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November 21st, 2022

To All Who Come To This Happy Place…Go Away…

Like a lot of Disneyphiles, I’m glad Chapek is gone. But digging into it I really doubt Iger is going to reverse any of the obstacles Chapek put up to my enjoying Walt Disney World like I used to, like I was hoping to in my retirement years.

It seems the fact that singles can’t make dining reservations in many of the nicer in park restaurants, the park reservation system, and the god awful new model annual pass system, now called Magic Keys, are parts of a single whole designed to allow management to keep operating costs down by running things with fewer staff.

Initially I was under the impression, like a lot of people, that the park reservation system was for keeping down the crowds. This was a logical conclusion given it was rolled out during the COVID-19 closures. But COVID was a convenient time to implement something I now learn was being planned long before. Management sees it as a way of spreading out attendance and allowing them to keep staffing needs down. The way the Magic Keys work fits into that scheme and even then it looks like they really don’t want to allow anyone to buy new ones because the upper level Keys make it easier to get park reservations. So the Keys have to be limited too.

Story now is for one day new Key purchases were allowed, but you had to get into some sort of digital line to get one and some are saying they waited in excess of 20 hours only to be told the line was closed and no new Keys would be sold. It used to be you just went onto the website and bought an annual pass like you would tickets. No more. Because the entire system is being geared to keeping their operating costs down by keeping the need for staff down.

This is how singles not being able to make dining reservations fits into it. A server can serve a table of two or more, preferably an entire family of four or more. But the same work goes into serving for one and the tab is smaller. So they’re trying to keep single diners out. I’ve written here before about how I’ve talked about that with the Cast Members, none of whom liked the change and all of whom advised me to just make a reservation for two and show up as one. But that’s bullshit.

So I strongly doubt Iger is going to reverse any of that. But it’s what’s keeping me from going back.

My DVC points are still on the market but nobody has bitten yet, probably because interest in making Disney World a yearly or twice yearly thing is waning. What I hate about all this is the MAGA mob is going to say Disney is losing money because of their gay friendly policies. But no. They’re losing money because because they’re making their repeat guests miserable and eventually people stop going.

For most of my life I thoroughly enjoyed myself vacationing at the beach, or on the road. I don’t have to make additional reservations separate from my hotel ones to drive the highways or go to the beach. Usually I don’t have to make any to get a nice meal somewhere. I just show up and ask if it’s okay I sit at the bar. Last year I visited Richmond and found some really nice places to eat and to wander around. I had to buy train tickets and make a hotel reservation. I didn’t have to make a reservation to enter Richmond. Last week I took a brief getaway to Ocean City New Jersey. I just showed up at the Port O Call and asked if they had a room. They did, it was off season so they had plenty. I didn’t have to make a reservation to walk on the boardwalk. I didn’t have to make a reservation to look at the ocean and hear its waves breaking on the shore.

I only started going to Walt Disney World back in 2008, after I discovered my high school crush was working there. He insisted I come down for a visit. “It’s your heritage man…baseball apple pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you?” So I went and I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was alive and that first moment I went through the gate at Epcot it all came back to me and I was hooked. If Iger turns it around and I can have the same experience I had before Chapek I reckon I’ll go back again. But I don’t think he can. I’m not even sure he would want to. They’ve baked it all into the system now.

When Walt Disney opened the gates to Disneyland he stepped up to the microphone to dedicate the park. He began by saying, “To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land.” But it isn’t anymore. And especially if you’re single like I am.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 9th, 2022

Disney Pride

I took my morning walk here in Disney Springs. I wanted to check out the Disney stores here just to see if any Pride stuff was still being sold. I began to wonder if Disney wasn’t pulling back on that a bit after I looked in the pin traders store and didn’t see any rainbows.

I shouldn’t have worried…

There was a Pride Collection stand in the Disney Store, right where everyone could see it, and it had customers. I have a card with money on it from points I’ve accumulated and just now I used up a little over half of my Disney Money. 

That mug especially gets to me. This isn’t cheap marketing. I was here a month after the Pulse murders. I saw the shock in everyone’s faces here and in the surrounding community of Orlando. It changed the mindset here.

Yes we are a market. Disney leaves no money on the table. But what happened at Pulse woke everyone up. 49 dead, 53 wounded. I saw how shocked Orlando was. I saw the shock in the Disney cast members. Some, seeing my rainbow Mickey pin (which back then was the Peace Rainbow, not the Pride rainbow…but it was close enough) had stories they told me about friends and co-workers who were either there that night, or knew someone who was. Everyone seemed shell shocked by it. There’s woke for you. After that, the Pride merchandise began appearing. No more take our money and look the other way. Now we are embraced.

We see you Ron DeSantis. We see you MAGA. Our families see you too. And all our friends. We are embraced. We are family. We Belong. You will never change that.

I was strolling around the Disney Springs Marketplace Co-Op and saw they’re busy with celebrating the Walt Disney World 50th with all sorts of call backs to the 70s. It just brought it all back again…that time in my life. I’d forgotten until I started coming back here again how much Disney’s vision of the future had been wired into me back then.

I complain about the changes going on around here, and Chapek’s seemingly bottomless need to squeeze the guests. But tell you what…as long I can walk into the parks knowing I’m with (mostly) other Disney kids, and it’s still a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, I reckon I’ll keep coming back.

My inner Mouseketeer, geeky, socially awkward, gay, knows he belongs here. It’s a small world after all.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disney Pride

September 4th, 2022

A Change Of Scenery

Vacation” becomes an awkward concept when you’re retired. Isn’t every day a vacation? Kind of? Okay, there is housework to do. Yardwork. Appointments to keep with the doctor, the mechanics. But it isn’t like you’re living to the clock anymore. What “Vacation” becomes instead I think, is Change of Scenery.

And to that effect I and my car (Spirit, the Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan) are boarding the AutoTrain soon for a trip to Florida and Disney World (is it even Walt Disney World anymore?) and a first time visit to Universal. As usual, neighbors and the alarm company will watch the house while I’m away. My new alarm system has cameras inside and out I can monitor remotely, and I can even let a neighbor inside remotely to check on things if that’s necessary. 

I’m trying Universal this next Florida trip since Chapek seems not to want us middle class retirees at Disney World anymore, and single people aren’t allowed to make dinner reservations in a lot of spots I used to love. Universal is smaller and its tickets are about where Disney’s are in terms of price. But they aren’t doing park reservations, they have a bunch of interesting stuff in there, singles can make dining reservations and there is an actual Margaritaville restaurant on the premises. I’ve been to the original Margaritaville in Key West, and the food and drink were very good. Loved the atmosphere, loved the Cheeseburger In Paradise. We’ll see if the one at Universal is as good.

And…if I like it enough they have annual passes that cost and work almost exactly like the old Disney annual passes did. Plus there is also an interesting 1950s themed hotel on premises that I might use for stays when I’m not doing DVC.

And this trip it all fitted together as if by pixie dust and magic. I had to truncate the end of my initial birthday week stay in my DVC room to be back in time for my class reunion. So I added some days at the beginning at a hotel on hotel row near Disney Springs. My two days of Disney park tickets don’t start until I check into my DVC room, so there were several days I was expecting to do nothing except Disney Springs, and maybe the miniature golf spots which are fun. Now I can do a couple days at Universal instead.

I bought two park hopping days at Universal (they only have two parks, three if you count the new water park), and downloaded their app to manage it all, just like I do with the Disney app. Supposedly there are busses that will shuttle you from hotels on hotel row to Universal. Or I can do a Lyft.

I paid for the tickets using my Disney Card. Hahahahaha… They offer me a Universal card I might just get it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Change Of Scenery

August 12th, 2022

Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

I’m bellyaching about all the ways Chapek is trashing the Disney parks, and remark offhandedly that I’m basically still going for my birthday vacation in part to give the middle finger to DeSatan and all the batshit crazy Florida republicans. A friend remarks that it’s ironic since Walt Disney himself wasn’t very accepting. True enough. While he lived.

Walt Disney died in 1966. Stonewall would not happen for another three years. 

Walt while he lived was no friend of the gay community for sure. He fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay. And there’s a story that occasionally makes the rounds of the time animator Art Babbitt, who did the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia, told Walt he was taking piano lessons to better understand music and Walt snapped at him “What are you some kind of fag or something?” He was probably having a bad day that day. He was known for his temper. And…his cigarette habit.

But something people forget about Disney…yes he was a conservative man, he hated his unions, he was friends with Reagan, Linkletter, that conservative Hollywood gang…but conservatives back then were a much different from the lunatics we have today. And Walt was fairly typical of the breed. He had one foot in Main Street USA, but he had the other in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science, he believed in progress. E.P.C.O.T. was supposed to be his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

In all of Disney’s educational nature films, in all of his science films, in his movies, I do not recall Any mention of God. There’s evolution. There’s science and physics. There’s “The American Way”. Yes, they’re all “Family” movies (There’s a story about how appalled he was when Annette started appearing on screen in a bikini in all those teen beach movies). Maybe I just missed a few God references, but that would be because they were never front and center. Science was. The American Way was. Family was. Yes Disney was a conservative, but he was also a man of science. Once upon a time that was unremarkable. And he believed in progress.

And because of that, I think he would, had he lived (which would take a Lot of pixie dust and magic since he’d be well over 100 now) he would have eventually accepted the science that’s been saying since the 1950s that there is nothing wrong with us. I do believe he would have eventually come to see gay people as part of the human family too. Which would be good, because there are much Much worse examples to be setting for gay kids than the ones Disney would.

They say Disney would be appalled at all the Pride merchandise you see now at his Parks. What I think is he’d be spitting nails to see a man like Donald Trump in his Hall Of The Presidents. He’d have closed it down first, and made it like his Lincoln one man show in Disneyland California. If Trump is ever dragged into court over his keeping and probably sharing this country’s nuclear secrets with other countries, we’ll see how they handle that in Florida.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

August 11th, 2022

Park Hopper, Water Park Option…Hey, Where’d The Magic Option Go?

Saw the following in my Google News stream, in an article about how Disney isn’t entirely happy with the money its making in the parks. This is about Disneyland but I would hazard a guess it also applies to Disney World…

The Walt Disney Company revenue grew as a whole, but further down in the report, Disney states that the Parks encountered an “unfavorable attendance mix” which it claims is the reason for lower Park ticket profits.

The report claims that per-capita ticket revenue was up due to Genie+ and Lightning Lane but quite offset by actual Disneyland attendance. This is most likely referencing the controversial and hot-button topic of MagicKey renewals, something Disney has remained very quiet on as of late.

If they still had the original Annual Pass system I’d still be a pass holder. But it seems as soon as Chapek got hold of the reins he wanted to eliminate the annual passes, and replace them with something more revenue enhancing. Thus, I wasn’t even alerted to when my pass was to expire. I knew when it was about to expire but I also knew there would be no more annual passes, but this new MagicKey thing which was hideously more expensive for less access than the annual passes were. So I bailed. I think a lot of people did. Now they’re not even for sale anymore, and probably when (if) they ever become available again they’ll be a limited number of them and you and I won’t get a chance to buy one anyway.

So that leaves us with the standard tickets. You buy one of those you are paying the max per day price, and only for the few days that the tickets are good for.

I bought two, thinking (incorrectly) that I’d still visit my favorite restaurants on my birthday week. As it turns out, they don’t let single diners make reservations at those spots anymore, but never mind… I bought two tickets, or rather, one ticket for two days at the parks. But you’re not actually getting two days, you’re getting two days in a five day window. You don’t have to use them on consecutive days, but you have to do the second day no more than four days after you use your first day.

I added the park hopper plus which allows me to hop to another park after 2PM, or visit a water park that day. (only Typhoon Lagoon is currently open), depending on whether or not the park you want to hop to is at capacity. At the moment you only need a park reservation for the first park you enter, not the one you hop to after 2PM, if you can. The water parks don’t need a park reservation currently.

So, two days within five days of each other, park hopper and water park option: grand total is 330 dollars. Well…and 22 cents. And you still need park reservations for whichever two parks you want to visit first on those two days.

I won’t go into how all this is so different, so Constraining, compared to before Chapek took over, but this is what’s being forced on the customers now, who previously had annual passes, or bought tickets as needed, and the uproar online at least is hot and furious.

So the per ticket revenue is down is it? Well I can’t spend any money on dining when I can’t get reservations. And if just getting into a park is this expensive, And complex, it sure isn’t fun anymore either. And that could be a problem.

I remember some years ago, I’m sitting in one of my favorite Disney bars, the Tune-In Lounge in Hollywood Studios. I’m talking to a man seated next to me who is taking a break from the family he’s with and we start talking about the cost of doing Disney. This was before Chapek started jacking up prices on Everything (including the ice machines in some hotels). He says to me…

You know, they talk a lot about magic here. Let me tell you how the magic works. You walk into a park here with maybe 100 dollars in your pocket, and you walk back out with maybe five. The magic is they make you want to do it again the next day.

But that was then. This is now.

I have seen this obsessive focus on profit margin at every little point no matter how trivial drag companies into the gutter. Disney is probably big enough they can survive on media revenue instead of what they used to make in the parks. But the parks used to be their big money makers and they’re not fun anymore, and the magic isn’t what it used to be.

I might not even go back next year. I’m doing it this year in large part to flip the bird at DeSantis and Florida republicans. But if Chapek is going to keep flipping the bird at park goers than why even bother.

But this year anyway, I still want to give some love to my inner Mouseketeer. It’s his birthday after all.

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

December 12th, 2021

Not Walt Disney World, But Disney World

…as in Disney the big media conglomerate.  I discovered an Epcot parody account on Twitter the other day that’s pretty brutal…

There was a time I would have absolutely hated this. But with all the changes to the parks that have happened in the last few years, and the blatant disrespect I keep seeing for the theming, and for Walt Disney’s vision, I’m kinda enjoying it. There’s the big screen TV they put on the wall in the Belle Vue Lounge, so people could watch their sports broadcasts there? Have I mentioned how much I despise that? The theming is it’s a turn of the 19th century Coney Island boardwalk hotel, and the Belle Vue Lounge was a small out of the way spot where you could relax, enjoy a drink in one of the old fashioned leather chairs, and listen to one of the old radios playing The Green Hornet, Jack Benny, or Studio One. It’s supposed to be from a time before television. But no…some complete moron decided it needed a big screen TV. I suppose because there isn’t a sports bar anywhere nearby…

I think that was when I began to question management’s commitment to the theming of the parks. I forget whether that was before or after they replaced The Writer’s Stop with a Beer Taproom, because Starbucks couldn’t abide the competition for coffee and pastries, and selling alcohol to adults is more important than selling books to kids. And then they replaced the Great Movie Ride with Mickey’s Runaway Railroad. Get me started on the new look of Walt Disney’s cartoon characters…

But I’m been slowly coming to a place of acceptance. It isn’t Walt Disney’s World anymore, it’s Disney World, and Disney isn’t a keeper of the vision. It’s keeper of the media properties.

Yeah, they still do a lot of good things, especially when it comes to treating their LGBT customers like everyone else. Yeah I’ll keep coming back. There is still just enough of Walt in there, and enough fun, to keep me coming back. But not nearly as often. I’m giving up my annual pass. In part it’s because if I only go once a year it isn’t buying me anything my DVC membership isn’t already. But mostly it’s the park reservation system, which completely kills any reason I might otherwise have for having an annual pass, even one of the lesser ones with blackout dates.

Basically it’s too much money and not enough Walt Disney. And it’s mostly a hassle, where before it was mostly fun. I feel like I got in just in time to enjoy the last of what was Walt Disney’s World.

Now I’m kinda enjoying this parody account. It sticks the knife in right where I think it belongs.

And it almost reads like it’s being done by someone who either worked there once, or still is and hates the new management…

 

Oh…They have one at the Belle Vue Lounge! Turn the volume up if the noise coming from all those old radios is bothering you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not Walt Disney World, But Disney World

September 13th, 2021

Walt Disney World In A Time Of Plague And Crazy Republican Governors

I did Epcot this afternoon. I had a reservation at Biergarten for 7:50, and I wanted to sample some favorites at the food and wine festival, and maybe find a few new ones. But it was not to be.

Last time I was here, back in March, masks were still a requirement and the park reservation system kept the numbers inside the parks down. The only sit down restaurants that were open were ones that had enough space inside to keep everyone apart and maintain plenty of air flow. Biergarten’s buffet was closed, the server brought you the food as well as your drinks, and you were only seated with the party you came in. No more Oktoberfest seating. It made for a somewhat less enjoyable time, since my favorite thing about Biergarten was I could meet people and chat, which you normally can’t do at a sit down restaurant. But I felt safe.

This time, almost immediately upon entering Epcot, I started feeling uneasy about the crowds, and the new mask policy. I don’t know what the park reservation system is buying them now, but it doesn’t seem to be about keeping the numbers down inside the parks anymore. Epcot was as packed as I’ve usually seen it on a September day. Maybe Disney has some numbers to show that it really isn’t as packed as usual, but above a certain point it makes very little difference: walking around World Showcase Lagoon what I experienced was the same human swarm I always have. This is made worse by the new mask policy, which is you only have to wear them indoors. This would actually be okay if the numbers inside the park was about half what they’re letting in. The weather was nice and there was a steady breeze, which I think would have kept everyone safe if there weren’t so many of us. I wore my mask the entire time I was inside Epcot.

I got to Biergarten early, and peeked inside to see how they were handling serving now. It was basically back to normal, except maybe they were seating groups at every other table now. Okay…fine. But the buffet was back open and I looked and nobody, Nobody, was wearing their masks or keeping a safe distance from the others in line.

I went to a bench outside of Epcot Germany and gave it some heavy thought. I love Biergarten, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do Disney very much, if at all, after I retire. This might well be my last Disney trip…or at least to the parks. The ticket prices have gone through the roof, the new annual pass system they’re rolling out is horrible, it looks like they’re keeping the park reservation system going forward, COVID or not, and park hopping is only allowed late in the day, and only if there are still reservation slots available where you want to hop to. This, plus all the obnoxious changes they’ve made to the parks since I started going, changes that break the theming, changes that either erase or disrespect what Walt Disney created, have been driving me to an uncomfortable place: I may not want to come back anymore, because it isn’t what I kept coming here for.

Yes, yes…at first it was I wanted to reconnect with my high school crush…that first beautiful guy who made my heart skip a beat. He was the one who encouraged me to come to Walt Disney World when I told him I wasn’t really all that interested in theme parks.

“Come on man…it’s your Heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you!”

So I came. And when I walked through the park gates into Epcot that first time, it all came back to me.

And now…it isn’t. Well…sometimes it comes back…but it’s like a fading echo. And the cost of admission keeps going up. It’s too much money, and not enough Walt Disney. And now there’s a deadly virus in the air, and there are simple, straightforward practices for keeping yourself and others safe, and they aren’t being followed. I suppose Disney Corp can point their fingers at the insane Florida governor and his helpful crackpots in the statehouse, but now Florida is leading just about the entire planet in new COVID-19 cases and deaths and the biggest employer in the state could, it seems to me, take a stand and I’m not seeing it happening. In fact, the new Disney World COVID-19 warnings they put at the top of their web pages now, basically, at the very end, places the entire responsibility for guest safety from the plague, on the guests:

COVID-19 Warning

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. So let’s pack more people into the parks and make wearing masks optional in the crowded walkways. Take your chances guest…and have a Magical Day!

There’s a scene in Die Hard with two FBI agents discussing the casualty rate to expect when taking out the terrorists…

“Figure we take out the terrorists. Lose twenty, twenty-five percent of the hostages, tops.”

“I can live with that.”

And I’m wondering how often a similar discussion has occurred in the boardrooms of America. How many Americans do we lose after opening up the bars and restaurants, beaches and theme parks? Twenty-five percent? Tops? Thirty-five? We can live with that…

I simply refuse to believe Walt Disney would. He’d have figured something out, some way of keeping his guests safe while still allowing them to enjoy the parks…he was an innovator who was always thinking about ways to make his parks and rides better. Before he died he was working on his biggest project yet, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. I think he would have dived into the problem with gusto. Because it was a problem…something to figure out a solution to. No way would he have simply left his guests, let alone his staff, to fend for themselves in an airborne plague. But it’s not Walt Disney’s World anymore…it’s the Disney Corporation’s World.

I opened my iPhone and started my Disney App…but it was too late to cancel the Biergarten reservation, so I reckon I’ll just be a no show for the first time. I try to cancel when I can’t make it, so they can give my seat to someone else. But given the circumstances would I have been doing anyone any favors…really?

I went back to my DVC room…my lovely one bedroom villa…and got onto the Disney website and cancelled all my other reservations for the trip. You can actually have a very nice time just staying at your DVC resort…because they really are their own self contained resorts too. Saratoga Springs like Boardwalk, has three nice pools, and the small ones aren’t crowded at all. There are lovely, really lovely hiking trails, a nice restaurant, snack bar and small grocery. It really is a great place to just hang out and de-stress and that’s the vacation I’ll have now. I’ll hang out on my private balcony with a drink and a snack tray and watch the beautiful Florida skies.

Maybe going forward I’ll keep my DVC points and just do the villas when I come down here, and play music from the old Disney movies on my iPod, and remember what it was like to watch Walt Disney’s TV show when he was still alive, and there was a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walt Disney World In A Time Of Plague And Crazy Republican Governors

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