June 24, 2012

Popcorn Price Index

I can’t count the number of times that I scooped a box of Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn as a Disneyland Outdoor Vending Cast Member back in the '80s. It was all our popcorn wagons sold. No bottled drinks or souvenir buckets. Just paper cartons of Orville's best. I even met the man himself once.

Almost all of those sales were sixty-five cent transactions. Most guests plunked down three quarters for their box of hot fresh corn. The Eisner/Wells era shrunk the size of the box, raised the price, and began my feeling that the Park was sadly changing. But even then, a popcorn took only eighty-five cents out of guests' wallets and purses.

Now, get ready to barely get change back from a five when you step up to a Magic Kingdom popcorn cart. What was a fun and fast impulse treat that harkened back to childhood now costs as much as a pint of the adult beverage you might need to make the cost of that and everything else in today's Disneyland easier to swallow.

Just getting into the "resort" these days practically means taking out a second mortgage. If the price of popcorn is any example, the expense far exceeds what it should be. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index inflation calculator, what cost $.65 in 1983 would cost $1.40 in 2010. Sure, the price of popcorn has gone up. But it hasn't left orbit. Does everything in the Park have to be an overdone merchandising opportunity? Why not just equip the wagons with shelves for the latest Pixar plush?

Most everyone who reads this blog probably knows that Walt didn't go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money. It would be nice if the company reflected on that and at least brought the price of Disneyland popcorn back down to Earth.

June 16, 2012

Cars land

California Adventure's new addition now has guests racing through, floating over, and being pulled behind the various locations and characters from Pixar's Cars. It's a major investment in the attempted revitalization of the "second gate" and, by most accounts, a nice piece of work.

I just wish that Burbank had put Radiator Springs and the rest of DCA somewhere else. In keeping with the principle that inspired the Park's original layout ("You've got to have a weenie at the end of every street"), the Main Gate once beckoned from the end of a parking lot that was as much a simple frame as an efficient means of crowd management. It let yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy draw you in from the family car and the outside world from which it came.

Wide-eyed in anticipation, you'd take mom or dad's hand and try to hurry them toward the railroad station off in the distance. Jack Wagner's voice would welcome you to the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland. Passing under the berm, your separation would be complete, if temporary. Later, you might look back out at the outside world from a monorail window, trying to spot your car among 15,000 others as you cruised over the futuristic highway in the sky.

If I could, I'd leave today's overpriced and complex complex of garages, amusement parks, hotels, shopping centers, and, now, desert landscapes behind. It would be like escaping a traffic jam to the relative quiet of the surface streets. I think that the revisions made to DCA are fine by themselves. But I liked Disneyland better with the original cars land.