This newest book by J. Jeff Kober celebrates Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the stories, tales, and lessons behind it!
I am so very excited to announce today my newest book, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, published by Theme Park Press. I’m thrilled that it’s available in time for this week’s 25th silver anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you love Disney, if you love all things Hollywood, and if you love Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, you are going to love this book.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, by J. Jeff Kober
This is the most comprehensive story of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios ever told. Books have been written about Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and even Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but other than the wonderful, but brief Imagineering Guide, there has never really been another book that talked about this park so fully. You’ll find any number of stories that document how Disney has approached this park, its daily operation, and its unique attractions. There’s probably the most comprehensive description of the Tower of Terror. You’ll hear rare stories about the making of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, the creation of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and about the rise and fall of Disney Feature Animation Florida. Did you know that one of the biggest deals in Hollywood was created at The Brown Derby restaurant here at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? You’ll read about that and more.
Who was Louis B. Mayer of MGM’s Metro Goldwyn Mayer? And how was his studios boss style different than Walt Disney’s? Photo by J. Jeff Kober
But beyond that, you’ll find little-known stories about the Walt Disney, the company he founded, and of Hollywood itself. Who is Edith and Adrian? Who is Min and Bill? Where did the expression “Mickey Mouse Operation” come from? What was it like on the set of The Golden Girls? What created the theme park wars between Michael Eisner and Universal Studios? And what were some of the greatest and most tragic moments of Walt Disney’s life?
Few know the true tragic story represented by this fountain at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Most importantly Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz is more than some “tell-all” tabloid from Hedda Gabler or TMZ. Every story has a lesson–has some message for one’s business, leadership and life. Every story ends by asking you questions about how you would approach adversity, competition, or serving others.
Roger Rabbit bursts through the window of Eddie Valiant’s office. Learn how “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” ended up “Bumping the Lamp” for the Walt Disney Company, and how you can “Bump the Lamp” in your own organization. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Some people dismiss Disney’s Hollywood Studios as the lesser of all Walt Disney World parks. I would counter that no where in such an intimate space will you find more insight, more heritage, and more understanding of Walt Disney, of the studio he founded, and of Hollywood itself. Indeed, you could spend several days walking Hollywood itself, and not learn nearly as much as you would with this book and an afternoon at this incredible park.
Labeled as “Disney’s Folly” Walt overcame opposition and premiered his first full-length feature, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Carthay Circle Theater. How do you face opposition? These are the lesson’s in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Want to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Disney? Treat yourself to Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz! Now available through Amazon.
I thought I would do a follow up article to my previous blog on how Disneyland Resort Cast Members were being treated with respect to parking for work. This time we’re out at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World where an enormous construction project is underway. That project requires taking over several parking lots, thus pushing guests further out in the back of the rest of the lots, or even across the street. At given times, it’s nearly impossible to find a place to park your car.
Yet right toward the front of Disney’s West Side parking lot you find the following:
It looks like Downtown Disney is empty, but not so. The rest of the parking lot is filled with the exception of these spaces up front. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Plenty of free parking spaces, right? But wait, there’s a sign–is it for handicapped parking? No, it’s for Disney management. Take a closer look:
a “Gold Football” sticker means one thing at Disney–You’re an executive.
Disney Cast Members are familiar with what is referred to as the “Gold Football.” Those Disney executives who receive gold football passes are able to park in any of these spaces. I don’t know why they need those spaces. Offices for those who work at the Downtown Disney are located several lots over. The only people who would likely park here are those from Team Disney across the street. The ironic part of that is that Team Disney is where the guests are being asked to park during the construction period.
What messages do you send the guests by having premium parking spaces saved for executive staff? For that matter, what messages do you send the rest of the Cast having such premium parking spaces saved for executives? Especially during a heavy construction period where there are so few cars.
It would seem that if Disney executives really wanted to walk in the shoes of their guests, they ought to try finding parking spaces like the guests have to.
Of course, Disney isn’t the only organization who participates in this hierarchical foolishness. GM not only has it’s own executive parking spaces, they had their own garage. Added to that was a set of private executive elevators, a private executive set of floors, and a private executive cafeteria. No wonder they are so out of touch when a car needs to be recalled. If you want to be in touch with your employees and with your customers, start by flattening the organization.
And that activity begins in the parking lot.
This weekend Disneyland Resort Cast Members will be asked to park at Angel Stadium because of large expected crowds in the park. Micechat last week commented on this and detailed a flier that stated:
“As a reminder, driving to work and parking in a Cast lot is not expected or required and is just one commuting option available to Cast. Other commute alternatives available to Cast Members include carpooling, riding the bus or train, van pooling, bicycling or walking.”
Disneyland Cast Members taking a shuttle back to their cars late at night. Curiously, the spot they are loading in is where they used to park years ago. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
I initially found the statement to be extremely insensitive. Such a statement at Walt Disney World would be laughable given how Casting in making hiring decisions pretty much expects you to have access to some vehicle as one of your options for getting to work. Having thought it further, I wondered if Tokyo Disney Cast Members have any opportunity to park, and whether they must rely entirely on the modes of transportation listed above.
This takes me back to the time when Disney’s Animal Kingdom was getting ready for opening in 1998. The parking lot was one of the first projects completed as it allowed a space for construction crews to park. As the first operations Cast Members began working, they too started parking at the front of the park. Then as everyone else came aboard, they made it convenient for everyone to park there until opening.
Then the park’s opening came.
The plan once the park opened was to have Cast Members park about half a mile away in a lot where the wardrobe building was created. Then they were going to bus them around the perimeter of the park to their various designations. This is not unlike bussing situation at the Magic Kingdom. The only difference was that the bus was driving around the perimeter like they do for Epcot–and that takes quite a few minutes given the size of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Having experienced how easy it was to park in the front of the lot, the Cast rebelled against the idea of parking so far away. Many threatened that they would try transferring somewhere else when they were eligible. Eventually, management gave in, and that is why Cast Members now park toward the front of the park–in a proximity not unlike the way Disneyland Cast Members parked toward one side of the front of the lot so many years ago.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wardrobe Building. It still exists, but only for picking up and dropping off costumes. Cast Members now park elsewhere. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Returning to present-day Disneyland, I don’t know if the issue is simply about the hassle of parking and shuttling in from so far away. I think the issue is whether management really cares–and whether they demonstrate that care. Brad Bird, director of Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the new Tomorrowland movie once said: “If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value.”
Best to ask, is parking enhancing or degrading the morale? And if the latter, what is being done to off set that problem? In the end, for Disney or for any organization, it’s not about the parking. It is about whether you genuinely show that you care. And that effort to care should begin the moment the employee arrives.
Guests always seem to gravitate to Ghirardelli at Disney California Adventure. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
I love Ghirardelli! Perhaps too much looking at my waist size. I love how they greet you with a chocolate square when you enter. It’s such a nice touch.
I was kind of bummed out last week in Orlando I thought our family was going to get ice cream at the Ghirardelli in Downtown Disney. But the family made a switch and we ended up elsewhere.
So when I ended up at Disney California Adventure on the west coast yesterday, I planned my visit to grab an ice cream right before I attended World of Color at 8:15 pm. Well, maybe I didn’t plan to well, because the next thing I knew it was 8:00, which was the hour of closing. I realized that the shop might be closed, so I hurried over.
It was closed as I and others approached. I couldn’t blame them for closing. They have to close at some point. But as I approached the second doorway I found a Cast Member at the door. She was apologetic about closing, but said, “Here, we want you to have some chocolate anyway!” She then handed me not one, but five chocolate squares. Wow! What a nice touch.
It was unexpected, but it made me want to go back all the more. I love it when an organization goes the extra mile–even when they are closed. Ghirardelli not only offers a superb product–it offers a superb service experience.
I just received Japanese copies of my book, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. It looks like this!
Japanese version of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney, by J. Jeff Kober
Thank goodness that the English title and my name was on the cover–I would have never known that it was my book! And it doesn’t get easier when you look between the covers. Not knowing Japanese, I would have little indication that this was the book I wrote. But I did find this page:
5 Human Needs from The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney by J. Jeff Kober.
There are Five Human Needs that every individual has, and I could see that they were clearly outlined in the red box. For those who are not up to speed on their Japanese, those Five Human Needs are:
1. Be Heard and Understood
2. Belong and Contribute
3. Feel Stable and In Control
4. Feel Significant and Special
5. Be Successful and Reach Potential
Seeing these needs listed gave me a chance to pause and consider how really universal those needs are. I give plenty of examples in my book that relates largely to experiences we have here in North America. But in truth, these needs manifest themselves world-wide, even in Japan.
I’m not exactly sure how to give you a link to my book in Japanese, but you can click here to find it on Amazon. I promise you’ll find something to improve your world–no matter where in the world you live.
FastPass+ provided on the Mad Tea Party. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The other day I asked the question, “How well is Disney doing?” Today I ask the question, “How well is Disney MyMagic+ doing?”
From the conference call Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo hosted last week for the 1st quarter results, we have a very interesting response to that question. The question posed was: “Can you give us any indications of how the roll out is going on revenue and customer behavior? Because per caps are really good this quarter. So what’s going on with MyMagic+?”
Here’s what Bob Iger had to say:
“I can’t quite quantify it from a financial perspective yet–it’s still early–and we’re still rolling out facets of it. What I can say is that what has been rolled out has been a real success–both for the guest and for us. So to give you a for instance:
“Our parks people in Walt Disney World believe during the peak holiday season that we were able to accommodate about 3,000 more additional guests in the Magic Kingdom per day thanks to Magic+.
“One of the most attractive features–and one that I think will have possibly the biggest benefit is the FastPass+, which is the ability to reserve three times on three attractions per day, either before you visited the park if you are a resort guest, or on the day you enter the park if you are a same day or a single-day ticket holder. What we are seeing there is substantially higher utilization of that product among our guests than we saw with the traditional FastPass–by the way–by a wide margin.
“And since the goal of this was to make the guest experience better, enable the guest to experience more, to do so more efficiently, and essentially to be able to customize, we think that these are very, very good signs for us because clearly, guest satisfaction is very, very important to the value equation for us–both in how they spend their time when they are with us, and a determining factor in terms of whether they come back.
So this is all very good. So I would say the biggest impact is first, the ability to accommodate more people–just because it’s simply more efficient; and secondly, enabling the guest to have a substantially better experience than they’ve had before, because they are doing more.”
Jay Rasulo went on to acknowledge that even though the expected start up costs of MyMagic+ was a drag on revenues, the revenues were still showed as being very high for the resorts.
I’m really surprised by that report. That 3,000 guests were able to take advantage of that service is impressive. And for the most part, blog readers seem to be responding positively to the service once they’ve tried the service.
Also impressive is a one of the first StoryMaker devices being made available to the public. If you loved Dug in “Up” and the fact that his dog collar could translate his barks into English, well you’ll love the new “Bark-O-Lator!”
The new Bark-O-Lator is just a part of the new MyMagic+ offerings coming to Guests. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This device is near the Dug and Russell meet ‘n’ greet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are two similar Bark-O-Lators. Press the button and bark into the device. The machine then translates what you said back into English. As it works currently, it’s pretty cute. The translations received are random, but fun statements. However, in the near future your MagicBand held up to the Bark-O-Lator will translate into statements that are customized to your experience. And that’s when it’s really cool.
Other earlier articles I’ve done already note that many of these devices are in place ready to be activated in the near future. That’s when I think it’s going to be really terrific. Indeed, that’s when you’ll finally see the magic in MyMagic+.
Headquarters for the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This last week Disney released its first quarter results ending on December 28, 2013. This plus the annual report of 2013 suggests that the results are…well…fantasmic! Every facet of the organization is doing well. Here’s a summary of what’s going well:
1. The box office is hot–in particular due to the success of Frozen, Thor, and Saving Mr. Banks this past quarter. Frozen has surpassed The Lion King to be the most successful animated film of all time.
2. The transformation of Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort with the completion of Cars Land, the expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, the addition of three new lands to Hong Kong Disneyland and the celebration of Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th anniversary led to record attendance at every one of these parks in 2013.
The investment on Disney’s California Adventure is paying off with major attendance gains at both Anaheim parks. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
3. Media networks are excelling on many fronts. ESPN is the king of sports. ABC’s Good Morning America is now the number one morning show in the country. In only three years Disney Junior has emerged from nothing to become the number-one channel in the United States among Kids 2-5.
4. The popularity of Disney Infinity drove Disney’s Interactive profitability for the second consecutive quarter. Disney Animated beat out 100,000 other new apps to earn Apple’s “iPad App of the Year” honor for 2013.
5. The demand of Frozen, Star Wars and Disney Junior merchandise are leaders in what has led Disney Consumer Products delivering an operating income of more than 1 billion for the first time in the company’s history. By the way, Disney Stores in 2013 delivered their best performance to date with double-digit growth across all lines of business.
6. With two new ships, and with Disney Magic just fresh from a major makeover, Condé Nast Traveler has named all four ships among the 5 top large cruise ships in the world.
Finally, The Walt Disney Company has been recognized as one of the world’s most reputable, admired, and socially responsible companies by the likes of Forbes, Fortune, and Barron’s.
All of this resulted in record earnings for the company. And how does Bob Iger feel about this? “We’re obviously proud of our performance… And it’s very satisfying to see long term strategies come to fruition, delivering results and driving greater value to our company and shareholders.”
2014 will probably only continue to get better. Here’s what’s on their plate for the rest of this year:
- Completed roll out of MyMagic+ at Walt Disney World.
- Premiere of Seven Dwarf’s Roller Coaster.
- Phases of the new Disney Springs will come on line.
- New Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World.
- Disneyland Paris will open a new attraction based on Pixar’s Ratatouille.
- The introduction of Star Wars Rebels on television.
- A strong Disney line up of films to include Muppets Most Wanted, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Million Dollar Arm, and Maleficent.
- Disney’s Aladdin will open on Broadway. The LaJolla Playhouse will stage the english-speaking version of Hunchback of Notre Dame as well.
Construction being completed on the new Seven Dwarf’s roller coaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Then comes 2015 is even more incredible with the new Shanghai Disneyland park, plus the next installment of the Avengers and the premiere of Star Wars VII.
So how is Disney doing? The company is probably more solid, more profitable, and acting on more opportunities than ever before. Critics pick apart at the little things. And no organization is perfect. But at the end of the day, Disney is perhaps doing better than it has ever done in its entire history.
What do you think? Do you see Disney as better than ever?
I had the privilege of enjoying a short anniversary trip with my wife on the Disney Cruise Line last week. The Disney Dream is an amazing ship, and what an incredible time we had. It was in so many ways a complete wow.
The Disney Dream is an amazing ship–part of the Disney Cruise Line fleet. Here it’s parked at Disney’s Castaway Cay. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Probably because almost everything with the Disney Cruise Line exceeded my expectations, it made me all the more aware of service when it wasn’t up to par. It also made me reflect at how inconsistent service can occur in any organization. Let me offer some examples:
1. Employee Behavior. Not everyone aboard the Disney Dream or in the Disney Cruise Line Terminal or on Castaway Cay are Disney Cast Members for the Disney Cruise Line. Some are operating partners. And a few are simply not associated at all. For instance, before we even got on the ship, we observed these individuals:
This Crew Member for the Disney Cruise Line is helping out passengers checking in. The red ribbon under her badge indicates she is new and “earning her ears.” It’s a great way of inviting guests to be more patient with those learning their role. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This crew member is engaging guests in having their photo taken. The crew member is not part of the Disney Cruise Line, but still is required to perform to the same standards and behaviors as any Disney Cast or Crew Member. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Upon exiting the Disney Cruise Line Terminal and boarding the ship, this is the last person you see–a port authority guy probably responsible for the gang plank, but appearing to be asleep. Actually, he was looking at his mobile phone device. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
I was impressed how the Disney Cruise Line operating partner–in this case the group responsible for photos on the ship–were really as polished as any Cast Member. But then we passed by the guy working for the local port authority. What’s message are you sending if the last individual you encounter before going aboard a gang plank is someone who is so inattentive to his duty as to nearly appear asleep? Yes, the individual is with the port authority, not Disney Cruise Line. But who really knows that? All you see consciously–or subconsciously–is someone who seems “asleep” at the gang plank. And the clutter behind him doesn’t support the magical experience as well.
2. The Shuttle. Disney Cruise Lines private island Castaway Cay is so huge that you may very well want to take the shuttle. It’s intent is similar to the parking lot trams you find at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. But this tram is different. Yes…it’s open-ended on one side. I don’t think that’s a big deal. Disney trams ran open ended on both sides for decades and I don’t think that’ matters as much if you’re driving the tram safely, and not doing too many tight turns.
But this tram was straight out of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Going down a former airfield tarmac it seemed that it was trying to take flight. And given that the road wasn’t so smooth, you really got bumped around. You could see and hear it in the guests expression. Everyone was so surprised that the tram was going as fast as it was. That was probably because the trams at Walt Disney World are very consistent in their efforts to be safe. And that’s important, be cause the tram can often be the first impression or the last impression you have of your park experience–even though it’s completely outside the park.
All that said, no one fell off the gang plank nor off of a tram. If they had though, it would have been all over the web, and it wouldn’t have mattered the port authority was in charge or whether the tram experience was better in the parks. It would have still had Disney Cruise Line’s name all over it. That brings us to our third example.
3. Getting Sick. While we were enjoying our Disney cruise Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Sesa returned to port with more than 600 passengers affected by a norovirus outbreak. And just yesterday, the Caribbean Princess has returned to port with the same problem.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Royal Caribbean offers some fairly amazing ships. But if you’re sick the entire time on board, what difference does a beautiful ship make? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
I’m not saying the Disney Cruise Line is perfect in this regard–it has had minor outbreaks in the past as well. But I’d like to think they have learned from the experience. In fact, according to Marketwatch, Disney Cruise Line is ranked as one of the most hygienic cruise lines. Indeed, it hasn’t failed a Centers for Disease Control inspection in the last ten years–something that Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, and other competitors can’t currently claim.
The message is three fold:
1. Don’t let anyone or anything send an inconsistent message.
2. Be consistent across the board–from beginning to end–and not just in certain locations.
3. Learn from your mistakes in becoming more consistent.
As Aristotle put it “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Disney Cruise Line spends too much time and money creating the best products and services possible to allow one to two individuals or experiences break the magic. Service consistency is huge for any organization–not just Disney. Companies work too hard to let one employee or one service moment break the entire experience you are providing customers. You have to stay attentive to the details that ultimately matter.
What does this look like in your organization? Where does the magic fall apart in providing a great service experience? How do you make sure that excellence occurs every day?
When the first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney came out, my rationale for writing the book came from the fact that I didn’t feel anyone was really telling people what customer service was really all about at Disney. I had developed the customer service curriculum that was to be the foundation in the development of the Be Our Guest book Disney released. That book had a forward by Michael Eisner. I doubt that Michael ever read the final draft it was finally written, but he did decide who was going to author it. While we thought it made sense for people at The Disney Institute to write it, we were told he wanted to go outside of the organization to have it written. Being responsible for customer service programming at the Disney Institute, I disappointingly relinquished all of the materials I had written to the author. I never met the author, and after a year went by nothing came of it. We inquired and begged for the opportunity to write the book ourselves. Eisner still didn’t want the book written by anyone at The Disney Institute and chose another ghost writer to do the book. I again sent the individual a copy of my materials, but never met the person. It was all too disappointing. Not that long thereafter, I moved on when a new opportunity became available.
But I didn’t leave the ideas that were at the heart of providing a great guest experience at Disney, and when Be Our Guest came out, I was determined someone had to tell the story–not only the truth of what works and what doesn’t at Disney–but how to make the experience come alive in one’s own company, whether it was a hospital, an airport, or an insurance firm.
The result was my first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. I was pleased with the response–especially since my copies didn’t get space on a shelf at the Emporium. It was truly one of the proudest things I have done in my career. It has literally been read by thousands of people who have implemented its ideas into their own workplace.
The only challenge is that Disney is constantly changing. How they approach customer service ever evolving, and I felt like I needed to address those changes. In particular, there were three areas I especially focused on in this new edition:
1. Disney’s Service Behaviors. Back when I wrote the first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney the company was trying to move away from it’s original Seven Service Guidelines to more practical behaviors. Since then it has nailed a really solid set of behaviors expected not only of every Cast Member at Disney, but of leaders as well. We address both.
- 2. Making Guests Feel Special. I wanted to provide some clearer ideas about the ways Disney creates interactions as opposed to transactions. New stories in this second edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney really press upon the way that guests experience something truly magical as a part of their stay at Disney.
- 3. High Tech/High Experience. With the addition of MyMagic+, FastPass+ and Magic Bands, Disney has done some innovative things to address the biggest complaint guests have about their experience at Disney–waiting in line. This is whey I waited as long as I did to do a new edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. I needed to evaluate how Disney is creating a more interactive, more high-tech experience.
- That’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes. Every chapter was touched upon with new stories and ideas, and some chapters were substantially changed. Also, I re-did the order of the book so as to make it easy for people to take The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney and adapt it to their own organization.
What I didn’t change was the cover. It still hearkens to the early days of the Wonderful World of Disney show when everything seemed to come alive on your old TV set as you watched as a family on Sunday evenings. Those same traditions of excellence, great service, and magic are still a part of this book as well.
Please check it out, and let us know what you think. We’re excited for this new edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney.
New kiosks for FastPass+. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
I wrote an article this week in MousePlanet that focuses on the new FastPass+ system. If you’re not familiar with FastPass+, it’s Disney’s recent effort to make waiting in line for an attraction more hassle-free. Waiting in line is the biggest frustration guests have with staying at Disney.
The article is especially targeted to those who are not staying on property at Disney. But it has ideas that apply to all. It includes lots of comments, so read pass the end of the article.
Check it out!