Sunday, November 27, 2011

OCCUPY DISNEY! Examining how Disney is milking every penny out of its theme park fans, one parade at a time. PART 1

The time has come for us all to join hands, stand in unity, and OCCUPY DISNEY! This is a story of a company that is not uncommon but strangely unique. A company that has built a loyal following of fans and at every turn the company has taken advantage of those fans. 
Now before I begin to lay into Disney for its greedy, unsavory practices I should say that I am a premium Disney annual pass holder. I have about 20 or so Disney VHS tapes sitting on my book shelf. I run to the theatre whenever Disney releases a new Pirates movie or feature animated film. I own Epic Mickey, about 5 Mickey ears, and I have saved countless WDW fast passes. In short, I am a hypocrite! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a walk down memory lane. 
When Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the price of admission for an adult was $3.50. Adjusted for inflation that would be $18.63 in “today’s money.”  Now that $3.50 in 1971 only covered general admission. For an extra $1.25 you could purchase the adventure book containing an A, B, C, 2 D, and 2 E tickets. There were plenty of other options to buy different ticket packages. Ticket prices had steady yearly increases until 1983 when Disney abolished the ticket system and moved to a simple all rides included general admission price.
                                                                     
In 1983 the admission to WDW increased to $17.00, adjusted for inflation that would be $36.72 today. That is a far cry from the $90.53 price of admission at WDW today. From 1971 to 1983 the value of a one day, one park ticket had almost doubled. By 1984 a one day one park ticket price was $18.00, 1985 $21.50, and by 1986 $26.00! A 1986 ticket in today’s money would cost $51.00! So why such a drastic increase in ticket prices? Disney did build a $1.4 billion park called EPCOT. The company’s animation division was in the middle of hitting rock bottom with production bombs that bleed money like The Black Cauldron. There was however one major overriding factor that could directly be attributed to the massive rise in theme park admission.
In 1984 there was a new Disney chairman who would usher in record breaking animated films, 2 new theme parks, and higher theme park admission prices. Before heading up Disney Michael Eisner was chairman and CEO of the Paramount pictures movie division. He took no prisoners when it came to making the company money. He didn’t miss a step when it came to bringing that same mentality to Disney. When Eisner came to Disney and saw how much the company was charging for theme park admission he was appalled. Appalled because he knew that the company could be charging WAY more! By the time he was unceremoniously ousted from the company, more on that later, Eisner had changed the theme park and film division at Disney from a $3 billion enterprise to a $60 billion powerhouse. 
 
                                                                         
 
By the time Eisner left the park in 2005 a one day, one park admission ticket was $59.75. The initial “blame” for the rise in ticket prices went to Eisner, but from the time he left to present day ticket prices continue to soar. In the six years following Eisner’s assisted resignation ticket prices have risen over 60%. The high the company got from Eisner’s money making strategies was too irresistible to shake after the drug dealer was gone. From 2006 to now ticket prices rose $4 or so each year. Small enough increases each year that even some of the savviest Disney World fans wouldn’t flinch. The Disney Company has seen massive profits as they continue to increase one day, multi day, and annual park admission prices.
Admission increases have gone over as well as a dry fart from a wet dog, but there is one thing that will cause Disney to slow down and think about their slow yearly increases in ticket prices. This is something that both the Disney Company and Disney fans are in fear of. If steady increases continue at this rate, by 2013 a one day one park admission ticket to Disney World will cost $100. This is a mental hurdle that Disney is approaching with a lot of caution. Many insiders wonder if Disney will even have the courage to approach a $100 ticket. If you ask any Disney fan they would probably tell you that today’s ticket prices are just right. Today’s ticket price is $90.53. Imagine if in 1983 you had to pay $42 for entry to EPCOT, instead of the actual $17. That’s how far ahead of inflation the price of Disney World tickets have become. But fear not Disney geeks, nerds, and cross over Star Wars fans. There is something we can do.
  
In his unconventional and hilarious book, The Dark Side of Disney, Leonard Kinsey gives advice on how to actually sneak into Disney. While it would save you money, I wouldn’t suggest it! The best way to “fight back” against Disney is to do two simple things. Step 1: Write to Disney’s worldwide president of park operations Meg Crofton at meg.crofton@disney.com and tell her how you feel about the continual rise in Disney theme park prices. Step 2: Don’t go to the parks! Following step 2 will help give step 1 teeth and really show the Disney Company that you mean business and will not be taken advantage of. It all has to start with just one person. One person can make a difference. Will it be you? Because it sure as hell won’t be me! With new Fantasyland opening in 2012 and Avatarland coming in a few years, I am more than happy to bend over for Ms. Crofton, smile, and ask for another one. Maybe in July when it is time to renew my AP my attitude will change. One thing is for sure, the main reason Disney is taking advantage of its fans is because we are allowing it to. 
                                                         

Keep checking back for more OCCUPY DISNEY articles!                                                                                                           

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

My TOP TEN Theme park podcasts PART 4: Number 3-1


There are dozens upon dozens of theme park podcasts covering many different theme parks and topics. If you head over to itunes and enter “theme park” you will get 237 results! That is a lot of information and a lot of opinions from a lot of different people. That being said, there is always room for one more. (Go ahead Disney geeks, giggle with me.)
To create your own podcast there are a few things you have to do. Ok, well there are more than just a few things that you have to do, but these are some of the simple things you need. 
Step 1: You will need a microphone, computer, a website or hosting service to upload your podcast to, and an RSS feed.
Step 2: Figure out what topic you want to cover and write a rough draft of a script for your show. Make sure you know your topic well, and make sure your thoughts are clear, crisp and easy to understand.
Step 3: Download easy to use recording software like audacity and make sure you download an MP3 encoder.
Step 4: Find yourself a hosting provider like podbean, podcast.com, easypodcast.com, podango, or podpress.
It gets very technical but that is sort of the bare bones of the operation. There are three thing I look for in a podcast; production quality, content, and efficient use of time. One particular podcast I listen to has great content and production quality, but the host puts a long music break in between every news story. Use your time wisely. Make sure your production quality is decent. Background noises and breathing into the mike don’t make for an enjoyable listening experience for the listener. The most important thing about podcasting is make sure you are passionate about your content. Make it about something you love and have a passion for. Podcasting is supposed to be a fun way to share information with the rest of the world!     

3. THE SEASON PASS PODCAST: This show is a well rounded look at theme parks all over the United States. The host travels often to different parks and so he has a great working knowledge of the ins and outs of them. The show has high production quality and even their live shows are easy on the ear. A rotating list of co host always keeps the ideas and opinions fresh. With a huge archive of shows I often go back and download older episodes and continue to learn more and more about parks I hope to visit one day.                                                                                                                                                                            
 STRENGTHS: The host is able to get the cream of the crop when it comes to guests for the show. Insiders, ride makers, and fans; this show is a must listen for it guest appearances alone.                                  
WEAKNESS: Not really a weakness but the show may be a huge turn off for strict Disney or Universal Studios fans. The host covers parks all over the country.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 90 MINS RATING:  PG-13 WEBSITE: seasonpasspodcast.com


2. 100% UNOFFICIAL UNIVERSAL ORLANDO PODCAST (UUOP): This is a relatively new show but in the short amount of time it has managed to capture a niche and untapped audience. Until this podcast debuted Universal Orlando fans were stuck listening to every other show hoping that the host would accidentally mention the news coming out of the Orlando resort. The host and his wife came in with guns blazing, took the Universal bull by the horns and they haven’t looked back yet. For its sheer ballsyness and uniqueness this show is one of my favorites and has captured the number two spot on my countdown. I believe in a year’s time this show may be my number 1!
STRENGTHS:  I love almost everything about this show. It is so refreshing downloading the show and listening to all new, fresh information about Universal Orlando. The host have the unique opportunity to bring the listener unfiltered thoughts and opinions about UO. On top of everything else, the host’s passion for the Universal Resort really comes across to the listener.
WEAKNESS: The show is still very young and it has a lot of room for growth AND failure. At some point in time the show will have to go through some growing pains, but that is where passion for your topic really helps.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 60MINS RATING: PG WEBSITE: http://unofficialuniversalorlando.podbean.com/

1: MAGICAL DEFINITION: I have never learned more from any other podcast then I have from this one. Each and every episode is filled with news, rumors, and unfiltered unbiased opinions about Disney. The co host is considered the ultimate Disney insider and brings must hear, must read information every week. When I wake up in the morning a new show is due out I immediately check iTunes to get the new download. If you are a Disney fan you will LOVE this show.
STRENGTHS: Two words, one name; JIM HILL! The show does a great job at covering Disney movies, theme parks, consumer products, tv shows, and everything in between.
WEAKNESS: When it come to social networking this show is not the best. It isn’t the easiest to find on twitter or facebook. The hosts have very busy lived and don’t have a lot of time to posts on social media sites.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 40MINS RATING: PG-13 WEBSITE: www.magicaldefinition.com

Well there it is. For better or for worse those are my top ten theme park podcasts. Feel free to message me on twitter @wakefieldreport or send me an email at indy1834@gmail.com with your thoughts idea and opinions. Coming soon WAKEFIELDREPORT.COM
FUTURE POSTS INCLUDE:
 Was Walt Disney really a great leader?  
OCCUPY DISNEY!
 Making the case for Universal Studios Orlando
Podcast Breakdown 

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Also visit youtube.com/prideofsimba and youtube.com/danandchristravel

Friday, November 18, 2011

My TOP TEN Theme park podcasts PART 3: Number 6-4


So there you are, Ipod in hand, and you are pressing the refresh button for your favorite theme park podcast like there’s no tomorrow.  If there is one thing that a theme park podcasting fan needs to have a lot of; it’s the talent of being patient. Podcast hosts work very hard to get their shows up in time each and every week. It is very easy to send an angry email or post an angry message on a board because your favorite show is a few days late. Podcast hosts don’t make a TON of money from their shows. In fact, most hosts spend more money producing their product then anything they make off of their show. When push comes to shove, podcast host “have a life”, and sometimes life gets in the way of their show. I can attest to this personally. The latest entry for this series was due out Wednesday November 18, 2011 but because of a terrible tooth ache and over medicating, the entry is coming out 2 days late. Sorry for the delay. I was shocked to get a few messages on facebook and twitter @wakefieldreport asking where the latest entry was.
 Like I said before, podcasting is not an easy thing to do. Next week we will go through what it takes to record, produce, and post a podcast.

6. Betamouse: Disney podcasting is a niche field. This podcast fills a sub niche. Betamouse is the tech guide to everything Disney. Each and every episode is filled with discussion about the latest technology being used at the Disney resorts. The hosts know their stuff. For someone like me is not too tech savvy, this podcast helps me stay in touch with the latest and greatest of what’s going on in the tech world of Disney.                    STRENGTHS: The show is filled with experts how have well thought out views and opinions. The hosts are very passionate about advancing the technology in the parks and resorts.                                             WEAKNESS: Tech talk is great but once you limit your show to a single topic it can tend to get a little bit repetitive.

AVG SHOW LENGTH: 40MINS RATING: PG WEBSITE: www.betamouse.net


5. WDWNT: This show is so deserving of a top 5 spot in my list! Each show the crew gets better and better. With segments like “The top 40 moments in Walt Disney World” and what might possibly be my favorite podcasting segment, “Back to the Future”, this show is a must listen for any Disney or theme park fan. I cannot sing the praises of this show enough. The hosts are knowledgeable and passionate.  The show has a unique format called an enhanced podcast which allows you to skip, rewind, and navigate through different segments of the show. The enhanced version even allows the host to share different pictures with listeners.  STRENGTHS: If you can only listen to one segment make sure it is “Back to the Future”. The segment breaks down the history and story of different Disney attractions to a level that any Disney fan can appreciate. The enhanced version of the show makes for easy navigation and adds an extra bonus for the listener.   WEAKNESS: The host is big on making lists like “The top 20 biggest moments in Hollywood Studios history”. I am a huge fan of these types of list. When the crew at WDWNT does a list show the discussion is very passionate and sometimes heated. There is one co host in particular who always tends to cross his arms and refuses to agree with the other hosts o matter what, and he defends his position with venom and anger. He tends to go out of his way to be difficult and disagree with the rest of the crew just because, and this tends to put the listener in an awkward position.  It’s kind of like going over a friend’s house and listening to his wife yell at him in the next room. <Weird>                                                                                

AVG SHOW LENGTH: 120MINS RATING: PG13 WEBSITE: http://wdwnewstoday.com/archives/tag/wdwnt-podcast



4. WEDWAY RADIO/WEDWAY NOW!: This show started out as another one of those sub niche podcast. The show WEDWAY Radio goes deep into Walt Disney history. Notice I didn’t say Disney World history but Walt Disney history. The coverage of different topics from the two hosts is nothing less than top notch and comprehensive! This is one of those shows where I am constantly pressing the refresh button on iTunes praying that a new podcast is going to be released. The hosts are brothers and they can easily relate to each other or respectfully disagree with the other. I am in awe with some of the topics they decide to cover on a weekly basis. I have learned so much about Walt Disney from this podcast.
STREGTHS: WEDWAY NOW!: The edition of WEDWAY NOW! came from the hosts the first week in October. It is about a 30 minute show that covers the latest news from the Disney Parks and the Disney Company. The hosts have great chemistry and seem genuinely interested in what the other has to say.        WEAKNESS: One little complaint I would have about this show is that the hosts tend to trail off the topic they are covering from time to time. Little asides here and there are ok, but the hosts seem to get easily side tracked and this could lose the listeners attention. It is nothing big enough to turn me off as a listener.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 60MINS RATING: PG WEBSITE: http://wedwayradio.squarespace.com/



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COMING SOON.............. wakefieldreport.com  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My TOP TEN Theme park podcasts PART 2: Number 9-7

                     Thanks for the great response for my first entry. I got lots of great feedback and I look forward to even more comments, questions and suggestions. As we uncover more of the list remember that this list is my opinion of the best theme park podcast out there today. I spend over 15 hours a week listening to these shows, and I can tell you that they are all GREAT!  Once again I apologize if my list is too Disney heavy for some readers, but Disney is the worldwide leader for a reason. 


                     The hosts and producers of these shows sacrifice a lot of their personal time to give us the most entertaining show they can. We should always take time to visit their websites, add them on twitter or Facebook, and rate them on iTunes to show our appreciation for all of their hard work. Although, the best possible way to show our support to these shows is to VISIT THEIR SPONSORS! Sponsors ensure that these shows that we listen to, for free, can keep running. The largest sponsor of Disney theme park podcasts is touringplans.com. Since they do not sponsor me, I dont think ill spend much time talking about them but I will say I do read the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (ding!) almost every night before I go to bed.
                      That being said, sponsors not only help keep podcasts alive but they generally provide a great service to theme park fans. Most of them are travel agencies, and offer great tips, tricks, advice, and discounts on visiting theme parks. 




9: WDW Fan Boys: This is a show that has lots of potential. It runs down the weekly happenings at Disney World. A sprinkle of news and a trip report here and there on the show is a joy to listen to. Well not a complete joy. A lot of the time the hosts are all clamoring to speak over each other and constantly interrupting the other. Not because a lack of manners but rather an attempt at humor. While funny at first, the constant interruptions are very distracting and tend to derail the show. When not interrupting each other, the hosts’ passion for Disney really shows.                                                                                                                                                    STRENGTHS:  No fear of being critical of Disney and the Disney product. Very short ad reads, at times, help the show move along at a smooth pace.                                                                                                                                              WEAKNESS: Sometimes immature hosts. The segment Are you Smarter than a WDW Fan Boy has been abused and ruined like a…well…id better not say.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 60 MINS RATING: PG-13 WEBSITE:  http://www.wdwfanboys.com

8: WDW Today: This show is a trusted and true podcast that you can depend on for quick information and lots of touring advice. The main host talks faster than an auctioneer which doesn’t make for the best listening experience. A co writer for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is a co host and is a great resource for the other show hosts and callers.                                                                                                                            
STRENGTHS:  Information is plentiful on each and every show. The hosts are very knowledgeable.                                  
WEAKNESS: The main host talks way too fast and makes the show almost unlistenable. The show tends to fall into a rut, gets stale, and has a lot of sameness.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 30 MINS RATING: PG WEBSITE: www.wdwtoday.com

7.  WDW Radio: WDW Radio is considered to be the first and last authority on Disney podcasting by many, MANY Disney fans. The host has a well produced and well thought out show. Always pleasant and delightful, the show is a great way to get some of the latest Disney news. When posing a question to his audience on a live show, the host often will quote what people are saying in the shows online chat room, but the feedback quoted is often bland and does not contribute much to the show, which ends up wasting a lot of time; i.ie (So Disney is adding a new meet and greet in the Magic Kingdom. What do you think? DisneyMom1234 in the chat room says “That’s a great idea, I love it!”)                                                  STRENGTHS: Very well produced, and very well thought out. Covers Disney history, news, and touring.
WEAKNESS: A lot of the time the host is nothing but very positive about anything and everything Disney does. This leads to stale uninspired opinions which lead to an uninteresting show that you’re not dying to listen to on a weekly basis.    
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 90 MINS RATING: G WEBSITE: www.wdwradio.com





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Thursday, November 10, 2011

My TOP TEN Theme park podcasts PART 1: Honorable mentions and number 10

We all have those little things in life that we obsess over. Some people love food or gaming or jogging.  Whatever your obsession is, one thing is for sure; you can’t get enough of it.  We should be so lucky to have these little things that help distract us from work and other annoyances of everyday life.  Some say that obsessing over these things could be bad for you health. The foodie who becomes overweight or the gamer who abandons his wife for “Just one more minute honey!”, or the jogger who at age 40 has knees more brittle than a light bulb in a dryer.  I too have an obsession, and my craving for it grows larger every day. 
In the world of theme and amusement parks information and news flow like water down the mighty White River (look it up).  On a daily basis there is no shortage of websites, twitter accounts and fan message boards to follow.  Keeping up with and reading all of these different venues can be very time consuming and taxing on the average fan. There is however one way of gathering information that is quick, entertaining, and easy. Podcasting! Imagine any radio show on any topic being saved to a computer the same way you save a document or a picture; then imagine being able to download and listen to this radio show on your computer or iphone. This, in a nutshell is podcasting.
Like I said podcasting comes in many different forms. Different topics, different host, and even different production qualities. I eat, jog and play my xbox with at least one earphone in my ear with a podcast on. I listen to podcast on World War 2 history, current events, business management and sometimes I take half an hour a day to learn German. By far there is one topic I spend at least 15 hours a week listening to and that’s podcasts on theme parks! When I began to listen to theme park podcasts I had no idea which ones to listen to. I had no clue as to which ones had the best information or which ones were the most entertaining. It was indeed a very scary year or so of trial and error. When you go to iTunes podcast section and type in “theme park” you will get 245 results! This article is my attempt to shrink that number down to MY favorite 10 podcast.
 WARNING: I do not have my own podcast and for a damn good reason. Podcasting is extremely hard. Although I may come across a as a bit too critical of the host and these shows, please know that I admire what these people do on a weekly basis. They all have tons of talent and they are all true professionals.
Also: I live in Sarasota, FL. I visit Universal Studios and Disney World about once a month. I am a Disney pass holder. This list is VERY Disney podcast heavy. If there are other non Disney podcasts that you think should be on my list feel  free to leave a comment below or send me a line on twitter @wakefieldreport.

HONOREABLE MENTION #1: The Dis Unplugged:  The Dis Unplugged was the first theme park podcast I found and after listening to my first show I immediately went back into their archives and downloaded every episode I could. Dis Unplugged is full of information about not only the Disney theme parks but also the restaurants, special events, and the rest of the Disney World resort. Even though it was my first I do have a few hang-ups about the show. The podcast is hosted by some owners of a Disney based travel agency, Dreams Unlimited Travel. A lot of the news and stories on the show find their way of circling back to buying the host product. I don’t feel as if the podcast speaks to me as an experienced and hardcore Disney fan. Rather it might appeal to first timers or once a year families. I kind of feel like I need a shower after listening to the show (in a bad way) because of the constant ads and mentions of the travel agency being thrown at me throughout the show. However the show is hosted by some really great personalities. They could use a bit more diversity on their show when it comes to people who really enjoy roller coasters or people who focus mainly on visiting the theme parks rather than breaking down resorts, merchandise events, and cruises.                                                                                                                                             STRENGTHS:  Covers Disney cruises, adventures, and breaks down resort hotels                                                                             
 WEAKNESS:   Covers Disney cruises, adventures, and breaks down resort hotels a bit too much. The hosts come across a bit too snooty and nitpicky for my taste.                                                                             
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 60 MINS RATING: PG WEBSITE: http://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-podcast
                                                    
HONORABLE MENTION #2: Inside the Magic: This show is a great way to get news about Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Busch Gardens. This podcast has a decent amount of information but for me after listening to the first 20 minutes of the show I’ve usually heard enough. The host lacks a little bit in charisma but really know his stuff. He collects lots of great audios, pictures, and video. This is a rare case where the website is much better than the podcast.                                             
 STRENGTHS: Lots of diverse information about theme parks in the Orlando area.                             WEAKNESS:  The host lacks charisma a bit and sometimes doesn’t seem to be interested in his own show.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 90 MINS RATING: G WEBSITE: insidethemagic.net
                                                        
10: In the Loop Rebooted: In the Loop goes way off the beaten path of your regular theme park podcast. I kind of feel like I need a shower after listening to the show (in a GOOD way.) With a weekly feature named “Douche of the Week” , ITL is definitely not for younger ears. Lots of foul language and adult humor is in this show. With that being said I LOVE listening to it! It is recorded live which always makes for funny unpredictable moments and the interaction and charisma between the hosts is some of the best out there. The show does tend to lack in structure and hardcore information. For the most part it’s the equivalent of watching an episode of Beavis and Butthead; Not too informative some toilet humor, but very funny with a few moments of wisdom.                                                           
STRENGTHS: Great production quality, extremely funny, and hosted by true roller coaster fans.                 WEAKNESS: Lack of structure. The show is very unpredictable which may be a turn off to some listeners.
AVG SHOW LENGTH: 100 MINS RATING: R WEBSITE: http://coastercrew.net/rss.php?show=4


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