With a new year and a new decade recently begun, I thought it’d be apt to talk about hopes for the coming year. It’s an important year for Disney as a whole given the recent launch of Disney+, and, following the conclusion of recent film arcs, whether or not they can keep the magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars alive.
But around here, we like to focus on the joy and love of the Disney parks. Here are my hopes for Walt Disney World in 2020.
1. I hope that Disney will hire full time cast members
Every time I return to the parks for a visit, the cast members appear to never age. More and more are roughly in the 18-23 age group and sporting a name tag with a different university or college stamped on it, noting that they are part of the Disney College Program. This trend needs to stop in 2020.
The talented Dapper Dans of Main Street USA and many cast members deserve consistent, full time positions
The college program is truly wonderful, and offers so much in the development of future talent for Disney and for the students themselves, but I hope that more full time cast members are brought on who can develop and leverage years of experience within the parks. There is a consistent downtrend in positive guest interactions across the parks and resorts, and so much of the issues can be solved at the staffing level.
This will take a significant investment, but will most definitely pay off in the near future.
2. I hope that construction projects stay on time
In short, there’s a lot going on. The TRON Lightcycle roller coaster construction continues, the France pavilion in Epcot is going through an expansion complete with a new ride, the Space 220 restaurant is slated to open in early 2020, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will open, and so many more construction projects are underway at Walt Disney World. I only hope that, with so much going on, that the vast majority stays on time.
A construction wall at the entrance to Epcot is only the tip of the iceberg
These updates to the parks are certainly welcomed by many, including myself, but with the 50th anniversary approaching, there is no doubt that staying on time will be a priority. As someone who plans on visiting in the back half of 2020 (before the insanity that will be the 50th anniversary), I hope that construction stays on time and on budget. Lord knows if the projects go over budget, it's not like Iger or Chapek will be footing the bill. It’s going to be us.
3. I hope that Disney openly reviews the FastPass+ system
I’ll be honest, I actually love FastPass+. It’s far from perfect, but, as someone who travels to the parks roughly once a year with a young family, it makes a big difference. I know what rides I have ready to go and planned to placate my children, and also myself.
That being said, the standby wait times and, even wait times for FastPass+ at some rides and attractions, are simply insane. There have been some new changes recently, but I hope that Disney looks at piloting a new system that makes sense. I think changing the current system wholesale would be a huge mistake, however. It’s already a fairly complex system, and adding in new rules and changes would only serve to alienate new guests and those wary of trying to plan a Disney vacation.
A change in FastPass+ needs to happen, and 2020 is a good year to kick that off in earnest.
4. I hope that Disney doesn’t lose focus of this year in the lead up to the 50th anniversary
You could see a couple years ago that many of the changes and additions to Walt Disney World’s parks and resorts spelled they were getting ready for the 50th anniversary in 2021. I personally cannot wait to see what they have in store for 2021, but I hope that they do not lose track of making 2020 special, too.
These past couple of years have seen tremendous additions from Toy Story Land to Galaxy’s Edge, the Disney Skyliner, and Epcot Forever, and there are several upcoming additions over the next calendar year, but what will those openings look like? Is it just filler? Will there be money invested back into street entertainers and unique experiences for returning guests or is this a year where the imagination and creativity that Disney is known for takes a backseat?
I hope not. This year will serve as first and also once-in-a-lifetime trips for thousands of families, and they deserve a magical experience. Disney can do so much for these families ‒ and also themselves ‒ by not losing sight of the year ahead for the big celebration just down the road.
5. I hope that Disney allows new president Josh D’Amaro to flourish
The recent shake up throughout the Disney Parks hierarchy made headlines across the Disney landscape and, when it was announced that the new president of Walt Disney World Resort would be Josh D’Amaro, there were some smiles across the faces of many Disney fans.
Pete Werner with Walt Disney World Resort President Josh D'Amaro. Photo credit: @petew126 from Instagram
Mr. D’Amaro has shown himself to be a dedicated cast member and leader over the years, turning around Adventures by Disney and serving well in his other roles as head of Disneyland and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He knows Walt Disney World well and has made a point of making guest experience a priority, while looking to innovate. But that was before he was given keys to the proverbial kingdom while still answering directly to Bob Chapek. It will be a tough slog for anyone.
Given his history as a passionate and successful executive throughout the Disney corporation, I hope that he is given every opportunity in 2020 to make this role his own. There’s a lot of magic within the walls of Walt Disney World that could easily be stamped out by a cutthroat corporate beast that will be going through an ominous time of transition as a power vacuum develops around the retiring CEO Bob Iger. There are unprecedented politics at the top of corporations like Disney, and it would be beneficial to everyone to let Josh do his job and do it well.
It’s a new decade for Walt Disney World and the beginning of so many changes across the park from rides, guest experiences, leadership, and expectations. This year has the potential to set the right tone for the years to come and usher in a new era for Walt Disney World. As a fan, I can only hope, but I do so with a smile on my face at the possibilities of what this company is capable of accomplishing.
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