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Is Disney too bloated?

Kramerica

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I was reading an article about Knott's Berry Farm's "Voyage to the Iron Reef", which is essentially their version of Disney's Toy Story Midway Mania. I haven't ridden it myself, but from what I've seen and heard, it's very well done. Perhaps even superior, atleast technically, to Midway Mania. And although they haven't officially announced the cost to build it, rumor has it that it cost them around 5 million dollars. Midway Mania on the other hand had a build cost of 80 million. So why such a dramatic price difference?

I remember listening to a talk that Bob Gurr gave, talking about the old days of Disney and how they would create new amazing things so quickly. Of course nowadays there's tremendous government red tape and regulation that that exists that didn't back then. But even ignoring that, Disney has seemed to get very heavy and slow. How long have they been building Pandora in Disneyworld? Years and years. How long did it take to re-theme the dreaded Superstar Limo into Monsters inc? Years! How long did it take them to build Disneyland in 1955? A year.

Bob Gurr described that back then there were no project managers. No middle men. No rigid guidlines. It was a bunch of really talented people who wanted to be there, just talking to one another. When you had a question, you go ask that person. Could Disney's absurd cost to build their attractions and time it takes to do so have something to do with too many hands in the cookie jar? People having to report to people, to report to people, to report to people, until you end up in this miserable grind that you have to slog your way through. Where smaller companies like Knott's Has a small team of people who can think and act quickly and get the job done for a tenth of the price. Is Disney too heavy?
 

GiveMeTheMusic

Well-Known Member
Yes, Disney is too bloated. WDI in particular, and Chapek and Weis are working in this very issue through massive reorganization.

Iron Reef is a horrible attraction. I mean, REAL bad. I think Midway Mania is hot garbage, but it's way better than Reef. Knott's used a third party to design the ride.

That aside, WDI spends way too much money for what they produce. A better comparison would be Universal Creative, who now routinely execute cutting edge attractions at half the cost WDI would incur.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
OK, I am going to have to be REAL careful in the post in what I say and disclose, and let's just say that financial costs is not one of things I can directly address. (I am an accountant in "real life" and have knowledge in some of the numbers and investments, either directly or indirectly in many companies that deal with the Theme/Amusement Park business.

So let's get the cost situation done first. Both Cedar Fair (Parent of Knott's) and Six Flags know how to make deals and order things for multiple parks at the same time, to cut costs. If you research the Dark Rides added for both, you can find some costs, but see that the same or similar attractions have been added/or planned to be added in the near future, which does allow the "R&D" costs tobe spread over multiple parks.

As for AA's, did you know that Knott's used the same company that works with Disney in making AA's for its Log and Mine Ride enhancements??? Here is a very good article talking about Garner Holt.

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/holt-600984-garner-productions.html

Arrow, the company that built the Matterhorn ride system worked closely with Bud Hurlbut, known best for Knott's and inventing the Log Flume attraction.

http://entertainmentdesigner.com/history-of-theme-parks/a-theme-park-original-wendell-bud-hurlbut/

>>When Walt Disney walked in through the entrance, he was so surprised to find a hundred people in front of him, he exclaimed to Bud, “You sneaky S.O.B!” What Bud had done was to design a waiting area that was just as fascinating to look at as the ride itself; and anyone who has been to a Disney Park knows that Walt was very taken with this idea and incorporated it into many of his most famous rides.<<

(And I am lucky enough to have some of Bud's personal positions gifted to me, including a very special aerial photo of Castle Park when it first opened and was in his in personal office in Buena Park next to Knott's Horse Barn.)

Walt Disney and his original team spent a lot of time at Knott's in the early 50's studying how his park worked, and "borrowed" many ideas...

I have spent quality time with both Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter at Knott's, including going through Haunt mazes, having meals, etc. The industry isn't as big and corporate for the most part, though it is getting more and more that way lately.

As for the Voyage of the Iron Reef, yes, the goal (and IMHO, they achieved it) was to be better than Midway Mania. The ride vehicles are better, as you can get a family of four to sit together and sit in the same direction, the vehicle can keep moving and still register "hits" on the targets, can be easily changed and re-themed if needed. And they did it at a lot less cost. (As I said, do the research, as I can't discuss that aspect).

Future plans include Cedar Fair building 4-D Arcade type buildings that can offer repeat experiences and easily changed. The cost is not cheap, but still not that bad, and the changeover is not too expensive. (Six Flags is also looking at the same thing)

Look at what UC Irvine has done...

http://www.pcworld.com/article/3050...ame-with-a-gaming-arena-and-scholarships.html

Now, for a Theme Park, it will be a little less tech, and more user friendly, but think of a theater where everybody in a room can compete against each other for 5 minutes using Digital tech.

There are some who wish that companies like Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Merlin and even Universal has less "red tape" and levels of management, but many folks have left WDI to find a "happier" place with less restrictions and more freedom elsewhere.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Here is a good article written by Brady MacDonald of the LA Times that address the OP...

http://www.latimes.com/travel/themeparks/la-trb-knotts-iron-reef-review-20150513-story.html

>>“We can’t compete with Disney and Universal on budget,” said Knott’s vice president and general manager Raffi Kaprelyan. “But we can compete on entertainment value.”<<

>>
Bob Gurr, a legendary Disney Imagineer who was at Knott’s on Wednesday for the debut of the new attraction, said Iron Reef is the best interactive shoot-em-up dark ride he’s ever seen in his six decades in the theme park industry.

“A lot of people will compare this ride to Midway Mania at Disney, which is a superb ride,” Gurr said. “Knott’s has found a different way to do it that’s even better and on a lower budget.”<<
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Just thought about how Bob Gurr worked with Universal after leaving Disney and built the Original King Kong (Banana Breath) for USH in the 1980's.


I was lucky enough to have some dealings with building the attraction and its opening. (Though a very small part).

EDIT - I was one of the LAST folks to se King Kong, as I was at the park the day before the big New York Street fire. I was in a Motel 6 (yes, my company was that cheap) in Sylmar when I got the phone call that the fire was happening and to turn on the TV. So WAY early in the morning (I think it was around 5 AM when I got the call), but I had a production date at SFMM for a few hours later, so sat there in shock, my wife woke up quickly (Fiancée at the time) but went back to sleep, and when she woke up later, she was also in shock. So we did the SFMM gig, and then on Monday, went back to USH to cover the fire....

https://darkbeer.smugmug.com/Theme-Parks/Universal-Studios/
 
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kap91

Well-Known Member
Yes Disney has a lot of bureaucracy and layers that inflate its costs, but its worth noting like with this kind of example all the upfront development cost for designing TSMM was paid for by Disney. Then the third parties they contract with can spin that technology into their own products/ride systems etc and sell them (which smaller parks like Knotss buy). So one of the reasons Knots can do it so much quicker and cheaper and is that they're essentially going to a tiny company and purchasing a pre-existing design and give some input rather than starting completely from scratch.

Also, while I love Bob Gurr, and admire how quickly old school Disney was able to build things, from a modern perspective lots of the ways they approached things are frankly horrifying and could have gone terribly wrong because of the lack of procedures and experienced professionals. Bob likes to recount how the monorail was routinely bursting into flames mere days and/or hours before it opened to the public. The same monorail that he took Nixon on a few hours later. Imagine how badly that could have gone. There are stories of other attractions from the era that weren't so lucky following much the same mindset and disasters occurring and essentially leading to their closure.

It also has something to do with the complexity of modern attractions. People love to talk about how Disneyland was built in a year (which is impressive) but keep in mind the park was built nearly entirely out of flimsy wood construction (the designers were accustomed to building film sets), that had to be rebuilt over the years, the majority of the park was just landscaping, and the most complex ride was perhaps Peter Pan - which really is simple mechanically even by 1950s standards.

Compare that to today where you have modern building codes, an expectation of extremely elaborate facades and detail work, ride systems combining all sorts of technologies, programming, interfacing with different systems, etc.

This isn't to say that Disney is efficient as it should be, it's notoriousky not. Universal Creative manages to do work at almost the same scale, and sometimes greater (they tend to make smaller and simpler facades ) but much quicker and cheaper. But comparing to cedar fair or six flags (did I mention the mere fact they can afford to have attractions with much less capacity and therefore smaller and cheaper is a factor too?) isn't fair, and comparing to how things were done in the 1950s or 60s is largely ridiculous. Though I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of that Bob Gurr spirit back.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Let's look at some examples...

Start with the Log Flume style of Attraction, it was Knott's/Six Flags that built the first ones and even had basic motion characters.

Disney entered the market years later with the need to build something at a low costs and took recycled AA's (America's Sings) and converted it to Splash Mountain. Dick Nunis (a suit) pushed for a log flume attraction, even though most folks at WDI thought the log flume style of ride was too much for an "amusement park" that has been around for the last 20 years. Tony Baxter finally came up with the basic idea.

Now we are having the forced changeover from Tower of Terror to the Guardians of the Galaxy, where budgets and time are the overriding factors, and not innovation. It like we are going back to the late 1990's and the History of DCA 1.0, which truly was mostly off the shelf rides built by others and then lightly themed by Disney, and a few rethreads from other Disney Parks, such as the movie based attractions (a bugs life and Muppets). The only big hit was the true WDI attraction designed for WestCot, Soarin'.

But when you can find things like S&S Towers at both Knott's and DCA, A Zierer wave swinger ride, an Intermin steel roller coaster, a small basic Morgan carousel. (Knott's is still the better version), carny games, a Mack Wild Mouse, an Intermin River Rapids ride (heck, Magic Mountain had the first on the West Coast back in 1981.

Knott's did a great job using live entertainers in bring Ghost Town to life this summer, and many of those entertainers also work at Disneyland's entertainment department.

There has always been a true symmetry between Knott's and Disneyland since Disneyland was being designed and built. Walt Disney and Walter Knott were friends, and worked together, such as timing their days off in the first years to allow guests something to do when the other park was closed. (Both only operated 5 days a week during the off-season).

And here is an interesting viewpoint from a well known person...

http://www.kveller.com/mayim-bialik-why-knotts-berry-farm-is-so-much-better-than-disneyland/

Sometimes bigger is not better, and wasteful spending is just that, wasteful.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Here is a good article about Bud Hurlbut and Knott's and Disney.

http://www.yesterland.com/budhurlbut.html

I do miss being allowed to hang out in his workshop over the decades and doing grunt work Wish I did it more often that a couple of times a year..... (part of a small group of friends). A trade off, working to learn things that aren't taught normally.....
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Heck, any demolition nowadays is a lot different than decades ago, you have to get permits and environmental studies to get started.

Then the property has be prepared for inspection for Hazardous materials by removing movable items like furniture, machinery, etc. And those items have to be dealt with properly, such as recycling and reusing them.

You just can't fill up a bunch of dumpsters and haul them to the dump anymore.

Then after the inspection, you are forced to deal with the items in a way the city/county approves of.

Then when you get done with demolition, another set of inspections and requirements to make sure the structure is safe for new use.

And then the approval for the improvements and changes.
 
D

Deleted member 107043

The reason Pandora seems like it's taking so long is because the project was announced in September of 2011 - five years ago.
 

TP2000

Well-Known Member
Of course Disney's theme park division is bloated. Just look at their ham-handed way of presenting their Parks Blog, and all the people who contribute to content there in overly-scripted and painfully-corporate phrasing that very rarely says much of anything. And they've got an entire team of executives to run that sort of wasteful offering!

Just look at how long it takes WDI to build a new ride or add a new land. Years and years and years.

I read a wonderful book about the New York World's Fair. Pepsi-Cola execs placed a call to Disney in May, 1963 asking if it was too late for the Imagineers to build them a pavilion for the 1964 World's Fair (there was a bad rumor going around that Coca-Cola was going in very big with a huge pavilion, which turned out to be false, and Pepsi didn't want to get shown up by Coke). With only 11 months before the Fair opened, Walt assigned a few key Imagineers to his idea of "a little boat ride" and It's A Small World was born. The ride system that carried 2,500 people per hour was all new, the concept was all new, the show and the music was all new, the art direction was brilliant, and it got Imagineered and built in 11 months.

The Pepsi pavilion and boat ride was rated as one of the Top 5 attractions at the Fair by fairgoers, and where Small World went from there is obvious. Completed after a phone call in 11 months with a small team of talented Imagineers and Walt.

Of course Disney's theme park division in the 2010's is bloated. It's more than bloated. It's 500 pounds and morbidly obese and stuck in bed, phoning in some ideas while it orders another round of pizzas.
 
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networkpro

Well-Known Member
In the Parks
Yes
The smaller the organization, the more nimble it can be. Over time organizations tend to get stuck in organizational infighting or bound by process that it's impossible to be nimble as the add on costs pile up at each step.
 

TP2000

Well-Known Member
The smaller the organization, the more nimble it can be. Over time organizations tend to get stuck in organizational infighting or bound by process that it's impossible to be nimble as the add on costs pile up at each step.

Exactly. Just look at General Motors circa 1970 to 2016. And then look at their products compared to the competition in that timeframe.

Disney has been ahead of the competition for most of the last 40 years. But just within the last 10 years the competition has caught up, and in a few instances has surpassed Disney. Let's see what Disney comes up with for Avatar and Star Wars and Marvel. Cars Land and Buena Vista Street in 2012 were excellent, but only because they returned to the Disney standard circa 1993, standards that Disney itself willingly ditched and purposely lowered in the late 1990's and 2000's.

But the competition isn't standing still. One look at Universal Orlando proves that.

The next 10 years will be interesting to watch.
 

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Exactly. Just look at General Motors circa 1970 to 2016. And then look at their products compared to the competition in that timeframe.

Disney has been ahead of the competition for most of the last 40 years. But just within the last 10 years the competition has caught up, and in a few instances has surpassed Disney. Let's see what Disney comes up with for Avatar and Star Wars and Marvel. Cars Land and Buena Vista Street in 2012 were excellent, but only because they returned to the Disney standard circa 1993, standards that Disney itself willingly ditched and purposely lowered in the late 1990's and 2000's.

But the competition isn't standing still. One look at Universal Orlando proves that.

The next 10 years will be interesting to watch.

One issue, that WDI got a good budget push with Shanghai Disney, and was operating on all cylinders until about a year ago, when Disney started to worry about budgets more, especially with major shifts in Media (Movies, TV, Cable, etc.). And why the "suits" see more and more importance in Synergy, even if it is forced, to spread the costs of buying Marvel over more of the company.

Thank goodness that much of Star Wars Land was already designed and greenlighted, and that they "borrowed" from things Universal designed and made, along with its partners.
 
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D

Deleted member 107043

People having to report to people, to report to people, to report to people, until you end up in this miserable grind that you have to slog your way through. Where smaller companies like Knott's Has a small team of people who can think and act quickly and get the job done for a tenth of the price. Is Disney too heavy?

Is "bloated" really the right word for a Fortune 500 company and the world's most powerful brand that employs 166,000 people in 40 countries? Shouldn't the question should be is Disney efficient? Is it successful at managing its businesses to a degree that it is achieving the creative and financial goals management expects while having a degree of flexibility to respond to trends in the various marketplaces where it operates? No question that Disney has made some missteps, but the company's performance is consistently stellar so I would argue that the answer is mostly yes. Maybe it seems "too bloated" to us fans, but what does Wall Street and the Disney Board think?

Disney has been ahead of the competition for most of the last 40 years. But just within the last 10 years the competition has caught up, and in a few instances has surpassed Disney.

The theme park business is cyclical, and this isn't the first time since 1955 that a competitor has one-upped Disney. Some of Universal's creative accomplishments are indeed remarkable, but much of what they've done in that regard will likely be forgotten when Pandora opens and definitely when SW Land opens.
 
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Phroobar

Well-Known Member
Larger corporations have levels of management. You have people creating the product and project managers overseeing the project. Then you have managers over the project managers and up the chain. Each one has a specific roll to play in creating a new attraction. There are government regulations that need keeping. There are safety checks and a list of other things Walt's WDI never had to deal with. Granted as a corporation gets bigger, little thiefums get added to the mix composed of employees and managers that only hinder the creative process but you see that everywhere. They are always the hardest to get rid of.
 

Professortango1

Well-Known Member
I don't think you can really compare Midway Mania and Voyage of the Iron Reef. Both involve shooting at digital screens, but the rides are very different. As much as I wished Midway Mania had actual sets and animatronics, the ride experience is still far more immersive than Voyage. There seems to be much more dead space in Voyage with the sceens being further away and little set dressing. Also Midway gives the fun of the spinning seats to add movement where Voyage is pretty static. The graphics and 3D is also far better on Midway.

I appreciate what Knotts was trying, but I think the company who built them Voyage doesn't know how to design a fun shooter game. Midway changes the games every scene so you're always shooting in different ways and with different goals. Voyage is all the same and it gets a little monotonous. I think if Voyage had gone for a darkride with some interactive shooting moments, it would have been much stronger than a purely screen based attraction.

That being said, Disney is definitely bloated and tied up in red tape and stock holders. A better comparison would be Bigfoot Rapids vs Grizzly River Rapids. GRR has the better theming, but it is boring. Bigfoot builds a story in the queue, has a much more enjoyable journey, and has a finale which finishes what the queue set up. Disney spent all this money trying to re-imagine the raft ride, but all we got was a raft ride with drops, tame rapids, and no story or Disney magic.
 

Phroobar

Well-Known Member
That being said, Disney is definitely bloated and tied up in red tape and stock holders. A better comparison would be Bigfoot Rapids vs Grizzly River Rapids. GRR has the better theming, but it is boring. Bigfoot builds a story in the queue, has a much more enjoyable journey, and has a finale which finishes what the queue set up. Disney spent all this money trying to re-imagine the raft ride, but all we got was a raft ride with drops, tame rapids, and no story or Disney magic.

Are you talking about Big Foot Rapids at Knotts?
What is the story in the queue? I see one rock work of an indian as you get on the ride. The rest of the ride can be seen from the trail next to Pony Express. The back side shows backstage buildings. They use to have to water falls on so at least you can get wet. It ends going through a metal tube much like the tunnel Disneyland's train goes through as it arrives at Toon Town Station. There is no finale. No Big Foot AA. No animals. Nothing. The river is just a cement trench loop without any left turns and very few plants.

 

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