Safety, courtesy, show and efficiency; these are the four guiding principles (or keys) that Disney Parks and Resorts ingrains into its ‘cast members’ that not only highlight how to conduct themselves in their ‘roles,’ at the parks, but stress their order of importance. Therefore, safety is the primary concern of the company and its employees.
But what if a cast member were to run ‘afoul’ of the organization and its management and cite concerns regarding safety? And especially where management is effectively swapping the importance of safety for the sake of efficiency? Worse yet, what if that cast member claims retaliation for their whistle-blowing and says they were wrongfully terminated as a result?
This is the reported story of Victoria Ann Smith, who last week filed a lawsuit against Disney Parks and Resorts and Local Union 362 President Eric Clinton, stating that despite a near-exemplary record, she was fired not because of a terminable offense as claimed by management, but because she consistently called out the manager on safety concerns.
Smith’s role, as it pertains to the suit, was that of the ‘Gangster’ at The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. According to the suit, Disney claims her termination came as a result of leaving her microphone on in the cast member break room and using an expletive (namely ‘Oh s—-!’) which would theoretically be heard by guests inside the attraction. While Smith disputes the event even took place, she also argues that the offense is only terminable if spoken in front of guests (as per the union contract) and that by being separated from the guests by being inside the break room, the claim does not stand.
To her defense, Smith argues in her two and a half years as a cast member, she received no less than 16 ‘great service fanatic cards’ and only small number of points for tardiness as well as a case where her provided ‘extra service to a guest’ was ‘misconstrued as her leaving her station.’ Smith asserts that retaliation was the motivation behind the termination by her manager (named as ‘Steve S.’) who had a personal vendetta against her for continuously noting safety infractions (‘such as a broken door threatening Cast Member safety, a broken fan failing to clear smoke threatening guest and Cast member safety, and her refusal to abide by the manager’s violation of the red light/green light vehicle system to speed up the ride (designed for guide safety).’)
Bolstering her claim, Smith notes that while the manager in question immediately obtained (and reportedly influenced) accounts from other cast members, he did not speak to her directly about it for a week following, despite her working every day since. Smith even includes the statements from three other cast members regarding the alleged incident in her complaint and disputes each one accordingly.
Smith is seeking $250,000 for emotional distress and for lost future wages.
We first reported that Walt Disney World was seeking circus acts for its Storybook Circus portion of the New Fantasyland Expansion a few months ago. At the time, it was noted that solo clown acts were not being sought out, which many misconstrued as meaning clowns were not going to be an element in the Magic Kingdom’s expansion, which officially opens this Thursday, December 6.
Yesterday, the official Disney Parks blog shattered those hopes by announcing that the area will feature a clown act, known as the Storybook Circus Giggle Gang. While the Disney community at large reacted poorly to the news, the sentiment was only bolstered by the Disney Parks blog itself. Receiving relatively few comments, initially nearly half of the moderated comments were negative; at press time, the number has dwindled to nearly one-fourth.
Aside from a general distaste for the choice of entertainment, there is the very real and recognized irrational fear of clowns by millions of children and adults, known as coulrophobia. While specific fears are not broken down, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 14% of 18-59 year olds suffer from irrational fears. While spiders, flying and some others tend to top the list, many respected sources within the psychological field cite coulrophobia as being high on the list. This, of course, speaks for adults, but clearly children must be more open and accepting of clowns due to their child-like behavior, right? Not so.
One oft-cited example as to the extreme of how universally despised clowns are by children is a survey conducted by the University of Sheffield in 2007. The survey interviewed more than 250 children regarding proposed changes to a hospital’s decor. While not intending to single out clowns specifically (the survey consisted of all sorts of possibilities), the researchers couldn’t help but notice that every single one of the children, aged 4 – 16, rejected the use of clowns, with many children cited as referring to the clowns as scary.
Few professions can likely stake claim that they terrify their customers by their very nature of being — dentistry perhaps? Yet it is openly acknowledged and discussed by and amongst professional clowns that there is a large number of the population that — for lack of a better word — fears them. In an article from Psychology Today, titled ‘No Laughing Matter,’ one professional clown is quoted as explaining, ‘to a toddler, there’s nothing funny about a clown — he’s a monster.’
The professional discourtesy does not end there. The website of one professional entertainer, MollieTheClown.com, devotes an entire paragraph to understanding the fear of clowns by both adults and children and how she is willing to adapt to the stituation. And when it comes to the grand-daddy of clown infestations, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, clown-fearing is well known by the profession. In an interview titled ‘5 Clown Questions Debunked From a Ringling Bros. Pro,’ professional clown Frances Tiffin is quoted as saying, ‘You know, we’re all quick on our feet, so we tend to get used to it. But it never came up as a serious thing to think about. Not in a class, but definitely at work. I mean we talk about it all the time. Maybe clown schools should think about adding one. After all, so many of us do have some form of coulrophobia.’ After noting that as a female, she seems to be more approachable to children, she added, ‘I’ve heard a number of guys say that it’s frustrating that kids will shy away from them.’
For most people that fear clowns, there is one simple solution: avoiding them. Nobody who doesn’t like the circus makes a big stink out of it (other than PETA, that is), they simply don’t patronize them. Unfortunately when it comes to the most visited theme park in the world, the choice isn’t as clear. Nor is the Magic Kingdom even remotely near synonymous with clowns in general.
Most articles that attempt to explain why the fear of clowns is so prominent (as seen in Psychology Today, Scientific American, Time, et al.) present a sane argument that children don’t react well to something anthropomorphic, or something that seems like it should be part of their norm, but clearly isn’t. After all, haven’t we all been behind that screaming, tantrum-throwing child that refuses to go near Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World, belonging to the screaming, tantrum-throwing parent that insists they will pose for the photo to make for nice memories? So goes with clowns. As for adults, therapists argue that clown makeup acts as a mask and there is an inherent distrust of someone wearing a mask — that and the obligatory reference to horror films.
But perhaps it is time that Walt Disney World embraces clowns, after all, Universal Studios Orlando has had them for years — as part of its Halloween Horror Nights. Perhaps this is just the second half of the Disney Parks 2013 initiative: ‘Limited Time Magic, Unlimited Terror.’
Disney Parks and ABC Television have provided us with several images from taping that took place this past weekend and last month at both Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland Resort for its 29th annual Christmas Day Parade. Full details on the parade including performances, floats and air times can be found in our previous report from earlier today.
Photos in our gallery below feature appearances and performances by hosts Mario Lopez, Nick Cannon and Maria Menounos, Lady Antebellum, TobyMac, Ross Lynch, Backstreet Boys and the cast of Broadway’s ‘Newsies,’ plus many Disney character favorites including Jake from ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ and Sofia the First.
With just under a week before the official grand opening of the New Fantasyland expansion the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Resort has shared some interesting facts and statistics about the expansion as well as Fantasyland at Disneyland theme parks around the globe.
- Doubles the size of Fantasyland. Originally 10 acres; today’s Fantasyland with expansion: 21 acres.
- Largest expansion in the 41-year history of the Magic Kingdom.
- Between Walt Disney Imagineers and their partners, it took more than 140 disciplines to bring New Fantasyland to life.
- Future additions to New Fantasyland include Princess Fairytale Hall (2013) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (2014).
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will feature five-car trains that are designed to sway independently as they swing around the track.
- There are over 12,000 “books” in the library at Enchanted Tales with Belle.
- There are 115 windows in the Beast’s Castle.
- The lion-like figures flanking the door at the entrance to Be Our Guest Restaurant were referred to as “golions” by the design team, a combination of goat and lion.
- Figures above the entrance doors, eagles with snake tails, are called “sneagles.”
- The six stone figures on the bridge leading to Be Our Guest Restaurant were all given the name “Frank” during the design phase simply as a way to identify them.
- Centerpiece chandelier at Be Our Guest Restaurant measures more than 12 feet tall and 11 feet wide. It boasts more than 84 candles and more than 100 jewels that hang down to give it added shine.
- At Be Our Guest Restaurant, the delicate Rose Gallery adorned with rose accents, paintings and tapestries, is centered by a music box nearly 7 feet tall with a twirling Belle and the Beast.
- Storybook Circus has set up in Carolwood Park – this name references the steam train that was in Walt Disney’s backyard.
- At the Magic Kingdom Park, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and at the Disneyland Resort, Timothy Mouse carries a magic feather atop the Dumbo attraction. At Tokyo Disneyland, he holds a circus whip.
- A version of the popular attraction “Dumbo” has been included in every Disneyland-style park since the first one in 1955:
- Magic Kingdom, WDW, October 1, 1971
- Tokyo Disneyland, April 15, 1983
- Disneyland Paris, April 12, 1992
- Hong Kong Disneyland, September 12, 2005
- The music heard from the old fashioned calliope in the front of Pete’s Silly Sideshow was recorded from a set of antique circus crank organs owned by a collector in Southern California.
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow resembles a type of sideshow called a Ten-in-One, which traditionally offered a series of acts performing various tricks and daredevil stunts.
- Pete, sometimes known as Peg-Leg Pete, is the longest running continuous Disney character, debuting in 1925 in the Disney short, Alice Solves a Puzzle.
- There are 183 characters in Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. More than 70 percent (128, to be exact) are featured in the “Under the Sea” scene.
- The Audio-Animatronics figure of the sea witch Ursula is 7 1/2-feet tall and 12 feet wide.
If the grand mural in the load-in area were turned on its side, it would reach a depth of more than 14 fathoms.
- More than 20,000 live and artificial plants decorate the attraction, inside and out.
A blooming bounty of festival firsts will welcome Disney guests to the 20th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival presented by HGTV March 6-May 19, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort. First, the news:
- Epcot chefs will cook up first-time festival food and beverage fun, with special cooking stations offering exclusive-to-the-festival bites along the park’s World Showcase promenade.
- A new circus-like “Land of Oz Play Area,” based on the Disney fantastical film adventure Oz: The Great and Powerful to be released in March 2013, will debut a kaleidoscope of interactive fun.
- Disney topiary experts will grow, shape and manicure a Fab Five Disney character topiary with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck (with Daisy Duck in a cameo) featured in a celebratory floral cookout scene in living topiary color at the park’s front entrance.
- New illuminated gardens in the park’s Future World and World Showcase will cast a colorful glow over each festival evening.
Throughout the 75-day garden party, guests will discover festival surprises around every corner including new topiary triumphs, colorful garden displays, a butterfly bounty, HGTV celebrity designers, interactive gardening seminars and whimsical children’s play areas. On weekends, top Flower Power rockers of the 1960s and ’70s will perform.
Every Friday through Sunday, HGTV design celebrities will host Festival Center seminars. During opening weekend, March 8-10, Chris Lambton of “Going Yard” will appear; other designers scheduled to take the stage include Brandon Johnson of “My Yard Goes Disney” and Meg Caswell of “Meg’s Great Rooms.”
Now the details:
- Festival-themed flavors: Guests will discover culinary creations and refreshing libations at multiple festival-themed food and beverage locations. Chefs are tweaking the menu to include backyard barbecue and a variety of garden-inspired and global tastes. Around the World Showcase promenade
- Fab Five topiary barbecue: 14-foot-tall topiary Goofy will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes a link of hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms. At Epcot Front Entrance
- Land of Oz Play Area: This interactive new children’s play zone will feature play systems adorned with giant flowers and designed to stretch kids’ imaginations and muscles. Midway-style games, red-and-white circus-themed tents and the “Oz Movie Garden” of intriguing plants will capture the spirit of the upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful. Also on tap: fun games, photo opportunities, the “great and powerful Oz’s” crashed hot-air balloon and lush plants inspired by the movie. On the Imagination Walkway
- Illuminated Gardens: Every night when the sun sets, many of the festival’s world-famous Disney topiaries and gardens will twinkle and shine in a new light. Throughout World Showcase and Future World
- Monsters University topiary: Floral representations of Mike and Sulley from the hit Disney-Pixar film Monsters, Inc. and stars of Disney-Pixar’s June 2013 release, Monsters University, will join the festivities as new topiary family members. On the Future World Walkway
- Phineas and Ferb topiary: The popular Disney Channel animated celebs limit their shenanigans to go green for a family photo-op. Behind Spaceship Earth
- “Radiator Springs” interactive play zone: Race car Lightning McQueen and tow truck “Mater” of the Disney-Pixar film Cars 2 will be the well-maintained topiary stars of this play area. On the Test Track Walkway
- Flower Power Firsts: 1970s top disco band The Village People (April 19-21) and 1960s singer-songwriter Tommy Roe (May 3-5) bring on the Flower Power beat when they take the concert stage. At America Gardens Theatre
And a new twist:
- Fawn’s Butterfly House: Eight fanciful fairy topiaries of Pixie Hollow, including Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence, take over the Butterfly House this year where hundreds of colorful winged beauties flit to life. On the Imagination Walkway
In all, more than 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers and sweeping beds of multi-colored blooms will add floral splendor to the park landscape. Daily hands-on gardening seminars, and other Festival Center events will offer innovative ideas, design tips and gardening know-how to park guests.
The Flower Power concert series kicks off March 6-10 with Micky Dolenz (“I’m a Believer”) and continues each weekend with pop favorites including:
- March 15-17: Chubby Checker & The Wildcats
- March 22-24: The Guess Who
- March 29-31: Nelson
- April 5-7: The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie
- April 12-14: Paul Revere & the Raiders
- April 19-21: The Village People (new!)
- April 26-28: The Orchestra, Featuring Former Members of ELO and ELO II
- May 3-5: Tommy Roe (new!)
- May 10-12: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
- May 17-19: Starship starring Mickey Thomas.
While Disney guests celebrate spring during their festival visit, they also can explore the reimagined, design-centric Test Track Presented by Chevrolet, the hang-gliding sensation of Soarin’ and other high-tech Future World marvels. In World Showcase, where the spotlight will shine on topiaries of Disney princesses, storybook characters and even pandas and trolls, guests will discover the attractions, shops and restaurants that represent cultures and cuisine of 11 countries.
The brand-new ‘The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow’ Pirates of the Caribbean experience began operating in soft opening mode this morning, allowing the first guests to visit the high-tech show and enter the world of the popular film franchise. The attraction, which will officially open on December 6, 2012, is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in Soundstage 4 (between Toy Story Mania! and the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit.
Like its predecessor, the Chronicles of Narnia experiences, the show begins in a pre-show area, in which a talking skull a la the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, introduces the show and questions the integrity of those waiting to go inside and join Jack Sparrow’s crew.
For the main show, guests enter a large room which is decorated with various props along the sides and features a large scale model of the Black Pearl which serves as a portion of the show’s projection screen. Using Disney’s high-resolution, projection mapping system such as the one used in ‘The Magic, the Memories and You’ and ‘Celebrate the Magic,’ the now floating skull invites the pirate pledge holding the iron key (chosen prior to the show) to ‘insert it into the treasure chest’ (the child really just holds it up) and the show begins. From here, the audience journeys through each of the films in an immersive show that involves physical and lighting effects in addition to the projections: from a skeleton army to Davy Jones to the Kraken and more, the lifelike projections also appear to literally fly off the screen along the back of the wall to over the Black Pearl and other objects inside the room. Eventually Captain Jack Sparrow himself appears aboard the ship and, after defeating Davy Jones, leads guests through the pirate’s oath in a way that only Jack Sparrow can.
The show is billed as interactive, but it’s really only in the vein of television shows like ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ as guests are encouraged to engage in activities such as yelling out phrases and stomping their feet.
Below is our video of the full experience as well as a brief look at some of the props which include many from the films such as Elizabeth Swann’s corset, the ‘Pirates – Ye be warned’ sign and more, along with many sight gags such as my favorite, the pirate who died by cannonball.
As you can see from the video, the best view may actually be towards the right side of the room as you enter, with the starboard side of the ship still in complete view.
We also have some photos from around and inside the attraction, but bear in mind the show building is very dark and time inside is limited, so the quality isn’t as great as it could be.
Walt Disney World has published its guide to annual passholder discounts online at WDWHolidayGiftGuide.com which gives interactive access to its 28 page guide of savings during the holiday season.
One of the actual items featured in the publication is a gorgeous Epcot ‘Holidays Around the World’ ornament (pictured, left) which will be available in Santa’s Village at the American Adventure pavilion.
Arguably much the rest of the publication is fluff and the bulk of the savings appear to be with shops at the Downtown Disney District where 10% – 20% off merchandise seems to be the norm, but it also appears that there are some real bargains to be had.
One example is at the Richard Petty Driving Experience where annual passholders are able receive an additional two laps during an exotic car driving session for free (for a total of 8 laps), which is estimated to be a savings of $130.
As a hint, if reading the publication online appears to be difficult, you can right-click on any of the pages and view them individually as an image. The online viewer does allow you to left-click and zoom in/out, but the right-click is a more direct method.
A new post on the official Disney Parks blog teases what appears to be the Flying Dragon puppet/vehicle that was spotted during testing earlier this year at Minter Field Airport in Shafter, California. Using blurry video footage, the video appears to spotlight the vehicle and in fact the post does tease that it involves a dragon of some sort, noting some of which even breathe fire, which the Disney flying vehicle reportedly does.
The blog entry also links to a new tumblr account which chronicles these so-called dragon sightings (not really), but perhaps what’s most interesting about the tumblr’s posts is that they are tagged with New Fantasyland, indicating that the flying dragon puppet/vehicle may soon be making its public debut over the skies of the Enchanted Forest in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.
It should come at no large surprise that when the newly revamped ‘Test Track,’ as presented by Chevrolet, makes its official debut on December 6, that cast members will sporting a new look to go along with it. And true enough, as depicted here, not only will that be the case, but there will be little mistake to which attraction a Test Track cast member serves, provided the temperature is above 80 degrees.
A concerned, anonymous contributor has provided us with this image, which demonstrates both the male and female versions of the costume (which appear to be identical, save for the baseball cap), along with the optional, innocuous (and rather ambiguous) outdoor winter wear which would look fairly contemporary if the early 1990s should ever decide to return.
Walt Disney World today announced some of its plans for the 20th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Promises Floral Fantasy and Topiary Triumphs, scheduled to take place at the theme park from March 6 – May 19, 2013.
Commemorating the milestone anniversary will be a Sensational Six birthday event display located at the front of the park. Colorful, whimsical topiaries of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck will welcome topiary Daisy to their Epcot front-entrance celebratory barbecue. The 14-foot-tall topiary Goofy will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes a link of hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms.
And that’s just the festival opener. New topiaries, gardens, children’s play areas and interactive gardening seminars will set the stage for 75 days of festival fun as Disney’s horticulture team revs up for its 20th year of beautiful blooms and creative whimsy.
In honor of next summer’s Monsters University from Disney/Pixar, Mike and Sulley from Disney/Pixar’s will join the festivities with a topiary on the walkway from Future World to the park’s World Showcase. A new playground re-creating Radiator Springs from Disney/Pixar Cars playground brings favorite movie characters to life in topiary on the Test Track Walkway. And 2013?s Fawn’s Butterfly House flits to life with hundreds of butterflies and eight fairy topiaries including Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence.
The opening weekend Flower Power Concert Series at America Gardens Theatre will present fan favorite Micky Dolenz on March 8-10. Other pop acts set to perform include Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, The Guess Who, Paul Revere & The Raiders and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.
More than 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers and sweeping beds of multi-colored blooms will add floral splendor to the park landscape. Daily hands-on gardening seminars, HGTV celebrity presentations, and other Festival Center events will offer innovative ideas, design tips and gardening know-how to park guests.