Old school vs. New school: the Park Guest Super Bowl

Every day somebody new plans a trip to Disney World.  What do these new patrons look like in a match up with Disney Park fans of yesteryear? More importantly, what does it mean to the Disney leadership that the experiences appear so different?

Back when Main Street was actually a street.

Back when Main Street was actually a street…

On one side we have the home team, the incumbents, the old-timers.  On the other, here to compete, are the new guys.   It’s the generation gap played out on the field of Disney World Park Touring.

  • New fans:  Create google alert for price changes in “Disney Park Passes” and monitor news of upcoming price hikes.
    Old fans:   Approach ticket counter with your money in hand, with that coupon from the rest area at the Georgia line.
  • New fans: Order custom mouse ears three months before the trip.
    Old fans:  Here’s some ears.  Want them with your name or without your name?
  • New fans: Download 3 crowd level apps onto your iPhone to gauge what the crowds will be like when you get there.
    Old fans:  Stop at that gas station on the way in to Kissimmee and ask the old feller there how business is lately.
  • New fans: Ravage the internet for ratings of every hotel in their budget range, both offsite and in the World.
    Old fans:  Pull up to Fort Wilderness pulling a pop-up and toting mosquito repellant.
...and people used campsites for camping.

…and people used campsites for camping…


  • New fans: Pin budget tips and ADR pointers, nab the best experiences available for the travel group.
    Old fans:  Show up at the Magic Kingdom. Pick up a park map at the front gate.
  • New fans:  Start at New Fantasyland (rope drop) and move counterclockwise to create a statistical advantage for lines.
    Old fans:  Start at Pirates of the Caribbean just like Dad used to do.  Ride all the rides.
  • New fans: Make ADRs at the 180 day mark using My Disney Experience.
    Old fans:  Get hungry. Go look at the boards near the front of the park and pick a restaurant.
Quiet spot to sit and eat a hot dog.

…and you could find a quiet spot to eat a hot dog…

  • New fans:  Purchase Memory Maker and hit every PhotoPass opportunity available.
    Old fans:   Get both rolls of film developed once you get home.
  • New fans: Find a spot to grab a snack.
    Old fans:  Find a quiet spot to grab a snack.
  • New fans:  Stake out and reserve a viewing area for the afternoon parade…at 1 pm.
    Old fans:  Wander over to Frontierland to find a shady spot to watch the parade.

Is this a fair matchup? Maybe there’s not an easy way to compare how things used to be at Disney World and how they are now.  If we take away the technology, we also have to remove the attractions built around that technology.  If we delete the internet, we have to disregard resources like the DISboards and social media.  If we reduce the crowds, we reduce the financial growth that makes expansion possible.  It’s only in the awkward arena of transition that looking back offers some relief during the unpleasantness of change. We’re in that phase now.  We see plans for amazing attractions, although we haven’t seen truly impressive new rides in a while.  We watch management restructuring in the parks, but we still see disruptions in the historically seamless performance of cast members.  We hear about FP+ and Magic Bands and enhanced experiences, though all we actually experience are higher costs and bigger crowds.

So who wins? Old fans are forced to exhibit faith that the Magic will continue. New fans must judge what’s going on now with no preconceptions. We’ll all win if Disney lives up to Walt’s standard of imagination. Let’s hope that his legacy reemerges as the driving force in this next decade of Park development. The Disney Parks deserve to be innovative, and not to plateau as tolerable amusement parks.

... and the River Boat sailed with a full manifest.

… and the Liberty Belle sailed with a full manifest.


Photo credits:  Dara Ross/Vintage postcard collection

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