Head of Disney Imagineering Says the Quiet Part Out Loud: Disney World Is Undemocratic and About to Get More Expensive

in Disney, Disney Parks, Theme Parks

Illustration of numerous dollar bills floating in the air in front of the iconic Disney castle under a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

Credit: Disney/ Canva

A trip to the Walt Disney World is expensive. That statement is not necessarily newsworthy; it’s just a basic fact about heading to Central Florida.

But what truly makes it expensive isn’t necessarily the tickets—even those are pricey—but the add-ons that start to mount up over the course of a trip. Paying for Disney Genie Plus Lightning Lane access can cost a family of four more than $110 a day for every day of their trip.

A sign that reads "lightning lane" in red letters on a white background. A clock is positioned next to the sign. This entrance also services those who use a Disney Das Pass.
Credit: Five Fires via Twitter

Sadly, those expenses aren’t going anywhere. Disney World makes millions every day off of guests who spring for the extras, and according to the Head of Disney Imagineering, Bruce Vaughn, it’s about to get much worse and significantly more expensive.

The head of Walt Disney Imagineering spoke at the Themed Entertainment Association event in Los Angeles this week, where he discussed Disney Genie Plus, additional add-ons, and more customizable daily activities.

Bruce Vaughn said: 

We’re in this rough phase where we’re all charging more money to pay for a more expensive product. But at the end of the day, we know how much people are willing to pay … if they get what they want. I foresee a world of truly predictable itineraries and customizable itineraries that can begin to have a dialogue with the guest to understand what more they would like to do at the theme park.

Scott Trowbridge (left) and Bruce Vaughn (right) on the Millennium Falcon
Credit: Disney

So, what exactly does all that mean? Most people’s pet peeve at Disney World is that guests are glued to their phones, looking for the next available attraction. The Disney Imagineer says this will only worsen, and Walt Disney World plans to charge guests for more of these opportunities.

With new expansion projects coming to the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a retheming of EPCOT’s Test Track, Walt Disney World Resort guests can expect hefty charges for the latest Disney Park attractions.

However, with these new charges, every Disney Park becomes less appealing to those who cannot afford these massive new fees. The standby lines continue to get longer while other guests can jump ahead.

A bustling night-time scene at a theme park with visitors strolling down the main street, lit by the glow of ambient lighting, with a fairy tale castle illuminated in the background, creating a magical atmosphere.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Vaughn did say that the “genie was out of the bottle,” and every Disney Imagineer has been charged with designing rides that can accommodate more people in a shorter period through the lightning lane. Vaughn also said that today’s guests value time as much as money.

However, during the same panel discussion, Andreas Anderson, CEO of Sweden’s Liseberg Group, had some thoughts on upcharges for theme park guests. Anderson said: 

I hate these programs. I understand that they work and they are financially very profitable, but I think we are losing one characteristic of the park. That is that it is a very democratic thing. It’s a place you can go and are like everyone else. I think we are losing something when we take this route, but I also understand we kind of have to. But I don’t like it.

Lines outside Peter Pan's Flight attraction
Credit: Inside the Magic

The Liseberg Group runs the largest theme park in Sweden. Hopefully, some of what Anderson said will resonate with the Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Bruce Vaughn.

Otherwise, some guests may be entirely priced out of the Walt Disney World Resort experience.

What do you think about Disney Imagineering creating attractions that cater to guests who pay to cut the line? Let us know in the comments.

in Disney, Disney Parks, Theme Parks

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