Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Worst of Disney 2012


Worst of Disney 2012

Disney made lots of changes and yesterday I talked of all the good things. So today I’m sharing what I think are the bad decisions Disney made in 2012 and those that are being made for 2013. This is not to pick on Disney or to say all decisions are bad. It is my hope that by sharing this some people may write to Disney about the things that bother them and maybe just maybe some of the negatives can be stopped.
Let me get the biggest and worst thing to happen at the Disneyland Resort out of the way. While I understand prices need to go up to keep the park open the Disneyland rate increase on some ticket packages and Annual Passes was abusive. Disneyland raised single day prices 7-9%. This is a reasonable price hike when you consider the rise in general operating costs such as power and water. Annual Passes usually increase 8-10% every year. This I consider reasonable even if I don’t like spending more. (Who does!) Disneyland has 4 levels of Annual Passes. The first 2 levels increased 12-15% while the 3rd level increased 20%. The hardest hit was the Premium AP holders. The top level, Premium AP holders got hit with a $150 per person or 30% increase! Talk about sticker shock! There were APs that did not and could not renew at the new price.
The new DLR Premium AP is just $50 less than the same AP at WDW. This is not fair, equitable or a good deal for the DLR AP because DL is just 2 parks on .8 of a square mile while WDW is 4 parks, 2 water parks, Golf course, Disney Quest and ESPN Zone on 47 square miles of resorts to explore. I’m hoping Disney does not increase the price again in 2013 and in fact I dream they decrease the price some.
Disney claims the cost increase was to cover expansion at DCA and renovations at DL. This work was paid for by Capital Disney already had. Disney says the added entertainment we now receive validates the increase. If they now start charging extra for things they have been allowing us to enjoy for free for years how is that value for our dollar?
The DL Carnation Garden is now history. The band stand that graced the Garden and hosted the musical talents of Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong and other Jazz greats is now part of Yesterland. That historical stage is gone. In its place will be a princess meet and great area. This is scheduled to open in 2013.
Disney did hear from the swing dancers that came to dance there every weekend and they did listen! (Proof that letter writing DOES work!) Disney is putting a stage in the Princess Meet and Greet area! This will be used for talent shows as the old stage was. On the weekends it will have a Swing Band playing for the dancers as it has since 1958. It is unknown as to the size and availability of a dance floor. While this new area is being built Disney has hosted the dancers in Downtown Disney on Saturday nights for 4 hours of music and dancing. (Again this is thanks to letter writing!) The new stage will NOT be themed or feel like the old due to theme of the area.
Gone at DLR is the Annual Passholder station where you could go get your picture taken for your AP, purchase, renew, upgrade or just ask questions about your Annual Pass. That had bounced around from location to location for several years. One of the first and last locations is now the Jolly Holiday Bakery. Also they no longer put your picture on your Annual Pass at Disneyland! Instead you go to any Photopass CM and have them take your picture for your AP records. Now you ask questions at the main ticket booths or Guest Relations. I liked having a dedicated location for APs.
Billy Hill and the Hillbillies have changed their show. Sadly they have had the show shortened and where they could change the songs they played show to show they have a set routine and play the same songs every time! I miss the old Billys show! Now it is you have seen them once each season you have seen them.
Worst yet for DLR is the rumored changes in Holiday entertainment to come in 2013! It is rumored that Holiday Season 2013 DLR will have Christmas Parties like WDW does. You will no longer be able to see the Christmas Fireworks unless you pay extra for the party! Once again I say this is wrong because they have to close the park early for the party. There are only 2 parks at DLR and if you close one the other will quickly become overcrowded and you also limit the availability of evening entertainment. If you shut down DL for the party Fantasmic is not an evening entertainment option. You will only have World of Color or Mad T-Party as evening entertainment options! So you lose both the Fireworks and Fantasmic. Unlike the DL fireworks WoC has very a limited viewing area so not everybody can go to it. Many people do not like the Rave-style Mad T-Party and some can’t handle the flashing lights and loud music. Also DLR has a bad habit of not releasing ‘Ticketed Party dates’ until a couple of months before. What happens to the people that plan a Disneyland Holiday a year or more before? They get to the park and find they have little or nothing to do in the evenings because one park is closed! They pay for a full day of play but have their dollar value cheapened by the drastic cut in hours they can spend in the park without a reduction in ticket price.
DL has fewer performances of Candlelight than WDW. From 1958 to 2011 Candlelight was performed the first weekend of December only, 2 nights with 2 performances each night for a total of 4 performances. It was a blessing this year when they expanded the show for 20 nights, 2 shows per night! They even had a drawing and gave tickets to Annual Passholders! This was a big plus for 2012!
DL has 650 performers in its Candlelight performances made up of volunteer choirs from the community and a choir made of DLR employees. It is performed outside under the stars at the front of the Main Street Train Station. The show takes over the entire front of the Train Station and even the top of the building! Rumor is Candlelight was so popular this year they are going to expand it for 30 glorious nights! This is GREAT NEWS!!!
For the negative on this they are also saying Candlelight is going to be moved to either the Fantasyland Theater or the Hyperion Theater in DCA and they are going to charge extra to see it as you do at WDW. At first blush I’m sure many will say so what! Here is the problem! If they move the show to either theater they will have to decrease the size of the performers to the approximately 150 that WDW has! Lost would be the grandeur, size and scope of the show. Lost would be the history and the fact that Walt Disney himself chose the location at Disneyland as the best place for this special show that was a Christmas gift to his supports, friends and family. I do not see a problem with them offering dining packages for the current seats and still allow people to campout to see the show from the standing room as they have from the begining. Just don’t change what Walt designed as a perfect show just to make money.
It seems to me the Disney Company has lost touch with Walt Disney and the reason he built Disneyland. Walt said,
“Disneyland is a work of love.
We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.”
            While I do understand Disney parks do have to make money or they would close I feel they have lost touch with the fact that the current economy will not support this greed. They have also lost touch with Walt’s main reason for starting the park(s), “So parents and children can play together.” As the New Year starts we, the fans of Disney need to remind them of why Walt started the parks. If Disney continues to raise prices as it has and to charge extra for things leaving no evening entertainment families will no longer be able to go and spend time together as Walt Disney dreamed.
            2012 saw the final step of the current planned expansion of the Disney Cruise Line with the launch of the Disney Fantasy! This is fantastic news for all DCL fans! Really it is a great thing for any family that enjoys cruising!
            DCL had the Dream and Fantasy (the two newest ships) going out of Port Canaveral, Florida. The Dream does 3 & 4 night cruises while the Fantasy does 7 nights and longer. The Magic (the original ship of the fleet) has been sailing out of New York (for the first time) for part of the year with other sailings out of Galveston, Texas (also a first).
            The Wonder (twin to the Magic and second ship of the fleet) was sailing out of Los Angeles and going to Mexico for part of the year and then doing an going to Alaska for part of the year.
            We went on the Wonder to Mexico in 2011. While the ship was as Wonderful as its name Mexico was scary! It is frightening to get off a ship and find Mexican Army in full battle gear inside the port with AK47s at the ready! Mexico is not a wise place to take children on vacation. The violence is just escalating making it unsafe for family vacations.
            After our cruise I wrote a letter to DCL and suggested they do a Pacific Coast Cruise instead of Mexico. Now my letter was not the only one I know they received. I also know that all cruise lines going to the Mexican Riviera had a drastic drop in passengers. So I don’t take credit for what happened next.
            Disney did a wise thing in 2012 and did Pacific Coast Cruises! Good news indeed! BUT! Disney did two ports in California, San Diego and San Francisco. While both are great ports and offer plenty of things for passengers to do on Port Adventures they are close together and both have the same feel. They could have gone to one of those ports and then to Oregon, Washington and/or just into Canada.
            As a native Californian I am not interested in taking a cruise to places I can drive in a couple of hours. If there had been the cruises to the other places I’ve mentioned I’d have gone on the cruise. I know many others feel the same way. Even those that come from other areas would like a more wide-ranging cruise. Stop at San Diego OR San Francisco but not both.
            End of 2012 the Wonder returned to the East Coast. No longer will there be a Disney ship on the West Coast. This makes me sad. I liked the fact people could now have a DLR & Cruise vacation like they can a WDW & Cruise.        The Wonder will sail out of Miami for part of the year then return to the West Coast but to Canada to do Alaskan Cruises.
            For 2013 the Magic will continue trips out of Texas and New York. It will also go to Europe for 3 months (June to August) to sail the Mediterranean.
While I think this is nice I’d like to see the West Coast explored more by the DCL. With 4 ships they could have 1 or 2 on the East Coast to do the most popular cruises. 1 ship on the West Coast doing Pacific Coast Cruises and 2 week Hawaiian cruises and being moved to Oregon or Washington to do Alaskan cruises. They could still take a ship to Europe for part of the year. They have plenty of options.
While Disney is the king of Magic Making they do make some mistakes and poor decisions. It is ok for us to talk about how we feel about the decisions and even write letters to Disney to try to change what they are doing. Disney does listen! I have written to them about various things I feel are wrong and I’ve seen positive changes.
The secret to writing to Disney is balance. Don’t just slam what you feel is wrong, tell them what they are doing right as well. Don’t just complain about cold food tell them how much you enjoyed that same dish when you got it hot and fresh. Don’t whine about the price increase on tickets and APs point out how it will keep families away. Tell them how a trip to Disney affects your life in positive ways and how you wish more people could experience it. Tell them why you feel the price increase does not match the value for what you are receiving. See my example about the price of DLR Premium AP vs WDW Premium AP. Limited size and limited parks at DLR vs huge size and numerous parks along with other entertainment options at WDW. Don’t let your negative emotions destroy your positive feel for Disney.

            

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