Walt Disney World will pay you to watch one of its shows

December 6, 2018, 1:57 PM · We have written a lot about Disney's various food festivals, including this morning's announcement of the dates for the upcoming Lunar New Year and Food & Wine Festivals at Disney California Adventure. Walt Disney World's Epcot now has festivals going more days of the year than not. And now Disney is adding what amounts to a virtual food festival to the its mix.

The food is real, of course. But the deal is an online Tasting Sampler that you can buy in advance of a visit to Disney Animal Kingdom. For $30, you get a virtual $35 gift card that is good at the park's food carts, allowing you to eat your way through a virtual food festival around the park. The deal also includes reserved seating for the second performance of Rivers of Light on the day of your visit.

Hold up a moment. Let's look at those numbers again. You spend $30 to get $35 worth of food, plus a show ticket. That puts the value of what is essentially a Fastpass at... negative five bucks. Disney has effectively "sold" Fastpasses through special event tickets before, but this might be the first time that one has had a negative value. In effect, Disney is paying you five dollars to go watch Rivers of Light.

Actually, what Disney is doing here is trying to shift crowds during its busy Christmas holiday season. The Tasting Sampler discount is on sale now on Disney's website, but only valid for use between December 22, 2018 and January 2, 2019. That's perhaps the busiest period of the year at the Walt Disney World Resort. With popular holiday offerings drawing crowds to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney's Hollywood Studios that week, Disney is hoping that its virtual food festival and five buck incentive might draw at least a few fans over to Disney's Animal Kingdom, especially in the later evenings when the show runs. The deal also helps drive more people toward using food carts and away from crowded restaurants at Disney's Animal Kingdom, where the Tasting Sampler $35 credit is not valid.

It's all about load balancing across the four theme parks, to maximize the number of people who can visit before Disney has to start turning anyone away anywhere during its busiest week of the year.

Will it work? Spoiler alert: It's gonna be crowded everywhere between Christmas and New Year's at Disney. It always is. But five bucks off food and a guaranteed seat for one of Disney's better shows might help at least a few people feel better in the holiday crush.

Replies (3)

December 6, 2018 at 3:15 PM

I have a hard time believing that this is for crowd control, seems much more like executives trying to get every last dollar they can at the end of the year in an attempt to make their revenue numbers (which i'm sure is what their compensation is based on). There is a difference in the cost it takes to prepare the food compared to how much it sells for, its like one of those ads from a car maintenance place "Free air filter replacement with oil change" and the oil change price has the $5 for the air filter built into it.

December 6, 2018 at 3:42 PM

Solid point, but Disney’s fiscal year does not align with the calendar year. Could be a quarterly numbers thing, though.

December 6, 2018 at 11:21 PM

Since the theme parks will all be at capacity throughout the time period involved this experiment is all about crowd management. Q1 of fiscal 2019 is not going to see any impact whether guests spend $30 at those ODF carts at DAK or not, but guests do get a guaranteed seat for Rivers of Light regardless- unless they get stuck trying to reach the park during that week! Hard enough an achievement every holiday season for those working there. If this experiment does well, might see it return for other "good night kiss" shows at Walt Disney World Resort.


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