L.A. Times covers Jim Hills ejection from Disneyland
Disney Magic: 'Tour' Vanishes
There's probably no good reason to write about society's renegades, but when they take on corporate giants like the Walt Disney Co. and they're as good-natured as Jim Hill and they live in a log cabin in New Hampshire ….
So, here's a quick Mouse tale of how Hill, a 46-year-old blogger, came to lead a tour at Disneyland and got expelled from the park last Sunday.
Actually, why he got expelled is simple: He was conducting an unauthorized tour on Disney property. Even Hill acknowledges, "To be totally honest, they were within their rights to shut down the tour."
So, let's move directly to how Hill got the idea that he should give Disneyland tours.
"I've been writing about the Disney Co. for about 25 years now," Hill says over the telephone from Hawaii, tracing his interest to watching Uncle Walt and "The Wonderful World of Disney" on TV as a boy.
But while most of us developed deep loyalties to all things Disney because of our contacts with Jiminy Cricket and Goofy, Hill ventured to the dark side. He found a market in various media outlets that "enjoyed the fact that I did stories that were not necessarily part of the Disney canon," Hill says. "Disney has robbed themselves of a lot of great stories because they're so aggressively family-oriented they don't like talking about some of its early characters, because they were hard-drinking, deal-cutting guys."
I can't confirm or deny that, but Hill says it's true. "I'd meet with old Imagineers and animators, and they had wonderful stories. But they were a little salty and outside the company view. As they began shaving off the corners [of the Disney legend], it turns out the Web is a market that absolutely loves this sort of stuff."
Almost as a natural evolution, Hills' Web readers started asking if he could rendezvous with them at Disneyland and show them around. "I said, 'OK, sure.' "
For the past two years, he's conducted maybe a dozen tours, he says. The most people he ever led was 10, and he charged $25, he says. The fee, he says, offsets his expenses from the Northeast to SoCal.
It's not that Hill's tours told customers where bodies were buried. "Mine is more about the construction and history of the park," he says, "attractions that were proposed but never built. The Disneyland that never was. Mine is for the hard-core dweeb, for the Orange County weenie who's been to the park hundreds of times and wanted to hear the story of what would have been there, what almost was there."
Not many companies would go for that, especially Disney. Last Sunday afternoon, its security people gave Hill the word: Scram.
"They were Disney," he says. "They were terribly polite, even the police detective who said he could give me a trespass warning or have me arrested…. They arrest you but use velvet-lined handcuffs."
Hill wasn't arrested or ticketed. He merely headed off to Hawaii to spend time with his daughter.
Disneyland spokesman Rob Doughty isn't as amused by Hill as I am. "The big issue is he's profiting from selling unauthorized tours of the park," Doughty says.
"One of the important elements has been protecting the magic that's created here. So we go to great lengths to protect that magic. People pay to enjoy the magic and the wonder that was created here 50 years ago and that cast members work very hard every day to maintain. That's what people want to experience."
In this day and age, bloggers always get the last word. On his website Monday, Hill wrote: "Greetings from not-so-sunny Southern California."
He wondered if his tour warranted a shutdown. "I can't help but think that the 1st Amendment sort of, kind of covers this issue," he impishly wrote.
"The right to tell somewhat embarrassing stories about the Mouse. That's somewhere in the Constitution … isn't it?"
I suspect Jiminy Cricket would be quite emphatic that it isn't.
That concludes the LA times portion of the coverage Jim also has a couple of articles on his site,
including one written by one of the folks who paid for one of his tours, the members of his tour group were given the take a walk in Walt's footstrps tour for free
One of the more interesting (from my point of view) points is that Jim was already considering making a self-guided version of his tour available (I.E. he sends you a cd and you listen to it to make your own tour)
One of the sadder points is that others who were going to be giving thier own tours of the park won't be able to either now as Disney is now likely to keep a closer eye on this type of thing, David Koenig (who wrote the Mouse Tales books) will likely be affected, and it seems to me I remember in the past Jims Ex (aka The fabulous Disney Babe) had given tours, she also used the park as part of the final exam when she taught a class on it at one of the southern CA colleges, I wonder if that would beprohibitedd now as well.