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by Ken Pellman (archives)
August 3, 2004
Ken talks about some of his favorite subjects including theme park safety, Weird Al and Star Wars.

Summer & Safety Revisited
Twenty-Seven Twinkie Wiener Sandwiches

I'm not cranking out columns as regularly as I had been when the year started. In fact, I didn't even publish one in July. I've been busy.

For instance, I got my "Weird Al" Yankovic fix at the Orange County Fair. The show was free with fair admission - what an incredible bargain! I don't think a person can fully appreciate all of the talent that Al has unless they've seen him live in concert. Not only do you hear his live vocalizations of lyrics he wrote, but you can see him play his accordion, hear the band and Al perform the original and "style parody" music he wrote, see Al parody the stage presence of a variety of performers, and, during breaks for costume changes, you can see clips of videos and bits Al has directed and performed in.

Okay, so you might be wondering what this has to do with Disney. Well, the show was associated with Radio Disney, for one thing. For another thing, Al has appeared in a special on the Disney Channel. And if you really want to stretch the connection, make note that the Presidents of the United States of America did the movie version of the "George of the Jungle" theme song, and Al had done a version of that very theme himself on an early album. Furthermore, Al parodied their "Lump" with a song and video. "Gump", while they had done a song before that called "Going to the 'Weird Al' Concert" or something like that.

It was a good way to spend a Summer night.

Summer Days Drifting Away
Summer is my favorite time of the year. I used to love losing track of the date as I swam and sunbathed my days away, absorbing enough chlorine and UV rays to turn me into the mutant that I am today, and trying to avoid any thoughts of the inevitable return to school.

Now, I spend much of those formerly "lazy days" working away in an air-conditioned office. That can be nice, but some days I stare out the window, looking for any sign of Peter Pan. I'm hoping he'll fly by with Tinkerbelle and whisk me off to Neverland. Well, there's always a Disneyland visit.

So..this Summer, Disneyland is ramping up to the 50th anniversary celebration which will be in high gear next Summer. I'm not going to use this particular column to bad-mouth any former executives, but anyone who works at Disneyland Park, visits, or follows the happenings there via can see just how much work has been taking place ever since new Disneyland President Matt Ouimet came on board. Why did Matt see a need for so much work when he came aboard? Draw your own conclusions.

The park is being spruced up everywhere, and quite extensively. There is also a renewed "stickler" attitude permeating the Cast, and that's good.

On the downside, Space Mountain is still being rebuilt, so it hasn't been available for guests this Summer season. And then there's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Theme Park Safety Revisited
I can't pretend to know exactly what caused the latest incident that has closed the mountain again for weeks (so far). It has prompted me to revisit a subject I covered quite thoroughly in a
previous column in August of 2001- theme park safety.

Now, this can be a very delicate subject. The tragedy of serious injuries and deaths at theme and amusement parks should not be downplayed. With how much we like to visit the parks, one of us or one of our loved ones could be the victim if there is negligence. Every victim is someone's son or daughter, possibly someone's brother or sister or mother or father. Disneyland Park is supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth.

Having said that tragic events shouldn't be downplayed, I do not believe we should be hysterical or paranoid and claim that there is a “crisis? any time there is an accident. When you consider how many rides people are taking on these attractions compared to how many serious injuries or deaths there have been, you should be able to say how safe amusement park visits are, especially compared to any number of other activities you may participate in.

However, this hasn't stopped people from successfully lobbying for state regulation of theme parks in states such as California, or calling for more regulation of theme parks and amusements parks. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) is frequently cited in news reports as calling for national regulations. This would require assigning people and funds to regulating theme parks, possibly imposing new charges on theme parks (and, therefore, visitors like us) to pay for such regulation. Should this really be a priority? Is this really something to devote our limited resources to?

Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Park had never caused a death until well AFTER state oversight had started. In fact, there had only been one death at Disneyland Park since it openened in 1955 that was wholly the blame of the park. Since the fatal accident on BTM - and since the State of California give the Company the okay to reopen the attraction - two other well-publicized accidents (one without guests on the attraction, the other involving minor injuries) have occurred. So, I have to wonder if state oversight has done any good in this case. Really, all I see the State of California being here is another deep pocket (and that's taxpayer money) to sue, in addition to the Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland functioned very well for scores of years without state regulation of its attractions. Parks were already subject to City/County oversight, such as building codes, and the County Coroner has been responsible for investigating any death. Furthermore, it is in the park's interest to have a good safety record, because it is good for business. Some have argued that short-term profit was placed ahead of safety at the Disneyland Resort, but the people who argued that point are embracing the new Resort management, and "old school" thinking is supposedly back in control.

Even so, if you don't trust the place, then don't go, and tell the Company why you aren't going. Voting with your dollar will have the most impact. I didn't see the need for state oversight, I still don't see the effectiveness of state oversight (aside from occupational oversight), and I certainly don't think there needs to be Federal oversight, for goodness sakes.

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