A multilingual petition to Bob Iger asks for Disney's CEO and top management to do something about the (frankly, pretty terrible) condition of Disneyland Paris, a park I've stopped visiting (though it's closest to me), due to the poor staffing, poor maintenance, bad (and expensive) food and hotels, and large number of out-of-service attractions and shows.
The upkeep of parks, attractions and hotels has been neglected so often during the past 20 years that many facilities are not “Disney standard”. Many themed elements are decaying and crumbling, while others are literally falling apart.
On a positive note, an extensive rehabilitation program has been put into place in recent years, aiming to fix many of the broken, outdated or deteriorated rides, effects and theming. While this indicates that Disneyland Paris’ management is seriously taking notice of its shortcomings,it only touches the tip of the iceberg. The many years of neglect have taken their toll on the most beautiful Magic Kingdom ever designed; the cost of bringing it back to its former glory is now higher than it would have been, had things been fixed sooner.
2. Budget Cuts
The Tarzan Encounter show at the Chaparral Theater, The Legend of the Lion King show at Videopolis, and the iconic night-time parade Disney’s Fantillusion! were all cancelled this year. Meanwhile, other show venues, such as Le Théâtre du Château, have been left disused and empty for years. In addition to that, several rides as well as countless restaurants and boutiques are now open for limited hours: e.g. from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. while the park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Furthermore, bad maintenance is dramatically reducing the capacity of certain attractions over time. For instance, Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing (open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) has been operating with just one of the two available paddlewheel steamships for many years and a few of the roller coasters are operating with fewer trains, thus reducing capacity.
The lack of maintenance combined with the budget cuts have created a never-ending cycle of ride breakdowns, which affects all types of rides. These breakdowns, together with lowered capacity, make the park constantly overcrowded while Disneyland Paris keeps beating attendance numbers year after year; the resort welcomed 16 million guests in 2012. As a result, a day at Disneyland Paris has become a succession of walks between what is open and what is not.
The food offerings in the resort vary greatly, but overall the quality is never as good as what’s offered in your American parks. The majority of restaurants offer either counter service fast food or all-you-can-eat buffets. Just a small group of table service restaurants remains; initially more were available but several have been turned into counter service restaurants, such as the Explorer’s Club being turned into Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost, a standard pizza restaurant.
In recent years, the quality of the food offered at the more expensive table service restaurants has been declining. Dishes of industrial pre-cooked meals are served in mere minutes after taking up the order, an indication the food was not made-to-order. The fast food offerings are steep in price and cannot compete with the better known alternatives, such as McDonald’s which is just a few minutes’ walk from the parks in Disney Village.
What is perhaps even more concerning, besides the low food quality at premium prices, is the opening hours of some of the restaurants. When Disneyland Park closes at 11:00 p.m., you would expect to be able to have a nice evening dinner, not to discover the restaurant closed at 7:30 p.m.. These short opening hours make it impossible to book a meal for later in the day; you either have to plan ahead or settle for counter service offerings in Disneyland Park or Disney Village.
4. Walt Disney Studios Park
The smallest Disney theme park, the only park to open without a traditional Disney dark ride, the park that is struggling with its identity; in short the park that never met the “Disney standard”. The lack of attractions, the bare environment, the unclear overall theme, the poorly designed master plan, the low capacity of the new attractions, etc., are all major issues. This park needs a serious placemaking project and a complete reevaluation of its theme to bring it up to the standards of your company.
Beyond these four main categories (Maintenance, Budget Cuts, Food, Walt Disney Studios Park), there is also plenty of work to be done on the ageing Disney Village, the mediocre-quality merchandising and its lack of diversity, and the outdated Disney Hotels that offer poor services at extremely high rates.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.