Changes, Changes, Changes

Walt Disney World has announced a lot of changes in the past year and especially in the past couple of weeks.  This has upset a lot of Disney followers.  Regardless of the amount of upset, these changes are coming and we, Disney fans, need to do is understand why these changes are being made and how to best handle these changes especially in the short term.

Let’s rundown the changes that have happened or are coming:

  • Nighttime entertainment at Animal Kingdom
  • A complete rebranding of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs
  • Avatarland to Animal Kingdom
  • New Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom
  • New acts introduced to EPCOT at the expense of old favorites
  • Frozen overlay to the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT along with a Anna and Elsa meet and greet

Why are all these changes happening?  The simplest answer is these are all moves to counter the rapid changes and successful changes that Disney’s neighbor Universal Studios has made in the past couple years with the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Despicable Me attraction. These additions have brought a buzz to the Universal parks.  Disney needed to do something to counter this buzz.  The two obvious moves are the addition of Avatarland to Animal Kingdom to counter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Frozen coming to Norway.  Both of these announcements brought lots of buzz to Disney and lots of angst among more diehard Disney fans.

Disney is also making these changes to freshen up the parks….to give people to make that return trip.  The diehard Disney fan is still going to make that return trip.  But the casual Disney fan is not if the parks don’t undergo some amount of change.  The park needs to change.  If the park doesn’t change, the park starts to grow stale.  As a result, fewer and fewer people start to come through the gates.

Do we have to agree with the changes?  No, we don’t have to agree with the changes.  However, we do have wait and see what the changes bring to guests before we make a decision as to whether we agree or disagree with the changes.

The parks, for the casual Disney fan in my opinion, do need freshening up.  The casual fan wants to see new things every trip.  They want to experience different things on their vacation.  To me, that’s what makes vacation fun.  Every vacation can and should be different even if I’m travelling to same place.

photo courtesy of wdw info
photo courtesy of wdw info

Let’s take a closer look at the changes coming to EPCOT since they have been most recently announced and have the most controversy to them.  I talked, previously, about what could happen if Norway and it’s government and/or corporate sponsors didn’t pay what Disney wanted to refresh the Norway Pavilion.  Those who pay for the changes get to make the changes.  However, I also agree that Disney is looking down the edge of a slippery slope in regard to these changes and the overall philosophy of the World Showcase.

Could Disney have brought in a Frozen attraction and an Anna and Elsa meet and greet without “taking over Norway?”  Yes, they could have.  There is plenty of space for expansion within EPCOT for another pavilion.  On the other side, Disney, in my opinion, needed to show to the other 10 countries in the World Showcase that change needs to be made (we’re looking at you France and your 32-year old Impressions de France).  Disney made an example out of Norway because it could hold the hammer of Frozen over them and use it if necessary which they did.

In talking with some other people on Twitter over the weekend, we came to the conclusion that some serious traffic flow changes are going to be needed.  The Norway Pavilion, in 2016, is going to over-run with people needing to go on the new Frozen attraction and to meet Anna and Elsa.  The current layout of the pavilion just can not handle the traffic.  It has to change or that entire section of the World Showcase from Mexico to the African Outpost is going to become unwalkable.

Overhead map of World Showcase
Overhead map of World Showcase

Imagineering needs to consider opening up the cramped courtyard area of the pavilion to accommodate more people but, more importantly, it needs to seriously consider using the space between Mexico and Norway for queue space.  These queues can not spill out into the main walking paths for guests.  Exiting the meet and greet queue and the attraction should also take place at the rear of the pavilion leading guests on to walkways back toward Mexico and the Odyssey or toward the African Outpost.

Personally, for humor sake, on the opening week/month of the attraction, I want them to open the World Showcase at 9 am because I want to watch the Frozen 5k take place from the front of EPCOT through Future World to Norway even if it’s on a roped-off course.  That’s a long run…at least a mile if not more.  The run from the International Gateway is no walk in the park either with a hill leading into the World Showcase and then the long uphill to the American Adventure.  Heck, I’d pay money to watch this run (don’t get any ideas, Disney ;)).

Fife and Drum Corps #1

Now to the issue of the departing acts from EPCOT.  This is a difficult area for Disney to balance.  It has to try to balance the need of the guest who wants to see something fresh with the need of the guest who likes the traditional acts.  That said, a lot of the departing acts have been at EPCOT a long time.  Maybe it is time to say goodbye to these acts.  Maybe it is time to see something fresh.  Could Disney have handled this better in terms of announcing it?  Of course, no one likes to be told bad news.  However, let’s give the new acts a chance before we pass final judgment on whether this is a bad change or not.  Maybe this new dance show in Morocco will finally drive traffic into the table-service restaurants in pavilion.  Maybe the lumberjack act in Canada will inspire a child to become a lumberjack.  We don’t know but by rejecting the new acts before we experience them does not do the new acts justice.

Change is tough to swallow and nobody, even deep down, likes change.  A lot of announced changes in a short period of time is even tougher to swallow.  But, let’s give the new acts, attractions, and meet and greets a chance before we pass final judgment on whether or not they are a good addition to the overall Walt Disney World experience.

Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “Changes, Changes, Changes”

  1. As a frequent visitor who loves the World Showcase more than any other place in Disney, I’m predictably horrified by the Frozen news in Norway. It is – if nothing else – a complete repudiation of the entire concept of the World Showcase. If nothing else, they should have used some of the ridiculous dead space in Future World to house a fake country, rather than overrunning a beloved and real pavilion with this nightmare. Can’t wait to see what happens when the legions of little girls running to Frozenworld (if anyone even cares by the time the retrofit is done) run into the Food & Wine crowds on Friday afternoon angry that their leisurely booze stroll is interrupted by a crushing wall of people waiting in 6 hours queues for a picture with a fake person.

  2. I’m all for new acts. Even though everyone may LOVE “Off Kilter”, perhaps it’s time for a new act. However, what I don’t like that Disney’s doing lately is removing acts and replacing them with dumbed-down, schtick versus true entertainment. Years ago, I remember auditioning (and never making it) to be an entertainer because there were SO many super-talented people and a NEED for those super-talented people. “Kids of the Kingdom”? Gone and replaced with a character-castle show. The Beatles band in UK? Gone and replaced with a horrid cover-band who doesn’t even try to be “English”. “Mo-Rockin'”? Gone. What about the fun “traveling player” acts throughout WS? Gone and replaced with… um…. My point is, it does seem that Universal is truly stepping up to the challenge and – in many cases – winning the Orlando theme-park wars (“The Blues Brothers” comes to mind, along with all the Harry Potter mini-shows showcasing actual people who are actually singing). What Universal lacks (the fluid telling of a “story”) is where Disney wins. However, if Disney keeps doing what they’re doing (i.e., using World Showcase to turn an actual, real country into a playground for girls in a pretend place), then they’re missing the point of what “story” they want to tell.

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