Kevin Yee provided this video from over the weekend showing the Splash Mountain showboat scene at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park almost entirely inoperable and nonfunctional.
The problem is, this wasn’t a freak occurrence. The ride operated most of the day with the scene in the current state of disrepair and we’ve heard reports that there’s no urgency to fix it anytime soon. “The maitenance staff is waiting for parts” is the standard reply.
The BIGGER problem is that this is not how th Walt Disney World parks and resorts should be operating – even per their own guidelines. No, instead a group of cost-cutting MBA’s has instituted “good enough” show quality standards that allow for scenes like this to be seen all around the resort. It was not always like this – and was far from acceptable conditions to operate an attraction in the recent past.
To explain further, attractions come with guides made by engineering, WDI, and operations that tell the people operating them what is supposed to be working. Since the frontline Cast Members are the most likely to see or hear reports of what exactly is broken at any given time, they are given a list of “if/then” scenarios. This includes what to do if certain show elements break or a series of show elements break.
A show failure such as the showboat scene in Splash Mountain would by any previous measure constitute a “major” failure and be reason to cycle-down the attraction to be closed and await repairs. This explicitly does not mean to emergency stop the attraction and have to go through the risky evacuation process, but rather to stop loading guests, drop the waiting line, and tell everyone to check back later that day. These guidelines were contained, in print, in large binders at the operations consoles and the cast members were expected to know the guidelines and follow them explicitly. They would then report the closure to management and call for maintenance assistance.
And other attractions have done this and did this for years – literally decades. The parks weren’t unable to cope with the loss of capacity and maintenance wasn’t so thinly stretched that this was impossible. It’s still not, but no one wants to pay for expedient repairs. This particular blogger has, in fact, spent entire operational day at an attraction telling guests “Sorry, check back later” because one key animatronic needed one part machined by hand at the shop. The ride could easily be run without the show scene – but look horrible, exactly what Walt Disney World’s operational management is now choosing to do. How recently was this? 2003.
After 2001 and September 11th the Walt Disney World resort went into a reactionary cycle of trying to cut costs to preserve themselves in a sudden downturn of tourism.The problem was that even as the economy got better, the company continued to focus on cost cutting as a means of profit and growth. Epcot even did a dismal experiment where it removed all of its greeter positions at all attractions to try and cut staff costs. This lasted all of 3 days and all of the “laid off” cast was called back to work because of several guest injuries and major show malfunctions and shut down caused by this bone headed mistake. That statement is not speculation or hearsay – it was witnessed in person.
Similarly, in 2003-2004 the use of those binders of guidelines was changed to try and cut the amount of downtime at attractions. It was in part also because the “Operational Guidelines” or OG’s for short, were leaving a paper-trail of what “should” be done every time an attraction breaks down or malfunctions (and disregarding these OG’s were sometimes the cause of guest or cast injuries – the monorail accident for examples: having a CM verify monorail position during reversals was in the OG, despite Disney saying it wasn’t a normal position and one they “added to increase safety” after the accident.)
Instead of the cast member at the operations console making a decision based on the printed guidelines then making phone calls to inform other areas, all closures are now “authorized” by operations management. A cast member can be reprimanded and terminated for shutting down an attraction for serious show failures. Previously such a shut down was encourage to maintain the quality of the guest experience, but now many a pencil-pusher decided “It’s not that bad, and we have a long line, let it go.” Time and time again things are “let go” and they get worse over time. Splash Mountain has had multiple reports of non-functional animatronics and bad show quality from guests riding the attraction. Instead of being able to shut down and await repairs the cast is forced to run the attraction.
An why? To save a few dollars, because management at Walt Disney World really thinks you wont notice. Again, these changes are as recent as 2003-2004, this is not how the Walt Disney World resort was designed to operate and there is printed proof – in those lovely operation guidelines – blatantly contrary to any nonsense the current management of the resort will try to feed you.