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Night Kingdom to reimagine the Disney-theme-park-going experience

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Night Kingdom to reimagine the Disney-theme-park-going experience

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TiggerFan452 writes in to say:

Hey Jim,

Just wondering if you've heard anything about these focus groups that Disney World has been recruiting people for. If you take part, you're apparently shown a preview video for something called "Disney's Night Kingdom". Any idea what this project is about and if Disney's actually going to build the thing?

Dear TiggerFan452

"Disney's Night Kingdom" is the Mouse's long overdue response to SeaWorld's Discovery Cove. And -- yes -- the Mouse is actually going to build this $520 million project. Current plans call for this niche park to officially throw open its doors in October of 2011, just in time for the start of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary celebration.

"Why did you call 'Disney's Night Kingdom' a niche park?," you ask. Well, because -- just like Discovery Cove (Which only allows in a thousand visitors each day) -- DNK will be restricting the number of guests that can enter this park every afternoon. Only 2000 people will be allowed into WDW's 5th theme park at any one time.

 Copyright 2002 Busch Entertainment Corporation

And -- yes -- I said "afternoon." Disney's Night Kingdom's operating hours will be 4 p.m. to midnight (5 p.m. to 1 a.m. during daylight savings time).

Okay. I know. DNK already sounds unlike any Disney theme park that's currently operating on the planet. But there's a reason for that. The Imagineers want your Disney's Night Kingdom experience to be distinctly different. Something that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

How so? Well, let's first start with the extraordinary guest service that you'll experience as you enter DNK. Current plans call for Disney's Night Kingdom to be staffed by 4000 cast members. That means that -- for every guest that visits this theme park -- there'll be two cast members to take care of their every need. So expect to receive a lot of personalized attention & pampering once you arrive on site.

Speaking of arriving ... Guests will enter DNK through a new, super-sized version of the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island. As you & your family are registering for that night's activities, the club's members will entertain as well as offer hints about the extraordinary adventures that await you.

After you've finished checking in, there's a whole new world to explore. Have you ever dreamed of acting like Indiana Jones and riding a zip line over a pool full of hungry crocodiles? Or hand-feeding a hippopotamus? Well, here you can.

Mind you, Disney's Night Kingdom will have no traditional theme park rides per se. But you'll still be able to get your fill of excitement & adventure as you strap on a pair of night vision goggles and then wander out into a pitch-black African savanna. Where you'll then be able to observe up-close lions & hyenas as they go through their nocturnal hunting routines.

You'll also be able to try your hand at spelunking as you explore a cave full of bats. Or -- if you're not a big fan of bats -- how about rock climbing? Does that sound too much like work? Then why don't you head on over to that South American-themed enclosure where you can frolic with some penguins?

As for the look of Disney's Night Kingdom ... Well, this theme park's horticultural budget will be just about as big as WDW's Typhoon Lagoon is. So expect DNK to look pretty lush.

And once you've had your fill of adventures, why not grab a gourmet meal at one of the park's two highly themed eateries? Or -- better yet -- find a seat inside of Night Kingdom's centrally located main theater. Where you'll then be dazzled by a state-of-the-art stage show which will be produced by Disney Theatrical and feature top Broadway talent.

I know, I know. A lot of you may have trouble wrapping your heads around a Disney theme park that's as distinctly different as DNK is going to be. That's why the business plan that the Walt Disney Company has drawn up for this project calls for Disney's Night Kingdom to operate at only 60% capacity during its first year of operation and then only 80% capacity during Year 2. Starting in Year 3 ... Well, by then, Disney hopes to have all of the bugs worked out (not to mention finally having a handle on the marketing of WDW's newest theme park). Which is why they then plan on Disney's Night Kingdom operating at 100% capacity during its third year of operation.

As for future plans for the park ... Well, DNK's blueprints do include spots for two new hotels. But these resorts will only be built in response to guest need.

Speaking of hotels ... The Mouse expects that Disney World's higher end resorts (i.e. The Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Grand Flo, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Yacht & Beach Club, the Boardwalk as well as the Dolphin & the Swan) will be the primary feeders for Disney's Night Kingdom. With DNK drawing most of its visitors from these pricier on-property hotels.

"And why is that?," you query. Because just like Discovery Cove (which charges $269 - $289 for a one day adventure that also includes a week's worth of free admission to either SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Africa), admission to DNK is going to be pricey. Right now, Mickey's leaning toward charging guests $250 - $300 per person in order to gain entry to DNK.

Now keep in mind that this admission fee will also cover the cost of the gourmet meal that you'll be consuming while you visit Disney's Night Kingdom. Plus any non-alcoholic beverages that you quaff over the course of that evening. More importantly, that your admission fee to WDW's newest theme park will be considerably lower should you purchase it as part of a Disney World vacation package.

Another thing that you need to be aware of here is that the Mouse also plans on making DNK available to convention groups. So WDW's newest theme park could wind up being sold out for weeks, if not months in advance. Which is why -- if you really want to visit Disney's Night Kingdom -- advance reservations will definitely be recommended.

As to when the Walt Disney Company will be revealing that this project is actually in the works ... Next month's annual shareholder meeting in Albuquerque is a possibility. Though it's far more likely that Mickey will wait 'til the fall. So that Disney's Night Kingdom can then be announced as part of WDW's annual press event.

So there you have it, folks. Disney World's next theme park will NOT be Villains themed and/or loaded with lots of coasters. But -- rather -- it will be an intimate, natural environment that then offers you the chance to have lots of personalized, hands-on, once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

So now the big question is ... Come 2011, will you actually be willing to pay $250 - $300 to experience something like this while vacationing at Walt Disney World?

Your thoughts?

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  • My Main problem is that if you dont like what Disney does dont go to the theme parks, dont go on the boards and dont go the fan clubs and fan sites...    Facts are facts  Disney Theme parks are well attended and make a boat load of money and  if you dont like a certain theme park like Ak   then spend your other days off property or doubling up on magic kingdom or epcot...      I think this idea could work well and we all know that just because something is an idea or on the drawing board doesnt mean it will be the final product....    i just have a pet peave for people who  talk like disney isnt doing the right thing yet disney delivers it content to millions of people every year when disney sees a steady decline in profit or attendance then they will take a different direction  im just glad no one has brought up the dumb arguemet well walt would have done it differently...  

  • They have a zipline on Kauai, over the falls.

    It really is more thrilling than any coaster.  But I still loves me dem coasters.

  • Say aren't we forgetting to say something? I didn't see it posted above so I'll say it now just for fun. "Walt wouldn't do that!"

  • I always liked to end my day at Disney by going to The Adventurer's Club.  Last trip alone I went there 6 nights.  I've met some great people there and had some fantastic memories.  It sounds like its going to be a glorified foyer as a gimmick to get people to go to this new park.  Please dont take The Adventurer's Club away from us normal people.

  • I don't mind the idea of Disney developing an exclusive type of park like this. I might even consider paying for such an experience. But frankly the described experience doesn't sound like its worth anywhere near $250. My initial reaction to the description was "Is that all there is". Disney would need to do more than let you feed the animals, provide a show and dinner for that kind of money (and wall climbing and zip lines a dime a dozen).

    Also, this would gut the Adventurer's Club, because no-one is going to pay $250 to see the show they can get for $25 (or less) now, and who's going to stay in the club all night if there is something else worth that $250 elsewhere in this park.

    I hope there's an imagineer out there somewhere who is reading all this and sputtering "But you don't get it, there's so much more!". Maybe this will be great and we just aren't getting a good picture from the rumor mill. But Disney is going to have to come up with a lot more enticing description than these rumors to convince me to cough up $250.

  • EpcotFan said:

    "I don't mind the idea of Disney developing an exclusive type of park like this. I might even consider paying for such an experience. But frankly the described experience doesn't sound like its worth anywhere near $250. My initial reaction to the description was "Is that all there is". Disney would need to do more than let you feed the animals, provide a show and dinner for that kind of money (and wall climbing and zip lines a dime a dozen)."

    Very well said. That's exactly how I feel.

    If it turns out that there's a ton of cool stuff missing from this list, I wouldn't hesitate to pay to check it out. Maybe not every trip, but certainly once a year or so.

    I think they can and will make a ton with this and I am not at all opposed to the concept in general. I just think this sounds like an ... odd ... execution. They're going to have to have more than zip lines and bat guano to get people to pay 3 bills for 5 hours of theme park fun.

  • Don't expect any "top secret" details to be released at this point... I can assure you that Disney won't be launching a me-too park - nor will they be divulging all their best ideas for the competition.  The examples Jim shared are pretty face level compared to what amazing experiences will likely end up in the park.  If you want more examples of what will likely be a part of this park... become familiar with the concept of millionaire travel excursions.  Things such as spy adventures - where you fulfill a 007 mission, play with a rock star on stage, and of course, being waited on hand & foot in a luxurious 'millionaire' setting are a couple examples.  With that ratio of employees, you can bet on a very personalized experience.

    Brilliant!  These adventures are normally PRICEY.  $300 per person for the night??? Way to go, Dis!

  • Wow, Jim. I have to agree with Screamscape.com and a couple of your readers on this. Your "reporting" has produced the description of an after-hours DAK experience, not a fifth park. Answer this: Why would Disney build ANOTHER African savannah?

  • 1. Why are so many people annoyed about this?  

    2.  Why are so many people (for and against)  so sure that they know exactly what will and won't work in this hypothetical theme park that they heard about today for the first time?

    Let's just relax, wait for the official announcement, then wait for the actual park (which will probably differ from the first plans) and then see how it does.  

    I probably would not go to this park but I'm not annoyed at the concept.  In fact, if you don't intend to go, why would you even have an opinion?   That's like getting mad that a restaurant that you don't intend to visit is changing their menu.   It doesn't affect you, so just move on.  I'd love for the 5th park to have broader appeal but there is plenty to keep us all occupied for as many days as we can afford to spend at WDW.

    Just one note to Pickstar...if Everest and Nemo increased attendanced at DAK by 8.6% then don't you have to admit that what was a failure at first has now been corrected?

    Can't we all just get along.

  • Has anyone looked at the rough math. 4000 CMs times 8 hours a day is 32000 man hours a day. At a rate of $15 per hour(salary, bennies, etc) that comes to $480,000.00 dollars ad ay just for the help. that does not include the debt payments, materials, etc. If they only let 2000 guests through the gate a day and charge them all $250 to $300 each that comes to $500,000 to $600,000 at full capacity. i don't think the numbers will bare  out.

  • Ayefour said: "Why are so many people annoyed about this?"  

    1. It will mean that the Adventure's Club would be closed and its replacement will be much more expensive than many of its current patrons can afford. (Removing a popular attraction)

    2. If Disney is putting lots of resources into this park, then it probably means it won't be building another 5th regular park for another decade. (Opportunity cost)

    3. If it bombs, resources will be sucked form elsewhere in WDW to pay for it, similarly to the way Disneyland suffered for years to pay for the failure of DCA. (Degradation of existing experiences). The money won't come out of Iger's bonus, they'll just raise park rates or cut back on maintenance and new rides elsewhere.

    Is that enough reasons? I still hope that if they build it, they will do it well and it will be a fantastic success; however, based only on Jim's article, it sounds like a flop in the making.

  • EpcotFan said:

    Ayefour said: "Why are so many people annoyed about this?"  

    1. It will mean that the Adventure's Club would be closed and its replacement will be much more expensive than many of its current patrons can afford. (Removing a popular attraction)

    The Adventurer's Club is something of a cult classic and it seems an awful waste to move a popular attraction to a place thats only allowed for the elites.

  • Monorailpilot are YOU getting paid $15 an hour?  Because I'm NOT.  At the much more likely $9.00 an hour you're looking at $288,000 a night.  And 2000 people at $500 a night is $1,000,000.  That's BEFORE you count merchandise.  Numbers bareing out yet?

    Oh and I'm excited.  Partially because I'd love to work there.

  • By 2011, I'd guess that normal park tickets will be pushing $80 per day, parking $15, so a $250-$300 premium park wouldn't be so bad, especially if they throw in food and a couple of days of regular park admission along with it, as SW does. Also, $250-$300 is about in line with what a premium seat at a NASCAR, NFL or NBA (3-hour) event costs, to say nothing of a Hannah Montana concert.

    Hey, I'll pay anything if they'll ban strollers.

  • What a waste of land by Disney to use on this new park idea.   If people want

    these types of experiences they aren't going to go to Disney for them.  Even

    though this is a completely different park concept for Disney,  they are just

    ripping off Sea world's park.   What happen to being original?  

    I would not pay another $250-300 extra for an exclusive park at WDW, and

    to allow conference groups to monopolize a limited occupancy park

    is just greedy.  I think that this is a stupid idea and to add more shops to

    pleasure island is a poor answer to bring more people to that area.  

    I love the adventurer's club and would be upset to see it go.  

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