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Saturday
Feb202010

Why the Decline in Park Maintenance?

Article and photos by Lilly

Words cannot describe the passion I feel about how important the upkeep of all Disney Parks is to me. I write specifically about Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Then

When I was young I used to walk around the Disney parks in complete amazement at how incredibly spotless the parks always were. No chipping paint, no gum on the ground, not even a candy wrapper could remain on the ground for more than a few seconds before it was whisked away by a smiling custodian.
When I went to high school my friends used to challenge me on this. They didnʼt believe the parks were as spick-and-span as I made them out to be. Finally, Disneyʼs Magic Music Days allowed me the chance to prove all of my friends wrong. I invited them to find chipping paint or trash anywhere. To their astonishment, I was right and I gloated about it the rest of the trip. I felt such a sense of pride, as if the parks were kind of mine
in way.
The most impressive instance I experienced was at Disneyland over the millennium. I remember looking around the parks on New Years Eve in astonishment and horror. The park was at capacity, tens of thousands of people were crammed into every corner of the park and they had trashed the place. After the countdown and fireworks, I saw that in order to get a closer spot to see the fireworks, the crowds had trampled every flower bed in the hub area. Garbage was everywhere: party hats, confetti, popcorn. Not only were the queues destroyed, but the rides themselves had trash and crap thrown everywhere. The mummy chamber in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye had confetti all over, I remember someone had thrown a box of popcorn all over a scene in one of the dark rides. Not only was the park trashed, but it was open until 3am that morning, leaving cast members a mere 6 hours to attempt to get that park looking half way decent before the park reopened at 9:00am the next morning.
 
I was one of the first to enter the park that day, January 1, 2000. Bright and early at 9:00am, cast members walked us to our favorite attractions. I was overwhelmed when I realized the park not only looked decent, it was sparkling as if the millennium had never happened. The floors were swept and mopped, the flower beds had been completely replanted, and not a kernel of popcorn or spec of confetti could be found anywhere. I
was literally in awe.
That was the last time I had that experience.

Now

Here are a few shots of what the parks look like now. These shots are from Disneyland, but I can assure you I have plenty from Walt Disney World as well.
You may wonder, what happened? How could a company go from being completely meticulous to seemingly careless? Well, the problem really isnʼt a terrible secret. The fact is, it all comes down to money, management and a change of culture.

 
Money

A well-tenured cast member once told me that they used to completely renovate each park every few years. The last time they did this several years ago, it costed them upwards of 5 million dollars to renovate the Magic Kingdom alone to the extent they had in previous years. Simply put, people high up in the ranks decided it was no longer cost effective to put that much money into the upkeep of the parks.

Management

This is a big one for me. The complete lack of a competent management staff has lead to more problems than just the lack of upkeep. I cannot count the amount of times I have seen cast members assigned to cleaning or maintenance lounging around, taking ridiculously long breaks, or even sleeping on the clock. Not only does management not seem to understand or teach structure and work ethic, but they lack positive reinforcement and encouragement as well. This can easily be seen in the faces of todays cast members.

Change of Culture

More than lack of management or the desire to fund renovation, the lack of culture is what truly prevails as the leading cause of this problem in my mind. I remember speaking with a maintenance cast member I held in high regard one day while walking around the parks before hours. He had been working for Disney 20 plus years and was heavily involved in several park openings around the world. He now worked Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. I had gotten comfortable enough with him that I felt I could truly share my disappointments along with my passion and drive to want to change things. He loved my passion about the parks and the company and had spent many hours explaining to me what features and abilities the attractions used to have
versus what they have now, how things worked, and what maintenance was required for all the attractions he worked on.
On this particular day I was feeling gutsy. I told him I had noticed that he and his coworkers spent so much time taking long brakes and slowly tinkering with things when they knew very well that the park wasnʼt running even close to the maintenance level it should be and I wondered what it would take to get this group of cast members to care again. His answer saddened me deeply. He told me there was a time when he felt as
passionately about the subject as I did. He said he used to come to work with excitement, joy and enthusiasm to work on these amazing attractions. He felt respected and knew how important his job was. However, the past few years had changed him. He told me there are only so many times you can turn to your superiors and tell them what needs to happen and where money needs to go before you realize your thoughts, opinions and years of experience are falling on deaf ears. Itʼs hard to care about something your superiors couldnʼt care less about. It hurt to care and after a while he couldnʼt care anymore. Few of his coworkers had worked there as long as he and the new ones picked up on the apathy quickly. So, it continues downward without anyone to stop this dismal cycle or the deterioration of my beloved parks.

Reader Comments (28)

I remember going through Pinocchio's Village Haus in the mornings and yodeling at the top of my lungs. It was fun to see all of the heads raise up and cuss me. There must have been 20-25 sleeping maintenance people in the booths every morning!

Let's not forget the most famous sleeping story involving a little blue pillow:)

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHoot Gibson

Hahaha. Hoot loves disney maintenance workers.

February 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterMitch

Finally! I thought my family was the only ones who noticed, or complained to mgt, about the park's deterorating conditions...just another example of how corporate greed can ruin a good thing. More money needs to be put into the parks, not the fat executives wallets!

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Ross

Great article, I agree completely. I remember visiting Disneyland Paris about 10 years ago, and being amazed at how poor the upkeep was, compared to WDW. Sadly, I can't say that anymore. It's what made WDW special, part of the 'little things' that aren't the norm anymore. :(

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSanford

I totally agree. The last time I was at Disneyland I was sad the whole time after I saw how junky everything looked. The whole time I kept thinking about how much money they were spending on putting in all the stores in Downtown Disney and a new vomit ride at Epcot, but they couldn't bother to keep the paint on the lampposts touched-up.

February 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMesilla

"He told me there was a time when he felt as passionately about the subject as I did. He said he used to come to work with excitement, joy and enthusiasm to work on these amazing attractions. He felt respected and knew how important his job was. However, the past few years had changed him. He told me there are only so many times you can turn to your superiors and tell them what needs to happen and where money needs to go before you realize your thoughts, opinions and years of experience are falling on deaf ears. Itʼs hard to care about something your superiors couldnʼt care less about. It hurt to care and after a while he couldnʼt care anymore."

This sounds like my job.

"This report needs to be changed. It's obsolete."

* The CFO likes it that way. It's not changing. *

"Why does he like it that way? There are categories on it that don't exist anymore & categories that we need to add onto it."

*I don't know. Ask him.*

"He won't return my E-Mails. When he read my last E-Mail, he must have E-Mailed my former boss who E-Mailed my current boss & my current boss told me not to E-Mail him anymore about that topic. Maybe you could ask him?"

*I'm not going to ask him.*

"Is there anyone that I can ask?"

*No.*

"Well, OK. How about these lab charges that we don't have equivalents for in our database. Should we add a new entry for those charges?"

*Send an E-Mail to your boss.*

"I did & I have for the last six months. No one has responded to me about them."

*Then we'll get back to you on that. Eventually.*

"When? There are thousands of dollars of lab charges outstanding waiting for a response. If we don't get them billed, we'll have to write them off."

*Don't call us, we'll call you.*

I'm glad to see that Disney has finally turned into a Dilbert comic strip... Just like my job.

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDilbert Does Disney

"Still, Walt felt that it was possible to build a different kind of park...a "themed" park that had fun attractions and a beautiful atmosphere...a park that wouldn't decline into an ugly, gaudy, cheap place...a park that "would never be completed -- as long as there is imagination in the world."
And it looks sadly like the caveat has come to pass, at least to those holding the guns.

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFi Fi Phloggs

Several years ago, when I went to WDW every two weeks, I was in the queue for Mission: Space, and I saw that several spitballs that I had noticed on the TV's in the line on my previous visit were still there! After I got off the ride, I hunted down a manager, and found a pair coming out of Innoventions West. I informed them of the situation and one of them started to 'explain' to me why it was that way: I think the other one was either of a slightly higher IQ or saw that I was about to explode all over them, and cut him off, saying, "Thank you- we'll see to that."

I have many other stories, but you get the idea and I am very glad to see it printed out here so clearly and publicly. Dizzy Corp is milking what they can from the creations of their predecessors and have no personal investment in continuing to create the magic.

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJud

My dad would always tell us kids to look for chipped paint or built-up trash at Disneyland/WDW. Hardly ever found it. Can't really play that game the same way anymore. Then we'd go to Six Flags and he'd tell us to find places that didn't have chipped paint or built-up trash. HA.

Jud- you have exposed the two ways a lot of management "takes care of" a guest observation. (1) Explain that it "needs to be that way" (2) "We'll see to that" which means it may or may not be taken care of.

February 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterMitch

I have been going to DW since '82. It has changed alot since then. I will probably not be there ever again> I love Disney but not what they have become!

February 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterblufusion

I worked at DL from 96-98 as a Ride Operator. I felt I was working there during a big transition. The Paul Pressler / Cynthia Harris Era as it's known. At the time, the Disney stores were a huge success. Disney execs figured it was a good idea to use the store methods in side a theme park. The parks haven't been the same since. Basically, Managers stopped being hired from within. Cast Members whom had been with the park for several years, became trainers, then leads, stopped making it past that point to management. Mangers were hired from retail stores which had NO knowledge of how a theme park worked. They are totally different machines. So these managers were all about sales and pleasing the customer. While pleasing the customer is good they did not support the cast members who interact with the Guests the most; Ride Operators, Custodial, Food, and Merchandise. They didn't understand that the customer is NOT always right and wouldn't support their employees.

So, exactly like the article says, employees stop caring. I knew that I'd never move up in the company. That's why I left.

Having grown up in So. Cal. I grew up with Disneyland. I get more and more irate with the way I see Disney being run. Everything is done "on the cheap" and Disney can't look past the money in their hands. Most new attractions are thought with "what's popular now" giving them a short life span of interest. Disney needs to take a hard look at POTC, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain. Those ride are not the latest and greatest thrill/technology but are simply so detailed and immersive that you can't help but ride them again and again. Come on Disney: Stop looking for the quick buck or pleasing the tweens and kids. Make this a Family theme park like it used to be. Children of all ages. Show some passion. Support the little people. Spend the money it takes to make everything immaculate. Stop disappointing me...

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSubsonic

My good friend Subsonic tells it like it is. Pressler and Harris were a large part of the problem -- and many of their worst ideas made it out to WDW as well. I worked at WDW in 2002 and loved working there... but my trainers and fellow cast members all told me stories about how things had changed and how they used to be better.

For the record, I'm not one of the "The way it always was" or "How We've Always Done It" folks -- it's important to pay homage and respect to traditions (particularly the Disney Traditions) -- but it's equally important to know your audience and make sure that you meet them where they are and take them where you want them to be (the Story is very important!). Disney Traditions are what they are for a reason -- they put the story first. If you look at ANY of the great Disney rides/shows -- they tell a story that calls you back, time and time again. The level of detail only exists because it helps to place you in the story. The commitment to telling a story that the whole family can enjoy renders the ride vehicle only relevant in that it fits into the story theme. Technology for technology's sake is dumb. Telling the best story you can the best way you can -- that's the way for Disney to get back to basics.

I worked in Custodial at Epcot -- and I can vouch for every comment made above -- slacking management, disinterested execs, greed, idiocy, Pressler-Harris-era tactics, etc. I do think that there are some small changes being made now that are putting it back on the right track -- but the train has very little steam right now.

Last thought -- the Disney cast unions aren't doing much to help the plight either; every union action I've seen has only been to help the incompetent, the lazy and the WRONG people. They don't protect the good employees, even when they deserve it. They enforce stupid policies that prevent Disney from doing some things correctly. E-mail me (I use this same screen name on several other sites) if you want to hear stories that would curl your toes about the Disney unions. Disney needs to respect it's workforce enough to not need a union -- and then disband the ones they have. With unemployment where it is, now would be the time to do it.

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoefox97

Some of what's being said here is subjective experience being taken as indicative of a whole that's not necessarily correct. For instance, I went down last December during off season and I saw tons and tons of "Wet Paint" signs hanging around my resort (Boardwalk) and in the parks, not to mention crews cleaning and taking care of all matter of things from benches to railings to walking paths. I'm not saying there isn't a certain decline of standards, but that it is not like the park is literally crumbling. People who say that they won't ever go down again because of this sort of thing is just ridiculous in my opinion. I can't say I'm quite there yet. If you have an issue with Disney make sure you email them or call them and voice your opinion. Perhaps that's the most you can do and it perhaps won't do any good (I have no idea) but do something productive instead of coming to a forum and being hyperbolic about it.

We can't forget that Disney is a business. They exist because it makes money, and that is the main reason it has ever existed at all. Walt wanted a beautiful place for guests to visit, sure, but he was smart enough to understand that it had to make money to continue to grow and exist. It is a difficult thing when something that was once easily profitable (WDW 10 years ago) from today when it is not so easily profitable. They have to cut corners to make the same amount of profit for their stockholders or they get nervous. The same OUTPUT is difficult to maintain when you don't have the same INPUT. So, the parks take a hit. Is this done to line greedy pockets. YES! But it isn't being realistic to say that Disney is somehow above this. They have never been above this and never will be. This is how business, capitalism, works. That won't change. Economic down-turn and change in culture hurts things like WDW, but that doesn't mean it can't come back. It just happens slowly and certain practices have to be reversed.

The sky is not falling quite yet, chicken littles.

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I wouldn't say that they (Walt Disney Productions) have never been above this, but your point is true. Walt Disney Co. is subservient to the board, the board supposedly subservient to the shareholder, and the shareholder certainly to the green.
However, the ultimate principle of any business should be to remain beneficial to society in general, being profitable with meaning beyond just the bottom line, resulting in long term sustainability. I understand that the Disney Co. is trying to fight a battle in trying times, yet decisions are apparent to where profits are directed. A key part of a Disney Parks meaning, its uniqueness, is its commitment to cleanliness and order. To see that start to slip is an ominous cloud.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFi Fi Phloggs

Like many, I have a personal sense of ownership of these parks. And I agree with most all of the comments here, but the one thing I don't see mentioned is the laziness and overall lack of personal responsibility of the visitors and their children. I would bet that the best maintenance crews of the past couldn't keep up with the filth and trash made by todays visitors. Next time your there just look around. The world is now filled with lazy slobs. Disneyworld is no different.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChad McK

I think you can blame the lack of responsibility of visitors on the existing conditions. If I'm in a pristine place I try to keep it that way. If I'm surrounded by trash and stench, I don't mind adding to it - in fact, I like making the pile of trash bigger. Then maybe it will get some attention.

I have a photo from the queue of Splash Mountain WDW circa 2000, with over 100 piece of gum on the wall, and nasty graffiti. I took the photo after I accidentally put my hand in it. Weeks or months worth of filth built up, and management didn't give a Michael Shitner. I think the best we can do is post these photos in high def permanently on the web. Nothing is more damaging or shaming to the brand. And I don't want the brand to have value - I want the parks to have value. There's a big difference.

February 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeef Johnson

Having been an Imagineer at WDW with WED back in the early 70's, I probably saw the park when it was at its bast. After work each day, I would either go upstairs (When we were in the basement) or drive over and park behind Main Street (A perk for WED employees) I would try to pick up Tour Guides or hang out with the character dept. Eventually they let me fill in for missing cast members in the parades (long and tiring!) We would get done around 11pm during the summers. Sometimes we would hang out downstairs until after midnight. One night I went upstairs after the hours had changed around 2 hrs after closing. The park was empty! I was walking down an empty Main Street toward the castle. I set up my tripod and camera and took a picture of the castle at dusk without a soul around. It is one of my favorite photos.
What I did remember vividly were maintenance people filling the park as we would leave, repainting all the trim on Main Street, repainting the targets at Adventurland and replanting all the beds. I was roommates with a cast member in the landscaping dept. He would go to work at 3-4 am to replant the flower beds every day.
I could not get over how clean the place was when I showed up every morning. In those days, there were still older cast members who worked with Walt that would come to talk with us about things Disney. They would tell us about "Pixie Dust", the essence of all things Disney. They said that feeling you get down your back first seeing Disney World, or going through an attraction, meeting Mickie Mouse, making a gust smile, that is Pixie Dust and every cast member who loves working at WDW posses it.
I am new to Twitter, but I am working on my blog on Pixie Dust and my experiences at WDW. I used to sneak around and get pictures of attractions under construction (Got in trouble plenty of times, too). http://savalpixiedust.blogspot.com/
I have photos of Space Mtn and EPCOT I will post.
I am glad I found this Disney post. It brought back so many wonderful memories for me

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Saval

What a splendid site, I'm delighted to have found it and to have read such great comments. I think my folks took my brother and me to Disneyland during the first month the park was open (we lived in Long Beach) and Disney was a big part of my growing up. Because it's not archived, you might find the following article interesting, published in the Weekly Standard, Dec 10, 2001. It touches on many of the things discussed above, but from a visitor's view--what struck me so strongly in 2001 was how dirty the parks were--something very different from what I remembered from earlier days. I haven't been back since, but apparently the problem got worse and is now on the mend, perhaps? Oh, before I forget, to those of you who helped imagineer the parks? Thank you!

The Decline and Fall of Disneyland
From Walt Disney's America to Michael Eisner's.
by Michael Linton

AT THE BASE of the flagpole that marks the beginning of Disneyland's Main Street in Anaheim, California, rests an unobtrusive plaque. It reads:

"Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals and the dreams and the hard facts that have created America with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world. July 17, 1955."


These are the words with which Walt Disney opened his remarkable experiment in entertainment almost half a century ago. Today it's more than a bit dizzying to turn around and trudge back across the ticket plaza to the new resort Michael Eisner has built in what was the old Disneyland's parking lot. Walt's Magic Kingdom now shares the block with Eisner's California Adventure, and the distance between the two is much further than the seventy yards between them would suggest. 

Like Disneyland, Eisner's park is divided into theme areas. Furthest from the entrance, and dominating the park's skyline, is "Paradise Pier." There's a roller coaster called "California Screamin'," a Ferris wheel, a boardwalk, and some carnival thrill rides. A raft ride, marking the middle of the "Golden State" section, gets you wet cascading down the slopes of a Sierra Nevada peak reminiscent of the grizzly bear on the California state flag. There's a mini-section with a big-screen flight simulator that wings you over bits of California scenery (the innovation here is aromatic: Over forests and orchards we get bits of appropriate orange or pine scent). "Pacific Wharf" is a food court complete with a microbrewery and patio for wine tasting. The "Hollywood Pictures Backlot" is a street of 1930s-style false fronts with theaters for stage shows and films and more places to get hot dogs. Abutting the park on the west is the new Grand Californian Hotel and a half-mile shopping mall called "Downtown Disney."

The expanded Disney empire in Anaheim has been long in coming. Ever since the opening of Disneyland in the 1950s, Walt and Roy Disney resented the dozens of hotels--of various grades of cheesiness--that grew on the park's perimeter, and they resolved not to repeat their mistake of buying too little land when Disney World was planned in Orlando. Meanwhile, back in California, the Disney brothers negotiated with the city of Long Beach for an Epcot-like park on the city's waterfront (where they already owned the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose), but nothing materialized.

Now, under Eisner, the company has joined with the city of Anaheim to develop 1,100 acres around Disneyland. Disney bought out the businesses that bordered the park to the west, expanded its hotels, built the "California Adventure," and put up huge parking garages--all at a price tag of $1.4 billion. And the expansion isn't over: The Anaheim city council approved in concept a third theme park for Disney last July. It's not just Disneyland anymore. It's now the "Disneyland Resort."

FUNNY. As kids growing up in southern California we never thought of Disneyland as a resort. Baden-Baden and Palm Springs were resorts. But Disneyland was a kingdom. It was, in fact, a kingdom celebrating American optimism. It's easy to read those words Walt Disney spoke at the park's dedication as so much blather. Disneyland was and always has been a business. Walt--and especially his older brother Roy--were wizards at marketing. And when looking at Dumbo it's hard to know just what Disney meant by "hard facts."

But Disneyland became such a part of American culture because it celebrated--more eloquently than any other institution of the postwar period--the notion of the American Dream. It wasn't as much an amusement park as a morality tale. Remarkably, when it opened there were no thrill rides at all (the Matterhorn bobsleds weren't added until the 1960s).

Instead there were attractions about Snow White and Mr. Toad and Peter Pan, in each of which the visitor experienced the story through narrative, architecture, music, and technology. The stories always taught something--like the lesson that outward beauty or ugliness could be deceiving (as with the stepmother and the dwarves in "Snow White"). And good always triumphed.

The morality tale extended to American history. On the paddle wheeler Mark Twain the visitor was floated past frontier woodlands. A mine train took visitors through the arid southwest. Main Street was an idealization of Teddy Roosevelt's America, a thoroughly midwestern nation that had plowed the prairies and defeated slavery and was now busy preaching its gospel of can-do optimism from Puerto Rico to the Philippines. In Tomorrowland that gospel reached its millennium. There was the "house of the future" (made almost entirely of plastic), and freeways where kids could drive without traffic jams, and rockets to fly to the moon. The past was something Americans could be proud of--and the future was bound to be even better.

Disney basically continued his original vision with the park's additions. The Matterhorn, inspired by the company's movie on the heroic mountaineers who first climbed the Swiss peak, housed the park's first roller coaster. Tomorrowland was updated along polished steel lines, to include a futuristic monorail and "people mover," both seen as models for urban development. But the most important additions--the capstones to Walt's Anaheim venture--were exhibits originally shown at the New York World's Fair: "Primeval World," "It's a Small World," the "General Electric Carousel of Progress," and "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln."

All of these attractions made spectacular use of Disney's innovative "animatronics," paving the way for what was to be the park's most popular attraction: "Pirates of the Caribbean," which opened only months after Walt's death in December 1966. Abutted to the original park's Grand Canyon diorama, "Primal World" presented a land of dinosaurs based upon episodes of "Fantasia." The "Carousel of Progress" told the story of the growth of American prosperity in four vignettes. "It's a Small World" celebrated how nice kids were (and featured the catchiest and most annoying tune Disney ever produced). Finally there was Mr. Lincoln holding forth from the Main Street Opera House.

And Disneyland was beautiful. The paint was always fresh, the walks and streets spotless. Disney banned alcohol, in part because it contributed to public disorder but also because he thought it symbolically served to divide parents from their children, and Disneyland was about the unity between generations. Families with children, grandparents, teens out on dates, and even newlyweds all felt at home in Disneyland. And despite the cost (Disneyland was always pricy), I don't think that I ever remember anyone really resenting the expense.

OF COURSE it was corny. And much of it untrue. The idyllic main streets that sponsored fraternal orders like the Knights of Pythias also hosted the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the tune, it's not a small world but one characterized by cultures deeply antagonistic to each other. The fairy tales Disney popularized were much grittier and more ambiguous than their Disney versions. Floating through Disneyland's jungle ride in 1969 it was impossible not to think of booby-traps and Viet Cong. And Walt was himself not the harmless uncle his Burbank PR staff portrayed him as, but a visionary autocrat who was known to drive his staff as hard as himself.

Nonetheless, much of what Disneyland stood for was true. Life really is a struggle between good and evil. There are people who actually are heroes. Act like an ass long enough and you will become one. There is no danger to the nation more to be feared than that brought upon it by the corruption of its own people. And this is a deeply beautiful land in which life could be rewarding and fun, and for which we should be thankful.

Eisner's California Adventure shares none of these qualities. Most of the attractions are amusing but pointless ("Soaring over California" presents a few minutes of splendid views, but without any narrative, the film might as well have been shot over Morocco). The thrill rides are no better than what's found at two dozen other amusement parks across the country, lacking innovation and imagination. And the park isn't even pretty. The replica of the Golden Gate Bridge that marks the new park's entrance is cramped. The food court is housed in a complex that looks like a decrepit Cannery Row. Disney even seems to have lost its way with lights. At night the illuminated Paradise Pier isn't as pretty as Long Beach's now demolished Pike was forty years ago. It's even dirty. Trash floats in the lagoons. Litter lies uncollected on the walkways. And it's overpriced. At an adult admission fee of $43--the same as for admission to Disneyland--we feel less like guests than rubes.

Or like members of a market niche. It's not quite true that California Adventure tells nobody's story. It--together with the entertainment-merchandising-information behemoth Disney has become--tells the story of a culture obsessed with getting richer through ever-greater market-share and niche exploitation. By far the most physically attractive part of Eisner's addition is "Downtown Disney," a pedestrian street offering tens of thousands of square feet for hawking Donald Duck key chains, Snow White costumes, and Mickey Mouse T-shirts. Eisner hasn't put a plaque here yet, but I know what it will read: "It's the economy, stupid."

December 5, 2001, would be Walt Disney's one-hundredth birthday, and the company he founded has marked the centenary by spectacularly repudiating one of his greatest gifts to the country. It's enough to make Mickey weep.

July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Linton

Attitudes are changing. Now every Ops manager carries a pair of "nabby-grabber" trash picker-uppers with them on and backstage. I can think of a better message to send to the Cast.

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

I came upon this blog late, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

Of course "Disney" is a business. However, it was ALWAYS a business. Not just since Walt died. Let's keep that in perspective. I see the "Disney is a business" line trotted out to explain away all the criticisms. Instead, it should be used to REINFORCE the criticism.

It is a simple matter of the decline that can be seen at many companies once the founders, and those who were close to them, have moved on. There is no MBA school that can turn out a Walt Disney. You either have it, or you don't. That probably explains more of the problems with the Disney company than we're all really comfortable thinking about.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I see this more as a question of priorities. Disney's priorities seem to be more focused on creating and opening new attractions then the maintenance of the existing attractions and the park itself. I find it hard to believe they can't afford to clean and paint the park as regularly as they used to when they are constantly creating new multi-million dollar rides and entertainment attractions in that very same park. It's just that they aren't focused on that. New attractions make money, not picking up trash. They don't realize that people really do notice these things, and not just hard-core park goers.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Another point is that sure, the maintenance has declined a bit but at the same time, general rudeness of guests has skyrocketed. I'm too young to remember "back in the day" but it seems to me that people were a lot more considerate and aware of others back in Walt's day. While Walt had lots of people on hand to make sure not a scrap of candy wrapper was to be found, people in the day made a little bit more of an effort not to be litterbug slobs. It's gotten to the point where if you do want Disneyland to be the constant pristine utopia of cleanliness it deserves to be, you need to have a janitor behind every guest in the park.
People can't keep their hands to themselves either which may account for the increase in paint issues on buildings and objects.
Plus if you or a cast member even tries to bring this up to these slobs, they get up in their faces all "Are you telling me how to raise my kids" or "You've ruined my vacation!"

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Ninja Pirate

I visited Disneyland yesterday for the first time in a decade. What a tragedy! The guests were mostly polite, but there is a teen and adult element that should not be there. They should start by getting rid of the season passes. They need to rebuild their customer service program and increase the pay of their workers and staff the entire park. Certainly, the money we now pay should cover the expenses, but if not, then raise prices. The maintenance and cleanliness in that park is not good. Disneyland needs to institute a "dress code" for guests and eliminate all of the gang clothing and skater wear. They need to pre-sell tickets and limit ticket sales. I would gladly pay $200.00 per ticket to get the "real Disney" quality we all grew up with. California Adventure needs to be a "land" in Disneyland and not a separate theme park. It just goes against everything Walt stood for and makes no sense. Maybe Paul Allen will buy it and take the stockholder out of the equation. Otherwise, we can all spend our money elsewhere and toss it on the rubbish heap with Coney Island.

December 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Sorry to join this party late, but I just had one point that I don't think has been made:

The maintanance of the Disney Cruise Line ships is remarkable. Those guys don't stop sanding, painting and cleaning every square inch of those ships. WDW and Disneyland should take notice.

The worst case that I've seen recently is the Disneyland Paris Pirate Ship. It's in a terrible state.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristian

Two words... Michael Eisner. When a CEO only cares about dollars it quickly trickles down to lower management and eventually to park workers. I've seen this happen to many companies.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFishPharm

Was at the Magic Kingdom at WDW today for the first time in 10+ years and the decline in standards was shocking. The Haunted Mansion was closed most of the day and rides from Splash Mountain to Small World to Peter Pan's flight malfunctioned or backed up while we were riding. Some workers were rude. It was not what I remember.

I have two more days worth of tickets I've already purchased and I am done with this company FOREVER. $90+ per day to be treated like this? I think not. I am incredibly disappointed in the decline of what was once a great American company, but it's Disney's problem, not mine.

June 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob

6/15/2012 JUST CAME BACK FROM MY 20TH TRIP TO WALT DISNEY WORLD OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS. WOW, IT GETS WORSE EVERY YEAR. THE DECLINE OF UPKEEP IS REALLY SAD. IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS TOO LIKE BULBS MISSING OR BURNT OUT OF SIGNS OR FIXTURES. OH, HOW ABOUT THE GREAT IMAGINATION THAT WENT INTO CREATING THE NEW LITTLE MERMAID RIDE ? IT'S A PERFECT COPY OF FINDING NEMO AT EPCOT ! AND HOW ABOUT THOSE 10.00 NACHOS ON MAIN STREET ?

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMCBEE

I have noticed that the park has decline somewhat if you walk in Space Mountain In Disneyland. The Ride effects are broken,the blue ceiling has 65-70% of it's panels burned out. The Indiana Jones ride after 3 months of refurbishment already has issues. The ball is out of synch. The Matterhorn ride has been horrible to ride even before the renovation. It so rough it gives me a kink in my neck. The management at least didn't let cleanliness go it's still good. It's Just that the Clientele has changed . I remember that other parkgoers where polite no pushing ,no shoving ,no screaming inside the loading area and they picked up after themselves that was in the 90s. Fast forward to late 00s and today. Today the people have no manners ,people shove into me without saying sorry,parents let their kids walk anywhere they want risking their children of being trampled by an adult. I also say today people don't wait for me to take a photo while in line they just cut. I also have to say people seem to be very destructive to Disneyland Property especially the teens on gradnite Friday. I also say that these people today scream like bunch bumbling buffons because the were not told and morals whatsoever. I also think that it's money talking today so people rather have the quantity over the quality it today's society. More people don't care about the quality of freedoms in this country they rather care about the quantity of their paychecks.Disneyland is a reflection of the whats on the outside of Disneyland . The Problem is in the world not in Disneyland.

July 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

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