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The Happiest Place on Earth?

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Joined: 29 Feb 2008
Posts: 31
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:49 am    Post subject: The Happiest Place on Earth? Reply with quote

I had the pleasure of spending a Monday at Disneyland yesterday (Magic Kingdom) with my girlfriend and while braving the spring break rush amongst the long lines of Space Mountain she made a comment that hasn't left my mind and I wanted to run it by those of you on this forum and get your thoughts.

A brief backstory:
Back in January, she and I visited Florida for a family wedding and took a 2-day detour to Orlando. In those two days we visited Animal Kingdom and Islands of Adventure. I could go on and on about sheer beauty of Animal Kingdom and the amazing ride that is Expedition Everest, but instead let me just say was the low-season, staff was extremely friendly, not too hot, not too all around enjoyable day.

Now to the point of this topic. While in line, she remarked, "Is it just me or do the people in this park (guests AND cast members) seem less friendly than in Orlando?"

The obvious answer was no, it's just busy, it's spring break, and the hot sun beat down on us under the lack-luster shade-screens in the Space Mountain queue. Or...was it?

I've always been the first to defend the charm and indistinguishable "magic" factor that is the original theme park of theme parks -- but is there something to be said about the park itself? Was it the guest experience or the guests themselves?

I couldn't help but notice a man practically scream at a CM as he exited the FINDING NEMO Subs berating this sole employee for the faulty layout of the lines formation. Or the guest seated to my right who so flagrantly reveled in the sheer depression and lack of enthusiasm of the ride operator on Star Tours.

Is the word of It's A Small World's debauchery sending ill-will throughout the park? I suppose the question I'm wondering is this: Why did the purported HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH feel...well, not so happy?
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having worked at both Disneyland in the early 90's and the Magic Kingdom in the late 1990's and early 2000's, I feel qualified to comment:

There is a different corporate culture at Disneyland compared to the Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland is more in tune with Walt's traditions. Walt actually lived and worked there and hence, more of the park has been touched by Walt. They take a greater care to emphasize good show and bad show, Walt's traditions. It's an older park and hence, it has deeper rooted traditions. Many of the Disney executives grew up working in the park and now they're upper management. Furthermore, at Disneyland, the location is closer to Glendale and the Disney HQ so there are closer ties to corporate. Also remember that the California personality is different than Florida. Southern California is a more fast paced lifestyle, and people tend to talk faster, drive longer and have less patience with people. But on the other hand, they tend to be more detail oriented. WDI headquarters is closer and so there are closer ties with WDI execs and Disneyland. Demographically, the guests in the park differ too: At DL, the guest are primarily 1) Locals from the Los Angeles / San Diego area 2) Americans from west of the Rockies and Texas. 3) Mexicans, Peruvians and Venezuelans, 4) Japanese tourists.

In Florida the park is more laid back. The rules are relaxed. Show quality is not emphasized like it is in California. There's more park in Florida and so less of it is "hallowed ground" as it were. At Disneyland, every inch is cared for because there is less to take care of. At WDW there are 50,000 employees as opposed to 10,000. Because nobody grew up in Florida (as opposed to California) the culture is much more transient. Remember that nothing existed in central Florida prior to 1971. So there is less tradition and more people cycle in and out. Demographically, the guests are primarily 1) Florida residents and not primarily from Orlando, 2) English tourists, 3) American tourists from the midwest, northeast, south, and Canada 4) Brazilians.

So there are definitely some differences in the culture. And of course, remember that the capacity of Disneyland is much higher than Animal Kingdom or Islands of Adventure. These are rough numbers, but the capacity of Disneyland is almost 80,000 where it's more like 15,000 at IOA. At typical heavy summer day at Disneyland will be 40,000 - 55,000 guests.

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Joined: 03 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never worked at DL, but i have visited several times.. and i must say, my impressions were similar.

From what i've gathered from online communities, blogs, and seeing people there in person - many "fans" of DL see it as a hangout, much like a local mall. They have their APs and they show up frequently.

There are people sitting at tables doing crafts at the bengal BBQ rather then eating or even purchasing food. Many folks go just to see the latest band at the Tomorrowland stage. They hang out there - and i think with that comes a sort of lack of respect or over familiarity with the place. A sort of laxed mindset toward the rules and their behavior - case in point, it's easy to find DL fan groups talking about smoking pot in the Haunted Mansion, but say the same thing on a Walt Disney World fan board and you'll be quickly berated.

Why? Because most WDW guests are tourists, as Nate mentioned. They pay a large chunk of change to goto a place they feel is safe and worth the money. No misbehaving allowed.
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