Deconstructing Disney: 2007 ahoy

I love reading Press Releases. They’re so shamelessly self promoting that if you aren’t careful to read between the lines you miss the real message. Disney recently released their ‘Year Ahead’ press release touting all the great things to come to the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2007. Here’s my take on what they’re really saying

After a momentous 2006, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is poised to unveil a full slate of exciting new attractions and entertainment in the coming year, highlighted by the continued rollout around the world of its groundbreaking Where Dreams Come True initiative.

If by momentous they mean two new ‘officially open’ attractions in the US parks, the debut of some ‘Cars’ characters photo-ops, and new music for the WDW Magic Kingdom parade, then sure, I agree 2006 was great. Otherwise it was a year of busy parks for guests without much new to enjoy. If you’re going to count the two Finding Nemo additions as part of the 2007 debuts, then you can’t claim they were part of 2006 too. Mostly 2006 was a year of construction and the slow wrap up of a major promotion. But you have to have those years too.

And, btw, what kind of promotion is ‘Where Dreams Come True?’ Whose dreams exactly? And what happened to the Happiest and most Magical places on earth?

"As proud as we are of all that we
accomplished in the last year, particularly with the great, global
success of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, we have even more
exciting things in store for 2007 and beyond," said Jay Rasulo,
Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "In addition to making dreams
come true for our guests around the world, 2007 will be a year in which
we continue to invest in our business by adding world-class attractions
and entertainment that tell great stories – especially those based on
some of Disney’s great creative franchises."

Actually,
I think he means based on some of Pixar’s great creative franchises.
But I guess $6.7 billion allows you to claim them as your own post
facto. (To be fair, Disney has had some involvement with story and
development at Pixar over the years.) Seriously, why hasn’t Disney
tapped into the great stories they’ve been telling for the last 20
years. A great attraction requires a great story, not a great box
office hit. Many of the properties we enjoy today at Disneyland and
WDW, were not huge box office hits for Walt Disney, but he knew the
story was good and went with it. I’d say Hercules, Atlantis, and
Emperor’s New Groove qualify there. But there’s nothing from any of
those three in any US themepark.


"We’ll
also continue to look for new areas with which we can grow our business
and expand our share of the global travel market," Rasulo added. "We
think there are incredible opportunities for us on this front, and
we’re eager to bring the Disney vacation experience to new audiences
and places around the world, much like we’ve done with one of our
newest businesses, Adventures by Disney."

I’m reading this to mean that pretty much the
vast majority of spending on new parks and attractions by Disney will
occur outside the United States.  I am willing to give Adventures by
Disney a chance. Hopefully Disney isn’t taking a loss on it. 

Where Dreams Come True

In
October, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – a part of The Walt Disney
Company – launched Where Dreams Come True, the first-ever initiative to
fully integrate and encompass Disney’s entire worldwide portfolio of
parks and resorts. The campaign is anchored in the principle that
families everywhere, regardless of boundaries or culture, share the
belief that Disney parks are a magical escape where they can experience
a world of fantasy and imagination.

What Jay is saying is that he doesn’t trust the consumer to tell the
difference between Disneyland and Disney World OR is tired of spending
marketing money to promote two different resorts and thinks he can save
some dough using one over arching name.

What I’m saying is that why Jay builds up the ‘Disney Parks’ brand,
he’s weakening the Disneyland and Walt Disney World brands. This is
going to come back to bite Disney in the ass some day.

"Our Dreams initiative brings that belief to
life," Rasulo said, "through attractions, entertainment, and, most
importantly, Disney cast members, who are raising our already high
levels of guest service to even greater heights."

As I mentioned in on of my earlier posts, it’s great that the Year
Of A Million Dreams promotion is helping raise the guest service level
by providing these magical moments for guests and cast members to
enjoy. It’s a shame that they felt they had to turn to a promotion to
bring magic back to the parks. It should be Standard Operating
Procedure and drilled into the head of every cast member and manager at
the parks that their product is magical memories and they should be
looking for every opportunity to create them. No promotion required.
Save the promotions for car giveaways, new attractions or lands, and
anniversaries.

Dreams also serves as the long-term unifying
theme for products and services at each park around the world. Under
the Dreams umbrella, each international Disney resort will present
specially tailored celebratory themes in 2007, such as the 15th
anniversary of Disneyland Resort Paris, the start of the celebration of
Tokyo Disney Resort’s 25th anniversary, and the continued introduction
of the Disney experience to a new region of the world at Hong Kong
Disneyland.

This is nice for Disney since they don’t have to pay for those other
promotions (well except for Hong Kong Disneyland, which they’re still
carrying).

In the U.S., Dreams has come to life under the
banner of The Year of a Million Dreams – a celebration of Disney guests
and the way their dreams come true at Disney’s parks and resorts. Since
The Year of a Million Dreams began in October, cast members have made
more than 200,000 dreams come true for guests at the Disneyland and
Walt Disney World resorts.

Over 50 Million guests visited the US Disney Theme Parks last year.
That breaks down to about 4.16 million visitors a month. So in three
months Disney has made 200,000 dreams come true? What about the other 12.3
million guests? Who are they, the marks?

Experiences Only Disney Can Provide

Randomly
awarded, these dreams include such "money can’t buy" experiences as a
Dream FASTPASS badge with unique access to some of Disney’s most
popular attractions; private meetings with favorite Disney characters;
shopping sprees; and a variety of unique Disney vacation experiences,
including the chance to spend the night in a special suite inside
Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World or in the Mickey Mouse Penthouse
at the Disneyland Hotel.

Private meetings with Disney characters? I don’t remember seeing
that on the prize list. I really think Disney needs to be playing up
the prizes they have awarded already and then plus the prize list with
even more great vacation experiences.

"Our cast members are playing a central role
during The Year of a Million Dreams," Rasulo said. "They’re helping
make our guests’ dreams come true and they’re delivering extraordinary
guest service, which is really at the heart of what we do and who we
are as Walt Disney Parks and Resorts."

Of course we no longer pay our Cast Members enough to live near by
the parks where they work. Our scheduling and benefits package leaves
much to be desired too. So much that our employee turnover ration is
higher than ever and our ability to attract new employees is lower than
ever, that we’ve had to really lower our dress and appearance standards
for hiring. We’ve also had to bring in outside companies to fill some
positions so we can shift labor to elsewhere in the resorts. One of the
things we’re forecasting for 2007 is a strike at our Florida properties
as long term Cast Members, some of our best assets, that have stuck
with us are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

Leveraging Creative Franchises

In
addition to a strong focus on guest service, Walt Disney Parks and
Resorts will unveil a full slate of exciting new attractions,
entertainment shows and experiences in 2007, demonstrating its
commitment to continually invest in its business. Many of these new
attractions – such as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at the
Disneyland Resort, or the Cars Quatre Roues Rallye at the Disneyland
Resort Paris – feature stories and characters that have become key
creative franchises for all of The Walt Disney Company.

Pixar.

"Whether it’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or
‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘Toy Story,’ Disney parks and resorts are truly where
we make these great stories – stories that are known and loved around
the world – come to life," Rasulo said. "And now, we’re able to use
cutting-edge technology to make these stories even more magical,
exciting and memorable for our guests."

Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, and the genius creative spirit Marc
Davis, brought us Pirates of the Caribbean. Pixar is doing the rest.

Enhanced with Technology

For
instance, thanks to proprietary, state-of-the-art, computer-animation
technology, guests on the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (due to
open at the Disneyland Resort in June) will be able to look out through
the submarine’s portholes to see Nemo and his animated friends swimming
and interacting nearby – with guests seeing the scenes as though they
were on a magical underwater voyage through the film.

Okay we have this over here at Epcot. And the
special effect animation is really cool. In fact, this coolness is why
I wonder why Walt Disney Imagineering has suffered so many layoffs and
talent culls over the last decade. WDI needs to be returned to its
glory days as the keepers of Walt’s dream.

Sophisticated computer-animation technology
will also bring to life Mike Wazowski and his friends at the Monsters,
Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club, which opens at the Walt Disney World
Resort in spring 2007. Guests will be able to laugh, joke and match
wits with the Monsters, Inc. characters in real time, and guests will
even be able to text-message jokes backstage for possible use in the
show.

Man I hope they can pulls this off. The Magic Kingdom doesn’t need
another failed attraction in Tomorrowland. If it doesn’t work they
might finally be forced to re-imagine that land that’s less about
Tomorrow than it is about today and Pixar…. (that word keeps popping
up in this post.)

"At the heart of all our entertainment is
great storytelling," said Rasulo. "Yet we’re always looking for new
tools, and new technologies, to enhance the way we tell these stories –
and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Comedy Club are two wonderful examples."

And boy are we hoping that John Lasseter can bring great
storytelling back to Disney. Although I think Disney should be looking
within too.

In the coming year, Walt Disney Parks and
Resorts will also continue to roll out technologies and tools to help
guests make their vacations with Disney more personalized and
customized. For instance, at the new DisneyParks.com website, an online
feature helps guests customize their vacations with specific styles of
entertainment. The site then generates a personalized map that guides
guests to their priority activities once they arrive at a Disney park,
with special tips for personalized fun.

Disney could be doing so much more with their websites. Instead fan
websites have been filling in doing the job Disney should be doing
since 1999. It’s about time they got in the game.

Another feature of the DisneyParks.com website
is a customizable "widget" that can be downloaded to a desktop
computer. The widget functions as an interactive message center –
providing information about new attractions and events at Disney parks,
custom messages for annual passholders, and vacation planning tips and
tools.

Yay for Widgets. That’s so 2006. What you got for 2007?

Magic in New Places

Walt Disney
Parks and Resorts will also continue to expand its signature brand of
family entertainment to new corners of the global vacation market in
2007.

So all you foreign markets keep sending those tax breaks our way.
We’ll move to whomever gives us the best and biggest financing package.

This summer, the Disney Cruise Line will set
sail for Europe to offer its first-ever Mediterranean itineraries. This
spring, Adventures by Disney – Disney’s guided group vacation program –
will launch a greatly expanded list of itineraries for 2007, with new
adventures planned for many more cities in Europe and new cities in the
U.S. And in late 2007, the Disney Vacation Club will open the first
phase of its eighth resort at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at the Walt
Disney World Resort.

What I’ve heard about Adventures by Disney has been good. But it
hasn’t been very much. Let’s see how they handle the expanded
offerings. And boy does Disney like DVC because they don’t have to pay
for maintenance on those hotels. The ‘owners’ do that for them.

"We are excited about what the future holds
for us," said Rasulo. "From new attractions and entertainment, to
bringing the Disney experience to new corners of the globe, to new
storytelling horizons and technologies, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
and its cast members will continue to make dreams come true for people
all over the world in 2007 and beyond."

This is true. The themeparks continue to be huge cash cows for
Disney. If only they’d invest in them a bit more I think they’d see
even larger returns.

New Attractions and Entertainment

Following
is a list of the exciting new attractions, entertainment and
experiences being offered by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2007,
during the Where Dreams Come True and Year of a Million Dreams
initiatives:

– Cinderella Castle Suite (Magic Kingdom Park,
Walt Disney World Resort) – On most days, a randomly chosen guest will
be invited to spend the night, with his or her family, in the new royal
bedroom suite inside Cinderella Castle. (Opens January 2007)

Not an attraction unless they’re planning on offering tours… that would be nice though.

– "Finding Nemo – The Musical" (Disney’s
Animal Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort) – The Great Barrier Reef
comes to colorful life in this all-new musical by a Tony Award-winning
composer, inspired by the hit Disney-Pixar film. (January 2007)

Best Disney Musical since the Hunchback Of Notre Dame Festival of
Fools at Disneyland. Shows that Disney can still make great product
when they want to and are willing to spend a little money doing so.

– The Seas with Nemo & Friends (Epcot,
Walt Disney World Resort) – Guests will join Nemo’s friends to search
for the playful clownfish in one of the world’s largest saltwater
aquariums. (January 2007)

A solid attraction. However, the Seas pavillion is having some real
growing pains. They whole enter the pavillion through the attraction
queue thing has to change. Just poor planning

– Rockin’ Both Parks (Disneyland Resort) –
With new lighting and all-new soundtracks, Space Mountain and
California’ Screamin’ are being temporarily transformed into unique
rock ‘n’ roll experiences. (January 2007)

Red Hot Chili Peppers? Is that a Disney band? Are they any worse
than Aerosmith which has it’s own rockin roller coaster? I guess not.

– Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club
(Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort) – Guests will find the
power of laughter in an engaging, interactive adventure inspired by
Disney-Pixar’s "Monsters, Inc." (Spring 2007)

Low capacity and the lack of a weenie will doom this attraction. If
the difficult to master technology and poor storyline doesn’t do it
first.

– Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (Disneyland
Park, Disneyland Resort) – Inspired by the Disney-Pixar film, this
all-new attraction will take guests on a real (and unbelievable)
underwater excursion. (June 2007)

It will be unbelievable if this opens in time for the summer crowds.
When it does open expect record length waits for this attraction as it
too has really low capacity. 

– Animation Academy (Hong Kong Disneyland) –
Guests get the chance to pick up a pencil and be part of the Disney
creative experience – through art. (Summer 2007)

Hey. While you’re at it. Can you bring an actual working animation studio back to the Disney-MGM Studios?

– Mickey’s WaterWorks (Hong Kong Disneyland)
– In this day parade designed uniquely for Hong Kong Disneyland,
Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy show how they keep the landscape
looking so lush. (Summer 2007)

No comment as I really haven’t heard anything about this one. However, it will take more than a parade to help this park.

– Cars Quatre Roues Rallye (Walt Disney
Studios Park, Disneyland Resort Paris) – Guests take a spin through the
desert landscape on a wild, figure-8 racecourse inspired by the
Disney-Pixar film "Cars." (Summer 2007)

No comment as I really haven’t heard anything about this one. But it is yet another attraction based on a Cars movie.

– Crush’s Coaster (Walt Disney Studios,
Disneyland Resort Paris) – Guests surf the East Australian Current
onboard a spinning turtle shell in this new attraction inspired by the
film "Finding Nemo." (Summer 2007)

I’m picturing a mad-mouse coaster here. I hope it’s something more inspired with actual theming instead of painted plywood.

– Disney Cruise Line – For the first time
ever, Disney Cruise Line will set sail for Europe with itineraries from
the port of Barcelona, Spain, to eight Mediterranean ports of call,
including stops near Rome, Florence, Pisa, Marseilles and Cannes.
(Summer 2007)

Very cool. So when does that third ship arrive for the west coast cruises… and how about a DVC for the west coast too.

– Adventures by Disney – Disney’s guided
group vacation program will expand its list of itineraries in 2007 to
include such exciting destinations as Spain, Austria, the Czech
Republic, Ireland, the American Southwest and an American heritage tour
through the Northeastern U.S. (Summer 2007)

How about a Disney family history tour?

– Disney Vacation Club – Disney’s vacation
ownership program will open the first phase of its eighth resort:
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, which will be part of Disney’s Animal
Kingdom Lodge at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Late 2007)

Please don’t ruin a good thing at AKL. Do this right. Please….

– Dream Along with Mickey (Magic Kingdom
Park, Walt Disney World Resort) — In this new, 20-minute live stage
show, Mickey and friends treat guests to a dreams-inspired party on the
forecourt stage of Cinderella Castle. (Opened October 2006)

This show is nothing to write home about. But it is good solid quality Disney entertainment. More of this at every park please.

– Mickey Mouse Penthouse (Disneyland Hotel,
Disneyland Resort) – Most days, a randomly chosen guest is invited to
bring his or her family to spend the night inside the all-new Mickey
Mouse Penthouse, with magical views overlooking both the Disneyland and
Disney’s California Adventure parks. (Opened December 2006)

Again… not an attraction unless they’re going to offer tours. Are they?

Original Press Release here.

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About Ken Pellman

I was a Disneyland Cast Member for 15 years. Currently a freelance writer.
This entry was posted in Corporate. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Deconstructing Disney: 2007 ahoy

  1. Corey says:

    “What I’m saying is that why Jay builds up the ‘Disney Parks’ brand, he’s weakening the Disneyland and Walt Disney World brands. This is going to come back to bite Disney in the ass some day.”

    Perhaps Jay realizes people don’t go to Disney World every single year. By building the “disney parks” brand (I think parks is a bad phrase they chose) they are offering other forms of vacations during those other years.

  2. John Frost says:

    That’s exactly my point. People don’t go to Disney World every year. They need to be made aware of exactly what their other options are. A generic ‘Disney Parks’ brand doesn’t do that.

    Want people to be aware of Adventures by Disney?… advertise it, start a blog or two, encourage guests to write trip reports about their experiences, put special shows on Travel Channel, etc. But don’t dilute the brand that the company has spent so much capital building up for 50 years. Same goes for other experiences.

  3. MoiMoi says:

    Oh my! A press release being “self promoting”!!!! No!!!!! What is the world coming to!!!

    *Insert rolling-eyes smiley here.*

  4. jennifer says:

    I totally agree with you that the Dreams Campaign should continue to be part of daily business, not a gimicky promotion. The implicit message to the CM is be extra nice to a few extra lucky guests on selective occassions. I guess we can stop calling them cast members and just call them low paid service workers. Guests seem to feel cheated if they are not a lucky winner. What happened to magic every day, every where in the World, as part of the Disney Magic. Contracting out front line staff really makes me shudder. I hope Iger gets the World back on course.

  5. Ryan says:

    The Walt Disney Studios Paris Toon Studios rides are really nice looking. A meet-n-greet area, two nicely-themed Zamperla Crazy Car rides (think Francis’ Ladybug Boogie at DCA, with double capacity and cars that actually talk), and a Mauer Shone spinning coaster with a custom layout and a decent dark ride section. Add to that the existing Animation tour, and artsy puppet show, Aladdin’s Flying Carpets (like MK’s, but with film set elements), and you have a nice little area.

    Kinda makes me a little jealous that the American Disney-MGM Studios isn’t getting it (well, they could get the Cars ride… and should!). It certinly seems to be balancing out that park (adding a C-/D-Ticket ride along with an E-Ticket).

  6. Natalie says:

    When did they start making you enter The Seas through the attraction queue? I haven’t been in a few weeks, maybe I missed that, but I always enter through the side doors.

  7. Steve says:

    “Over 50 Million guests visited the US Disney Theme Parks last year. That breaks down to about 4.16 million visitors a month. So in three months Disney has made 200,000 dreams come true? What about the other 4 million guests? Who are they, the marks?”

    Bad math John… that should be “What about the other *12.3 million* guests?”

  8. Ken Hanscom says:

    Dreams are a little gimmicky, and in some way leaves the rest of the paying customers thinking — why in the heck are my dreams not important or granted!

Comments are closed.