Evolution of the Disney Guest – Introduction

imageWe Disney fans are critical bunch. Whether it’s reaction to a recent show or attraction, a decision concerning an upcoming movie or literally anything else you can imagine; not everyone is going to be pleased with it. I am very guilty of this myself with recent and past critiques over Disneyland Paris as I’m sure you’re all very well of by now regarding a certain Spring celebration. Negativity is something I have never seen as a bad thing, quite the opposite indeed. Different opinions can bring debate and, when approached the right way, create some excellent discussions and may even shed more insight into the topics and opinions regarding a specific viewpoint. I’ve always welcomed the possibility of my opinion being changed and I try my best to always back my points with well rounded reasoning.We Disney fans are critical bunch. Whether it’s reaction to a recent show or attraction, a decision concerning an upcoming movie or literally anything else you can imagine; not everyone is going to be pleased with it. I am very guilty of this myself with recent and past critiques over Disneyland Paris as I’m sure you’re all very well of by now regarding a certain Spring celebration. Negativity is something I have never seen as a bad thing, quite the opposite indeed. Different opinions can bring debate and, when approached the right way, create some excellent discussions and may even shed more insight into the topics and opinions regarding a specific viewpoint. I’ve always welcomed the possibility of my opinion being changed and I try my best to always back my points with well rounded reasoning.

One topic of criticism I see a lot lately in the Disney Park fan community is that of Disney’s reliance on franchises and existing IPs. It’s an occurrence happening more and more within the online, and to an extent, offline fandoms. Every few weeks or months, an announcement is made about a new attraction or land based on a particular popular movie or franchise – more likely than not replacing a current attraction in the park – and everyone erupts in a rage of exclamation marks and annual pass cancellation threats. It’s a view I can certainly understand and to a small degree agree with, some of my favourite DLP attractions (Phantom Manor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain etc) are all original, unique ideas that didn’t rely on an existing movie to appeal to the masses; at least at the time of their creation. It’s definitely true that Walt Disney Imagineering has strayed away from their original content routes and instead moved more into creating experiences from its most popular movies and entertainment. In fact, you could argue even the more recent “unique” Disney attraction, such as Hong Kong’s Mystic Manor, isn’t as unique as we believe. After all, it’s very existence is down to the Haunted Mansion and the inability to appropriately translate the attraction with Chinese culture.

Frozen Ever After was a new attraction to Epcot which brought much controversy, replacing Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion.

Frozen Ever After was a new attraction to Epcot which brought much controversy, replacing Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion.

All that being said, I feel Disney and their Imagineers are making the right decisions (for the most part) and are simply adapting to a change in the culture of guests. Disney have and will continue to make small changes here and there to suit their customers, their interests and of course, the changing times and advancement of modern times. As demand grows and changes for an audience, the company must be willing to do the same or risk losing said audience. This is something we see happening all of the time in any industry you can think of. A supermarket begins to lose customers due to the rise of internet shopping, so they introduce their own online platform. Technology has moved to a point where film based cameras are no longer practical or the best quality, so camera manufacturers push further on their digital range and mobile phone accessories like chargers. There is no difference between these scenarios and Disney’s theme park operations; all share the common goal of pursuing a profit. As fans, we often get bogged down in the sentimental, historical and morality values Disney means to us – there’s no denying those movies, TV shows, games, merchandise and theme parks have help shaped us into the people we are today – but we can’t allow our rose tinted glasses hide away the truth. The Walt Disney Company is exactly that, a company. Their goal and very existence is to make money, and to do this they have to appeal to the masses. Figure out what customers (in this case, us guests) want and be able to deliver that not only to a degree where we are willing to part with our cash, but repeatedly do so and tell all our friends to.

This concept of change isn’t some new found business strategy of the last 10 years. No, this has always been the way ever since the birth of commerce. Whether it’s a single vendor on a marketplace or a multi-billion dollar corporation, in any time period you can think of, business practices in the selling of goods and services have been shaped by the demands and changes of customers. For Disney and more specifically Disney parks, this is the norm ever since the opening of the first Disneyland way back in ’55. For as long as there have been magic kingdoms for us to visit, there has been changes in demands, upgrades in technology and expectations from guests altered.

Consider this my ‘argument’ for anyone who believes Walt Disney Imagineering has become lazy and over reliant on established IPs. I feel the average Disney Parks fan can be broken up into three “eras” time, each unique in their own way and has evolved over the years and decades. I must stress however everything in this feature is purely my opinion. Regardless of how much I can research into the times I will be discussing, I was around for most of them so I cannot 100% guarantee this was the consensus. Rather than a biological piece, see it as an observation and speculation based on what we know of the time and how it compares to today.

So come join me on a journey through time of Disney parks and yonder, of how cultures and customers have changed and how the minds behind he magic have not only kept in tune with this ever changing Disney guest orchestra, but even held the conducting baton every so often.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Be sure to keep a watchful eye here and on Twitter as I hope to release each part consistently!

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One thought on “Evolution of the Disney Guest – Introduction

  1. Pingback: Evolution of the Disney Park Guest – Part 1 – NI DLP Geek

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