Read Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths Online

Authors: Aaron Goldberg

Tags: #Taled of Real Life Disney Scandals, #Accidents and Deaths, #Sex

Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths (25 page)

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They noted that Segways are in essence always moving; a very small or minute motion will propel the vehicle. Additionally, Disney would have no way to quantify or control the situation or experience and skill level of the rider. Disney used the example of Jimi Heselden, the owner of the company that produces the Segway. He was killed when he lost control of one and went careening over a cliff and died. With this example and a few other tidbits of expert testimony, ultimately, Tina lost her case in July 2013. The courts reaffirmed previous decisions; Disney’s ban on Segways doesn’t break the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The outcome was similar for the Segway case filed by the three gentlemen in Florida, in regards to Walt Disney World. In this situation, The Supreme Court in April of 2013 put the brakes on forcing Disney to allow the two-wheel mobile at WDW. Instead, Disney came to a settlement, the company agreed to develop a four-wheeled, electric stand up vehicle in lieu of allowing Segways into their parks. Their vehicle debuted at Walt Disney World in May of 2013. 

The same month a Disney designed stand-up four-wheel vehicle rolled into Walt Disney World, another Disney handicapped story soared into the media. Wednesday Martin, a social anthropologist, was conducting research for an upcoming book. Wednesday heard rumblings about a small faction of unscrupulous and wealthy Manhattan mothers that scammed their way to the head of the line at Walt Disney World.

The mothers would hire a disabled “tour guide” to circumvent the lines at the park. For a
mere
  $130 an hour or the bargain price of $1,040 for an eight-hour-day, this “disabled” person would enable the family to get the preferential treatment reserved for those actually needing special assistance. Those truly in need of assistance, be it physically or cognitively, were issued a guest assistance card by Disney. The card got the bearer and six accompanying guests an expedited wait time, if any. This was the card the mothers were playing.

 When the news story broke in May 2013 and swept through the country like wild fire, a corrupt cottage industry was revealed. The “loophole” that existed to benefit those in need was shamelessly being exploited. As one of the mothers was quoted, “This is how the 1% does Disney. My daughter waited one minute to get on “It’s a Small World"—the other kids had to wait two and a half hours. You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge.” An interesting quote and use of the words “tour concierge.”

The scenario this Manhattan mother described is really nothing new. The situation where someone profited from it other than Disney most certainly is. As cast members and even Disney will tell you, the deception or legal line cutting has been going on for years, it just never had the media buzz as it does today.

The Wall Street Journal
ran an article in March of 1998 titled, “Backdoor Disney: How to Beat the Lines --- You Can Be Treated Like a VIP Even If You Aren't One.” By and large, the story talks about how to avoid waiting in the never-ending queues for the Disney parks. It mostly centers on paying a fee to Disney and getting a Disney VIP tour guide. The guide can sprinkle some pixie dust and give you a different experience at the parks than most guests ever experience. Aside from the VIP tour guide, the article made mention of another form of special treatment to those that visit the park. Folks that work for companies that do business with Disney, most notably the companies that are corporate sponsors to attractions at the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, get perks.

At the time of the article, Fed Ex was the sponsor of Space Mountain. Any Fed Ex employee could inform a cast member working the attraction that they worked for Fed Ex, they could then enjoy the corporate sponsorship benefits. They were able to cut the line and head in to the corporate lounge located at the attraction. The same was true at the time for AT&T at Space Ship Earth, among other attractions.

Interesting information about some fringe benefits, but there were actually two other compelling blurbs from the story. The first was Disney’s test market in 1994 of their “Exclusive Passport Tour.” This program allowed everyone in your party to get to the head of the line by shelling out $1,200, in 1994 dollars. This actually makes the Manhattan Mom scandal a good deal!

The other storyline in this article was what they coined the “old wheelchair trick.” The Wall Street Journal recounted the trip of Ira, a forty-eight-year-old attorney from guess where? New York!

Ira explained how he learned from a friend that he could get to the head of the line if someone in his party was in a wheelchair. So on his trip to Walt Disney World for his parents 50
th
Anniversary, he decided to put his eighty-one-year-old father into a Disney rented wheelchair. To quote Ira, “There was no way I was going to wait” he says, without a trace of guilt. For $5 a day in the wheelchair rental fee, he knew the whole family could cut in line”.

Obviously, Ira wasn’t alone; people have been playing the wheelchair card for years and Disney knew it. For years, folks would stroll over to guest services and tell the smiling faces they had a physical problem that wouldn’t allow them to stand for long periods of time or some other health/medical problem. Disney would hand over a special assistance card and folks would bypass the lengthy wait.

At Disneyland alone, management knew their program was too lenient. There were days at the park where 20% of their visitors possessed the go-to-the-front-of-the-line card. In March of 2004, Disneyland implemented changes to the program. They adopted a new solution to accommodate guests with disabilities. As a Disneyland spokesperson said, “tailored solutions to individual needs.” The changes were to ask more questions and see if they could find a better fit for the person and their issues, without freely handing over a pass.

The program introduced in 2004 at Disneyland was modeled after Walt Disney World’s guest assistance card program; we now see how that worked out. Which brings us right back to the misbehaving Manhattan mothers. The exposure of their scheme resulted in changes to the guest assistance card program at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Maybe the change was long overdue or maybe the change only complicates an already difficult situation for both Disney and specific guests, only time will tell.

The new program, known as the Disability Access Service Card (DAS), was implemented in October of 2013. The DAS is still intended for guests that are unable to wait in a queue. Instead of bypassing the lines, Disney now issues the guest a ticket with a time to come back for immediate entry to the ride. The designated time is based on the current wait times for the attraction. Disney has dubbed this a “virtual wait;” the guest is then free to visit another attraction, eat, wander around the park, etc.

Disney acknowledges that different situations require different accommodations and they will try to work on an individual basis; although, they are limited legally in what questions they may ask of guests. Disney acknowledges the whole situation is difficult and is sensitive to their guests needs.

In creating and modifying this program, they consulted with a number of organizations about the best way to rectify the situation; unfortunately, many disabled guests and their families feel the DAS is a terrible mistake. It is basically another form of the FastPass. Many complain that there is still obviously a wait time, while it isn’t in a queue, it still leaves families with too much time on their hands with children or those with special needs who have difficulty waiting. Most admit they can’t spend the full day at the park with the physical or mental challenges their loved one faces and the DAS makes for a longer day with less accomplished.

As noted, Disney consulted with health organizations on the program changes, most notably with the organization Autism Speaks. Ironically, the biggest complaints about the DAS are from families with children on the autism spectrum. In April of 2014, mothers of sixteen children with autism filed a lawsuit against the Disney theme parks. They claim their children have difficulty waiting for things due to their cognitive issues. It is unreasonable and unrealistic for Disney to expect certain children to sit idle for an extended length of time in this environment. Thus the new program violates the ADA and doesn’t allow for individualized exceptions. The programs framework is too narrow, especially for those living with autism.

The lawsuit also alleges that there wasn’t a widespread problem of abuse of the prior system Disney had in place. If any abuse did exist, persons with cognitive impairments did not commit it. There is no reason to make children and young adults with developmental disabilities collateral damage by withdrawing necessary accommodations. This lawsuit is still pending and only time will tell how this all plays out.

 

 

Morality In The Movies

 

 

In 1995, Disney released the controversial film
Powder,
directed by Victor Salva. The film's controversy stemmed from Victor, who is a registered sex-offender. Victor was charged with having oral sex with a twelve-year-old boy in 1988. He was sentenced to three years in state prison.

 

 

 

 

 

Walt Disney’s first foray into exposing the public to his creativity happened in movie theatres during the 1920s. As we know, what is socially acceptable today is vastly different from what was socially acceptable yesterday.

As the years progressed, certain socially acceptable acts were featured in or a part of the periphery of many Disney classics. Two of these acts were drinking and smoking. Certainly, people drink and smoke today, but socially, things are a bit different as compared with Walt’s days.

As our country has evolved, right or wrong, in most public places being a smoker is in line with being a social pariah. Many cities have legally banned smoking in their restaurants, outdoor spaces and municipal buildings. Even Disney has curbed the habit throughout most of their parks, dedicating fewer and fewer sections each year to those wishing to light up.

Today, tobacco companies explicitly detail the health risks and warnings on their products, and have been shamed into creating nationwide television campaigns detailing the hazards of smoking, primarily to children and teens. Oh, and don’t forget, cigarettes haven’t been permitted to advertise on television or radio since 1971.

As for alcohol in this country, it is still a staple in our society. Whether it is a vehicle to unwind and relax after a day at work, or a social component of nightlife, booze is here to stay, but it isn’t without its dangers. In addition to the health and social effects of alcohol abuse, there are the repercussions of drinking and driving, something that has existed since the first wheeled transportation pulled up to a public house.

As alcohol pertains to Disney, spirits were something that by and large was banned at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for quite some time. EPCOT sells alcohol throughout the World Showcase, so does Disney’s California Adventure. In 2013, alcohol sales were finally permitted at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

Obviously, not only Disney but also our society holds different views of both habits today as compared with the 1930s through the 1960s, when many of Disney’s full-length animated classics were released. Today, it is unlikely that you would tune into the Disney channel or Disney Junior and see any reference to smoking or drinking. Nor would you see Buzz Lightyear sparking up a cig and then slugging down a beer in a movie.

However, back in the day when Walt was at the helm of animated features, there were instances of smoking and drinking in his animated classics. In 2004, a few social scientists set out to chronicle these instances. 
Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide: Smoking and Drinking in Disney’s Animated Classics
was a research study that documented the references or portrayals of alcohol and tobacco in the full-length Disney features from 1937 up through 2000.

The study found that over the decades, tobacco use decreased, while alcohol consumption increased. The researchers studied twenty-four G-rated Disney films and found 381 incidents of the two forms of substance abuse. To look at a few of the highlights;
Snow White
had zero tobacco and one very brief exposure of alcohol (a brief view of a beer keg in a scene).
Pinocchio,
had seventeen exposures of tobacco and sixteen of alcohol.
Dumbo,
had five tobacco exposures and twenty-four of alcohol.
Alice in Wonderland,
had sixteen tobacco (or what is purported to be tobacco)  exposures and zero alcohol.
Sleeping Beauty,
had zero tobacco exposures and fifteen alcohol.
101 Dalmations,
had twenty-one tobacco exposures and nine alcohol. Lastly,
Beauty and the Beast
is the big winner here with zero tobacco and 116 alcohol. It seems as though the alcohol and cigarette portrayals seen in the films by and large parallel our social acceptance of both subjects in America today.

Okay, we’ve covered alcohol and tobacco as they pertain to Disney’s films; how about sex? Disney for the most part tries to keep things wholesome. Obviously, there are no explicit or overtly sexual references in their family-centric films. How about subliminally or just under the surface? If you look at the right time, in the right movie and at the right angle, you may have some success.

Deny, Deny, Deny is usually the name of the game when someone is caught with their pants down; sorry for the pun there. This is exactly what Disney did in the mid to late 1990s when rumblings surfaced of some lewd things in their beloved movies. After the denial was over, Disney relied on the always safe “no comment” when questioned about their supposed naughty behavior. No comment works especially well when litigation ensues, which is exactly how this story went.

In December of 1995, Disney was sued for inappropriate subliminal or hidden images and references in several of their films. Janet Gilmer of Fayetteville, Arkansas filed suit against the Walt Disney Corporation and their subsidiary Buena Vista Home Video for marketing movies with hidden sexual content offensive to children. This lawsuit was intended to become a class action lawsuit for the entire country. So what is all of this about and how did this happen?

BOOK: Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths
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