CONCORD, N.H. – A man who was booted from Disneyland for giving unauthorized insider’s tours says he will find his way to back to the Magic Kingdom.
Disney blogger Jim Hill, 46, says his expulsion from the Happiest Place on Earth was handled in deft Disney style.
“They were being so serious, so Disney, so polite and professional but at the same time treating it as if it was a nuclear bomb threat in their park; it was laughable,” he said Friday, recalling his encounter last week with park security in Anaheim.
In a telephone interview from Hawaii, he said he’s been giving walking tours of Disneyland two or three times a year for several years, charging $25 per person. He said the tours will continue, if not in person. He and a partner are developing an audio program for tourists.
“I can do it now from the comfort of my home in the woods,” said Hill, who lives in New Boston.
As Hill describes it on his blog, jimhillmedia.com, Disney officials shut down his venture after three women who signed up for an official tour inadvertently ended up in his group. The women reported him after park staff gave them trouble about rescheduling their original tour, Hill said.
That’s when the Mouse cracked down.
“In the 25 years that I have been writing and telling stories about the Walt Disney Co., this is the first time ever that Mickey has made an effort to gag me. And to be honest it wasn’t a very pleasant experience,” Hill wrote.
Disneyland spokesman Bob Tucker responded in a statement: “Only qualified Disneyland Resort cast members are authorized to provide tours of Disneyland. Since Mr. Hill’s tour was not authorized, he was asked to leave the property.”
Another spokesman likened Hill’s tours to trespassing.
“This is private property, and he’s not allowed to do that. It’s just like we would not allow someone to come in and set up a T-shirt shop,” Rob Doughty said.
Hill said his blog is read by Disney insiders and tours are advertised months in advance.
“They’ve labeled the tour “sensitive’ without actually going on the tour,” he said.
The tour isn’t particularly racy but includes tidbits of history that don’t fit with The Walt Disney Co.’s carefully groomed, family friendly image, Hill said.
Such as the fact that Walt Disney occasionally enjoyed a cocktail after a long day at work. Or salty tales gleaned from Hill’s interviews with old-time Imagineers and animators.
“You’d be amazed at some of the stories out there,” Hill said, but “they want their nice, edited, polished version of history.”
The tour includes historical notes on C.V. Wood, the instrumental, now rarely mentioned, first president of Disneyland who helped find the site for the park. Wood left the company after a falling out with Walt Disney but went on to help create many other theme parks, Hill said.
“He was a huge impact on the industry, but for Disney, he disappeared,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who helped make the Happiest Place on Earth, and those are the people I talk about on my tour.”
Hill butted heads with the multimedia giant once before, at the 2004 shareholders’ meeting in Philadelphia. Hill, who had been covering the leadership battle between Disney chief executive Michael Eisner and Roy Disney, was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article accompanied by a sketch of him.
“There’s my big fat face in woodblock on the cover of the Wall Street Journal,” he recalled.
When he arrived at the meeting, Hill said company officials pulled his credentials. No matter, Hill said, because the incident happened in front of the media and he was on cable news the next day. Then as now, Hill’s blog saw a Space Mountain-size spike in hits.
Hill also gives tours of other U.S. Disney parks but isn’t sure whether he’s banned from them. But he says he remains a Disney fan and won’t stop visiting the parks privately.
“I may end up with a discreet Disney escort for a while,” he speculated. “If the guy wants to go on Small World with me, we’ll be fine.”