Disenchantment: The Reality of Disney’s Desire for a Dollar | Arts

Imagine: you are at Walt Disney World for the first time. You’ve been saving up for this trip for years and you’re thrilled to finally be able to bask in the Florida sun. You and your party of five have just entered Hollywood Studios, one of the resort’s four theme parks, and you can’t wait to visit the new “Star Wars” area that’s got everyone buzzing. After spending all that money, you can’t believe you’ve made it to the big day. But wait, your group wants to ride the most popular Star Wars attraction? It will be another $75.

That’s the sad reality of the Disney Genie Plus service, a ride reservation system that debuted at Walt Disney World in October 2021. The system, which replaces the FastPass Plus service that had operated in the parks for many years, requires customers to pay for “Lightning Lane” reservations to experience rides with reduced waiting time. While the advent of Lightning Lane has caused an undoubted frenzy among Disney enthusiasts, it’s just the latest in a recent string of Mouse House monetization moves. Disgruntled fans have widely associated this trend with CEO Bob Chapek, who has certainly earned a reputation as a profiteer since his appointment in February 2020. In a memo to Disney staff in early 2022, Chapek outlined three pillars for the company: “First, excellence in storytelling…second, innovation…and third, a relentless focus on our audience. While these goals are admirable on the face of it, a closer look at Disney’s track record over the past few years will show that the company’s money-grabbing mentality works against each of these so-called pillars.

First, “the excellence of storytelling”. At first there was nothing. Then there was Disney Plus. Disney’s undeniably popular streaming service burst onto the scene in November 2019, fresh with content from across Disney’s media empire – Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and more. As expected, this content base quickly picked up subscribers, hitting a 50 million subscriber count within five months of its launch. In recognition of this success, The Walt Disney Company reorganized its business divisions in favor of these direct-to-consumer channels in October.[ober][.] 2020. However, this focus on Disney Plus has led to excessive prioritization of the service, even as movie theaters have begun to regain prominence; for example, Pixar’s last three releases — “Soul,” “Luca,” and now this month’s “Turning Red” — have all been Disney Plus exclusives.

This trend toward exclusive virtual screenings, however, does not appear to be solely for pandemic-related reasons; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” debuted both in theaters and on Disney Plus (for an additional $30) in March 2021, ahead of the releases of “Luca” and “Turning Red.” . Since Pixar films tend to be more acclaimed than Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney’s recent habit of limiting Pixar films to Disney Plus may be a strategy to maintain a robust subscriber flow for the product. the hottest in society. Obviously, Disney’s business perspective has begun to interfere with the way its stories are lived, which certainly complicates the successful execution of “storytelling excellence.” While the company will hopefully not risk losing the creators of its stories so adored by so many, it is heartbreaking to see optimal modes of storytelling scorned in favor of a focus on numbers.

Second, ‘innovation’. Disney theme parks have been completely transformed by technology in recent years. Once upon a time, guests had to print a FastPass ticket from a physical kiosk and present it upon arriving at a ride. This process, however, has become completely digitized, to the point that 2021 even saw the start of a virtual route maker – Disney Genie – which aims to create a visitor’s day at the theme park based on their interests. Along with the introduction of this feature came the aforementioned Disney Genie Plus service, which replaces FastPass Plus and allows customers to make Lightning Lane reservations. While the ability to make FastPass Plus reservations was included with park admission, Lighting Lane privileges can be purchased for $15 a day, and some rides — like “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” — even require tickets. individual costs.

Disney Genie and the Disney Genie Plus service were cleverly marketed in tandem as a great innovation for parks, but in reality, they fall far short. Compared to the clear infrastructure of the FastPass Plus system, which allowed customers to make three ride reservations prior to park entry, Lightning Lane reservations can only be made on the day of a visit, and customers cannot make only one reservation until they continue. this trip – or wait for a period of two hours. In the end, it looks like Lightning Lane is just FastPass Plus with a new name, much less efficiency, and a higher cost.

Finally, “a relentless focus on our audience”. When Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland, his vision was very family-oriented. As he watched his daughters ride, Walt envisioned a place “where parents and children could have fun together.” If Walt Disney World’s new Star Wars resort is anything to assess, the company is losing sight of its founder’s vision more and more every day. The resort, which exclusively offers guests a two-night experience, is called “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser,” and its price for a family of four is $5,999. This designation is undoubtedly a remarkably high demand for the average family, which makes it very clear that the people Walt wanted to engage with his designs are gradually being taken away from that opportunity. On the contrary, the company seems to be relentlessly trying to hijack the audience it has held dear for so long.

If the Walt Disney Company sticks to its habit of choosing money over magic, fan disillusionment will also persist. In a telling example of such sentiment, a Disney shareholder voter threatened to vote against the re-election of Bob Chapek as CEO at an annual meeting of shareholders to be held on March 9. And while it’s true that no one should be blamed for the company’s recent actions, its behavior is perhaps best summed up by a nickname for Chapek that has quickly gained internet traction: Bob Paycheck.

Herman C. Harkins