Home » This Year Will Kick Off a New Golden Age for Disney Parks. Here’s Why We’re Excited

This Year Will Kick Off a New Golden Age for Disney Parks. Here’s Why We’re Excited

frikitiki, Flickr (license)

Walt Disney World is everchanging — that’s a key part of its appeal. The resort strives to combine a sense of nostalgia and permanence with dynamism and new thrills. While the core elements of the Disney experience stay the same, there’s always something new to see.

But, in the years following the Disney Decade’s conclusion in 2011, Walt Disney World was seemingly left to stagnate. A handful of attractions debuted in Florida while the Disney Parks division focused more on updates to Disney’s California Adventure and the premier of Shanghai Disneyland. We all thought that the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter might spur Disney to invest in its central Florida jewel, but we weren’t sure when that might come to fruition.

It turns out, that time is now.

There’s an energy in Walt Disney World that hasn’t been felt since the park was the focus of a decade-long reimagination that saw the opening of over a dozen hotels and two theme parks. It’s unmistakable — a trip to the property now brings with it that same sense of awe and excitement longtime Disney fans will recognize from the park’s heyday of the 1990s.

What’s causing that newfound energy to take hold? Here are four reasons why the Walt Disney World resort feels more exciting than it has in years.

New lands

 frikitiki, Flickr (license)

Image: frikitiki, Flickr (license)

The first and most obvious reason why the Walt Disney World feels fresh and new is that, well, it is. Pandora, the World of Avatar opened in 2017, Toy Story Land opened in 2018, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in 2019. Those are three absolutely massive new lands that fundamentally change the face of the Walt Disney World Resort experience. 

Most returning Disney guests make trips once every three years. That means, if a guest last visited Walt Disney World in 2016, they’ll have all three of those new lands to explore on their visit this year. That is an insane amount of new development to see.

New lands bring with them new energy. Disney’s Animal Kingdom was considered by many to be a half-day park before the launch of Pandora. Now, guests line up early to rope drop the park, and stay late to watch the new nighttime spectacular. Disney’s Hollywoods Studios feels like an entirely new park with its new lands opening — essentially remaking half the park from what it looked like just a few short years ago.

With all of these new attractions open, the Disney buses and monorails feel more electric with expectation as you enjoy a ride to the parks. There’s new stuff to see, and that makes everyone excited.

Construction aplenty

 jeffchristiansen, Flickr (license)

Image: jeffchristiansen, Flickr (license)

While new stuff rightly gets people excited, it’s the stuff that still hasn’t arrived yet that really makes guests’ imaginations go wild. Everywhere you look on the Walt Disney Property, construction is either near completion or just beginning. When looking around, you get the sense that Disney isn’t just executing on its near-term future, it’s also building the foundation of the next ten years of the property.

It’s hard to overstate just how much construction is going on, but it doesn’t ruin your trip. Unlike in the past, when construction at Disney Springs made visiting the area feel more like a chore, the current construction on property is visible but out of the way. 

Construction in Tomorrowland can be seen as you arrive via monorail, but it doesn’t severely impact the Tomorrowland experience. The Epcot reimagining — most clearly exemplified by the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy ride and Ratatouille attraction — doesn’t affect your daily tours of Epcot, but it does act like a giant “coming soon” poster to beckon you to return.

The construction on property is incredibly visible, but it isn’t ever really frustrating. That amount of construction hasn’t been seen on property since the Disney Decade, and it is extremely exciting to witness. In a few years, the parks will look entirely different.

More first-timers

 stevewise60, Flickr (license)

Image: stevewise60, Flickr (license)

With new, major attractions coming online every year, it might seem like there isn’t a good time to visit Walt Disney World. After all, you want to wait for everything to be open so that you can experience it, right?

However, that same calculus seems to be leading more first-time guests to visit Walt Disney World than ever before. There’s so much new and so much happening, why wouldn’t now be the perfect time to make a first trip?

The result of having so many first-time guests on property is that the feeling of visiting Walt Disney World has never been more positive. For most people visiting, this is the trip they’ve been waiting their whole lives for — only now, it’s finally here. This isn’t to say guests in the past were more negative, but nowadays, there’s a party-style atmosphere that pervades the parks. 

With so much new happening around the Walt Disney World resort, new guests feel inspired to come visit. That makes everyone happier to be there.

Great cast members

 harshlight, Flickr (license)

Image: harshlight, Flickr (license)

All of these elements — new lands, new construction, and new guests — have combined to create the perfect conditions for Disney’s cast members to really shine. And, for the first time in what feels like ages, the Disney difference is incredibly noticeable.

For years, Disney’s service was viewed as something to which every other company strived. It was so good, in fact, that they’d offer their own wisdom to train other companies on how to treat their guests. But then, as time passed and as they leaned more heavily on the college program to provide staffing, that reputation of above-and-beyond service started to fade.

Disney has never really had an issue, per se, with its cast members, but it was hard to ignore that the whole enterprise lost a step over time. But now, for whatever reason, things seem to be trending in the right direction.

More and more, cast members seem to put a deep investment in ensuring guests are happy, and even more importantly, they seem to truly derive pleasure out of seeing that their work has paid off. Disney itself seems to be putting an effort into making Walt Disney World a better place to visit, and it clearly has had the perhaps intentional side-effect of making it a better place to work. 

The cast members are the lifeblood of Walt Disney World, and everything starts with them. If they’re happier, and spreading more joy, that makes the energy of Walt Disney World even more exciting and infectious. They’re happy to be there, and they have to be there. That attitude can’t help but influence how you see things. 

The Disney Decade has been over for almost 20 years, but we don’t have to long for it anymore. A new one is clearly well underway.