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Monday Mouse Watch : WDI complains about all those complainers

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Monday Mouse Watch : WDI complains about all those complainers

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It's as predictable as the tides. First a new attraction soft-opens at one of the Disney theme parks. And then someone online declares this new ride or show is " ... the worst thing that Imagineering has ever designed."

Which is why -- on the heels of "Spaceship Earth" 's torturous test-and-adjust period as well as the ongoing "Should-Disneyland-add-Disney-characters-to-it's-a-small-world-attraction?" debate -- WDI is trying something different these days. They're deliberately ignoring what's being posted on the Web about "Toy Story Mania." Turning a deaf ear to whatever WDW cast members and/or Disneyana fans are saying about this new Disney's Hollywood Studios ride-thru.

Which is kind of ironic. Given that the biggest complaint (so far) that's come out of the Cast Member Previews has to had to do with acoustics. As in: Due to the way that "Toy Story Mania" was constructed, you can't help but hear all of the other game trams that are moving around inside of this show building at the same time as you are. And that noise bleeding problem distracted many WDW cast members as they rode through this new attraction.

As one Disney World insider who rode "Toy Story Mania" last week put it:

"What with all of the noise coming off of the other game trams that are in this show building, it's just not an intimate experience. You're always aware that you're one of many rolling through this 3D shooting gallery. Trying to squeeze off as many shots as possible before you have to move on to the next flat screen.

To be honest, I liked this pop gun technology better the first time that I used it. Back in 2000 when 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold' first opened at DisneyQuest. At least there you're having a somewhat intimate experience. As you and four or five of your friends are manning the cannons, blowing up ships, collecting pirate gold. You're having an adventure together.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Whereas with 'Toy Story Mania' ... You're just moving from one shooting gallery to the next. Which -- in the end -- is kind of an empty experience.

Sure, it was fun seeing that new 3D animation of the 'Toy Story' characters. And I liked a lot of the theming in the queue. But having ridden the thing twice now, I just don't feel the need to go on 'Toy Story Mania' again. Which makes me question this whole rerideability thing that the Imagineers keep talking about."

In the spirit of fairness, I forwarded this cast member's comments to one of the Imagineers who worked on "Toy Story Mania." And they admitted that WDI was already well aware of this attraction's acoustical problems. Which they're still trying to address as part of "TSM" 's preview period.

But that said, this cast member's sound complaint did get a rather venomous response from my friend in Imagineering.

"How typical. We spend $70 million to build this damned attraction, then pile on the theming. Even go so far as to try and match the color of those hand-kilned bricks that Steve Jobs selected to build Pixar Studios out of. But do we get praised for our efforts? For our years & years of hard work? No. We get bitched at for the one thing that we got wrong."

It was at this point that I learned that many of the Imagineers who worked on "Toy Story Mania" were deliberately going out of their way to avoid reading the negative comments that had been posted on the Web about their attraction. To wit:

" ... we're tired of the constant bitchfest. The foamers who post on MiceChat, WDWMagic and your site. They never seem to like anything that WDI does anymore.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Which, I have to tell you, is the exact opposite of what we're seeing in those guest surveys that they do at the parks. Where Disneyana fans complain whenever we add characters to an attraction or update some tired old Epcot ride, the people who pay big bucks to fly on down to Orlando with their families once every five years just love what we've been doing.

That's what I think your readers need to understand. When it comes to Walt Disney World, we're not out to please the annual passholders. Our goal here is service the tens of millions of other guests for whom a Disney World vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

People like that are going to love 'Toy Story Mania.' They're not going to obsess about some minor acoustical problem. They're just going to be thrilled that they got to ride through a 3D shooting gallery that starred the 'Toy Story' characters.

I wish that more of your readers could experience the parks the way those once-in-a-lifetime guests do. They're just there to have fun with their friends and their family. They're not actively going out of their way to always find things to complain about."

Which -- you'll have to admit -- is not the sort of perspective that you usually find posted here at JHM.

So what do you folks think? Is my friend the Imagineer right? Are the Disneyana fans who post online often far too negative? Have they forgotten how the average Disney World visitor actually experiences the theme parks? Or is reporting on things like "Toy Story Mania" 's acoustical problems really a valid criticism?

Your thoughts?

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  • The problem is, both parks have oversold this attraction.  It's a classic C-Ticket attraction--but with a lot of nice exterior ornamentation, especially in California.  Also the AA of Mr. Potatohead is fantastic.  But this aside, this ride is on par with Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters.  It's a shooter--with video screens and 3d technology.  But nothing more.  It's fun.  The problem is that the promotions department has over-emphasized the technology in this attraction so that park regulars are expecting an E-Ticket attraction, instead of the very nice C-Ticket attraction that awaits them.

  • I am confused.  There are tons of positive reviews over on WDWmagic for Toy Story Mania.  Everyone is really excited about these additions.

    This is an online community.  People from EVERYWHERE gather together to say pretty much anything they want.  So, yeah, you're going to get the whole range of opinions.  And that's about all I see, a full range.  I think that people have the tendency to pick out the things that irk them on online forums.  In my opinion, there are just as many people complementing Imagineering as there are people talking it down.  And most of the time (as with anyone I've ever been to the parks with) have many varied opinions on all the things offered at the park.  Some like Its a Small World but hate Stitch's Great Escape, and some like Monsters Inc Laugh Floor but hate Carousel of Progress.

    To glaze the whole internet thing over as "too negative" is a great overgeneralization.  Besides, so what if they say the acoustics are bad?  Shouldn't specific feedback like this be welcomed?

  • Well where to begin...

    First let me say that all the cast members I've talked to that went to the preview loved it and would've ridden it over and over again if it didn't break down.

    Second I'd say that complaining about the acoustics is silly when you realize that the ride is supposed to be a midway carnival gaming area, which is never supposed to be quiet.  That's part of the atmosphere.  Hello!  THEMING!  The WDI guy should've just pointed this out and moved on.  I'm sure there's more to it then that but I heard no such complaint from others and it sounds silly.

    Third the WDI guy is probably right about the negativity and like most other entertainers they SHOULD be ignoring the internet.

    Fourth I'm on the side of the anti-changes people when it comes to Small World.  It just seems wrong headed and the artistic equivalent of adding anime characters to Salvador Dali paintings so kids will like them.  There ARE times when WDI should pay attention to some constructive criticism.

    Lastly I'm curious to know if this guy is one of the ones all fearful over their jobs on a regular basis.  Maybe they feel overly defensive for a reason?

    (Oh and please never post a picture of that abomination in tomorrowland again.  Just looking at it makes me want to cause a protein spill.)

    PS to Pickstar:  Hi!  Please don't be too harsh on the WDI guy.  Remember he's going to "ignore" you.  Also, I hear they're going to add more to the end of Spaceship Earth so maybe they shouldn't ignore the internet...)

  • This has already been pointed out by posters on this site as well as many other sites. Here's the timeline: Disney Co opens a new attraction. Within minutes someone has an online coronary. The coronary creates a bandwagon that many jump on. After the dust settles, other posters start to point out that the vast majority of park visitors that ask when the 3:00 parade is will not even notice this coronary-causing incident. The posters calm themselves down without the need for outside intervention. Disney Co's national television ads end up reaching far more people than a couple ticket holders with an ax to grind.

    I would suggest looking at the internet responses - in addition to - the official guest surveys. I've never taken a Disney Co survey that would turn out with results different from what the survey writer wanted to begin with. ("Would you say your experience today was fun, really fun, or super fun?"  -->   "Our visitors tell us overwhelmingly that their visit to the park was fun.")

    "I liked this ... technology better the first time that I used it back in 2000 when 'Pirates...' first opened at DisneyQuest"

    Gotta admit, I've never heard anybody talk this way, especially when asked how they liked a new ride.  Guess that's the way Disney World "insiders" talk. I also haven't been anywhere in Disney World that I didn't feel like "one of many."

    Here's your imagineering seven inciteful phrases checklist, which hopefully leads to a high comment count :

    1)We get bitched at    2)How typical      3)constant bitchfest   4)Disneyana fans complain     5)always find things to complain about             6) foamers

    and the holy grail: 7)we're not out to please the annual passholders    

    It's all good. I rarely complain to Disney Co anyway since I know that very few are listening. Instead I just stopped buying annual passes, which led to far fewer park trips, which led to much less Disney Co spending. Left room for a few more who won't notice any problems.

  • WDI still does some things very well (Everest) and when that happens they rightly deserve (and receive) praise.   They've also done a lot of things poorly, IMO, and damaged the integrity and cohesiveness of the parks that were entrusted to their care.   I understand that Imagineers have been limited by budgets, but even WDI must look back on the last 15 years and see that they've wasted a lot of space, time and money on duds like California Adventure (only costing $1billion to attempt to fix), Walt Disney Studios Paris, redevelopment of EPCOT's Future World, Disneyland's 1998 Tomorrowland, "Tiki's Under New Management", DinoRama, etc.

    Who wouldn't agree that the parks would be much better off today with the original Monster Sound Show or Imagination pavilion rather than their replacements.

    WDI has also violated the underlying theme/story of many park areas by shoehorning in currently popular characters (e.g. "Monster's Inc" and High School Musical in Tomorrowland, Lion King in Discoveryland (Paris), "Nemo" in the Living Seas", etc.).  

    Forums like MiceChat and WDWMagic are decent places for vetting opinions on the work produced by the Imagineers.  Among a great deal of bad, useless opinions & ideas put forth, there are actually some good, useful ones.  

  • To Jim's Imagineer friend...

    Those "foamers" help pay your salary, so get back to work, and do the job right the first time, and quit bitching about it anonymously on some fan sight.

    So much for professionalism.  

  • "When it comes to Walt Disney World, we're not out to please the annual passholders. Our goal here is service the tens of millions of other guests for whom a Disney World vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

    While most of what WDI comes out with is - on the whole - excellent work, the thing that separates Disney attractions from other theme parks is attention to detail That said, there is a fair amount of nitpicking and everything I've read about TSM on the 'net has been great.

    However, it is the above statement that troubles me. Disney needs to realize where their bread is buttered. Annual Passholders and DVC members come to Disney far more often and spend far more money  (over time) than the once-in-a-lifetime guest and should be treated accordingly . When the economy slows down who do you think will continue to come down and hand their money over to the mouse? It certainly won't be the $5000 trip of a lifetime guests.... it'll be the loyal APs and DVC members. The same thing happened after 9/11 when they couldn't give rooms away. The APs and DVC members still came to the parks and still spent money.

    This is on top of the fact that APs and DVCers are about the best promotion and recruiting campaign out there. When anyone I know wants to plan a trip, my family is who they turn to for advice. Why do they turn to us when they think of Disney? Probably because we don't shut up about how great the place is and how much fun we have!

    The Disney fan community as a whole are surely a bunch of malcontents to a degree, but when did having high expectations become a huge character flaw? WDI can get it right, look at the Haunted Mansion refurb. I know of not a single person who doesn't feel the ride was extremely "plussed". Your casual guest is going to love everything and give attractions high marks because they don't know any better and aren't in a position to notice a decline in quality (if one is present, that is.)

  • "For our years & years of hard work? No. We get bitched at for the one thing that we got wrong."

    Um, yeah. That's called life. If were to walk the 40 miles it is from my house to Disneyland and stop a half mile away, would it seem reasonable to say "man, I walk 39 1/2 miles and I don't get to go to Disneyland just because I didn't walk that last 1/2 mile".

    No one EVER gets full credit just because they tried hard and got it ALMOST right. If a pharmaceutical company toils for years on a new drug and gets one thing wrong, think the FDA will approve it? No chance.

    The years of research and development and test and adjust are supposed to be so that you DON'T get anything wrong, and if you do, you FIX it. I don't see how WDI is expecting us to just cut them some slack and say "well, they tried". This isn't even a Disney thing; it's just a bad ideology for a company to have.

    What your imagineer friend is literally saying is that we should settle for second best. That we shouldn't expect the best if ALMOST the best is good enough. Maybe they're just getting complacent.

    And while I realize that these rides aren't designed for the frequent visitor, that doesn't mean our opinions don't matter. The reason we point this stuff out is that we're in a position to notice. Yes, someone who only ever visits once wont notice that the parks perhaps aren't in as good a shape as they used to be. Obviously. But little flaws like acoustics slowly but surely degrade the experience, to the point where the magic is lost. And eventually, the general public WILL notice.

  • You can say that again C33.

  • The Imagineers read the boards?

    I find it hard to take, they are all focused on how good it should look. They are all into brick color, and characters. To the point of spending 70 Mil on the attraction, but we should look past that one deficiency. Then what are you people doing spending 70 mil on this attraction.

    With that kind of money being spent, I would expect an above average experience.

  • The Imagineer has it EXACTLY right... people on these boards (similar to the posters over on aintitcoolnews.com's talkbacks) are all obsessive armchair quarterbacks who think they know Disney (the man, the brand, and the company plan) better than anyone else, and post thinking their perspective is the right one.

    Over on Miceage's forums, people have been ready to write of TSM, declaring the queue to look "cheap." That was where I stopped reading, as I found the queue to be thickly themed, particularly for a "C-ticket" attraction, which I would agree is about where this ride is at.

    I can definitely see how after putting in that much time and effort, to have some one who DIDN'T EVEN PAY TO RIDE IT (and probably won't) come in and crap all over the work... well, that WOULD be frustrating. There is a big difference between the tone of an article with feedback and one that is just bitching for the sake of itself.  Not to say that annual passes are free, but its a new addition to the park, so it does nothing but enhance the value of your pass as a new experience.  Then there's those on here who don't think it enhances value if it isn't the experience THEY wanted, or they would have chosen.

    And let's remember... Annual Passholders and the cast DO come in for free, get a shorter line preview of the ride, and for Disney's efforts to give those people a more pleasant experience the thanks they get are complaints.

    I take some small comfort by reading the comments here and realizing that there are so many flawed rationales for why it should be OK to nitpick new attractions to death that at least I know that average, normal, rationale, sane person can still enjoy the experiences the Disney parks have to offer.  Comparing a new ride attaction to a drug protocol... that's a PERFECT comparison. One is art, the other science. What could be a more analogous scenario?  

    Oh wait... how about comparing it to a WALK that the person doesn't bother to complete.  Here's a more appropriate analogy C33: "Hey, you ran that marathon, but you stumbled 24 miles in and lost your stride for a bit. Wow, you suck at marathon running." (You may as well add: "... Of course, I don't run marathons, I prefer to watch those who do and then point and laugh at their failures. I could never do something so challenging myself, though. Who has time to create when I can sit here at my desk and bash away.")

    They've been saying for YEARS "Eventually the general public will notice." And yet Disney continues to break attendance records. Hmm.

    And THIS: "Disney needs to realize where their bread is buttered. Annual Passholders and DVC members come to Disney far more often and spend far more money  (over time) than the once-in-a-lifetime guest and should be treated accordingly . When the economy slows down who do you think will continue to come down and hand their money over to the mouse? It certainly won't be the $5000 trip of a lifetime guests.... it'll be the loyal APs and DVC members. The same thing happened after 9/11 when they couldn't give rooms away. The APs and DVC members still came to the parks and still spent money."

    No, the APs and cast are not the bread or the butter. THe families who have saved gagilions of dollars to travel to FL and brought 3 kids and each has a suitcase just for souvenirs is exactly where the bread is buttered, and where Imagineering's attention should lie. (And does anyone here REALLY think they know the demographics of who visits Disney BETTER than the Imagineers? Who do you think those people in the Disney Research shirts give their data to?   And who will be the ones filling in? Well, if in these harder times you're thinking the locals will ALSO continue to come and drop loads of cash, perhaps you're a bit out of touch.  The people who will continue to come, and who are here in droves currently: internationals. A weak dollar makes for a much cheaper trip for those from overseas and there seem to be plenty of folks taking advantage of it.

    "Scrooge McDuck said:

    To Jim's Imagineer friend...

    Those "foamers" help pay your salary, so get back to work, and do the job right the first time, and quit bitching about it anonymously on some fan sight.

    So much for professionalism.  "

    To internet poster incensed because someone called you out on being an obsessive overly critical internet forum poster (and it struck a little to close to home for your liking):

    "I pay your salary." Yea, like he's a public service. I'm sure if he could give you the $0.0004 of his salary that *YOUR* contribution into the Disney communal money pool back, he would. Sounds like he's saying he can live without the several hundred "regulars" who come in, pee on the toilet seats, and then leave.  

    Yea, YOU are a real voice of reason. Get the job right the first time? Yes, clearly very reasonable expectations. The ride opens to get feedback and address issues, but there shouldn't be any, it should be perfect right from the first time the green "Go" button is pushed, right?

    And criticizing someone else for posting anonymously? Unless your parents have an odd sense of humor, I believe you have just called the kettle "black."

    So much for not being a "foamer."

  • Why doesn't Disney/WDI take a play from Apple's playbook and not say anything about an attraction until it is finished?

  • You are always going to have complaints/criticisms regarding the asthetics of a given ride or attraction.  You cannot please everyone all the time.  Anyone in a creative field knows this.  If a ride breaks down however, that is a different story.  In that instance, you are REALLY going to aggravate that family that has travelled 1500 miles only to be turned away.  They're not concerned about the color of the bricks.  I hope Disney is not rushing the opening TSM.

  •  jmelrose said:

    "And let's remember... Annual Passholders and the cast DO come in for free ... "

    Huh ... free? I wonder where that $450 I've been sending them every year is going then? Free ... who knew???

  • I've always been stuck in a rut on the side to choose.

    Some people seem to be stuck in about 1964.  If Walt didn't put his personal touch into absolutely everything, they'll hate it.  Whenever a scandal comes about with the Disney Channel stars (or even former Disney stars), they're the first ones to say that this kind of thing NEVER happened with the people under contract with Disney back in the days of Walt, apparently forgetting that those people weren't always that perfect either -- they always quickly forget about such things as a certain Mousketeer that was a Playboy centerfold.   These people, you wonder why they even buy any new Disney product or go to the parks anymore -- the times have changed, but they're not willing to change with it.  Although, on one hand, they can have a point at times -- sometimes the old ways were great.  But, I think that the new leadership of Disney realizes that, so we shouldn't really complain too much, should we? We should just sit back for a while and see the improvements slowly come over time.

    This guy from WDI does have a point.   They are looking at the once-in-a-lifetime visitor.   They're the ones that are giving them the big bucks -- while some APers may eventually provide more cash than the once-in-a-lifetimers, I doubt they're the majority.   When you go to WDW once, you can easily spend a few thousand to not only buy all the mementos of that trip, but to also buy something for absolutely everybody back home that couldn't come.

    The general public is much more easily pleased because they aren't seeing these every day.   Now, if something really goes wrong, they'll complain.   But, Disney does a great job of making the experiences so unique to them.

    Walt once said that he doesn't make things for the critics, he makes them for the people.   In these days, the critic has just changed formats, going from the newspaper critic to just about every APer around.

    On the other hand, they shouldn't be ignored completely.   Some complaints are valid and, if they listen, they might see that maybe it *will* help.   But, there's probably a reason why they can't always fix it to make it perfect enough.   Whether it's Stitch's Great Escape, whose show format will ALWAYS be difficult to please everybody, or just the budgetary restrictions.

    Choices always have to be made.  Not everything will come out perfect.   Nothing can ever be the best.   You always have to settle for second best in order to have room to improve.

    There will always be problems with new attractions.   And they will be solved one by one in the order of urgent needs.   If there's a choice between some acoustics (which sound like they might actually add to the theming) or an animatronic that functions at 100% all the time, I'd go for the animatronic first.  Things may be noisy, but if something major is broken, we can trust the general public to say something.  Sometimes.

    Although, the general public overall is just a lot easier to please.  After all, these are the ones that usually will call the attraction by everything but what they're reading...   and we all know that many won't even remember any specifics about 90% of the attraction if we're lucky.

    There needs to be balance.   But, the fans need to learn what's valid complaint and what's not.   If a lot of trash is visible on an attraction, make it known to those that can make a difference -- the cast members.   If a CM isn't up to code, city hall can help.   Complaining to the Internet won't do much good.  When done in some sort of official manner (and when you don't make it look like you're just complaining about absolutely everything), I'm sure it's at least a step in the right direction.

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