Theme Park Insider

Don't get angry; it's just vacation

September 25, 2016, 6:09 PM · Vacations are supposed to be fun. But for many of us who love theme parks, our visits go beyond just being "fun." They are our passion — the time we cherish beyond just about anything else we do with our free time. Theme park time is family time — and not just with our blood relatives who visit the parks with us. It's the time we spend with the places, experiences — and other fans — we love, too. All of that contributes to the warm, comforting, family feeling we crave when we enter our favorite parks.

But passion can fuel more than just joyful enthusiasm. On its flip side, passion enflames fans to turn against their love when they sense something's gone wrong. And that seems to be happening a lot lately among Disney fans. Whether it's due to the annual price increases, long development times for new theme park attractions, or changes fans just don't like, Disney's been eliciting harsh reactions from many of its most loyal fans.

Is that kind of anger healthy for theme park fans? Here's the thing — as a multi-billion dollar company that welcomes more than 130 million fans to its theme parks around the world each year, Disney's not going to let a bunch of fans ripping it online affect the ways it does business. Disney's not some neighborhood shop, monitoring its Yelp reviews and making changes in an attempt to keep all the feedback positive. Disney's small army of business analysts are looking at a much wider range of metrics, with its bottom line of profit being the big one.

So long as enough fans keep coming to the parks and spending enough money to keep Disney's profits healthy, no one in the company is going to lose a moment of sleep at night over angry fans blowing up comment threads online. The only people losing sleep are those Disney fans — whose passion riles them into pointless fury.

It doesn't have to be this way. As I said at the start of this post, vacations are supposed to be fun. I don't care you plan obsessively or wing it every time. I don't care whether you rope drop the park or sleep in 'til noon. Or whether you book all your Fastpasses in advance or wait standby for everything you do. If you're having fun on your vacation, you're doing it right.

But if your vacation passion is making you angry, it's time to step back.

I'm not saying to let go of your passion. No way. Passion animates life. Embrace it. But let's recognize, as the cliche now tells us, the opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference.

Anger is a toxic emotion. Name 100 stupid, harmful things that people have done in your life, and I'll bet you that anger fueled the majority. Why invite more of that into your life?

Avoiding anger doesn't mean you let Disney — or anyone or anything else — off for doing something you didn't like. But instead of getting angry, why not try indifference instead?

Remember those business analysts, ignoring all the online rants to look only at the bottom line? If you want to get their attention, don't let your passion for theme parks lead you into anger. Allow your passion for theme parks to lead you to a competitor, instead. When the attendance and spending data start to slip over to another company, believe me, that gets a business' attention in ways that an endless online flame war never will.

Don't like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror closing at Disney California Adventure? Don't waste your time, and your mental health, getting angry online. Just get in the car and spend your money up the 5, visiting Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, instead. Or make the short drive over to Buena Park and enjoy all the recent upgrades over at Knott's Berry Farm. Take the kids down to Carlsbad and turn 'em loose to play at Legoland California. You've got options — options enjoyed by millions of other, equally passionate theme park fans. Use them.

Listen, I get it. Much of the passion that Disney theme park fans feel is for Disney, not just for theme parks. It's tough to switch gears and move from the passionate devotion to something you've loved to feeling an empty indifference toward it. So don't. As I said before, Disney's a huge company. Keep your passion for everything it does that you continue to love. And for elements that you don't? Instead of getting angry, accept the more accurate description of what you're feeling.

Disappointment.

Don't let your passion enflame that disappointment into anger. Just let it be what it is. Eventually that disappointment might fade into sadness on its way to indifference. That's fine.

Just remember that you are in charge. Your passions are yours. They don't belong to any some brand — Disney or otherwise. So long as those brands deliver what you love, embrace them and let your passion flow. But don't let your passion tie you to some big brand, company, or team so tightly that you feel yourself getting angry when they do you wrong. This isn't a marriage — a one-on-one meeting of two equal individuals who pledge to find ways to make it work, for better or worse. It's you being a fan of something.

If ain't working for you anymore, don't get angry. Just take your passion elsewhere.

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Replies (24)

September 25, 2016 at 9:21 PM · Exactly! People get to hot and bothered over things that shouldn't bother them so much. No matter what the topic, people have to get nasty about it. People need to lighten up.
September 25, 2016 at 9:41 PM · Don't let it get ugly.

http://themeparkuniversity.com/disney/has-disney-lost-their-sense-of-humor/

"By now you’ve heard the story of David Swindler, the man who was on vacation with his family over the Labor Day Weekend 2015 at the Pop Century Resort at Walt Disney World. According to several news reports, Swindler was on hold with the front desk for a long period of time looking to get a question answered. Frustrated with waiting, he called back and jokingly stated that he could have built a meth lab during the time he was on hold.

This joke was taken seriously and the next thing you know, Orange County Deputies began searching Swindler’s Pop Century hotel room for any indications of a meth lab. Good news: no meth lab found. Bad news: Swindler is escorted from Pop Century and given a trespass notice not to return to Walt Disney World property."

September 25, 2016 at 11:28 PM · In 2016, do you really think that any company can afford to ignore what people say about it on social media? That's a preposterous assumption, especially coming from a head writer of a theme park web site.

I've seen many instances of issues being addressed in the parks, not long after complaints showed up on the message boards. How about the social media backlash against the original plans for New Fantasyland? If that backlash had never occurred, we never would have gotten 7DMT.

P.S.: The CM on the phone, in that "meth lab" incident, had to be a moron. How can you possibly take a joke like that seriously??

September 25, 2016 at 10:39 PM · We got 7DMT because Tom Staggs thought the initial, princess-heavy design left nothing for his sons to do. Social media had nothing to do with that.

And there's a huge difference between sending some low-level PR person to Tweet non-apologies to distressed customers and allowing social media posts to influence your core operations. Trust me, until complaints start to move revenue, no big business cares what anyone says.

September 25, 2016 at 10:48 PM · Sanctimonious would be a phrase that I would use to describe many of your posts Robert Niles! You have a habit of talking down to your readers.
September 25, 2016 at 11:30 PM · No, we got 7DMT because, when they first announced the NFL plans as "giving you more princesses" it was met with a collective groan. That reaction continued until Disney quickly changed the plans. The Tom Staggs story, of course, is less embarassing then admitting that the initial public reaction was negative.

As for message boards, I've been reading and posting on them for years. Lots of insiders anonymously post on them as well as read them. And like I said, there are numerous instances of people pointing out things like broken effects in the parks, and the problem was quickly addressed.

September 26, 2016 at 3:08 AM · Close down half a park that was already woefully short of attractions - Hollywood Studios, no major replacements for a few years. Yet still charge full price.

No major e-ticket attraction in any of the parks for over a decade in Orlando, and only now we have a sprinkling of one or two new attractions.

What's not to get angry about?

September 26, 2016 at 3:38 AM · As a change manager (I'm the guy they call when processes within (ICT) don't work anymore). I always want to interview 3 kind of people. Someone who still is somewhat positive, someone who is vocally displeased and the person that is indifferent. The last one is the most toughest one. That person and the group it represents doesn't care anymore. The angry one chanels it's dislike in an obnoxious way but it's because that person cares (deep within). Robert is right, the Disney company shivers for people who don't care anymore. They are very though to win over.

I think most (older generation) love Walt Disney (as I do), the founder of handdrawn full feature films and a stunning new generation of theme parks. The passion for his company was not only the money. If that was the case he would have listen to everyone who called him an idiot for making bad business decisions. Building a theme park for so much money was just not done, just like the cost for an animated full length feature film. But Disney was right, succesfull and it made him a ton of money while doing it.
The current company that still bares his name isn't the same anymore. Their priorities and way they think of running the business are very different of how Walt and his brother Roy ran the business. It's a tough pill to swallow but the Disney company will only feel the need to reinvent itself again when the cash flow dries up.
I keep following that company but stopped visiting. I can't overlook the flaws and don't like the changes but I hope the company one day will change. That will be the day I'll buy a ticket again. I haven't stop loving, it's just on hold.

September 26, 2016 at 5:45 AM · Couldn't agree more - ever since Universal Orlando started charging $50 to ride a train, I have not been to the resort. Every time I think about how easily they opted for a price gouging scheme rather than take five minutes to implement a round trip ticket for fiscally responsible, budget minded, single park visitors, I just get more heated. Had to step back and take a breather - and have had a wonderful time visiting some regional parks with monster roller coasters instead (Fury 325 FTW, baby!). Big Boy coasters are much better than singing frogs and train rides anyway!
September 26, 2016 at 7:40 AM · I agree! Sure, sometimes it's questionable why Disney does what it does, but most of the time, they end up being right. Sure, I'll always wonder how Ellen's Energy Adventure had a longer life span than other great, classic attractions, but it won't stop me from visiting again. I'm currently taking a break from Disney World, however, as it just seems like there's too much construction at the moment. However, you can bet I'll be back in the future. I might be a poor Junior High teacher, but that doesn't mean Disney can be too expensive for my family. Regardless of the cost, we somehow make it happen (due to lots of saving) because the experience and the look on my son's face makes it all worth it. I love what they've done and I am excited for what they're doing. No anger over here!
September 26, 2016 at 7:44 AM · Excellent article, again, Mr Niles. Our family previously enjoyed annual trips to WDW. It was a very important family tradition for the majority of our older children's lives. Then, it became obvious we did not meet Disney's minimal standards and we felt unwelcome. We have moved on to the Cedar Fair chain and actually spend almost twice as much annually but also get so many additional family days. We are right in the middle of Cedar Point, Kings Island, Kings Dominion and Canada's Wonderland. Each is just as clean as Disney and each has it's own "Flavor". We can watch POV videos of Disney's best attractions on YouTube without the sting of feeling violated on the trip home. They say you get what you pay for and the high prices keeps the riff-raff out but I call BS.
September 26, 2016 at 10:51 AM · Our response to Universal Orlando's price gouging move was to refuse to pay it. So we bought a three-day one park per day ticket instead of a park to park.
September 26, 2016 at 11:05 AM · "The CM on the phone, in that "meth lab" incident, had to be a moron. How can you possibly take a joke like that seriously??"

What is the price if this "joke" is ignored? If it is indeed nothing, then it is nothing, but crying "fire" in a crowded theater is exactly what this person did. If the joke is true and later found out, the penalty for the Disney worker is most severe. You just don't make jokes like this today. You might get away with it 10 to 20 years ago.

Best thing to do if you don't like Disney is just not go. Disney will react when there is downturn in attendance.

September 26, 2016 at 11:51 AM · I love this article.

All the haters are still going to Disney anyway, so why should they really care that you think the monorail cabins are gross?

If you really want to elicit change, you have to just stop going....

It's ironic that we are facing a similar issue this election year...if you hate both candidates, why vote for either one? A two party system will never change unless the collective American people change.

So ya'll can go ahead and love to hate Disney, but as for me...I sometimes hate that I love it (*lights candle near Alien Encounter memorial), but (for the most part), love Trumps hate.

September 26, 2016 at 2:03 PM · This article is pretty much right on, and is a big reason I dislike the more hardcore sectors of fan communities. No matter how many complaints someone may make about a theme park, if they still buy a ticket it essentially nullifies all of them. If you don't like what Disney or Universal are doing, go elsewhere. Not only is it cheaper, but I often find regional theme parks to be more enjoyable and less stressful than the destination parks if you can do without the spectacle and total immersion.
September 26, 2016 at 8:08 PM · I don't understand why none of the other parks do what seaworld/Busch Gardens does for their passholders. Never raise the prices. as long as I stay current, I pay $24 a month for two platinum passes good at all Seaworld parks nationwide. I've been a passholder since 2003 and some years I don't even go, but I always stay a passholder because if I stop, the price goes up drastically. (I think that pass is currently about 340 a person. I'm paying 144 each.) You can't beat that kind of loyalty.
September 26, 2016 at 10:30 PM · "What is the price if this "joke" is ignored? If it is indeed nothing, then it is nothing, but crying "fire" in a crowded theater is exactly what this person did. If the joke is true and later found out, the penalty for the Disney worker is most severe. You just don't make jokes like this today. You might get away with it 10 to 20 years ago."

I didn't think I had to explain why the CM was a moron. But I guess I do...

Just a few reasons: a) who would be crazy enough to set up a meth lab in a freakin' hotel room?
b) who would be crazier enough to tell someone about it?
c) it's impossible to set up a meth lab in the short time that you're on hold on the phone. Even given lots and lots to time, it's practically impossible to do so in a hotel room without lots of people getting suspicious.
d) he didn't even say he did it. He said he could have done it, as a way of expressing that he had been on the phone too long. It's so obviously a joke that the CM, yes, was a total moron. Case closed.
As a society (I'm Canadian, but the same goes for my country) we have become so knee jerk paranoid about so many things that rationality has been chucked out the window. A tiny bit of rationality and thinking will mean that people won't be victimized for making a silly joke. These days, someone could say something like "that movie was a bomb", but if he happens to say it in an airport or on a plane, he could end up in handcuffs. Come on, now. That makes sense?

September 27, 2016 at 6:07 AM · a) "He" could have been if given enough time.
b) He was crazy enough to say it.
c) He never got his answer. So its likely he could have set it up.
d) He said he could have done it. Why else would he say it if he knew how to do it?

Disney theme parks have security screening like the airports so he thought a joke like that is harmless. Maybe try it at home on your local school. Oh wait.

September 27, 2016 at 11:01 AM · @ Still A Fan...there was a meth lab set up in a fairly decent hotel in Kissimmee a couple of years back so I wouldn't be too fast to call shenanigans on the CM. You just never know.

As far as prices go, I have been leaning towards getting an annual pass but even the FL Resident tickets are way too much for a family of 4 adults. I might go for the Epcot after 4 ticket but would only really use it for Food & Wine. It's just getting to the point that it's too expensive for a family to go especially with Orlando wages so we have tended to go a lot less than in the past.

September 27, 2016 at 11:48 AM · I agree with the gist of the article. Some people get way too caught up in the emotions and expectations they assign to a place like a Disney park. It's a corporately-owned, well-themed amusement park/resort and not a lifestyle or belief system. Ultimately what happens to or in the parks makes little to no difference to the vast majority of the human population.

I'm sorry but it is kind of silly for people to think that on-line fan communities actually influence company policy. I think the in-park complaints, benefit-cost ratio and in-house/internal preferences have far greater influences. Which is why I completely accept the Staggs story over any other.

I'll jump into it... sounds to me like the hotel employee was a bit of a thicky as well. But it obviously went on to their superior and they didn't seem to be much better. Sure Disney World (and to a lesser degree Disneyland) are full of idiotic guests. But take a control-freak supervisor and a front desk clerk with poor listening skills and/or no sense of humor and this is what you get. I currently have three relatives working at Disney- one in the Valley and two out in Florida. The one's at WDW are intelligent but a bit on the Asperger's scale and really do not get irony or sarcasm. They would totally be the one's kicking this poor guy and his family out.

September 27, 2016 at 2:40 PM · Sometimes anger is needed. I have to agree thought that I am angry with Universal Studios Orlando. Why you may ask? It is their ride rules and the fact that they are discriminatory against people with certain condition. I am a diabetic with an insulin pump. Their policy is that I have to remove the pump before can get inline for a ride (Roller Coaster, which are a passion of mine) with an hour wait I can see my sugar levels increasing and after a few rides I could very easily get into a serious problem and possibly end up in the hospital for my vacation for an extended stay there. So I refuse to visit any Universal park until they change their policy. I really want to see the Harry Potter stuff but since I can not safely enjoy the experience I will not give them any of my money. I urge all those wanting to visit Universal to look at their policies before you go and make sure that they or a family member can enjoy the park.As for Disney I have gotten upset with them for things that have happened on a trip but I find that talking politely with the cast member things will get taken care of.
September 27, 2016 at 11:33 PM · Mark, you really accept that bogus Staggs story? Tell me, what is more likely: Disney makes big changes to their plans, spending millions of dollars in the process, in order to please the kids of one of their executives, or in order to please the paying public?
September 29, 2016 at 2:53 AM · Well Still a fan the plans in question were changed and not projects already in development. Big difference. And yes I totally believe the Staggs story over your power of online fan outrage one because this sort of thing happens all the time. The importance of internal relationships and feedback over external ones is sometimes even greater in huge corporation than small ones. But look at how effective fan outrage has been in stopping Frozen at Epcot, or Avatar at DAK or Guardians of the Galaxy at DCA.
September 29, 2016 at 10:24 PM · It wasn't just online, it was also at D23. As I mentioned above, when they made the big announcement and they said it was all about "more princesses", there was a collective groan from the crowd. Of course that video went on YouTube, and was a big embarrassment for the company. That, combined with a backlash on message boards, was enough to convince them to change the plans. They had the Imagineers develop a new ride from scratch, and that is a big deal. The Staggs story was trumped up to cover up the embarassment. I mean, my God, a big announcement at D23, and that's the reaction from the crowd??

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