Brews will begin construction just after the 4th of July.
Up the parade route a bit, the wide path that the original DCA planners used to call the “Performance Corridor” with a straight face and that will soon be rechristened as El Camino Real, the Blue Sky Cellar is faced with a less certain immediate future. The original plan was to shutter the preview center for several days next week to remove the latest World of Color exhibit and load in new displays touting the upcoming Toy Story Musical at the Hyperion Theatre. But with the sudden cancellation of that production to replace the seven year old Aladdin musical, the Imagineers were faced with a big hole in their Blue Sky Cellar exhibit calendar.
The plan now for the Cellar is to try and rush the installation of the Little Mermaid and Goofy’s Sky School exhibits, but as of this writing it was unclear how the timeline on that will pan out exactly. Unfortunately, the Toy Story exhibit was supposed to bridge the gap this summer until Mulholland Madness closes in early October and construction gets underway there and at the adjacent food court. Around November the Toy Story exhibit would move out near the shows planned premiere, and the Mermaid and Goofy’s Sky School displays would take center stage. The Little Mermaid and Goofy’s Sky School, along with the surrounding new shops and restaurants, are all slated to open at the same time at yet another big media event in early June, 2011.
The decision to cancel the Toy Story Musical for DCA was due less to unhappiness with the Toy Story Musical product, and more with the Imagineers strong dislike for the current façade at Hyperion Theatre. The original timeline that Disneyland’s Entertainment Department was working with just over a month ago had Aladdin closing on August 16th, and then a 100 day rehab of the theater that would have left the exterior untouched while the Toy Story sets replaced all of the Aladdin equipment and a quick Toy Story overlay installed in the existing outer lobby and entry doors to the theater.
The new Toy Story show was to have formally opened for the Thanksgiving weekend later this fall. But the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of the park is the leading candidate for a more thorough remake after Cars Land opens in 2012, as WDI rechristens that area Hollywoodland, and the ugly and utilitarian flanks of the Hyperion Theatre are tops on the Imagineering list of past sins that should be atoned for there. The fear was that if TDA spends some of its own budget to spruce up the existing theater a bit and install a popular new show in that theater, that it would be very difficult to shut down the facility for a major year-long rehab just a couple of years later.
So the Aladdin musical will stay for now, with the new Red Car Trolley tracks soon to be laid out front sprucing up the streetscape of the rest of that area and introducing a more lush and more period-specific look. WDI continues to polish up their plans to reskin the front of the Hyperion Theatre after Cars Land is done, and enclose the southern side of the building and give the big theater a proper and very luxurious themed lobby from Hollywood’s golden age.
The other goal with the Hyperion Theatre lobby project is to close off the street view of the bland and sprawling cement waiting area and create a themed streetscape environment on that short path that leads towards Tower of Terror. And when that Hyperion Theatre / Hollywoodland Phase 2 project gets underway, then Disneyland’s Entertainment Department will use that downtime to mount an all new stage show to replace Aladdin.
It’s a good thing that a longer term outlook was used here, and it also bodes well for the fast-tracking and funding of the next phase of DCA’s rebirth after Cars Land.
Meanwhile, with all of this new construction and last-minute changes happening, Disney’s marketing machine let a subtle change slip recently that is actually just the tip of the iceberg. Over on the Disney Parks Blog site, the Disneyland representative Heather Hust Rivera posted a preview last Friday of the new World of Color commercial that mentions the parks new name “Disney California Adventure”, without the possessive apostrophe s added on the end of Disney. It’s that seemingly subtle name change that will have the broadest impact around the rest of the company.
As the marketing group struggles to rebrand this park in the years ahead, and we’ve told you about their dilemma over the long park name that most folks just call DCA, a broader decision about branding all of their products sprang from the ongoing DCA discussions. The result is that many properties within the Disney empire that currently use the phrase “Disney’s” will be changing to the new “Disney” moniker instead.
Here in Anaheim it won’t be that noticeable, as there are only two other properties that use the old title; Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. But out at WDW where there are literally dozens of places with the phrase “Disney’s” slapped on the title, from water parks to hotels to campgrounds to golf courses to theme parks, the proposed changeover is causing a planning headache of epic proportions.
The thought from the marketing gurus is that stripping the title down to just include the word Disney is a sleeker and more modern approach to branding all of these physical properties and intellectual concepts. Just when DCA’s Vice President Mary Niven was making a little headway in trying to ban the use of the acronym DCA and get her troops to say Disney’s California Adventure, the game changes again. It has not yet been decided if DCA managers who have to put a quarter in a jar every time they utter the theme park acronym instead of the full name will be subjected to additional fines if they forget to drop the apostrophe s from their speech.
Time for a Boo-cott?
That same day Heather also caused an online uproar by letting slip that this year’s Halloween Screams fireworks show would only be available to those who paid for an extra-cost ticket to the Resort’s Halloween parties that we’d told you earlier were moving from DCA to Disneyland this year.
Judging from all the posts they are deleting on the parks blog from visitors who have come to expect that popular show as part of regular admission, Heather might want to consider a less-stressful career in - oh, say PR for unstoppable oil well leaks - but it’s the direction TDA is going in their attempt to lessen the impact of Annual Passholders who can descend by the tens of thousands and overwhelm the Resort area’s infrastructure on evenings in October.
Money talks though, and if enough people didn't buy tickets for the parties, and avoided making any Halloween merchandise purchases, Disney might understand this is not a good decision. Don't bother writing Heather, she's probably too busy deleting posts to deal with much else right now.
Dress... for Success?
As if changing theme park titles weren’t enough, the dress code for Disney managers and TDA staffers also changed last week. Most of the changes were aimed at the ladies, and most notably included the decision to allow women to no longer wear panty hose or hosiery if they are wearing skirts or dresses. While the trendy bare-legged look can be pulled off by tanned and toned celebrities walking the red carpet in designer fashions, the reality of cubicle drones schlepping in to work with bare legs showing is likely to be far less attractive. Dangling ear-rings, sleeveless blouses, open-toed shoes and Capri pants were also just approved for women, although many of the gals in TDA were already wearing all of this stuff anyway without any attempt by their supervisors to stop them.
The one change for the men’s manager dress code had a lot of Southern Californians scratching their heads however, as the memo simply announced that un-tucked “Camp Shirts” were now approved to be worn by men. Most of the guys in TDA under the age of 50 had no idea what a Camp Shirt was, and computers all over Anaheim lit up with Google searches for Camp Shirts to try and solve the mystery. The ability for men to wear what are known as Camp Shirts is really a bone thrown to the Floridians at WDW, where that type of body-camouflaging clothing is actually the height of male fashion out in central Florida.
The new more casual dress code announcement had a small asterisk at the bottom however, alerting the reader to the fact that “area leadership” may not allow all of these changes to take effect for their respective teams and departments. Most notably, the senior managers running the theme parks and hotels in Anaheim aren’t about to let most of these changes take effect for their teams of managers working the front lines. The TDA folks have been notorious scofflaws when it comes to the Disney Look appearance guidelines, as they flout casual clothes and trendy hairstyles and accessories that would get a regular theme park manager sent to the dog house, or an hourly Cast Member sent home.
There’s a certain pride and cachet to working inside the park at Disneyland, and many TDA folks don’t quite get that, or have long forgotten what that felt like after sitting in a cubicle for too long. While the TDA types rush to tear off their panty hose and un-tuck their shirts without a care, the theme park executives are circling the wagons this week and trying to determine what parts of this new dress code they allow their management troops to wear in order to not degrade the Disneyland reputation for excellence too much.