Wow, wow, wow. What a crazy few days it has been, Disney family! Even though people have been calling for the firing of Bob Chapek for years, almost no one expected it to happen as suddenly as it did. Maybe even fewer people expected Disney to announce that former Disney CEO Bob Iger would be coming back to turn the company around. But it happened, and, I don’t know about you, but I am still in shock.
In his less than 3 years as Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Chapek made a lot of changes that did not go over well with either casual Disney fans or die-hard Disney adults. Now that Chapek is out and Iger is back in, here are some of the big changes that Iger could focus on to get back in fans’ good graces.
Bring Back the Dining Plan
This seems a perfect place to start. One of the biggest parts of a Walt Disney World vacation is planning where to eat. With nearly 400 dining options on property, there is something for everyone. And for years, Guests were able to experience so many delicious options because they purchased the Disney Dining plan, which allowed them to dine at both table-service and quick-service restaurants, as well as get snacks, for one set daily price. The Dining Plan was suspended when the Parks reopened after COVID, but there is no reason it should still be absent,
Guests have been begging for Disney to bring back the Dining Plan for months and, if Iger really wants to listen to what Disney fans want, one of his first moves will be to announce the return of the beloved Dining Plan.
Theme Park Reservation System
As everyone remembers, Disney had to shut down all of its Parks worldwide as COVID-19 spread like wildfire. When the Parks finally reopened, there were strict attendance guidelines, so a reservation system was put in place. Guests would now need both a ticket and a reservation to visit Disney’s U.S. Parks. While it was controversial from the beginning, hatred for the system has only grown as the theme parks have gone back to a pre-pandemic normal. Some Guests still don’t know about the reservation system or how to operate it, so they’ll show up at the Parks and won’t be able to get in.
Chapek always said that he wanted to make sure “the family from Denver” would be able to travel to a Disney Resort and guarantee that they would get into the Parks. Before the pandemic, Guests were really only turned away on days like Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, and the rare packed summer day. If Iger wants to make fans REALLY happy, he’ll get rid of the reservation system and only implement it on days like Christmas and New Year’s.
Bring Back FastPass
Another one of the most controversial choices Bob Chapek made was to get rid of Disney’s free FastPass system and institute Disney Genie+, which can cost nearly $30 per Guest, per day. Guests felt that this was one of the most nickel and diming things Disney had done. Add to that the more expensive theme park tickets and hotel costs, and you have annoyed Guests.
In addition to that, Lightning Lanes (the new name for FastPass line) seem to be longer than ever, sometimes stretching through entire lands. It amazed a lot of people that a system designed to make things better had, in fact, made things worse. Plus, who enjoys waking up at 7 a.m. on their vacation just to make a ride reservation before they are all gone?
It’s safe to say that almost no one would be mad if Iger said Genie+ was going away and FastPass was coming back.
End Park Hopping Restrictions
This is one of the most nonsense things that is still in place at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. Sure, managing crowds and limiting Park Hopping made sense when everyone had to socially distance and wear masks, but now? Nope. Park Hopping restrictions are just one big pain in the butt, especially since afternoon virtual queues open right when Park Hopping begins, leaving many at a disadvantage. At this point in time, Park Hopping restrictions seem to serve no purpose, except to annoy people.
Please, Mr. Iger, we beg you — GET RID OF THE PARK HOPPING RESTRICTIONS!
Bring Back Magical Express
As many people who traveled to Walt Disney World Resort know, one of the best ways to get to the Resort from the Orlando International Airport was Disney’s Magical Express. The free service was vital for those who did not want to rent a car just to get to the Resort. Thousands of people were disappointed when Chapek decided to end the free service because there seemed to be no logic to it — except that it was free, and he didn’t want to give Disney Guests anything for free if he didn’t have to.
Adjust Ticket Prices
Okay, so asking for a straight drop in ticket prices may be out of the realm of possibility, but maybe not. There is no question that tickets to a Disney theme park are getting out of reach for more and more people. Just this year, ticket prices have gone up twice and many Guests have said that Disney has outpriced the average American family. Annual Passes at both Disneyland and Disney World have also skyrocketed in price. If Iger wants to bring some of that Disney magic back, he will make it possible for more families to experience the Parks.
Bring Back the Extra Touches
One thing Disney is known for is making magic in the most unexpected ways. Like, when Guests would walk through the doors of Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa and would be greeted by a live orchestra. Guests visiting Disney’s Hilton Head Resort were entertained by B’Lou Crabbe and his Golden Retriever Shadow — who were unceremoniously fired last November. Crabbe had worked at Hilton Head for more than 20 years.
Bringing back those extras are something Guests would definitely notice and appreciate. It would also show that Disney cares about those extra touches.
Change Food Vendors
Disney used to be known for its out-of-this-world food that was a dozen steps above anything most other theme parks had to offer. Bob Chapek made it clear that he was always looking for ways to cut costs, and CFO Christine McCarthy said that Disney had been changing up its food vendors as a way to save. Well, Disney fans noticed — the price of food went up, and the quality went down.
If Iger wants to keep food prices the same, he can do so, but he should offset that by bringing back the food quality that Guests have come to expect from Disney.
Reconsider Lake Nona Move
This one doesn’t affect Disney Guests as much as it affects Disney employees. Back in June 2021, Disney announced that they would be building a new Imagineering campus in Lake Nona, Florida. We then learned that Bob Chapek had told thousands of employees that they had to agree to move to Lake Nona in the next 90 days or hand in their resignation. It didn’t turn out that well for Chapek, as Disney lost a number of star Imagineers who refused to uproot their lives on such short notice. They also didn’t like being given such an ultimatum after everything they had done for the company.
This past summer, Disney announced that it was pausing the full move to Lake Nona. While it is unlikely that Iger would stop the Lake Nona move altogether, giving Imagineers the option to move or stay at the studio in Los Angeles would certainly foster goodwill. It may even inspire some Imagineers to return to the company.
End the Hiring Freeze
Again, this one affects employees more than Guests, but it is still something that was not a good look for Disney. During the latest earnings call — which happened earlier this month — Bob Chapek reported that Disney had earned a record $28 billion in profit. Then, just days later, he announced that Disney was implementing a “targeted hiring freeze” as a way to save money — although Chapek would still be getting his minimum $20 million yearly bonus.
This would be another move that would foster goodwill with the public and would improve morale at a company where it has been waning for months.
While each Guest will have their own ideas about what Disney should and should not change, one thing is definitely clear — Iger needs to make some big changes to put Disney back on the pedestal it was once on.