Would Disney ever close or debrand a theme park?
Theme Park Insider reader Annette asked an interesting question in response to our post on planned improvements at the Disneyland Paris resort
: "Would a Disney park ever close or be unbranded?"
She cited examples of hotels changing hands or brands, and wondered if the same ever could occur for a Disney theme park, particularly Disneyland Paris, which many fans have criticized for poor maintenance and a lack of new attractions. (See link above.)
Fix. Sell. Kill — Which will be Disney's choice?
Would Disney ever close a park? Sure. It already has.
Disney closed its original Walt Disney World water park, River Country, in 2001. Would that happen again? Barring a major disaster that rendered a park unrepairable, one would have to doubt it. Disney's recent track record suggested that it would rather "turn on the money hose" and clean up its problem parks than to close or sell them away. Look at what Disney's done to rebuild and revamp Disney California Adventure and Hong Kong Disneyland, and what it's about to do to rebuild Florida's Downtown Disney as Disney Springs.
At this point, Disney has abundant income that allows it the freedom to fix its past mistakes. So long as Disney continues to bring in that level of money, Disney's not conceding defeat in the theme park business. Parks that fail to attract the level of customer adoration the company wants will get improvements until customers start throwing money at them again.
(And here's a note to Walt Disney World fans. If you want Disney to spend more money on these parks, the best thing you can do to help make that happen is for you to spend less money on them. Nothing gets a project green-lighted faster at Disney theme parks than revenue failing to meet projections. So long as customers keep spending at a resort, it's easy for managers to assume all's well and to send new spending elsewhere. Want to improve the Walt Disney World Resort? Forget about petitions or discussion board rants. Just go to Disneyland or Tokyo Disneyland, instead. Heck, you could go to Universal Orlando, too, though if enough people spent their money with other companies that Disney's income suffered, that could impair the company's ability to power up that money hose.)
Let's flip the question, too. Would Disney ever buy and rebrand another company's park? Again, it's considered that in the past, "kicking the tires" on a deal to purchase Knott's Berry Farm before the Knott family sold it to Cedar Fair in the late 1990s. According to some Imagineers, Disney played with the idea of buying and upgrading Knott's as Disneyland's "second gate," employing some of the designs from the abandoned Disney's America project. However, the desire to have the parks located next to one another that led the company to abandon plans for Long Beach DisneySea earlier in the decade dissuaded Disney managers, and the Knott family found a deal more to its liking from Cedar Fair.
So what about Disneyland Paris? Resort managers last week detailed their refurbishment plan for the resort, including its hotels, though they announced no new attractions for either theme park. The situation at Disneyland Paris is complicated by the fact that Disney only owns a portion of the resort instead of owning it outright, as it does at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, or licensing the resort to another owner, as it does in Tokyo. Disneyland Paris also has carried a huge, profit-draining debt burden for much of its existence, due to a flawed business plan at launch.
Disneyland Paris was, at its birth, a real estate scheme. Its business plan relied on the sale and development of commercial (including hotel) and residential property surrounding the core theme park. But when those plans didn't come through, the park was left with immense debt, requiring multiple bailouts from additional investors. That has left the Disneyland Paris theme park with a popular reputation as a financial failure, which is ironic because the theme park might have been the only element of the whole resort that actually succeeded beyond expectations.
Still, the resort's a package deal. Disney appears ready to invest the cash it needs to ensure the continued success of the Disneyland park and its hotels. But will Disney commit the additional money needed to upgrade Walt Disney Studios Paris to the same standards of the other 10 theme parks in the chain? Disney did the same for the other two underfunded parks it opened in the first decade of the 21st century: California Adventure and Hong Kong Disneyland. That history suggests Disney is more likely to do the same for the Paris Studios, rather than selling or closing the park.
Want WDW to update? Lets see... New Fantasyland, Avatar Land, Star Wars Land, Disney Springs and Magic bands... yeah why doesn't disney world ever get updated? I still don't get why so many people here consider Universal better than Disney. I can easily complete Islands of Adventure in one morning easy and ride every ride. Where as Magic Kingdom takes me all day and I never get bored.I do agree however that Disneyland is way ahead of Magic Kingdom. But sheesh, so much negativity towards WDW!
I don't think that there's any hate towards WDW. I agree that Magic Kingdom is definitely a full day park, and it's hard to do everything in a day. But, it is always crowded. If you went during a day when it wasn't insane (hard to find these days), then you may be able to get everything you want to do done in a day.
Maybe I am in the minority, but when I went to Disneyland Paris in 2007, I thought it was doing ok. I would even argue that DLP is the best Magic Kingdom style park. Disney Studios was ok too, but could have used some work.
Disney Studios Paris will never thrive, but it will survive. Its soul purpose is to extend guest stay enough to fill hotel rooms. And I agree, River Country was never a park, it was a glorified pool to give Fort Wilderness guests something extra to do, and when water parks became "parks" there wasn't the room or desire to upgrade it because of its off beat location (sadly - better to let it sit there and rot?). I would imagine if Disney ever decided to walk away from one of their parks they would sell off their ownership interest in the form of a licensing agreement unless it's one of those easily shuttered experiments like Disney Quest was in Chicago.
Disney has closed its nightclubs at Downtown Disney despite many fans that loved the Adventurer's Club. Disney has closed many Fantasyland dark ride attractions despite fans that love them. Therefore, fan reaction will not stop Disney from following its own self interest. They would close or debrand a theme park like DL Paris especially precisely because it is overseas or maybe not. It is largely insulated from its decisions. There's a story about the former Disney executive who saved DL Paris was involved in a sexual scandal himself (after he left Disney). Interesting story if you happen upon it.
As long as Disney fans go banana's when the DHS put some underplayed workers on a stage with evil character costumes on and dance to some lame music while finishing of with a firework and raking in the cash from some made in China special event souvenirs while the park is at capacity, they are not in a hurry to do something more then the horrible Captain Jack projection thingemedo there.
FWIW, I analyzed the
If they do you will see it fall apart in front of your own eyes because they are so cheap. The worst thing about Disney is that when they close a ride or an area they just let it rot and fall apart for years or decades. I can't think of anything like that at Universal. At Disney World the list is long; Image Works, Odyssey, Wonders of Life, River Country, Sounds Dangerous, Adventureland Veranda, Discovery Island plus a few more. Even places they cleaned up sat rotting for years like the Sky way stations, the Sub lagoon, and the unfinished part of Pop that became Art of Animation. I think that Disney has been getting the pass, their show is not up to their old standards.
I can't believe I got quoted in an actual Robert Niles article. I had to print it out and show my husband! My sister will be jealous because nothing exciting ever happens to her (which is fine by me).
"If you want Disney to spend more money on these parks, the best thing you can do to help make that happen is for you to spend less money on them. Nothing gets a project green-lighted faster at Disney theme parks than revenue failing to meet projections."
This seems to be misunderstood by many Disney die-hards: the company is not trying to please them but please the crowd. And as long as the crowds still come, there is really no incentive for improvement. Epcot, for example, is lamented by fans online. Nothing new, especially in World Showcase. And yet, it is the 3rd most popular theme park in the world. This is why DLR, which strives really hard to please locals, gets more updates relative to its size than WDW.
Hopefully it will be Paris' "Mystic Manor" and not "Antartica".
I hope that they tread very carefully when changing things in Disneyland Paris. My fiancée and I were there in May 2013 (in fact, that's where we got engaged!) and in our 1.5 days in the park, we fell in love with it. I would consider it my second favourite Disney park after Disneyland in Anaheim and before Tokyo Disneysea.
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