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Disney World attempts to improve its overall Guest experience with additional daytime parades and more "Fantasmic!" performances

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Disney World attempts to improve its overall Guest experience with additional daytime parades and more "Fantasmic!" performances

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It's kind of the quintessential Disney theme park joke. The brain-dead WDW visitor who walks up to the Cast Member in the Magic Kingdom and then asks "What time is the 3 o'clock parade?"

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Well, starting on July 18th, this will actually be a legitimate question. As the Magic Kingdom begins a two-week-long experiment to determine what impact (if any) changing the step-off time for the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" parade will have on the overall Guest experience at that theme park.

"And who's behind this experiment?," you ask. For the past two or three years, there's been a task force working behind-the-scenes at the Magic Kingdom trying to see what can be done about reducing Guest wait times. And by that I mean: The actual amount of time each WDW visitor spends standing in line as they wait to experience their next ride, show or attraction at that theme park.

"And what impact could jiggering the 'Celebrate A Dream Come True' parade's step-off time have on ride wait-times at the Magic Kingdom?," you query. Well, as any veteran theme park visitor will tell you, it's a lot easier to get on your favorite ride while there's a parade rolling through the Magic Kingdom. Mostly because of the tens of thousands of people who are lined up along the parade route to watch all of those floats & performers go by.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Conversely, one of the absolutely worst times to get on line for an attraction at the Magic Kingdom is right after a parade has passed through the immediate vicinity. As hundreds of people are suddenly on the move, looking for the nearest ride or show to get on line for. Wait times throughout the Kingdom typically double as soon as 'Celebrate a Dream Come True' completes its run through that theme park. And it can sometimes be more than an hour before the lines die down again, get back down to a far more reasonable length. More importantly, before the Guests are once again more evenly distributed around that theme park.

Which got the members of this Magic Kingdom task force thinking: Could the negative impact that this tsunami of theme park Guests has on the Magic Kingdom every afternoon at 4 p.m. possibly be lessened if - instead of just one performance daily of the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" parade - the Magic Kingdom presented two?

So starting this coming Sunday, that's just what this theme park is going to do: Present two performances of "Celebrate a Dream Come True" daily in the Magic Kingdom, with one stepping off at 12 noon and the other at 3:30 p.m. And over the course of this two-week-long test, MK officials will be carefully monitoring the impact that doubling up on the number of parade performances has on the overall wait time for rides, shows and attractions in this theme park.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

What Magic Kingdom officials hope will happen is that - by offering Guests two opportunities to see the "Celebrate a Dream Come True" parade - this will lower by half the surge in wait times that this theme park sees right after the 3'clock parade finishes its run. Which will - in theory, anyway - make for a far more enjoyable Guest experience for those who are visiting the Magic Kingdom during this test period. As they encounter far fewer ridiculously long lines in the late afternoon. Not to mention finding themselves caught in those huge waves of people who now roll through that theme park whenever "Celebrate" 's last float rolls backstage.

Mind you, this extra-parade-performance-per-day-at-the-Magic-Kingdom does come at a cost. In order to come up with the necessary number of Cast Members & float drivers to do an additional presentation of "Celebrate" each day, the Magic Kingdom is cutting one performance of "Dream-Along with Mickey" and the "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate it! Street Party" per day from July 18th - the 31st.

"So will this two-parades-daily schedule now become the new norm at the Magic Kingdom?," you continued. To be honest, a lot depends on whether this somewhat radical change to the Magic Kingdom's entertainment schedule does have a positive impact on the overall Guest experience at that theme park. If this task force can prove that - by staging "Celebrate" at 12 noon and 3:30 p.m. - that overall wait times at the Magic Kingdom's rides, shows and attractions in the late afternoon come down significantly during this test period, there's a very good chance that this new performance schedule will stick. On the other hand, if there's no discernable change in overall wait times at that theme park, you can pretty much anticipate that the Magic Kingdom will quickly revert back to its old parade performance schedule.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And speaking of reverting to old schedules ... Disney theme park fans were wondering what to make of that recent announcement that "Fantasmic!" is soon to return to its old seven-nights-a-week performance schedule at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

But perhaps the better question might be: Why did "Fantasmic!" cut back to just two nights of shows in January of 2009? And the answer to that question is: Because Disney's Hollywood Studios had just opened The American Idol Experience. And given all the Cast Members that DHS's Entertainment Department needed to properly staff the theme park version of this super-popular Fox reality show ... Well, all that money & manpower had to come from somewhere. Which is why "Fantasmic!" then got cut back to just two-nights-of-performances per week.

But now that DHS has a full two years of experience with running The American Idol Experience, the folks working Ops at this DHS show have noticed something interesting. As in: Whenever the TV version of "American Idol" is actually airing on Fox, the theme park version of this reality show does great business. But in the weeks and months each year that "American Idol" is not being broadcasting by Fox, attendance levels for the theme park version of this reality show just fall through the floor.

Photo by Garth Vaughn. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which - given that "Fantasmic!" (thanks to the money that the Mouse makes off of the sales of sodas, snack foods and souvenirs to those thousands of people who sit in the seats out behind the Hollywood Bowl and then wait patiently for this nightly water pageant to begin) basically covers its production costs every time this show is presented - Disney's Hollywood Studios is now trying to determine if there really is sufficient Guest demand at the Resort to warrant returning "Fantasmic!" to its old seven-nights-a-week performance schedule.

So if you're visiting Walt Disney World over the next month or so and would really like to A) see the Magic Kingdom begin presenting two performance daily of its "Celebrate a Dream Come True" parade and/or B) want to see "Fantasmic!" return to its old seven-days-a-week performance schedule at DHS, I'd make a point of dropping by Guest Relations at both of these theme parks over the course of your vacation and then making sure that the Cast Members know how strongly you approve of these particular changes.

Because - to be blunt here - that's one of the main reasons that Disney's Hollywood Studios is now thinking about  returning "Fantasmic!" to its old performance schedule is because they got so many Guest complaining about the reduced schedule for this nighttime water pageant that the DHS Entertainment staff knew that they had to do something to address this issue.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So be sure and voice your opinion when you visit the Walt Disney World Resort this summer. Because otherwise you can just expect the Magic Kingdom & Disney's Hollywood Studios to go back to business as usual.

Your thoughts?

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  • A double dose of "Celebrate A Dream Come True".   Not sure I could take it.

  • Jim, that float in the second picture, is it ever going away? They milk the heck out of everything down there and can't even finally have a new daytime parade with different floats, it's just the same recycled garbage.

  • Did they ever re-write/re-block DHS' "Fantasmic!" to eliminate the incongruous "Pocahontas" segment in the middle? It might have made some marketing sense when the show was conceived back in the 90's, but is just absurdly out-of-place today.

  • Agree with Eric: that float, that I thought was from the 90s, is apparently from the 80s. It was cool when it first came out ("neat, a clear float") but not when they shoehorn it in with other floats it doesn't match, and try to cover that fact up by adding random banners and bunting with the latest lame theme for a parade. I remember watching the Pirate and Princess Party parade, with this glass float that had some red, royal velvet banner on it. Even if they shipped Parade of Dreams over from Disneyland, at least it would be a new-to-MK parade with highly themed floats. Or just mothball the Castle float. Would be better than the constant reminder that they are too cheap to build a new one.

    Similarly, Fantasmic! at Disneyland is constantly refreshed. Alternatively, it seems and looks like nothing has been updated at DHS's version since it premiered in Fall 1998. I don't understand why WDW management doesn't realize that the things that attract people to Disney are the things that are there: the attractions, shows and experiences. Not generic "magic" or "dreams." Wouldn't it be great to update Pocahontas with something better? Cut down the endless bubble video sequence? Update a few of the fountains with the new variety used at World of Color?

    WDW management has been relying on customer-survey/focus grouped "magic" marketing that doesn't seem to entice anyone. If it did, they wouldn't end up discounting consistently. How many free nights and meal plans does WDW need to give away? It's been quite a while since I thought, "wow, look at that great new thing at WDW; maybe I need to book a trip as I want to see that." That's what I felt with the Epcot Millennium celebration, for instance, and for Expedition Everest. I'll even go with the pink Castle cake (in hindsight, tacky, but at the time, I wanted to see if before it was gone). But for photos on a castle? Not so much. Perhaps the new Fantasyland is a step in the right direction, but it, too, feels like something they should have done earlier, instead of leaving an empty moat for a decade. Oh well, we shall see...

  • I am so glad people notice how much WDW recycles that castle float.  Unfortunately, WDW gets most of their business from first timers and overseas.  That means what is old to the fans and regulars isn't old to the majority.  Plus, look at the Disney Parks Blog any time they say something is going away.  You'll always see a handful of people upset that they will be missing it.  WDW thinks it'll always draw a crowd by being WDW.  Meanwhile, its competitors are raking it in, especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Disney thinks they can relax because of their name and because the first time guests have no idea how low the benchmark of quality and ingenuity has sunk.  It would be great to see WDW get some real growth and excitement.  I am leery that a new Fantasyland/Circus land is going to be enough.

  • Jim,

    You say one performance of Move It, Shake It was cut to allow for the extra Celebrate.  But I see 3 performances per day listed of that Street Show.  Does that mean they were running it FOUR times previously?

  • I had the most fun asking CMs the day after Hurricane Wilma took a glancing blow at Central Florida. The parks were closed to day visitors BUT MK and Epcot were open to resort guests starting at 11AM and going to midnight. The 3:00 parade was moved to 5 PM. "What time is the 3 o'clock parade?" "Uh, at 5PM."

    As for the crystal float, I remember that being a featured float during the MK 10th anniversary. Maybe then could run it backwards like the do the Lion King float and turn it into a pirate float like they do at Not So Scary Halloween Party.

  • Is Mickey wearing an Elvis jumpsuit in the first picture?

  • Fantasmic! is the best thing everrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    @invalidname, No, they did not. :/

  • Disneyland regularly runs two parades a day, there is still quite a difference durin and after the parades, perhaps not as big as what the Magic Kingdom sees for an hour afterwards. Why so early in the day? Noon jus seems early to me for a parade.

  • No performances of Move It Shake It Celebrate will be cut during the test run.

  • Very much agreed on Pocahontas...it always seemed out of place. Don't get me wrong, I like Pocahontas well enough, but it just doesn't seem to hold that "classic Disney magic" feeling that many of the other movies, old and new, do.

    I'd like it more if they either a) devote that section to Peter Pan the way Disneyland does, or b) go with their original idea of having Captain Nemo and the Nautilus duel the giant squid. (Anything to have 20K, one of their most seminal movies, and Captain Nemo, my first literary crush, have a park presence again!)

  • The bigger question I'd ask is... who's going to watch a 12:00 parade??? Way too early. And the MK parade route is so long that I wonder if it'll just perform twice to the half as many people, cannibalizing its own audience?

    In either case, I pity the poor performers who now have to put on this piece of crap TWICE as often!

    Parades at WDW are such sad things to watch, and I don't understand why WDW leaders don't feel that their highest-attended Disney park deserves a true spectacle instead of 30-year-old floats with yet another coat of paint.

  • I think its great that they are test-running 2 parades.  At Disneyland, 2 parades is necessary to return to the floats to their overnight storage locations, but at the MK in Florida, access roads allow the parade to be run in both directions.  Even if we are still stuck with " (insert whatever the new theme is) a Dream Come True Parade" for the time being, double performances could stick around until after its gone.  I've read on a few blogs that we are finally, and by finally I mean nearly 10 years later, going to be getting a new parade debuting in Spring 2012!

  • I wish Disney would just build more attractions that are open all day then just a show that is only once a night and everyone freaks out about getting there 3 hours in advance.

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