The BLOG FLUME -- That French Word All Over Again

In this edition, we have information about even MORE troubles for Eurodisney, along with new developments in the Touchy-Feely Tigger case, the fate of MGM, and a whole ton more...

Written by Kenny Hitt
Published: September 29, 2004 at 10:18 PM

Hey, folks, Kenny here with your 'Persister' edition of a little something I like to call "El Flume de Blog". Or somesuch.

"Please Open Your Storybooks to Chapter 11"
Euro Disney to Undergo Financial Restructuring...AGAIN
Reuters - September 28, 2004
Euro Disney's parent company suspended its shared on Tuesday with the expectation that the resort is going to go through yet ANOTHER financial restructuring. At last trade, the stock was passing at .32 Euros -- or, for all you Toydarians out there who "need something more real", $0.40 per share. The parks only have until the 30th (wait...that's TODAY!!!) to approve the new financial plan. Barring that, the only other option the company has would be bankruptcy. The company has been nursing a debt of $3 Billion since August of last year, with no real relief in sight. This comes after Disney and its partners in the Paris property attempted to extend the deadlines with a quick financial patch...unfortunately, the deal fell through and left the parks with $78.3 Million, enough to keep the door open for two months. We should know by the end of the day how it all plays out.

"The Happy Pessimist"
Roy & Stan Respond Cautiously to the Disney Board's Search for a New CEO - September 28, 2004
The Dissident Duo released a statement Tuesday showing that they are cuatiously support the Board of Directors in their decision to begin the search for Michael Eisner's successor. In a press release, the board stated that it would indeed be hiring a search firm to find the next CEO, rather than simply naming one from its own internal ranks. It is currently unknown whether that search firm will employ the services of Simon Cowell, Donald Trump or Jeff Probst, but hey, we can dream.

"The Not-So-Wonderful Thing About Tigg...I Mean Goofy"
Disney World Furry Suspended...AGAIN
Local 6 News, Orlando, FL - September 16, 2004
Local 6 News, Orlando, FL - September 23, 2004
Disney fursuit performer Michael Chartrand has been suspended yet again after more touching allegations, this time made by two Kodak photographers who claim that Chartrand shoved them while working as the character Goofy at Animal Kingdom. A week after these allegations surfaced, two more Animal Kingdom cast members came forward claiming Chartrand had touched their breasts. His lawyer claims that Chartrand was portraying Goofy, so he was "goofing around" when he shoved the photographers. This has to make one wonder if, during the Tigger case, any references were made to things bouncing.

"It's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Cuz the Governor Just Called!"
Carousel Gets a Stay of Execution, Timekeeper Makes an Appointment with the Imagineering Grim Reaper
Jim Hill Media - September 28, 2004
Jim Hill is reporting a new salvo fired by WDW moanagement at Carousel of Progress and Timekeeper fans. According to his sources within the company, Timekeeper's death knell will be sounded with the opening of Stitch's Great Escape this fall, with possible seasonal operation this winter. After that, it looks like the former Circlevision Theater will be the home to an updated version of the classic Disneyland Flying Saucers attraction. Disney Dorks such as myself will recall that that ride died a rather quick death thanks to a myriad of maintenence problems. Imagineering hopes that having the attraction indoors will reduce some weather-related wear and tear. The Carousel, long rumored to be a twin conjoined to the Robin-bot at the jugular, will apparently continue to operate long into 2006 as part of Disneyland's 50th birthday. After that, parts of the attraction may be moved to Innoventions at Epcot, where that rediculous final scene with the voice activated oven and the virtual reality and the granny and the burning and the tv watching and the datedness and the BLAAAAIIIVEN can fade into A-Ticket obscurity, as it should be. Imagineering is reluctant to give the attraction (or at least the final scene) an overhaul, since the attraction's main voice talent, humorist and deejay Jean Shepherd, passed away some years back.

"If you Can't Buy the Stadium, Steal a Seat."
Sony and Comcast Buy MGM - A Death Knell for Disney-MGM Studios?
The Los Angeles Times - September 24, 2004
Sony got an equity parter in Comcast's contribution of $300 Million toward the hardware & entertainment giant's offer for the purchase of MGM. This is yet another strange twist in the continuing rumors surrounding Disney's license with MGM. Comcast's newfound stake in Comcast almost seems like they were looking for ANY media company to swallow...if it couldn't get Disney, it could get one of Disney's business partners. Will Sony choose not to extend the licensing agreement? If it does, what will it mean for the upcoming high-definition format war, Sony's Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD? Whichever HD format Disney chooses to get behind, will it still make the idiotic choice of selling versions that self-destruct, creating landfills full of non-biodegradable plastic and metallic dyes?

"No. Not Gonna Make the Joke."
Guest Injured at Universal Orlando's Revenge of the Mummy...AGAIN
Local 6 News, Orlando, FL - September 23, 2004
While overshadowed by the death of a 34-year-old man the previous day, a woman was slightly injured when her arm became caught in a handrail at Universal's Revenge of the Mummy in Orlando. I'll save all speculation about curses to those with less taste than myself. I will say, however, that one has to wonder whether her arm would still be intact, had this been BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN. Hey, the Mummy's Curse thing is immature, yeah...but you can't expect me not to make a joke at the Mouse's expense, should the opportunity arise. I worked there, I have that right.

Poor Choices in Closed-Circuit Programming.
MousePlanet - September 27, 2004
Maybe it's just me. But a movie called "Armageddon" seems like a pretty poor choice to show on your hotel's closed-circuit movie channels in the midst of your state's third hurricane in two months.

"There's the Fence, All I Need's a Motorcycle!"
Stitch Gets Ready to Bust Outta the Joint
One of my sources has let me in on a few additional tidbits regarding Stitch's Great Escape. S.A.R.G.E., a newly-upgraded version of Alien Encounter's S.I.R., will be voiced by Richard Kind of "Spin City" and the movie "Stargate". Also returning to the attraction is Skippy, the cute little extraterrestrial guinea pig who was fried to a crisp in the original attraction's preshow. Construction is more or less complete, with training to begin in the next week or so, with clandestine testing going on in Mid-October. November 5-7 should be the date for the AP holders and Disney Vacation Members preview, with an official opening on November 17.

Well folks, that's all for now...remember, vote for me, and I was for Eisner's removal before I was against his re-election!

Want to comment on the job that Kenny Hitt did today? We're keeping a running log of reader comments on all the Blog Flume candidates here.

Readers' Opinions

From J. Dana on September 29, 2004 at 11:23 PM
Well, it appears as if Disney was the only theme park company with anything happening this week.

Michael Chartrand is dead meat, folks. How do I know? Well, according to the article, his lawyer is a fellow cast member who plays Tigger. Not good....In all seriousness, though, one of the character managers informs me that Chartrand is not well-liked by many of his co-workers, but they don't think he fondled anyone. The women claiming to have been fondled may just be looking for some big payoff from Disney without having to go to court. I am NOT condoning unwelcome advances...please don't get me wrong. But the accusers are being viewed with extreme suspicion. In other words, it may be that Chartrand just has a big target painted on his butt.

And about that MGM thing: Disney has long wanted to drop the "MGM" from it's Orland studio theme park, and change it to The Disney Studios (like they did in Paris). I mean, how vital is MGM to the theme park there anyway? Besides the Great Movie Ride (and it consists mainly of non-MGM films), what use is the name? Drop it and be done with it.

From Kevin Baxter on September 30, 2004 at 2:20 AM
If Disney drops the name, then they would immediately have to close the Great Movie Ride, unless an agreement can be reached. Disney may be cheap city, but they know they can't afford to lose a ride in such a ride-deficient park. Even a mediocre one like this. Disney needs to start building a ride NOW, before this whole MGM sale hurts them badly.
From Paul Jeffs on September 30, 2004 at 4:38 AM
Disneyland Resort Paris seems to be ok - for now..

From the -
"It took longer than expected but then it finally arrived: the official announcement of Euro Disney S.C.A. eagerly anticipated since early Tuesday morning - and the news was good for all fans of the Disneyland Resort Paris and its shareholders: Euro Disney S.C.A. has been saved as the group was able to win the approval of all its lenders, including the Hedge Funds, for its financial rescue package, the so called MOA."

Full details

From Kenny Hitt on September 30, 2004 at 4:53 AM
And from this point forward, I promise I will run all stories through MS-Word's spelling and grammar chacker before I send them in. *smack's forehead*
From steve lee on September 30, 2004 at 9:17 AM
Wow. I had no idea Jean Shepard was the main narrator of CoP. I'm a little disappointed in myself for not picking that up last time I saw it.

Now my appreciation for that attraction has gone up. Still hate the song, though.

From Robert Niles on September 30, 2004 at 10:17 AM
Yes, the editing for Persister is quite light. I'm opting to let folks see writers in their, um, natural state, rather than formatting and editing everything to a uniform blandness.
From Kenny Hitt on September 30, 2004 at 10:27 AM
Well, this is what happens when you stay up as late as possible on a Tuesday night researching like mad to find something of interest that the last writer missed.
From Ben Mills on September 30, 2004 at 2:48 PM
I've recieved some information through one of my links that may or may not be true...if it isn't then ignore it, but if it is, you heard it here first ;-)

I've got a rumour that suggests that The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach had an accident this morning, giving minor injuries to 27 riders. No serious damage was caused to the ride or riders, but it may have been shut for today.

I cannot find a link to any article about this ANYWHERE, so if anyone has any supporting info for this, drop it here. Thanks.

From Derek Potter on September 30, 2004 at 4:03 PM
Ah...welcome to TPI, where we all share the same thought that you just stated.

I realize that Disney is a force in the park industry, but where is the news on some of the other 95% of the industry? I realize that this is theme park insider, and everybody likes to talk about Disney, but how about some variety. I know that there was plenty more news to talk about the past few days.

From Dan Babbitt on September 30, 2004 at 4:24 PM
This is my first comment at this site and I LOVE disney but eisner has to leave very soon! He is just running the company down to the ground. i work at a movie theater and people always ask me questions on why disney isnt putting out big quality movies any more and have to explain this reason because of eisner!!
From J. Dana on September 30, 2004 at 4:43 PM
Dan, tell your theater-goers that he's leaving by June; sooner if possible. That should keep them happy for awhile.

And I agree that we need more non-Disney news, but here's the cold, hard facts: the Blog Flume relies on published reports, and Disney's publicity department dwarfs everything else in the industry. So Disney news is readily accessible. But we do need to try harder to find other news from the industry.

From Robert Niles on September 30, 2004 at 5:58 PM
FWIW, I've looked at enough traffic reports for the site to determine which companies' news topics draw the most page views on the site. Here's the order:

Six Flags
Cedar Fair
Anything Europe

Now, this is not a reflection of the popularity of these companies' parks. Or of the traffic that their park listings draw on the site. It's just how stories involving these companies do on the news pages. (And we've been pretty aggressive about Six Flags' business operations, which pumps up the numbers for them.)

So... yeah, we can find news about other companies. And should. And will. But people really love the Disney stuff.

From Kenny Hitt on September 30, 2004 at 7:19 PM
I know there was a lot of Disney stuff in this Flume, but honestly, it was the only company that actually had all that much going on this week. This is why I at least tried to throw in the story of the additional injury on MUMMY at Univeral. I was trying to find more info on some of the samage SFOG took due to the hurricane, but couldn't find very much at all.
From J. Dana on September 30, 2004 at 11:51 PM
Kenny, you did a good comment is for ALL OF US to look for other news...however, I do love hearing the Disney news too...probably as much as anyone. Heck, I'm a sucker for any Mouse news.
From Kevin Baxter on October 1, 2004 at 1:00 AM
People should realize that it isn't always easy to find non-Disney news. Something interesting about, say, Six Flags over Georgia isn't usually going to show up in the Orlando Sentinel. And the Sentinel is the ONLY newspaper that places any focus on theme parks. Even the LA Times, which is surrounded by parks representing the five biggest theme park companies, tends to ignore them.

And this job certainly doesn't pay enough to check out every single local paper for every single theme park in this country. The only way I ever got news from the smaller parks was if that news was major enough to make the major papers or if someone sent me a link. So lay off!

From Russell Meyer on October 1, 2004 at 6:29 AM
True that...Not to mention that a lot of the parks tend to not leak anything regarding park development until a press release. The only reason Kingda Ka was expected before it's official announcement was because track was showing up at the park...Before that only unsubstantiated rumors circled the coaster sites, and most of those rumors were way off.

I think it's really hard to sort the fact from fiction, and it's up to the writer to determine what "rumors" seem logical and worth the time to research and write about. Disney is a whole different story because of MiceAge and the other various sites and freaks who go to the parks every single day and report when a trash can is moved. There are also the people who scan the theme park sites, and stumble upon a "what would you do to improve a park" thread and start to spread rumors as if those ideas were fact.

From J. Dana on October 1, 2004 at 12:15 PM
So, Russell, are you telling me the rumors about making Space Mountain into a big 50th anniversary pink cupcake may not be true? Hmmm.....
From Derek Potter on October 1, 2004 at 8:53 PM
There are plenty of places outside the newspaper to find news. The Orlando Sentinel may run lots of news about theme parks, but the only reason they do is because the Orlando area theme parks are a very large part of Orlando and the local and state economies. The LA Times probably has a lot more news to sort through, so reports on Disney's every move usually aren't gonna happen because parks don't really affect the local economy and image like it does in Orlando.

How about the internet??? It's pretty easy to find reliable news if you just surf a bit. Granted with these sites there are some false rumors, but many of them turn out to be true, and despite the rumors, there are still reliable news stories on these sites, some of which are never acknowledged here. Just because it's not reported in a newspaper doesn't mean it's not worth bringing up in discussion. If you are looking for news on a particular park, go visit their fan sites. Cedar Point has pointbuzz...among many others. Kings Island has PKI unlimited, which is inhabited by many park employees. In fact, most of the large amusement and theme parks have sites devoted to them. These sites grab any story about the park that is reported in the news, be it in the local newspaper, or on the local news station.... as well as closely follow construction of the new rides and attractions. A simple Yahoo search will direct to all of those sites.

From Kenny Hitt on October 2, 2004 at 8:05 AM
Actually, I found all my information using the internet, surfing web sites either based in locations around the major parks, or directly associated with the parks. Official sites, in general, tend to not delve very deeply into news stories, or don't report them at all. Would report on the closure of a beloved attraction, or a sexual harassment case, or financial difficulties? Would Universal's official site report on an injury?

Quite honestly, this is my first Blog flume. I don't expect to be perfect my first time around (hence Rob giving everyone two columns). Perhaps for my next run, Hell will open up underneath Magic Mountain, or aliens will land at King's Island, or Kim Basinger will lose her swimsuit at Six Flags White Water. This column was already long enough with all the previously untouched news I introduced. Sometimes things just get swallowed up.

From Robert OGrosky on October 2, 2004 at 8:26 AM
While no column can be perfect, i think this one is good.
With everything i think practice makes perfect and would be concerned if after several columns they didnt get better or got worse.
From steve lee on October 2, 2004 at 1:02 PM
I thought you were looking for recent news.

Hell opened up under Magic Mountain years ago.

From J. Dana on October 2, 2004 at 4:56 PM
Kenny, you did fine....especially considering your column generated so much discussion. Good job.
From Kenny Hitt on October 2, 2004 at 4:57 PM
Well, thanks for the kind words :) They are most certainly appreciated.
From Kevin Baxter on October 2, 2004 at 11:59 PM
Did I not say that it would take too much time to find every single friggin' theme park story out there? Unless you are willing to spend four or five hours to write one single column yourself, then maybe you shouldn't castigate others for not wasting their lives away on this thing. The idea of the column is to share major news and to add a little entertainment value to it. This isn't Google personified.
From mark walker on October 3, 2004 at 12:39 PM
Oh, I thought it was.
From TH Creative on October 3, 2004 at 2:22 PM
You da man, Kenny!
From Chuck Campbell on October 3, 2004 at 6:49 PM
Showing "Armageddon" during the hurricanes was an interesting choice.

Showing "Key Largo" or "Hurricane" would've been bad taste.

Showing "The Country Bears" would've been torture.

You're doin' fine, Mr. Hitt.

From John Franklin on October 3, 2004 at 9:01 PM
Hey Chuck, forcing the captive guests at WDW to watch movies like:
The Little Mermaid 2
Cinderella 2
Jungle Book 2
and Lady and the Tramp 2
would even be wrose.
I wonder if Disney could be sued for cruel and unnatural punishment?
From Kevin Baxter on October 4, 2004 at 7:52 PM
Hey, THC loves those movies! They've turned his man Eisner into a superstar!
From John Franklin on October 5, 2004 at 12:12 AM
Hey Robert, for whom? The Three Blind Mice?
(ie who die Eisner turn into a superstar for?)
From Kenny Hitt on October 5, 2004 at 6:27 AM
>>>Hey, THC loves those movies! They've turned his man Eisner into a superstar!<<<

Along with the wonderful family works of Victor Salva and Larry Clark, right?

BTW, I heard he's asked that dynamic duo to redesign IT'S A SMALL WORLD...apparently it'll save on maintenence costs if all the puppet children's clothes are removed.

Yeah, that's a cheap shot, I know.

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