Disney Unveils its New Upsell in Arendelle

October 1, 2014, 9:53 AM · Walt Disney World finally has brought together two of its favorite things: Frozen and upcharge "dessert party" events. For $89 for adults ($59 for kids), starting next month you can get reserved seating at the Frozen sing-along in the Premiere theater on the backlot at Disney's Hollywood Studios, "reserved viewing" of the Osbourne light show, and a Frozen pin and holiday lithograph, in addition to the dessert party, which will feature Anna and Elsa mini cupcakes.

Anna and Elsa
Photo courtesy Disney

The event is available from Nov. 7 - Jan. 4, excluding Nov. 20 and Dec. 10. Call +1-407-939-1854 to book.

Disney's been hauling out a bunch of these upsell events in recent years, from the Illuminations dessert part in Epcot to the Villains event at the Mickey's Halloween Party. All this probably got started with the old Fantasmic dessert party at Disneyland in the 1990s, where fans would line up at the crack of dawn each day to buy the dozen or so seats available for that event each night.

For the Fantasmic party, and many of the subsequent events, a large party of the appeal has been the opportunity to buy a reserved space for a crowded event. Sure, that costs money, but it saves time that you'd otherwise have to invest sitting on the ground, staking out space for the show. In the case of the old Fantasmic party, you got access to even better seats than any regular park guest could get, in seeing the show from the old Disney Gallery balcony (now part of the Dream Suite and closed to the public).

But what's the appeal of this latest event? There's no need for a special viewing of the Osbourne lights, which fill the entire New York street and are easily accessible throughout the evening. The reserved seating at the sing-along is nice, but hardly worth the investment given the current crowds (and especially not worth the cost if you can get a free Fastpass+ reservation for it). That leaves the pin, lithograph and some mini cupcakes. For 89 bucks?

What would make this event worth the price for many families is if the dessert party included a guaranteed meet-and-greet opportunity with Anna and Elsa. But Disney's press release doesn't say a thing about that being part of the deal.

Obviously, Disney's not marketing these events to middle class families on a tight budget. They're aimed at the one-percenters with money to spare. Disney, like any smart business, wants to find ways to get those consumers to spare that money with Disney. But even rich Disney fans want value for their cash. If a dessert event doesn't deliver that, wealthy Disney visitors likely will just stick with their VIP tour guides and the upsell events that do deliver a special and valued experience.

In a dark moment, I wonder if the real audience for these things is not wealthy Disney fans but instead the small army of Orlando-based Disney lifestyle bloggers who'll fork over the cash for any extra event at the resort in order to take pictures and write a post about it. I can imagine people in Disney's special events department just trolling the bloggers, wondering how bad a deal they can make an event before people will stop paying for them. It all makes me thankful that I live in LA, where I can skip the WDW dessert parties and instead save my cash for... another trip to Tokyo Disney. Eh, looks like Mickey gets my money — one way or the other.

What theme park upsell event (real or of your own imagining) do you think would be worth the extra cost?

Replies (10)

October 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM · I was at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party last Friday and in between the raindrops I saw all the people who had paid the $99 extra for that dessert party waiting for the fireworks right across from where we were. Was that view and the desserts worth $99? I'd say not to me. I can't see Frozen being that much better.

I'm thinking that Disney is milking these events for all they can get and if they don't watch it, that cow is going to go dry and stroll off down Main Street.

October 1, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Robert, I have to agree with you on just saving your money for another trip to Tokyo Disney.

The great thing about a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort is that all of these special events are included with your regular cost of admission. Whether you come into the park on a single or multi day ticket or an annual passport, all of the extra shows, parades, and decorations operate daily during park normal hours over the period of a special event. And all this happens without compromising any of the normal entertainment such as the normal day parade or Electrical Parade Dreamlights. It's an "In addition to..." offering, rather than an "Instead of..." offering.

And if you want something from the special menu offered during the event--whether a dessert item or an actual meal--those are available as well for the same price that you would pay for any comparable theme park dessert or meal that is not tied into a special event. And the last time I visited Tokyo, I ate at Ristorante di Canaletto inside Mediterranean Harbor and the waitress there gave me free Mickey Mouse stickers when she handed me my bill which is close enough to a pin in my book!

October 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM · The sad truth is that a lot of people don't do their homework and end up paying for something without even knowing what they're really getting and if it's a good value or not. Like you said, they're pretty much just paying for a pin, lithograph, and some cupcakes.
October 1, 2014 at 12:08 PM · I think most of these events are a rip off, but it's clear people are buying them, so Disney will continue to push until the market reaches equilibrium. I don't necessarily blame them, but it does create even more of a caste system within the parks and resorts that turns some people off.

Even the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Events are getting out of control with prices well beyond what a normal meal would cost, despite only getting a few bites and sips. It's unlikely we'll be doing any special F&W events during our trip at the end of the month because the cost has become so prohibitive (the schedule didn't really work well for us either this trip). We will probably do a seminar or two along with tasting around the world, but the lunches, celebrity meet and greets, and signature dinner events are simply getting out of control. However, much like the dessert packages, it does seem like guests will pay whatever Disney charges for these special events. I have read some negative reviews over the past few years criticizing the value of the events, but as long as they keep selling out, Disney will keep upping the price and continuing to expand their offerings.

As Robert notes, there does seem to be a huge number of people that consume these events "just because", and many others that will blindly buy whatever Disney offers or anything they can add to personalize their visit. Personally, I don't know where people get the money to do these, particularly the ones that require park admission, but it looks like these types of offerings are going to continue to expand and increase in price.

October 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM · Outrageous upsells have not yet been topped by the 'Mahaloween Luau’ at Trader Sam’s at Disneyland Hotel.

For $125 per person, you get one hour of entertainment, a meeting of the artists (who the heck are they?), some goodies, drink, and some appetizers.


The people who buy into this are the problem. It seems like they have unlimited funds. I even read in one discussion forum that one person gladly bought in and cannot attend. She just wants the goodie bag and swag. She is asking others to get it for her. She seems very trusting of others.

So they really are willing to spend $125 for just the merchandise, which I imagine costs Disney very little money to produce.

October 1, 2014 at 2:05 PM · What upsells would be worth it? I have to say it is probably show, parade, and fireworks reserved seating. I am so happy about Fastpass+ and dining reservations at Disney World that the next evolution is VIP reserved viewing spots for shows, parades, and fireworks.

I hate camping out at Disneyland for Fantasmic and Fireworks, but I've done that in the past since Disneyland has a small footprint. There is insufficient space to watch the shows. It is a madhouse at peak times. It would be an excellent idea to redevelop some spots as prime viewing areas.

The shows are another problem. They require advanced planning and much waiting. I wish they let the audience in the theater much earlier to avoid waiting the hot sun. Another option is Fastpass return times for popular shows.

I guess Disney has too much of a good thing. It's a good problem that can resolved with heavy spending guests.

October 1, 2014 at 3:53 PM · From Scott Sanders, a former WDW executive:

"You want multiple levers to pull. You're not just putting pressure on your single-day-ticket price. … You're able to begin to segment your audiences and really take advantage of those that are willing to pay you more."

Source: Orlando Sentinel

If that isn't a direct shout out to the Orlando lifestylers/bloggers, then I don't know what is. They (and other theme park companies) can only go so far with these offerings as they will sooner rather than later reach a saturation point with all guests and they'll have to create/come up with new solutions to get their per capita guest spending numbers up to please Wall Street. Or they could just go with the route that makes the most sense and build highly themed immersive lands/attractions that will mutually benefit management and guests in the long run as well as bring more people (possibly even new guests) into the parks.

October 2, 2014 at 6:20 AM · I love that the previous article on this site was "What is Your Favorite Freebie" and this one is (basicaly) "How Much Money Can You Throw at Disney for Nothing in Return".

For the record, I'm in the "Freebie-seeking" group. I honestly don't know how rich I would have to be before I would consider paying $89 for a cupcake.

October 2, 2014 at 10:59 AM · These upcharge/upsell events have definitely jumped the shark...
October 3, 2014 at 9:44 AM · I hope disney uses all this money to put in new rides. I think they should charge more for those and keep regular ticket prices lower. I've seen many limousines pull up with suited wealth to the Polynesian Hotel when I had the chance to stay there once, they can and will pay more. Use them to fund the parks:-)

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