Picture -- if you will -- David Koenig. The author of three best selling warts-and-all histories of the Walt Disney Company, "Mouse Tales," "More Mouse Tales" and "Mouse Under Glass." Slight of build and a basically mild-mannered fellow, David is hardly the sort of guy that you'd single out as being a possible security threat. Yet this past Sunday morning, that's exactly what Disneyland's Security staff did. They closely monitored Koenig's every move as he strolled down Main Street U.S.A.As you might imagine, Koenig found this treatment somewhat unnerving. Which is why he finally decided to approach the officer who was following him and ask him what the problem might be. The next thing he knew, David was aggressively interrogated by this Disneyland Security host for his "suspicious activity."
"And what exactly was this 'suspicious activity'?," you ask. Koenig was just jotting down some notes on a clipboard. In preparation for a free tour of the theme park that he'd be giving to some of his readers later that afternoon.
Did Disneyland's Security staff over-react? Oh, yeah. But wait. This story gets better. Just wait 'til you hear what Disneyland's Guest Relations Department did once Koenig actually brought his tour group back into the theme park later that same day.
Now let me stress here that absolutely no money changed hands between David & the people that he brought back into the park with him. That this tour was completely free. It was something that Koenig had offered as a special "Thank You" to all those folks who come out to attend his book signing at Downtown Disney's Compass Books store this past Sunday afternoon.
More to the point, we aren't actually talking about a whole lot of people here. Just nine loyal readers of David's Disneyland history books joined him on this tour. Folks who driven down to Anaheim from as far away as Northern California. Just so they could spend some time with their favorite author as he pointed out the 1955-era sites that you can still find inside this fabled family fun park.
But almost from the moment that Koenig led this pleasant group of people back into the "Happiest Place on Earth," he felt like the Mouse's eyes were on him. That his every move was being watched.
And -- sure enough -- David's instincts proved to be correct. His tour group had barely made into Town Square when Koenig suddenly found the assistant General Manager of Disneyland Guest Relations at his elbow. Right there in front of the fire station, another interrogation began.
This woman got right to the point. She said that she had heard that Koenig was charging guests for an unauthorized tour of Disneyland.
David explained politely that -- while this "walk & talk" may have been unauthorized -- no money had actually changed hands. That this was just a free tour of the theme park that he was giving to a few of his loyal readers. People he considered his friends.
This woman didn't believe him. Which is why she then began to quiz each individual member of Koenig's tour group, asking them: "What did you pay for this tour? What did you pay? And you?"
When everyone there indicated that they hadn't actually paid anything for this tour, the Assistant General Manager of Disneyland Guest Relations then tried another tack. Pointing to the 1955-era Disneyland maps that each of the tour members were holding, she said: "Well, what about those? Did he make you pay for those maps?"
Again, the members of David's tour group said that -- no -- that they hadn't paid Koenig anything for the maps. That the author has just given them away to his readers as a special souvenir of that afternoon's signing at Compass Books.
These answers clearly frustrated the Assistant General Manager of Disneyland Guest Relations. Who was looking for some reason -- ANY reason -- to quickly shut down this tour and force Koenig to exit the theme park.
But David (unlike a certain other Disney webmaster I could mention) had actually played by Disneyland's rules. Which is why it was hard to see what Koenig was doing this past Sunday afternoon as being in direct competition with what Disney does.Which is why David tried to reason with this woman, using a little humor in his attempt to cajole her. But the Assistant General Manager of Disneyland Guest Relations would have none of it.
The way she saw it, Koenig was stealing from the Walt Disney Company. Right there in front of his tour group, she likened what David was doing to " ... setting up your own t-shirt shop inside our theme park. Which then prevents Disney from being able to sell our own t-shirts."
David tried to explain that the tour that he was giving was significantly different than the tours that Disneyland Guest Relations gives. That his tour was actually based on the stories that Koenig had told in his "Mouse Tales" books.
Again, the Assistant General Manager of Disneyland Guest Relations wouldn't hear of it. David's tour was cutting into that theme park's ability to sell its own tours, plain & simple. Which is why -- after taking down his annual pass info -- this woman hurried away. Clearly disappointed that she hadn't found a way to legally shut him down.
The rest of the tour continued without incident. Though -- given his unpleasant encounters with that Disneyland Security Host as well as the Assistant General Manager of the park -- David told me yesterday that he doubted that he'd ever offer another walking tour of that theme park to his readers.
Which ticks me off. Why for? Well -- me personally -- I was actually looking forward to taking Koenig's tour of Disneyland someday. So that I could then hear how his walking tour compared to the walking tour of "The Happiest Place on Earth" that I used to give.
But -- more than that -- I'm disappointed. Given all the negative publicity that the Walt Disney Company received last month after Disneyland Security booted me out of that same theme park for giving an unauthorized tour, I was kind of hoping that the Mouse would have learned its lesson by now.After all, when people begun writing stories that have headlines like "When A Company Can Do No Right" ... Well, you know that you have to be doing something wrong.
But here's Disney coming down just as hard -- if not harder -- on David Koenig. All because he's written a few books that put the Mouse in a somewhat unflattering light.
I don't know about you folks. But the news that Mickey seems to be continuing its crackdown on authors who don't necessarily toe the official Disney party line, telling only the stories that the Mouse wants to have told ... well, that makes me happy that I chose to discontinue my own on-property tours and offer instead these very same stories on CD form.
Speaking of which ... Jeff Lange & I are still taking names for the official notification list for that JHM Disneyland history disc. So -- if you want to be among the first to hear those tales about the "Happiest Place on Earth" that Disneyland Security wasn't all that happy to hear me telling ... Well, drop me a line ASAP at email@example.com.
Anyway ... Getting back to David Koenig. It truly ticks me off that Disneyland Security & Guest Relations went out of their way to make life difficult this past Sunday afternoon for my friend & colleague. After all, anyone who's actually read any of Koenig's books knows what a fan of the Mouse David is.
In fact, if you haven't yet read "Mouse Tales," ""More Mouse Tales" and/or "Mouse Under Glass," then I urge you now to click on the above links and order a copy of each book ASAP. So that you can see for yourself how Disney totally over-reacted in this situation.
Of course, if Disneyland persists in doing this (I.E. Clumsily attempting to silence those of us who try & tell stories about the Anaheim theme park that don't appear in the official company histories) one can't help but think that the mainstream press is eventually going to start paying much closer attention to this story. Wondering what it is exactly that the Mouse is trying so hard to hide.
Either way, I think that Disneyland's PR department is in for a pretty tough week. As it tries to come up with a somewhat sensible explanation as to why Disneyland Security felt that it had to come down so hard on David this past Sunday.
All because Koenig committed that unforgivable crime. Which was walking around a theme park, carrying a clipboard.