Disney Parks Need To Keep Their Exclusivity To Draw More Guests, Say Fans

in Disney Parks

Mickey's Fun Wheel and Incredicoaster on Pixar Pier at Disneyland Resort's California Adventure

Credit: Brandi Alexandra, Unsplash

There are six Disney parks and resorts around the world: the Disneyland Resort in California, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in China, and Disneyland Paris in France.

As any Disney fan knows, the Disneyland Resort in California was the first Disney park to open in 1955 with Walt Disney World following two decades later in 1971. The Tokyo Disney Resort was the first international park to open in 1983, and the rest was history. As the number of parks grew, so did the amount of Disney attractions that guests could experience at each Disney park. When the parks were first opened, there was a lot of emphasis on original, creative ideas, and dozens of original attractions, like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Autopia, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and more.

As each of the resorts has expanded to include several parks and dozens of other attractions, they’ve started to “copy” each other, with most parks including some variation of attractions like the Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world,” and more. It’s often said that the Disney parks will never be truly complete, always in a state of reimagining for the new generation of guests. However, it’s starting to raise concern for some fans who wonder if the “copy-paste” method of the parks will be more detrimental in the long run.

Haunted Mansion decorated
Credit: Disney

Disney Park Guests

In a recent Reddit post, a Disneyland guest has a strong opinion about the state of the parks and how the company can draw even more guests in. “Future additions to our resort need to be exclusive to our resort,” u/rosariobono started.

Disneyland has always had the so-called issue of an unfavorable attendance mix, too many locals compared to tourists. This problem was attempted to be fixed with the opening of DCA, however it did not go so well.

With the opening of cars land, it finally added a unique and desirable land and rides. This single addition increased guests visiting DCA, and increased the amount of tourists visiting.

As of recent, Disney has been cloning attractions from other resorts, and building several copies of rides. While this is beneficial, it causes the resort that had the previously exclusive attraction to lose part of the incentive to visit.

TRON Lightcycle / Run in the Magic Kingdom
Credit: Carter Johnson, Flickr

The main reason guests travel to their non local resort is to see the things that are not at their local resort. Making attractions at other resorts that are exclusive to be no longer exclusive, hurts the incentive of visiting.

If Disney really wants the DLR to change the ratio of “unfavorable guests” to non local guests, Disneyland forward needs to consist of mostly exclusive or unique lands and attractions.

Lands such as Frozen & Toy Story would not be as beneficial to the DLR as would exclusive lands and attractions would be. This is because many other resorts have or are in the process of getting those lands. Anyone who has been to one of these lands outside of the DLR will not have much of an incentive to visit the DLR to visit those lands. The more exclusive and unique the additions are, the more people will visit.

Avengers Campus and Guardians of the Galaxy -- Mission: BREAKOUT! at Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

In theory, this is a problem that could be applied to every Disney park, as each one offers Annual Passes and has their own set of local guests that regularly visit the parks. Between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, more international guests flock to the Florida park for a variety of reasons: a higher number of parks to visit, the Walt Disney World Resort is physically bigger than Disneyland, offering more room to move and able to hold more guests, and travelling to and from the airport is slightly easier.

As for the four international parks, Americans are statistically less likely to travel overseas, and often only visit for the unique experiences and attractions the overseas parks offer. With the recent unveiling of TRON Lightcycle / Run at Walt Disney World earlier this year, it give guests one less reason to travel to Shanghai Disneyland instead of Walt Disney World in order to experience a similar attraction.

Zootopia land Mane Street at Shanghai Disneyland
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

This may not deter everyone from travelling to another park, as u/redgreenorangeyellow replies, “Me who lives at WDW and recently went to Disneyland and went out of my way to ride MMRR because the queue line is different lol.” The original poster agrees, but explains that, “Some attractions deserve to be cloned as they are staples of a Disney parks experience, such as the Disney mountain attractions. However when an attraction that has been an exclusive and main incentive to visit is no longer exclusive, it can stack up.”

While every version of every ride, cloned or not, has its own differences, it may not be enough to entice guests to visit a park like Shanghai when they can travel to Disney World and get a similar experience instead. Especially when the parks are always trying to bring in outside guests, knowing that they’re more likely to spend more money on a hotel stay, food, merchandise, and exclusive experiences.

Guests flying above Neverland aboard a pirate boat on Peter Pan's Flight, a beloved attraction at Tokyo Disneyland
Credit: Disney

Attraction vs. Park Exclusivity

When Disney California Adventure (DCA)unveiled Avengers Campus in 2021, it was a major draw for non-local crowds. The fact that guests could finally ride attractions inspired by their favorite movies and interact with their favorite heroes was a major draw. A similar land opened at Disneyland Paris in 2022, offering European guests a similar Avengers experience closer to home, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened at EPCOT the same year, effectively lowering some of the appeal of travelling all the way to California for many Floridian locals.

While the Disney parks are a long way off from being actual “copy-paste” versions of each other, the recent direction of the parks’ attractions could be a valid cause for concern. Especially with offerings that should be a no-brainer. u/trer24 compares the Marvel offerings at Disneyland and Disney World, saying, “‘m been kind of surprised that Disneyland hasn’t taken more advantage of the one big exclusive it has over WDW – Marvel. They should knocked it out of the park with Avengers Campus because Florida can’t have it. They need to be working on that E-Ticket Avengers ride…like today. instead it’s radio silence and Avengers campus is just …there.” u/forlorn_hope28 weighs in, confirming that “Meanwhile, the best Marvel Disney ride is at…Epcot.”

Guest posing beside Iron Man at Avengers Campus at Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris acting as if they were shutting down the land
Credit: Disneyland Paris

Disney’s Focus on IPs

In the last few years there’s been a significant shift in new attractions being based on some of Disney’s most popular IPs (intellectual properties) and franchises. As original concept attractions close and are replaced, recognizable characters and movies fill the blanks. The most recent–and controversial–example of this is the closure of Splash Mountain at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Although Splash Mountain was technically based on a Disney IP, the film the ride was based on has been all but swept under the rug by Disney, with the only similarities being the animated characters. Song of the South was a 1949 Walt Disney Studios release that received major backlash for featuring racial stereotypes and other issues, and is now next to impossible to find available anywhere. Splash Mountain features the animated characters of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox, but due to the film being so hidden, it works almost like an original attraction.

Retired Splash Mountain Ride to Have Entire Finale Scene Erased for New Attraction, Report Claims
Credit: Disney

However, even Splash Mountain has fallen to a more popular IP, with a retheme coming sometime next year at the attraction is changed to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, based on the 2009 Disney animation, The Princess and the Frog. Fans have been outspoken for years about the encroachment of IPs into the Disney parks, aware that Disney is pushing for a way to sell more merchandise and bring more guests.

As DCA’s former Paradise Pier was overhauled into Pixar Pier in 2018, the park leaned heavily into various Pixar franchises, like Cars, Toy Story, and The Incredibles. Over at Hollywood Studios at Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land make up almost half of the park. CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro have commented on the inclusion of IPs at the parks, saying that they plan to lean even more heavily into them over the next few years, with the implication that new attractions and experiences will be themed after an already-existing franchise rather than anything original.

The sun sets over the Millennium Falcon at Hollywood Studios' Galaxy's Edge
Credit: Disney

The potential problem with this ties into the concern expressed in the Reddit post: with the six resorts and almost a dozen parks all moving away from original concepts and into pre-existing IPs and ideas, eventually the draw of exclusive and unique attractions won’t exist. Why travel to DCA to experience Avengers Campus when Disneyland Paris now has one? Why visit Shanghai to ride TRON when you can experience it without leaving the country?

As the parks start to lose their uniqueness, they’ll lose their exclusivity, and they’ll lose their draw for non-local and international guests, eventually reduced to finding new ways to continue to draw in Annual Passholders. While this may be an extreme case years away, the concern and potential are already there. Without any major plans for the next five years, it’s unclear what, if anything, Disney has planned to combat this eventual issue. Recently, many of the announced projects are simply “possibilities,” and fans are starting to lose hope in the tourist giant.

With TRON Lightcycle / Run taking several years to finally open to the public and EPCOT’s Overhaul taking five years instead of three and opening to an underwhelming response, the Disney parks could be at risk of losing much more than just unique and exclusive attractions they already have. Especially with a resort like Disneyland, which is smaller and automatically offers guests fewer attractions, or the international parks which have a travel barrier for many Americans, the attractions and experiences that can only be found at those resorts it what draws people to them. If each park only features a different version of a familiar IP, it removes some of the sparkle. At the end of the day, Disney is a theme park giant for a reason, but if they want to stay on top, they need to make sure they stay ahead of the game.

What do you think about exclusive offerings at the different parks? Do you think some attractions should remain exclusive or would you rather have a similar experience closer to home? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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