Sunday, November 27, 2011

OCCUPY DISNEY! Examining how Disney is milking every penny out of its theme park fans, one parade at a time. PART 1

The time has come for us all to join hands, stand in unity, and OCCUPY DISNEY! This is a story of a company that is not uncommon but strangely unique. A company that has built a loyal following of fans and at every turn the company has taken advantage of those fans. 
Now before I begin to lay into Disney for its greedy, unsavory practices I should say that I am a premium Disney annual pass holder. I have about 20 or so Disney VHS tapes sitting on my book shelf. I run to the theatre whenever Disney releases a new Pirates movie or feature animated film. I own Epic Mickey, about 5 Mickey ears, and I have saved countless WDW fast passes. In short, I am a hypocrite! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a walk down memory lane. 
When Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the price of admission for an adult was $3.50. Adjusted for inflation that would be $18.63 in “today’s money.”  Now that $3.50 in 1971 only covered general admission. For an extra $1.25 you could purchase the adventure book containing an A, B, C, 2 D, and 2 E tickets. There were plenty of other options to buy different ticket packages. Ticket prices had steady yearly increases until 1983 when Disney abolished the ticket system and moved to a simple all rides included general admission price.
In 1983 the admission to WDW increased to $17.00, adjusted for inflation that would be $36.72 today. That is a far cry from the $90.53 price of admission at WDW today. From 1971 to 1983 the value of a one day, one park ticket had almost doubled. By 1984 a one day one park ticket price was $18.00, 1985 $21.50, and by 1986 $26.00! A 1986 ticket in today’s money would cost $51.00! So why such a drastic increase in ticket prices? Disney did build a $1.4 billion park called EPCOT. The company’s animation division was in the middle of hitting rock bottom with production bombs that bleed money like The Black Cauldron. There was however one major overriding factor that could directly be attributed to the massive rise in theme park admission.
In 1984 there was a new Disney chairman who would usher in record breaking animated films, 2 new theme parks, and higher theme park admission prices. Before heading up Disney Michael Eisner was chairman and CEO of the Paramount pictures movie division. He took no prisoners when it came to making the company money. He didn’t miss a step when it came to bringing that same mentality to Disney. When Eisner came to Disney and saw how much the company was charging for theme park admission he was appalled. Appalled because he knew that the company could be charging WAY more! By the time he was unceremoniously ousted from the company, more on that later, Eisner had changed the theme park and film division at Disney from a $3 billion enterprise to a $60 billion powerhouse. 
By the time Eisner left the park in 2005 a one day, one park admission ticket was $59.75. The initial “blame” for the rise in ticket prices went to Eisner, but from the time he left to present day ticket prices continue to soar. In the six years following Eisner’s assisted resignation ticket prices have risen over 60%. The high the company got from Eisner’s money making strategies was too irresistible to shake after the drug dealer was gone. From 2006 to now ticket prices rose $4 or so each year. Small enough increases each year that even some of the savviest Disney World fans wouldn’t flinch. The Disney Company has seen massive profits as they continue to increase one day, multi day, and annual park admission prices.
Admission increases have gone over as well as a dry fart from a wet dog, but there is one thing that will cause Disney to slow down and think about their slow yearly increases in ticket prices. This is something that both the Disney Company and Disney fans are in fear of. If steady increases continue at this rate, by 2013 a one day one park admission ticket to Disney World will cost $100. This is a mental hurdle that Disney is approaching with a lot of caution. Many insiders wonder if Disney will even have the courage to approach a $100 ticket. If you ask any Disney fan they would probably tell you that today’s ticket prices are just right. Today’s ticket price is $90.53. Imagine if in 1983 you had to pay $42 for entry to EPCOT, instead of the actual $17. That’s how far ahead of inflation the price of Disney World tickets have become. But fear not Disney geeks, nerds, and cross over Star Wars fans. There is something we can do.
In his unconventional and hilarious book, The Dark Side of Disney, Leonard Kinsey gives advice on how to actually sneak into Disney. While it would save you money, I wouldn’t suggest it! The best way to “fight back” against Disney is to do two simple things. Step 1: Write to Disney’s worldwide president of park operations Meg Crofton at and tell her how you feel about the continual rise in Disney theme park prices. Step 2: Don’t go to the parks! Following step 2 will help give step 1 teeth and really show the Disney Company that you mean business and will not be taken advantage of. It all has to start with just one person. One person can make a difference. Will it be you? Because it sure as hell won’t be me! With new Fantasyland opening in 2012 and Avatarland coming in a few years, I am more than happy to bend over for Ms. Crofton, smile, and ask for another one. Maybe in July when it is time to renew my AP my attitude will change. One thing is for sure, the main reason Disney is taking advantage of its fans is because we are allowing it to. 

Keep checking back for more OCCUPY DISNEY articles!                                                                                                           

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