Dear Mr. Disney, I am writing this letter to address concerns I have with the state of operations for the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida. I’m not the type of person who usually takes the time to execute letters such as this, but I am compelled by deep-seated thoughts and feelings on the matter at hand. I realize you are a busy man Mr. Disney however I hope that you will entertain my issuance as I feel I have something very important to say.
I am 33 years old, born and raised in North Carolina. I am a rabid Disney World fan. I have been to WDW seven times: 1974, 1977, 1983, 1986, 1991, 1996 (Honeymoon) and 2001 (Anniversary) from the age of 5 forward. Though it seems cliché to say, my experiences at Walt Disney World really have revolved around one central concept… Magic. I can remember very vividly the awe I felt even at a young age taking my first monorail ride, seeing Cinderella’s castle, and riding through the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even at a young age, it was obvious to me that WDW was more than just a fun park…. It was a place of pure excitement and magic itself. As I grew older and was able to explore the parks with more fervor, I discovered more and more about the entire property that enthralled and inspired me. Everything seemed perfect, because everything was, at least to me. My perception was that this was the most perfect place on earth and never ceased to live up to that perception indeed expectation in my later years. I was to forgo many offered opportunities from my parents when an event arrived that warranted a celebration, all to ask for another chance to visit Disney World. My High School graduation gift was a trip to Disney with a good friend of mine in 1986. My Honeymoon was spent with my beautiful wife Barbara 10 years later at the Caribbean Beach Resort. This was her first trip ever to Disney and she was as struck with the experience as I ever was. We returned again in 2001 for our 5-year anniversary less than a month after the September 11th terrorist attacks. My wife and I could easily have changed our plans but we felt there was no better way to celebrate all that is America than celebrate our love on Main Street, USA. I tell you all this Mr. Disney because it is important for you to understand that WDW is not just a resort to me, it is a major part of my life. It makes up a part of me that would not exist if not for the inspiration and knowledge that I gained from my experiences there.
My most recent visit as well as information shared from other Disney fanatics has given me pause however. It seems that at some point in the early 1990s, a change started to take place at WDW. I am not referring to the expected changes: new resorts, added attractions, new services, etc. I am referring to the changes that I would not have expected the Disney management to even consider, let alone implement as they run contradictory to the basis on which WDW was founded. I understand that financial issues can dictate decisions in business. I also understand that changes must be made at WDW in order to meet new fiscal ideas and give direction to future success. I have no contention with these ideals and in fact I encourage and support them. However, there comes a time when we as a people have to draw a line at what makes sense for a business and what weakens the very foundation on which that business was built. Say what you will, but money did not build Walt Disney World. Sheer determination of will coupled with imagination is what made WDW possible. All the money in the world cannot alone create a vision. A vision alone cannot materialize if not executed with the will to make it happen. Both of these traits existed in the great human being that is Walt Disney. If either of these traits is not given full commitment, then the foundation begins to crack and crumble. I fear that recent decisions between yourself and your colleagues are allowing that foundation to loose its solid stand.
I would like to address three main areas concerning the changes that I have alluded to. They deal with the most basic of elements required to maintain a solid Disney foundation. These are: Consistency, Innovation and Imagination.
Disney has always been, until recently, a pillar of consistent thought and execution. The idea that every single element in WDW is interconnected was apparent even from their initial conception. Examples of this include: Resorts are themed not only to be independent experiences in themselves, but also as a visual mark within the overall make up of the Disney property. Especially in relation to other elements (e.g. The Contemporary as a visual backdrop to Tommorrowland).Cast Member hiring and training proceduresCleanliness in parks, resorts, natural grounds and Cast Member appearanceHigh level of maintenance and upkeep for all areas of WDW There are many recent issues that concern and disturb me that reflect a lack of consistency among elements at WDW. Some of these issues go back to those very basic “opening day” ideals. Aging parks demand a more direct and aggressive maintenance and upkeep plan. This is an area that I feel Disney is allowing to drop well below previous standards. Cracked and chipped boards, faded and peeling paint, signposts and display signs in disrepair are just a few of many examples of poor maintenance that I and others have recently witnessed at WDW parks and facilities. In Cinderella’s animated world, just as the Magic Kingdom should bare witness, everything is perfect. There are no broken boards, no peeling paint or faded colors, no signposts with letters missing. Everything is perfect. I remember a perfect Magic Kingdom when I was younger. It can be that way again, but it will take a concerted effort on the part of everyone at WDW. With the resources at your disposal Mr. Disney, there is simply no excuse for the appalling conditions I have witnessed at WDW as of late. Again it seems so cliché to say but would Walt have expected things this way? I don’t believe he would and neither do the thousands of visitors to WDW every day.
One of the greatest ideals that founded the parks was the idea of established “attractions” that entertain, delight and educate all at the same time. These ideas had to be consistent within basic concepts. Those concepts included the use of fanciful colors, imaginary sounds and historical references. Originally, there was a predisposition among Disney planners to create entertainment that met these basic ideals inherent in “attractions” regardless of whether the ideals were tied to a marketable product or not. Don’t misunderstand me, marketing tied to an attraction is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it should not be the primary factor in deciding what an “attraction” is based upon. And it should never, NEVER be grounds to remove an existing “attraction” that continues to entertain, delight and educate thousands of people to this very day. Moreover, these “attractions” have worked themselves into the very psyche and hearts of those thousands of people and have become a part of who they are. When you destroy that “attraction”, you destroy a part of those persons… and all for the sake of profit. It may surprise you to learn that you have actually hurt your profit in some of these cases. I personally know people who visit WDW for the sole purpose of experiencing a single “attraction” and refuse to go back because they cannot face the idea that a part of them is no longer there.
The layout of the WDW parks and resorts was not by chance as you know. There were very specific reasons behind the location of practically every single building, attraction, walkway, etc. in WDW. Of late, very questionable choices have been made on where to locate resorts and rides. For example, the Polynesian Resort was placed in its location based on its visual proximity to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom, just as the Contemporary relates its position to Tomorrowland. This important “atmosphere” element was completely ignored when the Enormous albeit beautiful Grand Floridian Resort was erected on the same side of the lagoon along side the Polynesian. As wonderful as the Floridian is, it doesn’t belong there. Obviously it cannot be relocated so another solution should be considered to lower it’s visual impact from other resorts, though not necessarily from other vantage points. Rides and attractions seem to be wedged into areas where they do not belong as well. The recent addition of the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride in Adventureland is a poor rework of an already beautifully themed section of the Magic Kingdom. The misguided decision to “re-theme” the small area of Adventureland into a Middle-Eastern theme appears to be a half-hearted attempt to justify the carpet rides placement. Fantasyland is a far better location in which to place such a themed ride. Adventureland – Safari Boats, Pirate Ships, Jungle Drums…. Fantasyland – Calliopes, Flying Ships, Flying Elephants, Flying Carpets…get it? All of these issues show a lack of consistency within the planning for WDW. Many of these issues can be corrected. It will take a strong, determined will and imagination to make these changes a reality however.
WDW was regarded for many years as the premier location for innovative ideas in both entertainment and practical use of technology in several areas, transportation, audio, visual effects and crowd management among others. Recent years have shown an attitude from your colleagues that indicates a greater desire to “fight fire with fire” than to maintain the course of original thought in all aspects of development. I am an avid theme park enthusiast and member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts organization. My experience at multiple theme parks throughout America has made me aware of a very specific distinction of character between the “thrill park” and “Disney Theme Parks”. Let me assure you Mr. Disney, the idea that WDW can even begin to compete in the “thrill park” arena with other world class “coaster” parks is absurd. Walt Disney World was the unique genesis on which most modern day “coaster” parks were founded. However, they do it better Mr. Disney. They are doing it better than WDW ever could right down the street in Orlando. I beg you to take a moment and consider the basic innovative elements that built WDW. Take any pre-1990 attraction, from any one of your parks and think about its conception and execution. I think you will find that you can repeatedly label them as “one of a kind” or “first of it’s kind” and often both. People go to WDW for entertainment yes, but they also go because no other resort can offer the original and unique attractions that the Disney name is known for. Nothing feels like walking through a WDW theme park partly because you know you are surrounded with genius innovation. You can chase the “thrill park” golden carrot all you choose but you will NEVER achieve it, because that is not Disney World. Do what you do best Mr. Disney and do it better than anybody else can and Disney will once again reign as the supreme “theme park” destination. A 100% refocus on the basic ideals upon which the Disney parks were founded would lead to you leaving all other parks in the proverbial dust.
“Imagination….Imagination. A dream can be a dream come true, with that little spark…in me and you!” Could it be said any better? I don’t think so and yet, ironically, the attraction is removed. Everything that WDW is can all be culminated into one distinct word…. Imagination. After all, where does any original concept begin if not in the imagination? The last specific thing I would like to address with you is the ability of the WDW parks to allow one to exist in another place… an imaginary place. The trick is not to recreate a reality to its nth degree, it is to take a real concept or idea and present it in a new or innovative way born from pure creativity. Disney’s very essence comes from its imaginative use of subject, character and place. Isn’t that what Disney movies are all about? When I visit WDW, I am compelled to imagine myself in a different place where anything and everything is possible if you only put your mind to it. It is a physical, tangible representation of these possibilities. Each attraction takes you into another world of ideas filled with possibilities. Each resort lets you imagine that you are “there” and offers the magical “World” of so many new things to discover. It is the idea of suspending your disbelief in order to bring you to a level of personal inspiration. When I walk into a Disney store in the Magic Kingdom today, I can buy a sweatshirt with Mickey Mouse splashed across the front with “Walt Disney World” in bold colors. It’s nice, but imaginative? Hardly. Anybody can make a plastic backscratcher and print “Walt Disney World” on it, but Disney goes one better and makes the backscratcher shaped like Mickey with his arms raised and the ends of his fingers turned to be the scratching part. THAT, is Disney imagineering. By the way, I don’t believe I can buy such a product any longer, though they did exist at one time… I have one, purchased on Main Street USA.
Mr. Disney, I implore you to take some time to re-evaluate your company’s approach and direction to the Walt Disney World resort. I know that I speak for many, many people when I say that all of the things that I have discussed are of vital importance to each one of us. I have full faith in Disney’s ability to recapture the soul of what the Disney World Theme Parks were, are and will be. Remember… it all began with a mouse. An innovative, imaginative….Magical little mouse. Let it be so that it never ends.
Thank you very warmly,
Alan J. Martin
*** This post was edited by AMartin777 on 11/4/2002. ***
*** This post was edited by AMartin777 on 11/4/2002. ***
"Getting on Iron Wolf is kind of like going in a blender and pressing PUREE"
Im sorry, but these are my thoughts:
1) It seems a little picky. I mean, of course we like to see parks in perfect condition, but with one corperation managing at least a dozen parks, its hard to do. You have to remember that. Also, you need to remember that there are only so many hours between the park closing and the park opening. This is when all the maintenance goes on. Some things they cant get to, and then other things take priority, like doing safety checks on the rides.
2) When you send this, dont forget to use paragraphs. It hurt my eyes to read it.
Roy might be more inclined to read this if it were broken into paragraphs...
Anyway, I don't think Roy has much to do with the operation of the park... Michael Eisner is the guy you want... and the clock is ticking on his "year"
Nice shot with "Imagination"... you could throw Horizions in there too (the attraction that embodied FUTURE World)
Dorney Park visits in 2002: 19
I don't agress with the assessment of the retheme of the corner of adventureland. It's always been movie exotica of nowhere in particular. Why not a middle easten bazaar.
The ride, though fun, is replicated twice in the Magic Kingdom (Dumbo and the Rockets). The X factor (the water), is stolen from that park down the way.
I agree with several of the topics brough up. SOBTom, yes they do have several other parks, but they hire people accordingly and they are all run kind of "seperately" yet still under Disney guidance, touch up paint should not be effected by that.
The "not enough scream machines at Disney" topic has been brought up again, and I got to say that if that is what's coming, I don't want to see it. As much as I love a good coaster ride, my family is very mellow and gets easily motion sick, if Disney turns to coasters to bring in guests, that's pretty much losing the "imagination" once again. (Any park can go and build a coaster if they have the money, but not every park can take that same wad of money and turn it into a jaw dropping phenomenon of a dark ride such as Pirates of the Caribbean that you have enjoyed since the 70's)
I never saw the park before the Grand Floridian but I got to say that I can't see that resort anywhere else. Yes it may not fit in with the park, but it's location on the water is like an escape from the park right next door, and like you said, it is a gorgeous resort.
Touching back on the thrill ride topic...I would love to see some thrill rides there, don't get me wrong, I just want to see them like they've been coming, Tower of Terror and Rock'n Rollercoaster are ordinary rides that Disney put an extraordinary twist on, without the twist, the ride is mediocre.
Anything I didn't touch on, I agree with, and quite frankly, if I had the urge to write a letter to Disney, I don't know what I'd say or how I'd say it so I have a great respect for the effort you put into this, send it and see what happens, I'm sure the outcome won't be negative.
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I do realise this, but the money still goes to the Disney name. Therefor, ONE company is buying new rides, spare parts, and touch up paint for all parks. Now I do realise that the Disney name rakes in the funds, but they also dish out a lot of money for enthusiasts like us. Rides arent cheap, and to try to keep a steady flow of up to date, family attractions going into these separate parks, it probabily eats up a lot of money. I was just stating that sometimes funds can run thin with this type of management structure (look at the Six Flags line). Now a smarter way would to have separate bank accounts for each park. This may be the way they do it, and if they do, please disregard any statements made about money management. This way, the parks could buy their own touch up paint and rides, and probabily have a surplus afterwards.
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"The fish are eating the guest, sir
*** This post was edited by Dukeis#1 on 11/5/2002. ***
Well, you are addressing this letter to the wrong person. Michael Eisner is calling the shots, ultimately, for the company. While Roy is an influential person withing the Animation division, he has little influence over the parks and other aspects of the company.
I don't disagree with the sentiments of the letter but I would be surprised if someone would read it all the way through. Get to the point, eliminate the personal history, and it might be taken seriously.
Very well written, except for the long paragraphs. You could easily break those long paragraphs into smaller ones without re-writing them.
Good luck. Maybe you can get through to them.
But seriously folks, I respect the opinions of yall who don't like the thing, but if MF were human, I'd marry it.
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