Former Disney Imagineer Says Parks Are “Too Stressful” And “Less Fun” For Families

FOX News Disney parks becoming complicated too stressful
Credit: Disney

Vacationing at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is a unique and magical experience. Families will spend years saving enough money to visit Disney Parks, especially Walt Disney World. This is evident as in 2022, Magic Kingdom was the most visited Theme Park in the world! However, the days of buying tickets and showing up to Disney are over. Instead of enjoying their day at the Parks, many Guests spend hours vying for highly competitive dining reservations, learning the ins and outs of virtual queues, or navigating confusing Genie+ systems.

Opening in 1971, Walt Disney World quickly became a hotbed for family-oriented tourism, but as technology has shaped the way we plan, work, and even vacation, it’s become a bit of a headache for some Guests. Following a lofty couple of years in terms of attendance, Disney World has seen a decline in visitors over the last couple of weeks. This is interesting as holidays are typically busy for Disney Parks. However, this past Fourth of July yielded the lowest Park attendance in over ten years.

Disney’s Current Problem

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Credit: Ashley Carter, Twitter

Disney has been the focal point of much debate lately as they’ve thrown their hat into the political arena contesting Florida governor Ron Desantis. Disney’s open LGBTQ support has ruffled feathers with the conservative politician vying for presidential candidacy. Florida and Walt Disney World have become a political battleground as conservatives claim that Disney is “woke” and pushing agenda through their media. In contrast, liberals claim that Desantis and the state of Florida are too far behind in their thinking. Due to Disney’s stance and retaliation, combined with increased sexual representation in Disney films, many have sworn off the company. This shift from its original conservative values could be a reason for lower Park attendance.

However, a former Disney Imagineer, Ron Harris, blames Disney’s current issues on ease of use instead of political alienation. Harmon called Disney’s problem “a good problem” in a recent interview with Fox Business. Despite Park attendance, the demand for Disney remains great. On the flip side of the coin, when you’re competing against 57,000 other daily visitors, the planning and technology used to “spread the crowd” becomes complicated.

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“So you’ve got this problem where you have too many people who want to come at the same time [so they try] to sort of spread the crowd out,” Harmon told FOX Business in an interview. “That’s why they’ve added many more experiences, they try to raise the price high enough. That maybe weeds out some people, but that doesn’t seem to work, and so they’ve come up with a system using your mobile phone…the problem is that unless you plan ahead – which a lot of people do not – you end up going there and having a pretty poor experience because people have reserved rides and shows and restaurants.

Ron went on to day that the days of taking his own children to Disney on a whim are over. He’s right. Disney World has been trending in this direction for a long time. As COVID-19 forced them to take on new measures to monitor Park attendance, Disney changed to new data-driven practices that allowed them to dictate how many people are in the Parks and where they are in the Parks. Ultimately it makes sense as a business, but it embroils the Guest experience, and it all started with the Park Reservation systems.

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Harmon went on to explain the difficulties in securing reservations for dining and the long waits for attractions without lightning lane. “We bought our very expensive tickets and went in and watched as all these people walked in front of us in the queues because they made an online reservation,” he said. “So we got stuck waiting and waiting and waiting.” Like most people, Harmon then realized that to justify his ticket price, he would have to purchase Individual Lightning Lanes. Of course, this required constant vigilance for open spots through the My Disney Experience app.

FOX also noted lofty increases in ticket prices for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Despite many claiming the quality of the Parks post-COVID are not up to the standards Disney once set for itself, the demand remains high enough that Disney can increase ticket prices as they wish. The same can be said for Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes, as long as Guests feel they have to have them, Disney can continue to increase prices. High-capacity days at Walt Disney World can see upwards of $35 a person for Genie+, but prices have dropped to around $15 over the past couple of weeks. Some of this is due to lower Park attendance, but this can also be attributed to Disney’s new Park specific Genie+ pricing model. We sure do miss Disney Fast Pass.

“To be charging up to $170 a person to walk through the gate and then $30 a person for a ride,” Harmon said. “I mean, that’s just highway robbery.””

Disney Change Is Coming

Disney dining plan

Credit: Disney

Disney has listened to some of the Guests complaints regarding overcomplicated systems and the need to bring back the Disney Dining Plan and do away with the Park Reservation system. These changes will begin in 2024, and Disney Guests are excited. However, this only lends itself to the complicated nature of enjoying Walt Disney World. My Disney Experience, dining reservations, virtual queues, and Genie+ will remain intact. With the reintroduction of the Disney Dining Plan, those already challenging to get dining reservations will likely become more competitive. Long-time Guests of Walt Disney World surely remember the days of old when advanced dining reservations opened up 60 days before your trip.

READ ALSO: Disney World Announces Closure of Haunted Mansion

As Disney continues to evolve with increasing demand, it stands to assume that Guests experiences will likely stay the same in terms of planning and using our innovative technology in the Parks. It makes sense that Disney would use a device that they aren’t paying for- your cell phone- to push an overcomplicated app-based Park experience on Guests. It makes them more money and gives them more control. It’s been well-documented that wait times within the My Disney Experience app are unreliable. Guests and I have often reported that these ride wait times seem inflated. Could this be in an attempt to move Guests from one side of the Park to another?

Imagine you’re at Magic Kingdom, and you see the wait time for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train drop around 3 p.m. You’re hanging out at Pirates of the Caribbean and start making your way to New Fantasyland, only to be stopped by the Festival of Fantasy parade. It’s a hot day, so you duck inside the pin trading store while the parade passes so you can be one of the first to make it over to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This is an example of how Disney can control crowds with the My Disney Experience app. It’s a big reason we’re stuck with the planner. It outsources information and provides Disney with real-time data driving their Park operations. As confusing and frustrating as it is for you to use, it’s more advantageous to Disney.

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Credit: Disney

We will see what the future holds, especially considering the exciting changes coming to Walt Disney World next year. We can safely assume that visiting Walt Disney World will most likely not become less confusing but may be more fun as traditional dining reservations open back up. We do know that Park attendance is close to an all-time low, and many Guests are unhappy with their experiences at Walt Disney World.


About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!