Disney's missed opportunity with the New Fantasyland
Disney's getting a lot of press today for its media events over the past two days officially opening its latest expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom (which actually have been open to the public for nearly a month - check out post yesterday for links to all of our coverage
Actress Ginnifer Goodwin, Disney Parks Chariman Tom Staggs, Mickey Mouse and singer Jordin Sparks open the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom this morning. Photo courtesy Disney
Here's my take: Disney reduced what could have been a rim-rattling slam dunk to a layup. Yeah, the additions shown off today still score, but they don't get people out of their seats and shouting to their friends the way a complete new extension of the land - with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train mountain at its center and not a construction wall in sight - would have.
Disney chose to save substantial construction costs by building its new Fantasyland in phases, rather than paying the extra expense to build all four components - Storybooks Circus, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - at the same time. So we got Storybook Circus last spring, Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast last month, and we will get the Mine Train in 2014.
That's spreading the impact of the new land over two years. It's as if Universal had opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Hogwarts still under construction, then debuted Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 18 months later. No, I don't expect the Mine Train to be as spectacular as Forbidden Journey has been, but I think that makes Disney's position even weaker. The Mine Train could have been the final piece to really wow people today. Instead, it's presence in the middle of the New Fantasyland simply serves to remind everyone that today's "premiere" isn't. The project won't be complete for more than another year.
I love what Disney's done with New Fantasyland - so far. But I want to raise the missed opportunity here. Opening Fantasyland in dribs and drabs might please the hard-core fans, who are always looking for something new. But that decision kept Fantasyland from having the critical mass that allows a project to appeal beyond established fans and grab the attention of other potential visitors - the way that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to a lesser extent Cars Land did.
The Magic Kingdom will get an attendance boost over the next year as people who put off visits in 2011 and 2012 to avoid the construction begin to return. But some will hold out until 2014, further dampening the impact that the New Fantasyland could have had for the company.
Yes, building it all at once would have been more expensive. Substantially so. But theme parks have always been a business where you have to spend money to make money. Contrast Disney's relative caution with Universal's damn-the-budget drive to get Transformers built and open within 12 months.
A complete New Fantasyland would have convinced more Orlando-area visitors reason to come to the Magic Kingdom in 2013 - not 2014 or beyond. But with construction walls remaining in the middle of that area all year, I wonder how many of those potential visitors might choose to spend a day over at Universal's completed Transformers in late 2013, instead.
What's with all the negative Disney stories,
I don't think this is that big of a deal. I'll admit it made me less interested in today's press event, but I question how many non-diehards are really that into this anyway (such as to postpone a trip to 2014 as you suggest). Potter was different because the movies and books were a cultural phenomenon.
I think Disney deserves the criticism. I don't think in the end it'll impact them all that much, but it's still worthy of questioning their judgment. Imagine if their Avatar deal finally goes through and they decide to build it in three separate parts, with their E-Ticket ride for the last?
I'm disappointed to have missed the flying dragon. I was there a few days before that, but didn't stay for the 'official' opening because they hadn't announced anything special.
Remember that SDMT didn't start construction with the others. I also highly doubt Transformers will rank in enough guests to beat a Disney park.
Using Universal as a construction free alternative is a mistake. Even after Transformers opens, there will still be a giant area under construction - Potter for sure and most likely some other areas as well.
I have to agree with the first commenter that this article is overly critical of nothing and I disagree that the phased construction saves money. That doesn't add up. Doing it all at once is easier done than working around an on going operation. You can easily argue that the phased approach takes longer and thus it would seem it would be more costly as well. Ultimately, who really cares!
While Seven Dwarfs did get added late to plan and appease the boys in theory.
New Fantasyland is a disappointment. No Beauty & the Beast uber dark ride is a big fail. The casual visitor will expect a ride when they see all the other B&B trappings.
I completely agree with the author, If SDMT is the biggest attraction of new fantasyland, then the grand opening shouldn't occur without this ride.
They're just waiting to electrify the world with the AVATAR attractions.
The casual visitor to Disney will not even know they are adding anything or that anything is new. Families that plan a once-every-decade or once in a lifetime trip won't even realize what is going on. My family has only been to Disney once even though I have been there three times. My mom would not even care that this is happening. The tourists that go won't notice because they don't go all the time or follow the industry nearly as closely as we do.
I agree. Remember when Disneyland stepped up construction of the new Space Mountain so that it would be ready for the 50th Anniversary? THAT is the correct move. The Seven Dwarves Mine train and the Princess Hall could have been ready... but it would have been expensive.
Disney should have definitely completed the land before opening it. I thought Disney was the king of theme. Now we have a few new attractions, yay, but where's the rest? And what's with the construction walls and crains? I just can't stand business decisions like this. Sorry to be so negative, I'm as big of a Disney fan as any, it just irks me.
I have to agree you are being unnecessarily 'down' on Disney over this. Over here in north Wales there is a new tourist railway - the Welsh Highland Railway. The final 12 miles of this line could have been opened in one push but the company decided to open in in a total of 4 phases. If they had done it in one they wold have had a massive burst of publicity and a real 'wow' but by doing in 4 stages they got 4 pretty big bursts of publicity and an almost constant 'wow' from the press and public for over 2 years. Sometimes it pays to stagger openings.....
Robert writes: “Disney chose to save substantial construction costs by building its new Fantasyland in phases, rather than paying the extra expense to build all four components …”
Just one point SDMT will open in 2014 so will Gringotts if they open anywhere near the same time SDMT will barely get a mention Disney should speed up the build or it will get lost in the Wizarding World expansion
I think Disney did a wonderfull job with New Fantasy land. It all looks wonderful. That said, attraction wise, there is nothing to be very excited about except for the (still under construction) seven dwarfs coaster ride.
Absolutely right on. We are Orlando residents and we are opting for Seaworld and Universal passes this year instead of Disney due to Antartic at Seaworld and Transformers at Universal and won't do Disney until seven dwarfs rides opens in 2014.
Should Disney even try to get more visitors to Magic Kingdom? 17 million a year seems quite enough to create very long lines.
I don't think it was construction cost. More likely an inept Disney planners/imagineers whom wasn't prepared to compete against Universal.
Let's see. Disney has six parks in the US, and Universal has three. Robert writes 2 articles with criticism about one of Disney's attractions and an expansion of an existing land. He writes one article slamming the food at an entire Universal resort....and all of a sudden he's being overly critical of Disney?
Getting tired of what feels like a majority of the front page stories being negative. Criticism is fine when merited but as the foundation for all stories, it's so annoying and wears on people.
I think that everyone is missing the main point of the expansion. They aren't worried about more attendance, although that would definitely be a plus. They already dominate that metric. They want the people that come to enjoy their experience more so they'll come back and spend more money while they're there. Be Our Guest increases spending and the two new attractions increase capacity over what they create, just counting the enchanted forest. It also helps to look at the total package, including Sorcerers, the interactive queues that they have been adding, and possibly other aspects of NextGen that accomplish similar goals. On top of that, they're increasing the atmosphere of the park with increased theming and street performers like the clowns at Storybook Circus and the Fantasyland people (I have no idea what they're called, I hope you know what I'm talking about). It would be great if SDMT opened right now for multiple reasons. However I think with the way that Universal and even SeaWorld are playing the market, Orlando theme parks (and possibly California by extension) being under construction may be the new normal.
What Disney built looks great to me, and the fact that there is more on the way is even better. I have no complaints.
I think the criticism is legitimate. The fact is the filler is opened while the marquee attraction is delayed until 2014. As a better analogy, it's like they opened Carsland with Radiator Springs Racer delayed until 2014.
I'm pumped I don't know about the rest of you.....
they probably decided to hold off on the mine train attraction so they could have something to go up against the harry potter expansion in USF.
i agree 100% not only did disney miss an opportunity to give us the full fantasyland experience, but they missed an opportunity to give us a true e-ticket attraction. I will definitely wait until the end of the expansion because i want to enjoy this expansion in it's full glory. I thought the whole reason for expanding is so that I could see the fresh vegetation of an enchanted world, not construction walls.
I think it is reasonable to assert that all of the attractions in Fantasyland and Storybook Circus can be classified as "E-Tickets" if the park is targeting a demographic that consists of families with children.
Oh my........ (at the above post)
The articles I have seen on Disney oriented sites indicate that while California Adven. attendance is way up, Disneyland attendance is down a bit. Many guests go to California Adventure for RSR fastpasses first, which counts as Calif. attendance, even if they go to Disneyland later. So, its doubtful Disneyland will pass up Magic Kingdom in the near future, even though Walt Disney World attendance is flat at this time.
First Seven Dwarfs will probably open in late 2013 not 2014, remember original plan for Little Mermaid and Be our Guest was 2013. Disney plays it safe as not to make thousands of hotel guest mad. If attractions don't open as scheduled.
18.104.22.168 has an excellent point. Would you really expect them to keep a finished project waiting?
I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed when Seven Dwarfs finally opens. It's not going to be much more than a themed children's coaster.
I heard SeaWorld's Antarctica land could be better than MK new fantasyland because in 2013 Antarctica in SeaWorld will open around the spring. Transformers in universal studios Florida will open in the summer of 2013 as well. That will damage disney world's attendance significantly for the next two years.
Mr. Kirby writes: "I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed when Seven Dwarfs finally opens. It's not going to be much more than a themed children's coaster."
Is this the post were we get to say all our silly notions and complain about the weirdest things?
Note to Skipper Adam: BEST POST EVER!
Skipper Adam, that was probably the greatest comment on this site ever.
Skipper...Not enough land? Really? That argument might work for disneyland but not disneyworld. Take a look at google map of MK. See that big plot of undeveloped forest and small lake directly behind be our guest and gastons tavern? Now take a look at the nearby haunted mansion show building to the left a little. You have enough room for 3 or 4 haunted mansion size show buildings right there directly in the beauty and beast area of new fantasyland! There is plenty of room for a large beauty and the beast ride. They didn't build it because they didn't want to invest in a ride and instead opted for a much cheaper, and boring, storytime with belle. It's clear to most people they just cheaped out.
Oh and look what dropped on Youtube today ...
SeaWorld's Antarctica is an attraction, not a land.
22.214.171.124, let me explain why your comment where's my Beauty and the Beast ride is dumb. It's because I can easily say where's my Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, etc, etc, etc dark ride. Why does every movie deserve a dark ride? They're putting a mix of attractions and for the story area they chose Beauty and the Beast. Was Disneyland cheap for having an Aladdin story attraction? No!
Eric G. writes: "Fantasyland has never really had an E-ticket attraction, so the expansion only improves not lessens the experience that was previously offered."
Ok first of all it incredibly immature to call anyone's comment here dumb. If you can't respect the opinions of others maybe you shouldn't visit a comments thread? Secondly, I didn't say there needs to be a ride for every movie, but since they've build an entire mini land based on BB, most people are going to expect and want a ride to be in that area as well. Especially since its one of the best Disney movies. I think most people would prefer a ride over a cheap story time. Lastly my comment was about the availability of land for the ride, which as I said before there is plenty.
Disney pricing model; high priced admission into the theme park of your choice followed by handing over your wallet for the rest of your day - enjoy!
@EricG and the other Disney apologists:
My my, so much controversy.
Also Eric the Aladdin attraction was squeezed between tiki room and the jungle cruise, theres literally no place for a ride without drastically ruining the jungle cruise and its in a land that already has TWO e ticket attractions. The reason why tales with belle is cheap is because there's plenty of room for a large attraction there, which is what my comment was about, the availability of space. A quick google check u can see room behind be our guest and gastons for about 3 or 4 haunted mansion size show buildings! So its a very unfounded comparison.
@ Tony Perkins.
126.96.36.199 I work in Fantasyland, I opened the Circus and the Mermaid rides. Take it from me, and not Google Earth, that there is no room for much of anymore rides. To begin, with the fireworks where they are, there can be nothing built passed the service road and the railroad that runs right in hte middle of the space. Secondly, there are major utilities in that area. Just cause you see some trees from the sky doesn't mean there is room.
Mr. Perkins describes the Mine Train Coaster as: "Another kiddie coaster with only basic theming."
And by the way, didn't Snow White's Scary Adventure have signage warning parents that there were "intense" scenes that could potentially frighten small children?
@robert morris This past week and next week were the last weeks of the year that Disney could hold a media event. Two reasons - crowds start to ramp up for the holidays and the park expands hours. Second reason, people get busy for the holidays and the park wouldn't get the same impact from the press reports a couple weeks from now.
TH Creative says: something like don't talk about a ride that you haven't even rode.
There is nothing kiddie about the Seven Dwarfs coaster. Comments like that just make you look foolish. You don't have to like the attraction, but it's not a kiddie coaster and that's a fact. The attraction is clearly on the scale of a major Disney roller coaster. The closest thing to a kiddie coaster is the Vekoma Roller Skater model that is used for Goofy's Barnstormer.
@ Tony Perkins
Wow! Over the past decade on this site we've gone from beating Disney brass over the head about the lack of new attractions and for building half day parks to beating Disney brass over the head for not opening all of their new attractions in the Magic Kingdom at the same time.
Anonymous post was me.
Eric G. writes: "Fantasyland has never really had an E-ticket attraction..."
Curious what people think on this tangent:
Skipper really? Disney can't build there is your defense? Disneyaland has 6 major attractions/lands build outside of the train track and the original onstage area as they have expanded throughout the years into back stage areas. And you think a simple service road is too hard for disney to engineer around? Attractions including took town, Indiana Jones, haunted mansion and others. They could build past be our guest and gastons if they wanted to, they are some of the best engineers on the planet. Cmon this is Disney were talking about its only a question ofof how much they wanted to spend and with new fantasy land they just didn't want to spend for a major attraction. Some of us are disappointed for that, but hey if you and others are happy then that's great just not a lot of peoples opinion.
Yes, it's going to be a kid's coaster with a 40" height restriction. Little kids will not be able to go on it, but bigger kids will. In other words the new ride will separate families by its very definition. Little ones who like Snow White will not be able to ride her new attraction. The old attraction was open to all, and the sign was simply a warning that it could be scary for little ones. For what it's worth, the bees' buzzing sounds on Pooh was scarier to my kids than anything on Snow White.
Perkins...you're right and its funny how people say snow white was scary and therefore not kid friendly. Since when is scary stuff not for Kids? Toad, Pinocchio, pirates and countless other rides have scary elements in them and that's part of the appeal! Disney was never worried to be scary or edgy with his attractions! Also for the record there's also 2 Dumbo themed attractions with Casey junior train.
Tony, it's not a kiddie coaster. You're misusing terminology that is well defined. A kiddie coaster is typical an oval or figure-8 layout steel coaster that is about 100 to 500 feet in length and stands about no more than 15-feet tall. This is a custom ride that is on a much larger scale and will be similar in size to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
What is it with the houses? The attendance for those was so little? And you complain about how more rides could go in in stead of restaurants, but the Barnstormer should go in lieu of an unpopular walk through?
With all due respect too the need for restuarants...
Well there has been a mistake within the media. Disney never called it the Grand Opening like the has been calling it. Disney has been calling it the Grand Reveal because it's the introduction to the New Fantasyland and its backstory. In reality, the whole thing IS moot.
Oh, please, stop all the whining! Most any expansion at the major theme parks is pretty spectacular these days, so just take a deep breath, exhale all your pent up hate and jealousy, and enjoy unprecedented growth! I will echo Tim Hillman echoing me, "It is a great time to be a theme park fan!!!!"
We've been in Orlando all week with two days at MK.
Since Disney gave the media the talking points and since GMA Disney owned show was promoting "the grand opening"
"Seriously, making it hard to go from the "circus world" to Belle/Ariel land confuses the heck out of everyone."
They should've built a beauty/beast ride in the available land behind gastons and be our guest, and they shouldve plussed ariel and added the much needed ursula scene that DCA was missing. Goofini should be removed since SDMT will make it irrelevant.
While I am still not sure why Robert Niles believes that opening of Fantasyland in phases substantially reduces construction costs, I pretty much agree with 80% of what he's offered in the article.
Does the "Comment Section" have a 100-post limit like topics on the Discussion Board? These arguments are getting boring and redundant. Of course, if it DOES end at 100, I'm sure someone will open it again over there. And tht makes me sad. You guys (and ladies) don't want to make me sad, do you?
Comments close once the article gets off the homepage.
Many reasons why fast construction cost more
Many reasons why fast construction cost more
This might (hopefully) be the benefit to me as a consumer from Disney opening the land in phases: While I plan to wait until 2014 to go when Seven Dwarves opens up, some people might go ahead and plan a trip because what is already open is enough to get them back into the park.... thus hopefully making the crowds more tolerable when I go in 2014.... I hope.
Um ... Mr. Niles, was your assrtion based upon what Mr. Morris claims?
The walkthrough for Mickey's house was not empty, there were plenty of people in there exploring and waiting in line to meet the Big Cheese himself. Minnie's house itself was small but could attract a crowd to that quaint attraction that provided a great back drop for photos with Minnie.
Just to put my two cent into the conversation.
Tom Cunningham said,
@ Tony Perkins:
Did anyone else think the acutall story telling with Belle was lame? The staging and the mirror entry are fabulous but the actual story telling with stick figure characters is a bit cheesy for Disney if you ask me.
so can we just all get along and love the fact that both Universal and Disney are building some real kick booty stuff at the moment. They are both attacking different audience members at the moment. I personally love Universal's attraction right now in my life, but I also love how Disney is going after little kids right now. Let's be honest, EVERYTHING at the Magic Kingdom is meant for kids. Space Mtn is a wild mouse in the dark with special effects END OF STORY. Magic Kingdom has never been after the audience that Universal goes after. Universal goes after a teenage to 50ish range of people that love thrill with immersive themeing. Disney goes after the people who do not like thrills, but love amazing themeing.... it's really that simple
I'm not an expert, but I sometimes wish people would stop calling Space Mountain a Wild Mouse. Yes, it's a fairly tame ride, but a Wild Mouse is a specific type of coaster, not a generic name for a mild, one-step-above-kiddie coaster...and Space Mountain ain't a Wild Mouse.
Some of the comments in this post are just off the mark.
The Mine Train ride is taking this long because it was added to the New Fantasyland plans, late in the game. After the negative reaction to the "princess-centric" plans, Disney hastily added a ride, which wasn't even in the design phase at the time. So of course it won't be ready until 2014. So they should keep the rest of the expansion boarded up until then? That wouldn't make any sense.
Where did Skipper...?
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