The Monthly Theme Park Thread Walks Things Back

If you know Disney like I know Disney, you’d agree that they aren’t the type of company to give up on things. Cancel them in the planning stage? Sure. Replace them? Absolutely. But as a general rule, once all is said and done and that bad money’s been spent, we tend to find ourselves stuck with the less-than-stellar results… at least until they rot away into total disrepair. And yet! What if I told you that Disney chose to cut their losses three different times this month, including twice just yesterday? Wild, right? Well, it’s true! On multiple fronts, we’ve seen the Mouse House take the rare steps to reverse course on an unpopular policy and/or decision.

By far the least inside-baseball of these — as well as the most shocking, for my money — is the just-announced closing of the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser this September after less than two years of operation. Reporting often misrepresents this 100-room complex outside of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a ‘hotel,’ and while guests do spend two nights there, the true selling point is the continuous, 48-hour immersive theater experience it offers: it’s essentially a micro-scale Westworld with live people instead of robots.

Pictured: Live people and not robots

Reviews of the voyage itself were mostly positive, though even the Starcruiser’s biggest boosters admitted that the experience was hugely overpriced at $2400 per adult — or a full $4800 for any Sequel Trilogy-obsessed loners out there. Personally, I think this undertaking could have done significantly better if Disney had just been willing to slash the price, but evidently paying cast members to stay in character for two straight days while wearing full body makeup (or in one performer’s case, an animatronic mask) isn’t cheap. Good for them, and au revoir to the Galactic Starcruiser. We barely knew ye, because barely anyone went.

Another venture officially scrapped yesterday was the proposed move of Walt Disney Imagineering from its current home in Glendale, CA to a new $1B campus that was to be built in Lake Nona, FL. To be honest, I can’t for the life of me figure out why the company suddenly changed their minds on this one. Has anyone heard anything that might explain why Disney employees wouldn’t feel welcome in Florida?

Don’t worry; I wouldn’t subject you to a picture of Ron Desantis, even as a joke.

All joking (and even politics) aside, this is an unequivocally good decision. Asking more than 2,000 of your company’s most valuable employees to either move across the country or quit was a messed-up thing to do in the first place, and while I’m sure the tax rates are lower there, central Florida is simply not the right place to incubate the kind of creative culture that Imagineering desperately needs.

Finally, big changes are coming to the much-maligned Park Pass Reservation system that this column discussed back in January. Beginning in 2024, Walt Disney World guests will no longer need to make reservations for individual parks within the resort, instead simply linking their general-admission ticket to a specific range of dates. Guests whose tickets don’t work that way, such as Cast Members or Annual Passholders, will still need to make reservations, though even in those cases, designated Good-To-Go days will allow them to enter the parks on a whim, with no advance notice required — just like old times. While these changes are currently exclusive to the Florida property, Disneyland guests still got a little treat of their own: Disney now allows them to change the park or date of an existing reservation! This may not sound like much (because it isn’t), but it’s still a vast improvement over the old method of cancelling your existing reservation, then scrambling in a panic to make a new one from scratch before the date in question gets booked up.

Hey, any step in the right direction is a good step!

Feel free to use this space to discuss all things theme- or amusement park!1

Optional Discussion Question: What attraction, show, or other concept do you wish a company had had the guts to admit was a failure?