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Never mind about the $1.1 billion Disney just spent on its DCA redo. Why For isn't anyone talking about the billions Mickey has poured into WDW over the past 3-to-5 years?

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Never mind about the $1.1 billion Disney just spent on its DCA redo. Why For isn't anyone talking about the billions Mickey has poured into WDW over the past 3-to-5 years?

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Brian K. dropped me a line on September 3rd to say:

Hey Jim!

I can't get enough of your site and I literally feel like I "grew up" reading your insight into the parks and attractions, so thanks! I feel like I already know the answer to this, but do you think we might ever see a major investment in Walt Disney World's four parks? I know none are near as fundamentally flawed as DCA was, but what about an announced "five year plan" for the resort, divvying another $1 billion between the four parks over the course of a half-decade? Indiana Jones at the Magic Kingdom; elements of Project: Gemini in Epcot; Cars Land at the Studios; whatever big project (in my opinion, Beastly Kingdom) or an all-encompassing World of Color fountain show in Discovery River at Animal Kingdom... With an arguably "better" place to start than DCA had, even $250 million per park could do wonders at WDW, and even just one major E-ticket per park could really enliven things. If marketing plays it right, it could be an exciting promotion.

Concept art for Disney's Animal Kingdom's never-built Beastlie Kingomme area.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Keep it up, and thanks!

Brian K.

Thanks for the kind words, but ... When you talk about The Walt Disney Company making a major investment in WDW, you do understand that -- were you take a step back and take a cold-blooded look at what's been going on in Lake Buena Vista  over the past 3-to-5 years -- you'd see that the Mouse have already made / is making a DCA-sized investment in The Walt Disney World Resort.

The original concept art of the Fantasyland expansion at WDW's Magic Kingdom theme
park (Please note the massive Cinderella / Sleeping meet-n-greet show building at the
very center of this image as well as the never-built Pixie Hollow area in the upper
right hand corner). Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I mean, seriously, Brian K. Think about it: The Fantasyland expansion project? Depending on who you talk to, that's $380 - $400 million right there (I'm told that the $250 - $300 million ceiling that had originally been set on this project got blown through once Tom Staggs, the newly installed Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts decided to swap those elaborately themed Cinderella & Sleeping Beauty meet-and-greet areas out for a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride). Now fold in all of the design & construction costs associated with taking that never-finished wing of Disney's Pop Century hotel and then turning that abandoned  worksite into the highly themed Disney's Art of Animation Resort PLUS those Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa that DVC is building right now. Then  factor in the cost of all of the road widening that's  been going on lately along Buena Vista Drive between DHS's back entrance and Victory Way, the Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort project, the reimagining of Test Track, that new "Phineas and Ferb & You: A Brand New Reality" at Downtown Disney, the revamp of the Magic Kingdom's "The Magic, the Memories and You!" show, the costs involved with developing those "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" & "Agent P's World Showcase Adventure" games  ... and we're now up to  a billion dollars worth of additions being added / improvements being made at  The Walt Disney World Resort without even breaking a sweat.

And then when you consider all of the time, money and research that the Company has already poured into WDW's  Fast Plus Pass project (which -- FYI -- begins its second round of onsite field testing at the Magic Kingdom later this month) ... Well, that's another $100 million plus right there. And should these tests go well and The Walt Disney Company then opt to go forward with full-blown implementation of its NextGen program for  the Walt Disney World Resort  ... Between all of the actual physical changes which the Imagineers will need to make in & around this 43-square mile piece of property  (EX: Doing things like changing the Rose Gardens off the Hub at the Magic Kingdom into a gated fireworks viewing area. Not to mention significantly upgrading the WDW Resort's overall wireless capabilities so that it can then actually support & serve all of those Guests who'll now be trying to make dinner reservations & book Fast Passes through their iPhones and Droids) ... Well, spread over four theme parks and 20+ onsite hotels, that'll easily be another billion right there.

Which brings us to the real issue here. A concept that some  Disney fanbois seem to have real trouble grasping:  The Walt Disney World Resort isn't the Disneyland Resort.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

By that I mean: When you pour a billion dollars into the 510 acres that make up the Disneyland Resort, you can immediately see where most of that money went. The changes that have been made to the Disneyland Hotel, not to mention DCA's two new "lands" and all of the other rides, shows & attractions that have been added to that theme park since its redo was initially announced back in 2007 have been dramatic.

Conversely when you take a billion dollars and then try & spread that across the 30,500 acres that make up the Walt Disney World Resort, that seemingly huge amount of amount doesn't travel quite so far and/or have as nearly huge an impact. At first glance, anyway

That doesn't negate the fact that Disney has in fact been aggressively reinvesting in WDW over the past 3-to-5 years. But when you compare road widening along Buena Vista Drive to -- say -- Disney California Adventure getting Cars Land and/or Universal Orlando building the Wizarding World of Harry Potter ... Spending money on improving resort infrastructure (which is absolutely essential. Given the tens of thousands of people who travel those roads every day) isn't quite as sexy or exciting as building another Radiator Springs Racers and/or coming up with an attraction that can possibly rival Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and copy-
written by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter publishing rights copy-
wright JKR. Copyright 2010 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved

But to certain Disney fanbois, none of this sort of reinvestment ever really matters. They just laser focus in on the chipped paint and/or continue to moan about how the Disneyland Resort gets all of the cool stuff, even though there's still $300 - $400 million worth of new rides, shows and attractions about to be unveiled at the Magic Kingdom. If you listen to these folks, the Fantasyland expansion (which none of us have actually experienced yet) is already in the rear view mirror. These people (if you sample various discussion boards around the Web) are already bitching about the budget cuts that have reportedly been made to WDW's version of Radiator Springs Racers which is reportedly in the works for Disney's Hollywood Studios. Or they're chortling about how James Cameron and the Imagineers now appear to be having creative differences when it comes to the "World of Avatar" project.

My advice is just ignore people like this. If Walt Disney Parks and Resorts only built E Tickets in Orlando from here on in, these very same fanbois would still somehow find something else to complain about. That's just the way that they're wired.  These people can't help themselves. All they can ever see (and all they're ever going to see) are Disney's supposed shortcomings.

More to the point, when you're talking about a 30,500-acre piece of property, you really have to take that 30,000-foot view. Take in the property as a whole. And from that height / with that perspective, Brian K., you'll then clearly be able to see that Disney has been pouring a ton of money into WDW over the past 3-to-5 years. But that amount has been spread out over 43 square-miles. Not focused in on two relatively tiny little areas like the Disneyland Hotel and the Disney California Adventure theme park.

The new monorail-themed water slide which was just added to the pool area at the
Disneyland Hotel.  Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Don't get me wrong. Would I love to see some major new attraction being added to Disney's Hollywood Studios in the not-so-distant future? Absolutely. But having said that, I also have to acknowledge that -- just last year -- DHS did, in essence, get a brand-new ride with the arrival of "Star Tours: The Adventures Continues" and the new multi-branching version of that simulator's ride film.

Does saying / writing something like this make me a Disney apologist? Nah. I prefer to think of myself as a Disney realist. Someone who realizes that The Walt Disney Company is now a publicly held, multi-national corporation with a board of directors who then have to answer to the Company's shareholders  and  the investment community. I mean, Disney just isn't the same Company that it was back in the early 1960s when Walt was calling the shots. When it was only one man's taste, interests & fascinations that determined which films Walt Disney Studios made and/or which rides, shows and attraction were added / subtracted at his theme park.

That said, I still have to admit that I can't quite understand why the folks running Downtown Disney felt it was so urgent to gut Pleasure Island back in September of 2008 and have since done nothing with that piece of property. I mean, I know. The Global Financial Meltdown scared away a lot of the would-be lessees who were supposed to come on board as part of the Hyperion Wharf redo ... But that was four years ago now. Even taking into account the somewhat tentative nature of the U.S. 's financial recovery (More importantly, given how the spending patterns of Guests who visit Disney World these days have changed. These people just aren't buying plush and  pins the way that they used to back in 2006 & 2007) it just seems bizarre to me that so many of the shops & restaurants that used to do a halfway decent business in & around Pleasure Island have since been boarded up and/or torn down.

Hyperion Wharf concept art which gives some indication of how this Downtown Disney
redo was at least supposed to fit in with the West Side of this shopping / dining
complex. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I mean, if you take into consideration the primo location that the now-basically abandoned Pleasure Island complex occupies at Downtown Disney (i.e. between the West Side and the original WDW Shopping Village), it's like having a smile where the front teeth have been knocked out. The folks running the Walt Disney World Resort really need to address this issue.

Which I suspect they already know. But when you're managing a 30,500 acre parcel of land which -- just last year -- was reportedly visited by over 25 million people ... Well, you're always going to have one hell of a "To Do" list. And -- yes -- I will admit that it is high profile, big ticket attractions like "Expedition Everest" which drive attendance at the theme parks & put heads-in-beds at the Resorts. But as the balky Yeti AA figure in that DAK attraction has proven, you can't stint on back-of-the-house stuff like maintenance. Especially during this social media-driven age where bad news travels at light speed.

Sorry, Brian K. But what started out as a short answer to your Why For question somehow morphed into this lengthy lecture about Walt Disney World. To be specific, how a certain segment of the Disney fan community just can't seem to see that the Company has continually been pouring huge amounts of money into maintaining, upgrading and improving the Florida property. Given the blinders that these guys wear, if the Mouse isn't spending money on mega-attractions for the Parks like Radiator Springs Racers, it doesn't count for some reason. Which (to my way of thinking, anyway) is silly.

Discovery River, Disney's Animal Kingdom's somewhat over-grown
central waterway. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Anywho ... To answer at least one of your questions, Brian K: Don't look for a version of DCA's World of Color to be built in Disney's Animal Kingdom's Discovery River area anytime soon. In order to keep the illuminated thousand fountains that actually drive this nighttime show working properly, they need to be placed inside of a closed water system that's regularly / heavily filtered. And given that DAK's Discovery River is supposed to resemble a natural body of water which is somehow winding its way in and around that theme park ... Well, those really-for-real lily pads that you see floating in the image above are an essential part of pulling off this thematic illusion. And since all this floating flora would obviously regularly clog up the high pressure nozzles which are used for dramatic effect in World of Color ...

You get the idea, right?  It's kind of an either / or proposition. If DAK wants to bring in World of Color, it needs to change Discovery River into a closed-off, highly filtered body of water like DCA's Paradise Bay. Which means that you then lose all of the weeds & grass lining its shoreline. Which help make Discovery River look like this living thing, when then helps to re-enforce the overall theme of this theme park (i.e. that Disney's Animal Kingdom is a place that celebrates all animals. Living, extinct and imaginary).

So -- knowing that -- I can't honestly see World of Color ever being built in DAK's Discovery River area. But that said, that doesn't mean that we won't then be seeing this DCA show (or -- to be specific -- some of the technology & effects used to power this nighttime extravaganza) being folded in to new & improved editions of DHS's Fantasmic! and/or Epcot's Illuminations.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm sorry if yesterday's article about Sony Pictures Animation's 10th anniversary threw off the momentum of JHM's week-long experiment with doing a daily Why For column. But I wanted to make sure that JHM's Southern Californian readers got a shot at those tickets for next week's "Surf's Up" screening on SPA's Culver City campus. Which is why I thought it was essential to first get an article out there that talked up this event before I then began JHM's ticket giveaway.

I'm now going to push ahead with production of two more Why For columns to round out the week. So if you have any Disney, animation or theme park-related questions that you'd like to see answered in a story which will be posted on this site, please send them along to [email protected]

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  • Shame on you Jim for defending the absolutely deplorable way TDO has managed WDW this past decade. I am truly disgusted with today's article.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Seriously? The word you use is "disgusted" ? So the $300 - $400 million being spent on the Fantasyland expansion doesn't matter to you? Likewise the $100 million plus used to turn the long-abandoned Legendary Years wing of Disney's Pop Century into the most Disney-centric resort on property, Disney's Art of Animation Resort.

    This is why I often find it impossible to talk with fanbois when it comes to the Disney theme parks. Their views are so extreme. They can't seem to grasp that every ride can't be Space Mountain, that every hotel can't be the Grand Flo. The concept that the Walt Disney World Resort is intended to appeal to a genuinely wide variety of Guests with different tastes and standards is completely foreign to these folks. All they want is ... Well, what they already known. Pirates & Haunted Mansion. The sort of highly themed rides that were built back in the mid-to-late 1960s.

    You do understand that that was almost 50 years ago now? And that tastes have changed.

    More to the point, I just don't understand the fanbois community need to turn every executive who works in the Team Disney Orlando building into some comic book villain. As if these people sit at their desks all day, laughing manically as they rub their hands together, looking for ever more ways to cheap out when it comes to new attractions and resorts.

    You do understand that that's not how it works? That -- while The Walt Disney Company is a business -- there are people who work in TDO who understand WDW's heritage when it comes to delivering a quality Guest experience and do everything that they can to protect & preserve the Resort's reputation?

    But having an actual adult conversation about this issue, trying to be thoughtful and reasonable when it comes to this sort of discussion, that isn't nearly as much fun as -- say -- "Shame on you" to me, calling today's article "deplorable" and/or insinuating that everyone who works at TDO is either a greedy bastard or a moron, now is it?

  • Jim - thanks for sharing this. Sometimes I get angry and disillusioned when reading some fan boards and websites. Your point about the size of WDW vs. the size of DL is a telling one - what people tend to forget is that WDW is bigger than Manhattan. Trust me, when our mayor spends millions on road improvements or infrastructure, we never notice it.

    Do I have some gripes? Yes. For example, I would've rather seen a new attraction at Studios rather than American Idol. With that being said, I still see the great value in a Disney vacation.

    One more note - a lot of people focus on 2008 - 2012. Let us remember that we are dealing with the BIGGEST depression/recession in this country since WDW opened. The fact that we are getting the expansion of Fantasyland - a huge expense and a great addition - is a testament to how much WDW means to TWDC.

  • Jim, this article is apologist hogwash.  

    According to your own metrics, aren’t infrastructure improvements really just a form of maintenance?  A necessary cost of doing business at a place where a hot dog costs $9, and we pay it gladly because we all understand the enormous cost of keeping the machine running.  

    So you are saying we fans, the ones that go every year… or every couple of years to drop a couple thousand dollars at the theme parks, should be happy with them dumping tons of money into a behind the scenes technology upgrade, road widening, and small experiences such as games into the parks?  Meanwhile the competition, including Disney’s other parks, get noticeable additions such as a massive Cars Land (3 attractions), World of Color, Buena Vista Street, Transformers, the Wizarding World, Antartica, and Despicable Me.  

    Yes I am ecstatic to have them, but Little Mermaid and Toy Story were designed for California Adventure.  Star Tours replaced a very aging attraction.  

    You said it yourself that headliner attractions are the thing that drives attendance.  Next Gen is mostly a data mining project that while it may improve the guest experience, it is designed to more efficiently separate us from our money.  It is not a reason to visit Walt Disney World, and that is what people are upset about.  I think the more the realistic point of view is that the experience at Disney World is largely the same as it was 15 years ago.  There have been tons of small additions, but we expect that from the most visited, and most expensive theme park complex on earth.  The small differences… remember the Disney difference?  

    As for the resort construction, yes it is nice to have a new $300+ a night resort, but people come for the theme parks, not the resorts themselves.  The theme parks need compelling new additions to drive attendance and return visits.  No one is scheduling a vacation around Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure except the super hard core fans absolutely starved for new additions.  

    You call us fans unrealistic, but one has to realize that some of the discontent is warranted.  We haven’t seen a compelling addition to the parks in a long long time.  Disney absolutely use to be the bleeding edge in experiential design, and they have proven they can still do it with Cars Land.  The last real headliner, oh my god I have to ride that attraction… Expedition Everest in 2006.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: You bring up some very valid points here. That said, you still artfully step around any mention of the Fantasyland expansion at WDW's Magic Kingdom. Which is a brand-new, highly themed, hoping-to-be deeply immersive area like Cars Land.

    Look, I can understand your frustration. Disney fans point to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and say "Why can't Disney build something to top that?" But Universal Orlando is only 800 acres, two theme parks, three hotels, two parking garages, one nighttime entertainment district. Whereas Walt Disney World is (and forgive me for beating a dead horse here) is 30,500 acres, four theme parks, 20+ hotels ...

    And then when you factor in that The Walt Disney Company is maintaining an area that's twice the size of Manhattan, there's a lot of money being poured in back-of-the-house stuff that the Disney fans never ever see.

    Look, I know. Disney fans always point to EPCOT and say "Why can't we have another theme park like that?" Completely overlooking the fact that the only reason that Michael Eisner become CEO of The Walt Disney Company back in September of 1984 was because Disney went way overbudget on the construction of EPCOT Center. And when WDW's second gate failed to meet Wall Street's attendance expectations / financial projections, the Company's stock price tanked. Which then left Disney vulnerable to greenmailers like Saul Steinberg.

    Never mind the fact that -- when Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in May of 1998 -- attendance levels dropped at Disney-MGM Studios as well as Epcot. Which suggested that TDO then had to take a far more nuanced approach toward expansion of the WDW Resort.

    Look, long story short here: Walt Disney World is a very complex organism with lots of moving parts. More to the point, The Walt Disney Company -- because it's a publicly held company -- has to respond to forces in the marketplace. Which is why (for example) the Legendary Years wing of Disney's Pop Century was never completed. 9/11 happen and attendance / occupancy levels suddenly tanked. Which is why WDW didn't need an additional 2880 rooms added in its on-property-room inventory. So even though construction was already underway on that wing, Phase Two of the Pop Century project was immediately tabled.

    Speaking of which ... Did you know that Disney's Art of Animation Resort was originally supposed to be announced in the Fall of 2008 but wound up back on the drawing board thanks to the Global Financial Collapse?

    Anyway, I've enjoyed chatting with you, Joe R. Though we seem to be looking at the issue from different sides of the same fence, you still bring an informed & intelligent point-of-view to the discussion. And I'd enjoy talking with you again when it comes to the way the Mouse runs its WDW Resort. So don't be a stranger, okay?

  • I always find it funny that people do nothing but piss and moan about WDW.  I love going, can't wait to go again and not once have I let a piece of chipped off paint ruin my week.  I get scared every time i see the Yeti, that thing is huge.  Sure it could do more and yes I would love to see more and more added to the parks.  But for crying out loud either enjoy it or go somewhere else.  The day I stop enjoying it and see things like a piece of gum on the ground and complain on the internet is the day I punch myself in the face.

  • I enjoyed reading this Jim!

    I lurk in some of the types of forums you mention. I am baffled by unrealistic expectations some have. I am sure if some how Walt himself was still alive, even he would disappoint them.

  • While I can appreciate the amount spent for expansion at WDW, I am disappointed with how the Fantasyland expansion was handled. You cited up to $400 was spent on new rides, shows, and attractions. It seems like the ride portion was shortchanged. They decided to rid itself of the classic slow dark rides. Instead of replacing them with new versions like what Disneyland did a few decades ago, they just dumped them. Mr. Toads and Snow White are gone. Alice In Wonderland never made it there. The Mine roller coaster is not a similar replacement for Snow White.

    You said " when you're managing a 30,500 acre parcel of land". Certainly, this is a big plot of land, so they need to fill the space.

    This brings us to the Pleasure Island. Dumping things and not having an adequate replacement is a problem as well as the problem of not filling the space when they should.  Cars Land will suck if Radiator Springs Racers doesn't have the majestic mountain range and the full town experience. It's bad enough that WDW has the mini-Pirates ride. Since the pretense is a studios park, I would not be surprised if they install a fake painted mountain range for Radiator Springs Racers along with a half scale town as facades.

    Perhaps if they will stop closing things and try harder to add new attractions and renovating existing attractions, the result will seem much more bigger and better.

  • Remember, a larger parcel of land with more hotels, restaurants, etc. to maintain also means more revenue from those hotels, restaurants, etc. Disneyland might cost less to maintain due to its size, but it also generates less revenue because of that size.

    Are you willing to say that the total investment in Walt Disney World over the last five years proportionately matches the investment in Disneyland based upon the respective profits of each coast?

    New Fantasyland, Test Track, and other additions to Walt Disney World look great, but I think you're reducing the very discussion you're suggesting to fans is more complicated than it appears at face value to its simplest terms. That said, I still agree with a lot of what you're saying, I just think while you're engaging in a discussion about differences in maintenance costs between DLR and WDW due to size, you're overlooking an equally important difference: revenue generated thanks to size.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: RE: "Are you willing to say that the total investment in Walt Disney World over the last five years proportionately matches the investment in Disneyland based upon the respective profits of each coast?"

    Isn't that kind of an apples & oranges comparison? By that I mean: The Walt Disney Company HAD TO aggressively reinvest in Disney California Adventure. The Southern California locals had sampled Disneyland's second gate over the first six years that DCA was open and found the place wanting. In order to turn that theme park around, turn it into a place that people who live within 100 miles of Anaheim (And let's remember that that's the population base which the Disneyland Resort draws 65% of its daily visitors from), Bob Iger & Co. really had no choice but to spend that money. Throw $1.1 billion at Disney California Adventure, folding in an assortment of top shelf rides, shows and attractions in there. With the hope that would then be enough to make a significant portion of the Southern Californian population give DCA another try. And in this specific case, that strategy worked.

    Now counter that with Walt Disney World. Which operates off of a very different business plan. They're not trying to find ways to lure Southern Californians back to Disneyland Park or DCA every six months for a single day visit. WDW's goal is to get people every 3 3/4 years to set aside the money for plane tickets & hotel rooms & theme park admission tickets for their entire family for a 5 day stay on property / near property.

    That's a very different business model, Tom. One that can take severe hits from outside events that are completely out of The Walt Disney Company's control (i.e. 911, the 2008 financial meltdown). Which is why you've seen the Mouse move aggressively into areas like DVC.

    That's (again) why it kind of makes me crazy to see the fanbois focus on a single metric of success when it comes to the Disney theme parks. Which is E Tickets. Unless Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is building attractions on a par with Pirates or Mansion, then why bother. Everything else (like the Next Gen Princess meet-n-greets that are now in the works for Disneyland Park and WDW's Magic Kingdom) has no worth to guys like this. Which is why they're already so dismissive of things like the Fantasyland expansion, a set of new rides, shows and attractions that none of us have experienced yet.

    I'm sorry if today's story offended you, Tom. But after spending this past week being bombarded with e-mails from fanbois who were desperate for any scrap of news that might confirm that James Cameron's World of Avatar has indeed being cancelled (FYI: I'm not convinced that the project is actually cancelled. I have the uneasy feeling that IGN's unnamed source for their "James Cameron and WDI are having creative differences" is that Unofficial Guide Disney Dish podcast that I recently did with Len Testa about Disney's Hollywood Studios. Where I told Len that the Imagineers and Cameron were having some back-and-forth on the type of ride system -- more importantly, the hourly capacity -- of Pandora's main attraction), I'd kind of had my fill of their excessively negative take on Walt Disney World. So when Brian K.'s e-mail showed up in my Why For e-mail in-box, I ran with it.

    Thanks for sending your note along tonight, though. It was fun doing the back-and-forth thing with you about the Disney Parks. We'll have to do this again sometime.

  • You try and make an argument that people shouldn't be complaining about Disney supposedly investing less into Disney World than in Disneyland, but you leave out a very important factor. You state that Disney is investing just as much into Disney World as Disneyland, but it's just more difficult to notice because every dollar is stretched over a significantly larger area. But that's the thing: Disney World is much, much larger, so that's why Disney should be investing more money into it than Disneyland. A dollar that could go a long way in California gets watered down when spent in Florida, but that's all the more reason to put up more money towards maintaining the same level of quality as on the west coast. There are 2 more parks, 15 more resort hotels (not even counting DVC properties), and a more expansive shopping & entertainment district on the east. It only makes sense that Disney shouldn't spend the same amount of money as in Disneyland to keep a far larger lineup of attractions and amenities. And if they do, then the quality concerns of Disney World guests and fans that you're telling to "stop complaining" will actually be entirely justified.

  • Hey Jim, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this article. For once, there was a non-fanboi, very realistic look at the WDW property. One of my biggest erks is reading over a discussion forum only to find that every other post is a complaint about how something minor is proving that TDO sucks and is pissing on their guests. On a side note, I am a huge listener of the WDW Fan Boys podcast and absolutely love when you are a guest of the show. Keep up the great work Jim!

  • I agree and disagree.  Disney has certainly spent money equally between the two resorts, more or less. The issue I have is WHAT they are spending the money on. Down in Florida the competition has ramped up significantly. Disney never really answered the smackdown the Spider-Man ride put on them. Now Universal has a amazing Harry Potter land, and are expanding that, working on the Transformers attraction and lots more. And Disney responds with New Fantasyland? Now, from all the pics I've seen, it is beautiful. I can't wait to walk through it. But, what are we getting? A restaurant that will probably be really expensive, A neat looking story experience that won't interest boys and will probably not be repeatable, a clone of the Little Mermaid, which while nice, is not going to drive attendance, and a small family roller coaster, that looks like it will be a winner but, again., no E ticket. For me...I almost couldn't care less about the expansion. Why in the world they didn't choose to build something to silence all the amazing stuff Universal's putting out bewilders me. Carsland looks amazing, but again, I want to look at it, but I'm not sure I'll want to ride anything there more than once. Now when it comes to resort expansion when it comes to the hotels, WDW wins hands down. I never want to stay anywhere else. The new Art of Animation resort looks amazing. But when it comes to attractions, Disney may be spending a ton of money on both coasts, but are they spending it wisely? Next time I'm in Orlando, I'm going to be carving out more days for Universal, because they've built far more new and exciting rides that are MUST-DOs. If it were up to me, each coast would be forced not to clone anything again. One of the biggest issues I had with DCA was that it was made up of too many WDW clones and rides I could ride anywhere.

    To attend to another post, I am shocked that someone would actually be disgusted by your article. I found it very informative and led me to make my own point because I could see that there WAS a lot of spending happening that will benefit the resort.  I just don't agree with how it's been spent.  I always enjoy your column whether I agree or not. It's always well researched and thought provoking. And it's far more interesting to read something that I don't know about than to read my own thoughts spit out by someone else. So thank you Jim.

  • Great article ....growing up 10 minutes from WDW  ...From being at the MK opening ceremony (age 9 I am now 50).. I truly grew up at these parks later taking my kids to the parks on the weekends and some day will take my grandkids  ....It really bothers me that the Disney fanbois community is so negative about WDW.... I prefer to look at these as beautiful parks with great entertainment and rides. When I was a kid just being at the MK was fun ....and this is before many of the E tickets (The three mountains) were built. One of there biggest gripes seems to be about Meet & Greets instead of a dark ride. Some of the best days with my kids were days we would buy a autograph books and just find as many characters as we could and take great photos and I remember those days more than riding rides. My daughter never rode the coasters or any extreme rides and Disney was much more her cup of tea than Universal mainly due to great family shows... great shops and just a nice park. Her thrill was seeing the bunny rabbits next to the castle ....buying a cool pin ....getting her pic with a character ....not all people are about new E ticket rides. The new Fantasyland will be an amazing place just to walk around and experience ...yet on the fan boards these guys just complain and are never satisfied .....I may have a different view as I have always been able to go to the parks at a moments notice and get to see the parks in a non crowded view (being local we know when to go)as the average tourist may only see the parks very busy and crowded ....i guess what I'm saying is these are wonderful and beautiful parks first and entertainment centers(rides)second for me ....My only issue is with merchandise. The generic merchandise makes me sad ... I miss the stores on Main Street (Magic Shop)and Frontierland (Hat Shop)or the arcade in Adventureland  that we had in the 70's .... The merchandise feels to corporate now. As a kid i would get a haircut at the barbershop on main street ...I miss that version of the M ....thanx again for a great article defending the parks i truly love!!!!

  • First I would like to suggest that the money being spent on roads and infrastructure is not being spent by Parks and Resorts. It is not money spent in the parks. It is paid for by the city, Reedy Creek Improvement District, which is owned by Disney. I would not say that counts as park money.  

    The Fantasyland Expansion, although being beautifully designed and propped, holds little in terms of attractions for adult guest without children. Although I might ride Dumbo once in a while. I won't be sitting in the interactive play area ever. I will not be playing in Splash and Soak area. I probably won't be hanging around Petes Silly Sideshow. Big Top Souvenirs I might breeze through. Story Time with Belle I will check out but most likely won't do again because I won't have the desire to see stranger's kids act out the same play more than once. I will eat at the new restaurant, mostly because I want to try out items on the menu that most Disney guests can't pronounce. I'm sure the menu will change fairly quickly. I will go on Little Mermaid and enjoy it for the D ticket it is. I will look forward to Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster even though it's rumored to be a step above Barnstormer.

    So my point is that out of that $400,000,000 spent, very little is intended for adults without children. I can see the mom's with pitchforks marching toward me now chanting "You may not like it but my child will!" Yes but your child didn't pay for my tickets, resort, food, airfare, etc. I did and I want some value in the money TDO is dumping into the parks also.

    Am I happy about Fantasyland expansion? Yes. Do I think there is much for me in that huge budget? No.

    Art of Animation is 75% targeted to families with children.

    Grand Floridian DVC is ...DVC. Timeshare does not enhance my park experience.

    Golden Oak? Although I wish I had millions of dollars to buy in, I don't. Yet. There's still hope. I can dream a Disney dream! Cue pixie dust.

    Sorcerers is for children IMO. Sure some adults are into collecting the cards and this sort of attraction excites them.

    Agent P I havent tried. Kim Possible seemed too kiddy themed. This does too.

    Fast Pass Plus. No one knows if this will be a hit or not with guests yet. Too early.

    To sum up. I think a lot of people like myself, an adult without children, feel like money is being spent but not on things we can enjoy in the parks. And yes this is exclusive to WDW.

    Anaheim has Carsland. All ages are excited about it and both male and female. Same with Hong Kong and Mystic Manor and Grizzly Gulch.

    Only in WDW does it feel like money is being spent to lure families with young girls. The focus needs to be more all inclusive. Age and gender.

  • Right on, Jim.

  • Do you realize that "fanboi" is a derogatory word used to describe those who think Disney can do no wrong?

  • Jim,

    The digust comes mostly because I have been readng your site for years and I know you know better than the PR spew that was this article. I certainly wouldnt label myself a fanboy either, I happen to work daily out of the center of the Walt Disney World Resort and have so for the last eight years. I wouldnt have sought a career with them if I wasnt passionate about what they do, and I certainly wouldnt be in the position I am now had I continued to drink the Kool-Aid. As it were I now partner with higher ups from both TDO and UNI and I can easily and accurately tell you that there is a complete difference in how they are running their resorts.

    You bring up points in your article that we should all applaud TDO for Art of Animation and Golden Oak, but excuse me, Art of Animation should have been completed nearly ten years ago as the second phase of POP and was left to rot in full sight of the guests for nearly a decade. Had the demand for family suites not arose it would still be that way today. Did it turn out niceley, absolutely but its nothing to sing and dance about. Golden Oak??? really this was a cash grab that hasnt worked out nearly as well as they planned. First the closed Eagle Pines which was arguably the nicest of the Disney Golf Courses and then they de-annexed the property so its not actually part of Disney World and are now having a third party contracter build million dollar homes on land that used to be accessable for guests.

    Moving on you mention all the work on DVC's and while yes its true that significant investment has been made for this division one could argue that its completely ruining the Deluxe Resorts that they are leeching them onto. Poly is next and god help us all if the Epcot World Showcase Villas actually see the light of day. The division makes a lot of money but it will continue to create a problem down the road if proper investment is not made in the parks. And that is really what it is all about "THE PARKS"

    People do not travel to Walt Disney World for the resorts, they come for the parks and they have been almost stagnant for the last decade. The reason there is growing dissent amongst Disney fans is that its gotten so bad that the common guest is starting to take notice. Not everyone woke up one day and decided to be a doom and gloomer, this has been a festering problem that has only grown and Disney itself is now feeding that beast. Press event to announce additional capacities in Fantasmic arent going to cut it anymore.

    We all know WDW is a huge operation with a large amount of infastructure, but lets be honest its not much bigger now than it was in the late 1990's and fact of the matter is that they kept it up better back then and invested more in the parks as well. New Fantasyland is going to be very nice and a much needed investment however we both know that it wasnt a project championed by TDO. In fact I had drinks with one of the project supervisors on New Fantasyland just last week and she couldnt stop going on at how the MK leaders are already complaining loudly at what the high cost are going to be to keep up many of the new plusses that have been installed all over the expansion.

    Burbank has let TDO run the big ship that is Walt Disney World with little to know input since the early 2000's and that has finally gotton us to where we are today. A still closed PI, multiple attraction in dire need of rehab, resorts that need rehab, and outsourcing throughout the entire complex. WDW is broken and its dire need of someone to step in and start turning things around. The worst part is the managers I work with are fully oblvious to any of this and cannot understand why more than half of my clients now choose UNI over them for our line of business.

    I hope it gets better, I actually pray it does, but with Transformers coming next year, followed by the new family IOA attraction and then WWOHP part duex in late 2015 my guess is they will lose some more market share before things start to turn around. Jim I know you travel to all the parks across the globe as I do as well and I know with you love for Disney that you notice a differnece in the other resorts and ours. We may disagree on some things, but we should at least be able to agree that things need to change for the better.

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