How do I love thee Disneyland, let me count the ways. I love that you were a part of my youth that can never be taken away. I love that you still provide someplace to retreat to when I need a break from the outside world. I love that the cast members there are, for the most part, always friendly and willing to lend a hand when you need help (a group photo, directions to the bathroom, what have you). I love the scale of the park where everything down to the tree size is calculated to wrap me up in the experience. I could go on, and probably will some day, but you get the picture. This is why it has hurt me so much to see the damage done to the park in the last 10 years.
Physical damage can be repaired. Show can be plussed, training kicked up a notch, and pixie dust applied liberally as needed. But the memories and experiences of the millions of guests who attended since the decline, that was supposed to be the Disney Decade, began cannot be altered. It’s going to take a lot of work to bring those people back.
I like to tell this story about Walt Disney and training, a version of it can be found in Van France’s excellent book “Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park“, and it was told to me by family members who worked at the park in the early days. Walt always wanted the cast members to treat each guest like a hundred dollar bill (100 bucks being worth something in those days). His theory was that even if that guest only spent $10 in the park that day, if they had a great experience the guest would return home and tell 10 of their buddies about the park and they would all come and spend $10 of their own money. On the other hand, if a guest has a bad experience that is not rectified then they will leave and tell 50 of their friends about how bad the park was and you’ll lose their potential business. This is why Show was so important to Walt that he placed it second after Safety in the Four Keys (today’s management has it third after Courtesy).
So in essence you reap what you sow. The decisions of the last 10 years have resulted in many many people thinking like Quantra does in this post (I appreciate the very nice mention in the post, btw). I think current management at Disneyland has its heart in the right place and has begun to take steps in the right direction. Now they’re going to have to work extra hard to win back all those people who have heard how bad the park is.