EDITORIAL: Increases, Cuts and The Feeling of Empty Pockets at Disney Parks
Since the announcement in February, many people have spoken up and out either for or against (but mostly against) the cost cutting measures that were announced at both Disney World and Disneyland regarding the over budgeted and delayed Shanghai Disneyland. I for one had held out speaking about this regard, partially to see how this situation played out, but mostly because of initial anger.
When the announcement came, the statement described having to scale back the payroll of cast members both in Florida and California, as well as cancelling the 2nd showings of both Fantasmic and Main Street Electrical. The thought of that brought me back to memories of lining up three hours before a Fantasmic showing, because tourists were always told that the show would fill to capacity. There has been a statement made by the AEA stating that some cast members in acting roles will not have their contracts renewed. This is in addition to the CM’s whose attractions will be closing in April for the demolition of much of the rear of Hollywood Studios.
While this sparked anger from CMs and Disney Park regulars, the proof of such issues is beginning to be evident in terms of what is passed on to the guests. Disney has, as is true every year, raised ticket prices. A one day ticket to Magic Kingdom now costs $105, however Disney has now also tiered the ticket prices. This means that a ticket to the park from the end of May until the end of July will cost $114, but the same ticket in late August will cost $97. Magic Kingdom has magically transformed into a baseball stadium, with ticket prices varying depending on who the home team is playing. They have also surveyed about adding a $15 per night fee for staying in a Disney Resort. Though this has not become reality yet, the fact that they are surveying means they must be toying with the idea. Couple this with the raises in Annual Passes, as well as raising parking fees to $20 per day and testing a Preferred parking fee of $35, (which will probably rarely be used by guests) it appears that the domestic guest is beginning to feel the pressure financially.
Here becomes the issue: why does the domestic Disney guest have to feel the pressure alone? Why has it not been spread around the entire Parks division? And most importantly, how did Shanghai get this out of control in both budgetary and timeline without anyone taking the reins in? I have to believe that the upper management at the Walt Disney Company was aware for quite a while that Shanghai was running late and expensive, because if not, that becomes a very bad sign. Considering reports were coming out last January that the Park was over budget, it seems clear that it was a long reality. The big concern I have is this, look at the following list of things Disney is in the process of beginning, completing, or working on right now. (Forgive me if I miss any)
· Star Wars Land in both CA and FL
· Toy Story Land in HS
· Rivers of Light in AK
· Pandora in AK
· “Frozen Ever After” attraction in EPCOT
· 3rd Soarin’ theater in EPCOT
· 3rd track in Toy Story Mania in HS
· Disney Springs
· Shanghai Resort
· Refurbishments of attractions
Now the list is impressive, and I believe that when completed it will revitalize both coasts (but mostly FL) however it seems as though there are cuts right now, and prices increasing to allow for this to become a reality in the future. The sad truth seems to be that Disney, as well as many other resorts in the area, are pricing much of the middle class out of their parks. The wonder becomes this: are all of the increases and cuts a result of the issues in Shanghai, or is Shanghai being used as the rationale for increases that were already planned? In other words, is it more of a PR move? Could it be possible that Disney is able to absorb the Shanghai problems, but planned to use it as a reason why these cuts and price hikes had to happen? Either way it does not look favorable for the Parks Division, and it will be a hot topic moving forward. Let’s just hope that Imagineering continues its streak of great attractions and theming, because we are learning that they “spare no expense” in new construction.