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Disney World to field-test after-hours party aimed at 14-year-olds next month

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Disney World to field-test after-hours party aimed at 14-year-olds next month

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Should graduating from the 8th grade really be a high point of someone's life? A moment that's truly worth celebrating?

The folks who run Disney Youth Groups (I.E. The branch of Disney Destinations, LLC that's behind such hugely successful after-hours events as Grad Nite & Night of Joy) certainly hope that a lot of people think so. Which is why -- on Friday, May 4th -- they'll be field-testing a brand-new hard ticket concept for the parks: The Disney 8th Grade Grad Jam.

Copyright 2007 Disney Destinations, LLC

Aimed at the 14-and-under set, the 8th Grade Grad Jam is actually based on a very popular pre-Grad Nite Blast-Off program entitled "Party on the Wild Side." Which allows high school seniors who already have tickets to that night's main event over at the Magic Kingdom to then spend the early evening hours enjoying the DinoLand U.S.A section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Where these soon-to-be-graduates can experience some of that theme park's most popular attractions. Including Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl.

Given that thousands of high schoolers have already enjoyed having exclusive access to DAK's rides, playing Chester & Hester's carnival games and/or dancing at a DJ party ... Disney Youth Groups wondered if they could re-invent this after-hours event as something that might then appeal to middle schoolers.

Of course, one of the very first things that they had to do was adjust this party's running time. You see, unlike Grad Nite (Which typically runs from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.), the Disney 8th Grad Grade Jam had to be aimed at an audience that has a much earlier bedtime. Which is why this middle-schoolers-exclusive event will only run from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

And keep in mind that this May 4th party is just a dry-run of the 8th Grade Grad Jam concept. To see if this new after-hours program actually appeals to its target audience.

So what exactly will the inaugural edition of 8th Grade Grad Jam include? Well, for a $38-per-person admission fee, each participant will then be able to enjoy (I'm quoting from the press materials here) a "delicious meal including burgers, dogs, chips, and dessert" as well as "Lemonade flowing by the gallon." They'll also be able to sample many of DAK's signature attractions including Kali River Rapids.

Copyright 2007 Disney Destinations, LLC

So far, several Florida middle schools -- including the prestigious Bolles preparatory school of Jacksonville, FL -- have agreed to take part in this first field test of the Disney 8th Grade Grad Jam. And should this new DYG program prove to be a success ... Well, I hear that Disney Destinations, LLC is already looking into scheduling additional nights of this event come 2008.

But -- of course -- that won't happen until this proof-of-concept party wraps up on May 4th after 11:30 p.m. And after Disney Youth Groups then contacts various students & chaperones who actually attended this year's festivities to see what they liked (More importantly, what they didn't like) about the inaugural edition of Disney 8th Grade Grad Jam.

Still, one has to wonder ... If this graduating-from-middle-school after-hours event proves to be extremely profitable for the Mouse, can Disney's Kindergarten Graduation Celebration be all that far behind?

Your thoughts?

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  • 14 is a hard demographic for Disney.  Younger kids love it, older kids are secure enough in their identities to admit that Disney is a good time.  But the junior high crowd is absolutely obsessed with not being associated with "kiddie" stuff.  Curious to see how this one goes.

  • To quote The Incredibles:


    "It's not a graduation! He's moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade!"


    "It's a ceremony..."


    "It's psychotic! They keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity!"

    Now Disney's trying a way to make money on it, too!

  • This all makes sense. "High School Musical" is huge with the tween crowd. The Disney Channel does very well with programming aimed at tweens. Why not a "grad nights" type event for upper end tweens? It's actually good business sense, finding a way to extend the brand and expose your theme park to new customers.

  • Oh goodie ... another excuse to close MK early so they can charge people for the priviledge of something they should already have ....

  • Personally I agree with Bald Melon, we have enough hard ticket events as it is.  On another point if you thought it was difficult dealing with High School kids during grad night and night of joy middle school kids are going to be even worse. I sincerely hope this test is a disaster because it would also be hell to the cast members who hate night of joy and grad night with Super Soap Weekend being a close third.

  • As long as I have beforehand knowledge of when these kind of events take place, I'm fine with it. That way, I won't have to be a first-hand witness to all of the shenanigans I've read so much about.

    Now, I've heard about the apparent hell that is Night of Joy. Grad Night, I could believe would be equally as troubling for both castmembers, and guests who are not a part of that event.

    However, what's the big problem with Super Soaps Weekend? I never heard anything about that before.

    And, when exactly do these three events generally take place? So that I can avoid them on future visits.

  • No such thing as too many hard ticket events. Having been to the parks hundreds of times we kind of like seeing things in a new light from time to time. These events just seem to make things more interesting for whoever attends. Being the parent of two girls (11 and 13) and living in SC (Hilton Head).  I find myself negotiating with my girls to convince them to go to the parks these days. Disney just isn't as cool as it once was and this is the time when Disney loses them (and their parents) for quite a number of years - until they have kids of their own. So I totally understand the strategy here - keeping the tweens interested keep the parents interested and the money flowing Disney's way at least for a couple more visits. So bring it on - I'll be sending my kids if they get the chance.

  • Having too many Hard-Ticket events is unfair to the casual day guest.

  • I COMPLETELY agree with WannabWalt.

    For all of you complainers about this event, if Disney makes lots of money, than they are more likely to build new attractions and update old ones. On the flip side, if Disney doesn't make lots of money, then they won't.

    You can't spend $200-300 million on a new attraction or $1 billion+ on a new gate, if you don't have the money.

    In addition, if WDW MAKES the money, then WDW will be more likely to be able to SPEND it.


  • Personally, I applaud Disney for trying to appeal to an audience that so often gets overlooked - just scroll up and see the different comments about the age group in question.

  • I always wonderd what they'd have to do to get anyone to spend more than 5 minutes at Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama. :)

    I didn't see the point of a junior high school graduation ceremony and the associated events when I went through it, and I still don't. Totally agree with the quote from the Incredibles.

    To jedited: Let's not kid ourselves here. Disney's out to make money solely for the purpose of making money. If they cash in on this thing, they're no more likely to fork over big bucks for new or revamped attractions than if they don't. If anything, they've got even less incentive to spend big money on new attractions, because they'll figure that they can keep the money rolling in by introducing new marketing gimmicks to boost attendance.  

  • I think this is a pretty good idea. The Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the other parks anyway, so it really doesn't effect the casual day guest. If parents are willing to pay to use a park that is normally unused at that time, do it!

    Most tweens only want to hang around with friends and have fun, anyway...what better place than Disney.

  • So are Epcot and MGM not options?

    All I can say is that everytime I get older, I miss out on everything. :(

  • Hey Jim: I like this idea. If Disney makes money and it's a sucsess then wonderful! If it doesn't work, then they'll just just know to do something else. I would make it a requirement that each group of kids has a chaperone. You see, I personally know the person who did something at Disneyland that resulted in the rule that they've had since 1980 that when you are inside the park, you are locked inside...aka they don't let you outside the gates.

  • I have to toss my hat into the ring on this issue. I think it is a bad idea and here are the reasons why:

    1. Disney already makes money hand over fist and we see how much they put into new rides and upkeep. Granted it has seen a turn for the better as of late, but we are still 20 steps behind where we should have been by the year 2007. As recent stories point out Disney is more interested in rebranding. I doubt that the money they will pull in from an event like this will do anything more than pad some execs golden parachute clause or year-end bonus. It won't put the keel boats back in service, it wont do something with the peoplemover track, it wont ove the country bears over to grizzly rapids, or anything else.

    2. This is not a graduation.... of anykind. We set kids expectations way too high and then can't figure out why they are so dissappointed when they become adults. Not only do kids (and adults now too) think they deserve stuff, they actually feel like they are OWED it. By making everything an event, we suck the specialness out of everything. And to piggyback on an idea from Bald Melon Tim:


    Everyone's special, Dash.


    Which is another way of saying no one is.

    I vote NO on this idea. And as much as I hate saying it... I hope it flops.

    Great, now I'm gonna feel guilty all day for wishing ill on Disney.

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