Disney Is Listening, and Fans Are NOT Happy

in Walt Disney World

Mickey Mouse holding a camera in anger from 'Mickey Mouse' season 1 episode 8, Panda-Monium

Credit: Disney Television Animation

Disney is doing a lot to try to satisfy their enormous fanbase. From Bob Iger and Josh D’Amaro directly addressing the concerns of Cast Members and Guests to visiting the Parks directly and seeing the damage they’re dealing with first-hand. However, recent developments have come to light that while Disney has been “listening to their audience,” they’ve not been listening to the right one.

While the company has been making some strides to bring back the original magic of Disney, such as bringing back the Walt Disney World Railroad, setting a direct opening date for the new Tron: Lightcycle/Run, and practically giving Mickey his own museum for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland, dozens of fans are still calling out the company for how they are handling some of their changes.

A couple of Guests using Disney Genie+ in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney World
Credit: Disney

Recently, ITM covered some of the recent changes to the Parks brought on by a rather dissatisfied fanbase. Pulling focus from things like the excessive construction and the continuous deterioration of rides like Journey Into Imagination with Figment onto minuscule things like a paint job for a pair of “insensitive” puppets on “small world.” Needless to say, it didn’t take too long for fans to start voicing their further discontent with how things are being run. Disney fans haven’t really been known for their subtlety, and they had no problem sharing their various and surprisingly split, opinions.

Related: Disney Parks Seeking to Replace Classic Ariel Meet and Greets With Live-Action Version

A commenter known as “Lori” wasted no time in agreeing with the primary take. So much, in fact, that she writes in great detail,

“As long-time Disney fans, stockholders, out-of-state annual pass holders, d23 members, and Disney Visa card carriers who honeymooned at Disney decades ago and are the parents of a former dcp cast member we have been heartbroken watching this once strong, family oriented company deteriorate into the money losing shell that it is today… The WDW company that we knew and loved is broken and I’m not sure it can be repaired without someone within the company standing up to the craziness that has taken over.”

To which “Gary” adds,

We got to keep fighting to get Disney back on the Walter Elias Disney Track. Never give up be a pain in the neck to them then maybe they will understand!”

And “Carol,” while brash, makes a very fair point by firmly stating,

“The liberal, left, cancel culture is such a minute portion of the population. I don’t understand why Disney doesn’t stick to entertainment and stop pandering to political cry babies.”

While those were certainly some very passionate and vocal responses from longtime fans, not many responses get the point quite like “Ly” who cuts through the thick of it when they say,

“I do believe Disney often chooses to appease smaller audiences without considering the whole. The fact that Song of the South can only be bought as a pirated copy proves that. Removing Splash Mountain and replacing it with a Princess and the Frog ride is blatant catering that does both great stories and their characters a disservice(more so since recent released designs shows Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to have been scaled back.) The other examples are just as ridiculous. This is a constant battle Disney faces. Not everyone will be happy but that’s just reality.”

These three might not be the most tactful way of putting things, they all share a common thread. Disney is listening to a very small portion of their enormous sea of fans. Disney isn’t “pandering” because they’re listening to their “woke” or leftist fans. They’re pandering because they are listening to a small audience with a big mouth. Additionally, what Disney is doing isn’t doing much in the way of long-term repairs. They’re treating things that cause mild controversy, like the “small world” dolls to avoid the possibility for backlash. Unfortunately, this has proven to be the downfall of the Disney fans know and love.

Walt and Mickey at Disneyland
Credit: Disney

On the other side of the board, another school of thought suggests that Disney fans have become too blinded by their nostalgia. They’ve been so accustomed to the Disney Park they grew up with that they’ve become opposed to any form of change. This can be thoroughly seen in the recent changes made to EPCOT and the frequent usage of Disney’s IP amongst the futuristic world of tomorrow. Another great example would, of course, be the infamous Tiana’s Bayou Adventure debacle. However, that issue goes far deeper than a decades-old, unchanged, divisive Disney attraction. Inside the Magic has spoken on this matter before, but a comment from u/bawlesque on Reddit recently made an apt description of this problematic phenomenon.

The user writes,

“Disney fans are nostalgia addicts. Change anything they are familiar with and it’s the end of the world. Park changes for Disney guests is rarely met with positivity.”

By that logic, a little more light is shed on the frequent source of criticism. It begs the question “is Disney missing its mark with its audience, or is the audience too stuck in the past?” Realistically, it’s probably a little of both. Recent events such as the 2020 pandemic, the recent hurricane, and Chapek’s firing have put a massive hold on a lot of Disney developments. The fanbase is always going to be vocal, but there is indeed a place for the classic and the modern in the realms of the Walt Disney Company.

Related: “So Many Rides” Break Down During Worst Disneyland Visit Ever

What it all boils down to is a a loss of direction on the part of Disney’s management. Their motives are misplaced, but not beyond the point of no return. Nostalgia can only assume so much of the blame, and the rest of it arguably falls on the individuals in charge of quality control. One Disney fan, known as “Greg,” on ITM’s comment page writes,

It is bad management not nostalgia. People will embrace change if it is positive. Anyone who goes to the Parks regularly can see that the changes they’ve implemented in the last couple of years have not contributed to making any improvement for guests. I don’t see anybody anywhere posting about how the Park Pass reservation system, limitations on park hopping, or Genie + replacing a previously free fast pass system have improved their guest experience.

Keep in mind, Bob Iger might not be Walt Disney, but he certainly did a lot of good in the name of the company. Returning back to a pre-Chapek Disney isn’t an easy concept, but it can be done if Iger and D’Amaro are willing to starve a few trolls. Of course, that’s not to say they should purposefully ignore audiences, but it’s a matter of picking the right battles to fight. A key lesson Disney has definitely lost in the past three years is the old saying of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” The best thing to do is to simply improve or maintain what works, and slowly fade out what doesn’t.

Related: Disney Is Officially One of the “World’s Most Admired Companies”

Contrary to what some fans might believe, Disney isn’t a lost cause. In fact, they’ve made more than a few good strides since Iger stepped back into power. We’ve seen a change in leadership direction, efforts being made to restore and refurbish rides, as well as allowing new creative voices to give Guests new experiences. What fans seem to forget is how little time has passed since things began to change. This is still a transitional period for the company, the Parks, and the studio.

Mouse Greets Guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Credit: Disney

Efforts are undoubtedly being made to rebuild Disney’s reputation with the Guests, and some of Disney’s beloved experiences are already returning to a semi-normal state. Guests can still enjoy many classic rides and attractions, the character Meet and Greets have recently dropped their social distancing restrictions (along with some old favorites making more frequent appearances), classic Nighttime Spectaculars have returned, and even the reservation system is slowly being  removed. A few changes aren’t going to make or break your trip, especially with all the original magic Disney has to offer.

Related: “It’s a Bust,” Disney Guests Blast Massive Park Expansion

The Disney parks are changing as we know it, that’s a fact that all guests are going to have to accept. Although some features might be going away, a lot more are still around waiting to be enjoyed. Guests will always be able to get a hug from Mickey, eat corn dogs from Casey’s Corner, and catch the fireworks display before heading back to their resorts. Walt himself always envision the Parks to be in a constant state of evolution, and that’s precisely what’s happening. Disney will inevitably get its magic back and then some. It’s just going to take some time. The best thing fans can do when concerning their visit to the Disney Parks is just do it. Go in, have a good time, and most importantly, I have the right attitude. There’s no point in going to the happiest places on earth if they can’t match the energy.

Are these voices in the right? Is Disney really listening to the right audience, or have things been blown out of proportion? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

 

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