Does anyone else feel a lot of anger and frustration within the Disney Parks fan community right now?
Negativity within fan communities has become an increasingly important issue since the internet democratized the fan experience. Prior to the Internet, fan communities were typically cultivated by intellectual property owners, with fleeting attention from major media sources limited. Fans who had issues with – or even just unique perspectives on – what was going on with IP had very limited opportunities to share that perspective with other fans.
This has kept the mood around the fan communities generally positive. If something was wrong with an IP address, people would just leave the fan community and move on. Only positive communities supporting active intellectual property have endured.
But no IP is perfect. The pre-Internet age has allowed IP to get away with a certain level of laziness, bad value, or even ill will. Until the transgressions caused a critical mass of fans to abandon an IP, thus endangering its survival, its owner could get away with it.
The internet has changed that. Now, fans had a medium to amplify their voices. Fans who did not live near people with similar interests could now connect with other fans around the world. With these audiences now available, it has become possible for writers to make a living covering rhythms that no newspaper, major magazine, or television channel would have supported before.
At first, the negativity in these emerging communities and platforms seemed fresh and objective. Fans might discover more nuanced and insightful versions of their favorite IP. Creators were now receiving honest feedback from fans, not only in easily buried internal customer surveys, but also through a global public forum. Unannounced excellence could find new advocates, while big names were held to higher standards.
All of this helped fuel a new golden age in the creative arts, with some of the best attractions in TV, movies, media and, yes, theme parks all developed. The artists knew they had to deliver better and better to gain the support of fans online. This gave theme park fans new delights, from reconstructions of declining wooden roller coasters by Rocky Mountain Construction to Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Yet, while a lot was improving, some fans found that their sharp, negative posts attracted far more engagement than the positives. When social media platforms found out about the same thing, they tricked people into spreading this negative content by showing these posts to more followers more often.
Today, that leaves fans navigating a sea of âânegativity, trying to figure out what’s noisy to keep them angry and engaged online, and what could be a real criticism that deserves their time, attention and consideration. . Sadly, the noise makes it harder and harder to find an example of that little-known excellence that attracted so many of us online years ago, as social media algorithms reward established and controversial, penalizing voices that are trying to lift something really creative and unique.
All of this now brings us to Disney, but with the context that I felt was needed to write about what I believe is going on.
The Walt Disney World Resort remains the most popular theme park destination on the planet, drawing nearly 19 million visitors during a 2020 pandemic, according to the TEA / AECOM Theme Index annual attendance report. Its enduring popularity attracts the attention of its millions of visitors and fans around the world. This makes Walt Disney World a big target for social media criticism.
But even if an unrealistic 99% of visitors to Walt Disney World left the resort completely satisfied, it would leave hundreds of thousands of guests a year with real criticism. Everything negative you might see about Disney World isn’t click bait. Yet among those true critiques, there are many that just don’t apply to the unique situations and preferences of other fans.
Disney has marketed itself as a lifestyle brand and at times even as a premium travel brand. But Disney usually left doors open for budget-conscious fans. Today, Disney is increasingly closing these backdoors. And that, I believe, is the root of a lot of the negativity that I and other fans are seeing online right now.
Booking requirements have limited the number of times annual pass holders can use their passes, increasing their cost per visit. Meanwhile, Disney has eliminated the free Fastpasses that some savvy fans used to experience dozens of attractions every day. In its place, Disney introduced two new premium plans.
All of this means fewer attractions experienced in fewer days – or higher costs – for the most dedicated Disney fans. Who wouldn’t mind paying more or getting less?
Here is where things get controversial. One of the reasons that most devoted Disney fans have been so devoted to the business was the fact that the use of those backdoors – annual passes, Fastpass, and sometimes Disney Vacation Club – could make the visit home. from Walt Disney World in Florida (or Disneyland in California) a stupid bargain. There were people who visited Disney and visited dozens of attractions a day for not much more than the cost of going to the movies.
Enough of the guests had figured out how to get the most out of Disney’s ticketing and reservation systems that they were crowding out other potential visitors. Disney saw its growth potential blocked by a lack of uptime created in part by the stupid bargains it was offering to many of its fans.
Yes, Disney has built us a bunch of new attractions and renovated a lot of areas to help build new capabilities and manage their crowds. But at some point, any sane business leader will look at a situation like this and decide it’s time to raise prices – not Disney’s highest prices, which were already leading the industry. , but the real prices the company’s most active loyal customers were paying. This either generates more money to build capacity or limits demand on existing capacity. Either way, it’s a victory for the company.
It didn’t alleviate the pain of people who had become used to getting such a great deal from Disney. In fact, that injury only intensifies whenever another fan (um, like me now, I guess) points out that Disney is probably making the right choice in closing the back doors that so many guests were invading. For years Universal, Six Flags, SeaWorld, and others have been charging more for their line passes than Disney now charges for Disney Genie +. But many Disney fans who complain about the recent changes weren’t going to Universal, Six Flags, or SeaWorld. What these competitors do just doesn’t matter to the circumstances and preferences of those fans. Bringing it up feels like a distraction, if not an attack, rather than the recognition of the loss that these fans have been seeking by going online with their complaints.
Of course, a conflict like this is exactly the sort of thing social media platforms like to bring up. Thus, anger and frustration increase and any attempt to promote a more unbiased analysis is buried.
Frustrated Disney fans have other options. Like fans of broken IP addresses in the pre-Internet age, they can go elsewhere. One of the things I love so much about the Theme Park Insider community is that many of you aren’t married to just one brand of theme park. You understand that parks such as Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Legoland California, Efteling, Europa Park, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, Universal Studios Japan and many more offer attractions that are just as good – and sometimes better – than those of Disney. If social media weren’t so obsessed with angry trafficking, maybe more Disney fans could hear more first-person endorsements from worthy Disney rivals.
But fans don’t have to give up on Disney to continue to find great deals from the company. They might not be the same deals the company has offered in the past, but if you’re willing to take a fresh look at what’s available, you might see some nice value to be had. Especially if you look around to see them in the context of what Disney’s competitors have to offer as well.
However, getting angry won’t get you those offers. Anger becomes its own product, crowding out your ability to think or feel something else. No matter what you think of what Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been up to lately, I hope you continue to think and act like a smart shopper. It’s business. Yes, this is a creative business, where emotion is a big part of the product. But as a savvy and knowledgeable consumer, you have the power to protect yourself when dealing – or not – with any business, including Disney.
And you have the power to protect yourself when dealing with online social media platforms. Even though they’re free, you still pay for them with your time. Don’t follow sources of anger and instead share sources that promote understanding and appreciation. Anger can generate clicks on social media, but it won’t help you have a great vacation.
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