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?"
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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You know a great way to increase overall wait times? Add more attractions.
I also wonder what effect the 12 noon parade performance will have on guests dining patterns and lessening the lunch time crowds in the restaurants.
I have my doubts about Jim's Fantasmic/American Idol theory. I'm more convinced that the reduced schedule was purely payroll driven in a tough ecomony due to the large cast required to perform Fantasmic. You have to wonder how long it will be before a World of Color type show comes to HS that requires no characters and only a handful of techs to run it.
Walt Disney World never ceases to amaze the people. Their movies are loved by numerous kids and adults and their theme park attractions and rides are unforgettable