Reduce Theme Park Lines? Invest in New Attractions

| November 9, 2014 | 40 Replies

For years now theme parks have been grappling with how to reduce or eliminate theme parks lines.   Disney’s multi-billion dollar initiative to move guests around in its theme parks, MyMagic+, is mostly in place.  We’ve been hearing reports and reading guest reviews of how well it is working or not working.  Some reviews have been positive and some have been negative.  Whether we agree its working or not the question remains: is this the best way to handle managing lines, crowds, and moving guests around in the parks?
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Over the past 25 years theme park vacations have increased in popularity.   The crowds and lines at the Orlando theme parks have proven it.   25 years is a long time, and we know over that time Disney and the rest of the Orlando theme parks have invested in new attractions.  Disney’s marketing engine and word of mouth have driven new and repeat guests to the parks, but now it’s time for Disney to respond accordingly to crowd levels and wait times.  Yes, the technology investment was nice and I’m sure in some ways it has helped manage lines and crowds, but it’s going to take more than technology to fix the lengthy wait times.

It’s time to see a more adequate investment in attractions.  If more attractions are built they will give relief to other E-ticket attractions in the parks.   With increased guest attendance, ticket price increases, and cost cutting initiatives we should be seeing more of an investment in new attractions to make our theme park experience more enjoyable.   Wait times continue to increase and so do guest frustrations.

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I’m not saying that Disney hasn’t invested in new attractions over the years; what appears to be occurring is they simply can’t keep up with “guest demand.”  Throwing 2 billion dollars at a technology project with MyMagic+ has helped, but it’s just not enough, nor are the dance and street parties we see quickly setup on a seasonal basis.  Crowd levels are demanding more attractions.  Theme park ticket prices are rising, wait times are increasing, crowds are growing, but not at the same pace of new attractions.  Our theme park admission ticket is slowly losing value.  Space is available inside the existing theme parks, but a lot of those spaces have remained empty or left unused over the years.  We continue to wait and see if those spaces will ever be filled again.

What do you think?  Is Disney building new attractions at the same pace as crowds are increasing?   Could or should they do more?  Was the $2 billion dollar MyMagic+ initiative the right thing to do or should they have invested that money in new attractions?

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As a frequent park visitor and guest I’d like to see Disney fill their empty spaces with new, fresh, and exciting attractions.  A makeover at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would certainly help.  The addition of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will also help since the park will stay open later on a consistent basis.  But, is more needed?  With crowds billowing into the parks daily it would sure seem so.  There are endless opportunities for Disney to expand.  After all, guests demand it.

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Category: Disney World

  • squirk

    Everyone wants new attractions, but are we all prepared for the even bigger ticket price increases that will come with developing/building/maintaining these new rides? Star Wars Land, mini-Cars Land and a Monsters, Inc. or Ratatouille ride will all come at a cost, and Disney is going to pass said cost down to us.

    • http://batman-news.com ADP

      Good point Squirk. However, shouldn’t the increased attendence over the years cover a good chunk of those expenses ? I would never suggest a 5th theme park, but I believe more could be done in the empty spaces Disney currently ownes.

      • squirk

        I don’t think Disney will take the risk that potential increases in attendance will offset the expenditure. We’re talking hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars here; said increase in future attendance may or may not materialize for a variety of reasons. My strong guess is that Disney will charge us now, and get while the getting is good.

        And even if that future attendance does materialize, that means even more people in the parks than there are now. So while there may be more headliners to divvy up people in lines, that may be completely offset by the higher crowds, no?

        Again, I’m all for more attractions, but they are going to come at a cost. To us.

        • Zombabe

          As opposed to MM+, which has already come as a cost to us? $2 BILLION dollars would have gone a long way towards building new attractions. There are hundreds of thousands of square feet in empty, unused space at EPCOT alone.

          I like my pink magic band, I’ve never had a glitch in the system when I’ve used it, but I would have rather had new attractions than what we have now. This, IMO, was a huge blow to regular WDW visitors. I think it proves just how disconnected the suits in Orlando are from the actual, average theme park guest.

          And by the way, their guest surveys on the issue are a joke. There isn’t an option for you to say that you hated MM+. The options are, “did you like it, really like it, or love it?”

          • squirk

            The bitter pill on MM+ was that we paid hikes in ticket prices to cover “improvements” that nobody was really asking for. I like MM+ fine, I guess, but I don’t find my WDW experience heightened dramatically because of it. I was pretty much OK with the pre-MM+ setup.

            Like you, I would have rather seen that money go toward new attractions, but they didn’t ask me.

        • TC

          I think a mix of new attractions are needed both A ticket but also other attractions that appeal to families. Maybe ones that are already manufactured by other companies and just need the Disney touch .also universal seem to build their new rides at a much quicker pace

  • Brandon Krementz

    The problem is that all of that costs $$$ and the stockholders(who Disney is now beholden to, and if you think they give a damn about you, you’re delusional) do not like that kind of capital expenditure. That’s why CapEx spending is way down under Iger compared to the Eisner years. That’s why we are getting a cheap overlay for Frozen, rather than the entire land that the Asian parks are getting. Disney is trying to do things as cheaply as possible under the current leadership, and this is the result you get.

    • Glenny

      4th quarter revenues of 12+ billion dollars and WDW gets a Frozen overlay on the old Maelstrom?! Be still my heart.

  • WDWGuy

    To me FP+ seems to have made things worse. It’s virtually impossible to get Fast Passes for some rides now, and the tiered FP’s at some of the parks are just awful, too. Now that they have made it so people can get fast passes from their couch weeks in advance, I think FP usage has gone way up from the paper FP’s. I think a lot of these people aren’t using the FP’s, which doesn’t let others get them. Also, the increased FP line makes the standby line move slower. I’ve been to WDW three times since they started with the FP+ and each time the lines seem longer, even though the crowds in the park don’t seem much bigger.

    • prncssriss

      I completely agree with you WDWGuy! My mom thinks that Disney did it so that the people would have no choice but to do two days at the park. It was such a cluster when we went in October with a party of 6. And in July when it was just my friend and I, I felt that we were back and forth. I think that the build up in the lines is because of the Fastpass+ options only being limited to three and one big ride can be accounted for in that three. i feel that this money could of been spent more wisely.

    • mickeymommy7

      Agreed! Our last trip was our first using the FP+ system. I used only ONE of the FPs I had because I simply couldn’t get back to the attraction when I needed to. Exhaustion played a BIG part.

  • kelly

    Epcot is the forgotten park. Why on earth has Wonders of Life sat abandoned without a new attraction? And same for the Odyssey Restaurant. Avatar has no business in Disney World especially in Animal Kingdom. A Star Wars land in HS would be great!

  • http://ptsnob.com/ Dan Heaton

    I totally agree, especially at EPCOT and DHS. The reason the lines are so long and Fastpasses are difficult to get for Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, and Test Track is because there aren’t enough comparable headliners. FP+ has only increased the issues, but it might work if they invested in more attractions to offset demand.

  • Kyle Newman

    In the past I always felt Disney put a lot of thought and engineering into their line management. Constant moving, constant loading rides were engineered for this purpose. Fast Pass+ threw a wrench into the entire design. It could just be poor training and line management of the cast members causing much of the problem. The way fast pass vs standby is handled by the line employee itself greatly increases line wait times. Standby riders are stopped from moving to allow large groups of Fast pass riders to cut the line. The fast pass is set to a one hour window so you could have an entire hours worth of riders in place within the first 5 minutes, holding the standby line for an hour in total while others move ahead. The correct way would be to use more of a zipper method of one group from one line and then one from the other alternating. Both lines continue to move, no starts and stops of standby.

    • mickeymommy7

      Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. That completely defeats the reason for a FP line all together. Those people aren’t “cutting” in line. They were there hours before you got there and just came back. A zipper would separate groups and create chaos.

  • Cleveland

    Disney parks are very family friendly and most of their attractions have been built and designed around that idea. I think its time for disney to expand the level of THRILL that their attractions offer. More intense rides to help seperate some beginner riders from more experienced thrill seekers. Everyone can and wants to ride Peter Pan, but with a more aggressive thrill you would seperate the crowd a bit and add diversity to the park.

  • Shannon Moore

    Disney has chosen to focus their investments on increasing hotels and being able to accommodate more and more and more people. However the problem with that is that the park sizes have remained with a few additional new rides. They can’t expect to bring in more and more guests and more and more special events driving up guest numbers without increasing the park size and number of attractions.

  • Otto Tieleman

    What I find insanely frustrating at WDW is that rides are thorn down and many years not replaces although they have so much space. Remember de skyway in the sky and 20.000 leagues or Snow white? What replaced them in the end? A small kiddy coaster and a copy of the Little mermaid. The rest are meet and greets and restaurants, NOT rides so NO added capacity.
    Remember the Life pavilion or the upstairs of the imagination pavilion? Just like the dancing light arches at Christmas they left and nothing replaced them.
    On the other hand Universal added a potter ride to Islands of Adventure, a high capacity stunning ride and added shops and dining. They are now building Kong on a UNUSED piece of land. In the Studios they closed Jaws to make way for 2 mayor rides AND shops, restaurants and shows. And they added a flat ride to the Simpsons area and redid a food court making it a fun and exciting place.
    I see Disney closing half of DHS studios and I hope a grand plan will give this park focus and new energy. What is beautiful there truly is beautiful but the rest should get the same attention and love and for peets sake update all the shows or replace them. Even Fantasmic is not worth staying there for the evening.
    And poor old Epcot. 2 billion dollars could have repurposed future world and make it nice again. Only 2 rides are actually popular (and Ellen if you want a nap). But with a quick and cheap makeover of Maelstrom (not adding capacity, again) using a very popular ip for a small, small ride with low, low capacity, the dividing between hotel guests that can prebook the ride 6 month in advance according to others who can prebook 3 month in advance (or a queue of 5 hours) or clueless international travelers that haven’t prebooked anything and thought they could do a stress free Florida vacation are all pointing to the fact Disney doesn’t care the waiting or the frustrations of their guests. Ergo these magic band are only a way to more easily divide you from your cash, the prebooking of rides is the Trojan horse, nothing more.

  • Ellen

    I agree with Shannon. Adding more and more hotel rooms and vacation club rooms without a similar increase in rides, etc. to accommodate all the added guests is poor planning, or more truthfully, just darn right greedy by the Disney Company. Can you imagine what $2 billion+ dollars could have provided in attractions?

    The MyMagic+ program has very few benefits in my opinion. The amount of pre-planning that now is necessary to visit WDW is becoming onerous. Just try and picture some family taking a spur of the moment trip, or even a first-time visit! I believe in both examples they are almost assured a disappointing time. I LOVE DisneyWorld (would live there if I could) and am able to visit every couple of years but planning this last trip sure took a lot of the magic out of it for me!

    • mickeymommy7

      To be fair though, adding DVC rooms hasn’t added that number of additional guests. Those guests (we) were already staying in Disney resorts, they just moved locations. The additional numbers of guests then filling the other rooms were going to come anyway. They haven’t been operating at full capacity in ages, as evidenced by all the promotions they run to fill rooms.

  • mcd2745

    Let’s see in the next handful of years. It’s possible the NextGen/MyMagic+ can be seen as laying the foundation for park expansion and enhancement. I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it though.

  • Gene Doss

    I believe more attractions are coming, with DHS first in line. Disney’s big problem is that they are a bureaucratic behemoth that takes forever to get new things approved and implemented. Universal has the appearance, at least, of being much more nimble and seems to get more high tech attractions off the drawing board and into their parks more quickly. It does get frustrating for WDW fans like us who are wondering if the next big thing at Disney World will be open before their kids are submitting college applications.

  • Beverly Czachor Snyder

    We are DVC members and we love Disney, but the wait to ride some of the rides is ridiculous. I don’t understand how you can be a Disney exec, walk through your parks, and NOT see the long lines at some attractions and the virtually empty spaces at others. Now, using MyMagic+ to encourage people to partake of the lesser rides is really just wrong. That is what seems to have happened. When you are choosing your fast passes, you’re limited on what rides/attractions you can choose from. I liked the old system. If you were able to swing it just right, you could pull off 3 times on one of the best rides over the course of a day. Now, I’m limited to one fast pass on that ride and a 3 hour wait otherwise. NO ride is worth the wait that things like Soarin’ get. Crazy!

    So, why not scrap the crappy rides and come up with something new–instead of killing time-honored rides like Maelstrom? Who rides Ellen’s ride–except when there is nothing else to do and you’re too tired to stand around?

    I do hope new rides are coming. While I might not be happy about some of the recent changes (can’t please all the people even part of the time), I am happy that they seem to making efforts to update things.

    • mickeymommy7

      Couldn’t agree more!

    • carly chop

      The comment about ellen’s ride cracks me up. CM’s in the park know that is the place to catch a nap if you’re doing all day at Epcot. I’d have to say the exec’s at Disney are visionless. The mine train is boring, Ariel is just Nemo with a mermaid. It would have been great as omeone said above to make the new LM ride underwater – I’m old enough to remember the submarine at MK and that was always a favorite. Avatar looks promising, though.

  • funhart

    I live in southern California and it is the same thing: They build a new freeway or add lanes to current freeways, but by the time they finish there is twice as much traffic! I think the only thing Disney can do is limit park attendance, however they will probably never do it!

    • mickeymommy7

      they “claim” to limit the attendance at the hard ticket parties but those numbers they “limit” to are astronomical.

      • funhart

        You are so correct! It is over-the-top crowded during the Halloween or Christmas party! That’s when I wish they would truly limit the attendance!

  • Sue

    I love WDW, but the new attractions are somewhat disappointing. Just another clam shell dark ride, cute but you don’t get off saying wow. Same with Mine Train. To short and less thrilling then Big Thunder! They could have been so much better. Just have to take a look at some of the high tec Universal attractions, Minions, Simpsons, etc. And the theming, immersion in story line & ride experience of Hogwarts & Diagon Alley leaves anything Disney has in the dust. Disney is just producing more “Old School” type rides. Instead of another clam shell we could have been swimming with Ariel under the sea!

  • Raymond M

    Not quite sure I understand the logic behind adding attractions. Although that is what I believe we (Disney Parks fans) continually yearn for, I think history clearly shows that an increase in capacity just leads to an increase of crowds. I think Disney’s focus on how to control what they have (MyMagic+) is the right place to be focusing right now. Certainly, it hasn’t stopped them from expanding (New Fantasyland, Avatar Land, and whatever DHS has in store), but I think when all is said and done, even MORE people will be headed to WDW.

    On the west coast, Disneyland has done exactly what is proposed in this article. A wonderful re-do of DCA and the addition of Cars Land brought many more guests into DCA, but it has dramatically increased the crowds in DL, to the point where it feels worse than it ever has been. I LOVE that everyone loves Disney Parks, but expecting them to keep building to ward of crowds is not as simple as we’d like. One of two things will happen, either Disney will start to limit crowds, or crowds will even themselves out because people are fed up with long lines. Either way, it is a win for die-hards like me who will keep going anyway.

  • DixieD

    I am hoping with the potential updates in DHS they are going to add more E ticket rides. That is what is needed. I’m fine with keeping MK more family friendly. Let’s make DHS the answer to Universal. Please oh please update the movie ride. I love the concept of it but it’s so outdated.
    DHS can have Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel universe (yeah I know they have some at Universal and it might be a contractual thing).

    And for all that is holy can we stop with the Frozen crap!! Yes it was a good move but it’s not Gone With the Wind or Star Wars!!!

    • Gene Doss

      Unfortunately, Marvel in Florida is definitely a contractual thing. Universal got the rights to Marvel in their park well before Disney bought Marvel outright, and they aren’t going to just give up that contract. I totally agree that the Great Movie Ride could use an upgrade or even a whole re-imagining. For now, I’d be happy if they hired a couple editors for a week or two to put together an updated montage at the end of the ride. I don’t mean just inserting a couple new clips. All the newer clips have done is show how poor the quality of the older clips has become. Some of them look like Super 8 copies being blown up on a giant screen.

  • chocgal

    I am at WDW now. Hollywood Studios has lots of room for growth. They closed Backlot Tour, American Idol, Sound Stage, Television Studios. They keep closing things and not opening new things. Toy Story Mainia had a 105 minute wait 15 minutes after the park opened. Not much to do here anymore.

  • LindaBabe

    “My Magic” has been anything but magical for me! My experience in the Disney parks has continually degraded over the last decade. They need WAY more new attractions, not just moving the old ones around and giving them a facelift. Pretty much all there is to do in EPCOT is eat, drink and shop. Studios? I don’t even go there any more. Can’t get in to Toy Story, Seen Beauty and the Beast so many times I can do all the parts. The lines are daunting everywhere.

  • mickeymommy7

    Adding attractions makes the most sense in my mind. Distribute people more over more attractions. I absolutely LOATHE the FP+ system.

  • J.Henson

    FP+ was some Disney exec’s idea of having a better way to track people while pawning it off as an upgrade to the fast pass system.
    If they’d get back to roots (Walt) it would be obvious to make the parks a success (and hence profitable) they need to Listen to and give folk want they want at a price most everyone can afford. That includes the price gouging on food.
    Do we want magic bands? No. Do we want attractions shuttered with signs saying “pardon our pixie dust” while there are no changes going on behind those doors? No. Do we want the few items that had charm and allure taken away to help out with Disney bottom line? No.
    The new generation of Disney executives and managers need to go back and take a page out of Walt’s book and pretend it’s about more than just spreadsheets and making things ‘look good’.

  • hpleader

    Disney is in somewhat of a Catch 22. They are the victims of their own success. I’m all for more attractions, and they will draw more people. When you are the No. 1 theme park in the world, it is almost impossible to keep up with demand. And growth just for the sake of growth is not the Disney way. Walt did everything the right way, not the fast way. Disney will continue to expand, and it will never be fast enough for those of us who love it. A few years ago, there was no Midway Mania, and now it draws huge crowds. Did that relieve the pressure on Rockin’ Roller Coaster or the Tower of Terror? No. More people are enjoying Disney, and the Imagineers will keep adding to the magic. But it will be done to the highest of standards, to Walt’s standards, which means it will be worthy every minute of the wait.

  • Stephen

    You see movement in Disney adding attractions, such as Avatar Land in DAK and many confirmed and rumored changes coming to DHS. I believe that Disney is working on it, but that they’re unable to build things fast enough to keep up with guest demand. Some things are reactionary – for example, anything Frozen themed in the parks (esp. closing Maelstrom for a revamped Frozen ride) – but even these took a while to roll out once the insane popularity of the movie was truly realized. While adding attractions does lead to an increase in attendance (just look at Cars Land in CA Adventure), it also spreads out people in more queues, restaurants, shops, etc., ultimately relieving pressure on current waits. If more attention was given to the underutilized areas as mentioned above, the turnaround could be much quicker than say a Fantasyland or Avatar expansion.

  • Karen M Cowan

    Very nice article !!!

  • jzcubed

    I’d like to start with an amusing thing said by the great philosopher, Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

    FP+ – it works for my family.

    Rides. Yes, we all want to experience something new and/or improved. But at what cost? Haunted Mansion closed for a week and plenty of people were disappointed. How long would TomorrowLand Speedway be closed if it had to be updated? Would most people prefer ride upgrades at the expense of not being able to use it for possibly months or years (like Malestrom)? Do we want to see more construction going on with all the walls that are already an eyesore?

    I have read plenty of well thought out plans on Blogs. I hope and pray that Disney management is looking. But at the end of the day, new rides are a business decision that takes a great amount of planning and money.

    It is difficult for me to imagine why Disney Executives would have been focusing on massive changes to the all in the Parks during the many years that corporate profits were flat and/or during the economic crisis we all experienced a few years ago. The Parks are money makers and possibly drive worldwide merchandising, but the real money maker for Disney is ESPN. And yet, immediately following the recession, FantasyLand was expanded. Around the time of this expansion, Avatar Land was announced. More recently, Downtown Disney is changing as well. And I imagine that as we get a bit closer to AvatarLand opening in 2017 (or sooner), we will know specific plans for what is intended at Hollywood Studios in the places that have already been closed and/or are rumored to be closing. The only Park without known or greatly rumored expansion is Epcot – and I’ve read plenty of discussions about the availability of land where more attractions can be added. It’s likely no coincidence that much of these changes were driven by a CEO change in 2005.

    But let’s not lose sight of something that I wrote just yesterday in another blog – part of the charm of Disney is nostalgia. I was a child in the 1970’s and have felt great comfort and joy sharing the same childhood experiences with my own child (now nearly 6 y.o). I hope and pray that she is able to share these same experiences with my grandchildren (To my daughter: no pressure). I am not saying that things should never change, but change for change sake is not what Disney was ever about. Rather, I am suggesting Disney is about experiencing what is old. Wasn’t that the purpose of the FrontierLand – does the wild west make sense to present day children? The same can be said of Carousel of Progress – remembering the old. Did I or other children understand an ice box or a time without running water back in the 1970’s, yet alone our children understanding these things today?

    “If you build it, they will come,” was the constant refrain in a movie about nostalgia. Walt and those who followed knew this too. Whether or not Disney builds anything new will not stop people from coming, and if more is built, more people will come back over and over again.

    We cannot have it both ways – so many of us want some things to never change, while some of us want constant expansion. I prefer the slow walk that Disney has given us.

    I suspect the crowds will never go away. And by the time the 50th Anniversary arrives in 2021, each Park and Downtown Disney will have had a fairly recent expansion. Despite all the claims otherwise, I count that as progress.