In some ways, the parallel phenomena of annual passholders and online communities have detracted from the Ideal Disneyland Experience. Side effects include increased crowding and turning visits from annual events into weekly appointments. However, these communities have also been the greatest forces at keeping Disney from becoming complacent. A decade of whining and complaining has helped bring about a renaissance at Disneyland. Once again the park appears to be safe, well maintained, and regularly introducing something new.
Walt Disney World, on the other hand, has a large online fan base, but lacks a comparably vocal annual passholder base. Since they are vacationers, rather than regulars, Disney thinks it can buy their silence with freebies and other temporary fixes, rather than by making fundamental changes at the resort.
My hope is that as the Disney Vacation Club continues to grow (now 100,000 member families and growing), DVC becomes the new generation of Disney World regulars who find an outlet—MousePlanet or wherever—to band together to become a force for Disney to reckon with. As a group, hopefully they can push for lasting improvements at the resort, as opposed to discounts or incentives designed to improve nothing more than their individual vacation. Remember, when DVC members get tired of Disney World, they can easily resell their membership. In turn, they now compete with DVC's own sales force in selling new memberships and conceivably hold down the price Disney can sell memberships for. Worse, Disney World has lost a regular customer.
Even if DVC members don't jump ship, they become more likely to at least skip a vacation or three and rent out their year's accommodations (reducing the number of guests on property and creating competition for Disney's hotels).
The spirit of Walt similarly lives in the hearts of many of Disney's best employees, the ones who recognize the company is no longer the same, but doesn't let that stop them from creating classic entertainment and experiences for the customer.
And, his spirit also lives in the hearts of many of Disney's competitors, the ones who have learned from Walt's philosophies and taken them as their own.
Today's Disney Company may no longer guided by the ways of Walt. That doesn't mean that those of us who are can't continue encouragng them back on track.