Wine and Dine Half Marathon
The inaugural Wine and Dine Half Marathon, replacing the 10K Race for the Taste (retired as of 2009), has just sold out. I didn't register for it, though. As intrigued as I was by the promise of a brand new course, and the fact that I like collecting the medals (especially a first-year one!), in the end I simply suffered sticker shock.
Yes, even I will eventually reach a point where it simply costs too much. The appropriate analogy really is the straw that broke the camel's back. I've been piling straw on Disney's back for years and decades now. Most of the time, I do so with a smile. And I'll continue to do so for many things Disney offers (increasingly, though, I won't shell out for the food at WDW, which is getting pricier all the time and not increasing in quality).
On the issue of this new half marathon, I convinced myself last week (before it was sold out) that I'd do it, despite the usual high price, and made it all the way through the registration process to the very last payment screen, when I saw the total was now $155 (including my $11 Disney pin). That made me do a double-take, and I noticed the service charge (processing fee) was $10.
And, as simple as that, I clicked to close my browser without completing the sale. No anger, no muss, no fuss... but also no sale. The high processing fee caused me to rethink the overall price. The 2009 Princess Half cost $120, while the 2010 Wine and Dine costs $135 - that's a 12% increase in just one year. In the middle of a bit of an economic slump, no less. The processing fee in 2009, I see now, was $8.30. Somehow I didn't mind paying $128 in 2009 but didn't want to pay $145 in 2010. As I said, straws and camels.
But this is part of a larger trend, and it's been going on for a while. The 2007 WDW Half Marathon cost merely $90 with a $4.50 processing fee. That's a 50% jump in just three years to now - ouch. Clearly, Disney is testing to see what the market will bear. So I bear them no malice here - this is a common tenet in business. I just wish they didn't completely test the limits here. Charge something less than the EXACT price the market will bear and you'll miss some profit... but you'll also get your visitors excited about coming again. But their testing of the market limits has me deciding to keep my money, this time around.
New Disney Books
As I add books into my massive list of Disney tomes, I like to review them for usability, usefulness, and value. I’m a “completist” when it comes to Disney theme parks books in particular. Today, the books (which are new to my collection) are listed in subjective order or importance (keeping in mind the issues of cost, value, and newness). Active links take you to Amazon.com.
- Disneyland Through the Decades. I think Jeff Kurtti has his finger, more than any other Disney author working today (save perhaps Jason Surrell), on what exactly the theme park fans want. Bruce Gordon knew how to deliver exciting art books on Disneyland, and Jeff similarly knows how to dig up images that excite the readers. The pictures often have historic value, and many are taken at angles you've never seen before. You can't go wrong with this book for the photography alone. The book is ostensibly broken down into decades, but the more noticeable divisions are the mini-essays that make up each chapter. Most are reprints, and are decent to good, but they didn't hold my interest the way the pictures do. If you see this for sale at the park, flip through to see if the photos catch your fancy. If they don't, this book isn't for you. But I'm guessing they will. CLICK TO BUY
- South of the Border With Disney. After picture-heavy coffee table books on the theme parks, this is my favorite kind of Disney book: thick, heavy, hardcover - and meaty content while still being eminently readable. Normally, film and animation books come a distant second to parks for me, but this tale is irresistable. It explains how and why the South American cartoon/movies like Saludos Amigos were made, giving way more detail than you're expecting about context and process. I get lost in books like this. CLICK TO BUY
- Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland. Not all of this hardcover book is dedicated to his Disney career, but Boag (and cowriter Gene Sands) gives at least 2/3rds of the book to his Disneyland (and WDW) stories. For theme park aficionadoes, it's manna from heaven to get first-hand information from one of the real long timers, and the book has high production values to boot. CLICK TO BUY
- Windows on Main Street. This is not the old Van Arsdale France book, but a new one by Chuck Snyder that is shorter by far. In 20 quick pages, Snyder races through all the windows at both DL and WDW. Well, not all of them. He provides paragraphs on the more famous names (probably about 60 names in total) but does not attempt any biography on the lesser known names (of which there are dozens in the windows themselves). What is helpful, though, is a diagram of all the windows, and then an index of all the people honored. Unlike the rest of the book, this index is comprehensive. I do like that for the people Snyder selects to receive a biography, he includes a photo of the window tribute. Since those are sometimes hard to photograph for the everyday park visitor, this is a nice touch. CLICK TO BUY
- Art of Meet the Robinsons. This is a thinner volume than most of the "Art of" books, and there are fewer words than usual, but the art is up to snuff, as always. A completist like me has no choice but to buy, and yet I'd still recommend this one. CLICK TO BUY
- Walt Disney's First Lady of Imagineering: Harriet Burns. This hardcover tribute book honors the first female Imagineer. She had her hands in everything until 1986, when she finally retired. When she died in 2008, her daughter collected eulogies and solicited written tributes from family and coworkers to form this volume. It doesn't read like most biographies, but it's interesting all the same, and you'll learn things here you didn't know before (did you know Harriet was filmed to be the seance madam for Haunted Mansion, but her facial features were too small and they had to use Leota as a second choice?) Unfortunately, the little details like that are few and far between, but this is still a welcome book in the pantheon of Disney Imagineers. CLICK TO BUY
- Warp and Weft: Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman. John Donaldson's biography of Herb Ryman clocks in at a hefty 310 pages, but there are 70 pages of notes and indexes yet to come. Why so much volume? Possibly because the author has an axe to grind: he believes he was supposed to be willed Herb's art collection, but was conned out of it by Herb's sister. Even if there is a personal slant at work here, the story remains intriguing at minimum, and possibly explosive. Did the Imagineers "steal" Herb's life work and legacy? The author doesn't pull any punches - he hated the "Brush with Disney" book - and lays blame on key Imagineers that he names directly. One prominent ex-Imagineer let me know that the parts of the book he had witnessed were fairly represented, so even if there's only a kernel of truth to the accusations, this is a key volume documenting a certain attitude in Imagineering. It's a long story, and not all that evenly written, but the glimpse backstage at the sniping and catty artists is irresistible. CLICK TO BUY
- Disney Song Encyclopedia. I'm a sucker for reference books. This one is a hardcover with 300 pages and some 900 songs, including ones from the parks. Songwriters and signers are identified, and each song gets a paragraph of explanation and context. CLICK TO BUY
- Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales. It's an interesting idea to focus only on the Disney movies that come from fairy tales, but the somewhat bland plot summaries of the source stories lead to equally bland summaries of the Disney movies. The artwork, though, saves the volume somewhat. The concept art in particular is good, and I haven't seen all of these images before. CLICK TO BUY
- Mini Mouse: A Personal Tour of the Magic Kingdom. In 150 pages, this author leads readers around the Magic Kingdom, dwelling on facts, details, inside jokes, trivia, and ride history when appropriate. The entry on Splash Mountain, for instance, tells how Tony Baxter dreamed it up, but also how Eisner's test ride led to altered logs. And that's only two of the eight paragraphs for this ride. It's an interesting idea for a book and largely well told. There are, however, no photos are artwork in the book. CLICK TO BUY
- Mousejunkies. This is a different kind of guide book to WDW. Written by a clutch of frequent visitors (but not locals), it purports to offer tips on such things as where to go and what to bring, how to beat the crowds, and what to do when overload strikes. In practice, the book isn't very organized--it's hard to flip through and pull out immediate tips, probably because almost everything comes in the form of an extended anecdote. Some travelers may find the tips practical, and the stories may well appeal to folks who only get a taste of Disney once per year. But they didn't appeal tremendously to me, despite the 200+ pages. It's probably best enjoyed by someone with scant knowledge of the parks. CLICK TO BUY
- Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. I want to like this work, I really do, but there's so little there. This was a booklet to accompany the similarly-named D23 exhibit in 2009, and it's fascinating to see professional art photography of things like the EO spaceship model or the Sleeping Beauty prop storybook made for $1,500 to start off the movie. But so much of the booklet (and presumably the D23 exhibit, which I didn't see) revolves around recent, live-action Disney movies - it just turned me off. CLICK TO BUY
- Fantasmic. This program/booklet comes from 1992, when the show was new at Disneyland, but it only recently entered my collection. It's thin (22 pages), but it has good professional photography from the show, which is always devilishly hard to get for yourself. CLICK TO BUY
- Little Known Facts About Well-Known Places: Disneyland. There are 190 "facts" in this book, but there is so little here that it's almost 190 sentences! For the Disney fan who's been around for a while, the "secrets" are not surprising: they haul in cobwebs to the Haunted Mansion, Paul Reubens provides the voice of Captain Rex, and Disneyland is slowest between Thanksgiving and Christmas. CLICK TO BUY
- The Story of Disney Bear: A Day at the Magic Kingdom. I think this children's book - it's the size and length of a Little Golden Book - has been around for a while, but I only see it sporadically, and by no means everywhere. It uses hand-drawn images (not photos) to tell the story of Mickey having a great time with his stuffed bear (who is himself alive and talking; in Japan they call him Duffy) while at Disneyland. Cute for kids, but nothing to write home about. CLICK TO BUY
- 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. This is not directly a Disney book, but a great many Disney park fans know more than a smattering about the New York fair. You won't find images of the Disney pavilions here, but there are generous dollops of photos from many other pavilions, and they are all reminiscent of Disney quality. Interesting for me, at least! CLICK TO BUY
- Tomart's 6th Edition Disneyana: Guide to Pin Trading. At $30, this volume is pricey if you're not into Disney pins. I was drawn in by the promise of photos of 17,000 pins. I rationalized that $30 is certainly a lot less money than it would take to buy all those pins, so this was a "cheap" way to get at the artwork. Still, I doubt I would have cared five years ago, before I bought my first pin. CLICK TO BUY
- Official Price Guide to Disney Collectibles, 2nd Edition. I'm not sure if the casual fan out there will care about this price guide (and image catalog) of Disney merchandise through the decades. Will you care more than the pin trading one? Less? For me, I find it staggering to flip through the 1014 pages (there are no less than 28,000 items discussed here, many of them with pictures). If you grew up flipping through catalogs and dreaming about Christmas, perhaps you'll join me in considering this a worthwhile purchase. Otherwise, steer clear. CLICK TO BUY
On Wednesday of this past week, I watched a cast member from Gateway Gifts (the shop under Spaceship Earth) use the nearby Guest bathroom. I'm always conflicted when I see this. Part of me wants to speak up. Do I tell the CM - who is probably new - or find a supervisor? Invariably, I instead end up doing nothing. After all, it's not my business, and certainly not my job. But the breakdown of "show" is so glaring that the issue gnaws at me. I'm curious - do any of you readers ever see this? Do you ever say anything?