As fans of Walt Disney World, we have been among its many problems. While there is no shortage of complaining amongst us, that complaining doesn’t have the same leverage when we continue to support Walt Disney World with our tourist dollars.

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Record numbers are visiting the parks. We complain that the parks have never been worse, yet we continue to renew our annual passes. This contradiction enables the company to continue to exhaust the current resources on property without any efforts to revitalize them. It is time that we as fans take a genuine look at what is actually taking place at Walt Disney World and what truly needs to change to improve our experience.

As fans, we look at the Themed Entertainment attendance numbers as a barometer of success, but they don’t tell a complete story. The area of focus should also include spending per guest, which is deeply rooted in hotel rooms. I suspect that Disney is far more concerned with Universal’s hotel expansion than Transformers, Diagon Alley or King Kong. Historically, Disney was less concerned with guests visiting Universal for a day, as they were often returning to a Disney resort.

As Disney fans, we help enable the Blue Ocean Strategy being implemented by Disney. They choose not to compete with Universal in traditional ways in favor of manipulating guests to stay on property, and we as fans continue to allow this behavior. While fans complain online, they continue to finance these poor decisions. The reality is that the appeal of new attractions helps drive the attendance in the parks and the hotels. Innovative attractions linked to well known intellectual property are the new normal. Despite this, the progress of such additions in Walt Disney World has been glacial.

Since CEO Bob Iger and CFO Jay Rasulo moved to significant positions of power (Jay was originally head of Parks and Resorts), the approach to increasing guest spending has moved away from investing in rides and attractions and towards initiatives designed to keep guests on property. These include:

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Disney Vacation Club: Guests pre-pay for discounted vacations for 40+ years.
Magical Express: Keeps guests on property by eliminating need for rental car
Magic Your Way Tickets: Originally introduced with the concept, “The more you play, the less you pay per day.”
Disney Dining Plan: Guests pre-pay for their food, discouraging them from dining elsewhere.
Fastpass+: Guests are guaranteed shorter lines on their favorite rides in advance of their vacation.

The merits of each of these can be debated, but the motivation behind each is the same: keeping guests on property. These choices were made in lieu of or foregoing new attractions that would otherwise entice guests to stay on property and contribute to the organic growth of the parks.

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The alternative approach of aggressive construction at Universal Studios is a function of the window of opportunity created by Disney to gain market share. While the aforementioned attendance numbers at Disney haven’t been hurt by Universal’s additions, they haven’t been helped either. As the number of guests visiting Central Florida increases, so too does Universal’s market share. What’s more noticeable is the drop in hotel occupancy rates at Walt Disney World.

  • 2007 – 89%
  • 2008 – 89%
  • 2009 – 87%
  • 2010 – 82%
  • 2011 – 82%
  • 2012 – 81%
  • 2013 – 79%

To put it bluntly, guests simply aren’t finding the same value they did even five years ago at Disney resorts. Rather than cheapen the brand by reducing the rack rate across the board, Disney is continuing with heavy discounts on their hotel rooms. Additionally, they are making further changes to lower the average price of a Disney World hotel room without lowering the price of the individual rooms themselves.

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With 1984 new rooms, the Art of Animation resort significantly expanded the amount of value rooms and suites on property. One bedroom rooms start at $110+tax and the value suites start at $266+tax.

The number of non-Disney Vacation Club rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Resort will be reduced from 847 to 483 upon completion. Polynesian Resort rooms start at $429+tax.

WDWMagic user WDW1974 recently indicated that the conversion of deluxe rooms to Disney Vacation Club rooms will continue after the Polynesian Resort. This will decrease the supply of deluxe rooms, lowering the average cost for all Disney rooms, and increase Disney Vacation Club inventory that has yet to be saturated.

The conversion of cash rooms to Disney Vacation Club rooms serves two purposes:

  • Immediate revenue for new DVC sales.
  • Improved hotel occupancy numbers by taking deluxe rooms offline.

Since Comcast purchased Universal in 2009, they have continued to build organically by investing in tangible assets at the resort. They have seen both an increase in attendance as well as guest spending as a result. Comparatively, Disney has chosen not to compete in the traditional sense. They have increased revenue primarily by raising prices and not through organic growth. The initiatives designed to keep guests on property are losing their effectiveness and a return to quality additions is much needed.

I encourage fans to consciously spend less at Disney. While Disney is reacting in some ways, they are still not reacting in the ways that fans desire. Spend less until new innovative attractions debut. Spend less until food quality increases. Spend less until the resorts match their price point.

Disney is operating like an unprepared student before a final exam. The student is willing to do anything to pass… except study. Disney is trying to increase revenue and is willing to do anything… except build new attractions.

As a Disney fan today, it’s easy to look favorably on the aggressive building taking place at Universal. What many fail to recognize is that Universal is finally capitalizing on their biggest competitive advantage: Universal is not Disney.

Universal can build attractions with little fear or recourse from their fan base. Nostalgia doesn’t dominate the dialog at Universal and character infusion is a non-issue. Thematic intrusions aren’t heavily criticized and appropriateness of intellectual property isn’t questioned. These issues all impede the decision making process at Disney World. Universal is not Disney.

The Universal parks are not considered a rite of passage for the youth of the world.

Disney fans view the parks as a cultural Mecca. The parks are sacred, and so too are the philosophies of the parks. Character integration and intellectual properties are heavily criticized if there’s a moderate break from the surrounding theme. Universal does not face the same criticisms. Universal has the luxury of cycling intellectual property as needed to maintain a freshness in their parks that Disney is unwilling or unable to reproduce.

Thankfully, Disney is realizing that Universal is becoming more than just a one day distraction. While they may not match Disney in market share or delusional fan boy narcosis, they are aggressively refreshing their parks. They have that ability because they aren’t consumed with large scale outcries when something changes.

With that in mind, Disney can still compete with Universal from a relevance standpoint and placate the fans. We all know one of the biggest advantages Disney has versus Universal is the “blessing of size.” This advantage needs to be leveraged in order to maintain the park’s relevance.

While investments in Disney World are down during the Iger administration, money is still being invested in the property. The issue is that very little of that investment will drive attendance or guest spending. New Fantasyland added new attractions, but other investments like Next Gen and hotel additions are essentially infrastructure improvements. They’re there to encourage guests to spend money while they’re being entertained. They are not the entertainment.

The answers to so many of the ailments at Walt Disney World are simple: maintain and upgrade what you have and make regular attraction additions to keep the parks fresh. There was a time when Disney had the goal of a new E-Ticket every 3.75 years. They are looking at an 11 year gap between E-Tickets now (Everest to Avatar). Universal Studios was really struggling prior to the Harry Potter additions. It gave the resort a second life and they have taken that opportunity to be aggressive. The most obvious example of this is the Transformers addition. Yes, it’s a clone. Yes, there was a clause in the contract that required them to build it sooner rather than later. But no, it wasn’t really needed.

Disney needs to realize that the old way of thinking is wrong. The parks are not mature. There is still room for growth. Disney needs to realize that Universal isn’t going away. They’re backed by Comcast who is willing to invest more money in their parks than Disney. Disney needs to realize that homogenization is not only cheaper, it feels cheaper as well.

Avatarland. So close, yet so far away.
Avatarland. So close, yet so far away.

There is no excuse for Disney being any less than a year into construction of a Star Wars land. There is no excuse for not having another attraction in Pixar place. There is no excuse for the current state of the Imagination Pavilion or the Yeti at Expedition Everest. Addressing those things would have cost less than half of Next Gen. Disney can talk about all of the revenue growth they want – it’s certainly important. But since 2009, their draw of all guests visiting Central Florida has dropped from 74.86% to 71.18%. During that same time, Universal’s has increased from 16% of guests to 21.59%. The parks that lost the greatest percentage during that time? Sea World #1, Epcot #2.

Disney rested on their laurels. They let Universal up off the mat and haven’t noticed that they’ve been taking stomach punches for the last 4 years.

Disney clearly has the in house talent to produce world class attractions and environments. The problems arise when Disney asks Imagineers to build something around a particular intellectual property, at a certain budget, in a certain building, and using existing infrastructure (I’m looking at you Norway… or should I say Arendele?).

With or without a particular intellectual property, when Imagineers are given the authority to build something from scratch, they are far more successful.

As newly elected Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas said during his induction speech, “There are no shortcuts to success.” Walt Disney World is stale, and it needs new high quality rides to remain relevant. Hopefully change is coming, but change without quality will not fix the problem. In order for Walt Disney World to undergo that much needed change, they need to let the creative people create.

I sincerely hope that, “From the depths of the Dark Ages [will come] the Age of Enlightenment – the Renaissance.”

Steve Seifert and Jeremy Irons contributed to the content of this article. Additional content was based on continued discussions with WDWMagic.com users WDW1974 and ParentsOf4.

  • mainejeff

    I will be staying at a DVC hotel in September but will be renting a car and spending half of my vacation at Universal parks. Sorry Disney.

    • Personally, I would love it if Universal offered discounts to DVC members. It would be a targeted gesture at Disney’s best customers.

      • CaptainAction

        Tim you nailed it.
        Magic Kingdom is so far, the king of parks, but the 3 other WDW parks are VERY vulnerable.
        AK, Epcot, and Disney Studios each grew between flat and 2% from 2009-2013.
        Universal grew 17% during the same period.
        It takes YEARS for the guests to realize that WDW has become stale. Many folks only hit WDW every 4-5 years or so. They are just being hit with the reality that they just had the most expensive family vacation they have ever had and the attractions are the same.
        Epcot looks like 80’s Land – very old, with abandoned attractions, and very lame attractions at that.
        It takes years for everyone to see and then realize that WDW leadership isn’t giving you anything new.
        It also takes years for most folks to realize that the Junior Theme Park – Universal, is offering more than ever.
        What we read on this thread is what is happening with the theme park insiders. They are moving more and more time and $’s to Universal.
        The novice theme park folks are beginning to figure this out now too because it’s hard to miss Universal’s Cabana Bay, Potter London, Diagon Alley, Springfield, Despicable Me, Transformers, Hogwarts Express, WWOHP, etc. all in a 3 year period.
        Guests can easily give up AK, Epcot, and Disney Studios for several days at Universal now and it’s beginning to happen.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Hey Cap! Welcome back! Been called a troll yet? :p

      • CaptainAction

        Hey Aaronius, not yet but I won’t be surprised. Good to hear from you.
        I liked your comments from earlier today too.

    • heffalump

      This is my favorite article on MiceChat in a long while. Its advice to spend less at Disney parks in an effort to combat the MBA-induced malaise is superb. Since I’m one of those who finds it difficult not to attend Disney parks, I can certainly cut back on my in-park purchases of food and souvenirs, as well as Disney hotel rooms. Thanks for the prescription to improve Disney parks’ well being Tim!

  • Dan Heaton

    Yes! You hit the mark with this reasoned article.

    I can really understand Disney’s interest in keeping costs from spiraling out of control with unchecked spending. However, it’s becoming difficult to get as excited about visiting attractions that haven’t changed in 20 years.

    At EPCOT, they don’t need a Potter-like expansion. Simply making updates to Imagination, Energy, and the Seas plus doing something with the Wonders of Life pavilion would make a huge difference in that park.

    At DHS, they should be investing in Star Wars and be ready for the new movie, which comes next year. Something should be in place by summer 2016 at the latest.

    I just don’t get why smart people don’t see the dangers of there current course of action.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ I get it. The current ultimate goal of the Walt Disney Company is for Bob Iger (a smart person) to make $30+ million a year for as long as possible. Does anyone really want Thomas Staggs or Jay Rasulo replace him?

      The Magic Kingdom continues to draw 17 million visits a year (but people mistake the guy who visits 30 times a year as 30 visitors, correct?), though besides Avatarland, I don’t know why Disney hasn’t invested far more $ and creative energy into the other 3 WDW parks. Oh yeah, Magicbands. And Shanghai Disneyland which is supposed to open in just 16 months, in December of 2015. Even Walt ignored lit his Disneyland Haunted Mansion shell sit for years while he focused on the ’64 NY World Fair.

      If the next Avatar movie is Matrix 2 quality (which I doubt it could be with James Cameron’s involvement), WDW will be in ankle-deep doo doo.

      Why not at least so something to improve or replace the Yeti with a lighter one, add a new World Showcase pavilion to EPCOT, make Future World more spiffy, and add a Carsland-quality Star Wars land to the Studios?

      What are the details of Universal’s right to use some (or all?) Marvel characters in Orlando?

      So how many posts till we hear from a Micechatter in his 20s or 30’s who’s been the WDW every year for the past 12 years (and nowhere else on Earth) who thinks WDW just fine as it is? 🙂 In fairness I haven’t been there for 12 years, but that’s because I haven’t wanted to go. “Jcruise you haven’t even been to WDW in the last 12 years and yet . . .!” I visited during 15 different years from 1972 through 1994, and only twice from 1995 through 2002. Disneyland I’ve visited about 80 times as locals since its Matt Ouimet assisted renaissance for its 50th Anniversary 9 years ago. The WWoHP expansion has finally inspired our family to decide that we want to return to Central Florida. And we will be staying at a Universal Orlando Hotel for 2 or 3 nights and spending more per day at U. than at Disney–happy to reward their building new lands and attractions.

      I don’t think WDW reflects the rest of the Disney Company. Tokyo Disneyland and a Disney Cruise we took to Alaska in 2013 are Disney at its all-time best. Apparently according to a petition to Iger by many Europeans, Disneyland Paris is as stagnant as WDW. I’ve been here three times and really like Iger’s first castle-centered park and the theming of the moderately priced Hotel Cheyenne, but–despite the addition or the Ratatouille area (a ride, a store and a restaurant–not a land)–the Studios park at Disneyland Paris is dreadful–much, much, much worse than anything at Walt Disney World. We’re talkin’ a depressing, ugly celebration of concrete that made me feel stupid for not being in Paris that part of a day.

      Maybe Disney is deliberately letting Waltless Disney World/Walmart World decline so it too can have a dramatic comeback for its 50th in 2021.

      TIM GRASSEY, thank you for writing such an excellent analysis and for including statistics! You are my new favorite Micechat writer. Interesting about the declining occupation rates at the WDW hotels. Does Universal Orlando have any other hotel planned?

      • jcruise86

        “Lit” should be “lot,” and Iger’s castle-centered park at Disneyland Paris should be “Eisner’s.” As the sign around the Yeti’s neck and painted on Disneyland’s the abandoned Peoplemover reads, “Please pardon our pixie dust!”

      • jcruise86

        Does U. Orlando have any other hotelS planned? The rates of their cool new, retro hotel will increase with demand.

      • I’m sure others can reply more accurately, but Comcast has said that in addition to regular additions annually, they will also be adding to their existing hotel rooms.

      • jcruise86

        Thanks, Tim! And again, excellent analysis! I don’t think I’ve described any writings on Micechat analyses before, but it transcended most other commentaries and deserved a different word.

        Confession: I stole the “and nowhere else on Earth” line from TmmyTimmyTimmy’s comment after a Shanghai Disneyland thread.

        I’m looking forward to seen Universal Orlando & WDW’s park attendance #s over the next couple years. If U’s new WWoHP Diagon Alley really is wonderful, word of mouth will raise U’s attendance for more than just a one-year bump.

      • jcruise86

        Micechat, please ask Word Press to let us edit our posts after articles. I have typolemia. (“Seeing”–how embarrassing.)

      • LoveStallion

        The Marvel agreement: Disney has full reign west of the Mississippi, but it can’t touch much east of it. That said, I’m not even sure if Disney’s rights in the west include non-MCU characters at this point.

      • disneytom

        – “the Studios park at Disneyland Paris… a depressing, ugly celebration of concrete that made me feel stupid for not being in Paris that part of a day.”

        That is one of the funniest, and most truthful of quotes out there!. This park looks like a 4th grader’s science project – and if Eisner had give said 4th grader a proper budget they could’ve done much better than what the end product turned out to be.

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ Thanks, Disney Tom!
        –Tom Sinsky

  • solarnole

    The only new thing that Disney has offered is new ways to up charge guests and offer less to the day guests.

    The Epcot fireworks package, the food and wine party, the Frozen package, Harabame nights, memory maker, the thrill ride tour and countless more.

    Sadly WDW has turned into a cheap cruise ship vacation where the guest has to plan months in advance and pay extra for excursions, otherwise all the guest can do is the dance parties.

    • There was a section of this article that looked at these upcharge events that I removed. I don’t really have a problem with them conceptually, but they reinforce the greater point of exhausting every possible thing out of what they have instead of adding to it. When you further exhaust what’s there it becomes stale that much quicker.

      • CaptainAction

        Agree with you Tim.
        We quit WDW 4 years ago. Our family walked around Epcot and my wife and I realized that we just spent $500 for the privilege to shop and eat nachos.
        The rides in 80’s World at the front of Epcot are so lame. Ellen is holding a cordless phone, in her film, the size of a betamax.
        My kids are only excited about Mission Space and it makes my wife and I ill.
        We have been annual pass holders to Universal for 6 years now. We love staying at Portofino. The 5 of us can stay in a 900 sq ft suite w 2 full baths, ride beautiful boats to the front of the parks and skip 95% of the lines.
        Or, we can have 2 bare rooms at Pop Century and stand up in a bus, and have a magic handcuff tell us where our appointments are to eat and ride 3 rides.
        We have only visited the Disney Water parks and DisneyQuest (the passes came together and are good on hot or rainy days) in the last 4 years.
        We feel so appreciated at Universal and there are always so many things new which just opened and are under construction too.

  • vortex

    Well said! Hope Disney is reading this.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I totally agree with your article. I am not sure that Disney is going to change any time soon. They are preoccupied by short term thinking. They want something that will boost profits this quarter. They seem to make few long term plans as to increase value for the parks. In the theme park business, you cannot think short term.

    Also I believe that not everything has to be built to follow the current trends. Disney has been following fads recently and that has caused money to be spent that only attracts people for a few years. Investing in the right “non fad” idea can pay off strongly for years. Walt spent a boat load on Pirates but it remains one of the most popular rides almost 50 years later.

  • robbiem

    Great article about all that’s rotten in the state of WDW. With the current management of bean counters I don’t see things changing anytime soon but hopefully when Iger eventually goes we’ll have an MD who understands the potential of the Florida project and brings it up to where it should have been these past few years. A bit of TLC and investment in what they already have rather than spending money buying other companies would go a long way.

    What we need is a return to long term planning. The people at the top won’t spend now to get the bucks tomorrow because they fear or know they aren’t going to be there when the reward comes back, they want their £5 in their hand now rather than £1 a year forevermore. The past 20 years or so of development have been rather unplanned and haphazard but I’m sure with some thought we could return to a ‘whole property as EPCOT’ kind of future planning that Roy and the people after him started.

  • ScottG

    Written with accuracy and passion – great article and right on the money!!!

  • 3IAlienKid

    Great article. Everything going on there has really diminished my enthusiasm for it and we have no plans to visit for probably several years.

    Even something like increased admission prices show the mentality of getting every last dollar. I have to say that even for DL, even with things being much better than WDW, the cost of admission has become so high that we stopped buying annual passes and haven’t been there for a year and a half which has to be a record for our family. And we live only 20 minutes away.

  • Usul831

    “While there is no shortage of complaining amongst us…” The most accurate point made in the article.

    If you all hate Disney so much, stop going. Go elsewhere. Nobody is stopping you.

    • kindagoofy

      I think you’ve missed the cautionary tale being told here, and the observations of many Disney fans of a company getting fat and happy. There is no hate here, only the desire to be great. Look no further than Disney’s own California Adventure for hope and inspiration to a Disney park reborn.

    • jcruise86

      We are going elsewhere and we don’t hate Disney, but thanks for “reading.”

    • Darth Goofy

      Tim nails it. However no one hates Disney, they hate mediocrity, and that is a what the article implies. As long has Guests keep coming and filling the park why improve the park with new quality attractions like the 50 yr old Mansion or Pirates. WDW will continue to hold back.
      11 yrs since the last E-ticket ride is clear evidence of this and they will only build if they see a stark decline in attendance. There seems to be no passion at the top to create new E-ticket type attractions.
      Truth be told attendance at Animal Kingdom is down and they needed a new draw.

      Yes WDW did add the new Fantasyland recently. But they did it at the cost of ripping out a classic attraction for a meet and greet. Re themed a kiddie roller coaster in Circus Land. (on the cheap) Moved Dumbo, brought a cloned Mermaid. (however the theming of the exterior was done well), Nothing wrong with clones but they could have fixed all the flaws when they built it in WDW. They built another kiddie Dwarfed coaster, I mean a 7 Dwarfs Mound Coaster and an overpriced Beast restaurant. Oh and a story time with Bell thing.

      kindagoofy – they had to re image California Adventure because it was a failed concept. Maybe failing is what it will take to revitalize WDW.

    • Co Foo

      We have stopped going. I used to go every year and now it’s every other year. The admission prices are just too high and they need to be sent a signal.

      • CaptainAction

        We are heading into year 5 of skipping WDW. We used to buy annual passes and hit it 2-3 times per year and staying on property at Pop Century, Coronado, French Quarter or an occasional splurge at Wilderness Lodge.
        Now we have much more money to spend at Universal and we have annual passes there. With the AP discount we can stay at Royal Pacific or Portofino, which are much nicer than our WDW resorts, for a lot less $’s too.
        We have a first class vacation, skipping lines and riding boats to the front of the parks which are full of new lands and attractions.

  • Ravjay12

    Disney only seems interested nowadays in expanding only when it can make a buck. The Disney Village expansion, all the rip-off time-shares, the Club 33 disaster at D-land, New Fantasyland with more restaurants and shopping than rides, expanding the hub so they can up charge for shows, this arm band thing, hotel expansions, and the list goes on and on. They did a phenomenal job with DCA, and I think it was out of desperation. But now that the park is doing well, how long again before we see something big? It really takes them a long time now to build stuff, and I’ve lost interest before a shovel is dug in the ground. At least when Eisner was in charge, they had major stuff being built at all the parks every year. I just don’t see how a company that makes money like it does with success with Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar, Pixar, etc. would be holding back on expanding its parks, especially with neighboring Universal who has now taken Disney’s place as creative innovator. Disney seems to think that renovating it’s roller coasters and slapping new effects on old rides count as new attractions.

    I know I complain about them all the time, but they really need to step up their game! I really want Disney to do well and I want to love them again. I want to be blown away like when I first entered Animal Kingdom, or World Showcase at Epcot. Disney, give me a reason to come back and spend my money!

    • LoveStallion

      I’d say that, unlike Universal, at least Disney takes the time to flesh out non-screen-based attractions, but then I remembered the new Ratatouille ride in Paris.

    • disneytom

      But we’ve got multiple interactive games in the parks…what more do you want Ravjay? Aren’t you keen on theme park interactive games???

  • disneyland255

    I see it as a double edged sword. Disney doesn’t build fast enough and the fan base cries out that the company doesn’t love their guests anymore. Then, if Disney tries to build new, update, or expand then a lot of the Disney fan base cries out in terror that history is being removed, that what they do isn’t good enough, blah blah blah. So maybe Disney looks at it like “Why should we do this for our guests when all they do is bitch at every thing we do or don’t do.” Disney is screwed either way by the fans. Maybe the fan community needs to embrace Disney and love them into making changes instead of trying to hurt the bottom line and defame the company they say they love so much. Just a thought…

    • That’s the thing though. We complain yet we still go. This year is the first time in 3 years that I won’t have a Premier pass, and the first time in 10+ years that I don’t have a Disney World annual pass.

      We need to vote with our wallets, as well as on message boards.

      • Usul831

        Ever think you’re just burned out? Would you visit any other place year after year after year? Burn out is real and can affect anything you do in excess, work, play or otherwise.

        You say the Disney experience is like Mecca, but that’s a religious site that believers feel lucky to ever visit just once in their lives.

        Visiting Disney is a great trip but if you start having a bad time because one ride is a little off, or some paint is peeling, or the only thing you are thinking about is how long of a rant you’ll write when you get home, is it just maybe possible the visitor is the problem and not the park?

        Saying this as someone who has been doing Disney trips since the 80’s but I’ve also taken nearly a decade break as required. Without some breaks it just becomes too much of the same thing.

      • Usula,

        You may be right. I may be burned out on it, as too may others. But I’m not sure that happened before. The freshness is gone, many areas of the parks are stale. The investments haven’t been there under Iger. As a percentage of revenue, 7 of the lowest 8 years of in park investments have been under Iger. He’s only been CEO for 8 years. He has approved one stateside E-ticket since he took over (admittedly it’s a great one).

        Disney is a great trip now, largely because of who you spend it with. I know my positive memories have always been about something positive that happened amongst family and friends and never about the 35th ride on Splash Mountain, but it’s that 36th ride on Splash Mountain that keeps me coming back. When it’s not properly maintained my mood is worse and my vacation is worse. It may be harder to quantify for the average guest, but because we are so familiar with it, we notice it and we can voice that opinion.

        Thank of Expedition Everest. It’s a fantastic roller coaster despite the $15 million stuffed animal at the end. People get off that ride today and are satisfied, but would they be more satisfied if the Yeti swiped at them? Absolutely. Disney has been about raising expectations and lately they have failed to do that.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        While I don’t agree with you, anyone who picks their screen name after a character in Dune can’t be all wrong!

    • CaptainAction

      Nah Disneyland255, this is a false argument. WDW has 43 square miles of land.
      They add new hotels in a year but take 3 years to build a very small kiddie coaster.
      They add Little Mermaid but “have” to rip out Snow White? Nah.
      They have to rip out 20,000 Leagues for stores and restaurants? Nah.
      They have to rip out Mr. Toad for Winnie? Nah.
      They have plenty of space to add hotels don’t they?
      They have plenty of space to add stores and revenue centers don’t they?
      WDW execs are taking the public for being fooled into being held hostage by free (you paid for it) bus rides, meal plans, MagicHandcuffs which lead you from appointment to appointment.
      Universal is trying to earn your $’s with value hotels with suites, lazy river, better theming, full service restaurants, waterslides, bowling alleys, flexible fast passes included w delux resorts, new lands, new unique attractions opening all the time.
      Universal built Despicable Me, Transformers, Springfield and Cabana Bay, while building London/Diagon Alley!
      Before Diagon Alley opened, Universal began building Skull Island.
      Universal also bought more land and a water park which will be redone and used for a third gate, more resorts and a monorail to connect this all to the hub of Universal Citywalk.

      • Marko50

        C’mon, Cap! You’re letting your hyperbole get in the way of facts.

        I don’t know how much land WDW has anymore, but I do know they’ve sold some off. I also know they can’t build on some of it because it’s protected land, part of the deal they made with Florida to get other concessions. And to be picky, I thought that originally it was 42 square miles. Maybe it depends on whether you round up or down.
        You’re actually paying for “free” bus/monorail/boat rides (or did you just mean the Magical Express?) and meal plans? Of course! But those waterslides, fast passes and lazy rivers? Those aren’t free either. You pay for them.
        You’re including restaurants and bowling alleys? Those are upcharges, are they not?
        I also think you went a little overboard with the attractions. I’m pretty sure both Transformers and Despicable Me were finished before they started on Diagon Alley.
        And as far as what’s coming…maybe you should wait until they’re more than blue sky – although they did buy Wet n Wild and more land.
        However, I do thank you for something a little different than your usual cut-n-paste. 😉

      • CaptainAction

        Despicable Me, Transformers, Springfield, and Cabana Bay were all in various stages of construction during the time London/Diagon Alley, Escape From Gringott’s, and Hogwarts Express were under construction.
        Remember when WDW could build more than a new DVC resort at the same time?
        Remember when WDW could build a kiddie coaster in one year instead of three plus years?
        By the way, Universal broke ground on King Kong’s Skull Island before London/Diagon was complete!
        Anyone with an honest point of view has to admit that this is amazing!

      • CaptainAction

        Marko, Universal put a code on the outside of the Transformers building during it’s construction that was rumored to be a clue about when King’s Cross station would open as they were under construction at the same time.

  • SxcyMike

    I don’t mind paying top dollar for a hotel room. Pardon the cliche, I know I won’t spend my entire vacation in a hotel room but we like what we like. When it comes to the Disney property hotels, I’ll pass. Every year I look into staying on site whether going to the Disney parks or not, but I’m not impressed with the drabbish, dusty dated rooms (Disney Swan, Dolphine, Wildnerness Lodge and Broadwalk especially). The Contemporary Resort is the only one (in my opinion) with the slightest possibility of having me book a week at. With other luxury properties like Renaissance, GayLord or J.W Marriott which is actually cheaper and just the same, if not better customer service. Disney can keep the so called perks that come with staying on their property (resort transport). We like to come and go as I please and step out side the magical world from time to time i.e to see Universal, the malls and etc. I know, due to all of that we may not be the target demographic, but that’s money I’m willing to spend when the quality is there. ***Sighs. As far as the new attractions go, it’s obsurd. One of the reasons my family declines to visit Disney is because we look for new experiences, not the exact same rides and shows from the past six years, enters Universal.

  • Skimbob

    Disney has shown me that they don’t care as of late. Club 33 is a prime example of that. Show no longer seems to be important. We went from having an awesome redo of DCA to a less than Disney show in NOS. I wish Lassiter was in charge because he seems to have what it takes to do the job right.

    • LoveStallion

      Yeah, but bear in mind Lasseter also pushed a lot for the Monstropolis makeover in Hollywoodland, which would be a terrible idea. Lasseter is also a huge champion of the Cars franchise, which, for anyone, is a tick on their record.

      The man has done great things, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not forget that outside of TS2, he’s hardly responsible for Pixar’s most artistic triumphs.

      • BrianLo

        “Yeah, but bear in mind Lasseter also pushed a lot for the Monstropolis makeover in Hollywoodland, which would be a terrible idea.”

        The fanboi’s said the same things about Carsland back in the day as we all know how that turned out…

        Let the creatives be creatives and stopped complaining about everything that doesn’t fit your perfect image of how the parks should be, who knows they may surprise you.

  • danielz6

    I still almost cant believe what they did in New Orleans square. That was Walt’s last legacy in Disneyland and an example of theme park perfection. Now they added off center windows and details that destroy the theme and forced perspective. Great addition for the 60th anniversary. It seems the only parks that will maintain Walts standards in the future are the ones not owned by WDC like tokyo, hong kong and Shanghai.

    • Darth Goofy

      well spoken danielz6. un…be…leiv able,,,what they have done!!

  • Quentin

    In 20 days I’ll be going to Universal. Staying in their hotels and not stopping by Disney World. The turn off for me is FP+ I have no desire to visit Disney World. I would
    get less out of my day b/c they removed FP. Maybe my family will be one of the statistic points that gets Disney to change course.

    • holierthanthoutx

      I’m curious, Quentin. Exactly how does FP+ mean you get less out of your day? Real, concrete examples, not hypotheticals.

      Our family has gone to WDW three times in the past 10 months, and we’ve used FP+ each time. We ended up using WAY more FastPasses with the new system than we ever did under the old system.

      How was your experience different?

      • Experienced users can certainly benefit from Fastpass+. My complaint is and always will be the implementation of it where it doesn’t belong. It doesn’t belong on shows unless you’re getting preferred viewing. It doesn’t belong on attractions that previously didn’t need regular Fastpass. They put it where it didn’t belong because they didn’t have the attraction lineup to support 3 FP+ reservations per guest per day.

        Now when you look at the advanced booking component, that’s more of a nuisance than a benefit to me. Realistically, only one advanced booking is necessary per park. It’s why I have long suggested 1 advanced booking per day, 1 additional reservation upon entering the park. both can be cycled like you can now once you use up your 3 advanced bookings. This eliminates several problems like the tiers, and would allow them to eliminate Fastpass+ where it doesn’t belong. It would also allow for guests that reserved a nighttime show use of a cycling Fastpass.

        As for the time savings, it has increased the wait at lower demand attractions. While decreasing the wait at some headliners. It’s a trade off more than anything:
        http://blog.touringplans.com/2014/02/19/fastpass-affecting-your-wait-in-line-disney-world/

      • CaptainAction

        My best friends just got back from WDW and the magic handcuffs were not helpful.
        The family had to reserve their parks and attractions months out and they really regretted the loss of their spontaneity. The families stayed out late a couple of nights and were exhausted the next morning but still had to drag everyone out of bed to make the magic handcuffs appointments.
        They couldn’t exchange ANY reservations because the parks were crowded and nothing was available to change.
        They got fast passes to attractions they did not need them for like Muppet Movie. They couldn’t get more of the attractions in the same Tier at the same parks. They wanted Tower of terror and Rockin Roller but could only have one.
        The old fast passes were available based on your desire of the day.
        They found no benefit to the magic handcuffs except that it tries to control and send the crowds to less desirable, old, outdated attractions where people wouldn’t go.

      • stevek

        I did like the flexibility of changing my FP reservations on the fly but the bands themselves did nothing for me beyond creating a tan-line and not having to take my wallet out to pay or enter our room.

    • CaptainAction

      Way to go Quentin.
      Taking my oldest son during his College Fall Break in October which the younger kids don’t get. We are staying at Royal Pacific.
      Planning a May 2015 trip with my wife and all 3 kids staying at Portofino for at least a week.
      No WDW plans at all.
      Haven’t been to WDW parks in 4 years now. Last time we went, WDW was so stressful compared to Universal.
      Skipping WDW gives us A LOT of money to have a better Universal trip and stay longer too.

  • daliseurat

    I am a huge Disney fan. HUGE. I have had no interest in going to WDW for several years. They have really offered nothing new. Oh yeah, NEW FANTASYLAND. Don’t care. But Universal…they have had me chomping at the bit to go. I went. I can’t wait to go back. PLUS…they just opened ANOTHER amazing land. Guess where I will be spending my money? Yep Universal. WDW needs to take a look at what’s been done at California Adventure. The AMAZING redo of the park grabbed my attention and my dollars. I really want to to WANT to go back to WDW…but I need a reason and frankly…MAGIC BANDS…make me want to stay away.

    • CaptainAction

      New Fantasyland has THE WORST use of forced perspective we have ever seen in a theme park. They really cheaped out on the budget.
      Our best friends just got back from WDW and were actually in a terrible mood after riding Dwarf Mound. They are (were) giant Disney fans but stood in line for Dwarf Mound for 90 minutes and they couldn’t believe how lame, tame, and short, the ride was. They hadn’t been in 4 years and this was the only new thing there. They were VERY disappointed.
      They liked the walk through to Little Mermaid but thought the ride was worse than Winnie the Pooh, which they already don’t care for.
      They have no plans of going back to WDW but want to go back to Orlando for Universal now.

      • The Beast’s castle probably needs to be 50% larger. However aside from that, I think the Enchanted Forest section of New Fantasyland looks great. The Mine Train, Beauty and the Beast Village and Mermaid marquee look fantastic. I enjoy Mermaid as a ride, but it’s nothing innovative. It’s good for what it is. I have yet to experience Mine Train so I will hold off on an opinion on that.

      • daliseurat

        I am looking forward to the Dwarf coaster…but I am not expecting anything more than a kiddie coaster c-ticket. And it isn’t enough to get me to go to the parks…so until I have a reason to go…I won’t get to see it. Sucks that the forced perspective doesn’t pork there, I was hoping it was just the pictures that looked off.

      • CaptainAction

        Tim, I was also thought the Rapunzel House on the 10 foot pole was like they didn’t even have the budget to try.
        Then we get themed restrooms instead of something meaningful and I just kind of gave up on the current WDW leadership.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        As a whole, I really like New Fantasyland. The Rapunzel bathrooms annoy if only because there’s no Rapunzel attraction beyond taking a dump, but I like what they did.

        The Castle really does need to be rebuilt on a larger, more detailed scale, and it doesn’t seem as if it would be that hard or expensive to correct this. So…2074?

      • The Rapunzel area looks decent enough, but I don’t like that you can see the tower from Liberty Square. I’ve long suggested that they re-locate it’s a small world to Epcot and open up a huge area for expansion. In theory you could put Rapunzel, Frozen and probably one other franchise there. You could do even more if you change around Pinocchio’s Village Haus as well.

  • tooncity

    I’d rather go Hawaii then Disneyland or Disney World. I’ve had my fill of the same old broken down crap. Gave up my Ap of Disneyland 10 years ago. Folks it’s time to just STOP going to this place. Take a break, they’ll get the message and the place you love will be twice as good as you remember it.

    • Buffett Fan

      and yet, you find time to post on a Fansite?

      • He had time to kill while waiting for the My Disney Experience website to load.

  • docandsix

    Agreed on all counts. WDW has grown stale and we will not be back for at least five years. As DVC members, I wonder if our built-in loyalty has contributed to the company’s arrogance and complacency. We are already planning on ways to spend our points elsewhere and it won’t be anywhere near a recycled, 30-year-old 3D movie, a stale pavilion left neglected years after a catastrophic re-imagining, and an empty shell now used only for conference space.

    Boo, TDO. You have fallen well below the worthy legacy of Walt and Roy.

  • Brisal73

    As a Disneyland AP native, this year will be my 11th visit to Orlando.

    My average vacation would be for 10 days.
    Maybe one or two at Universal and the rest at WDW.

    However, this year I will be staying 6 days at the Universal Resort. 3-4 days at Universal PArks and a two day visit to Sea World and Discovery Cove.

    My 4 days at WDW would consist of seeing New Fanatsyland (since its new ) and not much else.
    I would probably only need 2 days, but my wife wants to see a few more things and just relax as much as possible.

    My Disney Experience has been horrible so far. Fastpass+ confusing and I hope it never comes to the Disneyland Resort.

    Universal does is much easier. You stay at a Universal Resort and you get a Front of the Line Pass. No need to go online 60 days in advance to book my Fastpasses and still have some attractions that are already sold out.

    • CaptainAction

      Brisal73, I hope you are going to WDW BEFORE Universal.
      When we went to WDW four years ago, we had already spent six days at Universal, skipping lines and with a peaceful pace.
      WDW was a pain in the rump and we were worn out and stressed with the pace compared to Universal, skipping lines and taking the boat to the front of the parks.

  • holierthanthoutx

    First, I’d like to clear up a misconception you have about DVC rooms — the purpose for building more DVC rooms in a property isn’t just for the two reasons you indicated.

    Disney maintains ownership over half the rooms in any DVC property (at least 50.1%). This is so the “homeowners” cannot get together and vote to make changes to the ownership agreements or yearly maintenance fees. Disney doesn’t really talk about this, but they are the majority owner in all DVC properties.

    By owning so many rooms, they are able to “rent” rooms to non-DVC guests. DVC rooms rent for more money than “standard” rooms in the deluxe resorts, so a DVC room is worth more in cash than a regular room. Upgrading existing rooms to DVC studios and suites means more cash revenue for at least half the rooms that are upgraded. I know people who will pay $1200 a night for a one-bedroom DVC villa during peak season, when two equivalent “regular” rooms might go for $900 combined.

    I also agree with those who say that Disney is walking a razor’s edge when it comes to changes in the parks. EVERYONE complains when something old gets removed or changed. EVERYONE complains that there’s never anything new.

    I, for one, am not complaining. I’ve been going to WDW since 1976, I’m a DVC member, I’ve been an annual passholder for at least the last 15 years, and I’ll continue making my three trips a year to WDW. We’ve been to Universal exactly twice in the last decade. Both times, we had less-than-exciting visits. Yes, there are some nifty rides there, but there are also untrained employees and a lack of maintenance visible on older attractions.

    Disney offers me a far better value for my vacation dollar — while maintaining an unsurpassed level of excellence in uniformity of experience — and so I fail to see how any of this qualifies as a “dark ages” period. Seeing multiple attractions sit abandoned and unused in each park would be what I would call the “dark ages.” Yes, Epcot has a mostly unused Future World pavilion, but that’s not exactly a major thing when given the scale of the property. Back ten years ago, when the Magic Kingdom had an abandoned submarine lagoon and the Timekeeper and Carousel of Progress were being used as “seasonal” attractions, I would say we had more of a “dark ages” situation going on.

    Honestly, I feel that Disneyland is suffering more than WDW at the present time. The abandoned Peoplemover track and loading station in Tomorrowland are a blight on that park that is far worse than anything in Florida.

    • Regarding DVC, the end game is still the same – pull the rooms out of the regular cash rotation of the Deluxe resorts, raise the hotel occupancy rate by lowering the average cost per room across the board, and get the majority of the money up front for DVC. It’s not a bad strategy, we just need to be aware of what’s taking place.

      Regarding your other points, I think you’re letting them off the hook and that’s part of the problem. Journey Into Imagination and Captain EO are Fastpass+ options. That’s downright insulting to our intelligence.

    • CaptainAction

      No Hollier, the argument concerning WDW gets creamed for removing anything old is a Straw Man.
      WDW builds GIGANTIC hotel resorts all the time without removing anything.
      WDW builds these resorts in no time flat.
      WDW also feels the need to rip out old attractions for something new and spend 3 years doing it.
      WDW has 43 square miles of land. They don’t have to rip out old attractions for new, they choose to because WDW isn’t about attractions any more.
      This argument isn’t possible because of the 43 square miles of land.
      20,000 Leagues, Snow White, Mr. Toad, Cranium Command, Body Wars, Horizons, should all have remained open as WDW doesn’t have the ride infrastructure for guests anyway.

      • Country Bear

        Here, Here!

      • CaptainAction

        Hi Country Bear!
        I’ve been looking from you so that I could tell you I was sorry to hear about the passing of your Father.
        My Dad passed away on May 23rd this year. It’s a tough thing and I understand a little of what you have been through maybe.
        I hope you and your family are doing well.
        Sorry it took so long to find a post. I hope you get this.

      • Country Bear

        Thanks CaptainAction. I did see your comments earlier and I appreciate the sentiment. I was sorry to hear of your loss as well. Looks like we have more in common now: recently lost fathers and a growing frustration with WDW! Oh, and a larger appreciation for what Universal is up to.

        I hope you and your family are well!

      • CaptainAction

        Thanks Country Bear. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Vanellope26

    I haven’t been to WDW in about 20 years. Not for an angry reason, just I didn’t have kids until I moved to the West Coast and then we went to Disneyland because it was closer. When I went to Disneyland for the first time in 1998, my mom was very sad because she thought it looked run down. It was a little dingy. When I took my youngest there in 2009 I thought it looked much better. There was a time at Disney when everything seemed to be left in favor of just making money selling VHS tapes; even making the movies fell by the wayside for a time. It sounds like Florida is still lagging in that time of neglect. Although, I think Universal will get magic band-type technology because people will like it and expect it. I know it is upsetting to people because they wanted the money spent on rides first, but that’s probably a harder sell to the business people. Remember when you used to have to go to the bank teller all the time? Does anyone really do that at all anymore? Magic bands are like the ATMs of theme parks.
    I also think that WDW is trying to add new attractions. Avatar land is in progress and I think that James Cameron is a bit of a difficult character and that was why it started late. I kind of feel like Avatar 2 won’t be great and it doesn’t have a huge, motivated fan base; but the artwork for Pandora in AK looks really cool. I could take or leave the movie, but I would like to visit the new stuff and it will make the park a whole day thing. Star Wars is a way bigger thing for me, but it sounds like they are doing that in HS. I would think the detail oriented people really don’t want them to rush and do sub-par job, right? So it is going to take some time. Disney bought Star Wars just under 2 years ago people! Give them a break, there are logistics things involved in all this that are more than just thinking it would be great to build the Mos Eisley Cantina. Do you really think George Lucas is less concerned how his IP baby is represented in theme parks than J.K. Rowling or James Cameron? Meanwhile, there are other people who hate the idea of bringing Star Wars into Disneyland and complain about it. But this is the equivalent of doing a big Harry Potter expansion because those properties have a similar sized fan base. A lot of people who go to the Wizzarding World would go no matter what it looked like because they love Harry Potter so much. It is a credit to Universal that they made the attractions so nice, but they probably could have gotten a better ROI if they spent less money – not saying they should have- but they probably only made it so nice because JK made her approval necessary for Universal to have the license. Remember all these money spending decisions are made by cold, hard, number crunching business people at both Disney and Universal Studios. Cars land was probably so nice because all the business people at Disney know they owe Lasseter big time for all his creative movies which make them tons of money and they need him to make more so they needed to yield to him on his favorite IP baby.
    The Fantasyland expansion was big, but it is mostly stuff that little kids like so some adult fans are complaining about it. I think the point of it was to make more space so parents of little kids don’t loose their mind in the summer due to crowds and come back to WDW more frequently. Also Walt Disney was not there to advocate for his favorite IP baby, so that is responsible for the difference that you see between it and Cars land.
    I have a feeling they are going to update the World Showcase with animated characters. But it sounds like people don’t want that. Listen, they can’t upgrade the place and not change anything. I’ve looked into this and I think with the possible exception of Snow White in the 30s and 40s, Frozen merchandise is selling the most of any movie. To keep their synergy strategy going strong they need a Frozen themed ride. The quicker the better. Prediction:The Matterhorn in Disneyland will get a Frozen overlay -Elsa’s castle on top and Snowball hiding inside. I think everyone has to understand that getting little kids in the park will bring more visitors and so they are going to need to bring in more IP that little kids and their parents know. Being in WDW once as a kid and twice as a teenager I sort of vaguely remember who Figment was, but I don’t feel any attachment to him. Unlike Aladdin that I saw in the theater 8 times with my best friend and shouted that I loved him to the nice man dressed like Aladdin in the Aladdin parade that I saw in WDW when I was 16. Today my daughters watch Aladdin, play with my old Aladdin action figures and have a Jasmine doll that I bought for them along with tons of other Disney toys. I go to Disney parks because I love the old and new movies and I like the overall feeling of the parks and so do my kids. Synergy.
    In the end, everyone should express their opinions because Disney does listen to them and I really think there are lots of people there who believe in Disney magic and want the guests to be happy, but a boycott by the small number of fans who love Disney, but are still willing to boycott it can’t in any way counteract the number of people that are drawn to Disneyland and WDW by all the great recent movies and that number will be even higher as they add more elements from this new IP. If you want them to change things you need to make a dollars and “sense” argument that the number crunching executives will be moved by. J.K. Rowling, James Cameron, John Lasseter, George Lucas, and the top people at Marvel will make the best parts of the theme parks because they love source material the most and insist on quality above ROI considerations and the number crunchers have to bow to them to get at their fans’ money. So I say bring in the popular IP. It will make the parks spectacular.

    • Marko50

      I heartily disagree with your prediction of a Frozen overlay on the Matterhorn. The ‘Horn is rough – not really suitable for kids. And that’s shown with a minimum height requirement of 42″. For me – and many others – it’s now a painful ride…but the line always seems to snake around the base, so there are many who like it. And they’re not gonna want it to change.

  • Vanellope, I’ve asked the question of people as well regarding the time frame for a Star Wars land. You’re correct, I want it done right. If that takes longer, so be it. However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that should be happening. In the article I mentioned an 11 year gap between E-tickets. Prior to 2009 there has never been an 11 year gap between them building entire parks. That’s what inexcusable.

    People would be far more willing to accept a slower build time on Avatar and Star Wars if 3 of the 4 parks weren’t severely lacking in attractions. DCA is the newest stateside park and it’s attraction lineup is superior to Epcot and Hollywood Studios combined.

    • Vanellope26

      Tim,
      When you compare WDW and Disneyland, in my opinion most of the best rides are in both places, but Disneyland is smaller so there isn’t all that space to upgrade. Cars land is the exception, but weren’t they going to build that in WDW also but found out the ground was too soft to hold the weight of the rock outdoor part? I think they thought DCA was in the worst shape (attendance wise) so they redid it first. They see that it worked for attendance so they will put money into WDW.
      Side note- what exactly is an E ticket ride? Is Wikipedia wrong, or were Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Disneyland–Alweg Monorail, Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, and Jungle Cruise all E-tickets at one time?
      Also isn’t Soarin’ (2005) considered an E-ticket by Disney unofficially? Shouldn’t Toy Story Mania (2007) be considered E-Ticket? People love it and it always, always has at least a 30 minute wait in DCA even on very slow days. I think SWMT definitely counts as an E-ticket. I’m just saying that things have been added to both WDW and Disneyland and I think that there are high quality rides that are newer than 11 years old. My little kids love The Little Mermaid ride and there’s no wait since it’s such a fast loader. That is an amazing quality in a ride when you have little kids. It’s just when you have to spread those new rides over twice the number of parks it makes it look worse in WDW.

      • CaptainAction

        Vanellope26,
        When WDW folks won’t count Despicable Me as an E Ticket, you can’t count Toy Story as E Ticket. Even if you could, that would be ONE E Ticket attraction for Disney Studios since 1999 for Rockin Roller! 15 Years for one E Ticket, if you count Toy Story.
        I don’t count Toy Story as a big tent thrill ride so Disney Studios last E ticket was in 1999! Is that the standard of Disney we grew up with? No.
        Last E Ticket at Magic Kingdom was 1992 Splash Mountain!
        No, Little Mermaid and Monsters Laugh Floor aren’t E Tickets.
        Last E Ticket for Epcot was 10 years ago with the copy from DLand, Soarin’.
        Last E Ticket for Animal Kingdom was 9 years ago with Everest and it’s centerpiece Yeti, has been broken for 7 years.
        Four WDW parks with no new E Tickets for 9-10 years.
        Two of the four parks haven’t had a new E Ticket in 15-200 years.
        This isn’t your Father’s Disney.
        The new Avatar might be just a cheaped down miniature Soarin’ attraction, with light up plastic plants, stores and a Mess Hall. I read they cancelled the boat ride.
        But Iger gets his bonus for cost cutting and price gauging.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Tim, great article. I think that if you read back into the forums, you’ll find quite a few of us making the exact same points that you made here. It’s great that you boiled them down into a well-distilled article (see what I did there?) And, it’s a refreshing retort to the ridonk idea that MiceAge is a non-critical, purely Disney “fan” site. More Al Lutz style critiques, please.

    Of COURSE the answer is that if you love Disney, don’t go. The only way that they’ll change their business practices is if there’s a financial punishment from the public. Sadly, I suspect few will actually do that.

    As for the argument that “one should spread out the visits to WDW so that one doesn’t see the chipped paint and the same tired attractions” meme, that falls into Disney’s trap of training their audience to accept less, to have lowered expectations for a Disney theme park visit. That’s the whole idea here: provide less for more money.

    Anyway, I’ve been practicing what I’ve been preaching. I haven’t set foot in WDW since June 2011, where I visited my beloved Epcot for the last time (Drink Around The World.) It’s all good. Considering the international population of DC, every weekend is like Epcot!

    (Oh, and the education is real and free, y’allz.)

  • TheBig2na

    I have long advocated voting with your wallet. A lot of opinions on here are typical internet responses that aren’t based in any fact or reality and are overstated in one way or another to really get your point across. The Magicbands are not a problem at all, but do they add to the experience? I don’t think so. FP+ is only a negative to people like myself and most here who figured out how to scam the system at certain times( bring your old room keys. I miss those days), or how to maximize it’s benefit.

    This article is pretty well balanced in many ways and people not going and not spending money is the only way to get the Mouse to change. The problem is isn’t a critical mass of people to affect change…yet. We all know numbers can be manipulated to say things are great or things are bad. It all depends on how you want it to look. According to the mouse there numbers are up across their theme park division, but they had to change from individual parks to an overall parks number to maintain rosey numbers for investors. However it appears attendance may still be up so who knows. A number of people have already pointed out as well that whenever they remove an attraction there is an uproar, and if they build something new that doesn’t appeal to the teens or young adults, it isn’t good enough or thrilling enough. No win situation. If Disney built Transformers using one of their IP’s people would say it is a Spiderman rip off and they have no original ideas. Universal builds it and people marvel at teh speed of the build. I won’t lie, I absolutely loved the ride and didn’t care about its similarities to spider man, which I also love. But Disney is in a no win situation right now.

    I think people need to also look at how money has flowed around the US over the past 20 years. Disneyland folks complained wildly for years about the neglect on the left coast while Florida was receiving ride after ride after ride every year it seemed. Then the money started flowing back West and people now believe Disneyland and DCA are miles ahead of Florida. What will people think in 10 years if we have Pandora and Star Wars land and who knows what else in Florida while Cali has gotten next to nothing? I believe it is cyclical in nature and we will see a return of the cash in the swamp.

    What is making WDW look really bad is the pace of the catch up down the road and the fact that they are poring money into Hollywood at the same time. I don’t hear many complaining about the fact they are building clones on each coast though. And to be honest, most people don’t visit both places due to distance. Just the fanatics. What we all need to hope is that Universal’s pace really starts to show negative results in the mouse’s wallet. Another Uni park in Florida plus a ground breaking water park may start a larger swing. Can Universal get another IP like Harry to really start bringing in the crowds? How do they appeal to the legions of families who go on a once in a lifetime trip to Disney World? How do they make up for the fact that they offer very little to kids under age 8? That is the real money maker. How long can Universal keep up the spending and see a return on the investment? The parks aren’t flooded with people all day, every day.

    My hope is that we see a return to heavy investment in Florida by Mickey and a continued investment by Universal. What Comcast has done is incredible and I look forward to their next move(s). I have always loved the upbeat vibe those parks give off. To see them turn the corner in the past 5 years has been great because there was a time when their future may have gone the way of the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach. Things were bad for a long time.

    I for one will not be joining the boycott however because I really enjoy my trips to WDW. We always make great memories there and our last trip in 2013 was our favorite yet. We always look for new experiences, new hotels, different restaurants, etc. and after 13 trips still don’t have a problem fulfilling that requirement. It is pure nostalgia and I know that and if I ever get the feeling I’m not enjoying myself I will spend my time and money elsewhere as many people here are starting to do. Cudo’s to all of you who are doing that.

    I wonder if anyone on here can go back 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, etc and take a look at the articles written here to get a sense of people’s feelings towards the Florida parks and those in California. People might be surprised by how the parks have been perceived over the years.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      To be fair, the Florida parks DID get a slew of new things, partially because of a perceived challenge from IOA’s opening 15 years ago, and partially because both Disney-MGM and Epcot were woefully lax even then. That investment brought both parks sort of up to snuff for a while.

      I also think that SoCal visitors are more discerning and discriminating than those to WDW, most likely having to do with the AP visitation paradigm in place there, versus the Catskills extended vacation stay paradigm in Florida. Make no mistake: if DCA 1.0 hadn’t flopped so royally, it would still be in place as it was, much like DinoLand is, or the dead mall upstairs at Imagination is, or the ghetto future between Progress and Lightyear is, or…

  • BC_DisneyGeek

    Good article. It’s sad that Universal is the new gold standard for theme park development.

    Disney can and should do better.

  • GrumpyFan

    Great article Tim!

    You touched on it briefly in your post, but something of note from the most recent annual attendance estimates from TEA, show more of the picture in the attendance shift in Orlando.

    Since 2009, Disney has had an (estimated) attendance growth rate of just 1.36%, yielding 2,612,000 visitors.
    While Universal had an (estimated) attendance growth rate of 10.75%, yielding them just over 5,000,000 more visitors in the last 4 years.

    Disney:
    2010: 47m -0.93% growth over previous year
    2011: 47.4m +0.77%
    2012: 48.5m +2.23%
    2013: 50.1m +3.33%
    Average: 1.36%

    Universal:
    2010: 11.8m +16.9%
    2011: 13.7m +15.5%
    2012: 14.1m +3.3%
    2013: 15.2m +7.24%
    Average: 10.75%

    Disney is still the leader by far, but I think it shows that Comcast’s investment in Universal is paying off and they clearly taking some of Disney’s pie.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Thanks for the numbers, GrumpyFan! 🙂
      The Central Florida park #s for the next 3 years will also be interesting. Please keep us posted.

  • dizneedoll

    The last time we went to Walt Disney World was in 2009 and I swore I wouldn’t go back until there was some massive improvement. We did not have a very magical stay to say the least, from the shoddy rooms at POR and the horrible bus transportation (and this was 1st week of February), even our experience with CM’s wasn’t very good. We also encountered the rudest guests. DL always takes the heat for rude AP’ers but in the 12 years I’ve been an AP holder at DL, I have never encountered the level of rudeness that I did from “tourists” at WDW. The attractions at the parks outside of MK weren’t that great for us. Epcot was just one big shopping center and the only ride that interested us was Test Track because we have Soarin’ here. When new FL was announced I was excited because I thought now there is something to go back for. Again, ended up disappointed because it’s all princess meet n’ greets and again we have Little Mermaid ride here. Although 7DMT looks fun, it’s not enough to get me to pay the money it costs to go to WDW. Instead we are turning to Universal. Big Harry Potter fans here and there just seems to be a lot of appeal to the resort. No busses, no ADR’s 6 months in advance, no FP+ 60 days in advance. We are going on our first Universal only trip next Feb and No Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Disney, I love it and it makes me sad that WDW has become what it has become.

  • Imagineer1985

    I feel it is a bit bizarre that Universal gets a pass at every corner.

    Universal Charges non-resort guests for Universal Express – (FP)
    If Disney even toys with with the idea of deluxe bookings for those in Deluxe Resorts it is labeled a money grab and heresy. When Universal offers it, they are seen as pioneers and it is a resort amenity.

    Magical Express, Disney Dining, FP+, these are amenities that aid in the stay. Is it in an effort for guests to stay on property? Sure, but it can make things a heck-of-a-lot easier for guests.

    Universal Opens up around 6 refresh/new attractions in a decade and suddenly they are top dog?

    I think E-tickets are great, and sure, this is a huuuuuge gap between true “E’s”, but it seems a bit misleading to only judge WDW based on adding E-tickets.

    Since Everest we’ve seen:
    The American Idol Experience
    Toy Story Mania
    Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
    Disney Junior- Revolving and constantly updated
    The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
    Finding Nemo Musical
    Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros – Refresh
    Captain EO – Refresh
    The Seas with Nemo & Friends
    Spaceship Earth – Refresh
    O’ Canada – New Film
    Test Track – Refresh
    Innoventions Refresh – Sum of All Thrills
    Enchanted Tales with Belle
    Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
    Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
    Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (And several other interactive games throughout the parks)
    Space Mountain – Queue/Ride Upgrades
    Hall of Presidents – Refresh
    Pirates + Mansion – Periodic Updates
    Thunder Mountain – Queue Upgrade
    Jingle Cruise – Seasonal Fun

    “The answers to so many of the ailments at Walt Disney World are simple: maintain and upgrade what you have and make regular attraction additions to keep the parks fresh.”

    Wouldn’t you say they are doing that?

    • Imagineer,

      Universal does get a pass on some stuff. Most notably completing things 90% but not 100%. By that, I’m looking at things like unthemed sides of buildings, and other significant things that are in the sight of guests.

      Express Pass is a better service than Fastpass/Fastpass+, sure I’d prefer to have a free option but I get the distinction. For the record, a component of this article that I removed discussed this very thing. In order for Disney to offer the same perk to their resort guests they would have to add 168 additional attractions to match the relative rate of hotel rooms vs. Express Pass attractions.

      In the article I mentioned that Disney has had upgrades and additions since Iger took over, but there is no debate that spending is down. 7 of the 8 years of lowest park spending relative to income have occurred while Iger was CEO. That is undeniable. Epcot, DHS, and DAK should each have 2-3 more rides each in addition to what’s already in the works.

      • Imagineer1985

        Thanks for the response…

        Spending IS down, but we all know that the Themed Entertainment Industry suffered a HUGE blow during the great recession, and we would be seeing a lull right now due to that. Here’s hoping to Fantastic new E-tickets!

      • That’s a horrid excuse. Yes you could argue that the ’08 issues stopped them from building the Monster’s Inc Coaster in DHS, but it’s been 6 years since then. More has been cut from that park than has been added. That’s inexcusable.

      • Imagineer1985

        I hate to get stuck in the nitty gritty here, as I agree with the main idea that its disappointing there hasn’t been more E-tickets, but how are you figuring they’ve cut more than added at Studios?

        -+WWTBAM/Toy Story Mania
        +- Star Tours
        +Narnia/Pirates
        – Sounds Dangerous
        +American Idol Experience

        According to above, that adds up to a gain of “One” in the past 6 years (Granted, come January it will have equaled out due to closing of Idol)

      • I did say, “last 6 years”. In my math that didn’t include the Toy Story changes. By my count I have the below additions:
        *Star Tours Update (huge plus)
        *American Idol Experience
        *Captain Jack Sparrow replaces Narnia (upgrade on a B ticket)
        *Disney Junior Live on Stage replaces Playhouse Disney (update on a B/C ticket)

        Cuts
        Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun
        Disney Channel Rocks
        Sounds Dangerous

        Yeah, it probably was hyperbole, but considering where we were in 2008 the expectation was that there would be at least another Monster’s Inc ride, as well as replacements to Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. None of that happened.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ That’s a REFRESHING & impressive list Imagineer1985 (seriously, thanks!), but I don’t see a Haunted Mansion, Radiator Springs Racers quality addition on the list.

    • CaptainAction

      Imagineer1985,
      That’s a really lame list of nothing with the exception of 1-2 things.
      Universal built WWOHP with the completely unique Forbidden Journey attraction, and Potter London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, completely unique Escape from Gringott’s, the most immersive theming of any theme parks outside of Disney Sea in 4 years.
      While simultaneously building Springfield, Transformers, Despicable Me, Cabana Bay, and beginning King Kong’s Skull Island.
      There is no comparison between the level of activity in the last 5 years between Universal and WDW.
      Guests are beginning to round the corner and see the difference. First, theme park lovers are beginning to pass on spending money at WDW and going to Universal. Then the theme park novices or laggards will see the difference.
      Universal has only begun less than half of their plans. Just wait.

      • Imagineer1985

        Captain,

        I’ve noticed throughout your posts that Universal meets your family’s needs beyond Disney… Here’s to more Universal Films… *Rides! 😉

  • disneytom

    A DVC member said that he thought that Disney might be taking them for granted and I have a long response. I have to say that I do think the DVC crowd has caused a good amount of the decline at WDW. Form Disney’s point of view, this is a demographic that continues to reward them at least bi-annually for years into the future. Disney is gung-ho at building DVC resort after DVC resort due to the steady revenue stream that it generates not only in membership finance rates but the amount that members spend over the course of a vacation (food and collectibles year after year).

    But honest to God DVC members, no matter how many times that you are being welcomed “HOME” aren’t you starting to get bored to tears when you step on that property by now??? It is like that Saturday Night Live sketch with William Shatner telling his Captain Kirk fan boys to go find girlfriends. What you do with your vacation dollars is certainly your business but don’t you think some of your family and friends roll their eyes when they hear that you have another Disney trip in the works.

    I appreciate that DVC members come back year after year for the memories and while you may change the seasons you visit it’s still the same old attractions line up. The same boring 3D movies; the same Imagination pavilion; the same stale movies in Epcot. the same Great Movie Ride (minus the Great) – you all know the attraction dialogue by heart at this point. There is something to be said for nostalgia but then there is another argument against OCD too.

    Most Disney resorts are lovely and part of what I loved about the old Disney World was that the resorts were just as fun as the parks – recreation was part of the show. Now, however, the resorts are turning out to be more fun than the stale old parks. Of all guest demographics what possible motivation could a DVC member have to attend a “special after hours” party in World Showcase? This is a lame attempt at prying more money from your wallets and pocket books. Who really needs to stay in Epcot another few hours after the place closes to drink more Bass Ale after the same Illuminations show you’ve seen 25 times before plus pay $50 to do it? The reality is that most DVC dads probably have been drinking in the UK pub and drowning their sorrows in Bass Ale since 6 p.m. so they don’t have to ride that same stale Malestrom boat ride again.

    I would think that if Disney wants to placate this important demographic that they would really try to up the attraction quotient to a few new, D and E level type attractions every year. But no, we are getting new interactive “games”, high-tech queues and stagnation.

  • ChrisNJ

    When does it stop being NEW Fantansyland?

    I am what most would consider a crazed Disney park fan. I had been going to WDW twice a year for as far back as I can remember. I’m the guy that family members ask advice on when they are going. I am also an investor in the company. What got me to rethink going to WDW are the resorts. I would find myself paying $300+ a night for a dingy room at the Poly, or battling spider webs at Wilderness Lodge, and most recently dealing with yellow stained sheets at the Art of Animation and then fighting with the guy that delivered the replacement sheets. I want to love all things Disney, but I felt scammed. I now visit Orlando twice a year but I stay at Universal’s superior hotels. I don’t have to wait 30 minutes in the heat for a bus to a park (Like at the Poly my last stay) – I get on a boat or walk. I just don’t feel like WDW is delivering on it’s promise of quality and service at their hotels.

    On my next WDW trip I will try the new Four Seasons. But at the moment, I have no plans to visit parks that have nothing new since my last visit 2 years ago. I will be at Universal this year – and I’ll wear Disneyland gear (’cause I want the best of all worlds).

  • MickeysImagination

    We have voted by taking our vacation dollars elsewhere, the beach and other parts of the country. Prior to 2006, I was visiting WDW 3 times a year, sometimes 4. For reference this is travelling from Wisconsin and I am not a DVC member.

    Since 2006, we visited one more time in 2010. It was an okay visit. Took our nephews and their parents for their first ever trip to WDW. Their overall impression WDW was not they expected and will not be back.

    Now it is 2014 and my wife thinks we should go back again, but I cannot get excited. Maybe we will head west to Disneyland instead.

    -Justin

  • dgo33

    I think this article sums up many valid points about WDW’s focus moved away from the experience and excitement of new attractions, shows, etc to entice us to return.

    I was recently in a regional amusement park in the mid-West standing in lines to ride roller coasters.

    All the conversations I overheard from kids in the 8-13 age range revolved around visits (planned and been) to Universal / IOA. Not one peep about the family “going to Disney” as it used to be.

    Granted, that age range and the fact I was in line to ride roller coasters, is commonly dismissed as “thrill seekers which isn’t Disney’s target audience”. Which to me just sounds like an excuse and self-blinding rationale.

    It used to be common for families in the mid-West to “go to Disney”, but I’ve been hearing more and more comments about “going to Universal” as families talking about their vacation plans.

    The tide appears to be shifting and all the things folks on here and other sites have been ringing warning bells about as people are recognizing, either consciously or not, that Disney no longer provides them the “vacation of a lifetime” every year.

    It’s been my dream since I visited WDW in the early 70s to stay in the Polynesian. Reading the stats that the number of rooms available to non-DVC members will be halved does not mean I’ll try that much harder to plan 18 months in advance of my expected vacation or that I’ll sign up for the DVC, but that I may just opt to let staying at the Poly remain on my bucket list.

  • SteveColorado

    Reading these comments, esp. from dgo33, made me think of the generational/socio-demographics gap. Perhaps Disney is being viewed as “old people” resort? Think about it, it was the baby boomer’s parents that made Disney famous and the baby boomers (like me) that made them rich. Disney has thrown two big bones to the Harry Potter-generation: Pixar and Marvel, one cannot overestimate those but the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Studios (don’t know about AK) are mostly about old stuff that were popular many years ago. A Harry Potter Land was exactly the right thing to do for the coveted 18-34 market, not digging up an old cartoon character/film for a ride here and there. Disneyland knew that when they built the immensely popular Cars Land (there’s that word again: land not ride), leveraging its phenomenal merchandising numbers. What Land is WDW building? Avatar Land? Not sure about that one. A Pixar Land would have easily competed for the Harry Potter generation – same market. A Star Wars Land will also be needed since that will be the hot thing again in a couple of years. A Marvel Land would have been a homerun – you see how popular that franchise is?!?

    Put yourself into next year. Star Wars would have been popular for 38 years, Harry Potter for 18 years, Marvel Universe 7 years (more if you count comics) and Pixar 22 years. WDW’s choice? Avatar very popular for only 1-2 years.

    tl;dr
    Building a RIDE or two by digging up some old people cartoons will not cut it. Building a LAND of what is immensely popular will bring the numbers back up, just as Universal is doing with HP.

  • totalorlando com

    It would have been interesting to see how a $1.5bn Monorail expansion would have boosted on property occupancy rates!
    Linking DTD and the four parks would have been a smart move!

    • While I doubt monorail expansion will ever come to the resort, I could certainly see it as a convenience for getting to Downtown Disney. That’s a justifiable way to “pay” for it.

  • danielz6

    “The Rapunzel bathrooms annoy if only because there’s no Rapunzel attraction beyond taking a dump”
    LOL! Quote of the week.

    • CaptainAction

      Yes, because it’s true.
      Imagine how bad WDW would be treating its guests, or potential guests, if Universal wasn’t there and cranking!?!
      WDW wouldn’t have improved the hub, refreshed the lines, put in the second Dumbo next to the other Dumbo, or given Fast Passes to the Muppet Movie, Imagination, Spaceship Earth, Carousel of Progress, or Rapunzel Restrooms.
      WDW wouldn’t have even thrown the Mermaid Ride or Dwarf Mound into New Fantasyland if Universal wasn’t there.
      WDW has BARELY built ANYTHING other than DVC Resorts, and revenue centers (stores and restaurants), and that’s with Universal blowing and going.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Thanks.
      …and I flush and flush and flush my poo.

      • CaptainAction

        Aaronius – this is pretty dang funny – thanks

  • highpoint7

    What a great article. Truly enjoyed reading it and you bring up a good perspective on things. I may take a different tact on it all. This will not disagree with you but probably add to what you have written.

    I’ve been a Disney person since a kid (I’m 50). My family of 6 loves the place. We go several times a year. My oldest kid is 12 so you can see where I’m coming from. (HA).

    Everything you have said about Disney’s weaknesses in their parks and strategy I can see. Here are some things I would point out as I’ve seen it. I have had the feeling that they are going for an overall experience and not just little thrills here and there. It could be that they are trying to strike a balance in creating a tradition and creating new experiences at the same time. Their resorts (even economy ones) all create an experience for the participant. How they look, smell, feel, etc. and that brings people back. The ‘catering’ to the family with things they do together. All of it done in a flair that creates a relationship that will bring you back for more. People like familiar and change is difficult. I think that Disney knows that and, balanced with traditions, keeps people coming back, young and old.

    I went to the Universal for the first time in 20 years recently. It was great. But it is a different experience entirely. It felt like the ‘Pepsi’ to Disney’s ‘Coke’. Now, I will say that Universal has changed and moved more towards doing what Disney does in ‘tradition building’ with the Harry Potter part and new resorts nearby. It’s incredible what they have done and it tops Disney in many ways. But, for the rest of it, minus, the Dr. Seuss part, they aren’t really creating traditions more than just experiences. AND, all of the experiences are the same. Ride the Marvel rides, ALL the same TYPE of ride. The roller coasters are great but the same really. AND, due to land restrictions (I think), they took out rides that created a tradition with folks tied to some of the best movies of all time: Back to the Future, Jaws, King Kong, Earthquake to name a few. They took them out cause they were ‘has beens’ but have you seen their resurgence on movie channels? They are all over the place and have been for years. My 12 yr old thought Back to the Future was a great movie and when I took her to Universal to ride the ride, it wasn’t there. In fact, I went looking for all those rides only to be told that they weren’t there. ET was the only ride left and I rode the nostalgia right out of that ride. It was a great re-experience. I walked away going, what happened?

    You commented on the food too. While both are ‘fast’ food in a theme park, Disney food was just better. I felt like the food at Universal was just old ballpark food at best. It also said something when you could get it so cheap. One price and you eat all day etc. Disney should do that as well, but I’m afraid that they think that the quality (whatever quality is there) would suffer.

    Disney is great at re-inventing their brands (movies) in a way that keeps folks coming back for more. And they know that if you get them in preschool (i.e., Disney TV Channels), you’ll have them forever. All rides that would bring folks back due to tradition. And they have the land and influence to keep building new experiences without taking away the old ones. They just keep recreating them. Take the Snow White roller coaster. Yeah, it’s probably kiddy oriented, but did you ride the old one it replaced? It was too much like the Pooh ride and others in Fantasyland so they got together and said, don’t kill Snow White. Let’s reinvent it better. (That’s how I interpret what they did on it)

    With the land that Disney owns, they can keep creating more complete experiences like Cars land in California, or AVATAR happening soon. Star Wars would be incredible as well as your comments on an expanded Tangled and Frozen area. I’m sure they are in the works. The only thing I’m confused about is AVATAR. Why build an AVATAR land? That movie was good but I don’t see the fan base for an entire AVATAR land like I do a STAR WARS land. A bit confused on that one. No one talks AVATAR, but people talk Star Wars and other brands all the time.

    Hey, thanks for letting me give this perspective. It was a great article and I agree with where you are going on it. It does make you curious as to what Disney’s overall strategy is regarding DVC, and their Hotel branding. I’ve been wondering the same thing. Looking forward to a follow up article when more data comes in.

    Have a great day.

  • RickNacino

    THIS! A Million Times This!!!

    Great Job!

  • 22branch

    For me the writing was on the wall with the anouncemnt of Avatar Land back in 2011. That’s the best Disney’s got? Really? I live in California and it’s been about five years since we’ve gone to Florida. There one reason for us to go back and it’s not Disney. We are planning a trip, and we will be spending all of our park days at Universal.

    • Singling out the intellectual property and arbitrarily saying, “That’s the best you got?” doesn’t really help. The intellectual property is nearly irrelevant when it comes to producing a quality environment/attraction. I’m indifferent about Spiderman but love the ride. I loved Back to the Future, but the ride made me sick. Splash Mountain is among the most popular rides in all of Florida. It’s thematically out of place and based on a movie that Disney won’t release anymore.

      Quality is the best business model. All intellectual property does is help you sell it. There is more than enough content in one Avatar movie to make an amazing land with amazing attractions. It takes execution and money to make it happen.

      • highpoint7

        I think I understand what you’re saying Tim in regards to the quality being the best business model but not sure I’m with you completely on the other. For most people to be interested in anything there has to be a ‘hook’ that brings you to the intellectual property to begin with or that property will have to grow mainly by word of mouth as to how amazing that attraction is. And that rarely happens. People go to Harry Potter due to the popularity of the movies and they will for generations. Those movies will live on forever, at least, 50 years or more. I mean, Star Wars is what 35 years old and it’s just getting started. I believe this is the start of a ‘tradition’ focus that Universal has started doing which Disney has done from the beginning. (Think Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Snow White, Pooh, Splash Mountain w/o Song of the South, etc.) By Tradition focus I mean, instead of just focussing on an ‘experience’ like a thrill ride roller coaster, there is something different. Something that will bring you back. A hook, like a theme. Like walking downtown a set that looks like the very movie you love to watch and interact with. With the pirates movie series they just practically renewed the Pirates ride at Disney for ??? years. As long as Johnny Depp can play Jack Sparrow. 🙂

        Part of the longevity of Disney has been the ‘ownership’ that folks feel they have when they visit themed attractions that they are tied to via other forms of media.

        I think that Disney’s plans with AVATAR could be illustrating exactly what you were saying in regards to Disney being behind the curve in doing new things. They may have pursued AVATAR to snatch it up thinking that they get a star director, Cameron and a hit movie and do something with it. My problem with it is the question of whether that movie will last as an attraction folks are hooked to, that brings them back. I mean, think about it, do you even remember that movie, besides the flying birds etc.? I don’t. Am I just way off on thinking this way? Now will I check it out when it opens? Sure. But will it bring me back? Not sure yet because the movie didn’t resonate with me.

        Bottom line here is that I think it boils down to the fact that Universal borrows from Disney’s business model and vice versa. The great thing is that we all get to benefit from both sides.

        Theme Parks that will stand the test of time are the ones that move away from just being an Amusement Park experience and focus on ‘branding’. If they don’t focus on branding then they become like Six Flags and other just Amusement Parks. Been there, done that.

      • highpoint,

        Franchises like Harry Potter and Star Wars transcend this logic. They have a large enough fan base that the appeal of a land devoted to them is so large it will bring people outside of the typical theme park visitor. The point I was trying to make though is that if Harry Potter was done poorly it WOULD matter. The IP can only get you so far. The quality of the experience will always win out over the IP.

        The only exception I have found to this is Peter Pan. The IP is great, the ride is lousy, people still love it (just one man’s opinion).

      • stevek

        Totally agree on the IP and quality winning out. Disney arguably has one of the largest IP’s ever in Star Wars and they can either go cheap or go all out. My fear is that they will go cheap and we’ll get a X-wing/Tie Fighter Spinners versus a truly immersive land and experiences like Uni has done with Potter. I truly hope they don’t blow it.

  • TheBig2na

    Disney quarterly results out today. Guest spending is up, theme parks division as a whole are up. Why would disney change a thing at this point? We can only hope that all of these infrastructure changes are for some sort of build-a-thon coming in the near future. who knows. Either way, if they are bringing in more money every year and making a profit they must be doing something right. While this article is completely true and factual, it only really applies to this group of people here, which is apparently too small to make much of an impact.

    • stevek

      Therein lies the problem that we have discussed to death over at WDWMagic. Disney really has no incentive to change as long as folks keep coming in. But there is always the what if.

      What if they made rooms even slightly more affordable…would occupancy rates go back up to 89%?

      What if they introduced a new E-Ticket every 3-4 years…would attendance be even higher than it is now?

      Would both of these changes have driven far more revenue/profit than they will ever realize from the addition of MM+?

      The model is there with DCA. If you build it, they will come. Magic bands are not driving folks to WDW. New Fantasyland did to some extent. Avatar Land might, though I’d never travel across country for that. The proof will be if/when they ever build Star Wars Land. Hopefully they will get it once attendance goes through the roof…but that will likely also mean that room prices will go up again. Which puts us back at square one.

      • TheBig2na

        Would the lower prices and new builds make more money than they are now though? If they invest $200 million in a ride and lower room rates by 15%, how long before they make that money back as opposed to what they are doing right now which is very little and increasing prices?

        I for one have always thought it makes sense to get more bodies into the parks because those people all need to eat, drink and buy souvenirs. $100 a day for entry makes it prohibitive to go down for a weekend with the family. Staying for 10 days isn’t much more so they get you to stay longer. But when I go on a cruise I would love to go see the world for a day or 2 and grab a hotel room, but not when its costs so much for a couple of days.

        Has anyone figured out how they are raking in the money every year with doing so little? Are there that many first time visitors or once in a lifetime visitors? are there people so filthy rich that they go pay rack rate at a deluxe for 8 weeks of the year and spend untold thousands of dollars? With two kids and constant price increases in every day life the world is getting farther away. But how are they still making this much profit in a terrible economy which may be heading back down shortly, and with the cost of food and gas so high?

        My trips have gone from costing $2000-$3000 all the way up to $6000-$7000 now with two kids. Gone are the days of returns flights of $100 each and hotel rooms at $40 a night in a decent place in Kissimmee. I have already committed to my next trip but after that its going to have to be going back to off property hotels or renting houses with our large group. Unless of course i get a fat raise or win the lottery. I love WDW and love staying on property, but life seems to be getting in the way of free spending vacations.

        It will be interesting to see Universal’s pricing structure if and when they open a third park and water park. How aggressive will they be with pricing to eat into Mickey’s profit’s. I think with those two additions they will really become a true destination where people will look at a weeks vacation and maybe squeeze in a few days at WDW. Until Star Wars Land opens and blows everyone out of the water again. Provided they actually spend a Billion dollars and do it right.

        Things look bright in Orlando for theme park enthusiasts if Universal keeps up their amazing work and if the mouse can get his ass back in gear.

      • stevek

        As long as people keep coming with increasing prices for both the parks and hotels, there is no incentive for them to do much new.

  • stevek

    Nicely written, spot on IMO. We were there in March (traveled from So Cal) and really have no desire to go back. Limited improvement, higher prices, challenges with My Magic+. Ultimately did not lead to a better experience than our first 2 visits. I expected improvements from Disney (though I kinda knew of the challenges going in), gave them the benefit of the doubt and now I will spend my money somewhere else…like Hawaii! (no, not overpriced Aulani)

  • Mr T.

    My wife and I have been going to Walt Disney World since 1979. In the 80ties we went a total of 6 times and 10 years. In the 90ties was a banner year where we went a mind boggling 14 times. We officially have been to Walt Disney World 27 times
    Now you have to consider that we live in eastern Ma and driving our R/V 1328 miles one way is a considerable expense. Diesel Oil was around $1.50 way back and is now approaching $4.00 per gallon.
    From 2000 on – we started going every other year as our “Vacation Dollars” budgeted for a Disney vacation just could not cover the entire expense. We are writing our self a check every month (specifically for the Disney vacation) of $200.00
    Now saying that in the last 10 years we have only been twice because the same line/up of rides and attractions pretty much never change.. Oh there is a new parade or show but how many times can you see the same one. – Boring!!!!!!
    My wife and I have never ever been to Universal Florida as we are Disney nuts. But that has change over the last 2/3 years and next winter we will be visiting the Universal Resort and am looking forward to seeing what they offer.
    Mike & Cathie T
    P/S – I feel like a traitor abandoning Walt Disney World but as my wife says – Disney as abandoned us. Its all about profits, and its time to take our vacation dollars elsewhere.

    • CaptainAction

      Your wife is correct.
      This isn’t our father’s Disney.
      Universal Florida is the new Disney.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    The report on the quarter is here.

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/disney-results-improve-on-strength-across-segments-1407270406

    “Revenue at its parks and resorts division increased 8.2% to $4 billion and operating earnings grew 23% to $848 million, driven by growth in its domestic operations.”

    Just so we’re clear:
    • they generate 1.3 billion dollars a MONTH in revenue.
    • they generate 283 million dollars a MONTH in operating earnings.

    So, really, Disney isn’t remotely in a place where they’re struggling with an audience that’s “over” them and their divestment (sadly.)

    On the other side of the coin, the idea thrown around that ‘because of the rough economy’ Disney has to pull back (and from where? the already divested place?) to make money at the theme parks is total malarkey.

    They could take a mere HALF of the operating earnings pie (142 million a MONTH…and it really is a pie just filled to the crust with money,) STILL post insanely great earnings and have 1.7 BILLON DOLLARS A YEAR to reinvest in their theme parks.

    Let’s assume that New Fantasyland cost $400 million (I think that a wee bit high, but OK,)
    • Using one years pot, you could drop a New Tomorrowland, New Adventureland, New Frontierland and entirely New LandLand into the Magic Kingdom, and still have 100 MILLION DOLLARS LEFT OVER.

    • Using one year’s pot, you could EASILY fill in the rest of the blanks around World Showcase with over-the-top, state-of-the-art pavilions, as well as drop new pavilions into Imagination, Energy and Innoventions.

    • Using one year’s pot, you could build at least three giant, state-of-the-art animal attractions at AK.

    • Heck, using that pot, you could build 17 miles of heavy rail transit, 25 or so of monorail/light rail, or 170 of super-premium, Curitiba styled bus rapid transit.

    I mean, that’s a loooooooootttttttttt of profit.

    • TheBig2na

      But why bother when they are raking in that kind of cash? That is an insane sum of money. They could add a theme park per year and still make money, but they don’t seem willing to right now.

      I get a strange feeling investment isn’t too far away though. I just feel like all of the background work with things like the MK hub, MM+, etc is setting the stage for an increase in spending in Florida. I have no facts or sources, it’s just my gut feeling. However it seems like we are at least 5 years away from seeing Star Wars. DAK gets its new shows in a year and a half, Avatar a year or so after that, and then maybe we see Star Wars. I would love to see Star Wars spread out though around the parks. Ewok village in DAK, previously discussed work in DHS and maybe some star wars tech displays in Innoventions or one of the many dead or dated pavilions in Future World.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        I think they’re not going to do anything until they either feel a dip in attendance or they feel that their loss of thought leadership is worth the investment to gain it back.

        It’s why the true story of Disney fandom should be: if you love Disney, don’t go.

        And the real fact remains that we are many years away from investments that should have happened yesterday, to support those happening today, in anticipation of what is to come tomorrow

  • nursemelis374

    I think this may apply to repeat visitors but maybe not for people that go once a year or are going for their first time. I go approximately once a year and last year took 3 people that had never been. Those 3 people (1 adult, 1 teen and 1 child) had a blast and said it was the best vacation they had ever been on. We are all frequent DL visitors. The only thing we noticed was that WDW bathrooms seemed dirty but I have noticed that at DL more lately as well.

    I have always had a great time at Disney World and Disney continues to be my primary place to “play”. I love the Harry Potter franchise but only find the need to go to Universal once every 3 years or so. People will always got o Disney World. It is a right of passage for many people. I think if you stop going there because you do not like it, then fine, but trying to make a point by not spending money even though you like it is illogical.

  • fnord

    nursemelis, if you go yearly, you ARE a repeat visitor.

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  • CADisney

    In his prepared remarks at the Disney investor call today, Iger specifically mentioned that “we’re also developing ideas and designs for a far greater Star Wars presence in our parks.” He clarified later he meant in the US.

    Although I would love to see Disney invest more in the US parks now, remember that the company is spending an incredible amount on the new Shanghai park (this spending is not counted in the operating costs of the current parks, so even though the parks are making a lot of money, they are spending this money in China right now).

    I would suspect that as we get closer to Shanghai opening, we will see the investment dollars (and Imagineering efforts) go back to the US. Iger specifically mentioned a greater Star Wars presence – perhaps the DHS remake with a Star Wars land? Finally that Tomorrowland upgrade in California? I have no doubt they will continue to invest in US parks given the success of California Adventure investment and what is happening with the Harry Potter investment that Universal has made.

    Looking out over the next decade, Disney will be releasing a new Star Wars film every year, tons of Marvel films, and there will be at least three new Avatar films. The Avatar land in Florida will be timed well to that franchise (which has the highest grossing film of all time – Avatar will be coming back in a big way, even though I am personally not crazy about the film).

    I am right there with everyone else wanting more US spending, but the investment (and intellectual) spending is in Shanghai right now.

    • highpoint7

      One more comment on AVATAR and I’ll leave it alone. 🙂

      Is it a risky thing to base an entire land on one film with the promise of more movies in the future? I mean, no one knows if those movies or themes/storylines will be good at all. OR, if a fan base is there to support the desire to go to an AVATAR LAND. Potter land happened after the fact when the ‘cult’ of fans was already created. Star Wars, Marvel, you name the other ones and the same holds true. Like you said, you’re not a fan of the movie, and I don’t know ANYONE who talks about that movie when movies and favs are discussed. (I know I’m hardly a final say on good movies.) I saw it at the theater and said, been there done that. Won’t see it again.

      And the highest grossed film? If I remember, AVATAR came out amidst the first of advanced 3-D movies with Cameron making a movie for the first time in these kinds of effects. That may have contributed to it’s popularity and why it made so much money.

      I’m not being negative here, just asking seriously about Disney’s rationale. I asked this question the day the news came out that they had this AVATAR thing in the plans.

      • BrerJon

        While it’s risky to build Avatar land before the sequels are proved to be popular, Universal is building Skull Island before the movie has even started shooting, a much greater risk!

        Or is it? With theme park attractions, it’s the quality of the experience that counts, not where it came from. The Mummy is a great ride, even for those who haven’t seen any of the films, same with Harry Potter. No-one cares that Dinosaur! flopped when riding the attraction of the same name at DAK.

        My concern with Avatar isn’t that the movies won’t be popular, but that the land itself will be cheap and half-baked, like New Fantasyland, instead of immersive and epic like Diagon Alley or DisneySea. Also taking a decade to build it… If that’s not a sign of trying to cut corners and do things on the cheap I don’t know what is.

  • BrerJon

    This is a brilliant article and sums up the frustrations of many lifetime WDW fans.

    I used to stay on property, book Dining Plan, the whole shebang, but as prices have gone up and up compared to the competition, doing so is no longer economical.

    Why stay on property when you can stay in a far more luxurious hotel, and get a taxi to take you to the parks every day far quicker than a Disney bus can, all for half the price of a Disney hotel?

    I also will now only do a day or two at the parks, when there is something new to check out, but due to the cost of visiting I’ll now wait until there is a lot of new things to see instead of visiting for every attraction.

    Meanwhile Universal, where the rides and hotels are better and the prices cheaper, is getting more and more of my vacation time.

    So while I love WDW and couldn’t stop going altogether, by voting with my wallet on things like staying on property and cutting in-park purchases, I’ve done what little I can to try to shift the TDO complacency, without missing the things I love about Disney that it still does well.

    Also having been to Tokyo recently it amazes me how anyone could with a straight face say WDW is good value when a family of four from the west coast could do a week in Japan, with a few days at Tokyo Disneyland where everything is *soooo* much better, for the same price as a week in the Polynesian would cost them.

  • Tielo

    My family and I visit Orlando for more than 20 years. Sometimes every year but sometimes every 2 or 3 years. We always visited different parks. One year it was Disney, then Sea World/Busch gardens, then Universal.
    The last time we visited Disney was about 9 years ago. Soarin, Mission Space and the Nemo made over where new at Epcot and it was a mayor disappointment. All 3 rides looked cheap, lacked story or where unpleasant. The same was for Nemo at AK and the Disco Yeti coaster. The Nemo show felt out of place and the coaster was below expectation. DHS had the car show that looked ugly and was even more boring then the old and tired Indy show. Above that the food and customer service dropped immensely from the 5 years we visited before.
    Sins then nothing Disney has done made me want to go back. Three years ago we visited Universal and where in awe with the Potter expansion, I loved the Grinchmas show and the Macy’s parade. Now 3 years later Universal builded Despicable Me (2 movies more fun then Frozen), updated Spiderman, got a new night time show, parade, refreshed a stage show and added Transformers and Potter 2.0. So this winter we will visit Universal and buy a annual pass because we stay for 9 weeks. I’m so looking forward to ride the rides, see the shows and tast all the new food options. I’m sure I’ll need extra luggage for souvenirs and I probably won’t even visit Downtown Disney during that time.
    All of this is actually disappointing because I would love to ride Splash Mountain (hopping for once all AA’s work) but that is the only thing I care for and not worth the 100$ entrance fee.
    Walt always said his parks would never be finished. He was always on the side of ride that where close to impossible to execute. The new management think different and because of that the soul is out of the park and is replaced by managers who only want to milk the cash cows but don’t care about being a world class destination. I hope that will change some day.

    • CaptainAction

      Yes Tielo, in the opinions of Iger and the current WDW mgt of the last 10 years, the parks are indeed finished.
      They can build a gigantic new DVC resort in 18 months but one new ride, at only one of the parks, a small, short, kiddie coaster, takes them OVER 3 years to build.

      • CADisney

        I disagree with the notion that the parks are finished. They did invest money in Fantasyland (mixed bag), but the focus of dollars and brain power right now is in the Shanghai park. Once that starts to wrap-up I feel the focus can and will come back to the US.

        Iger said in the investor call yesterday that Star Wars would be making a major presence in the US parks. I would not be surprised to see something coming to DHS at the level of Potter @ Universal in the near future.

        @Tielo – how can you not love Soarin’!? No story, true, but what a unique experience. Agree that Splash Mountain is the best ride at any of the parks.

      • CADisney,

        They are more than capable of having major investments take place in multiple locations around the world. I hate the argument that people will make that the $1.2 billion invested in DCA has no effect on WDW or the money invested in Shanghai will have no effect on WDW. The company and it’s supporters will make these claims and then do the opposite.

        Yes, fans are insatiable, but it’s to the point now where the lack of innovation and the lack of freshness is a real problem. I want to see something drastic.

        Magic Kingdom:
        Move “it’s a small world” to Showcase Plaza in Epcot. That’s a better fit than Fantasyland. Use the former “it’s a small world” area for Frozen, Tangled and any other fairytale franchise.

        Update PhilharMagic (this is probably happening) to include a Star Wars type concept where you don’t know what songs you’re going to get.

        Epcot:
        After adding it’s a small world, fix The Imagination Pavilion, add Soarin’ Over the World with at least one new theater (probably in the works). I don’t oppose Ratatouille in France that much but I’d prefer it in Hollywood Studios. I do want to see a Brazilian steakhouse.

        Hollywood Studios:
        Star Wars is coming… eventually. I want to see The Great Movie Ride updated and I want to see two more family rides in Pixar Place. I’d also like to see the Animation area modified so there’s a connection to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster area. Make that area about different types of production (radio/music?). Use the area behind Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to set up street facades for the Osborne Lights, then you can level the backlot/Streets of America area for Star Wars and/or Pixar

        Animal Kingdom:
        Fix the Yeti (rumored for 2015). Don’t half a$$ Avatar. Also, level Primeval Whirl and put in a family friendly dark ride with a similar concept. That would make Dinorama far more acceptable. Failing that, level Dinorama and role that area into an Australia area. Update DINOSAUR and bring it back to the Countdown to Extinction Name. Add length to Kali River Rapids, instead of taking a right at the top of the lift hill, go straight or left and use part of the huge area behind the attraction. Actually add some theming and components to the ride itself. Move/remove Maharajah Jungle Trek and create a much larger area that will include additional Asian animals like Giant Pandas, Red Pandas, Orangutans, Asian Elephants and Snow Leopards.

      • CaptainAction

        CADisney,
        Disney doesn’t have enough money or resources to build things at two parks at the same time?
        Universal is building Potter at the same time in Japan, Hollywood, and Orlando.
        Disney can’t do that?
        Wow, Universal IS really kicking their tail, eh?

  • cyeoh

    What’s the percentage of international tourists vs repeat visitors e.g. AP holders?
    I’m guessing repeat visitors are a tiny minority compared to international tourists. Most tourists don’t do full research and planning when visiting Disney World. It’s usually their first time visiting WDW or their second time in 5-10 years. They experience what they experience without any preconceived notions that things could be improved. Their complaints would generally be about things such as long lines for rides/attractions, lousy food, difficulty in traveling from MCO to WDW or between parks, etc. And a lot of those complaints are usually word-of-mouth to their friends/family that Disney sees are potential visitors & added revenue. So, if they are the majority, the “improvements” are for them. This, compared to the more vocal minority AP holders, who already don’t spend much at the parks.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Considering the wealth of materials designed to specifically plan a WDW vacation, I’d say that the “people don’t plan” argument is without significant merit. Indeed, WDW couches MyMagic+ as a planning tool to sell their data tracking to the public.

  • DisneyGator

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I shouted at WDW as loud as I could. How? I stopped flying across the country where I’ve spent 7 trips and 54 days at their FL resort, and I started driving to Anaheim resort. Believe me when I say, I miss WDW, I miss Epcot, I miss all the restaurants that WDW has and DL doesn’t, and I miss nightly fireworks all year round.

    But DL offered something new and fresh. Cars Land. For the most part, DL resort is identical to the MK and DHS….except for Cars Land. This place is really cool, with new rides, restaurants, and a great thematic land. What did WDW offer? Ariel’s Adventure (which made it DL first), Magic Bands and FP+. No thanks. I’ll take the new rides and Legacy FP with a short drive. I’m not saying that DL is better than WDW, because in my opinion, it isn’t. But WDW hasn’t come up with a good enough reason for me to spend $2K just to fly my family there. So screw the market share of FL vacation goers. I’m not even going to FL. And that’s shouting as loud as I can.

    • CaptainAction

      Yep, and you have a Fantasyland which is 10 times better than WDW with Snow White, Mr. Toad, Castle walk through, Alice, Matterhorn, etc.
      You also have submarines, Indiana Jones (not a LAME, OLD, STALE stunt show), Roger Rabbit, better Pirates, etc.
      Without spending an hour switching parks you have Tough to Be A Bug, Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear, Soarin’, etc.
      Do come to Florida again someday though and skip WDW and spend 4 – 6 nights at a Universal Resort. Take a boat to the front of the parks, skip 95% of all the lines, enter Potter lands 1 hour early, eat when you want, where you want, enjoy spontaneity, all from a 4-5 star resort for less than WDW moderates.

      • DisneyGator

        I would be hard pressed to spend more than 1 day at Universal. I sorta like Potter, so I’d like to go at last see that. But Disney still gets it. And I’d spend every other day of the rest of my life at Epcot if I had the cash and the family didn’t want to go everywhere else.

      • DisneyGator,

        I don’t mean this to be disparaging, but how do you spend your time at Epcot? More often than not, when I’m traveling with my family we just wind up there and hit the major rides rather quickly. When my wife and I are going by ourselves we typically will take more time slowly walking through World Showcase.

        Personally, I think the attraction lineup is very soft at Epcot, but World Showcase still seems “fresh”. Future World on the other hand needs significant help.