Vote of the week: Is it possible to have too much land?
A recent comment from a Theme Park Insider reader got me thinking about the optimum size for a theme park resort. This reader was responding to a discussion about new attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort by saying that Universal will always lack one of Walt Disney World's assets - abundant land for expansion.
I started to nod my head in agreement, then caught myself. Why? I don't think that Disney World's 30,000+ acres are an asset. The wide open spaces outside Lake Buena Vista have allowed Disney to create a sprawling, late 20th-Century exurban development, where guests waste hours and hours during the visit traveling between theme parks, hotels and other attractions on property. Who wants to commute on vacation?
Certainly, Disney would love to have another hundred acres or so at the Disneyland Resort, positioned in just the proper location to make a third park easier to develop at the resort. But not having tens of thousands of acres to work with in Anaheim eventually forced Disney to create a theme park resort on a much more human scale.
Forget the new land in California Adventure. Walt Disney World is the real "cars land," because you can't get around the resort without one. Okay, maybe you'll take a bus - and wait for it - but you've no hope of getting anywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort without motorized road transport.
That's not the case at every other multi-park theme park resort in the world. Once you arrive on property at the 510-acre Disneyland Resort or the 840-acre Universal Orlando Resort, everything's accessible in walking distance. At Universal Orlando, if you don't care to walk to the nearby on-property resorts, you can choose to take a short boat ride over to them, instead.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the two theme parks stand within walking distance of one another, separated by a long shopping area. If you're staying at one of the non-Disney hotels on site, a monorail awaits to whisk you to those hotels, if you're not up for a longish walk. I've not yet been to Disneyland Paris, but it also clusters its two theme parks, shopping district and many hotels around a walkable hub. And at both Tokyo Disney and Disneyland Paris, commuter rail stations connect the resorts to the regional mass-transit system, meaning that you don't even need a car to get to the resort!
So the question is - at what point does additional acreage become a liability, instead of an asset, for a theme park resort? I understand that many theme park fans in the United States have become acclimated to exurbia. They've gotten use to seeing acres of empty space around every grocery store, school, restaurant, and shopping mall in their communities and expect to have to drive to every destination outside their home. So, for them, there's no problem with the long distances between hotels and theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort. That extra space simply provides Disney with nearly limitless options for future expansion, and less need to consider siting issues than would exist in a more densely developed resort.
But I don't live in a far-flung suburb, nor do millions of other Americans. I live in a city, where I can walk a block to a pharmacy, three blocks to a full-service grocery store, and least a dozen restaurants stand within four blocks of my home. While I love taking long roadtrips with my family, once we get someplace, we like to get out of the car and enjoy being there. That's why we're such big fans of Disneyland and Universal Orlando, and our favorite spot at Walt Disney World is perhaps the most walkable section of the resort - the "Boardwalk" area between the Swan and Dolphin and Epcot's World Showcase.
So, for me, acreage becomes a liability when it tempts planners to start designing for cars, instead of for people. Once you've placed your theme parks and hotels miles away from one another, there's no going back. Even creating a workable mass-transit system to connect them becomes nearly impossible. (Witness Disney's inability to develop any other transit solution at WDW save for buses, and a few boats.)
Of course, having extra space for expansion's a huge asset for a theme park. But I think that experience with Walt Disney World, Disneyland and other multi-park resorts should suggest that the appropriate size for a theme park resort is measured in hundreds of acres - not tens of thousands. While I hope that Disneyland finds a way to expand its attractions, perhaps even adding a third park to the resort, I also hope that no developer ever makes the mistake of creating another spread-out, far-flung, car-dependent, unwalkable tourist destination like Disney World turned out to be. There's a better way to pack a ton of entertainment into a livable, well-themed and visually isolated space. Lots of extra acres aren't always an asset to a vacation destination.
Of course, you might think I'm full of it. :^) So let's put this up for a vote:
Thoughts? (And I expect some heated ones on this topic!)
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I love the way Walt Disney World is. I would not have it any other way.
I would have to disagree on this one. I love the expansive nature of WDW for one key reason. Once you pass through the gates, you are truly in another world. Compare that to Universal. You get off the highway, onto an exit ramp which leads you to a traffic light, suddenly, you are at a theme park. Once I've passed through the park gates at the Studios or IOA, I feel somewhat transported elsewhere, but nowhere besides WDW (that I've experienced anyways) can you truly feel that sense of escapism.
While I love DLR, I have to say that WDW does transport you to another land because of how far each park is from another one. You can see the other parks in the distance when you're up in a tall attraction.
Sorry, Robert, but you're probably gonna lose on this one. Not only does WDW offers an escape from reality, its traffic, sounds and sights, but it also offers the space needed to expand without having to put down one of its attraction.
I appreciate both sides to this. I love the clusters of the MK area and the Boardwalk/DHS/Epcot area. Hotels, restaurants and park/parks all close and easy to get two. I know DAK's location was partially based on the desire to keep the animals away from traffic, fireworks and the bright lights at night of the other areas combined with the original plans to add "lands" to the park. There is a lot of natural green space and wild life preserves. Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoons provide beautiful green spaces. It's nice to escape the urban and suburban landscapes. There's always the argument that Disney World provides a sense of escapism both in and out of the park. But the bullet that puts the hole in that idea is the bus system.
Robert's argument that too much acreage is a liability is one of the biggest reasons why our last vacation to WDW was in 2006 when we stayed at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Since then, we've vacationed four times at a Universal Orlando property and loved every minute of it.
Robert - I normally agree 100% with your opinions on here but I honestly think you have got the wrong end of the stick on this occasion.
Disneyland Paris, for me, is almost perfect with regards to its layout. The furthest hotel away from the parks, which is the Value Resort Hotel Santa Fe, is still a comfortably 20 minute walk to the park.
I agree with Mickey, once you're in WDW you're somewhere you've never been. I never voted because I don't go on vacation much.
I'm torn on this as well. I love the convenience at Universal and Disneyland of being able to walk every where. But having isolated parks at the World is special as well. Disney World just needs to pony up for a green mass transportation system and get rid of the nasty diesel buses.
One reason that I'm excited to visit Disneyland Resort is how close everything is. The resort will be across the street from my hotel (just try to walk from Kissimmee or Lake Buena Vista to the parks - if the heat doesn't kill you, a car will.) I will be able to park hop without taking a car (this will save precious time.) Then I can have a meal at Downtown Disney in a few minutes walk.
Mickey put it very well -- WDW is truly its own World, removed from the 'real world', and that's a fantastic plus. We much prefer it to the feeling at Disneyland, even when staying at an on-site resort there.
I get the difficulty the transportation system at WDW, that said I like how immersive the parks are once your inside the resort. One piece of advise I always gave visitors when I worked there was to slow down, although it's tempting, don't drive yourself crazy with park hopping, it eats up too much time. That said, my family and I have exhausted ourselves park hopping between DLR and DCA on a day's visit. My eight year old nephew who's recently popped through the glass ceiling when it comes to riding the "big" rides is notorious for wanting to ride Space Mountain then begging to pop over to DCA to ride Screaming followed by ToT and then back to DL to catch back up with the rest of the family. I always enjoyed the boat transportation at WDW, wish they had more of it. I find it relaxing. Never was a big fan of the bus system, but often it's easier than dealing with the monorails most times.
Attention everyone!!!!!!! I just found out that jimmy neutron will be brought back with new episodes in 2013. Does that leave the possibility of a reincarnated nicktoons blast by 2014? I loved the ride and simply felt it should've been updated with more popular nick cartoons . Such as: avatar last airbender or tuff puppy. I think by this time next year we'll be getting an announcement about a revamped nicktoons blast. The location will probably be shrek but I'd prefer disaster . I hate that attraction more than its a small world and that's saying something ! Please do a discussion on this!
In all honesty, the best set up of any theme park resort is that of Disneyland Paris. Everything is within easy walking distance and it's set up around a large central esplanade.
I understand how people who live in cities don't like disneyworld. I used to live in the city but now live in a big suburb town and the closes resturnats is almost a mile away. Yea it can be annoying but then u can add anything. In a city land is so hard to get so they can't expand like disney world. I love disney world way more then universal everything is more spread out and bigger. Disney has no problem adding new hotels and theme parks but unversal does and that's wat lacks in expansion for smaller parks. Also it's not like the transportation isn't free the monorail is super fast and takin a bus isn't no longer then 15 minutes to each park.
As Walt Disney put it,"the blessing of size". There is plenty of room for anything that they could possibly come up with at Walt Disney World. You can't say that about Disneyland.
Disneyworld was not going to be a theme parks it was Walt's experimental prototype community of tomorrow.
Thank you Robert for writing this. I'm happy as can be that I'm not the only one that feels this way. WDW is amazing the first couple of times you go there when you enjoy the massive size because there's nothing like it out there, BUT after u go to wdw a few times, you start to realize how much time u do lose when you hopping between parks. Thus the reason why I go to wdw I don't buy a hopping option anymore. One park one day is enough for me so I can actually enjoy the theme parks for what they are and ride everything. Also, I believe the way universal is laid out is perfect. I love the shopping district right in the middle of it all (plus I'm sure that helps sales in the City Walk). If there was a way to merg the disneyland park with the universal orlando resort, I would have my fantasy park (kind of like a fantasy league). I hate to admit this to u everyone, WDW is out of date and starting to get pretty boring. An enhanced Dumbo????? Come on!!! Really. Disney can do sooo much better. Idk what it is, disney doesn't want to spend money on wdw anymore. DON'T bring up Avatar either because NONE of us don't even have a clue what its going to look like and if there will be any amazing ride to come with it. Universal is the power house of central florida right now
I think Disneyland and Universal Orlando are both wonderfully immersive - if anything, I find Walt Disney World less immersive because so much of it looks like regular old highway traffic anymore.
Although I voted for the more compact version...... You have to take into account some things like..... Animal Kingdom would not be the same if it was within walking distance to any of the other parks..... its foresty look is an asset to the park environment. The fact that Magic Kingdom is themed to kind of seem like its on an island makes the idea of being able to walk to the front gate of it from the gate of another park seem somewhat uncooperative to the theme or environment of that park.
People are saying that "its the blessing of size" like walt said. Which is true, BUT what have they really done with that size beside add more dvc since 2005. Disneyland is the one that's been adding and that a very small fraction of the size but it they make it fit. If the imagineers get desperate enough with the size of Dland, they will just add another level to disneyland lol. There's another quote we should all remember that walt said about disneyland "disneyland will never be complete as long as there's imagination left in the world
The last time I went to the Magic Kingdom, I ended up waiting over an hour for a monorail just to LEAVE the park. And that was with the boats to the MK resorts working (when the water gets choppy, the boats can't run and the monorail line gets longer).
Size is obviously important for expansion. And Disney CA will very soon need a third park to handle the crowds its getting. However I will say that Id rather visit a resort with 2 outstanding action packed Parks than a resort with more but underdeveloped Parks . And in my opinion there's only 2 resorts in the world with 2 outstanding Parks. Disney CA(thanks to the recent expansion) and Disney Tokyo.
I couldn't agree with you more, Robert. Years ago when Disney World first opened and everything was located on the monorail around the lake, it seemed more intimate and relaxing. There was also the expectation that future parks would be added to the outside of the monorail ring thus keeping the resort still somewhat compact. That expectation was shattered by the placement of Epcot at a considerable distance from the Magic Kingdom, but the impact was somewhat lessened by the fact that a monorail was built from the TTC to Epcot. Every theme park and water park built after Epcot has been built with total independence of the others. I'm totally perplexed as to why Disney did this since they could have saved considerable expense on transportation expenses by putting DAK and DHS and the water parks between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.
I think both WDW and USF are wonderful properties! That being said, it's not really the property that drives my decision on where to visit, but rather the time I have and what I really want to do.
Mark H, I couldn't have said it better myself.
I have to agree with Robert, Universal Orlando is much more immersive than WDW. Once you enter city walk, you are in a different world.
Interesting that the comments are overwhelmingly in favour of WDW and space - despite the vote having swung the other way. I wouldn't read to much into the voting figures and I suspect Disney aren't overly worried. The attendance figures speak for the majority opinion on this one...
Io'm kind of undecided,I like the small walkable resort for Universal orlando and the vast huge resort for WDW. Its just a queation of what works for YOU. I wouldnt like universal as much if they decided to buy 5000 more acres and build 2 more parks, nor would i like it at disneyland
Ok Nick, How could they possibly repeat it at other resorts when the other resorts don't have nearly the amount of property that Walt Disney World has?!
When I enter Citywalk, I feel like I'm in a shopping district. That changes when I enter one of the parks however. When I enter WDW, it feels like I'm in a different place mainly because there's no billboards
I agree with Joseph, Disneyland Paris resort has the best of the two models.
I appreciate the accessibility that the smaller resorts provide. It's amazing how many experiences can be packed into a smaller footprint when things are planned properly. That being said, the issue of being landlocked is paramount as time goes on, attendance increases and the desire to stay fresh and evolve and introduce new attractions into a park is demanded by the people that continue to keep the turnstyles moving. Look no further than Universal, to see what happens when this issue arises. Classic rides quickly become part of Yesterland to make way for new cutting edge attractions. It's not so bad when you remove a stinker, but it's a sad day when favorites like Back to the Future and Jaws go the way of the dinosaur. DLR is just about maxed out in expansion right now, with new attractions mostly being new internal creations where an old attractions footprint once was. Once they get moving on their third gate, then you can expect something perhaps on the scale of Carsland, but until that day, it might take some major retooling or demolition to see anything of significance rise at that resort again.
I love the way that WDW is set up. As stated in earlier posts, when taking the Disney exit off of I-4 or HWY 192, you are immediately wisked away into the magical world of Disney! I know it is a pain when trying to hop from park to park, but I never really got the point of park hopping at the WDW resort. There is so much to do in every park, there is no way that anyone could finish an entire park in one day. And, not to mention, the WDW resort will never run out of space to expand it's resort, creating new experiences for all of us to share. While I do like that at the Universal Orlando Resort, the parks, resorts, and parking garages are all within walking distance of each other. I feel that there simply isn't as much to do there as is at the WDW resort. I have been able to hit both parks at the Universal resort in one day. I did IOA in the morning, had lunch, and was able to do USF in the afternoon. And what scares me is that UO will never be able to expand.
One of WDW's greatest challenges may also be a perception in that the average first time guest is thinking I'm going to be whisked via Monorail everywhere (note you never see a bus in commercial just the monorial). Then you get to your resort and your waking up an hour early to catch a bus, or earlier if at one of the classic value resorts.
An idea i've always had for Disney World to eliminate the bus problem people often complain about is for Disney World to take its Transportation & Ticket Center and move it a bit further south to where there's alot more open space and greatly expand it to be the one and only parking area for the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks as well as the Downtown Disney area, Water Parks and the Wide World of Sports Complex. Imagine a Parking structure the size of an Airport parking garage designed to be a massive transit system with one Monorail for each theme park stemming from the station as well as 1 monorail for each resort area and for the other Disney World attractions(Downtown Disney/Water Parks/Sports Complex) so all in all having 10 Monorails stemming from the parking structure and only using the parking lot at each theme park as overflow parking should the new parking lot/garage become full. They could also make the terminal area completely indoors and air conditioned. Granted its only in my imagination, but I think it would be a wonderful change if it could be done, and then we could say so long to the awful buses.
Disney has created a business model based on the large size of WDW which is different than any other place on Earth. It's not good or bad, just different. Since WDW is actually a city (Reedy Creek) where outside infrastructure is not needed to provide for the WDW guests, as opposed to all other theme parks with or without hotel resorts, their ability to control that business model is virtually complete.
I'm all for a Monorail expansion, as I would imagine most people would be as well. Logistically and financially, I say the chance of Disney wrapping their heads around a true expansion is slim to none. If I had to take a minimum, it would be to link DHS and AK into the system, leaving the door open for possible expansion to DTD, some more of the resorts and possibly the water parks. Hell the AK line might as well put in the AK Lodge stop on the line since it's already right there. I'd love for at least all of the parks, but I just can't see the investment being made, nor have I yet to hear a true reasonable argument for it, backed up with hard data by somebody on the inside.
I believe that space is indeed a luxury. Having an area to grow gives Walt Disney World an advantage over every other theme park complex. Even with an abundant four parks and a bewildering array of hotels and ancillary attractions, the WDW complex still has room for future growth. This is long-term planning to the extreme. It is hardly surprising that Walt Disney wanted to have such a large tract available after having his beloved Disneyland crowded by the surrounding businesses that sprung up due to its success. Walt Disney World provides adequate space for any endeavor that the company wants to build. I just don't see how that can be a bad thing.
Sorry, but I think you've managed to miss the whole point of why Walt Disney envisioned Walt Disney World in the first place. Somewhere where you can leave everything behind, and totally immerse yourself in the vacation experience.
While it is nice to be able to walk to the parks at Universal, I always think about the basis for the size of WDW. Walt didn't want what happened at Disneyland, correct? A monstrosity of motels and whatnot, and little room to grow. So that is what has been achieved at WDW, but at the cost of everything being very close together.
Universal Orlando and Disneyland also have to consider what they want to remove when building new attractions. It means that older, less enjoyable, attractions are demolished and replaced with new ones, keeping the overall quality of the attractions high.
WDW may overall have a lot more space, but a good portion of the wooded areas are designated nature preserves which limit development.
Robert wins in this argument. I agree with Robert.
Quote "Sorry, but I think you've managed to miss the whole point of why Walt Disney envisioned Walt Disney World in the first place. Somewhere where you can leave everything behind, and totally immerse yourself in the vacation experience."
Too much is something is always BAD! thats the simple conclusion. Disneyland is small and yet it has the most sense of escapism of any other themepark including MK.
I hardly see any park expand from is original intended size. Animal Kindom and Epcot are huge but they where that by design. With a lot of land that's possible otherwise they use the land they have. I don't see how that's a negative or a positive.
I actually prefer the vastness and isolated nature of the WDW parks, but I agree that the transportation options seem very insufficient and battling traffic is nobody's idea of a fun vacation activity.. I think that the best of both worlds would be to have large tracts of property that allow for isolation and expansion, coupled with cutting edge, up-to-date transit/people moving infrastructure.
I get what you're saying, Robert, but I'm another one that appreciates the expansive nature of WDW. I think Walt was right in wanting to create an isolated experience free from all the over-development he saw happen outside Disneyland.
The key word in the question I'm making my decision on is "vacation". I live in the endless urban/suburban/urban/suburban again sprawl that is the Southern California Greater Los Angeles area. Going to Walt Disney World is a nice break from the norm, somewhere that I can see some undeveloped land. And unlike LA, the mass transit system is adequate. I've never felt that the buses take entirely too long, and once you accept you can't just park hop on a whim, it becomes pretty manageable. On the upside, you're in an entirely new world, cut off from the outside world and few sightline issues even internally.
Just adding a comment to the people complaining about old Universal rides being closed and demolished/replaced: a lot of these attractions, like Back to the Future and Jaws, were one-of-a-kind multi-million dollar ride systems that had only been built on paper beforehand. Many of these rides, in addition to low ridership, had mounting maintenance budgets due to their age. This happens at Disney, too.
I myself being a Walt Disney World "Magic Kingdom" cast member, understand your concern as a tourist to how much space is too much space? however let's look at this logically. it's 1956, Disneyland has been open for a little over a year, and Walt has ultimately come to grips that he no longer has control over the view from inside "Disneyland" seeing that you can see Interstate 5 from some of the rides, shabby hotels, cheap diners are popping up everywhere and there is nothing he could do about it. DISNEYLAND is the proving ground for every Disney Theme Park, Water Park and entertainment complex the Disney company has built to date. ask yourself this question Would "Magic Kingdom" be the most attended theme park worldwide to this day, if Disneyland had been a failure like the amusement convention associates told walt it would be in 1954? would Fantasmic! even have been possible without Fantasia? would Animal Kingdom exist if the Jungle Cruise ride was never built? these are questions that you have to ask yourself, because after a while you realize that Walt learned from his mistakes. in 1964 he flew over several central florida areas to choose a spot to build his next dream. he finally chose the property he wanted, right next to the Florida turnpike and just a few miles from where florida was building Interstate 4. one third of the property is dedicated to preservation of plants, wild animals and science. and disney has only developed one third of the property, so technically they can build 4 more theme parks, 2 more water parks, one more downtown disney, 16 more hotels, plenty more parking lots/structures and still have land to spare. I love the Florida Project, always have, always will. Our dedication as CAST MEMBERS is to PRESERVE, PROTECT and DEFEND Walt Disney World, so help me God...
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