Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Why is This Newsworthy?

As you are likely well aware of by now, I am a big fan of the Walt Disney Company, particularly their theme park division. I am hoping to receive an internship at the Walt Disney World Resort in the near future should the opportunity to participate in the program present itself. I have, however, as of late been quite critical of the direction in which I believe the company is moving toward, though in all honesty that criticism is reserved more for former company chairman and CEO Michael Eisner and Robert Iger then the company itself. In spite of this, I have taken every chance I can find in defending the Walt Disney Corporation against the relentless and vitriolic aspersion of the media, specifically the Orlando Sentinel whose contempt of the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disney Company in general is not exactly a well kept secret to anyone, let alone Disney fans. The theme of the summer season this year has been to exploit every single death which has taken place at the theme park destination and criticize Disney World management for their lack of concern for the safety of their patrons, whether the operating system of the attraction in question or the lack of safety concerns (something I find unbelievable in place like Walt Disney World where there twenty signs warning those with health problems to avoid specific attractions before they even prepare to board their vehicles) had any relation to their death or not. An upsurge in theme park-related injuries and fatalities is clearly existent this year but maybe that has more to do with the amount of media attention focused on the domestic theme park division of the company then the actual statistics in comparison to previous years. For example, remember when the media made a huge deal about the flu vaccines after several children had died from complications with the virus and there was a state of panic amongst the public about receiving their vaccination? Turns out that the number of children that year who died of the flu was less then in previous years and that the several children who did die of the flu had already contracted serious diseases which in turn shut down their immune system, thus allowing the flu virus to finish them off, so to speak. This may apply as well to the situation down in Florida. Do these deaths, though tragic, count as headline news when they are in no way related to the operation or safety of the theme park attractions in question? A seventy-seven year old woman who was in poor health from diabetes and several ministrokes died on Pirates of the Caribbean in February 2005. A four-year old died on Mission: Space on June 13th, 2005. Given the attraction’s forty-four inch height requirement (the child surprisingly met the requirement despite his age which may be reason as to why he died) and the frequent warnings prior to boarding the attraction indicated the intensity of the ride, Disney shares no fault in the death of the child. A sixteen-year old British girl wound up in critical condition (her heart actually stopped beating for a short period of time and she had to be resuscitated) after riding The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror multiple times (six times within one week) which in turn exacerbated a pre-existing condition. A thirty-year old man’s death aboard Animal Kingdom’s Dinosaur (formerly Countdown to Extinction) on July 23rd was attributed to previously reported heart-relation complications. The latest report is of a twelve year-old who passed out at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon on Thursday, August 4th, 2005, and died shortly thereafter. Mouse Planet, a website which dedicates itself to Disneyland and everything else Disney, has chimed in with its assessment of the media-hype, questioning why deaths at Walt Disney World (or any other Disney theme park for that matter) are that surprising given the rather large amount of people, roughly one-hundred thousand per day, that visit the vacation destination.