For the longest time, Disney only had two hard ticket events: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. For the spring, Disney announced three new hard events:
- Villains Unleashed – August 23rd
- Harambe Nights – select nights
- EPCOT After Hours Wind Down – select night until mid-September
The question that needs to be asked is: Are there now too many hard ticket events at Disney? These events all provide special experiences to guests. However, these experiences all come with an extra cost. With single-day park tickets now approaching $100, how much extra cost is too much? I’ll take a look at all three of these events and take a look at the added value of the events.
The event that most closely resembles the current hard ticket events is the Villains Unleashed party on August 23rd. This is a one-night only event compared to the multiple night events in the Halloween and Christmas parties. However, they have the same basic format. Party guests can enter the park three hours before the event starts with just their party ticket. No theme park ticket is needed to enter at this time. The event runs until midnight or 1 am and the park is limited to guests who hold party tickets.
The Villains Unleashed party was introduced, last year, as part of the Limited Time Magic promotion. The event, last year, was not a hard ticket event but was open to the public. It caused lots of problems with overcrowding in the parks along transportation issues to and from Hollywood Studios. This year, Disney decided to make the event a hard ticket event in an attempt to mitigate the overcrowding issue.
The cost of the event is $67+tax for adults and $62+ tax for children ages 3-9. This is more expensive than the standard rate for the Halloween party but level with the Christmas party. On the face, it looks like there will be more value added for this event compared to the Halloween and Christmas party since it is a one-night only event and not available on multiple nights. More value comes from the characters in attendance. It’s nothing but villains which don’t appear in the parks on a routine basis.
I will be making the trip down for this event in August. So, expect a recap of this event after the event. If this event is a success, I could see Disney adding more nights to this event in the coming years.
Harambe Nights is the first night-time event at Animal Kingdom. It was my impression that Disney kept Animal Kingdom “dark” after park close was to keep the safari animals undisturbed during the night-time hours. This is would keep them closer to their normal routine in the wild. It is unknown how much this event will disturb the animals on safari.
This year, Disney added Harambe Nights to the event lineup at Animal Kingdom. The event does not start until 7 pm and runs until 10:30 pm and only runs on Saturdays. It has snacks/desserts both before and after the “The Lion King in the Wild” show. This event is the most expensive of the new hard ticket events. Tickets for adults start at $119+tax and $79+tax for children aged 3-9.
To me, this seems like a very high price point for a special night-time event at Walt Disney World. It could be because the price crossing that not-so-magical $100 barrier. Part of it could be that I don’t go to many Broadway shows and don’t have a good gauge to the cost of those costs. It could be on par with those shows and a fair value.
This event is also guests in the mind-set that Animal Kingdom will be hosting night-time events. When Avatar Land opens in a couple of years, there will be a special night-time event featuring Avatar and Avatar Land. It is unknown as to whether this will be a hard-ticket event or if Disney will keep the park open later to all guests.
The last hard-ticket event introduced is the EPCOT After Hours Wind Down. This event is the least expensive of the three new events. The cost is only $35+tax per person. The Wind Down is available at four locations:
- Tutto Gusto in the Italy Pavilion
- La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico Pavilion
- Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion
- Rose and Crown in the UK Pavilion
This event starts after Illuminations and runs until 11 pm. Guests get one beverage (or flight of beverages) and a plate of light snacks. In addition to being the least expensive event, it is also the shortest in duration. It’s around a two-hour event since Illuminations ends just after 9 pm. Guests are able to book this event like they would book an advanced dining reservation. The event runs until mid-September when the Food and Wine Festival begins. Disney has not announced if this event will return after the Food and Wine Festival ends in early November.
I will be also going to this event when I am down for the Villains Party in August. It was not the primary reason for going. The Villains Party is the primary reason. This is a bonus. It does look like a fun event. Plus, guests should be able to get some great pictures of the World Showcase at night with the park empty. It is an event that I am looking forward to.
In conclusion, these events seem to be geared toward the adult crowd. The only event that sounds “little kid” friendly is the Villains Unleashed Party on August 23rd. $79 seems like a lot to spend on a ticket for small child for Harambe Nights. Most smaller children would be more interested in spending a night in the Magic Kingdom compared to going to a Broadway-like show at Animal Kingdom. The EPCOT After Hours Wind Down does not like sound like it is little kid friendly. $35 is a lot to spend for a kid to have a drink and a light snack that they may or may not enjoy. There is no kids menu for these events.
The adult-driven nature of these events make the events more like a night for the adults than a night in the parks for the entire family. If parents want to go to the events without the kids, they would need to find a sitter for the evening or drop the kids at one of the children’s activity centers.
Harambe Nights and EPCOT After Hours Wind Down take place after the parks normally close so Disney is extending the hours of the parks. In doing so, there is the increased cost of keeping the park (staffing and food costs) and these costs are going to be passed on the guest.
The Villains Party, on the other hand, cuts into the park availability since the park is closing early but staying open late for those select ticket holders. Also, this was an event that was offered for free, last year, but now would cost a family of four over $200 to attend. That’s an extra night or two at a value resort. This is the one event that would have the most impact on the average guest since it closes the park early.
This is a slippery slope that Disney is starting to walk down especially if the Villains Unleashed party turns into a multi-night event like the Halloween and Christmas parties. At some point, it does become too much for the consumer to take and too many tickets to purchase. Guests will reach the breaking point. However, with two of these three events mainly geared toward adults, I don’t think we are at that breaking point yet. Although we are getting close.
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