Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rumor Has It . . .

It seems that there is never a shortage of Walt Disney World cast members willing to share rumors. One week’s tenure in the college program seems to magically unlock from the vaults, all of Imagineering’s secrets from the past two decades. From bus drivers to street sweepers, busboys to lifeguards, so many seem to know with some degree of certainty, what is lurking just around the next theme park corner.

In the past ten years, the Internet has turned Disney rumor-mongering into a full blown subculture. The most active forums on most Disney fan sites are those that focus on rumors. Podcasts reveal, discuss and debate them week after week. Feeding into all of this investigation and speculation has surely been the Walt Disney Company’s very close-lipped approach in recent years to announcing new projects. Since the almost total implosion of the Disney Decade and the cancellation of Disney’s America, Mickey’s PR and marketing gurus rarely spill the beans on anything more than six months prior to a soft opening.

I heard my first really good cast member rumor back in December of 1989. Star Tours was having its soft opening at Disney-MGM Studios. One of the attraction’s workers spun a lengthy and really entertaining tale about how George Lucas, on a recent visit to inspect Disney World’s version of the ride, outlined future enhancements to the simulator-based adventure. Not one, but three different “tours” would soon be available to guests. New films were already in production that would feature excursions to the ice world of Hoth and also the Cloud City of Bespin. And, these versions would only be available at WDW, due to Disneyland having less simulators at its Tomorrowland location.

My reaction? Well, you have to realize I was a lot younger then.

Yeah, I believed every word of it.

Seventeen years and countless cast member conversations later, I have to say I’m just a wee bit wiser about the whole rumor thing. And a lot less gullible.

In fact, the most refreshing exchange I ever had with a cast member came on my family’s vacation in October of 2005. As we were awaiting the rope-drop one morning at Epcot, we were fortunate enough to be picked as the Epcot Family of the Day. This involved being driven up to rope-drop in a special Test Track vehicle and introduced to the awaiting crowd. Our driver was a very nice gentlemen who was also one of the Future World attraction managers. While waiting for our cue, I asked him if he knew any details of what was being done over at the Living Seas, since the pavilion had been closed for extensive refurbishment. Was it going to be ride? Would there be some sort of new movie?

His response?

“Yeah, they’re really banging around over there. But you know what--they don’t tell us anything!”


Anonymous said...

This is so true. The worst part of it is that guests to the park forget that cast members read the rumors too. So when a guest asks a cast member about a rumor they read and the cast member gives any type acknowledgement that could be considered 'confirmation', then the guest goes back to the internet claiming that the rumor must have some sort of merit.
Run of the mill cast members aren't told jack.

Now a few sites and podcasts are rehashing the 5th park rumor without any substance to back it up. It ain't gonna happen soon, folks. Until Orlando's unemployment rate is much higher than 3%, then that will NEVER happen. They have issues staffing the current parks and resorts and unless the unemployment rate changes or the upperlevel "haves" decide that the "have nots" deserve a livable wage, WDW is going to continue to struggle with staffing what currently exists. People aren't beating down the door for $6.80 -$7.25 an hour starting.