Baffling budgets, armchair Imagineering, executive shuffles, blocked toilets and website upgrades are the random focal points of This Week in Hong Kong Disneyland.
Krrrkt. Krrrkt. What's that? The sound of crickets? A lucky symbol perhaps, but also a sign of very quiet days in the news department. With Mickey's Summer Blast in full gear, both Hong Kong Disneyland and HKDL Source are in something akin to 'auto-pliot' mode, as we just peruse the news for the week. Mind you, as I type this our toilet is overflowing so who knows what the hell will happen between now and the next post...
This week, the alway informative Al Lutz over at Mice Age let us all know about the exciting upcoming plans and budget approvals for Disney's California Adventure (DCA). Only a few weeks ago we mentioned than an impending meeting of Disney head-honchos would see a possible division of funds between Hong Kong and DCA, or at worst, a choice between the two of them. While the fate of Hong Kong Disneyland in that meeting is less than certain, Lutz does say "While the final budget wasn't the shoot-for-the-stars 1.5 billion plan that John Lasseter encouraged Imagineering (WDI) to dream up, the Board did plunge right in and approve right around one billion dollars in improvements and additions for California Adventure...into early next decade[...]Meanwhile, Lasseter happily keeps the bigwigs focused on Anaheim so they aren't too distracted by the continuing struggles in Hong Kong and Paris". So this begs the question: did the whole kit and kaboodle go to DCA, or does Hong Kong Disneyland get a few scraps out of that too?
With talk of a DCA that will rival Tokyo DisneySea for the "wow" factor by the time it is done, Hong Kong Disneyland devotees are probably wondering when they are going to get their bite of the cherry. While the problems between DCA and HKDL differ - with DCA's being one of theme or a lack thereof, while HKDL has the basic theme just not enough to fill it up - they both share the same failure to capture the mass imagination of their respective markets, and have both caught the bad end of the budget cut stick (I didn't tell you there was a budget cut stick. I believe it it red). Blue Sky Disney maintains that a Downtown Disney could come as early as 2009 and 2010, and the permanent Adventureland expansion/Pirates of the Caribbean/Haunted Mansion not to long after. However, while these are solid and consistent rumours - governmental issues the park has had to deal with notwithstanding - the increased attention on the US parks, specifically Anaheim, makes budgeting for these rides more like a distant rumour. After all, why pour more money into a slow horse when the champion stallion's stablemate has far more to win if it is handled right?
All that said, Hong Kong's "singles and doubles" strategy seems to be a bit of a slow burning winner. 2006 saw the opening of the Autopia attraction, coupled with two smaller attractions of Stitch Enounter and UFO Zone. This year, we saw a more low key opening of a new summer parade and the Animation Academy. Next year, April will see the opening of the major attraction, it's a small world. If the opening of Autopia is any guide, we may see a few smaller satellite attractions - if not rides - opening around the same time. If this pattern follows, we may indeed see some unique attraction open in summer 2009, making us all set for a potentially bigger one in 2010/2011. This would certainly be consistent with the persistent rumours. So it isn't time to start panicking yet, as most insider information seems to agree there are at least big plans for the future. However, there is only so much money to go around and we often wonder how much of that is going to head on down to Hong Kong.
I guess, as with all things, time will tell. Also, I hope you are all impressed that I was able to fill three paragraphs with nothing but idle speculation. Seems like an opportune time for a bit of airchair Imagineering...
The MiceChat forums started a buzz of speculation this week when one user commented on whether a Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough would be a possibility for the park. This was sparked by a comment that Tom Morris, executive creative show producer for the park, made in an interview with Alain Littaye on his Disney and More blog. Morris commented in relation to possible plans in this area: "Not yet, but we reserved space inside of it for future development , once we get an idea and understanding of what people need and want to the park...it can go to merchandise, or to an attraction, or to some sort of interactive attraction , once we get a sense after we opened of what our audience wants to see more of...but there is space available inside the castle".
Aside from raising concerns about wheelchair accessibility, given that the walkthrough would necessitate climbing stairs much in the same way Tarzan's Treehouse does, it got us thinking about the likelihood of this happening as well. Disney historians will know that the original Castle in Anaheim, on which Hong Kong Disneyland's is closely modelled, had a walkthrough that opened in 1957. It contained dioramas depicting key scenes from Disney's 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, designed by Eyvind Earle. It got an update in 1977, making it a little less dated for contemporary audiences, before finally being closed in late 2001. Some says this was a response to the declining park figures as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11 of that year, others saying it was more to do with the lack of wheelchair and other handicap accessibility issues. Tokyo's guided tour ran from 1986 to 2006, and Paris appears to be the only place still running a walk through their castle, which according to Yesterland is "la Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, with illustrated books, tapestries, and stained glass windows." Got all that, class? There will be a test at the end.
So what would be wrong with putting a walk-through in the castle? There is evidently space for it, and as the recently refurbished Pirate Land and Summer Blast activities show, crowds seem to be responding positively to ‘streetmosphere’ and some of the more “non traditional” Disney attractions. While these could be casually written off as a ‘cheap’ alternative to building actual rides, such as a much-needed E-ticket, they also go a long way towards promoting additional foot-traffic through often neglected parts of the park. One could hardly argue Fantasyland is neglected, as it contains more rides and attractions than any other land in the park, but the principle behind it remains a solid one. The accessibility issue seems to have been solved partly by the model for Tarzan's Treehouse by the inclusion of a series of activities at the 'base camp'.
Wow, now I know what to do every week I have nothing to say. Scour the forums, make up an attraction and discuss it at length!
There were two new local representative appointments this week in Hong Kong Disneyland.
First up, Disney Destinations has appointed Karen Irving to the role of Travel Industry Sales and Education Executive replacing Camille Gleeson who is moving to the US and held the role for more than 4 years. Karen will be responsible for Hong Kong Disneyland wholesale sales accounts and training for the entire Disney Parks portfolio. "Karen brings a diverse skill set to Disney, most recently in a customer service capacity at Qantas Airways and an events/training role with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). She is also a former cast member from The Disney Store prior to its closure in Australia in 2003" said Clinton White, Director Marketing & Sales Disney Australia/NZ. Disney will continue its local support of the travel industry through new initiatives across all Disney Parks around the globe and will enhance the already popular on-line training program "Disney Stars" in 2008. (Source: e-Travel Blackboard)
The other representative isn't so much a person as an entity. The World Discovery Travel Network in Bangkok has been appointed as the first representative in Southeast Asia for Hong Kong Disneyland. "Thailand is one of the most important markets for Disney in Hong Kong, with thousands of visitors a year. And we want to increase the number of Thai tourists in the future," Josh D'Amaro, Hong Kong Disneyland's vice president for sales and travel trade marketing, said July 21. The World Discovery Travel Network has been given an initial one-year contract to act as a service provider and run a daily contact point and communications platform between Disney in Hong Kong and travel operators in Thailand. It will also provide sales support and product training for key trade stakeholders. The amusement-park operator recently selected a representative in South Korea to be responsible for marketing all of Disney's properties. (Source: The Nation Business)
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Starting from Friday July 13, park hours will stay at the extended time of 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM all week until the end of summer (August 31). Every day from now until the end of August is classed as a “Peak Ticket Day” and the ticket prices will be reflected accordingly.
Value Annual Passholders will have all weekends blocked to them during July and August. Deluxe and Premium Annual Passholders get to go crazy, as no dates are blocked to them.
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