MickeyBlog News for October 7, 2019 – Skyliner & Epcot Forever Updates
A seemingly quiet week for The Walt Disney Company suddenly became a PR nightmare. There’s no ignoring the elephant in the room in the latest edition of MickeyBlog News.
A Night to Remember
I have a friend who either works for or with Disney’s upper management. I never push him for details, as he’s secretive about his job. Sometimes, he does give me tips, though. And last night, he suddenly notified me that the Disney Skyliner had suffered a severe setback.
Like so many of you, my wife and I pulled up social media to deduce what had transpired. At the time, the situation was fresh and extremely fluid. The facts that no one debated were that the Disney Skyliner wasn’t moving, and that Disney wasn’t responding to anyone on social media.
Even worse, guests trapped in the gondolas didn’t receive quick replies when they called the emergency line in the vehicles. They vented on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, openly begging Disney to say something, ANYTHING about the situation. Friends, I’m first in line to praise my friends at the Mouse House for what they do, but last night represented a spectacular communication failure.
Part of the problem involved the timing. The gondolas experienced…something at roughly 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, October 5th. So, it was a time when the Disney campus included tens of thousands of guests.
Unfortunately, most of the cast members on duty, especially at the Disney Skyliner, were second shift workers, ones not involved with the construction and management of the system. They had no training for what happened. Understandably, they kind of panicked a bit.
Here are the facts as we know them right now…
The Great Skyliner Non-Crash of 2019
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) October 6, 2019
According to this tweet, the Disney Skyliner experienced a power outage. This aspect isn’t in question. The next part is an unsourced, unconfirmed message board comment and should be taken with a great of salt. However, I’m discussing it because it seems credible, given the other facts that we know.
With a blue-green gondola cart stuck, cast members tried to restart the system, starting with the power. In doing so, they accidentally created the gondola equivalent of a multi-car pile-up.
Just to clarify – Disney Skyliner vehicle 108 failed to dispatch from the Riviera station properly toward Epcot, rolled back, and was crashed into by the vehicle trailing, smashing the rear glass window and stopping the system. https://t.co/vrsXgitBVf
— R. A. Pedersen (@Epcyclopedia) October 6, 2019
The situation is no different than a car hitting its brakes, only to get rear-ended by other vehicles. The difference with the Disney Skyliner is that there isn’t a driver to hit the brakes in such scenarios. So, a “crash” is inevitable.
The supporting facts for this version of events are that images and videos are all over social media. They show that blue-green gondola cart slightly off the track. Also, some broken glass is on the ground. Clearly, a collision occurred.
A look at Riviera station today at 3pm. Arrow is where the accident occurred later tonight on Disney Skyliner. In dispatch to Epcot. pic.twitter.com/QYg2eSxd64
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) October 6, 2019
Here’s where things get sticky. The Disney PR person on duty at 10 PM on a Saturday, probably not one of their top reps, argued the point. In a likely display of weird semantics, the official statement indicated that the Disney Skyliner had experienced a power failure.
In a weird twist, the statement further denied that a crash had occurred. This happened despite ample evidence to the contrary. It’s like me, as a University of Tennessee football fan, denying that the football season has begun. I may say otherwise, but facts are facts.
What Happened on the Disney Skyliner?
My wife and I read literally thousands of tweets and Instagram posts during the Disney Skyliner breakdown. While all of them are unsourced, they seemed authentic enough to paint a picture. Here’s what we know.
The Disney Skyliner stranded guests high in the air above Walt Disney World. Since the collision occurred at the Disney’s Riviera Resort station, it had ripple effects at Epcot and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. At specific points, everyone on the system suffered a shutdown.
For a period of roughly three hours, the gondola system trapped many guests. Some of them got off a bit earlier. They went down the hard way, though. For the second time in less than a month, fire trucks had to deploy cherry pickers to retrieve guests from a broken Disney transportation vehicle. This process was extremely slow, though. The rescue team could only save two people at a time.
What about the Unfortunate Guests?
In the interim, guests faced an awkward situation. Cast members (eventually) instructed them to open the Emergency Kit, which turned out to include water pouches, a notepad, pencil, a light stick, a vomit bag, and a…pouch for relieving your bowels. Yeah, it’s not great when you need to open the Emergency Kit.
— kram (@123bigsky) October 6, 2019
The situation was dire, as some of the trapped guests had medical conditions and phobias. A few children drew some pretty grim illustrations about their experiences, as well. While suffering, they had to watch as Disney rescued people two at a time. That’s all that these cherry pickers could hold.
Gallows humor played a factor, too. More than one stranded person wryly noted that the generic notepads in the kits said Universal on the front. It’s never good to cause customers to fantasize about the competition while they’re mad at you.
— Steve (@Bg_Tie) October 6, 2019
For their troubles, the trapped guests received a few apology gifts from Disney. People reported that they got $200 gift cards and four single-day admission tickets with Park Hopper. By my calculations, that’s about $700 in value, but Disney also took the contact information of the victims. The belief is that this was just a starting point, as the company will make a good-faith effort to provide guests with a satisfactory outcome.
What Does This Situation Mean for Disney?
As far as doomsday scenarios go, this one is high on the list for park officials. The Disney Skyliner hasn’t been open a week, yet it’s already suffered the kind of disastrous media attention that can destroy its perception.
In truth, were a lesser company in this position, the Disney Skyliner might struggle for years afterward. Disney has earned more trust from its customers, and so “forgive and forget” might come into play here. However, during the hours that followed the incident, countless guests indicated that they wouldn’t want to ride the Disney Skyliner anytime soon.
Honestly, I think that opinion has validity. My family is only a few weeks away from a stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. We specifically chose it due to the Disney Skyliner station there. Now, we’re weighing our options, as my wife is reticent to ride the gondolas at the moment.
A single incident like this lingers in the minds of customers. The fact that it happened so soon after the Disney Skyliner debuted is undoubtedly cause for alarm. I speak only for myself about this, but I’ll be monitoring the situation carefully in the coming days.
ScooterBug Mobility Devices
Honestly, I had expected this to be a slow news week. The most significant stories work as sequels to ones from last week.
I’d previously reported that Disney has changed the delivery rules at official resorts. Guests must accept the deliveries from now on, as cast members can’t do it for them anymore. These changes apply to strollers and Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECVs).
Well, this change is only partially true. Guests don’t need to accept deliveries personally when they use Disney’s preferred third-party retailer, ScooterBug. Park officials have confirmed that cast members can accept deliveries from ScooterBug. This news may make you re-evaluate your options on which provider to use during your stay.
What I’d thought would be the lead story this week is the introduction of Epcot Forever. The replacement to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth arrived on October 1st. No presentation can match a legendary show like that, but Epcot Forever pleasantly surprised most reviewers with its quality.
The new show celebrates the musical legacy of Epcot. The soundtrack for the fireworks presentation includes highlights from classics like One Little Spark, Soarin’, Tomorrow’s Child, and Making Memories.
Coming to you LIVE for the first night of Epcot Forever! A historic night!!
Posted by MickeyBlog.com on Tuesday, 1 October 2019
Longtime Epcot fans will relish in the power of this music, while first-time guests will admire the spectacular visions. There’s a glowing kite effect that you’ll have to see to believe.
Epcot Forever has become the latest nightly presentation that you’ll want to plan for your trip. And it should have been the most important news at Disney this week…