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4 Easy Ways to Upset a Theme Park Fan

People love to argue, especially about the subjects that are dearest to them. And since most people love all things Disney, it has become fodder for internet discussions (i.e. fights i.e. flame wars). Many arguments are quite silly, as every group has that one person whose “hot takes” are intentionally inflammatory and wholly insipid. Some topics blur the lines a bit, though. Here are some other touchy subjects at Disney theme parks.

Theme park upsells

Image: DisneyHave you attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party? How about Disney After Hours? Did you know that Disney offers tours like the Keys to the Kingdom Tour or The Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour? Remember those short-lived cabanas at Magic Kingdom?

The Walt Disney Company has leveled up in their pursuit of extra park revenue. They’ve emphasized upsells in recent years. All of these products target wealthier customers, ones who don’t mind paying a bit more to have a better experience at Walt Disney World.

Image: DisneyThe debate lies in whether a Disney park is the right place to have pay-to-play options. Some people understand that a major corporation must seek new ways to increase profit. Others worry that Disney has grown cynical in its attempts to cater to the wealthy.

Both sides have a point, and it’s something we’ll touch on in a second topic here. From my perspective, people shouldn’t care what Disney does during non-park hours. When executives choose to open the parks for special events at higher prices, it doesn’t impact the experience of standard customers. Things like the cabanas, on the other hand, create an imbalance between regular guests and wealthy ones. As such, I’m not convinced that such things honor the Disney spirit.

The new emphasis on themed intellectual properties

Image: DisneyThis particular subject is one of the touchiest in Disney circles right now. Over the past quarter-century, the corporation has acquired high-end media properties like ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. Understandably, executives want to monetize these purchases whenever possible. The trick is to integrate the intellectual properties (IPs) organically.

The debate turns on whether you believe Disney is approaching this initiative the right way. For example, the repurposing of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission: BREAKOUT! became a divisive topic when it was announced. Today, I think most theme park tourists would acknowledge that the Guardians attraction is terrific. Sure, purists may prefer the Twilight Zone version, but some change is good. Walt Disney himself believed in daring tactics like this one.

The isolated instance of a new Marvel attraction at Disney California Adventure is justifiable for sure. Even the re-theming of Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier, complete with a modified roller coaster is a smart business decision. It’s some of the other changes that cross a line to some.

Image: DisneyDisney is famously changing Tomorrowland right now in anticipation of the park’s 50th anniversary in 2021. They’re adding a Tron roller coaster, and the building’s structure dictates changes to the overall architecture of the iconic themed land.

Over at Epcot, rumors persist that the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster is the first step toward throwing out the underlying premise of Future World. Disney allegedly will add more themed IP-based attractions at the expense of infotainment.

Loyalists bristle at this notion. Their irritation is rational since Epcot matters most to Walt Disney’s legacy. It was the place where he had the greatest ambitions. Many loathe the idea of it becoming another Disney’s Hollywood Studios, ride-focused to the exclusion of everything else.

Image: DisneyI appreciate Disney’s tricky position here. The harsh reality is that many of the infotainment concepts at Epcot quickly grew dated. A business needs to drive demand to its products. That’s harder to do with a stale Figment ride than it is with a shiny, new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. It’s not respectful to Uncle Walt’s final wishes, though. How much should that matter to Disney execs? I don’t have a good answer to this one.

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