What’s Wrong with Birnbaum’s Picture?

birnbaum-thumbs-downAs has been well-documented on this blog, I’m a big Disney Theme Parks fan. We go to Disneyland at least once a year and really enjoy our time there as well as in the sister park, Disney’s California Adventure.

DCA, as the park is invariably known, opened in 2001 and was met with overall lukewarm response. The park initially lacked the requisite number of “E-Ticket” attractions and the mix of attractions-restaurants-retail was skewed far too much in the restaurants-retail side.  The lack of tourist travel after 9/11 didn’t help either.

Nonetheless, the park expanded in the intervening years. The former Bountiful Valley Farm section of The Golden State district was carved out and expanded in 2003 as A Bug’s Land with four off-the-shelf (but well-themed) rides appealing to young children unable to ride many of DCA’s signature attractions due to height-restrictions.  Monsters Inc. replaced the poorly received Superstar Limo attraction in 2005. The park also added headliner attractions Tower of Terror in 2004 and Toy Story Midway Mania in 2008.

In other words, a lot has changed at DCA.

All these changes must be somewhat difficult to keep track of for the myriad guidebooks for the Disneyland Resort. But since there is always something new at the resort, the publishers are aware of the upcoming changes and are able to churn out yearly editions of most of the guidebooks (a yearly update is also an opportunity to sell a new book to someone who bought the previous edition).

The best Disneyland guide book is The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. That book has detailed information about hotels, attractions, restaurants, and more. The book also has “touring plans” that guide you to go to certain attractions at certain times of the day to minimize waiting in line.  The main problem with The Unofficial Guide (besides the fact that it is really heavy to carry around) is that the maps are not very realistic and certainly lack the “magic” that Disney provides in the map/guidebooks you receive when you enter the parks.  No doubt, the fact that the book is labeled “unofficial” has something to do with not being able to license Disney’s drawings.

Enter another guidebook, Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort 2010. Not only does this tome feature colorful photos, it proudly and prominently displays that it is “The Official Guide.”  Wow! The official guide? This thing must be the best. Or have the most up-t0-date info. Or at least have great looking maps. Right?  Wrong.

If you’ve paid attention, I went to great lengths to describe the substantial changes to DCA since opening. Unfortunately, a decade later, Birnbaum’s 2010 edition still features the a map of the park as it appeared when the park opened.  Yes, seriously. The park map hasn’t changed in ten years!

Let’s take a look at Birnbaum’s official product description (with my emphasis shown in bold):

This updated edition of Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort, the most respected and well-known name in Disney guides, takes readers through Walt Disney’s first theme park with ease and flair. Since our guide is the only guide that’s official, this book includes the most accurate and current information on prices and attractions.
Here are just a few of the exciting new features of this year’s guide: There’s big doin’s at Disney’s California Adventure these days. We’ll deliver the scoop on all the new shows and attractions that are headed its way. Disney’s Grand Californian has undergone a growth spurt. Check here to see what the new neighborhood of (Disney Vacation Club) villas has to offer. And as always, we’ll include current coverage of Disneyland’s beloved attractions and a peek at what’s to come.

Our guide is also the only one allowed to feature Disney characters. And Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort is the most comprehensive guidebook, offering complete information on the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure, and Downtown Disney, as well as details about Anaheim area attractions, things to do in Los Angeles, and special driving routes around Southern California. This is the only guide to Disneyland that readers need, entirely updated every year.

Take a look at the map for yourself. Compare the 2007 map including most notably the Tower of Terror and Bug’s Land on the left side of the park, under the yellow “California Adventure” text.  And then compare the map show in Birnbaum’s 2010 guide. Those areas, added to the park in 2003-2004, are not even present!

Disney's California Adventure (2007 map)
Disney's California Adventure (2007 map)
Birnbuam's DCA Map for 2010
Birnbuam's DCA Map for 2010

There’s simply no excuse for this sort of woefully out of date information (the Disneyland Park map in Birnbaum’s book is also ten years old but the changes to that park aren’t as noticeable as they are with DCA.). What is the point of being “the official guide” if the maps are so far out of date?  And what else is out of date in the book when something as obvious and noticeable as the map is outdated?

Some might defend Birnbaums by reminding us that DCA is currently undergoing a major expansion and renovation where the Entry Plaza will be completely redone and a new Cars Land will be added. Maybe Birnbaums is holding off until that work is finished. Okay. But, that doesn’t explain why Birnbaum’s didn’t update the DCA maps in 2003-2007, prior to the announcement of this expansion.

I implore you to boycott Birnbaum’s guide until they update their maps. I will also be contacting the publishers of this “guidebook.”

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