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Is it worthwhile to pay 22 million for a “Dumbo” ride?

Tokyo Disney Resort: We're talking Jasmine's Flying Carpets in Tokyo.

From Flavio de Souza
Posted July 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM
Tokyo Disney Sea just opened on July 18th a new ride called Jasmine’s Flying Carpets. It is a ride attraction where guests can soar over Jasmine’s garden on a flying carpet, very similar to Aladdin Magic Carpets ride at WDW Magic Kingdom and at WDS Paris. It has 16 vehicles and a reported cost of 2 billion Yen (US$22 million). My question: Is Disney and their Japanese partner insane? How can a carnival standard ride cost 22 million? Any 3rd class amusement park has this type of ride and I don’t think it costs more than US$30,000! Yes, there is all the Disney theme and quality involved, but at this cost a “normal park” could build a nice roller coaster!
Disney’s sophistication and quality standards are today its main strengths and main weakness also. What do you think? Is it worthwhile to pay 22 million for a “Dumbo” ride?


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From David L.
Posted July 21, 2011 at 6:46 AM
I think it's worth it. First of all, Disney spends the money to buy the best quality ride systems, something a 3rd class amusement park rarely does. Then there is the theme. Tokyo Disney Sea cost 4 Billion dollars to build and is richer in theme than any other park that i know of(DCA cost like 600 million when it first opened). If the park has to keep the amazingly detailed theme everywhere, then even the small rides get it. The water feature is unique and also expensive for a midway ride(look it up at D23). There are tons of details from the fountain to the night animation and the continuation of TDS's amazingly strong theme. Disney's quality and standers are no weakness. This quality of theme needs to spread to Orlando(cause Orlando's isn't near as consistent: dinorama, and various lacking areas).

From Flavio de Souza
Posted July 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM
David, when I say weakness, I mean that to keep that standard they have to spend a lot. 50 times the price for an experience that is at most 2 times better.

The result is that they don't have money to invest in new rides, and let parks like Epcot, AK, DHS, DS Paris with out any investments for years!

So they try to compensate investing in Carnival rides with expensive theming, spending a lot in "cheap experiences". They are in a trap!

They already have the best themeing in the industry. Disney doesn't need to improve it (except of course, DCA and Disney Studios Paris). They should invest in better rides, not better themes for common rides!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 20, 2011 at 8:10 PM
It does not sound too expensive. Its a good ride.

From chris cona
Posted July 20, 2011 at 8:48 PM
I know that Dumbo is a classic and will always be but to pay for that money they should get a whole new coaster or even a movie ride not just a ride that is at every carnaval, amusent park and pier for 22 million

From Tony Duda
Posted July 20, 2011 at 8:54 PM
I think Tokyo Disney parks are NOT in any way owned by Disney, they have a licensing and strict ride approval agreement. So, the money piles for Tokyo and other Disney parks are unrelated. Or so I have heard.

From Joseph Catlett
Posted July 21, 2011 at 6:35 AM
More than anything else the idea of spending 22 Million on a spinner, a nice spinner I'll grant you that but nonetheless a spinner, seems like a waste of money. Yes, it looks nice, but I guarantee you that Universal could design and build the exact same ride for less than half using the same parts and workmanship. Its a fairly well known fact that Imagineering is a bit of a money pit project wise, its one of the reasons so much of what Disney built in the last decade were designed out of house.
Disneyland itself in 1955 was built for 17 million dollars total.....in 2011 dollars, adjusted for inflation is 144 million...the math just doesn't work out for thi kind of expenditure.

From David L.
Posted July 21, 2011 at 8:37 AM
JFC is not your ordinary spinner. I recommend that you watch the video of the ride and the area posted on Disney and More . Disney went over and beyond on this ride by making a different night experience, unique effects, unmatched theme, an interesting queue, and even a viewing balcony for spectators. Disney is doing what they did to drop towers. If Disney didn't spend that much money on the ride, then it would be a letdown for many visitors expecting an amazingly carried out theme. Joseph, the only way Universal could accomplish that would be by leaving out many things like the balcony, some of the gardens, the outer fence, and more. I think JFC is a great addition to TDS. Also, Disneyland doesn't have as many places that are as well themed as JFC.

From James Rao
Posted July 21, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Both the spinner and the ride housing are beautiful, so you can see where the money was spent.

For the average theme park company, $22 mil is a lot of dough, but in the case of Disney, $22 mil is chump change.

If you got it, flaunt it.

From TH Creative
Posted July 22, 2011 at 5:19 AM
Mr. de Souza writes: The result is that they don't have money to invest in new rides, and let parks like Epcot, AK, DHS, DS Paris with out any investments for years!

I Respond: I don't think Disney builds attractions based upon cash availability. Certainly a company of Disney's size could finance the construction of a marquee attraction whenever it sees fit. Rather, I think that Disney has a long term strategic vision for all of its parks and bases the launch of a new attraction upon its impact on attendance.

Also (as a guy with a construction background -- including constructing attractions) I would assume that the reason the costs seems so high is because the attraction needs to be resilient. The ride has to be up and running (at least) 10 hours a day 365 days a year. It must be built in order to perform -- it's not a "carnival standard ride." Subcontractors bidding the job realize the performance requirements (and the warranty they must extend for their work) and calculate that into their bids (along with overhead and profit costs).

And one other thing, your $22 million may be a "budget" rather than an actual cost. The projects I have worked on had "budgets" but once they were completed the construction team eventually gave money back.

So there ya go,

From Mostly Anonymous
Posted July 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM
Plus, as Tony was guessing up above, Disney doesn't own the Tokyo resort. If the Oriental Land Company wants to spend $22 million buying a new ride from Disney, that's going to be a good thing for Disney's parks, because it's money coming in to Disney.

From Michael Owen
Posted July 26, 2011 at 6:36 AM
Tokyo Disney Resort has been incredibly financially successful, and that is in part due to The Oriental Land Company's prudent financial strategy.

When considering the cost of the attraction they'd note how it was going to impact on revenues and attendance and what the overall Aladdin brand brings to the resort.

On the face of it, it may seem a lot to spend on a spinner attraction. However all the budgets will have been worked out to ensure it makes financial sense to sanction such spending.

From José María Sandoval
Posted July 26, 2011 at 8:52 AM
The Arabian Coast in Disneysea is great, now is a complete area.

From Martin Gardner
Posted July 26, 2011 at 9:21 AM
Hang On!!!, can we have some common sence here. WHO SAID it cost $22 Million???. There has GOT TO BE some mistake here??. 2 Million, 3 Million, I can Understand, but $22 Million???. What Businessman, from any major corporation would, no, could allow themselves to be so vastly overcharged??

From TH Creative
Posted July 26, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Let's take a look at the concept artwork, shall we?

There is a freestanding building of elaborate design which I assume houses the queue area. That requires its own design, engineering and architecture work. Structural steel, exterior finishing, electrical (lights), sprinkler system and plumbing (drinking fountains), floor work, etc. There are decorative elements on that building's exterior, a themed-roof and themed painting.

There's a smaller freestanding building which I assume is operator's location. More design costs. More electrical, more steel, more stucco, windows and more themed painting and decorative elements.

There is elaborate tile work on the load deck. There are water effects at ground level -- a large pool, fountains (pumps that run constantly - filters, etc.) and probably underwater lighting (electrical). And it looks like there is an ELEVATED pool with lighting fountains (water and concrete [or gunite] are heavy -- more engineering and structural steel).

There's landscaping (planters) and themed barriers (likely one-of-a kind and not off the shelf).

There is a ride system (this is not just a "plug-and-play" off-the-shelf attraction) which means computers, software programming, etc.

Music probably needs to be composed and recorded.

Each of the ride vehicles are unique and have to be manufactured individually.

The very elaborate center piece likely contains lighting, water and sound effects. Notice how the arms suspendeding the ride vehicles protrude from between the columns? That means the entire centerpiece below the elevated fountain rotates with the attraction. That entire assembly has to be engineered with the strength of a bomb shelter. There are the assemblies that make the ride rise and descend.

There's area development work to prepare the project for construction (including underground work to run plumbing and electrical, concrete work, etc.) The attraction is being built in Japan which means there are seismic considerations.

Then there is ride testing and programming, top of the line project management. Some attraction budgets include publicity and marketing costs.

And then there is overhead and profit because subcontractors and vendors do not work for cost.

And finally, $22 million is a "reported cost" and may be only a budget. Just because that amount (assuming the "reported cost" is true) is earmarked for the attraction does not mean that's how much it is going to cost.

From James Rao
Posted July 26, 2011 at 2:58 PM
Excellent breakdown, TH, but I still think my answer covers it best: If you got it, flaunt it.

From TH Creative
Posted July 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM
J. Rao writes: "If you got it, flaunt it."

I respond: Why do I have reason to believe that that particluar phrase and a late night in a tattoo palor combined for a pivitol moment in Rao's deep dark past?

From Cristian Alvarez
Posted July 26, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Disney owns in theme. Take a look at the Tower of Terror. Take away the special effects, the building, the story and so forth. What do you have? A drop ride.

From James Rao
Posted July 27, 2011 at 4:36 AM
Ah, TH, thanks for the reminder of the good old days....

What makes us grow old is replacing hope with regret, and although my "I Love Belle" tattoo may not be the most manly thing in the world, I have no regrets.

@Cristian, while I agree with your sentiment, even without the theme and narrative, the Tower of Terror is a very unique experience. I guess you could say it is a combination of a space shot and a drop ride, but even that is not quite accurate. However, I get your point: Disney is great at taking common midway rides and transforming them into unforgettable experiences.

From Flavio de Souza
Posted July 27, 2011 at 7:24 AM
TH made a very good statement on how it could cost 1 billion yens, but I still think it is too much money for a spinner, even if it is the best spinner of all times (and I believe it is).

It is true that Tower of Terror is basically a drop ride and Space Mountain is an average roller coaster, but in these cases, the theming provide a much better and different experience. But that is not the case in Jasmine. No matter how better it is, it is still the same experience.

Perhaps I am not looking to the issue with a children’s eye. You can build two roller coasters with the exactly same design, but paint one of them in black and put a Batman logo. For an adult, or latter teenager, the experience will be the same in either one, but for a children, or early teenager the fact of riding “the Batman” roller coaster will have an impact on their experience. I don’t see the same happening in a spinner. Flying in a magic carpet or in a flying elephant has its magic for children, but also does flying in a rocket or in a world war I airplane, that you can find in your local shopping mall.

And I don’t see enough people saying “hey kids, we were not going to Disneyland this season, but now that they have a new spinner I changed my mind! Let’s go to the flying carpet!” to justify 1 billion yen of investments. This kind of impact on attendance analysis applies only for E-tickets rides.

No matter who is writing the check, if it is Disney, Oriental Land Company, or Disney’s partners in France or China. This price indicates how expensive Disney’s Imagineering are. It is easy to be the best when you have unlimited money. To be creative and innovative with limited (that does not mean cheap) budget is the real challenge.

And being expensive has its impact in Disney capacity to invest in more rides. Disney management, as many of modern companies, pursues the ideal leverage (debt/equity) that maximizes shareholder value. If it spends more in a ride, with no direct return, they will have fewer resources to invest in new rides/parks. That does not mean that they couldn’t invest in new rides with positive returns, but to do that they would increase the leverage and destroy (temporarily) shareholder value.

(By the way TH, if you are used to perform constructions under the budget, you should come to Brazil, most of the infrastructure and sports facilities under construction for the World Cup and Olympics’ Games are missing their budget by far!!)

From TH Creative
Posted July 27, 2011 at 10:29 AM
Flavio: And I don’t see enough people saying “hey kids, we were not going to Disneyland this season, but now that they have a new spinner I changed my mind! Let’s go to the flying carpet!” to justify 1 billion yen of investments."

I Respond: Again, the price tag is "reported." And it may be a budget and not a final cost.

Also you're assuming the attraction is being built with the intent to cause guests to initiate a visit. I would assert that attractions such as this one entertain families, create emersive atmospeheres and reult in positive experiences that produce return visits.

Not every attraction is meant to be a gate-crasher.

From James Rao
Posted July 27, 2011 at 5:24 PM
Look, no one else could have built this same attraction, with the same accoutrements and immersion for less than $22 million. It's not like Disney threw money down the toilet and wasted $100,000 on each bolt. This ride would have cost the same for Six Flags or Cedar Fair - they simply cannot afford to spend as much because they don't have the means. Trust me, those companies would love to build rides like Disney does, but they just don't make Disney money. Not even close.

Speaking of money, Disney makes about a billion dollars PROFIT per quarter... that's four billion dollars a year PROFIT. That's after spending millions on new rides, attractions, and experiences. Tokyo Disney Resort alone pulled in $300 million PROFIT in their last fiscal year which included the month they were closed due to earthquakes!

We have to stop thinking like $22 million is a big deal for Disney. It's pennies, gang, pennies.

From dan fisher
Posted July 28, 2011 at 1:57 AM
Agree with Cristian, yes it looks nice but so it should it's brand new but after seeing the video on Disney and more, it's basically just One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish but without the chance of getting wet.

From Martin Gardner
Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:21 PM
TH, im STIL NOT buying the reputed $22 Million Price Tag for Spinner...

From James Rao
Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Pennies....

From N B
Posted August 7, 2011 at 4:33 PM
I looked up the estimated price for Rip Ride Rockit, one source said it was about 45 million. If the 22M price tag is true, it does seem like an awful lot for a ride like this.

The entire WWOHP was reported to be around 200-260 milion to build, roughly ten times the reported cost of Jasmine's Flying Carpets.

Yikes....

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