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Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Accident Update

I have nothing but admiration and respect for Alain Littaye of the Disney and More blog. His reportage on the Paris Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain accident has been excellent. Since my initial report on the 25th, here are a few updates that he managed to scoop.

First, at least one guest noticed problems in the earthquake section, known as Lift C, earlier in the day of the accident. For them, none of the earthquake effects were working. This does not necessarily mean anything as show effects in that lift are sometimes not operating.

Second, the faux rock, made of fiberglass and wood, did not fall directly on the guests, but instead fell onto the track between trains. Then when the next train came down that section of track, shards were propelled into the air hitting five guests and injuring one severely.

As Big Thunder was scheduled for its yearly refurbishment beginning May 9th, it’s unlikely Euro Disney will re-open the attraction until the investigation and any refurbishment is complete. For some reason this reminds me of Disneyland’s Space Mountain attraction where maintenance was pushed off because a major refurb was scheduled, unfortunately the track didn’t last that long and cracked. Thankfully no guests were on the ride at the time, but the park just closed Space early and extended the refurbishment period.

Finally, Littaye has a new post up today explaining how current park management is not to blame for the shoddy state of the Paris Disneyland Resort. The park is still digging out of the poor decisions made by Michael Eisner in his zest to be king of modern architecture and then to under-cut the budget for the second gate that his first boo-boo required. It’s an article I agree with nearly 100 percent. My only quibble is that I do not believe we should let the current park managers off the hook so easily.

As we know, Disney’s magic is in the details and, equally, in the quality of its cast members. To cut back on either, even a little risks the whole business model. It all starts with good maintenance, that keeps the park in good operating condition and gives the cast members a sense of pride for working in such a magical place. That sense of pride is an important step in creating quality cast members. Quality cast members care for the park enough to notice when a detail is out of place and report it. When any link in that chain is broken, eventually you will get a result like the accident on Big Thunder Mountain. (Substitute WDW Monorail and Sailing Ship Columbia if you wish, the equation is the same.) Kill or injure enough guests and it doesn’t matter how many new attractions you build, guests won’t come. So that’s why maintenance and cast member training (and pay) must be the focus of the Disney theme park brand. To forget that is to risk ruin.

13 thoughts on “Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Accident Update”

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  3. Having worked for DLRP for many years I think I can offer some insight into the Resort and it’s maintenance.

    I while ago I wrote a three part resume of the park on After the Mouse and I think therein maybe the roots of the problems. Eisner and his ‘optimistic’ profit forecasts for the resort can be seen as being at the root of many of today’s issues.

    In the Resort today there is a feeling of austerity and fiscal control emanating from Burbank. The fat is being trimmed from ‘Cost Centres’ but pumped only into proven ‘Profit generators’. And maintaining the parks on a day-to-day basis is purely a cost.

    I am not for one second suggesting that Guest Safety is taking a second place to cost efficiency but I think there is a lot of believability in Littaye’s reasoning that current park management is not to blame for the shoddy state of the Paris Disneyland Resort and that The Resort is still digging out of the poor decisions made by Michael Eisner and his optimistic accountants.

    Money is now being pumped into the large-scale refurbishment of the resort ahead of next year’s 20th anniversary and I think it is highly possible that some tasks are being laid aside until the strip down and rebuild of BTM in May.

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