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P. 391: Mickey's Toontown reimagining announced for 2023!

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And here is the letter from Tony Baxter about his role change at the company. This was mentioned yesterday, but this is the official word (and its LONG):

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW IMAGINEERS

 

Decades ago, Imagineering had the bold notion to start the 21st century 18 years early by unveiling the "future" at Epcot in 1982. This positive look at tomorrow had a numbing effect on the bleak vistas depicted in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984. As a kid beginning my career at Disneyland in the mid 1960s, both of these "futures" were far off from a universe where Disneyland was the only Disney park, Mr. Lincoln was a state of the art attraction, and everything operated under Walt Disney's guidance.

 

Today, while there is a new set of "futures" to explore, the time has come for me to evolve my role at Walt Disney Imagineering. Beginning this February, I will be transitioning to a position as a part time advisor. While I will not be here on a regular basis, I will continue to be available to any and all of you as needs arise. Though my time will be limited, my passion for the magic WDI creates will be just as strong.

 

Since early last year, I have been thinking about what I would say to all of you when this time arrived. It has been a wondrous 47 years spanning the opening of Walt Disney World to Big Thunder and Star Tours from Epcot's original Journey into Imagination to Disneyland Paris and Indiana Jones. The Imagineers I have known and shared these times with have provided invaluable experiences not to be found anywhere else on earth.

 

As one of the lucky second-generation Imagineers, I had the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the core philosophies of our company. I was fortunate enough to work with Claude Coats, Marc Davis, John Hench and the many others who built this industry alongside Walt Disney. I was able to soak up their wisdom and partner with them on creative projects. I have passed forward many of their key philosophies, and as our culture and scope have evolved, I have tried to balance my support of these foundations, with the business of charting "what's next." Now the 21st century brings a new reality for the first time, the younger generation is master of the key technologies driving the future. While upcoming generations deal with tech tools that are evolving almost daily, many of Disney's keystone philosophies remain stable and relevant. These philosophies help define our creative edge to a world that is eager for aspirational content. With no particular order, here are five that continue to inspire me, and I think you may find useful in shaping "creative futures" for the years to come.

 

Creating Lasting Experiences Legendary Imagineer Marc Davis once said, "We don't really have a story with a beginning, an end or a plot It's more a series of experiences building up to a climax." Guests still want to be astonished, and our best attractions deliver that wow factor with visions and emotions. I always start with the notion that it is the 20th repeat ride, not the first that is the most important. Park experiences are by nature less able to focus on linear stories and tangible feelings than motion pictures. Unlike a movie, what separates an OK attraction from a great one is that people find themselves "in" the great ones. They have been taken to a place they couldn't have imagined without Disney. How intriguingly we craft the level of guest engagement has direct bearing on desire for an umpteenth ride down the same track.

 

In Fantasyland, a simple line of dialogue heralds the beginning of one of the most aspirational ride experiences ever created; "Come on everybody here we go!" After riding Peter Pan, futurist Ray Bradbury was moved to write; "Walt, I'll be eternally grateful that you made it possible for me to sail from a child's window, out over moonlit London in a galleon on its way to the stars!" Despite the fact that by today's standards Peter Pan's technology is dated, its mystique has remained unwavering. The WDI challenge is finding ways to ensure today's more sophisticated experiences have similar intangible qualities that provide groundwork for lasting appeal.

 

Sincerity One of Walt Disney's ways of overcoming what sophisticates tended to see as corny or sentimental was his absolute belief in sincerity. Defending Disney's signature animation style in the movie Cinderella, Walt expressed what is to me a true hallmark of the Disney difference: "You have to believe in the honesty of Cinderella's world, or you will not believe in the magic as it unfolds around her either." The power of sincerity to win over an audience is "front and center" in the new Cars Land. Here, a truly believable environment fuses with the fantastic to give rise to new reality.

 

Valuable Mental Real Estate Awhile back there was talk about the elusive "Disney Difference." What the "difference" is may be open to various interpretations, but I see it centered on cultivating "Valuable Mental Real Estate." Since the early days at the studio, Disney has excelled in focusing diverse talents on plussing core ideas. Enhanced value stems from something as simple as the emotional appeal of Epcot's Figment character in comparison to hundreds of other generic dragons. When the whole team undertakes a mission to make "our dragon" stand out in every way, mental real estate values go up.

 

At Imagineering, where we must deal with equal parts of controlled insanity and disciplined evaluation, this can be complicated. Years ago, who else could have come up with the crazy idea for Flying Saucers and then make the concept work! (Sort of). Piloting flying saucers is every kid's dream, and in spite of the ride's technical shortcomings, people will forever recall the Flying Saucers as an E ticket. This rides aspirational, "bucket list", once-in-a-lifetime intrigue, more than made up for any less than stellar performance.

 

Disney Hallmark Values Current culture and the structure of our company are vastly different from the time when I began my career. Yet within that dynamic, hallmark values continue to add major appeal to today's more socially sensitive content. Disney's feature Beauty and the Beast shared many hallmarks with its ancestor Snow White, but it spoke to a vastly different audience with a finer tuned voice. Likewise, the more recent Tangled fuses traditional Disney values with relevancy aimed at a new generation.

 

Beyond the WDI walls, Pixar and Marvel achieve a consistency of success in their fast paced arenas. Each Pixar team is confident enough in their individual productions to freely reach out and tap into links that insure Pixar's hallmark differentiators are a part of every project. Marvel has taken a different route, tasking individual creative teams to bridge their storylines under an overarching and epic saga. Regardless of the diversity of deliverables, hallmark values are key to all Disney entities, and everyone needs to be alert to where they reside, and how and why to fuse them to the DNA of a project.

 

Mentoring At both ends of a career one of the most important working relationships is achieved through mentoring. When you are in your 20s and 30s it critical to find a mentor you can admire and trust. What proved most valuable for me was a mentoring partnership that skipped a full generation. A wide age gap creates a cross-generational opportunity for two-way learning. A young mentee sees a mentor's still bright light as support for his or her own growing visibility, and the gap vanquishes the sense of competition. In a complementary way, a mentor's satisfaction is fueled by the growing knowledge and skills transferred to their younger partner. My mentor was Imagineering legend Claude Coats, nearly four decades my senior. For Pixar director Pete Docter, his mentors were animation giants Joe Grant and Ollie Johnson. Pete and I absorbed as much knowledge as we possibly could during a period of growth in our careers. I would like to think our esteemed mentors also drew inspiration from our curiosity and unexplored visions!

 

A mentorship is not a few hours of counseling every so often; it is pulling together on real projects, with business/creative goals and knowledge gains to be made by both sides. This is the partnership I had with Claude Coats, and we remained lifetime friends because of our shared working time together.

 

Going Forward No company is perfect, and like any other corporation Disney has its own politics and challenges. We are artists, engineers, managers, filmmakers and musicians. But our company is unique; there is no place like it on earth. We are lucky. At the end of the day, it is my hope that this letter will add to the special culture that I have been privileged to grow in. I see the probability for that happening in my interactions with younger Imagineers like Michel, Josh, Zach, Dylan, Laura, Manuel, Vanessa and Brandon, which are beyond rewarding to me. At a time when "unlearning" is as critical as "learning," it's important to listen to the way these people think and enjoy the things they do. Creativity I have mined from their game-changing perspectives, now effectively influences my own design process. I hope that when their careers peak some decades from now, they will look back on our time together as I value the time I was able to spend with Claude Coats.

 

And now it comes down to the point at hand. I am not suggesting that I could be a mentor to you all, but that said, you should all have someone you can turn to in this manner. I do hope to be available to help support your ideas, give advice or even join a team whenever appropriate. My role will be one of supporting your visions in the best way I can, and encouraging you to maintain and build upon this already special place. I will have availability, and if you would like my assistance in any way, please e-mail Bruce Vaughn's office to request my time.

 

This is not a goodbye, but hopefully a letter of introduction to the many of you that I have not yet had the chance to meet personally

 

Tony Baxter

 

Feb. 1, 2013

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Regarding the AP price increase, I agree with others in the sentiment that if you don't like it, don't buy it. I hear Knott's is doing lots of things to encourage disgruntled Fanboys to transfer their loyalty, so go there.

 

I pay for the lowest end pass (I'm in that grey area where AP people think I'm cheap and online people think I'm a fanboy), and I think it's totally worth it. I wouldn't go on the blackout days anyway because I work weekends, and I don't like massively packed parks. So thats that.

 

There are two parks, which is double that of any other local theme park. So you can look at it as if you are paying $134.50 per park. That's not unreasonably higher than the other parks prices compared to what you are getting.

 

This year, Disneyland has really went over the top with their AP offerings so far. Last month they had the whole Frontierland thing for passholders, this month they are doing the 2 extended hours every Thursday at DCA. Something new is promised every month and I think that's very cool. It seems like they are trying to fill the calendar with AP events so we are a) encouraged to visit more often, and b) visit on days that have lower guest volume. I particularly enjoy the fact that you have to arrive at Noon for a better chance at getting a wristband for the extended hours. It encourages visiting the park for the whole day instead of hanging out looking for things to complain about for a few hours. Brilliant.

 

We get discounts at Disney hotels, usually around 20% Universal? Knotts? Six Flags? Hello?

 

You get a gift at the end of the year. How nice.

 

Disneyland is an upscale experience. They offer things that other parks don't or cant. I pay $134.50 per park, the equivalent of less than 2 single day tickets each. Where is there room for complaining?

 

Chris "I would pay $269 for a Splash Mountain AP" DeRosa

Edited by WFChris
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Kinda piggybacking one what the last two posts said, the whole AP argument comes down to, is it worth it to you. If Disney eventually prices the AP too high for you to find value, they always have other ticket options available to you that will accommodate what you are looking for. For me, I always get the Premium AP and have never felt like it wasn't worth is. I go 6-8 times per year, but I go for multiple days, I drive so I need to park, and I buy food and merch; so everything makes it feel justified in the end. This year, I plan to go to WDW for 5 days in November, since that ticket would cost me $350(for park hopper), and the Premier passport is only 200 more than a DL Premium, I plan to just get that instead. Some would say $850 is insane, but I find the value in it so I'm willing to spend the money.

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Disneyland is expensive, but it's been that way for a long time. However, when compared to the price of admission tickets, the passes aren't a bad value. If I remember correctly, the cheapest pass has usually been around three times the price of a one day, one park ticket, and even at the current prices they are still fairly close ($87x3=$261 vs $269 for the So Cal Select pass). Even with the most expensive pass, you only need 8 visits for it to be a good value. If you visit both parks and factor in the parking charge, that drops to only five visits. Yes, you can buy a passes to SFMM, Knott's, Universal, and SeaWorld for the price of a pass to Disneyland, but none of those are as good of a park as Disneyland is, and at least half of those have more overpriced admission tickets than Disneyland does.

 

Personally, I'm of the opinion that if someone complains about the price of something, they don't feel it's worth what they are spending. In this case, they shouldn't spend the money. If people don't like the price of a pass, they should downgrade or just not buy one and visit once or twice a year instead. Maybe the parks would be better off without hordes of people who use them simply as a place to hang out regularly after school or work (I seriously don't understand how people can go 4-5 times a week and not get sick of the place...I would never visit more than twice a month) and don't complain about such trivial things as a single burnt out lightbulb on Main Street (I've actually heard that while visiting...I sometimes have to wonder how some of the fanboys can even enjoy the parks at all).

 

As for me, I'm an intermittent passholder dependent not on price but on my school schedule. I got a pass in Fall 2011 (the So Cal Select) since I only had class three days per week. I chose not to renew when my pass expired last October because I now have class five days per week and I'd rather take one day (or maybe two) off school during the year, buy a park hopper ticket and visit for a full day when the crowds are low than pay for the next level pass and visit on crowded Sundays. I've still got passes to Knott's and SFMM so I can use those if I'm craving a park visit (mainly Knott's since SFMM is over 90 minutes away and I'm good with only a couple visits to that park per year).

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Yeah the "OMG AP's EXPENSIVE!!!" argument is completely shut down when you compare it to other year-round ticket options. Try finding decent Dodger season tickets, Laker season tickets, theatre tickets, concert tickets, etc etc for the same price as these "incredibly expensive" Disneyland AP's, including the Premium. If that's too expensive, or doesn't seem like a good enough value, don't buy it.

 

What really smokes my salmon is when I hear complaints about how expensive Disneyland is, and then these same people complaining are going to the movies every week, buying a $6 Starbucks every day, spending $12/day on their lunch at work after drinking the Starbucks, buying the new release Blu-ray movie the day it comes out when it's the most expensive, etc. Do they not realize how much those habits add up?

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"Lady and the Tramp" Screening for Annual Passholders

February 13 - 17, 2013

Limited Time Magic

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Annual Passholders can enjoy the Disney Classic "Lady and the Tramp" in the Main Street Opera House. The film will be shown twice daily at 5:00pm and 7:00pm. Passholders can reserve their seat starting at 11:30am each day and must do so in person.

 

Link

 

I like this Limited Time Magic...get all the AP's to sit in the Main Street Opera House for 87 minutes while everybody else can enjoy the park. Brilliant!

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racism at Disney?

 

General Resort News - (2/9/13) Strange things are going on at Disneyland this week, with not just one, but now two families who have come forward (both have the same attorney however) with claims of racism at Disneyland... from different Disney Costumed Characters. In both cases, the families claim that their child’s attempts for attention were ignored by different costumed characters (Donald or The White Rabbit) in the park, who would then go pay attention to other children. (read more)

http://www.screamscape.com/html/disneyland_resort.htm#General

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That is going to be very hard to prove. There are so many things that the characters are taught to do in different situations. If kids are wild and jumping around, the characters tend to step back or ignore them. If they weren't in line, they will get ignored. Plus, until we hear or see and real information it doesn't matter. It's going to be really really tough for them to prove he is racist, just because he ignored some kids.

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This isn't a restaurant.

 

No "15 minute late allowance" here.

 

Face it. It's Disney.

 

Wonder how poor DLParis is going

to work out with enforcing it?

 

And don't any and all TPR Tours start

with Rule #1 - Do Not Be Late - Ever...?

 

Just a thought on it.

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We have found that if you take the day at a more leisurely pace, making the FP window is not difficult. If you decide when the window comes up that you don't want to walk across the entire park, then you just don't ride the attraction that day. Remember, this is all designed to make the stay more pleasant for the visiting traveler, not the over-zealous 'I need to ride everything and wait in no lines' AP holder.

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^ It also potentially keeps people at the park where their Fastpass originated from. If you get a Racers Fastpass and think you can return whenever you feel like it, you could hop over to Disneyland for the whole day and just go back to DCA at night.

 

I'm glad they are enforcing the rules.

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:

 

Wonder how poor DLParis is going

to work out with enforcing it?

 

 

French farmers are probably burning tires in protest.

 

As for the Japanese, if they're as much as one second late for their Fast Pass window, they're probably bowing and apologizing to each other as part of some elaborate ritual.

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I'm actually happy that the FastPass return windows are now starting to be enforced. Last visit, we got FastPasses for Space Mountain and when we came back later to ride (before the fireworks), we found that the line stretched all the way to the ride's entrance sign. Granted, it only took us 30 minutes to get through it (as opposed to the 60-minute stand-by), but even so I imagine that those waiting in the stand-by line weren't happy).

 

If enforcing the return times means that situations like that will be decreased, I'm all for it.

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Even though I took advantage of the loopholes in the system on occasion (usually when I happened to be in the other park during my return time), I'm glad that the park is enforcing return times as the system was originally designed. I've run into too many situations at the parks where the Fastpass line was overflowing due to people returning outside their window, forcing the standby line to come to a near standstill. It's not difficult to make it back at some point in the window, and if you know you won't be able to do so, don't get a Fastpass. This might also reduce park hopping as well and keep crowds more stable during the day, as unless your return time isn't for several hours switching parks is probably more hassle than it's worth.

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I think the only exception (other than the ride breaking down) that they could add to FastPass return times would be if you eat IN the park at a SIT DOWN restaurant. Then the restaurant could 'validate' your fastpass almost like how parking works at some places! That would be a cool perk!

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