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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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  • Hey Jim, Why not pop over to WDWMagic and have a "Spirited" discussion about this article?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry, but no, Unkadug. From what I saw earlier this evening, they've already boiling the tar & plucking the feathers for me over at WDWMagic.

    Someday I might be willing to come on by and then try to have an adult conversation with the folks there about this rather complex issue. But given that I've already been called fat, pathetic, an online whore and a sell-out by WDW1974 at that site ... Well, what's the point of going on over to the WDWMagic discussion boards when I'd then just be forced to get down in the mud with someone like that? A person who seems to take such obvious pleasure in smearing other people's reputation but then isn't brave enough to actually back up what he says/writes by posting any of those deliberately inflammatory comments under his real name?

    More to the point, I have a rather complex history when it comes to WDWMagic. You see, JHM used to have this webmaster, Cory Mitchell, who delighted in regularly going over to that website and then deliberately stirring up trouble. Cory would go out of his way to piss off the people who posted on the WDWMagic discussion boards, all the while talking up the fact that he was JHM's webmaster.

    Mind you, I didn't condone or encourage Mr. Mitchell's bad behavior. But I have certainly paid for it on WDWMagic's discussion boards ever since then. So even though Cory hasn't worked for JHM for over eight years now, there are still people who post at that website who even today hold a grudge when it comes to myself or JimHillMedia. Which is why -- on WDWMagic -- I have been accused of everything short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

    Look. I get it. When you run a website, that then makes you a public figure. Which means that you have to develop a very thick skin. Which is why you then have to learn to let insults slide off your back.

    But on the other hand, just because you run a website doesn't mean that you then have an obligation to deliberately put yourself in harm's way. Enter into situations where you know that people -- particularly posters who won't ever use their real names -- are then going to go out of their way to  attack & insult you.

    Unkadug, it's not like I have to have my butt kissed / have to be promised to be treated with kid gloves before I'll then agree to go on someone else's website or take part in someone else's podcast. Just ask the WDWFanboys. I'm on their podcast every couple of months. And I can promise you that Brett, Tim and Paul never treat me with anything even approaching respect. That's honestly half the fun of going on their podcast. The challenging questions they toss my ways, the way that the WDWFanboys will deliberately cut me off in mid-sentence if they think my answer is getting too long or is just too boring.

    But honestly, life is just too short to deal with people like WDW1974. Who -- while they may offer great insights / have terrific inside information about the way The Walt Disney Company actually operates -- use the anonymity of the Web as an excuse to personally attack those that they don't know & have never met with an excessive amount of venom.

    So if you want to put WDW1974 on a short leash and/or insist that this guy start posting all of his over-the-top, unnecessarily nasty comments about me & the stuff that I write under his real name ... THEN I might consider coming on by WDWMagic's discussion boards and having a chat with all of the nice  folks over there. But given how WDW1974 seems to bully & bait all those who dare to disagree with him ... Somehow I just don't see that happening anytime soon.

    Thanks for the invite, though ...

  • This is why Disney should be scared:

    I was an annual passholder at WDW for about a year when I lived in Miami, and have been to the resort dozens of times outside of that.  Mostly, I go to Disneyland.  NEVER have I visited Islands of Adventure as I figured Universal just does everything poorly, (having visited Universal Studios Florida *once*).  My next visit, I plan to go primarily for Potterland, Disney will be lucky that I will almost assuredly stay on the property.

    I really didn’t enjoy Mermaid in DCA (don’t care what the price tag was, the ride is very cheap-o looking), do love Carsland, and am happy that at least FLE will have Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, and quite possibly Be Our Guest restaurant will be good, but I thank Potterland for ALL of these improvements.  

    It is great WDW is maintaining their property, but they do have more hotels than in Disneyland Resort, and these hotels generate the money needed for road improvements.  For 99% of fans, what matters is the rides/attractions we can see, Universal has to maintain their property too, but they also built Potterland.  I’m a moderate Harry Potter fan, and I don’t think Disney will ever top this, at least not with what they are doing.  Iger made a big mistake as if WDW had Potterland . . . forget about it, WDW would have been golden for half a century.

    For the first time, coming ‘home’ to Orlando for me will be drinking a glass of butterbeer in Potterland, instead of riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  I don’t get a toasty feeling when MK doesn’t even bother to do the Christmas overlay for Country Bears.

  • Is it wrong that I found Jim's comments about our show amusing?



    EDITOR'S NOTE: But it's true. Half the reason that I really like appearing on your podcast is that I get roughed up a bit over there. Paul & Brett talk over me. I get treated with little or no respect. Which -- come to think of is -- is how my 18 year-old daughter treats me these days.

    Speaking of which, I gotta go do my nightly talk with Alice. So let me jump out of here. It's good to talk with you again, Tim. And I look forward to doing that live call-in version of WDWFanBoys. Where (I assume) I'll now get treated with even less respect.

  • I really think you need to reign in the vastness of WDW as a reason to say the dollar just doesn't go as far. If you look at the Master Plan maps there is a big percentage of the plot that isn't suitable for ANY development b/c of the ground to built upon can't support even minimal infrastructure. It doesn't cost anything to maintain scrub pine and cow pasture.

    While the Walt quote of having all the room we need to grow sounds great actual usable property wasn't as much as had been anticipated. MP projects only 1 more park and 2 mini-parks can be supported. Look at the property they have given a kick-start and sold off: Celebration, Shades of Green (leased), Flamingo Crossing, Crossroads Market Place, and Golden Oaks.

  • Wow, Jim, this was a lot of bs. You fail to acknowledge that Disney is treating this resort like one park. The fact it has thousends of hotels, restaurants and shops that bring in a lot of money doesn't justify the lak of expansion or updating a lot of their parks. Espacialy when the other Florida park surpass Disney by theming, attractions, shows and fun.

  • Hi Jim,

    Usually I don't respond to the blogs, just enjoy reading and gathering information. I don't understand how you have struck a cord with Disney fans and I do not understand what the issue is here.

    If any one has worked in a corporate setting, they would know what it takes to make major investments in a company. It takes loads of cash for infrastructure, capital, resources, etc. and more cash to maintain that infrastructure in an on-going basis.

    Has anyone even looked at the financials of Disney? Most of the revenue comes from Media, not the parks and the parks expenses are 2.3 BILLION for the last nine months. That is the cost of maintaining, expanding and general infrastructure buildout.

    WDW is an established park/resort and it will be this way for the foreseeable future. MK is #1 in WORLD attendance. They must be doing something right. Universal FL is #15, less than half of the attendance. #2 is DL. For Disney to spend as much as it did in DCA was a necessity to drive more attendance, it was not hitting the expected numbers. Universal needs to create more and more "high" profile rides, they have the capacity and do not have worry about removing rides/attractions. Universal is in the "Big Bang" phase of investment, but this will slow down as well, unrealistic to think any company can continue to spend at that level and produce new rides every other year. Universal is good for WDW, conpetition will keep driving innovation.

    To keep attendance up at any established park, newer resorts are required. These do peak the interests of vacationers. Look at Las Vagas as an example, new casinos are not built, new hotels/resorts with casinos in them are built.

    While it would be nice to create a #1 excitement ride every year for WDW, it isn't feasible. There are other investments that need to be made, ie China, widdening of the roads, building Japan back up after the earthquake/tsunami. WDW has had its share of investment and will continue. Just not every dollar will be spent on "E Ticket" rides.

    As a consumer, we all have the ability to determine what a company does by where we spend our money. If we do not like a particular product or service, go elsewhere and if the company wants that revenue back, they will change. if they don't, then they resign themselves to falling/stagnant revenues and have to report to the investors/BOD why.

    my 3 cents :)

  • Jim,

    You're right.  This is an extremely complex issue, and any discussion on it ends up leaving out important points to either side of the debate.

    Logically, you are absolutely correct, and there can be no debate, that the amount of money WDW is spending on the Fantasyland expansion, FastPass Plus, etc, etc. is at least equal to what DL/DCA spent.

    While there is a large amount of dissatisfaction in exactly where and how the money is being spent on the resort, I think the biggest problem for fans is emotional.  But the dollar signs are the only way to quantify it.

    As an example, look at the two Finding Nemo rides.  Epcot's ride is nice, and John Lassetter came to town a few times to check out the progress and make a few tweaks.  The Disneyland ride has generally been acknowledged to be better, and John Lassetter was a constant presence, consistently plussing the attraction.

    Another example would be the basic maintenance, like the chipped paint.  Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it's a minor point.  But for years it was a near rallying cry when speaking about the T. Irby era of maintenance.  

    The last five years have been littered with stories regarding Disneyland's resurgence, the care being heaped on the park, fixing the minor problems that people don't realize they notice, but caused a negative attitude, such as the chipped paint.  It was indicative of the attention being paid to the park.  

    In Orlando, though, where attraction budgets are routinely cut, attractions shuttered as "Seasonal" and/or ripped out, Mainstreet near destroyed just to make a larger shop...we still have chipped paint.  DL had chipped paint when DCA was built, look how that turned out.

    As a Disney fan, it's great to see Anaheim's restoration!  I'm loving every minute of the care being put into the parks there.  I'm thrilled that high level executives are there on a fairly consistent basis, some getting knee deep in the process.

    As a Floridian looking at Orlando, I don't see John Lassetter taking an interest in us, but I do see chipped paint.  We all know the attitude that allows that to happen.

  • Jim,

    I am a frequent visitor of your site and listen to your podcasts and guest appearances with great interest.

    However, I do not know how you can't expect this article to come off as anything but disingenuous or "towing the party line" at best.  I find it extremely hard to believe that you actually think the money spent at Walt Disney World in the past 2-4 years adds any "real" value to the guest experience.  The goal for Walt Disney World is very simple ... get guests to come.  So what have they added to get guests to come?

    I am not a "fanboi" because that would require me to agree with your article 100% and bend over and ask for more from Team Disney Orlando who seem more interested in padding their inflated bonuses than by enhancing guest experiences unless they are forced to at gun point and even then they sit on their hands until they hear a bullet in the chamber.  

    Fanbois are defined, and I am paraphrasing, as those who unconditionally love, who support without thought, and who defend without logic.  (Ex: Lou Mongello is a fanboi.)  The people who care/love enough to say, "hey you need help" aren't the definition of fanboi.  So I say that because Walt Disney World clearly needs help.

    They need help for two dire reasons; one is that Universal is out for blood, clearly.  They are building two if not three major E-Tickets in the time it takes Disney to construct bathrooms.  That's absurd.  Second, TDO has micromanaged, cost cut, marginalized, and degraded the parks so far down to a point that the "car is running on fumes" as it were.  There is no way a "realist" can't see that and there is no way a "realist" can defend the moves the company has made up until this point.

    Now to your points;

    DVC and Golden Oak are self contained real estate ventures that pay for themselves multiple times over.  In fact the sale at one home in Golden Oak probably pays for all the infrastructure for Golden Oak (yes, I know that is a slight exaggeration).  You cannot factor in DVC and Golden Oak into the column of "Things Fans Should Appreciate and Kiss TDO's Finely Manicured Rear Ends For" because these mostly don't impact the overall guest experience and are for such a niche audience.  You can't sell a family in middle America (in a recession) on million dollar homes at Golden Oak as a reason to come to Walt Disney World.  What value is that?  Yes, non-DVCers can still book rooms in DVC hotels but even with that this is still a niche (albeit larger niche) that wants to own (timeshares).

    What about the New Fantasyland?  Is it going to be beautiful?  I am sure it will.  But what value did they really add? Capacity?  At the rate they are "improving" the parks capacity won't be an issue for very long.  It's hard not to oversimplify but they spent nearly 450 million to landscape and add two D-tickets (one which is replacing another) where Universal spent less and added a ground breaking E-ticket, immersive land, and re-themed two additional rides.  So you say TDO is spending money, ok ... at least can we say when looking at their competition they clearly have no comprehension of HOW to spend money?  How is Universal's money going farther?  How did they spend less and get more? (Meaning a ground breaking E-ticket which actually COMPELS crowds to come.)  You can't mount a coherent argument that the New Fantasyland will significantly impact attendance like Potter did for Universal.

    As for your argument about Disneyland compared to Disney World, I feel other posters here have already outlined why that is an illogical argument.  But it's simple math ... I have a 1,000 SF home it costs me $100 a month for electricity, if I want to re-do the carpet it costs me $3.00/SF which equals $3,000.00 ... I have a 3,000 SF home it costs me $300 a month for electricity, if I want to re-do the carpet it costs me $3.00/SF which equals $9,000.00 ... this is a simple concept and this is where you sound mostly disingenuous.  To compare the two on equal levels is illogical and not fair.  You couldn't take your money from the electricity bill on the 1,000 SF home and expect it to power your $3,000 SF home? You get what you pay for ... a 1/3 of a month of electricity.

    Walt Disney World is considerably larger than Disneyland, therefore their budgets, capital expenditures, expansion dollars, and improvements should be considerably larger ... not equal.

    Walt Disney World needs help.  It needs help.  TDO clearly has no concept on how to run a business.  Walt Disney World is dependent on guest satisfaction and guests actually attending ... the problem is TDO sees guests coming no matter what they do so their thoughts are "hey these idiots will come, why give them anything else ... we can take away and they still come ..."  The have no foresight to see the folly in this logic because their will come a point in time when that "well of good will" they think that have full will be all dried up.

    This turning point needs to start now.  They need to get off their pampered rear ends and start making drastic changes.  They need to maintain rides the way they should.  There is no excuse for inoperable AAs.  They need to paint and refurb rides that are looking haggard.  They need to look for ways to "plus" the guest experience not "minus" it.  They need to improve the parks not devolve them.  They need to add significant attractions to EPCOT, DHS, and DAK.  They have a long road ahead of them that gets longer by the day while they just stand around.

    The problem is they can't do this alone.  People like you are the ones who should be holding them accountable.  You are part of a group that have some voice with them.  You are part of a group that could be heard.  The rest of us are floundering out here in limbo as we wait.  There are some of us that work in corporate America, some of us that are executives and also WDW fans that can see the writing on the wall.  We can see TDO is digging a hole for WDW that will take years to come out of.  It's tough for us to say, "hey look out!" and not be heard.  But you don't have that problem.  You can be heard but for some reason you've chosen to abandon what you know to be true.  These parks and WDW is not in good shape and no amount of free rooms or dinners should stop you from shouting that in every ear that will listen.

  • Have to chuckle at the comment at the very end of the article, suggesting a new & improved version of the DHS Fantasmic. As far as I can tell, that show hasn't had a single upgrade or modification since opening in '98. Besides the west coast version being a better show to begin with, it's continually had upgrades to its lighting effects and pyro, not to mention the awesome new dragon. In contast, the WDW version has been depressingly stagnant for 14 years now, so I won't be holding my breath to see the World of Color fountains pop up in the show.

  • Jim - kind of related... kind of not:  I haven't heard of a solid "start date" for the NextGen FastPass hitting the resort.  You had mentioned months ago that they wanted to officially kick it off in early 2013.  Is that still the plan, and if so - how are they going to roll it out?

  • I want to mention a couple of things:

    1 - We went to Universal for the first time in 2011, as part of a 2 week Orlando trip.  I had always thought that it was a 2nd rate park, and I was suprised at how fantastic it was - better run and better attractions.   We are taking a break from Orlando this year, but when we return, we will make Universal the center of our visit.  I will probably go to MK to check out the new expansion, but no where else in Disney.   Except for a few rides (mostly in DHS), we are just tired of the same old rides and attractions in WDW.

    2 - The maintenace at the Parks was horrendous last time.   There were plenty of animatronics that did not work, and the parks are not kept to the level they once were.  Maintenace has been the hallmark of Disney in the past, they need to get back to it.

    The only thing that will change any of this is a massive drop in attendance.  Nothing else.   WDW will continue to spend less and less if they can get away with it.  They are a company that is obsessed with profit(as most are), not guest expierence.    They have been on top for so long, that they have forgotten how hard it is to get there.


  • You're better than this, Jim.

  • I think you are now making the same point most of us are.  Having agreed that we really need to remove the real estate related spends from the list; we are left with FLE and a few other items that might add up to $500 million.  This is for a resort that has three times the number of customers to entertain.  On a relative basis the $500 million is so much less, that is why no one is talking much about it.    

    Instead of arguing over the relative spend, the real issue is the relative list of work that still needs to be done at each resort.  Yes, DCA still has some holes to fill, and even TDA admits DL’s Tomorrowland needs an overhaul (which we hear may be in the works).   Now, let’s compare that list to WDW where there are major holes all over DHS, EPCOT, DAK, Downtown Disney along with similar Tomorrowland issues at the Magic Kingdom.  Many of us believe these holes are lost opportunities to grow the business, but being somewhat of a fanboi I’m sure I don’t realize it is more complex than wanting to provide a superior product to wow your customers.

  • Jim,

    I am excited about the new Fantasyland and other additons to WDW, and I agree with you 100% regarding the tone of some of the conversation regarding the parks.

    The major disapointment I have with the property (as you do too) is the Pleasure Island disaster.  The Adventurers Club was one of our favorite things to do when we visited WDW.  My wife and I don't have kids and when we visited this summer we were rather disapointed with the nighttime offerings.  If the Mgic Kingdom doesn't have extra magic hours, you are pretty much done at 11 on the whole complex (with a few exceptions).  Even though they try to hide it, walking through DTD is also kind of sad with all of the abandoned buildings and walls, it's like a club graveyard.  What on earth are they waiting for?

  • You bring up a good point about the size, but I have to agree with Spectro.  Size is a pretty poor excuse.  Disneyland also has the luxury of more local business, more repeat guests, and less nearby competition.  Our Sea World and Universal parks are way more accessible to WDW guests than their CA counterparts for Disneyland guests.  Disney has yet to produce a ride on this coast that rivals Spiderman or Forbidden Journey.  Now the competition down the road is expanding it's money-maker Potter into its other park and last I read, Universal may push for a summer 2013 opening for Transformers, and our Fantasyland took/is taking how long?  

    Speaking of Fantasyland, upon a closer look what's really there?  I'm a Beauty and the Beast fan, so I'll love that new restaurant, but I don't see a lot of boys being excited about what they'll see as a princess based restaurant.  The technology in Belle's area is incredible, but I've read not every child will get a one on one photo op with her.  Plus, for adults they may ooh and ahh that mirror affect, but watching little kids play with cardboard character cut outs?  I just don't see it.  Plus, with the amount of foreign business WDW brings in (again much more than Disneyland's), what if they get a room of 25 non-English speakers?  Poor Belle's going to have a field day with that and the show intention of the experience may become a "shut up, Belle, and just pose and sign" (which is actually a problem WDW even has with their dance parties versus Disneyland, "don't dance with me sign this and take a pic!").   It'll be cool to see Gaston roaming about Fantasyland, but will he go away the way of Flynn or Naveen?  Two funny male characters who really do balance out their princess partners quite well.  Gaston brings in no money, but hopefully LeFou's brew will, even thought it's a weak attempt to cash in on the butterbeer craze.  The mine train won't even be ready for over a year, even though Transformers will be.  When it does open, it might look neat, but I'm keeping my expectations low with its Barnstormer vibe.  Oh, and we get a California Adventure hand-me-down, with Ariel, and poor boys again will be moaning, "A princess ride?!."  And probably some girls too.

    What I want to know is what happened to Disney ingenuity?  What happened to really trying to *wow* our guests?  No point in making pretty resorts and DVCs if there's nothing to lure guests away from Potter, Transformers, Antarctica.  Some guests already have to pick and choose Hollywood Studios OR Universal, Animal Kingdom OR Sea World, can we please get something to make those decisions harder?

    We're not mad about paint fading, we're mad that Dumbo is barely old, and his poor knees are wearing out on the cars.  I expect to see that out of Six Flags.  That's the (as said by someone else) the Disney Difference.  

    Unfortunately, I think the other factor of why we don't see the jaw-dropping spectacle of Cars Land or Potter, is that we have so many first time guests.  Some people have to scrounge and save up a lot to get to our world destination.  We are a draw much like New York City and Washington D.C.  If a foreigner is planning a trip to the U.S. and want to visit Disney, they'll most likely think WDW (and its nearby rivals) versus California.  These first time guests are just happy to see SOMEthing.  They don't have an "old days of WDW" to compare to.  Example: When Dream Along with Mickey cannot do a full show due to inclement weather, they do a mini-show of just the finale.  There's no dancing, but the main characters come out, royalty, Peter Pan and Wendy.  The guests love it!  It's little, simple, and when those princesses walk out the audience ooh and ahh.  We can do bare minimum and get a smile.  But didn't we use to strive to go above and beyond?  Our MK day parade has had floats that have been painted and repainted, and music has changed, but regulars know it's poor, fans know it's poor...but hey, the crowds line up.  They don't know what it used to be and the regulars/repeaters just take advantage of smaller wait times on rides.  Disneyland gets a new parade way more often, so yeah we fans do get jealous and frustrated.  Don't we have even the littlest right to be upset?

    Lots of our guests love that our fast pass is free, unlike every other major US theme park business.  The other majors in the US, Sea World, Universal, Six Flags all charge.  I'm dreading the Fast Pass Plus, if it's not free and eliminates regular fast pass, and I hope it doesn't ruin too many families enjoyment because they could barely afford the trip, let alone fast pass plus and a Disney resort stay.   I'm intrigued by the idea of ordering/paying for food while on line at Big Thunder and simply picking it up at Pecos Bill's after, but I hope this is accessible to many and not just the really rich.  

    I am a Disney fan.  I love the spirit of Walt and heart and originality that's prevalent at Disneyland.  I love the size of WDW and the pleasure I had growing up a WDW kid from 18 months old to the 35 year old I am now.  I care about these parks and what the guests get from them.  I just wish we could see some more Disney magic and groundbreaking technology in the parks.  The wide roads are nice and Lion King is gorgeous at Art of Animation, but the parks are what make WDW tick.  I know it's not possible, being a shareholder led company now, but one thing that kept Walt putting money into the park was that it was his OWN money on the line.  He had a giant stake in the success too.  Iger can put out a mediocre ride that draws a sufficient amount of guests and laugh all the way to the bank on his $27 million bonus.  I think if the CEO was required to apply "x" amount of money from his bonus into the product, the parks, the stakes would be raised.  That's just a really crazy Disney dream of mine though. :)

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