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Why You Should Be Optimistic About Josh D’Amaro & The Future of Disney Parks – An Editorial By The World’s Most Negative Disney Fan

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“Do you even like Disney?”

I can’t even tell you how many comments I have seen that said this or something of the like over the years. WDWNT can be harsh and critical when we need to be, but we also dump fair amounts of praise on various Disney Parks projects worldwide. However, that hasn’t stopped internet discourse that we are “pure negativity”, instead of having an understanding that meticulous dissection of each new thing comes from a place of love and a nerdy need to completely cover every aspect of an attraction, show, hotel, or whatever at our favorite places on Earth. I have seen people have started referring to me as “Eeyore” online in response to my opinions and demeanor, a nickname to which I take no exception as he is, in fact, my favorite (and objectively the best) of the Pooh & friends family.

I was honestly stunned to see what I would call “raging negativity” on social media after the wrap-up of the D23 Expo on Sunday. I was stunned because I, one of the most jaded and outspoken Disney fans, walked out of the Anaheim Convention Center with a sense of optimism I had not in many years. It is no secret that I was not a fan of Bob Chapek’s reign over Disney Parks and Resorts, which was trademarked by cheap lands, budget-reductions which cut the legs out from underneath what could have been successful projects, and even more nickel-and-diming of customers.

When the control of the division is passed over to another executive, it does take some time to see the change that is coming. After Chapek replaced Tom Staggs in 2015, it took a good 3 years before we saw what the parks would look like under him, starting with Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What’s funny is that now we are seeing a worldwide clean-up of the mistakes of Mr. Chapek (who deservingly was met with boos or silence from fans on last Friday), from additions to Toy Story Land and Avengers Campus, to the replacement of nighttime shows that came from his demands.

What Sunday said to me is that we, as Disney’s consumers, are heard.

“Yes, we know Dinoland is a mess right now and there’s a big fence and a dirt patch there.”

“Yes, we know you don’t like Harmonious and Disney Enchantment.”

“Yes, we know you love Figment.”

“Yes, we know the Magic Kingdom needs to spread out crowds.”

Josh D’Amaro stood on that stage and basically admitted that the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary was a disaster. What’s funny is I remember making a plea ahead of the event to install some sort of nostalgia into it, a post that was met with the usual berating from our most vocal detractors, simply thinking I write such things for attention. How did that 50th anniversary work out for you? I don’t write these things or do anything I do for attention. I do these things because I love Walt Disney World and all of these magical places. I owe so many memories, my most cherished friendships, and even my livelihood to the parks. It can be frustrating when continually putting my neck on the line to try to rally the fandom behind meaningful causes, sacrificing some followers, readers, and success in the process. My motives are often misconstrued and derided. However, so many do reach out in support of posts like those I made for the 50th anniversary, or more famously for The Country Bear Jamboree, and as always, I thank you deeply.

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Back to the main topic though: How do you not see the positive direction we seem to be heading in? A Figment meet and greet is coming back to EPCOT! To me, this seems like a step in the right direction (and Tony Baxter seems to agree), that perhaps we are just one D23 Expo away from finally getting the announcement of a new ride with the beloved purple dragon, and maybe even our long-lost friend The Dreamfinder.

I still also believe that we will get the announcement that the PeopleMover is returning to Disneyland, it’s just too early for Disney to say it.

After so many complaints, they are throwing out Disney Enchantment and Harmonious, even after spending copious amounts of money on both of these shows. We have clearly been heard!

The Hatbox Ghost is coming to The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World!

While “blue sky”, we have some sort of inclination that there will be large expansions at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

Yes, we can’t escape the barrage of IPs and synergistic opportunities that are a necessity of Disney’s business today, but between all of that, it feels like there is a recommitment to quality and to what the most die-hard, and honestly, favorable guests are looking for.

We are not out of the woods yet as there are a number of problems still to be addressed at the parks (from that Reflections construction site eyesore, to the abandoned Play Pavilion and more), but you have to walk before you can run, and D23 Expo 2022 felt like a really positive first step. Certainly, things could go wrong, but I honestly think the management change in the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products division is already showing its true colors. Yes, they are still going to pump out lands, attractions, and hotels laced with Disney IP, and yes, they are going to continue to raise prices, but it at least feels like we may get a quality product once more, one deserving of such a price tag.

I totally understand those upset that they may lose Dinosaur and Dinoland U.S.A., as I lost several attractions meaningful in my life (namely The Great Movie Ride), but I don’t think that is a reason to discount all the very positive announcements that came our way on Sunday. I am at least cautiously optimistic of what lies ahead with D’Amaro and team at the helm and I do believe they have the proper understanding of the division to do what is right for both everyday guests and us.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my optimistic view? I’d love to hear from you in the comments and have a conversation about it.

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  1. I agree. Many who said they were unhappy or unimpressed with D23 are like many of us who are quick to judge Disney as we expect “perfection” of sorts. They have made mistakes, they will make mistakes. I was excited about the announcements made whether they were “what if’s” like the blue sky idea expansions, or the more concrete that Happily Ever After is coming back in some sort of fashion. I am optimistic of the future of the company as long as they continue to listen to us fans and fix mistakes along the way.

  2. We should be happy bc mansion fans are getting hattie, blue sky what ifs and wdw never pan so lets not panic (though my son whose plans are copywritten want to know who heard his ideas and is hurt), the only things i am disapointed in is fantasmic return and bb opening were not there… plus why moana to dak arent the werid epcot rocks enough… did we forget raya be a fit so close to asia? Harmonious leaving is like getting rid of rivers 10 fickled fans whom do not get the artistic side of wdi/wdw complain the rest of us suffer (redo harmonious wo the horrid theme song or bring back epcot forever not something new to complain about). I am glad for mk it might not be wishes return but its good. Its like everyone including Walt knew you cannot please everyone. Josh is not only a park person but hes been there and in charge at wdw during rough times. He was huge for dvc! So i have more hope in him then chopek to get the job done whatever it is. Btw what if figment & dreamfinder is a test to see if there is real love out there before a reboot… hear my out but i will use Horizons as the example but except for uber fans whom want it back and signed petitions etc people do not care hence the epcot changes recent and why sse and figment sit. Maybe they believe heck some people ride it like that clunky and dead and figment is an icon only. Yes park people make up alot of the clientel but when have they truly did anything for us? Maybe Josh is testing things here just a thought.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I’ve always thought that if you genuinely love something (or someone!) you’re able to step back, see the flaws, and love it anyway. You’re always able to do that, and so your opinion is the first one I seek when I come across any Disney news.

    As such, I’m really glad to read that you think there’s hope. I was disappointment at the low volume of announcements from D23, but you’ve made some really good points here. I’ve been wondering if Josh D’Amaro would turn out to be just a version Bob Chapek who smiled more and could actually name the attractions. We’ll have to wait and see, but I’ll be following your analyses in the meantime.

    Please keep it up — your readers appreciate what you do!

  4. I think I read the title and initially thought, “I hope that’s Tom writing that.” Glad to see I was right. That said, the statements reflected here are accurate, even from a pragmatic viewpoint.

  5. I think a key reason for the negativity is executives unfortunately don’t talk like you do Tom. The don’t speak from the heart they don’t speak with integrity they speak from a “we never do any wrong” perspective. To some extent this is understandable because as soon as you admit you missed the mark or made a mistake the pitchforks come out and investors lose confidence etc.

    If I were Disney I would get imagineers on stage more and get just a little more honesty in the script. Maybe have someone that isn’t an executive give these presentations.

    Instead of claiming Enchantment and Harmonious were big successes then stating they are being replaced, state that we know there was some disappointment from the fan base and we are making corrections. Or something like we love these shows but we think we can do even better!

    Bottom line major companies should respect the customer a little more if we ever have a hope of seeing the negativity go down. No fan wants to be talked to in corporate spin speak when we put so much passion time and money into something with as much magic and history behind it as Disney.

  6. Tom,

    I truly believe that there is a difference between being “negative” and being a realist. I’ve been a reader/consumer of WDWNT for years, and I believe that your voice (and the editorial voice of your teammates/writers) is needed. We get a perspective that is outside the pure-fandom, Pollyanna view we get from nearly every other source of WDW media.

    These places are like home for so many people. When some people feel like their home is attacked, they take it poorly and lash out. Others see the criticism for what it is – the embodiment of the idea that WDW and TWDC leadership can be better, and should be.

    Some of us have literal investment in this organization and want it to do well financially. Some of us think of WDW as our home. Some of us fall into both camps. But no matter what our approaches are, or our self-interest, we’re here to get another side of the story. That’s important, vital even, to the health of these places we know and love.

    If Disney is our home, then D23 is the state of the union. The state of the union, sad to say, isn’t strong. But that doesn’t mean WDW and the TWDC can’t live up to those ideals and be better.

    Keep on being a clear-eyed realist about what’s happening at WDW and TWDC.

  7. AS a Disneyland fan who, honestly was not impressed on their first trip to WDW in 2017 (still jaded that I didn’t get to experience Great Movie Ride as it closed 2 days before we got there), this was one of the best D23 Parks presentations ever. Over on the West (best) Coast we are getting:
    -Mandalorian and Grogu in Galaxy’s Edge (I’ll never understand why DL is breaking the timeline nonsense but WDW refuses to)
    -Hulk meet and greet in Avengers Campus
    -New Avengers Multiverse attraction for Avengers Campus
    -San Fransokyo overlay of Pacific Wharf with a Baymax meet and greet (maybe another project exo? costume)
    -return of RunDisney events (I honestly thought we would never see those over here again)
    -return of Magic Happens early 2023 (yet radio silence on Fantasmic at WDW)
    -New Fireworks show and World of Color for Disney100
    -Pixar retheme of Paradise Pier Hotel (though I do hope that will include a Pixar character dining restaurant in it because I’m still sour that Lamplight Lounge isn’t a character restaurant when it replaced one)
    -a few exciting restaurants for Downtown Disney
    -Runaway Railway early 2023 featuring additional scenes and a completely different queue from the WDW version
    -Renovated Toon Town (which was needed but completely unexpected since Disney hadn’t done much to the area in decades)
    -Eudora’s Chic Boutique opening later this month in New Orleans Square (iirc)
    -Tiana’s Palace restaurant coming to New Orleans Square (not mentioned during panel, but apparently imagineers told some media people about this during the Thursday night preview of the pavilion), said to be a retheme of an existing restaurant, my bet is on French Market, even though Hungry Bear is a lot closer to the ride. I’m hoping it will be DL’s answer to WDW’s Be Our Guest in that Tiana and Naveen will be there during certain times of day (like how Beast is at Be Our Guest).

    BTW, as much as I’m someone who wants both DL and WDW to have as many completely unique attractions as possible to encourage people to visit BOTH resorts, IF MK is getting a Coco attraction, we need that for Pixar Pier too, there is a huge Latin population in California so we really need a permanent attraction featuring their characters too. There is room for a decent sized Dark ride behind the Boardwalk Games area, and out of all the Pixar movies that don’t yet have a ride in DCA (or DL), I think Coco would be the most culturally relevant option to use.

  8. Good article, Tom. As always, thoughtful and well meaning. I always appreciate your POV and the time you put into WDWNT content. However, my personal sentiments about D23, particularly the parks, are different from yours. Chapek is a lost cause, but I was disappointed in D’Amaro. The failure to address the many, many things near and dear to fans was a huge miss – namely, MK attractions we are waiting such as TRON, WDW Railroad, Ralph, and Splash Mountain closure, as well as a Mary Poppins attraction, the return of Fantasmic, the Play pavilion…and the list goes on. However, do I agree with you on one thing, which is significant – the quality of Disney attractions and experiences. I think Disney has learned their lesson with cheap experiences (Guests can tell), such as TS land and Kite Tails, to name a slim few. I join you in the optimism that these experience will increase in quality and value over the years. I just wish Disney would get their head out of their butt and simply deliver what their fans actually want and make it timely. Read and respect the fans, and hire real Imagineering talent. Anyway, here’s to the future!

  9. Stop blaming wdi its people like you whom are wrong! Chapek does it too hes the only one to blame the money sadly has the say not WDI… They create what they are told! We are talking folks in charge are old school epcot and the young folks (hopefully my nephew 1 day) grew up with learning from the old guard or grew up with OG wdw they want it back not for it to fail! You think they want to build half this stuff or leave fans disapointed no they are fans themselves cut them some slack. Its why as a manager i respect Josh doing what he can for the fans bc he is one! As much as Tom for these articles and his staff. But we all know sadly money talks alot more at the parks.

  10. I agree that the announcements that were made display that they are listening to the fans, but you can’t possibly believe that the presentation they made at D23 lives up to the precedent set in previous D23 Parks Panels??

    I spent the better part of this year planning my trip to D23. Being an out-of-state, non-AP holder, a trip to any park is a major life expense, and this year I chose to go to D23 for the first time. I wanted to be there in person for the big announcements they famously make there. (Not to mention historic moments like Dick Van Dyke showing up at the Mary Poppins announcement).

    The fact that they didn’t announce much more other than updates to already announced attractions, was a huge letdown. If they didn’t have HUGE news to break, they should have skipped this D23 altogether and just picked back up in 2023.

    I enjoyed my time, attending some of the Archives panels, getting to see people like Bob Gurr and the Muppets live in person… but the parks panel was my main reason for attending. I wanted to be SURPRISED with something BIG!!

    At the start of the Legends presentation, Chapek promised that this would be the biggest and best D23 ever. I don’t believe that the Parks and Studios panels lived up to that promise.

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