Disney’s Limited Time Magic – Extra Pixie Dust or Unmet Expectations?

| February 13, 2013 | 22 Replies

For as long as I can remember, Disney Parks has held a themed promotion celebrating everything from the Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary (think “Pepto Bismol” pink castle) to the Year of a Million Dreams. More and more, park goers have come to expect unique offerings resulting from these promotions. Specialty merchandise, free treats, golden Fast Passes, and invitations to stay overnight in Cinderella Castle or the Mickey Mouse Penthouse were surprises guests enjoyed. This winter though, Disney Parks announced its newest promotion, Limited Time Magic (LTM). Even though we are only two months in, I can’t help but find myself disappointed by what has been offered so far and this has me pondering a few very important questions:

  • Has Disney Parks trained us to expect bigger and better each year?
  • Did the Year of a Million Dreams promotion reach a level that can not be competed with in future promotions?
  • Are the specially planned weeks being offered in Limited Time Magic really that unique or things that should already be offered on a regular basis?

Let’s take a look at each of these questions and decide if this year’s promotion is sprinkled with pixie dust or a complete bust.


LTM1 (467x600)

Image: Is Disney’s Limited Time Magic promo a complete let down?

Limited Time Magic – A Brief Primer

According to Disney, guests will find an “extra sprinkle of pixie dust” each week at both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts during Limited Time Magic (LTM):

“Imagine an Independence Day celebration – only it lasts an entire week…Main Street mainstays the Dapper Dans rocking out with boy band hits in barbershop style…a Valentine’s Day that becomes Valentine’s Week with Disney castles blushing pink, surprise meet-and-greets with Disney princes and princesses, and candlelit dinners for couples in love.”


Weekly Surprises, Delights for a Limited Time in 2013

 Image: The Main Street Dapper Dans Entertain Guests at the Magic Kingdom


So, basically Disney is going to look at the calendar, create a theme for each week of the year, and then decorate the parks, plan extra activities, and sell new merchandise related to that week’s focus. Sound exciting? Well, yes and no. Sure, if you have the chance to visit a Disney park you are in for an amazing vacation filled with memories that will last you a lifetime. However, LTM is being marketed as this grandiose celebration with “limited time” and “exclusive” experiences like none other. That is where I have a problem with this year’s promotion.


Guest Expectations

We all have expectations. We expect certain things, have specific tastes, and know what we like and don’t like. But with this being said, has Disney trained us to expect the bigger and better every year? Could this be why there is an abundance of criticism for LTM? I’d have to say a profound “yes.”

Disney is known around the world for its excellent customer service and unique vacation experiences. Ask almost anyone on the street today what makes a Disney theme park stand out from its competitors and you’ll hear just that. As guests, we expect cast members to act a certain way and provide a specific level of service that would lead to an outstanding trip. Similarly, people from all over expect the parks to be immaculately clean and filled with opportunities to escape from the pressures of the everyday world. Disney advertises the concept of “making memories” with families and friends. The company is also quick to point out what it is doing each year to improve its vacation destinations.


be our guest

 Image: Be Our Guest Restaurant in the New Fantasyland


Just think back to the Fantasyland Expansion in Walt Disney World. The very word “expansion” tells guests that the area is growing and will be better than ever before. With this and similar announcements, our expectations go up, and we are trained to expect something new in order to bring us back for more. This “bigger and better” mantra that Disney has ingrained in our minds could be leading to so many individuals feeling disappointed about LTM.

Disney has created this image of itself as being the #1 in theme park experiences. Could it be that the company is now beginning to struggle with maintaining that image? Has it outdone itself? On the contrary, has the company become somewhat complacent and is relying on its positive reputation to promote sales moving forward?


A Year of a Million Dreams

Beginning in the fall of 2006, the Year of a Million Dreams promotion focused on making Disney park guests’ dreams come true in more ways than ever. Along with new shows and attractions, visitors were treated to a million specialty experiences that were awarded by the now infamous cast member “Dream Team” who scoured the park granting wishes everyday. Guests were rewarded with everything from Fast Passes, free cruises or Adventures by Disney trips, premiere seating at shows, admission to events such as Party for the Senses or the Pirate and Princess Party, shopping sprees, and more. Perhaps the most coveted “dream” was a one night stay in the royal bedchamber of Cinderella herself at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.


LTM3 (600x400)

 Image: Dream Along with Mickey, a New Show during the Year of a Million Dreams


This truly was an outstanding year of surprises for Disney guests. I remember finding myself even more excited than usual when vacationing during this time. Whenever I saw a cast member curiously walking around observing guests, my heart raced and my palms became sweaty. Would I be the next to win a Disney dream? Could I be sleeping in the castle tonight? Are those members of the Disney Dream Team? These questions saturated my thoughts each day while I was on vacation. Although I never had my chance at such an opportunity, it really made visiting the parks more special.

Now that the Year of a Million Dreams has ended and some time has passed, it has me wondering if a promotion as thrilling as it could ever be duplicated or even surpassed. After all, who wouldn’t want to win something so special? With the announcement of LTM, I initially thought that maybe Disney was heading for a light version of the Dreams promo, but this has definitely proven not to be the case. Could it be that nothing will ever top the Year of a Million Dreams? Is this leading to Disney’s fanbase becoming so disappointed with LTM?


Limited Time Magic – Celebrating Disney’s Bringing Back the Norm?

Without a doubt, I think the biggest issue I have with LTM is what exactly Disney is offering as unique “limited time” experiences. Things like decorations being put up for Valentine’s Day, character meet-and-greets, new food offerings, limited edition merchandise, etc. Wasn’t there a time when Disney Parks offered these things repeatedly and regardless of what “week” it was? Why are we celebrating things that Disney used to do on a regular basis? Has Disney sat back that far on its proverbial laurels that now they expect guests to “celebrate” when they offer things that used to be the norm?


LTM5 (393x600)

Image: Love is in the air at Disney Parks, but isn’t it always?


Now, before I get blasted for being so “down” on Disney, let me emphasize the fact that I absolutely adore the parks – their attractions, cast members, food, and merchandise. They’re my “go to” vacation destinations and ones I visit several times a year. However, cut backs in cast member training and categorized budgets (decorations, entertainment, merchandise – both quality and type) have really changed things over the past several years. Disney should have its parks adorned for the various holidays and seasons. Character meet-and-greets should have a combination of classic Disney characters and those that are new. Food and merchandise should be fresh, trendy, and different. And most important of all, Disney should and must pay attention to the presentation it is giving to its product on a daily basis – for, if it goes stale enough that guests are expected to do cartwheels over some of the events its been offering during LTM, I fear for its future.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m being a pessimist? Take a look at what themed weeks we’ve seen so far:

  • Bling in the New Year – December 30, 2012-January 5, 2013 (Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom): There will be live entertainment on Rockettower Plaza Stage, including music and Disney characters! Count down to New Year’s every hour up until midnight!
  • Winter Wonderland – January 14-20, 2013 (Canada Pavilion, Epcot): There will be falling snow and a photo meet and greet with Disney Characters daily from 10:30am – 2:10pm and 3:05pm – 5:45pm.
  • Long-Lost Friends Week – January 21-27, 2013 (Magic Kingdom): Classic Disney characters will be out at the Magic Kingdom! The list will include such favorites as Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and even The Three Little Pigs! Keep your eyes peeled, because you never know who could show up!
  • Choose 2014 Disney Art Design – January 25-31, 2013: The Disney Parks Blog has asked readers to vote on one of three art designs for 2014 merchandise. Once chosen, the design will put on select limited-edition merchandise at both Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort.
  • Super Bowl Celebrations – February 1-4, 2013 (Magic Kingdom): To celebrate this weekend’s Super Bowl, a pre-parade celebration will take place just before the daily “Celebrate A Dream Come True” parade. The parade will include Central Florida youth football champions, Goofy the football star, Walt Disney World Resort cheerleaders and Referees Chip and Dale.  After Sunday’s big game, a special ticker-tape parade will take place down Main Street, U.S.A. Cosmic Ray’s will serve special food from February 1-9 in honor of the Super Bowl.  “Soup-er Bowls” representing the opposing teams will be available, as well as a special Lobster Bisque and Tomato Basil Bisque.
  • True Love Week – February 11-17, 2013 (Magic Kingdom): It’s Valentine’s at Disney! The park will be decorated with hearts and True Love banners and Cinderella Castle will “blush pink and red” with lighting synced with romantic music. The Prince and Princess pairs will be out for meet and greets around the park. Cinderella’s Glass Coach will be by the new Castle wall in New Fantasyland. Cinderella’s Wishing Well and the Rose Garden in Central Plaza will be decorated with hearts and flowers. Special candlelit prix fixe meals for two will be offered at Artist Point, The Wave…of American Flavors, Hollywood Brown Derby, and Yachtsman Steakhouse. Limited-edition Disney Valentine collectibles will be available for sale as well.

A special photo-op in Canada and a bit of fabricated snow? Having more characters out than usual? Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic meal at a great resort (as if this can’t be done at other times of the year)? Oh, and voting on a graphic that will be plastered all over merchandise for the next year – really, Disney? I think you can do better. In fact, I know you can.


In Closing

Even though I’ve been disappointed with Limited Time Magic so far, I’m going to remain hopeful that Disney is going to step things up a bit as the year continues. There’s a lot of talent in the staff Disney employs. Let’s tap into what they can do. The company need not duplicate the over-the-top grandeur of the Year of a Million Dreams. Instead, it needs to strengthen what it does best with or without a promotion and provide a solid product filled with memories, magic, and joy.

What do you think about the new Limited Time Magic promotion? Share your comments here and let us know what you would like to see in the upcoming months.


Image Credits:

Disney Media


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Disney World, Disneyland

  • http://www.facebook.com/michelle.vona Michelle Thornton Vona

    I was really really really disappointed with LTM! We were there from 1/26 – 2/2, so it was during the “voting” week. Really? How exactly is that LTM while at the park? I could have done that from home? I was BEYOND disappointed!

  • HoustonSooner

    I haven’t experienced LTM, so I don’t have an honest opinion. Sometimes we expect bigger things each year from Disney but at some point things can’t get bigger. Maybe something different I guess. Maybe they can just keep giving us something exciting and “wow” us at times.

    • Amber of Colorado

      I think you are right HoustonSooner. The problem starts and ends with Disney, They hype this stuff up, then way under-deliver. They are better off keeping their mouths shut and just randomly surprising people in the parks. Least that way, it is not possible to over-hype and under-deliver.

  • Nate

    So far, it seems very lackluster and (frankly) sad. I will say this as well…. from what I’ve seen, Disneyland is kicking WDW’s butt when it comes to LTM. Not that theirs is amazing by any stretch….. but still, WDW’s is just sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/skibunnycolo Leah Sullivan-Zamora

    To be honest, I was very excited about the promotion when I heard about it (since we are taking my son for his 6th birthday), but when we got there (January 8th-13th) I was so disappointed that NOTHING was scheduled for that week unless you count the limited edition ears (which were $25 each). I really thought Disney had planned something for every week (as advertised), ears are a cop-out! I have to say that my family has visited the parks 3 times in the last year and a half (from Colorado) and this was the biggest disappointment we have had so far.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1313266188 Deb Ragno

    I think that if the price of rooms and tickets and meals at WDW would come down, a whole lot more people would think better of Disney than trying to use gimmicks every year to draw people into the parks. Instead we are sent on desperate searches for the best deals and go to the parks with hyped-up expectations and then when those expectations aren’t met, disappointment takes over. We would all be better off without the gimmicks that cause people to feel they are entitled to some sort of extra bang for their buck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jneaves Jay Neaves

    LTM is a great idea, badly executed in my opinion. The idea that for a short time something magical can happen is fantastic, the problem as I see it is that there hasn’t really been anything magical so far. Neat…perhaps, magical…definitely not! We were there for a number of promotions including year of a million dreams and let the memories begin, but this seems lacklustre and doesn’t seem to be offering something directly to the guests. Perhaps it’s a financial thing (the purchase of Lucas Film, the bail out at DLP and MyMagic+ must have put a dent in their pocket book!) but I think they need to start giving to the guests and bring a little magic!

  • Tara Otto

    I was also extremely disappointed when we were there 1/17-1/26. We were supposed to see “long last characters” like Scrooge, Robin Hood and others. Well they did not announce where or when they were going to be out..we were leaving the parks at 1 for our afternoon breaks and saw them going back in. My kids were very bummed…I think they should tell you where they will be appearing..we have no probs lining up early for characters (we were there an hour early for the Dwarves in Oct!) It was just a letdown.

  • Jill ladd

    Maybe there’s a bigger message. It may sound silly, but maybe life isn’t all about glitz and glamour and “one-upping” everything. Maybe there’s just a simple beauty in the simple things like snow in Canada, or true love week. If it ‘makes or breaks’ your week, your week wasn’t going to be good to begin with. Maybe what they’re doing is little tiny surprises to just put an extra smile on someone’s face. Why does everything have to be huge and elaborate for everyone to think it’s wonderful ?

    Maybe the little things in life should become the “huge wonderful things” that we see…..because in looking for the glitz, we might be missing something really nice.

    We’re going in June. Whatever the “surprise is for the week” is going to be great. And why? Because I couldn’t care less what it is….. I’m excited to celebrate my husbands birthday in Disney and see my child’s face again when she sees the castle, or rides space mountain screaming. Whatever Disney has planned will just add to the week. But I’ll be sure to look, and enjoy whatever it is.

    Happy Valentine’s day everyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Beverly.Ann.Moran Beverly Moran

    I agree with Jill. We were there in January and I saw signs about LTM but didn’t pay much attention to it. I have a 9 and 5 year old and we just enjoy being there and feel the magic of WDW, promotions or not. The new Fantasyland was enough excitement for us and it’s not even finished yet. We plan our vacations around our schedule and look forward to whatever is going on while we are there.

  • http://twitter.com/krissymmurphy krissy murphy

    Why was the Dream Squad infamous?

  • http://twitter.com/themouserecords Mary

    Maybe they should not do promotion after promotion. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Give it a break and come back strong?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cmwade77 Chris Wade

    I think this is one case where Disneyland has really won out over WDW, we have had several great events, such as the Tribute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue, the Chinese New Year, Princess Tianna’s Bayou Bash, EMH (Morning and Evening) for Annual pass holders and the list goes on and on.

    Now in all reality, I do remember a time when these types of events were indeed more frequent, but not necessarily common for Disneyland to do all year long.

    That being said, I do agree that the types of things that Disney World seems to be doing are indeed exactly what Disneyland would have typically done in the past.

    Since I live near Disneyland, I am grateful that we have been getting so many great events. Now, hopefully they stick to their word and give us the food & wine festival back this year (and not consider it part of the limited time magic).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mindy-Ruderman-Walbesser/674127893 Mindy Ruderman Walbesser

    I have to agree with you Nicole. The only LTM that even has me interested in getting to WDW faster for it, would be the rare character spottings..and THAT is only because after 4 trips in 2011 and 5 in 2012, we have nearly run out of characters to meet and greet. They SHOULD have rare characters appearing each week ALL the time! I haven’t seen the 3 Little Pigs at Disney since the 70’s.

  • http://twitter.com/Ayers111 chunJames Ayers

    Completely Disappointed! After all the hoopla on GMA announcing it, you would have expected something more than bring back few minor things did away with to cut costs previously.
    This and the incredibly high price increases each year WITHOUT major new attractions and the continued dumbing down of EPCOT makes one wonder wish Paramount or Six Flags would get serious and become true competitors.
    When the New Fantasyland Rapunsel BATHROOM is the best new attraction in Fantasyland, you have to wish they would bring Walt’s body back to life NOW!

  • Amber of Colorado

    We are here now celebrating our 20th anniversary. We have been planning the trip for 10 months. 3 days at BCV, 2 days at OKW then a 4 day Disney Cruise. We were excited to learn long after we had already booked the trip that there would be extra Pixie Dust during the Valentines week. Not only have we seen no extra Pixie Dust outside of pink hearts being displayed on the Castle, we have gotten ZERO Pixie Dust! Not in our room, not at any of our dining ressie’s, none at all. This despite every guest service person we have spoken always ask if we are celebrating, when we tell them that we are, they let us to expect some. They would also tell us to be sure and get and wear our anniversary buttons and expect additional Pixie Dust surprises. WE have done all this, yet still nothing outside of the radome “Happy Anniversary” comments.

    Ok, now I get it, this sounds petty, I agree upon reading it back. But this is the deal… if they really do not do “Pixie Dues”, then STOP asking me if I am celebrating anything every time I call! I was just making ressie’s right now, and once again they asked me if we were celebrating, this time I asked “what difference does it make, nothing comes of you all knowing?” Then I spilled my guts, letting her know how irritating it is to be asked every time, then ZERO comes of it!! She then said that is wrong, that is now how it’s supposed to be. She was sweet and apologetic, but at this point, I am like, whatever.

    • http://www.facebook.com/denisemcleanstevenson Denise Stevenson

      Amber, I have to tell you that exact situation happened to us back in December. We were at WDW for a week, celebrating our 20th anniversary as well. Asked ALL THE TIME if we were celebrating anything when making ADRs, wore our pins, and there was absolutely nothing special done in any way other than the odd Happy Anniversary greeting and our housekeepers made this intertwining swan out of towels with our pins on it. It was pretty disappointing to say the least. :(

  • Maac Disney

    We were at WDW for Marathon weekend January 11 -13th. If LTM is to happen each week why are there gaps with no LTM (Jan 6 – Jan 13) and (Feb 5 – Feb 10)? Hopefully when we go to DL for Half Marathon in late August we will be able to experience LTM. Love Disney but as others have mentioned this promotion has been a bit disappointing.

  • john dole

    I’m going for the 4th of July, and from the sounds of it our LTM will be the Dapper Dans. Been there, done that, and not impressed. We went to the kingdom twice during the year of a million dreams, and got nothing out of it. We wore buttons for our 20th anniversary and our grand prize was a free marshmallow, REALLY?. Seriously if they want to keep me interested, then knock off a little of the price, or give me a meaningful freebie a day.

  • LeeAnn Balbirona

    I enjoyed True Love week at DL earlier this month. The decorations were very cute, the characters and princesses were all spiffed up in new outfits or in pairs. There was even a true love room at the haunted mansion ride that I think might have been new, or at least it was new to me. (The last two times I’ve been were at Christmas when it was all Jack Skellington all the time.) It was fun and not over the top.
    I would have loved to go when the Mardi Gras bayou bash was going on or Lunar New Year or this week’s Dapper Dans. Just little bits of entertainment to look forward to topping off an already fun vacation.
    I think if guests ratchet down the expectations a bit, they will be pleasantly surprised. I think LTM is not meant to outshine the regular experiences at Disney, just add a little bit of extra fun for those who stop to enjoy it.

  • Midaroco

    it’s called “Limited Time MAGIC”, yet so far – I haven’t seen anything magical. This is Disney, and Disney has set the bar high. Are people expecting too much? Doubtful, considering Disney asks on average $90 a day for entrance – and has basically groomed the public to expect, and settle, for nothing but the best. Disneyland is offering much better offerings for their LTM, yet even their LTM is LAME by Disney standards. Has Disney all bust LOST their magic?

  • Nikki

    I go to Disney World several times a year and always look forward to what is new as well as the classic and wonderful memories of standard rides, attractions, resorts, etc. I think Disney can do better than the events listed for LTM but at the same time agree that simple can be beautiful and exciting. The prices of things should be stable or even discounts given for special folks who share memories, tell stories, share photos, visit the park more than once a year, generational family groups, etc. What better way to provide limited time magic than to sprinkle some Pixie Dust on Disney World or Land’s dedicated fans???