Sunday, October 31, 2010

Disney Still Struggling to Fill Rooms?

Anecdotally we've all known that the number of people at Disney World has been down the past few years. When the economy gets tough we all have to cut out luxuries, and lets face it, Disney is a luxury item (despite the obsession many of us may have). Factually we've been told by the Disney Company that occupancy in Orlando is down 8% and in Anaheim it is down 3%.

So how is Disney pushing to fill those rooms? We've seen an absolute flood of the infamous Free Dining and other offers to entice people to come to Disney World. This has angered many DVC-ers and Annual Passholders because our loyalty to Disney World excludes us from many of these offers (though in fairness a few things have been done to attempt to make up the gap).

This past week Disney took another step to help expand its room marketing in order to increase occupancy. Disney is now listing its rooms on Priceline.com. According to the story, and common sense for those of us who know Disney, the company has avoided placing its room inventory on Priceline due to the view that it cheapens the Disney brand.

From my Disney soapbox-- I think Disney continues to mishandle the room occupancy issue during the economic downturn. As a stockholder I understand, and appreciate, the desire to get as many people in the resort as possible. But at what long term cost? I think they've now set a precedent with Free Dining that people will expect such an offer the next time they book their family trip to Disney. Opening up Disney rooms to Priceline now puts the company into the market of people searching for a cheap deal for a vacation vs looking to come to Disney itself.

We all know we pay a premium to go to Disney parks, buy Disney merchandise and often times pay more for Disney movies for home. Disney can get away with this because of its brand. We all know that while we are paying more, we know we will get our moneys worth in quality-- that is a rare occurrence in todays marketplace!

I think Bob Iger and the Disney leadership are heading down a slippery slope that could damage the Disney brand. Hopefully when these short term decisions to save the bottom line are made they are taking into account the long term impact.



Friday, October 29, 2010

Who was the real Walt Disney?

As I have gotten older my love for Disney has really grown. My childhood fondness of the movies, cartoons and parks have gone way up as I get to share those experiences with my boys. Their joy every time we drive under the giants sign that lets you know your on Disney property makes many of the hardships of parenting and professional life worth it.

I have also started to become enamored with the concept of Disney the business as I get older. Two brothers (I don't think Roy O. gets enough credit) started with a simple idea of making great cartoons and eventually built an entertainment empire. Most people do not realize it, but it is nearly impossible to live a normal day in American life without being exposed to a Disney project in some form or fashion. When you delve into all the concepts the Disney brand inspired it becomes even more amazing the impact Walt and Roy has on our lives.

So earlier this year I began a personal journey. I wanted to better understand how this company became what it is today. I started out by reading the book entitled Disney War, which covers the Michael Eisner period and the struggle of Roy E. had in maintaining the vision of his uncle and father. (Read my review here)

I've now moved on to biographies of Walt himself. I spent a lot of time researching what bio of Walt to read. There are plenty out there that continue the myth (one I held myself) that the real Walt was the man we saw accepting the Oscar from Shirley Temple, who gave us a tour of Disneyland, or we saw every week in the The Wonderful World of Disney. There are also plenty that will disparage Walt as a destroyer of american high culture and a raving anti-communist.

I settled on the book Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination. I first looked into this book because a Cast Member friend of mine recommended I pick it up after I finished Disney War. What immediately caught my attention was the unprecedented access author Neal Garber was given to the Disney archives, in many ways similar to James Stewart in Disney War. This bio is not based on hearsay, conjecture or the desire to fit Walt into a box-- it is based on actual memos, letters and other correspondence written by Walt, Roy O. and other major players in the Disney stratosphere.

Many would probably hang me for this, but Walt had many, many faults and many tough times in his life that shaped him into the man we love and admire today. He and Roy were constantly on the verge of bankruptcy until the opening of Disneyland in the late 1950's. Between the completion of Fantasia and the late 1940's Walt was in a seemingly constant state of depression as his financial position destroyed his vision for the future of cartoons and the workers utopia he wanted at his studio. He was merciless in trying to break an animator strike that nearly destroyed his studio and during World War II he essentially became a war time propagandist just to keep his comp afloat.

All these things shaped Walt in a drastic way and in reality shaped us all. He poured his heart and soul into most of his features and projects, many of which continue to impact the American psyche to this day.

So over the next few weeks I am going to do pots on various points in Walt's life, good and bad, that I think are both interesting and seemed to have a significant impact on Walt, Roy O. and the entire organization. Would love to hear your comments/questions as I put up each story.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Latest DVC Webcast

The fine folks at DVC just sent out an e-mail on the latest Member webcast. The webcast is set to cover:
  • The 2011 Walt Disney World theme "Creating Memories" and the new night time show.
  • A sneak peek of the latest DVC resort-- Aulani in Hawaii
  • Special holiday season add-on offers for more DVC points
The last point should be interesting in light of the pricing and promotion changes that recently took place and the rumor the Bay Lake Tower base pricing will increase to $130 in December.

If you participate in the event you will have a limited time access to the promotions discussed on the webcast and be sent a lithograph.

If you'd like to join the webcast RSVP here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Rumors on New DVC Resort

The fine folks over at DVC News have info up on the rumored next DVC Resort.

The rumored location is the site of the old River Country, between Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge. Permits filed show several lay out designs that appear to be DVC style rooms.

The site makes sense in that Disney has a seemingly seen a more popular response to Bay Lake Tower over the Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. Access to the Magic Kingdom is very popular amongst all Disney guest, especially DVC members. Bay Lake Tower sells at a premium over other DVC resort options and also cost on average more points per night to stay. Wilderness Lodge sees the same general cost structure per night as Bay Lake. This means if BLT has taught DVC anything its a larger points inventory to sell at a higher cost-- makes great sense for them to focus on this area for expansion.

Personally, I would like DVC build into Polynesian or perhaps start a whole new monorail resort north of the Grand Floridian or in between Poly and the canal crossing by the Contemporary.

Fact of the matter is unless something begins soon DVC may run out of WDW inventory before the next resort comes on line.

Where would you like to see the next DVC Resort at Walt Disney World?

Update on Disney at National Harbor

Back in July I did a post on Disney in the Nation's Capital. In the post I discussed the old Disney's America project that got scuttled about 15 years ago and the purchase of land at National Harbor by Disney in the spring of 2009.

Today MiceAge.Com put up an article on the status of the National Harbor porject. The gist? National Harbor, much like many other Disney regional concepts not tied to theme parks, are currently on hold pending a turn around of the economy. A major factor for the decision to proceed on NAtional Harbor will be how Aulani sales due in 2011 and 2012.

I for one thing a Disney/DVC resort in the DC area would be an interesting concept, but I would rather Disney focus on giving us more options at Disney World and Disneyland.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Disney Running Group

This weekend I posted about the new challenge I am taking on-- losing weight by training for the Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

As has become the norm, I turned to some of my Disney friends for encouragement and to commit to doing the run with me. Several have stepped up, a few begrudgingly, and we are slowly building up a team to run next October.

To help aide the process of finding training buddies and to build a group of encouragement for all, the folks over at Disney Dream Depot have launched a runners group. I encourage you to come over and join the Disney Dream Depot Runners. As the year progresses we'll be putting up tons of great stuff to help you achieve your goal and we'd love to get your feedback as well!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

My New Challenge

So those who have known me for a long time will tell you I have succumb to the classic professional/fatherhood problem... I am fat! Yes folks, seven years ago I graduated college at 190 pounds and in great shape. Today I am pushing 280 (down from my high of almost 300) and in the worst shape of my life.

How did I get this way? At my peak physical fitness I was training to be in the Army. I completed the Army Advanced Leadership Camp at Ft Lewis and was on my way to graduating from ROTC with a Commission in the Army. I was running four to five days a week, participating in intramurals and regularly hiking. I was never an amazing athlete, but I was in good shape!

A few months before graduation I hurt my knee, partially tearing my ACL, for a third time. I tried to lie my way through the final months of ROTC knowing that a discovery of the injury would boot me from the program. Unfortunately my running times quickly went down hill, my problem became obvious and I was discharged from the Army.

This quickly crushed my morale. I had spent my entire life dreaming of serving my country. Once healed I did virtually nothing to stay in shape. Almost a year later my mother passed away from colon cancer at the age of 43. These two events sent me into a huge depression that I solved with too much food and a good amount of beer. The pounds quickly followed!

While those bad days are behind me, I have never lost the weight. Now as a father I have realized I need to get myself back into shape. I have to experience many of the major milestones in my life without my mother and I refuse to put my boys through that same problem every time a big family event takes place.

So now I am making a change. I am going to get into shape. My goal, God and knee willing, is to get into shape so I can run the Wine and Dine Half Marathon next October. I figure the combination of parental motivation and the chance to run through my favorite place on earth will keep me going.

This will be a tough haul I am certain. My wife and boys are here to support me, but I hope I can count on all of you out there to push me as well. The program kicks off tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

DVC Pre-Paid Maintenance Fees?

As some will point out, one draw back to DVC is the maintenance fees. The fees are essentially the annual cost Disney charges DVC owners to maintain the resorts, purchase insurance, pay taxes and compensate larger Disney World for things like the Disney's Magical Express or front desk help at joint resorts.

While most think of the initial large chunk of cash to buy into DVC (Minimum is near $16,000 to buy direct contract for new members from Disney), few really seem to think about the per point maintenance fee you pay each year. An average size DVC stake (200-250 points) can cost well in excess of $1,000 a year depending on your home resort.

For a breakdown of this, and a good analysis of the total ownership cost of DVC, Disney Biz posted an article earlier this month of his blog.

Today DVC News posted a story about a member survey made public that is asking about the option to pre-pay maintenance fees. As Disney Biz points out in his article, you generally see a 3%-5% annual increase in fees. Such an option on the low end (assuming just 3% annual growth) could save $300 over five years and nearly $1,500 over 10.

While the pre-paid savings sounds great it may not be the best idea. You would save more by pre-paying than you could get from leaving that money in a basic savings account. But the opportunity cost of paying down other debt or investing in other instruments will probably exceed the 5% level (unless of course you put that money in the stock market five years ago!)

Another interesting concept out there to help families save a little bit of money if DVC is the right option for them.

What do you all think???

Song of the Week-- Morning Report

I heard this song the first time on Friday when our copy of the Lion King on DVD arrived.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

She's Not Perfect... But Who Is??

Good post by Jenn over at Always Running Behind on not being a perfect person, but still being comfortable in your own skin.

I must say I agree with her completely. It has not been until the past year or so I've truly become comfortable with me. On the professional side I finally accepted that my career doesn't need to move at 1,000 miles per hour-- it's ok to slow down and take a breathe. I don't need to constantly be looking for the next job or trying to save the world from my perceived evils.

On the personal side I've learned to enjoy my family and all the joys they bring in life. My wife is my best friend in the world and I could never live without her. My boys are two amazing kids and they won't always be around, so I need to enjoy them.

I've also learned to not hide who I am. Just be me-- my crazy addictions for things like Disney and the LA Dodgers, my complete and total sci fi dorkiness and my enjoyment of singing really bad songs at the top of my lungs to just name a few... They might be odd, but their me.

My #1 job in life is to just be the best me I can be.

And on a side note... Many of you probably know that as I write this my lovely wife is in the hospital fighting an infection. I am dying not being there right now-- I am searching for that balance between being a good father and being a good husband right now. I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been supportive over the past two days. Hoping tomorrow Jenn comes home and she is out of the woods. She's got three guys at home (and one on the way) who need her around!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Podcast with Real Interaction

In the Disney social media world the podcast has been a great way to learn about the many different aspects of Disney World. They're great for planning your own trips, especially special events at Disney World.

Well now there is a new podcast that is coming out and it adds a slightly different twist. The folks over at Disney Dream Depot run their weekly interactive chats on various Disney topics and they've now been turned into podcasts. You can download from the website or subscribe via iTunes.

As a professional communicator I always ask the question with any new podcasts, website, social media concept... How is this different from everything else out there? With great podcasts like Be Our Guest and The Dis Unplugged is there really anything different? (Heck I am a huge fan of both!)

Well I think there definitely is! While all the other podcasts offer some level of listener interaction it is handpicked to fit a show theme or often times e-mails from months ago. The folks over at Disney Dream Depot offer real time interaction. The topic might be resorts like last night, but the audience may have the hosts steer down a different path on restaurants because it peaks their interest at that moment. That back and forth truly makes for an interactive dialog between the hosts and those in the chat room.

In communications today we are constantly pounded on the need to have an open dialog with our target audience. I really think the folks at Disney Dream Depot have achieved that in spades. They've only been at it for a year, but I think they are very quickly surpassing the stalwarts of the Disney podcast world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Randomness...

Ok, so a few random things to toss out there...

First, I have now officially changed my Twitter handle to @RobOnDisney. I made the decision a few months ago to break up my work and personal (primarily Disney) tweets. If you want to follow my thoughts on politics, public relations and the maritime world follow @RobOnMaritime

Second, I will be joining the folks over at Disney Dream Depot tonight on their weekly chat. Jenn (@DizneyDreamer) and I will be discussing the various resorts around the Walt Disney World Resort.

Finally, the fine folks over at DVC News have some info up on the Old Key West renovations. I must say I like the refreshed look.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NEWS FLASH: The Sun has Risen in the East

I must say I awoke this morning and was surprised to see the sun rise in the east-- the apocalypse did not happen despite the prevalent attitudes that world was coming to an end last night.

I of course am talking about the notices that have gone out for the second round of the 2011 Walt Disney World Mom's Panel.

Sure I applied for the panel and it would have been a wonderful experience to be a part of such a good group of people, but I didn't get picked. Making the panel would never be the culmination of any life long dream or checking something off of my bucket list. Despite what many think my life is not driven by my love for all things Disney. Disney is just one of those things that helps amplify my love for life.

What I have come to find over the past year of being involved in the Disney Social Media world is you can do everything the Mom's Panel members do on your own. On a regular basis I help provide my little tid bits of advice to people on how to get the most out of their Disney experience. Some weeks I do a lot more and others I may do nothing-- I am not bound to any contract that requires me to answer a certain number of questions or behave in a certain way. I can be me; which my wife would tell you is both a good and bad thing!

I've made lots of great friends over the past year and I am pretty sure developed friendships that will last a long long time. This whole Mom's Panel thing is a one year experience that 60 years from now will have zero impact on my legacy in this world. My legacy will be defined by my relationship with my family and friends. And I think I am doing OK in that department right now.

Just my thoughts.... And a little perspective.

UPDATE: My friend Jenn (@DizneyDreamer) has her thoughts up also on her blog.

UPDATE #2: And Lea (@MagicalMouseCap) chimes in with her thoughts.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Colbert on Disney Dress Code...

Hello all you loyal readers (I think I may have five of you by now!), I am back from London. Will try and post up a quick report on my off day in the city where I went to the Tower of London, but I am a little under the weather so it may be a few days.

In the mean time I saw this clip from the Colbert Report on Disney's dress code. Funny clip, give it a watch.


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Song of the Week- Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

So this past weekend was our first annual #EpicOctober event. One of the personal highlights was a group of us riding the Carousel of Progress and singing "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow". Here is a taste along with Walt walking TV viewers through the design of the original ride for the 1964 World Fair.