Sep

30

 One 's first thoughts upon a trip to Walt Disney World with a four year old son (and the 5 and 7 year old daughters of some very good friends) is that the magic and happiness trumps everything with the little boy and the parents settling into the rhythm of creativity, joy, excitement and healthfulness of the experience. The attractions are beautiful and modern, the cast is friendly and helpful, the little girls are all dressed in their princess costumes and the boys are screaming with delight at the thrilling rides, the parks are filled with an up to date diversity of fun and educational events, teenagers are reveling in their favorites shows and games, and the guests are a cross section of the world that makes you jump for joy at the down to earth enjoyment they can take in something this good, and their productivity in being able to afford this delight.

Particularly heartwarming is the effort taken to give the ubiquitous handicapped memories and undoubtedly the happiest times of their life. The parents were also pleased with all the modern efforts to provide healthy foods, with toffuti, hummus, fresh fruits, and sugar-free commestibles available at almost all locations.

I have 7 kids and all of them have been to Disney multiple times. They look back on their vacations there as among the best and most formative experiences of their life. The four year old boy at first was frightened by all the noise and the discordant notes of all the music, and scariness of the rides and the long waits. But after a few days, he settled into the rhythm and he particularly enjoyed the parades, the Jungle Cruise, the moving sidewalk, the movie ride, the circular garden dinner and fountains at Epcot.

 And yet, I was seething after visiting the Hall of Presidents. The show is narrated by Morgan Freeman, one of the 2 or 3% of the visitors there of his color. The history of the presidents presented would be something you'd expect from Russia in the 1970s with a skip from George Washington to Andrew Jackson and then to the two Roosevelts, with lionization of their efforts to stamp out monopoly, save the country from greedy businessmen, and attempts to take from the rich and powerful and give to the weak permeating and enveloping the whole thing. Particularly loathsome was that the talking was at least 50% devoted to the current president and FDR, the two most agrarian Presidents in history. The collectivist bias of Disney in this show was consistent with the anti business movie that Disney just released about Wall Street, the well known anti business attitude and ego mania of its previous president, and the scary remake of Alice in Wonderland that made the whole show a roller coaster ride of scary escapes rather than the coming of age and creative, thoughtful adventures of a girl trying to cope with the world of the original.

Walt Disney himself, after hatching the idea for Disney World in the 1950s, arranging the financing to buy 40 square miles of swamp land, planning every detail of its infrastructure, managing to buy the land through dummy corporations so that all the land holders were happy to sell out for a song the swamp land they bought in 1912 from the Munger corporation for 5 bucks an acre, never lived to see Disney built. Mrs. Lilian Disney said that he would have been happy to see how it turned out. But how he would turn over in his grave to see the anti business, collectivist bias of the executives who have taken over his idea and made it consistent with the idea that has the world in its grip. (It is interesting to note that Eisner refers to his partnerships with Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger as helping him climb the ladder of success at Disney).

Of course, the Disney parks are a mere 25%, of the total Disney revenue of 40 billion a year, and an even lower 15% of profits. Disney itself is mainly sparked by its 100 million cable television subscribers that accounts for 60% of its profits. When they bought ABC, Eisner admitted in that self deprecating mien of the chronic egomaniac that the top guys didn't even know what ESPN was. But now they do, and the analysts that follow Disney and their capital expenditures of 10 billion here and 5 billion there to develop content make the company a play on the public's addiction to sports. Not to be gainsaid of course is the incredible feat of their movie division to have two billion dollar + revenue producers in one year in Alice in in Wonderland and Toy Story. And they continue to follow their mantra of making all their movies for 1/2 the price of any other company, and then tying it in with every aspect of their operation from parks to gifts to licenses.

Indeed, Disney is the very model of a perfect modern corporation. Its stock at 33 is near its century high of 37. It's up some 3500 % from its offering of 1.3 in 1981. It's near its all time high of 43 from 1997, and its revenues and profits this year are up at least 15% in all areas except theme parks. You have to admire the way this company like Apple has adjusted to modern times, and captured the idea that has the world in its grip, and the things that animate kids of all ages in our current generation.

Tim Melvin adds:

 The best trip I ever took to Disney was in early 2009 with my adult children. They still thrilled at the spectacle but were able to appreciate the effort and industry that goes into the enterprise that is Walt Disney World. Thankfully the hall of Presidents was closed or odds are my Ayn Rand loving daughter would have gotten us all arrested. Disney will always be on my buy-in-a-crash list. My sum of the parts for this stock is right around $38 bucks and when it drifts below $20 in a melt down (this has happened twice in the last decade) it paid off huge on both occasions for those who saw the merits of the mouse at such a level.

Steve Ellison comments:

In the Disney parks, everything is part of the show. I was at Disneyland in 2000 watching Honey I Shrunk the Audience when suddenly the action stopped, and I heard an announcement: "We have had a power outage. Please exit through the doors on the right." I assumed it was part of the show and wondered what would happen next. It was not until the doors opened and people started walking out that I realized there really was a power outage (one of many in California after the failed attempt at partial deregulation of electricity). 

Anatoly Veltman writes:

I take my kids via motorhome every Winter and Spring breaks: can't beat this destination weather-wise. I don't deem them mature enough for busy Disney Parks; ever since my first visit in 1980, I always thought of Epcot (and later Studios and Animal Kingdom) as a prime education destination. Smaller kids love watery fun of Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Caribbean, Coronado, Saratoga, Boardwalk, Orleans, Key West, Swan/Dolphin. You can access all these via comp buses, boats, monorail. The only resorts really limited to guests are Beach and Yacht Club. Feel free to quiz me for hints, or read up some more general wisdom at MouseSavers.com

Vincent Andres adds:

The picture on DailySpec triggers some analogy. The river is fake and the little boat moves only thanks to a especially built Deus ex machina. Our occidental "capitalist" world is also, for long, a true Disneyland. The main Deus ex machina are our debts and all what our master fakers are able to do with our "major" currencies. But if the debt flow slows down, we'll soon have our little businesses/boats slowing down also.

We though we were good car sellers, but was it really this difficult when our customers get /in fine/ there money thru loans or money printers ?

I'm confident our master fakers are doing all there possible for our deus ex machina to continue to work properly, but it seems the Mississipi debt river is now slowly founding more fertile soils to irrigate. (Spain just downgraded by moody's.) Let's hope our second fake motor will not also have problems.Little boats and there passengers begin to stamp.


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13 Comments so far

  1. vic on September 27, 2010 11:05 am

    One notes that Disney today is a microcosm of the world. Everywhere queues of 30 minutes to 2 hours stand with total dead weight costs of incredible amounts to wait to get into the attractions. the only way to beat the queues is to game the system with fast track tickets. Or to pay up 15 fold to get a private guide.And this of course during a down time when only 45000 visitors a day come to the park rather than the 65000 that create the 3 hour waits that are typical during their busy ties. You have to admire the way this company like Apple has adjusted to modern times, and captured the idea that has the world in its grip, and the things that animate kids of all ages in our current generation.

  2. vic on September 27, 2010 1:48 pm

    what could be a better introduction to what its' going to be like to get our health care in the future, with the fixed price of product, tremendous excess demand at the price relative to the supply, endless queues to get a procedure to prevent death of morbidity, rationing based on how good you are at gaming the system, and who you know, with the only way to be treated as a dignified human being with volitions and alternate uses for ones time and attention, being to pay 15 times the price for a procedure what would have been routine if only the dr. and the patient had a normal customer purveyor relation similar to the average retailer with its customers. when was last time you walked into a retailer, and waited for 1 hour without any apology as you do with the ordinary dr., or even before you get there as you wait for the endless queues ahead of you to argue about the copay of $ 5 or whether they will accept oxford or aetna et al. dr. vh points out that in old days before third parties, hospitals had one or two administrators and were able to deliver a product at 1 /10 the cost but now the administrative staff is two or tree times as big as the drs and nurses. at what price, do we provide free care, and how much will our premiums rise above and beyond to provide it? vic

  3. steve on September 27, 2010 8:20 pm

    I took my first trip to Disney Land in 1967 and I have been going to Disney World regularly since 1972. I think I am a bit of an expert in Orlando attractions since I live 60 miles away since 1984.

    That said, for the neophyte, if you have small children, 12 and under, Disney World is the first thing to do. The major things to do are Pirates of the Caribbean, the parade down main street and the fireworks display around the castle.

    12 and up I would suggest EPCOT especially the back section where you visit various countries such as France, Canada, China and others. Then the illuminations is an evening event not to miss.

    Older children would do well to go to Universal Studios for the rides such as Back to the Future, and the modernized 3d shows.

    Adults go to Disney Village and especially if you like baseball the Atlanta Braves spring training stadium. There is the ESPN zone and the Hard Rock Cafe.

    I personally love Wet N’ Wild which is a water theme park. It is a day event all by itself.

    If you can by all means get a VIP badge. You do not stand in lines at all and get admitted into the ride no lines necessary.

    For lodging Kissimmee has some good values, I think the hotels on the properties are way overpriced as is the food.

    In any event, research things before you arrive and good luck.

  4. Jeff Watson on September 27, 2010 9:53 pm

    If only I had known you were in town(as I was visiting my sister who lives in the neighborhood), I could have provided the bakeesh to smooth the trip and minimize the wait times. Disney,Epcot, and Bush Gardens can be such a drag that one must have some sort of juice in order to get full enjoyment of the sites and get to the head of the queues.

  5. mark on September 28, 2010 5:03 pm

    What’s up with the Morgan Freeman color comment? Racist much?

  6. vic on September 29, 2010 10:31 am

    I dont think racist but it was an African American of Sds view of American History designed to curry favor with the flexions by using a person of color to narrate and probably script. Walt wouldn't have liked it. But I see your point. The little woman said the same thing. vic

  7. david on September 29, 2010 11:02 am

    Half a century ago, it was a big deal in our household to gather round the tube (in black and white ) and watch Walt Disney narrate his latest project before the featured animation was played. Those really were the days.

  8. Rob Steele on September 29, 2010 1:01 pm

    It was a magical place when I was a kid but it now seems tame, exploitative and tawdry. I love the Cirque du Soleil show though. I’ve taken a four year old who loved it too.

  9. Robert Bartleh Cummings on October 1, 2010 8:49 am

    Thanks for the info steve, I find the problem with Orlando is that there always seems to be childless middle aged guys hanging around the kids attractions. It makes me uneasy.

  10. steve on October 2, 2010 11:18 am

    Point 1. I have never been very impressed with The Hall of Presidents but I have never looked upon Disney as a business with a liberal agenda.

    Point 2.I have no experience with Middle aged guys hanging around childrens rides and any explanation would be mere conjecture. I could offer some thoughts on this like since I am middle aged and they could just could be part of an extended family and they are relaxing while their grandchildren are off scampering about. Disney is also quite tiring and at times extremely hot so it can be a very physical exercise thus this could explain that. Or (fill in the blank). In fact, the same could be said about public libraries, museums, churches and parks. I do not know of an incident ever being publicly reported of an abduction, kidnapping or assault.

    I do know that I feel extremely comfortable and safe while in and around the Disney attractions. I went to Disney World in December 2001 and security was extremely tight due to 9-11. .

    I will add one further suggestion. For a bit of a more rustic environment, Fort Wilderness is an interesting experience. It accepts trailers, Motorhomes, tents and facilities are classic Disney, clean, organized and consistent.

    Once again, in order to facilitate a pleasant experience, do your research and planning well in advance. There are mountains of helpful websites to view. http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

  11. Alaric on October 3, 2010 6:54 am

    Quite frankly we had more fun at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park than Disney in the U.S. or abroad. The Disney today is definitely not that of the founder’s….. it has not focused its attention on its core characters and my kids and guests had no idea who most of the characters were.

    The children’s television side of the business is simply inappropriate and I have taken to banning most shows: the themes of several shows in particular are centered around kids (ok) where the parents are not present or look after them and when the parents or adults generally are there, they are portrayed as bumbling idiots not to be listened to (definitely not ok). Other shows are worse.

    The Disney of old used to pitch itself as a ‘family company’ with ‘family movies’ - now all you see is politics and indoctrination, global warming, etc….

    Yes it may be a ‘modern’ corporation, but not really in a good sense —- sort of like the pharmaceutical company in a movie called “Karaoke” by Dennis Potter where a company has an anxiety medication which it sells more of by creating anxiety in the general population through mass media….

    I realize that my arguments against the current incarnation of this company are moral rather than practical, however, at some level the “creepiness” factor must be taken into account when making an investment decision - and also perhaps the political factor: what if you have a right wing government or popular backlash against some of the creepy movies or television shows this company produces…..

    I invest in bullet makers, tobacco companies, and other media companies from time to time - so for me it is a particular issue with Disney and not general moral objections…

  12. steve on October 4, 2010 1:02 am

    Alaric investments:

    The Disney of old used to pitch itself as a ‘family company’ with ‘family movies’ - now all you see is politics and indoctrination, global warming, etc…

    Whos sucked all the red off of your candy. What kind of cool aid are you drinking. Such paranoid psychotic glabal assertions are just plain seof-serving and always wrong. You equate Disney to Big Pharma wow that is a stretch. Next week Secretariat will be released by Disney. Go to the movie and then give a review of it to show how it has a political agenda and goes against the grain of what WAlt Disney had in mind. And seeing as Walt Disney died in 1966. Unless you specialize in communication with the dearly deceased what makes you a specialist of the mind of it’s founder.

    I find this amazing yet typical of this site that someone posts an innocent thread on a subject and it gets hijacked by someone or something who has their own agenda to spew venomous tirades against mankind. Who cares what you are investing in bullets and cigarettes. WOW I think I am going to take a Xanax now and collect myself. I suggest you do likewise.

  13. vic on October 4, 2010 4:19 pm

    I found Mr. Alaric’s comments particularly insightful and I agree with everything he said.I wish I could have said it as well. vic

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