DEBATE: Maintaining the Walt Standard

Discussion in 'Disney Rumors and News' started by DisneyKidds, Aug 8, 2002.

  1. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    There is so much talk of the failure to maintain the Walt Disney 'standards' having led to the erosion of the Disney Magic and the ungluing of the Disney empire. Failure to put the Show above all else. Failure to 'do it right or not do it at all'. Failure to 'give the guest everything you can'. Failure to ask the question 'what would Walt do'? These can be easy things to say, but would they have been so easy to do?

    But what exactly would Walt have done? While Walts 'ideals' may have been the basis for everything that WDW was, Walt never managed WDW a day in his life, which sadly ended long before the Orlando dream was realized. Walt built an empire that thrived under his 'standards'. But keep in mind, some of his other actions driven by those 'standards' had him near penniless at times. So, would Walt have changed his 'standards' throughout the years had he been alive to run WDW? Would that have represented a compromising of his 'standards'? Could WDW be all that it has been if all those 'standards' had been strictly adhered to?

    Some consider excess to have been the downfall of the Roman empire. Adherence to a way of life that left them oblivious to those that would challenge them. As it goes in the American Adventure - excess and plenty as the greatest threat to a young America. All of that highlighting the risks of becoming successful and prosperous doing things a certain way, living a certian way, and only a certain way. Failure to change and evolve can easily lead to ruin - history tells us that.

    Perhaps if Walt had been alive and refused to compromise his 'standards' we wouldn't have moderate and value resorts. Perhaps we would only have two theme parks. Perhaps a lot of things would be different in Orlando today. Would that have been such a good thing? Keep in mind that the theme parks represent half the operating profit for the entire company. Could strict adherence to Walts 'standards' have led to the same levels of success in the long term that The Disney Company has experienced? Or, could the refusal to adjust a way of living, a way of thinking, have led to the downfall of the Disney empire.

    I know nobody really has the answer to the question 'What would Walt have done?' It is all speculation. Not that a lot of the decisions that represent departures from Walts 'standards' have not been mistkaes. Indeed, the Nepoleon that is Ei$ner may have met his Waterloo. But what if..........
     
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  3. raidermatt

    raidermatt Beware of the dark side. Anger...fear...aggressio

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    Nobody knows what Walt would have done with respect to any specific area. That's why the "What would Walt do" philosophy didn't work.

    What we DO know is two things:

    1- He would not have compromised his standards, unless it was out of financial necessity.

    2- He would always be looking for new challenges to pursue.

    Bottom line is that Walt showed the philosophy of not compromising standards does work. Yes, he had a good grasp on what people wanted (even if they didn't know it themselves), but he still made mistakes.

    However, he never compromised unless he just plain had to.

    There are companies today that set high standards and maintain them. True, not every company can be the "premium provider" in its industry. However, when you have acheived that status, its foolish to let it slip away.
     
  4. manning

    manning <font color=blue>Just for that I have requested it

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    Excess and quality are not necessarily the same. I'm sure Roman excess was not quality excess.
     
  5. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    Agreed. However, would he have had to change? My guess is yes. How, I have no idea.

    Good point. But would it have been excessive if WDW had a dozen quality deluxe resorts that went for $250 a night. Yeah, you can find them discounted now, but if adherence to the standards would have protected WDW from the problems it is having there would be no need for the discounts.

    I'm sure they thought they had a qualiuty society at the time, and for the most part it probably was. Furthermore, they never realized they were being excessive. That was the trap. Could Disney have fallen in the same trap?
     
  6. Walt's Frozen Head

    Walt's Frozen Head DIS Veteran<br><font color="blue">A comfortable 32

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    As opposed to Eisner's actions, which have the company in an unprecedented state of decay while he personally walks off with four-fifths of a billion dollars?

    If there's a choice between investing in something you believe in versus profiting off of anything you can... I'll take the investment. Other folks are free to prefer the pay-out, if that's the end-all of what's important to them. Let them eat Enron.

    I'll take the three high-quality resorts that aren't competing for guests with Motel 6, and the two high-quality parks that don't have to support the dead weight of ABC, Go.com, Bubble Boy...

    The Disney "empire" as you refer to it mostly benefitted a few high-end stockholders at the expense of a ton of guests. I say screw the Disney empire.

    -WFH

    PS: Since we had the big Carpool shake-out, I find myself agreeing with a good 90%+ of what raidermatt has to say about things, including 100% of that last post.

    If I may add to/refine what you are calling "compromise," it seems to me that Disney used to create in the service of a creative visionary, and the sharp pencil guys were tasked with financing it, somehow. Now, Disney creates in the service of the sharp pencil guys, and the creative visionaries largely work elsewhere. Instead of focusing on a product, they focus on a measure, a number to be hit.

    I play golf, with the intention of getting better at it over time, and I keep score to mark my progress. The score means nothing in and of itself; it is only of value in describing the relative quality of the round I played. I could easily post a 67 on every round, if I decided to take my balls and go home after about fourteen holes. If all I care about is the score, I can maximize my performance on that measure while completely missing the point that my game has failed to improve... in fact, my round really isn't even "golf," anymore, as most people have come to understand the term.

    By focusing too much on the measure, you can completely lose sight of the goal you intended to measure, in the first place.

    I don't feel like Disney bothers to play golf. They just post scores that mean little in and of themselves, while the real point of it all withers and dies.
     
  7. wdw4us2

    wdw4us2 <font color=blue>Not only a DIS Vet, but a 33 year

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    Don't forget about that Walt Disney was one to put his personal assets (selling his first car, cashing in his Life Insurance policy, mortgaging his home) to realize his ideas through the company. He also had Roy O. to reign him in when necessary.

    Could you imagine Ei$ner forgoing his guaranteed bonus? Drawing no salary until the stock is back where it should be? Without Frank Wells to reign him in, short term gains have become the norm (econo resorts, shorter park hours, off the shelf rides - etc.) rather than long range planning.

    I don't think it's realistic for anyone to expect The Disney Co. to live up to standards established during Walt's lifetime. However, to totally disregard them is not realistic either.

    Lisa:cool:
     
  8. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    As I said - it looks like that little Napoleon will get his. Yes, he will laugh all the way to the bank, but is he perhaps more about ego?

    But could Disney have survived on three high quality resorts and two high quality parks?

    For a moment, forget the mistakes of the past 5 years. The 'empire' was growing before that. Without the 'empire' where would the money have come from for all the things people say Disney should have done? Should they have done nothing or would it have been considered stagnation if WDW was nothing more than three resorts and two parks?

    In keeping with the golf analogy, Walt would have faced many a day like Tiger struggled with at Muirfield. That most certainly would have required him to improvise his game, no?

    Now I'm not trying to turn this into a current management love fest. On the contrary, since we had the big carpool shake-out I find myself agreeing with what a lot of other people have to say as well - that's a good thing - we are communicating. I am just lookig to spark a little fun discussion and debate.

    It seems sometimes that people view things as very cut and dry - if Disney followed this formula we wouldn't be in this mess today. Can that be so? Perhaps - I really don't know. I do think Lisa is correct.....

    But others don't feel that way - so share with me why. Lets not get into the same old rhetoric, lets answer some fundemental questions and imagine a WDW under Walts hand.
     
  9. wdw4us2

    wdw4us2 <font color=blue>Not only a DIS Vet, but a 33 year

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    A WDW under Walt's guidance.

    A few guesses:

    1) New attractions that utilize today's technology - not technology from a park he opened 47 years ago (The Magic Carpets of Aladdin).

    2) Refurbishment that takes place at night or out of view during operating hours unlike the current situation with Horizons/Mission Space in Epcot.

    3) Keeping away from "carnival" type attractions - Dinorama being the prime example.

    4) Guest satisfaction as a main priority.

    I'm sure I'll think of some others later.

    Lisa:cool:
     
  10. Peter Pirate

    Peter Pirate Its not the end of civilization...But you can see

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    Sorry Lisa but most of this wouldn't even exist had Walt stayed around - or been a younger man...He didn't want to repeat himself & he mostly cared about HIS visions.

    A very plausable scenerio (IMO) is that Walt would have pushed everything into the biggest dream he ever had...EPCOT. The living & working EPCOT, not the Epcot theme park. Looking back and seeing Walt's propensity for having things 'Walt's way' I think there is a good chance that everything would have been gambled into EPCOT, a vision of astonishing ideology & deserving of platitude on many level. But this vision could possibly have caused the end of the Disney. Hindsight shows us that the self contained, one way or the highway ideology hasn't been too successful (perhaps Walt would have once again been the exception) But Walt wasn't into 'empire building' and Walt wasn't into being the best. Walt was into Walt and his dream du jour and to his credit his dream seldom compromised quality, but it is foolish to think that Walt would have continued historic development of the theme parks - after all he was already virtually done with them (been there, done that). They would have fallen to managers and they would have to fight Walt's new projects for the budget dollars (sound familiar?). Who do you think would win those battles?

    This sets up the possibility of collapse. Disney skirted disaster on many occasions and the odds are that sooner or later the good luck would run out (as it may be running out now under Eisner's misguidance). At that point Disney would have been dismantled and the growth precendent set by Disney under Eisner would have never taken place. Certainly parks would have evolved but I seriously doubt that theme parks as resort destinations would have taken the same turn without the circumstances that allowed Disney to set the pace.

    So, my friend Disneykidds, I believe that this Walt wishing is pure hogwash. He was a great man who did great things and history will show that. Eisner led Disney to a place that Disney would never have gone under Walt and although it pains me to say it, it is too bad he can no longer see the forest for the trees...
    :cool: :cool: :bounce: :cool: :cool:
     
  11. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    Good to see you Pirate :) - that was quite some time out at sea ;). Those are some interesting thoughts. I do hope to gain a little more insight into such things as I am awaiting my literature on good old Walt himself. You'd be surprised at how many book stores don't carry books on Walt.
     
  12. manning

    manning <font color=blue>Just for that I have requested it

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    We will never know. What did Walt want with all that land???
     
  13. DVC-Landbaron

    DVC-Landbaron What Would Walt Do?

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    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    WELCOME BACK THE PIRATE!!!!

    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:
     
  14. Walt's Frozen Head

    Walt's Frozen Head DIS Veteran<br><font color="blue">A comfortable 32

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    Absolutely, but they wouldn't have had to. There is always a market for the highest of quality, and demand would easily justify building more high quality resorts and parks. WDW would have grown less spectacularly but more supportably, with a deeper and richer foundation.
    Actually, it was the parks that provided the money for the empire, not the other way around. Reinvesting in the parks could have meant Anaheim DisneySea, "empiring" bought us Fox Family and DCA. Take your pick, Eisner did.
    Hindsight? Eisner's right in front of us. You are right about his ideology bringing the company to the brink of collapse, though.
    Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, Walt hated the cheap hotels and general tackiness that sprang up around Disneyland, and wanted to make sure there was a buffer zone between his Magical World and the mundane outside world. He also became interested in engineering an "outside world" that wasn't so mundane. That grew into E.P.C.O.T., Walt's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow... as Peter alludes, a living, working, producing community.

    -WFH
     
  15. Peter Pirate

    Peter Pirate Its not the end of civilization...But you can see

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    Scoop, I think EPCOT was Walt's dream, but I don't believe it was ever anyone eles's...I mean when Walt died so did the EPCOT dream. After all Walt had little to do with the completion of the Florida Project & I think the plans to duplicate DL at MK was the 'weenie' to Roy & the bankers, et al...But I believe Walt would have built EPCOT...

    Married to the Mouse didn't give me any indication otherwise & I don't think I've read Vinal Leaves...Your side Counselor, will be appreciated...
    :cool: :cool: :bounce: :cool: :cool:
     
  16. Peter Pirate

    Peter Pirate Its not the end of civilization...But you can see

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    I'm a little confused...are you saying (1) that Walt didn't really want the 'ideal EPCOT' and (2) the whole Reedy Creek deals were just land-use based? - I must say I agree with the second part but not the first after all by the time these negotiations (with the State) were taking place Walt was pretty much out of the picture - meaning (as you suggest) Walt's EPCOT was never going to be built (by Roy, Card, Ron or whoever) but not meaning that had Walt lived and/or been in good health that the same would be true...Had his health held up I believe his plan WAS to build EPCOT & thats the basis of my original post...
    :cool: :cool: :bounce: :cool: :cool:
     
  17. wdw4us2

    wdw4us2 <font color=blue>Not only a DIS Vet, but a 33 year

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    Peter,

    I agree that if Walt had lived, he would have built or attempted his version of EPCOT.

    However, I also believe the MK would have been built because Roy would have convinced Walt they needed the $$ from the MK to fund EPCOT.

    I still stand by my earlier statements regarding some current situations as they pertain to the parks.

    Lisa :cool:
     
  18. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    Walt very much wanted to build the city of EPCOT. He truly did. It’s also fair to say that he was the only one that really wanted to build it. The project died when Walt did although the people that followed him thought they really would get around to it one day. Card Walker and folks lacked the confidence to try and pull something like this off, but their attitude was that “if this is what Walt wanted, well who are we to say no”. And the plan all along (even in Walt's time) was to build the Magic Kingdom, the hotels and the recreation areas first and get them successful and only then start on EPCOT.

    By the time the Florida Project was contemplated, Walt was somewhat getting bored with theme parks. He’d already mastered that and he was willing to try new things. He was also at a point in his life when he was worried if he had accomplished anything worthwhile. It’s a very typical Hollywood disease. People can become rich and famous for making movies – but it’s only making movies. They don’t have a lasting impact on the world (that’s why so many flaky actors get involved with politics). EPCOT was Walt’s way of taking what he learned from the parks and applying it to real life. It was to be his “big and lasting contribution” to the world.

    Remember, this is the mid sixties we were taking about. A time when everything started going to hell. In the middle of the Cold War, racial problems, Vietnam, a sour economy and growing discontent. Someone presenting a hopeful and workable view of the future was an extremely radical thing. Sure, EPCOT might not have ever worked, but it would have been fascinating to watch. Certainly much more interesting than the yuppie strip mall development that Celebration is turning into or the stagnate art form that theme parks have become.
     
  19. wdw4us2

    wdw4us2 <font color=blue>Not only a DIS Vet, but a 33 year

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    Well said, AV.

    Lisa:cool:
     
  20. DVC-Landbaron

    DVC-Landbaron What Would Walt Do?

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    First a couple of little things.

    Mr. Head writes:
    Oh frozen one!!! Why don’t you tell us what you really think!!!

    But you know I’m only kidding!! ;) I kneel before you!! And agree with every single word you say (unless it’s to the Pirate!! The Pirate and I go back a while, ya know! ;))

    To Lisa who says:
    I have to ask: Why not??!!


    OK! That’s taken care of. And now the prelude!!!

    There certainly can’t be a thread with this title that won’t have an essay from me somewhere within. So here it is. And in order to “do it right”, I’ve gone back to the original question and, for the most part, avoided the side issues.

    Maintaining the Walt Standard The introduction!

    You have brought up a real poser, Mr. Kidds. But fortunately it is one that I have thought about for quite some time now. I believe that Peter is 100% correct when he says that Walt would have built EPCOT or died trying. Which, in my humble opinion, makes Scoop’s assertion 100% wrong. And it very well could have changed the modern model of urban development. Or, what is more likely, (personal belief only) it would have ruined the company to a point that Walt would have realized that he was in the theme park business, like it or not. Some really tough times, and the realization that he couldn’t run Disneyland the way he wanted anymore, might (and I stress “might” because Walt was hardheaded) have lead him pretty much in the direction of the present day WDW. It would definitely NOT lead him to change his philosophy, but would perhaps led to a change in property (real estate usage) concept and development. Does that make sense?

    But I don’t think you’re asking that. Are you? I think we need to take the EPCOT aspect out of the equation. We need to level the playing field and compare apples to apples. Right? So, my take on you’re question is not, “What would Walt have done if he lived through the years to the present?” but instead, “What would Walt DO, given the same conditions, circumstances and property GOALS (as opposed to company goals), that Ei$ner has had?” Is that more what you had in mind? I will assume, for the purposes of this piece anyway, that it is.

    To me that is almost a ridiculous premise and a question with such an apparent answer that it need never be posed in the first place. It’s like asking, “Is water wet?” Or, “Is Florida hot, humid and crowded in the summer?” (Thus the reason for midnight closings!! ;) I had to slip it in there somewhere!!) The answer is self-evident. Obvious. But, then again, two years ago I thought EVERYONE would see the dramatic change in philosophy at WDW as I did. WOW!! Was I wrong!! So maybe we shouldn’t ask, “Is water wet?” but instead ask, “Why is water wet?” or “What is the difference between wet and dry?”

    Maintaining the Walt Standard The body of the text!

    OK, finally I get to the point!! My take on a Walt Disney World (with the EPCOT angle excised):

    First, there would be much more development around the MK. The master plan, most of which was knowingly approved by Walt, called for it, and I see no reason in the world why that would have changed. Walt liked it and his staff developed it. It was set in granite (as much as anything in planning could be)!! So the resort count goes up to five at least and probably more, but who knows. Anyway, we are NOT stuck with only three resorts (and a campgrounds) for all of eternity!!!

    I believe that Walt would have approved a plan for an EPCOT type park. It was radically different from other theme parks, and had concepts and goals that I think he would have happily approved. Now, here’s where we get a little sticky. The details would have been vastly different. Walt had a lot of input into these things, so while I think the overall concept would be pretty much what we see today, I don’t think the particulars would be the same.

    There would be no Swan or Dolphin. PERIOD!! If he lost the case he would have made some other concession. Even it cost him or the company much more money. I don’t think he would have let ANYONE in on his land. And especially located where they are now!! He approved the Hotel corridor, but made sure it was squeezed into a little corner of the world, far from his main “stuff”. And the compromise with Tishman would have been no different. There’s not a chance in hell that he’d let someone build in the middle of the property, within the sight lines of EPCOT!!!

    There would be growth in the World Showcase. New countries would be added and/or replaced using any and all incentives or strong arm tactics he could employ. I believe he would have considered it a failure NOT to add anything in 15 or twenty years. I really think he would have taken it personally. The same, though not as imperative, goes for Future World and, by extension, the Magic Kingdom itself!! We would have seen a SPACE Pavilion and a Film/Arts Pavilion years ago, and who knows what would be on the drawing board for next year!!! And you could bet that they would be true, knock your socks off, PAVILIONS, and not just a ride!!

    We would see hotels around the EPCOT-like theme park. But these resorts would have matched the theme of World Showcase. They would NOT be themed to Western Hemisphere, American motifs. Imagine walking through Morocco to get to the Moroccan Suites. Or walking through Norway to the “Norwegian Bed and Breakfasts”!! And that’s just what my pea-sized brain can come up with. Imagine Walt and a fully operational WDI working on it!!! WOW!!!!

    Transportation would still have to include buses, but very, very, very minimally. Monorails and especially the Peoplemover concept would be prevalent throughout the complex. This was very important to the Disney company at one time because it was very important to Walt!! Alternative modes of transportation would be explored constantly. Some winners. And some losers. But experimentation and cutting edge, “state-of-the-art” technology would be employed at all times. Of this I AM SURE!!!!

    Now, for a touchy subject and one upon which I have written volumes. I will try to keep it to a paragraph!! RESORTS WOULD HAVE ONE SET STANDARD AND ONE SET PRICE RANGE. I know this sounds ludicrous, but hear me out. I have thought long and hard about the subject. The logic I use is what I’ve read, heard and seen in the guy named Walt Disney. How he looked at money, business, and most importantly the SHOW! He wasn’t about money. He wasn’t about maximizing profits. And he wasn’t about business. He WAS about quality. In everything he did, quality was the watchword. I firmly believe that he NEVER compromised quality for cost and more importantly for price. If we accept this basic premise, and I see NO reason to doubt it, then this very concept would preclude the existence of the All Stars and the Floridian!! Heck, it would also cancel out the moderates!!! ALL resorts would be similar in nature to what is represented in the Poly and the Contemporary, but they would have vastly different and exotic themes. And the price would NOT be set by the market or the hotel industry, but would instead be set by Walt, who NEVER gouged and in fact took great pains to make the experience as affordable as possible!!! (THERE MR. KIDDS!! A thumbnail sketch of the caste system of resorts. If you understand nothing else about Walt, please understand this very basic philosophical concept!!! Not many do!!)

    There would be no Studios and no Animal Kingdom!! Yep! No theme parks trying to play catch up with the joints down the street!! What we would see is something completely and wonderfully different!! Something that no one had thought of. Something that would WOW(!!) us. Thrill us. And at the same time, MAKE A TON OF MONEY!!!!

    Maintaining the Walt Standard Summation!

    All of the above is just a guess though. But as thoughtful a ‘guess’ as I could give it. If EPCOT failed he may have retired. He may have grown bored with the whole thing. I really don’t know. But I think that the above also highlights the ‘philosophical’ tenets and doctrine of the old Disney. And it was Ei$ner’s to carry on if he chose to do so. Card Walker and Ron Miller tried to and to a certain extent succeeded, but as we can see, in retrospect, lacked something in the implementation.

    To me, it all boils down to quality and the conscience effort NOT to gouge or out price your guests. Niche marketing and “capturing certain demographics” was not something that was widely practiced in Disney and I really think that this business model is the cornerstone to Walt’s philosophy. Remember Walt is the guy who wanted NO admission cost at all for his park. It was one of the few battles that Roy actually won. Walt wanted to build a park, free for all to use. He’d charge for the rides. And he’d charge for the pop corn and soda (he wasn’t stupid, after all!!). But his park, the landscaping, the architecture and the ambience, were to be free for all to enjoy. Roy insisted that they charge a token amount to keep the riff-raff out! (GOOD THINKING ROY!!)

    But this was Walt’s way. It is this business philosophy that drew me to Disney in the first place. Isn’t it what drew all of us?
     
  21. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    I was counting on it ;).

    I was counting on it ;).

    And quite an interesting start I might add, thoughts I have to say I agree with.

    Now if only I had the time to disect - but it is off to lovely Victorian Cape May in a few hours - but trust me, I'll be back.
     

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