Boy, it seems like the Walt Disney Company just can't win for losing these days.
What do I mean? Well, just days after the Mouse had staged a pretty successful promotional event at this year's Tournament of Roses parade (I.E. Rolling out the tallest float in the parade's history as a way to promote Disney's California Adventure's soon-to-be-opening attraction, "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror"), Mickey found himself dealing with a barrage of complaints from Pasadena residents.
Why for? Well, it seems that it's a Tournament of Roses tradition that -- for a couple of days after the parade -- the floats are put on public display in this Southern Californian city. So that Pasadena's elderly and handicapped residents -- those folks who had been physically unable to attend the actual parade back on January 1st -- can still get a chance to see these flower-covered creations.
So what's the problem? Well, the Walt Disney Company reportedly wanted to get the most it could out of the $3 million that the corporation had allegedly poured into the creation of its Tournament of Roses' "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" float. Which is why -- late on the night of January 1st / early on the morning of January 2nd -- the Mouse had the nearly 100 foot tall float driven out of town. Where it was quickly put on display (now through January 19th) at DCA.
This decision by Disney's marketing department reportedly angered many residents of Pasadena. Here, the Mouse had created the tallest float in Tournament of Roses' history. Only to have the Disney corporation hustle the thing out of town under cover of darkness before the city's elderly and handicapped had actually gotten a chance to see the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" up close.
As far as PR screw-ups go, this isn't really an enormous one. Sure, it would have been nice if the Mouse had honored Pasadena's traditions and left the Walt Disney Company's "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" float standing on display within the city limits for January 2nd and 3rd. But -- given how crucial this new thrill ride is to the Disney corporation (I.E. DCA's "Tower of Terror" attraction MUST be launched successfully this coming May. This Hollywood Pictures Backlot ride HAS TO be a hit -- more importantly, a HUGE hit -- if the rebirth of Disney's California Adventure is to begin properly) -- it's understandable (at least from my side of the fence) that Mickey's marketing staff opted to quickly hustle this huge flower-covered float out to Anaheim. Where this nearly-100-foot-tall creation could serve as a sweet-scented reminder to Disneyland Resort guests that TOT will be opening to the public at DCA on May 4th.
But -- if I were one of those clever folks working in the Disneyland Resort's promotional department -- this would be one of these moments where I'd try to turn a negative into a positive. Instead of attempting to pretend that the Walt Disney Company hadn't screwed up here, I'd immediately issue an apology to both the staff of the Tournament of Roses as well as the people of Pasadena. I'd explain that -- honestly -- no insult was intended. It's just that the Walt Disney Company was unfamiliar with the city's traditions. And that -- in the years ahead, should the Mouse ever create another float for the parade -- that Disney would agree to leave the company's next parade float standing in place for a few days after the event. So that Pasadena's elderly and handicapped residents would also get the chance to enjoy Mickey's handiwork up-close.
And then -- with the hope that this might make the TORP people as well as Pasadena residents happy -- I'd offer to put some of the parade's other award-winning floats on display at DCA. AFTER the public display days in Pasadena are completed, of course. Just line 10 or 15 of these things along the theme park's performance corridor for a few days as sort of a tribute to this Southern Californian tradition.
And -- Presto Changeo! -- this minus becomes a plus. I'm sure that the Tournament of Roses people as well as the residents of Pasadena would welcome the opportunity to promote their annual parade to the hundreds of thousands of out-of-state tourists who visit the Disneyland Resort every January. And the Mouse ... Well, I'm sure that the Disney corporation would enjoy creating a cost-effective excuse for Southern Californian residents to come back to DCA. "Didn't get to see this year's Tournament of Roses Parade? Then come on down to Anaheim, where you can see the very best floats on display at Disney's California Adventure."
But -- then again -- what do I know? I'm not a PR professional. I'm just some weenie who lives in the woods of New Hampshire.
Speaking of "Tower of Terror," I've recently gotten a couple of notes from JHM readers. People who are wondering how -- given that Tokyo DisneySea doesn't feature a Hollywood themed section -- how is the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" is supposed to fit into that theme park.
Well, since TDS's "TOT" is set in that theme park's American Waterfront area (which is themed to 1910's era New York City), clearly a story that's built around events that occur in 1930s Hollywood isn't going to fly here. Which is why the Imagineers opted to cook up an entirely new storyline for Tokyo DisneySea's "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror."
The TDS version of "TOT" actually keys off of another American Waterfront icon, the U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt. You see, the millionaire industrialist who built the Roosevelt later built a larger, more impressive vessel. An ocean liner that -- just like the Titanic -- was said to be unsinkable. So, on the night before the initial sailing of this elegant new vessel, the millionaire staged a huge party for all those who were going on the maiden voyage. In a four star hotel in the heart of NYC. Which -- not-so-co-incidentally -- was also owned by this millionaire industrialist.
So -- of course -- on the maiden voyage of this impressive new ocean liner, the vessel sank without a trace. All hands were lost.
As for the hotel ... Almost from the night the ship sank, the staff of the hotel began reporting these odd occurrences. Mysterious sightings in the building's rooms, corridors and ballrooms. As if the spirits of all the folks who were killed in the sinking were returning to the last place they were happy. This enormous hotel towering over the American Waterfront.
From there ... Well, I'm sure you can guess the rest of the story. That -- due to the death of the mysterious millionaire industrialist who built and owned the building -- the four star hotel was eventually forced to close. And that -- due to the property's increasingly bizarre reputation -- the hotel was never able to be sold. It just stood empty for decades. Until -- of course -- the folks who operate Tokyo DisneySea opted to throw open the hotel's doors once more. So that the theme park's more adventurous guests could tour this reportedly haunted high-rise ... If they dared.
That's a pretty nifty variation of the whole "Tower of Terror" backstory, don't you think? One that creates a somewhat logical reason for this Disney-MGM favorite to rise up out of the American Waterfront area at Tokyo DisneySea. More importantly, it's a story that respects the Japanese culture's own unique take on the spirit world.
Finally, I also got a few notes about last Monday's article about the "Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade" TV special. In particular my comments about the seemingly hundreds of times WDW's "Magical Gatherings" program was mentioned during this two-hour long special.
Some JHM readers took me to task for complaining about the "WDW Christmas Day Parade" TV special, pointing out that this annual television program has always basically been a two hour long commercial for the Disney World resort. "So what did you expect, Jim?" said one JHM regular. "Of course the Mouse was going to use this nationally broadcast opportunity to repeatedly hype their new 'Magical Gatherings" program."
Which I understand. Honestly. My problem with the way Disney handled the whole "Magical Gatherings" thing in that TV special was ... where was the subtly? Did "Magical Gatherings" really have to be the third word out of every person's mouth on the program? If I had been playing the "Magical Gatherings" drinking game (I.E. drank a shot every time the phrase "Magical Gatherings" was mentioned) while watching this show, I would have either:
A) Died of alcohol poisoning.
A) Died of alcohol poisoning.
B) Still be in detox at the Betty Ford Center.
B) Still be in detox at the Betty Ford Center.
And I really have no problem with Disney using the "Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade" TV special to promote the latest and greatest at the company's Central Florida resort. In fact, that's the main reason that many of us Disney dweebs actually make a point of watching this show each year. So that we can get a sneak peek of the newest WDW hotel, the soon-to-open theme park, the latest ride or attraction, etc.
So -- to my way of thinking -- that's why Disney sort of did themselves a disservice by mentioning "Magical Gatherings" over and over and over during last month's Christmas Day special. I mean, wouldn't it have been smarter in the long run (particularly given all the problems that the WDW resort staff is supposedly having with actually delivering on all of the "Magical Experiences" that the folks over at Disney World Vacations have promised people if they book a "Magical Gatherings" package) to just run one well-produced segment about the program. Rather than relentlessly hype "Magical Gatherings" over and over and over ...
But, hey, that's just me. Your thoughts?