Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All The Magic You Want...For A Price

There's no doubt that Disney's theme parks all over the world are the gold standard for theme parks and family entertainment.  They offer a mix of attractions, entertainment, dining, and retail that is unmatched in the industry.  Every year, millions of families, school groups, conventioneers, and all kinds of other guests get the opportunity to experience these amazing parks for themselves. 

There is nothing cheap about the Disney experience.  The parks are well-run, and spotlessly clean.  The attractions are on a level above and beyond those at any of Disney's competitors.  Just exploring Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, one can easily see how Disney spared no expense in creating this masterpiece. 

There's also nothing cheap about the experience of visiting the Disney Parks.  In 2015, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park in Florida became the first Disney park to charge $100 for a one-day admission.  Disney raises their ticket prices at least once each year, much to the chagrin of their guests.  For those who visit the parks multiple times each year, the annual pass is the most economical option.  But in California, the privilege of visiting Disneyland any day of the year will cost you more than $1,000.

Last month, Disney introduced new tiered pricing for their parks, with higher one-day ticket prices during the busiest times of the year.  Shortly after they announced the seasonal prices, they raised ticket prices across the board, for all of their multi-day passes.  Some fans say Disney is trying to address growing theme park demand by pushing guests to the "slower" times of the year.  But it's also not hard to see Disney taking advantage of higher attendance by charging a premium for guests who visit the parks during peak seasons. 

Of course Disney is not just raising prices at the gates.  They are also introducing new, more expensive experiences in their parks.  Disney California Adventure now offers a dessert party for their popular nighttime show, World of Color.  For $79 per person, guests can enjoy reserved seating for the show, and a selection of desserts and non-alcoholic beverages.  While dessert parties at the parks are nothing new, the price tag keeps growing. A similar event that used to be available for Fantasmic! over at Disneyland, was priced at $59 per adult, before it was discontinued in 2014.

Guests who stay at onsite Disney resorts can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.  This free perk allows guest to enter a selected theme park one hour before opening each day.  Evening Extra Magic Hours (offered at Walt Disney World) allow guest to remain in a different theme park up to two hours after closing, on selected nights of the week.  But this perk may be about to undergo a very expensive change. 

Starting next month, Magic Kingdom Park will offer "Disney After Hours", on select nights (not Extra Magic Hours nights),  For this "event", the Magic Kingdom will remain open for three hours after regular park closing.  During that time, guests will enjoy selected attractions, character meet and greets, and bottled beverages and ice cream novelties from selected snack carts.  The event will be open to a limited number of guests (whether staying at a WDW hotel or not).  The cost for three extra hours in the park has been set at $149 per person (plus tax). 

Walt Disney World is also planning to offer a similar event on selected mornings, before the Magic Kingdom opens.  "Early Morning Magic" will give guests the chance to enter Fantasyland up to seventy-five minutes before Magic Kingdom opens to everyone else.  Three rides will be open, and a continental breakfast will be served at Pinocchio's Village Haus.  The price for this experience is $69 for adults, and $49 for children. 

Conventional wisdom would be that demand for these upcharge events will dictate their success or failure.  But Disney has a way of making things like this the new norm.  Disney Parks are more popular than ever.  Disney is not just in the business of making money.  They need to make a profit.  Special ticketed events present Disney with a unique opportunity to turn one operating day into two, by charging a premium to allow guests to experience their parks "after hours".  This way they get a full operating day, followed by a ticketed event, all in the same day. 

The problem with these new off-hours events is they could easily lead the an end to Extra Magic Hours in its current form.  I can't see Disney continuing to offer this "free" perk to resort guests, if there is money being left on the table.  I think the steep price tag is an indication that Disney may replace Extra Magic Hours with this new "event", and offer an attractive discount to resort guests who wish to purchase it.

And Disney's guests will pay for it. Some reluctantly, and some willingly.  At the end of the day, Disney's guests rarely give-up on Disney.  They will complain about the prices, and even make threats not to return.  But then they will magically justify paying for these events because of the promise of smaller crowds, or "free" Mickey ice cream bars. 

I've been to Walt Disney World many times.  I've experienced E-Ride Nights, as well as Extra Magic Hours, and other special-ticket events.  I have no problem paying extra for special experiences at Disney.  But I don't believe these new off-hours events fall into the category of "special experience".  I'm not saying I wouldn't pay anything for these.  But at the current prices, I would have to pass, unless Disney was to really sweeten the deal. 

Attraction Review: Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters

Each and every Disney theme park offers an array of world-class attractions, including rides, shows and interactive adventures.  Disney is the world leader in theme park innovation.  The team at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California has been turning dreams into reality, ever since Walt Disney formed "WED" in the 1950's.  It's this group of talented artists, designers and dreamers (called "Imagineers") that bring Disney stories to life in the theme parks.
From time to time, however, even the Imagineers drop the ball.  Not all attractions that make it to the Disney parks is an instant hit.  In fact, Disney has had some notable failures in the sixty year history of their theme parks.  And as we saw in 2012, even this history is destined to repeat itself. 

In the early days of Disneyland, one attraction that failed to live-up to Disney's (and Guest's) expectation was the Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland.  This futuristic bumper car-type ride featured miniature hovercrafts that floated on a bed of air.  Guests who controlled the saucers by shifting their weight could move around the platform, and even collide with other saucers.

Flying Saucers at Disneyland 1961-1966
After only five years in operation, the Flying Saucers were closed in 1966.  But for many fans, the memory of this ride was a fond one.   To view a video about the Flying Saucers attraction, click this link:

Luigi's Flying Tires at DCA
More than forty-five years after the Flying Saucers flew away from Disneyland, a new attraction opened across the way at Disney California Adventure, that paid homage to the former Tomorrowland ride.  Luigi's Flying Tires opened with the new Carsland area of the park in 2012.  This ride was similar to the Flying Saucers, but featured advancements in ride technology, and vehicles that held two to three passengers.  Unfortunately, the new version of the ride proved to be even less exciting than the original version.  In 2015, after less than three years in operation, Luigi's Flying Tires was permanently closed, while a new ride could be designed and built in the same area.

Twenty miniature cars make up the attraction.
A year after Luigi's Flying Tires closed, a new attraction opened in its place. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters is a family attraction, that features twenty miniature Italian cars on a round "dance floor".  Each car holds up to three passengers.  The multi-colored cars move independently during the 90-second ride.  Each car moves forward, backwards and sideways, before all of the cars join together for a line-dance finale, with a spinning end. Each ride is set to an Italian music soundtrack. 
Each of the "roadsters" has distinctive features.

The story here is each car is one of Luigi's cousins who are visiting from "Carsoli", Italy.  The set-up of the attraction and the queue area (including the Luigi's Casa Della Tires building) are pretty-much the same as they were for "Flying Tires".

This ride represents a new Disney first in the United States.  It is the first attraction to feature a "track-less" ride system.  It's one of the coolest things you will see when watching the ride in motion.  Not only is there no track under the vehicles.  The floor doesn't move either (no turntable).   Disney uses this ride technology in its international parks.  We'll probably see more of the use of trackless ride systems in the upcoming Toy Story land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The fence mural has been updated.
 The ride on Luigi's is rather tame.  It's a little jerky, but the spinning is not as intense as nearby Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.  This ride is a definite improvement over the Flying Tires, but in all honesty, I had more fun watching the ride in action, than actually riding it.  It's also a welcome and necessary addition to the park's list of attractions.  In my opinion, DCA is still a ways away from being an all-day park.  The return of this attraction, along with the upcoming Frozen show in the Hyperion Theater will help to bring more things to do in the park. 
Looking across the "dance floor".

All in all, I'd classify Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters as a "C-ticket" attraction, using the old A-E ticket system that Disneyland used to have.  For the overall ride experience, I give Luigi's a B-minus.  Not great, but not terrible.  If you encounter a wait time of fifteen minutes or less, give it a whirl.  Otherwise, pass on it until another time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Name, New Direction. WELCOME!!

Welcome to Disney Park Fan Blog! I have changed the name and the theme of this blog to better reflect the subject matter that I write about.  The blog will also serve as a companion to my Facebook group, Disney Park Fan Base.

My posts will generally center around the Disney theme parks.  I will feature stories about theme park news, rumors, experiences, changes, history and much more.  From time-to-time, I may venture away from the general theme of the blog, to write about other things in the world of Disney "fandom" that surprise, delight or irritate me. 

Disney Park Fan Blog is not affiliated in any way with The Walt Disney Company.  The views expressed here are my own, or those of guest bloggers who have been invited to contribute to this blog.  The content provided in the links to other stories, photos, etc. is the property of those authors. Credit will be provided when the information is available. 

As with any blog, interaction from the readers is very important.  I welcome your comments, and hope you will find this blog entertaining and informative. Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog. Please feel free to share it with your fellow Disney fans.