Want more theme park entertainment? Ask for it

December 9, 2019, 4:23 PM · Fans continue to email me asking how they can get to see in person great original theme park shows such as the lightsaber battle that Disney staged between Rey and Kylo Ren on a purpose-built stage above Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge during the Rise of the Resistance media event.

And they aren't asking for media access, either. Fans want Disney — and other theme parks — to share their best work with them, the paying guests. (For the record, before anyone asks in the comments, I pay for my Disney, Universal, and Six Flags annual passes, too. But I'm a geek just like you, in addition to covering the parks for living.)

My advice? Ask the parks for what you want. Next time a park employee asks for a moment to survey you, give them that time. If a show has put on a production that you would like to see in the park during normal operating hours, make a point to go inside the park's guest relations office on your next visit and request it.

Disney executives have been crowing since Galaxy's Edge opened at Disneyland last May that the land has scored highly on the company's guest satisfaction surveys. So, to the company, fans appear happy with what Disney is offering in the land. But the trouble with surveys is that it's tough to gauge how much the public wants something that they haven't seen. Disney visitors might be happy with what they've experienced inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. But that doesn't mean that they would not be much, much happier with an epic lightsaber duel every hour in the land, too.

Not every media event show can scale to that kind of schedule, of course. Nor does every made-for-the-cameras stunt look good in person. That media event X-wing flyby that looked impressive through long-lensed cameras atop a 20-foot riser looked like a couple of specks barely clearing the treetops from ground level.

But if fans demand an experience, motivated park managers can find a way to deliver it to them. When video of projection mapping on Hogwarts Castle during the opening media event for the opening at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood went viral, fan demand after the event encouraged Universal to find a way to develop a regularly scheduled Hogwarts projection show. Today, those shows entertain thousands of fans nightly throughout the year at Universal in Hollywood, Orlando, and Japan.

Several Universal Creative team members have told me that the company has steered hard away from developing new screen-based, media-driven attractions as a result of fan response. Parks listen to fan feedback.

Disney's Imagineers have said that they designed Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to stage the kind of live entertainment that Walt Disney World offered to the media and invited guests last week. Entertainment designers have written scripts. At this point, it's simply a question of convincing management to budget the money necessary to stage the productions.

If Disney management can be convinced that spending that money will result in them making more money through additional admissions and in-park spending, or even higher guest satisfaction that yields a higher guest return rate, they'll likely choose to make that investment. But Disney isn't going to change course just because a few people kvetch and moan online. Disney needs to hear polite, but consistent, requests from their customers inside the park — people who tell Disney that they would have liked their visit even more if they saw more characters inside Galaxy's Edge. And if some of those characters whipped out lightsabers to do battle... even better.

This goes for any park, too. (Well, not the lightsaber part.) If you feel like something is missing during your park visit, do not deny the park an opportunity to make that right. Maybe they can't, or maybe they can't do that on this visit. But honest feedback from guests provides an essential park of a theme park's creative and business development process.

Don't be a "Karen," who rudely asks for a manager to shriek a list of demands. Just give your honest, uncensored feedback in a friendly and polite way. Compliment what deserves praise and then suggest what you think could have made your day better.

Look, with fans claiming all the day's spots to ride Rise of the Resistance each morning before the park officially opens for the day, now would be a perfect time for Disney to add something extra inside Galaxy's Edge for those later-arriving fans who won't get a chance to ride the big new attraction.

But we're going to have to ask for it.

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Replies (3)

December 9, 2019 at 7:15 PM

This is a really good article Robert! So many times (as theme park regulars) it's easy tp find ways to avoid the "surveys".....I've only been asked twice & I did both surveys, but this is a nice reminder :)

December 10, 2019 at 9:51 AM

This is a great point. Customers tend to focus on the negatives, and almost always tell companies when they're not happy. However, when they see something they enjoy, it's less likely that a customer is going to go out of their way to provide a compliment. That means if guests do not participate in exit surveys or support desirable additions with their wallet, companies have no idea if the extra work and investment is worth it.

I, like Robert, have had the opportunity to cover numerous theme park media events over the years, and have had the rare privilege to talk directly with designers, creators, managers, etc about what works and what doesn't in their parks (I also hold season passes to all the major chains and pay my own way for visits outside of media events). It's a tough business, especially if managers are being pressured for instant success from investments, and despite all their efforts to research and survey what guests want, they still don't always get it right. Obviously, it's easy for them to know when they get things way wrong, but it could take years for parks to get enough data to tell whether a $1 billion addition like Galaxy's Edge was really worth the investment, let alone another $250k for a daily performance that lasts 5 minutes. With Wall Street demanding constantly increasing profits and growth, any company that relies on creativity and less-quantifiable metrics is going to struggle to understand where that line between success and failure lies, and is going to default to spending less money or being more conservative with their initial offerings.

December 10, 2019 at 11:18 AM

So true! I personally would love to see some street performers and some alien cast members. The alien cast members don't have to be scooping popcorn or sweeping floors, but could meander around greeting guests. I'd also love to see some activities for children in the area (like a play structure or splash pad). The land has nothing for toddlers, so it would be a nice touch. I can be patient though- I feel like this land will mature and grow on people as other additions have in the past. I'm sure these additions will come due to the overwhelming success of ROTR. The land truly is feeling more complete, and I'm loving it!

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