When I covered the recent IAAPA 2022 show in last week’s edition of Live Active Cultures, I foolishly assumed that the conference would serve as the pinnacle of the year’s theme park industry events. But just days after IAAPA attendees left Orlando, Disney’s board of directors dropped an unexpected bombshell that reverberated beyond the confines of the Magic Kingdom. The shocking dismissal of Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek — who reportedly learned of his ouster shortly before Elton John was scheduled to give his last US performance — and the reinstatement of his predecessor Bob Iger after barely two years was certainly not a development you made your own Disney drama Bingo Card. with me.
But though many fans (and staff) welcomed the breaking news of Bob’s replacement by Bob with celebrations that rivaled the Munchkins’ jubilation at Dorothy’s coming, my joy was dampened by remembering the refrain from one of my favorite songs by the Who: “Meet the New Boss, Same Old Boss.” .”
It’s no secret that a pandemic-era acceleration of price hikes and service disruptions across Disney attractions has turned a growing number of die-hard former Disney fans against the company, with complaints about complex new crowd-control policies driving more and more potential visitors toward competitors like Universal. Much of that online anger was directed at Chapek personally, though many of the unpopular policies arose during Iger’s reign or fall under the purview of Parks boss Josh D’Amaro. And any pushback by annual pass holders didn’t stop Disney parks from reaching record revenues in the most recent fiscal quarter; If it weren’t for a stock price plunge precipitated by huge losses from the Disney+ streaming division, the parks profitability might have kept Chapek’s job.
As fun as it is to fantasize about Iger riding on a white horse to fix whatever the park-watchers grumble about, he actually has bigger things to worry about – like undoing Chapek’s disastrous restructuring of the studio’s content divisions and finding a suitable successor before his two-year contract expires. Even if Iger makes wholesale changes to the resorts, it wouldn’t necessarily mark a return to the poet era: Just watch Abigail Disney’s documentary, The American Dream and Other Tales, for evidence of how frontline staff members performed under his watch. Still, there’s a legitimate hope that Iger might want to undo some of the most unpopular policies associated with his short-lived heir, just to stop the bloodshed from brand recalls and start rebuilding trust with Mickey’s most vocal clientele.
Assuming that’s the case, here are a few totally no-nonsense suggestions Iger can implement within the next 30 days, instantly restoring the hearts and minds of pixie-dust addicts everywhere just in time for the New Year:
- Cancel theme park reservations for single-day and multi-day theme park tickets, and increase the number of annual park reservations annual pass holders can make in advance.
- Move up your park-eligibility time from 2 p.m. to noon, and stop asking pass holders to enter their reserved park first if arriving in the afternoon.
- Free parking lot trams resume operation at all theme parks.
- Ditch the default queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
- Include a free Disney+ entry with every theme park entry.
- Officially cancel moving the company from California to Lake Nona, and re-enlist some talented Visualizers who have departed in recent years.
- Rehiring laid-off artists, with a focus on rebooting closed street shows like Citizens of Hollywood.
- Increase after-hours preventive maintenance on major attractions to reduce avalanche outbreaks.
- Announce a confirmed opening date for the Magic Kingdom’s Tron ship, and get in on the limited pre-Christmas previews.
Unfortunately, implementing all of these ideas wouldn’t solve the biggest problem with Walt Disney’s theme parks. The increase in attendance has outpaced the addition of new attractions, resulting in a net loss in per capita hourly capacity that is only exacerbated by additional freight line cutting schemes such as Genie+. In fact, unless Iger could immediately wave his magic wand hardware A few brand new e-tickets inside each park The most effective way he can improve your park-going experience is by getting rid of the Genie+, making guests pay an extra $20-$30 for the privilege of spending all day updating their smartphones in contemplation of Get the Lightning Lane return time.
With more than 50 percent of visitors shelling out on the service, it’s highly unlikely that Egger will kill this cash cow entirely. But capping sales at 10 percent of park attendance (while increasing the price dramatically) would make the service more valuable to those who choose to buy it, and less harmful to those who don’t.
And if Iger really cares about fixing what’s wrong with the resorts, he should just have his top lieutenants do exactly what I did last week: visit the parks with their families during the height of the holiday season, without any special perks. Allow a few VPs to watch their babies cry while waiting three hours for a flight, and you’ll see serious changes begin the next day.