Former Imagineers Publicly Criticize Modern Disney Hotels That Remove Theme from Spaces, Ask Bob Iger to Make Changes

Eddie Sotto, a former Disney Imagineer who is recognized as one of the most influential theme park experts in the world, believes that Disney resorts are becoming too generic. On Twitter, Sotto responded to our story from last week on the upcoming refurbishment of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s lobby.

“It seems that all those holistic cues that make Disney hotels themed and unique (why we go) are being ‘sanded down’ to be more like spaces in the ‘real world’ hotels ( we pay to escape from)”, tweeted Sotto.

This seems to be the general consensus among many Disney fans. It has certainly been a critique of WDWNT reviewers over the last few years as we’ve experienced new hotels such as Disney’s Riviera Resort, or remodeled venues at hotels formerly dripping with unique character, like the much despised new rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It feels common to see furniture and shelving units simply purchased from vendors and simple decals used to theme a room or a lobby space, when so often Imagineers used to design custom fixtures or go looking for actual antiques to properly fill out these amazing places.

Another former Disney Imagineer, Robert Holland, responded “So true.” Holland was the Vice-President of Resort [Hotel] Development, as well as opening EPCOT, so he knows the subject well.

Sotto also worked on one of the most beloved Disney hotels ever built (one that has some similarities to the Grand Floridian funny enough), the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris which blends magnificently into Main Street U.S.A. at what many consider to be the most beautiful Disney theme park on Earth.

Eddie Sotto, a former Disney Imagineer, recognized as one of the most influential theme park experts in the world, believes that Disney resorts are becoming more generic.

Twitter user Morrigoon then responded, “Sounds like decisions being made by people who think adding a character name before a thing’s title counts as theming.” To which Sotto replied,” When you recruit management from the ‘real world’, rather than understand and perpetuate Disney, some opt to remake ‘Disney’ more into what they are used to.”

Another Twitter user asked Sotto if he had any opinion on what’s happing to the Disneyland Hotel in Paris and he said, “Not really. Have not seen anything.”

Many others agreed and said that the Grand Floridian will lose its charm and that a Disney resort “shouldn’t be a generic hotel you can stay in from a regular hotel chain down the road.”

With one final tweet on the subject, Sotto added, “Just want to take a moment to thank my friend, former Imagineer and Disney Legend Wing Chao for his hard work in leading the themed hotel movement (on land and sea) that got us those quintessential ‘escapes’ we still cherish so much.”

Chao, who was with Disney for over 37 years, is a widely respected pioneer in the hospitality industry, with over 100 project credits on his resume.

A recent Disney Parks Blog post confirmed what we reported this past spring, that the lobby would receive an update. “The ongoing renovation will also include an upcoming refurbishment of the lobby, which will maintain the classic theming you know and love with some fresh new enhancements,” read the statement.

These changes are a result of the former CEO and then Parks & Resorts manager’s comments that the Grand Floridian was not meeting the standards expected of a flagship Disney resort. In comparison to the Four Seasons, the Grand Floridian was no longer a suitable representation of Walt Disney World.

Recent renovations to Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa include a complete facelift to Minzer’s Lounge. It has been given a “Beauty and the Beast” transformation into the Enchanted Rose Lounge.

Cítricos followed with a new Mary Poppins-inspired design. This will also be the theme of the guest rooms at the upcoming Disney Vacation Club rooms. The resort’s spa, which opened up this past January, also underwent a remodel.

Do you like the reimagining Disney has been doing to its resorts? What do you think of what is happening to the Grand Floridian? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out our other stories on Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:

Do you have a favorite Disney resort? Let us know your favorite Disney resort in the comments.

Check out the interview we did earlier this year with Eddie Sotto about his time working on Disneyland Paris:

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19 thoughts on “Former Imagineers Publicly Criticize Modern Disney Hotels That Remove Theme from Spaces, Ask Bob Iger to Make Changes”

  1. The former CEO was of the opinion that he could raise prices on things like a hotel, then when attendance dropped it must be the theme and decor. It couldn’t possibly be a decision he made, it must be the decisions made by Disney legends thatwent before him. THEY must have had it wrong all along, it just took him raising the process 207 times and lowering amenities to show that people really don’t like the theme. Let’s not discuss the fact that even if people can’t afford to stay there, the Grand Floridian lobby still attracts guests from every resort on property as well as drive ins… nope, people hate it.

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  2. Just please enhance the wonder and awe of the Grand Florididian and do not make it a cookie cutter hotel!!! We pay for it’s glamour and adore it!! Keep the piano player and the couches with the large floral arrangements, they are part of the essential charm!! I’ve been a vacation club member for years and the Grand Floridian is our home base, please enhance, do not destroy the character!! Thank you

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  3. The “reimaginings” have made the rooms into nothing more than a glorified and excessively overpriced Hampton Inn. I loved the rooms the way they used to be: so much uniqueness, so well themed to each resort, and so immersed in Disney. Now, they just feel boring and sanitized. I always felt it was worth staying on site, but between the erosion of benefits for on site guests and the sanitization of the rooms, I am not seeing the advantage.

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  4. What a shame if Iger is giving the order to sand down the resorts. I was thrilled we he came back because I thought he understood “Disney Magic”.

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  5. “ the much despised new rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.”

    The perfect description. The CR went from (literally) my favorite place on Earth to a cheap IKEA-furnished hotel with garish Incredibles “artwork” and tacky decorations. Elegance has been replaced with Kmart flair.

    What was an annual stay for us is now “Not until they undo it,” which will likely never come.

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  6. They have lost the magic. We are at the Floridian right now and have been coming for 30+ years. Each year it’s less and less magical. Disney doesn’t care though. There is a line of people waiting to come so they just don’t care. We had an issue, manager accused us of lying until we showed him a picture proving it. They did NOTHING about it. Happy to take our money though. Frankly you have a better experience at the third party hotels on property. Four Seasons, Waldorf, etc. Disney has taken for granted their fandom and it shows.

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  7. My wife and I used to love the French Quarter rooms. Now they are generic big box boring hotel rooms, so disappointing! Goes along with how disappointed we are with Disney lately, lacking value, diminished quality, cut in services.

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  8. Disney’s Grand Floridian had to do something to compete with the new Four Seasons Orlando which opened a few years back, even though it’s a “chain” hotel, the Four Seasons blows the GF away in terms of service, room quality, dining, ect…

    The Grand Floridian’s room’s start at around $800 a night, but look like they were last renovated 20 years ago.

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  9. Disney’s Grand Floridian is not the only outdated hotel. The Yacht Club, Beach Club, Old Key West, Wilderness Lodge and the horifiic Swan and Dolphin (owned by Marriott) all are outdated and very over priced.

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  10. I fervently hope Iger and the powers that be reimagine the Grand Floridian Lobby to transform the birdcage area into a home to accommodate a return of The Grand Floridian Orchestra.

    The orchestra was the epitome of uniqueness, charm and Disney magic.
    No other hotel could hold a candle to the experience they created.

    Please bring them back and feature them in a proper setting in the lobby…not off in a corner.

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  11. I recently visited The Grand Floridian during the holidays to see the tree and see the Gingerbread house.

    Disney was about story telling. You step in the Grand Floridian and you definitely feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the turn of the century. It would be disappointing to see some “pushed on us” character theme design that has been happening all over Disney. I pray this renovation keeps in mind the image of the resort. Also Marry Poppins and Beauty and the Beast are not even close to the same time period. I was confused why the bar had a Beauty and the Beast theme at the Grand Floridian, also poorly represented.

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  12. We stayed at WL last year, resort was fantastic but room was very much like a Hyatt place room. It used greys and tan colors with no character. We were told people prefer toned down rooms after the overload from the parks. Very wide of the mark in my opinion. I stay on property for a reason

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  13. This is a huge problem at the Disney parks. Disney needs to STOP building mundane hotels. The new Polynesian DVC design is wrong and out of place. Then new Disneyland Hotel DVC design is wrong. The Marriott Swan Reserve design was a huge mistake. Even the Riviera Resort design is underwhelming. The new Coronado Springs Resort tower is the only new hotel that was designed well.

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  14. The Grand Floridian is perfect as it stands. Perhaps a refresh and maintenance could be a plus, but a total makeover is definitely not necessary.
    Making it a generic hotel will continue to destroy the magic that was once Disney World.

    Reply

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