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With Christmas almost here, Disneyland heads into two of the very busiest weeks of the year. While the parks will be slammed with crowds, and likely forced to close the turnstiles due to overcrowding at least a few times next week between Christmas and New Years, the folks in Burbank and TDA are setting their out-of-office alerts on their email as they begin what amounts to a 10 day weekend for them. But before they left for their long Christmas vacation they unleashed a controversy amongst Club 33 members, a small but very loyal group of Disneyland fans, with changes to the membership dues structure and benefits package for 2012.

In this update we’ll fill you in on why some of those changes aren’t quite as sinister as they may appear to be, plus we have a roundup of rumors and rumblings from around the parks and those Imagineering offices just beyond them. We'll conclude with a repeat of my post about the removal of "Walt" from the Disney Pictures on-screen logo, which as with the Club 33 changes, were most likely implimented during a holiday period in order to minimize traditional media coverage. Extra special thanks for this edition of the update goes to Andy Castro and Fishbulb for their photo contributions.

Did you pick up that holiday-only latte this morning at Starbucks, and throw away that fruitcake Aunt Susan sent you yet again this year? Well then let’s get going shall we? - Al

California Here We Come...

In the last update we outlined for you the marching orders Burbank has given TDA to make this summer’s grand reopening of DCA a monumental event on par with Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary party in 2005-06, or even slightly larger in scale than that. The marketing folks will be going very big with this one with a budget of tens of millions of dollars to spread the DCA relaunch message from Texas to Seattle to Sydney and throughout the wealthiest Pacific Rim countries. You can then imagine how miffed lots of folks in Burbank and Anaheim were when Universal pulled off a marketing and pop culture coup by announcing a Harry Potter expansion for their Universal Studios Hollywood park.


Tastes just like chicken!

The word on the super-success of Potterland out in Orlando has reached the West Coast and the announcement had the media falling all over themselves to cover the event, with images of Governor Brown quaffing a frosty pint of Butterbeer plastered on every front page and newscast in the state. (You can bet Disney’s photographers will be trying to get photos of Governor Brown eating Chili Cone Carne at the Cozy Cone Motel next summer, if he deems it important enough to attend.)

The suits in the Public Affairs offices in both Burbank and Anaheim were more than ticked over the gushing praise both the governor and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa gave to the Potterland project as a jobs generator and major investment in California, as by Disney’s math the entire Potter expansion in Hollywood will be budgeted at around 300 Million dollars, or roughly the cost of just Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land. Disney’s own Public Affairs group has struggled to get the message out about just how major the investment of 1.2 Billion dollars in DCA alone over the last three years has been to the local economy, particularly the depressed construction industry.

But while some folks in Burbank were pouting over the big media splash Universal made, there were quite a few others in both Imagineering and TDA with direct contacts to Burbank’s sharp pencil boys who saw the Potterland announcement as a shot across the bow of their relaunched DCA ship, if not an outright attack. (We won't mention Cars 2). We’ve posted previously about the WDI proposals to expand Frontierland north across the railroad tracks, or to rebuild Tomorrowland’s east side where Innoventions now stands, and the Potterland announcement pushed the expansion of Disneyland with a big E Ticket attraction back to the front burner.

There will be further meetings about this after the holidays in both Anaheim and Burbank, but the last thing Disney wants is for Universal to swoop in with a West Coast Potterland in 2014 or ’15 and steal any of the hard-fought and very expensive gains in attendance they are expecting in Anaheim in 2012 and ’13.


Upping the RPM on NRM...

We’ve mentioned before the increasing focus Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) is giving to the roughly 900,000 Annual Passholders that the Disneyland Resort has been maintaining for the past few years. In what is now branded by the hippest TDA suits as “Niche Revenue Markets”, the plan to study and track these passholders will ramp up quickly in 2012, with another private after-hours party held for them on January 19th, and then ramping up to five more of these parties just in February alone on the 2nd, 6th, 9th, 16th and 27th. These special parties aimed at Annual Passholders will continue through the spring, all in an attempt to figure out ways to open up the pocketbooks of these statistically stingy park visitors.

An offshoot of this growing Niche Revenue Markets program is also partly behind a current plan to offer a 24 hour long party at Disneyland for Leap Year Day at the end of this February. While they will market the Leap Year Party at Disneyland widely, they fully expect that a big chunk of the party guests will be Annual Passholders for this publicity stunt.

Where the WDW executives are intently focused on the NextGen project of interactive queues and RFID tags and endless smartphone apps to drive increased profit from park visitors, the TDA team is focused now on Niche Revenue Markets to drive profits while it lets Florida work out all the bugs on NextGen over the next few years.

But the drive to identify and maximize profits from niche markets in Anaheim extends beyond just Annual Passholders, as TDA has known for years that the Club 33 membership base and its years-long waiting list is another relatively untapped gold mine.


Clubbed...

It was with the Niche Revenue Markets mindset in mind that TDA jumped on the chance to make some changes to the long-standing perks and benefits of Club 33, prior to launching the club’s first satellite location beyond Disneyland’s berm. When the original Imagineering plan from 2007-08 fell through to use the Carthay Circle Theater as a history attraction or Walt Disney Museum-like space, TDA latched on to the facility as a dining location with an eye towards that very long Club 33 waiting list. The original plan to use the majority of the restaurant space as a separate membership-club fell apart when the economy remained lousy through 2011 and the initial studies found that a new DCA club separate from Club 33 had little appeal to those on the Club 33 waiting list.

Carthay me
There be liquor ahead!

We’ve been filling you in on that evolving story over the past two years here, and regular readers know that only the smaller of the two ground floor cocktail lounges in the Carthay Circle Theater will be used as a membership club. But instead of branching out with a separate club, the small lounge to the right of the entrance doors will become a de facto satellite location of Club 33, hidden from sidewalk view by wood paneling and guarded by a hostess at a velvet rope.

It’s that evolution in operation for the 45 year old club that pushed TDA into making several key changes to the membership contract. Some of the changes are things that Anaheim leaders from both the parks and hotels have wanted to fix for years, some are simply profit-driven initiatives to mine the famously long waiting list under the Niche Revenues Market banner, and some of the changes are simply for needed administrative and tax purposes.

The changes to parking privileges for Club members, wherein any Club 33 member had access to 365 days of free valet parking at the Grand Californian Hotel regardless of whether they were actually going to the club that day or not, is meant to rein in a perk that the hotel executives wish they’d never agreed to in the first place a decade ago when the Grand Californian first opened. That was an agreement arranged after Club 33 lost its dedicated parking spots up near the front gate (Bambi section) when DCA was still the Disneyland parking lot.

But now that the Grand Californian Hotel consistently runs at the highest occupancy rates of the three Disney hotels in Anaheim (yes, even in this economy), and since the DVC wing opened in 2009 increasing the room count to nearly 1,000 but not adding much to the parking stock, the valet parking operation at the Grand often can’t find enough space to valet park the big-spenders staying in the hotel or coming for dinner at Napa Rose. With often dozens of Club 33 members a day taking up valet space with no guarantee they are actually going to Club 33 or even setting foot in Disneyland, the hotel management was often pulling their hair out wishing they had enough space for the people actually staying and dining in their hotel. By limiting Club 33 members to their free valet parking privilege only on days they actually have a dining reservation at the club, it’s hoped that additional valet space will open up for hotel guests, even if it’s only just an extra couple dozen parking spaces per day.

Green door, oh oh...
Liquor is served here, how else can you survive the membership price increases?

Similarly, the change from offering unlimited free park hopper tickets for guests of Club 33 members, even if the member is not dining with their guests and just reserves them a table, is an attempt to scale back what could only be seen as rampant abuse by a growing number of them. Routine audits of the records for all club members was showing a growing number of members were distributing hundreds of complimentary park hoppers per year to friends, extended family, and business acquaintances. And that same audit showed that the members themselves were only dining at the club a handful of times per year. At the current price of $101 per person for a park-hopper, the monetary value of all those free tickets was quickly surpassing the annual dues being collected by the club member passing them out to their friends, neighbors, clients, dentist, golf caddy, manicurist, etc.

While that laundry list of tweaks and changes to the club rules impacts only club members, plus the blatant grab for more money by the increase in annual dues and a phase out of the lower-level gold memberships, it was the recent posting of a change in ownership liquor license on Disneyland’s front gate that raised eyebrows amongst Disney fans whether or not they belonged to the club. And yet that change to club operation is really the most mundane and harmless, even though they unfortunately had to use the sinister sounding “Disney Parks” moniker on the filing with the liquor control board. It should be a warning flag here for the marketing group that the bland corporate Disney Parks title is now widely seen amongst fans as something to fear, not something to celebrate.

Boo!
Disney parks = bad feelings.

But the transition of ownership of the Club 33 liquor license from the club itself over to the Disney Parks monolith does not mean that Orlando executives who are clueless as to the unique culture of Southern Californians that revere Walt Disney and his own Disneyland will be getting their hands on Club 33. What it does mean, however, is that TDA is finally getting a property-wide liquor license strategy that works for the 21st century, instead of the patchwork quilt of limited and temporary liquor licenses they had left over from the 20th century.

When Club 33 opened in 1967 it was granted its own liquor license not related to Disneyland, and it maintained that license as a separate entity for decades as any upscale restaurant would out in the real world. The original Club 33 alcohol storeroom exists to this day, housed behind the second-story windows above the French Market restaurant in New Orleans Square, where locked climate-controlled cages house hundreds of bottles of fine wine, expensive champagne, and very pricy liqueurs and cordials for Club 33 diners.

Disneyland would have to apply for temporary liquor licenses good for one day only if a private corporate party was ever held after-hours in the park, and that old-fashioned process continued through the 1990’s and 2000’s with big events like Liz Taylor’s 60th birthday, the four huge Pirates movie premieres, or lavish parties bankrolled by wealthy companies like Microsoft. Only in 2009 did Disneyland finally apply for and secure a standing license to serve alcohol anywhere inside Disneyland at any time, although that practice is still reserved only for special after-hours events. But the new Disneyland license did not cover Club 33’s license on the books since ’67.


Now three times more expensive!

When DCA opened in 2001 it received its own specific license that was good parkwide, but the bureaucracy of the liquor control licensing process meant that any alcohol stock served inside DCA could not be moved around property to be served under the separate licenses maintained by the hotels or Club 33. Likewise, if the hotel banquets team helped with any event serving alcohol inside DCA, temporary exemptions had to be filed with the liquor board to move any liquor stock around property and work within the patchwork quilt of licenses Disney had in Anaheim. But with Club 33 now opening a satellite location inside DCA, the club’s current license would not permit the movement of supplies of top-shelf liquor and expensive wine between New Orleans Square and Buena Vista Street, making the ordering and receiving of supplies for the smaller location in DCA particularly difficult.

The overall changes coming to Club 33, its membership benefits and it’s new satellite location inside the Carthay Circle Theater, finally forced TDA into scrapping the circa 1967 liquor license and re-apply for a new license for Club 33 that brings it under the property-wide operation in Anaheim. Unfortunately, that license had to be titled on the public posting as a “Disney Parks” entity which understandably scares folks, particularly those who revere the distinct Club 33 culture.

Just a few notes from yours truly on this, I got a lot of e-mail, lots of phone calls and was stopped by several club members at the park, all wanting to fill me in on the problems they had with these changes. Basically I heard two distinct types of concerns, the first was the complaints about reduced perks (parking in particular) and the dramatically increased pricing, the second was more focused on the reduction in quality of offerings and service at the club over the years.

More than a few members in the first group for the most part either were unaware or uninformed about current Park management and their mandates, but I won't go into further detail. The second group that was concerned more about quality seemed to me to have a better point about the recent changes for the club. No matter what the group, the fear of getting booted out if they complained also plays into this, as well as a lack of any kind of organization as a group (particularly with a charitable focus) hurt their efforts.

Disneyland on the other hand never should have let the quality of service and food decline as it did. Club 33 should have always been, and should always be, a step above the Napa Rose or any other establishments on the property. We'll see if we increased dues means that increased service and quality follows. Lord knows the members certainly are paying for it.


Getting into Gear…

Meanwhile, in topics that relate to the 99% (rest of us), the work to get DCA ready for its grand reopening and re-launch continues at a fever pitch. The work inside Cars Land continues right on schedule, with testing of the three new attractions happening daily for up to 16 hours at a time with multiple crews.

Over a dozen of the 36 cars in two different body styles and eight color combinations that will be used at Radiator Springs Racers have now arrived on property. The growing fleet is being driven in slow motion around the entire attraction daily, although that testing is happening mainly at night due to the painting and set finishing that is still wrapping up near the track areas. Cycling of the first batch of tractors is ongoing at Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and can even be seen over the wall from the patio of the Golden Vine Winery.

The crew of Imagineers at Luigi’s Flying Tires has been having the most fun with their testing during the recent rains; it turns out that when the massive air compressors turn the ride surface into the world’s largest air hockey table, the rain is sprayed back up in a fine mist around the vehicles. The result is nothing dangerous and doesn’t appear to get riders any wetter than they already would be out in the rain, but it created a wild looking water effect and proved that the custom-designed ride control system could handle the rare rainy day in Anaheim.

While the testing and construction is all on schedule in Cars Land, it’s the land’s grand opening that looms this summer that now has DCA management worried. You’ll remember we told you that DCA’s executive team paid an undercover visit out to Universal’s Harry Potter set-up this past summer, to see how the competition handles a runaway hit. The DCA team is worried that the crush of humanity that may descend on DCA this summer will overwhelm the new land. Although the scale of Cars Land is dramatically larger at 12 acres than the far smaller scale of Potterland at Universal with an onstage area just less than 1 acre, the overall ride capacity of the three attractions may still not be able to handle the demand.

Park/ing
Bigger than Potter, with whizzing as opposed to wizarding.

Radiator Springs Racers has a modestly respectable hourly capacity of 1750 riders per hour, which would be considered a monster people-eater at a regular amusement park, but pales in comparison to other Disney E Tickets like Pirates of the Caribbean gobbling up 2,900 riders per hour or It’s A Small World carrying 2,500 riders per hour in that fleet of more buoyant 21st century boats. The 1750 figure for Radiator Springs Racers puts it ahead of Splash Mountain or Star Tours at around 1450 per hour, and compares most closely with the 1800 per hour that Indiana Jones can pull in.

Still, the demand from 75,000+ daily Anaheim visitors will far outstrip the 23,000 riders per day that Radiator Springs Racers could theoretically handle once DCA expands its hours of operation to an 8AM to 11PM daily park schedule next summer. Fastpass will be offered for Radiator Springs Racers, the first new Fastpass attraction at DCA since Tower of Terror opened in 2004, and TDA planners are already thinking of ways to ensure that DVC owners and guests staying in the nearly 3,000 Disney hotel rooms in Anaheim get first crack at those Fastpasses each morning.

The news gets a bit worse for Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and the very novel Luigi’s Flying Tires. The initial testing by WDI is proving that Mater’s musical spinner ride has an hourly capacity of about 750 riders per hour, while Luigi’s unique ride system is even less at just 550 riders per hour under the best of circumstances. The queues for those two non-Fastpass rides will be long, and while extra space has been dedicated into the pre-show areas for eventual NextGen additions years from now, it will be a classic Disneyland experience of waiting two hours for a two minute ride that first summer.

In addition to people actually on the rides, there will be 900,000 Annual Passholders who will at least want to wander through this new area they’ve seen under construction for the past three years. The DCA team is contemplating how to handle all those looky-loos, in order to avoid having to set up barriers at the three separate entrances to Cars Land and control access to the town of Radiator Springs as if it were a Vegas nightclub full of Kardashians.

You can bet that the Niche Revenue Marketing strategy will come into play here, and the concept of simple walking tours of the land may be offered late in the spring for Annual Passholders just to satisfy the demand of the people who want to see it all for themselves. The vistas and eye candy of Cars Land really is impressive from all reports from experienced Imagineers, and even those working on the project are itching to bring their friends and family into the land to show off their handiwork. That’s a story we’ll follow closely through the spring, as the exact way TDA comes up with to debut Cars Land to the curious public will be important for them, especially the AP angle.

Over on Buena Vista Street, the Imagineering project teams aren’t quite as relaxed as the Cars Land team is. The recent handful of rainy days has already stressed the team out, and they are still unsure of what opening date they can commit to for Buena Vista Street; late June, July, or perhaps even early August. The south end of Buena Vista Street, under construction much longer than the northern main street itself, is not under the same pressure however.

This Friday the remaining tarps covering the Carthay Circle Theater are scheduled to be removed, revealing the iconic tower and more details of this impressive building. Another bright spot for the Buena Vista Street team was the arrival of the first Red Car Trolley, with the second one scheduled for a February delivery. Even with both trolleys running, the system is only designed to carry about 250 riders per hour by WDI’s estimate, so it’s an attraction that has been added to the park solely for its kinetic and eye candy qualities.

Also getting underway just after the new year are several smaller projects around DCA, all chosen as logistically important to make sure the park sparkles for its two-year coming out party that begins this summer. The stores along the boardwalk in Paradise Pier, a last holdout of DCA’s original cheap look, will at least get a modest refurbishment and update through February. The Challenge Trail and Grizzly River Run will be closed for much of the winter for not just routine maintenance, but more application of their vintage themed accessories. Even World of Color is slated to receive several weeks of downtime this January to work on mechanical upgrades on the giant fountain platforms.

Fantasmic! next door also goes dark for about six weeks this January and February, for more special effects upgrades for the show and stagecraft maintenance while the Sailing Ship Columbia also receives a general rehab and woodwork repair.


Mary makes the sun shine bright...

Then on January 4th or 5th the new Jolly Holiday Bakery will finally open. The interior maintains a similar layout to that this location has had since the early 1960’s, but the décor is quite expertly redone with lavish materials and finishes, as is par for the course with most WDI projects nowadays in Anaheim.

Flighty.
She'll stay until the wind changes.

The nods to Mary Poppins are subtle but certainly noticeable, like the inlaid mosaic tiles at the head of the queue that looks like a sidewalk chalk drawing Bert may have done recreating the famous tea party scene from the movie. The bakery is purposely furnished with Edwardian era décor and design from 1901 to 1910, with antique gas stoves behind the serving line and early electric chandeliers and fixtures in the ceiling. There’s seemingly an acre of honey-blonde carved wood cabinetry, furniture and paneling, as was the emerging style in the Edwardian era of the early 1900’s.

WDI wanted to take the bakery’s story just a few years further than the slightly earlier and darker Victorian era décor of the Main Street USA story, not only to play to the correct Mary Poppins timeframe but also to help the bakery blend the Main Street USA environment into the amorphous Central Plaza’s mish mash of themes and exotic locales.


Checking back in…

Also in January, the construction crews return to the Disneyland Hotel to finish up the 3-year remodeling project. They didn’t make their Thanksgiving deadline, and after a week of catch-up work in early December there were still plenty of details and finishing touches missing. So Vice President Tony Bruno and his Disneyland Hotel team made the call to stop all work and clean up what they could to allow the hotel to operate through the busy weeks of Christmas and New Years without construction crews in the way.

So... blue.
Looks like the box it came in.

In early January they’ll return to acid wash and color-tint the newly laid cement at the lobby entrance, install all the missing chandeliers and artwork, finish installing the missing awnings and signage that are still sitting in storage, and move in the last of the new furnishings and furniture.

The Cast Members at the Disneyland Hotel will also be fitted for their new uniforms this winter, with the aqua green and vaguely Victorian pastel uniforms from the 1990’s replaced with sleek dark blues and purple fabrics cut in modern styles. It’s a shame they missed their original November deadline on this three-year project, but by the end of January the Disneyland Hotel project will be finished.


Changing the channel…

One thing that will be permanently saying goodbye after the holidays is the Disney Channel Rocks show in the Paradise Park area. With Phineas & Ferb’s dance party ranking far higher on the customer feedback surveys, even surprising TDA with its popularity, that schlocky dance show aimed at Tweens pales in comparison and will be retired permanently.

Imagineering spent quite a bit of money and engineering skills to install that rising stage in Paradise Park most recently used for this show, but TDA’s entertainment department just hasn’t figured out the right concept to put there yet.


Staffing up…

To handle the Cars Land expansion and the addition of several extra hours of park operation each day at DCA, the Casting department in TDA has been tasked with hiring 1,000 additional new Cast Members this winter just for DCA, over and above the usual hiring spree they do every spring. In January the Casting team will be kicking off a major marketing push to get people in through the doors at Casting, with job fairs and recruitment teams fanning out over Orange County.

This will be a major change for Casting, which has really retreated into their TDA employment center ever since the unemployment rate began to rise quickly in 2008. But adding a 1,000 hopefully high-quality Cast Members to the mix is a big task, and it’s hoped that with just a bit of savvy marketing they can get thousands of people applying for the spots. A similar hiring stunt worked wonders for McDonalds last spring, getting all sorts of free media attention, and TDA hopes to get a similar boost from local media.

It goes without saying that the current expectations of TDA are barely above a McDonalds quality employee, and certainly TDA can’t achieve the lofty standards of a successful fast food chain like In N’ Out, even in this tough economy.


Mixing messages…

If you wonder why the quality of Cast Members still seems a bit rough around the edges, you might forgive them a bit when you remember that the traditional standards and tactics for hiring, training, and indoctrination into the Disneyland culture were pretty much destroyed over the last decade. One glaring and boneheaded example of how TDA has forgotten what kind of business they are in is found in the expensive new Cast Newsstands that were placed all over property in the last 18 months. The Cast Newsstands featuring a 50 inch TV screen are found at all main Cast Member entry points, with dozens of additional 50 inch screens also hanging in all break rooms, cafeterias, and backstage office lobbies and assembly areas.

At their root the Newsstands are a clever idea to provide a convenient location to pick up the employee newsletter and the weekly reference guide used constantly by front-line Cast Members. But the centerpiece of the Newsstands are the 50 inch screen broadcasting the Tell-A-Cast service; a glorified clock with a running newsfeed along the bottom reminding the Cast Members of the Disneyland Resort what a crummy world we live in. In an unfortunate bit of synergy, ABC 7 News provides the newsfeed for the Tell-A-Cast system with local and national stories covering all the usually grim daily topics of murder, rape, violent crime, political scandal, financial panic, and general mayhem that the modern 24 hour news cycle spits out.

Checking for churros
Thousands injured, welcome to the happiest place on earth!

Back in the 20th century the Disney University training programs and the inherent Disneyland culture constantly stressed to Cast Members that when they arrived on property they were stepping “Onstage” into a “role” as a “host or hostess” where they were to present a “show” and provide nothing but happy and upbeat service for all of Walt Disney’s “guests” they came in contact with. Now when a Cast Member arrives to their job at Disneyland they are greeted by a running newsfeed of the latest horror stories and reminded how ugly the world can be. Even when stepping “backstage” for a break or a meal during their busy shift providing happiness, the Cast Members are confronted across property with over one hundred giant Tell-A-Cast screens hanging in break rooms and cafeterias.

It’s nearly impossible to escape the Tell-A-Cast newsfeed, as it’s only broken every 10 minutes or so by a quick video transmission from Cast Communications with a weekly update of happenings around the Resort. To add insult to injury, the Tell-A-Cast screens are all placed on mute, so the video transmission plays silently to anyone who happens to watch it. Then the video ends and the screens revert to the giant clock and the depressing newsfeed before it’s time to step back “onstage” and try to get back into a happy frame of mind.

What’s most troubling here is not the ridiculous cost to install over a hundred of these 50 inch screens all over property while more important improvements to the Cast Member or paying customer experience go unfulfilled. Nor is it even the gaffe from TDA’s Cast Communications team who are so out of touch with their own corporate culture as to not realize that the daily crime blotter is not the best subject matter to place in front of working Cast Members. The most troubling thing here is that these Tell-A-Cast screens have been up and running in huge numbers for over a year, and even after multiple complaints from hourly Cast Members to their management about it the screens continue to scroll their death tolls and depressing drama at The Happiest Place On Earth.

Countless TDA executives have walked past the screens all over property many times over the past year, and no one in authority even questioned it. Disneyland became famous for re-inventing the employee work experience and creating an entire entertainment industry on the back of that unique workplace culture and service standard. Disneyland executives once did everything they could to keep the front line Cast Members happy and upbeat, even if the training costs were huge and the employee re-investment cost them some profit each year. Now the Disney University training programs have been dumbed down and destroyed for so long that no one even remembers that you shouldn’t send a Cast Member “onstage” to put on a happy show after you’ve reminded them of the horrors of the real world beyond the berm. Film at Eleven.

The name is Walt, Walt Disney…

Boy, do I continue to get a lot of e-mail on this subject. The flurry started when a news item was quoted on the boards about how Disney was rebranding their film division, changing the name from Walt Disney Pictures to just one word, Disney. Rather soon afterwards that report disappeared, and the few people we could reach at the company that worked with or in the film division didn't seem to think anything was happening. But then a closer look at current film releases and available trailers show that the company changed how they brand their films.

Up until the release of the Muppets movie, Disney films have opened with the following logo:

The current Muppets trailer, the film itself in theaters, and the trailer for the upcoming John Carter (of Mars) now feature the following opening logo:

It's obvious what's missing. The question is, is this a wholesale renaming of the film division, or simply an easier way to identify a film for audiences and marketing purposes? Considering this new logo was also used at the beginning of Muppets film, it certainly appears that they are taking the Walt out of the Disney name for their movies.

When Michael Eisner came to Disney he made a point of using the full Walt Disney name not only as a tribute, but also a savvy marketing tool to give the impression that the new releases from the studio were in the same category as the successful titles from their past. Initially there was some controversy about this, in that the Walt Disney name would be used for films he had nothing to do with. But as time has gone on the Walt Disney name has evolved into a brand, in the same way that the Ralph Lauren name has evolved into one for the fashion industry.

In the past few years, in particular under the direction of Bob Iger, there has been a move to further simplify the brand by using the one word "Disney" even to the point of eliminating the apostrophe s. As I discussed a while back in one of my updates, this has led to some incredibly stupid stuff being done, like a push at Walt Disney World to redo all the signage and other related materials so that as an example, "Disney's Grand Floridian Resort" is now the grammatically incorrect "Disney Grand Floridian Resort." Even home video has jumped into the act. What used to be "Walt Disney's Dumbo" is now simply "Disney Dumbo." Boy do those two words say a lot.

Dumbo and dumber

Isn't it time that the marketeers get a little common sense? You'd think the millions alone that could be saved by not chasing down and eliminating apostrophe s's would be better spent.

To that end I'd like the Internet community to join me in reminding the Disney company that "it all started with Walt." As you can see below we've created some T-shirts, plus a few simple graphics that you can copy and paste into your websites to let folks know how you feel.

  

Before the brand, there was the man. Let's not forget that.


Oh-kay - that should do it for today. Remember your support is vital, your donations to PayPal help keep the bills paid. We’re only here due to all of your kind efforts.

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. (People do change their minds you know.) Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

See you at Disneyland!


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Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Al Lutz did not receive any payments, free items, or free services from any of the parties discussed in this article. He pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2011 Al Lutz

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