The big news of the last few weeks in the Disney fan community has been about the latest slew of upcharge events Walt Disney World is offering. You can read about them in detail here (and here) but I’ll give a quick description if you aren’t familiar with them. An upcharge event at a Disney Park is an event that guests have to pay extra to attend. Basically, you can’t do these ‘events’ with a basic park ticket or park hopper ticket. For years, Disney has offered these events and they did little to no harm because of their infrequency and timing. In the last few years though, Disney has upped the amount of these events culminating in these last two event announcements.
The ‘Disney After Hours’ event has officially been announced and entails spending 3 hours in Magic Kingdom (although you can enter at 7 PM) from 11 PM to 2 AM. (Or 10 PM to 1 AM on select nights.) Complimentary soda and ice cream bars will be offered but the appeal here is the lack of crowds that will be in the parks. There are very few tickets being offered and those in attendance will have next to no lines for Magic Kingdom’s attractions. There is no doubt that this is valuable but the price is $149 and it surely isn’t that valuable, at least in my opinion.
The morning event hasn’t been officially announced but will likely come about in the next few weeks. This event includes a buffet breakfast and entrance into the Magic Kingdom an hour and fifteen minutes before park opening. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight will be open to guests of this event. Attendance here will also be very limited. The price of this event will likely be around $70.
To quickly break from the subject of this post, I do not think either of these events are good values. Sure, they are both valuable just not at the price point that they are currently listed at. With an effective touring plan you can complete almost everything you want to at Magic Kingdom in a typical park day. While standing in line is not the world’s favorite pastime, it’s not worth $150 to avoid. The early morning event may be a tiny bit more valuable but I’m fairly skeptical about any Disney Park breakfast and three rides on popular attractions is not worth an extra $50 to me. I see the appeal of these events, but the offerings aren’t unique enough to truly entice me unless I had unlimited amounts of money. The events are a bad value, especially considering they don’t include park admission.
So, I won’t go to these events. But do they affect me even if I don’t plan to attend? That has been the debate this week for theme park fans. For years, these upcharge events have either been unique enough (Holiday Parties) or out-of-the-way enough (dessert parties during nighttime spectaculars) to not cause much of an uproar. To be honest, I’m all for Holiday Parties (I’ll be attending my first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this Fall) because of their unique offerings. Dessert Parties are fine with me, though I will likely never attend one. But now it seems that Disney is basically offering more park time to those that are willing to pay for it, fans (including me) have grown a little more concerned.
How would these events affect me even though I’m not attending? By cutting down on typical operation time for the parks involved. As of now (discounting the 24-hour party offered last year and not this year) Magic Kingdom offered around 50-60 more hours for guests in April and May in 2015 compared to 2016. That’s bad news for people who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a non-unique event.
Disney has assured guests that this will not eliminate Extra Magic Hours to those who are staying on-site. That’s the good news here. But, what if these events are very successful? Wouldn’t it make sense for a company to eliminate something that is offered for free when people are already paying for it? That is what I’m most worried about when it comes to these events. Disney has shown a greed in the last few years that used to be uncharacteristic to this company.
Now, I know Disney is a company first and foremost that has to do what’s best financially for them. But, cutting back on normal park hours as you keep raising standard ticket prices isn’t a good look and this strategy has fans feeling a little weary of these seemingly constant charges. These announcements came a few weeks after Walt Disney World started charging extra for premium parking. While I don’t think the parking affects guests that won’t use it, the news is just another cause to think that the Disney Parks are nickel and diming us, on top of the thousands of dollars many people pay for their vacation.
In the end, these new events won’t hurt guests that don’t attend them too much. If Disney is true to their word and Magic Hours aren’t affected then the trade-off is less than an hour of operation a day (vs. last year) from the World’s most popular park. That’s still meaningful but not to the degree some are reacting. Where most fans justified concern is coming from is wondering when enough is enough. Disney seems to announce these things monthly, if not weekly. For those of us lowly people who aren’t willing to pay for them (but still spend thousands of dollars) it culminates in us feeling that we haven’t experienced Disney’s full product. That wears on fans, like a sports team that never makes the playoffs, and will eventually hurt Disney’s relationship with those that care most about them. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that as these two new events take baby steps into that direction.