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Grading Walt Disney World Throughout the Decades

ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
2 things...have you ever waited at the Apple store for customer service? I don't think it's that great...all they do is say your phone needs to be replaced after waiting for an hour. Secondly, you stated "Once Walt left, the bean counters took over" First off, Walt didn't leave, he passed away...BIG difference. If you stick by your logic, since Walt passed away BEFORE WDW even opened, I guess the world has been inferior since day one.
The fulcrum occurred in 1984.

Up until then, WDW was run by those who personally knew Walt Disney and closely followed Walt's vision. Some even complained it was an anchor weighing down every decision.

Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took over in 1984. They were outsiders with no ties to Walt Disney.

After a rough start and some serious pushing by the Bass family (Disney's largest shareholders at the time), Eisner and Wells began to invest heavily in WDW starting in the late 1980s.

Investments continued until 9/11, when everything in the travel industry changed. That's the second key date in understanding the investment history of WDW.

My original post explains this. You might want to take a few moments and read it, if you have not already done so.
 

Nemo14

Well-Known Member
So much to comment on here. As an "old-timer" I've noticed these changes too, and I appreciate @ParentsOf4 's ability to quantify it all.

The most common response to your question is to use a sports analogy.

You mentioned you're originally from NYC. Have fans stopped cheering for the Yankees because they've won only one title in the last 18 years? This from a team that used to win multiple World Series each decade? Do fans abandon them because they just fell apart and lost 4 games to their arch rival Red Sox?

I've been a fan of WDW since (possibly) before you were born.

I don't stop cheering for my team just because the owners raise ticket prices and trade away the best players.

Like a true fan, I call talk radio or post online to let others know how I feel. I even contact the front office directly and express my displeasure. ;)

Even if I attend fewer games than I used to, I don't give up on the team.

As a long suffering RedSox fan through the 20th century, I have to say that those 4 games were sweet!!!


Should people have LOYALTY to Disney the same way a fan has loyalty to a sports team?

I agree, you shouldn't give up on your team... and if you do, you shouldn't call yourself a fan. But Disney is a corporation that provides a service, they are not a sports team. If I have a favorite restaurant that I am very loyal to, I have a certain expectation to them to provide excellent food, service, etc. If I feel I've been overcharged or have received poor food or bad service, I'm going to complain... and if they don't make things right with me, eventually I will stop going as often (or maybe stop going entirely).

Does that make me disloyal, or does it just mean the restaurant let me down?

This more aptly describes my experience. We started going to Disney as a family back in the 80's - my son even cut his first tooth there. We'd go every summer and stayed on property even though we had family living close by. It seemed like every year there was something new and exciting to see, and the park was always clean. Even when our kids grew up, and traveling as a family became more and more difficult, we'd visit at least once a year with them, and DH and I would do a couple of weekend escapes there when we had the time.
Fast forward to the present day. DH and I are retired, and spend a month in the winter at a condo about 10 minutes away from WDW. We still have days left on our last 10 day-non-expiring park hopper tickets, but we have no desire to waste them on a visit there now til our grandkids are old enough to enjoy it. In the past I wrote to various Disney execs after our visits and mentioned our complaints (as well as our compliments) and received the same lame phone call pretending to really care about our concerns. We decided we've had enough for now anyway.

Several have commented on WDW's cost.

One thing to keep in mind as to why WDW scored so high immediately after the opening of Epcot in 1982 is the price of a ticket.

I paid $35 (including tax) for my 3-day ticket in May 1983, at a time when minimum wage was $3.35/hr. At minimum wage, this ticket represented about 10.4 hours of work.

Today, a 3-day ticket with tax costs $394. With minimum wage at $7.25/hr, today's ticket represents an incredible 54 hours of work.

Think about that for a moment. Even adjusted for wages, today's WDW is five times more expensive.

(Median household income was about $20k in 1983. Today it's about $60k.)

Some might suggest that it's not a fair comparison. Today's WDW has 4 theme parks. To this I counter, the Magic Kingdom generally is viewed as WDW's best theme park while the Epcot of the 1980s is superior to any of the other parks (including today's Epcot). I wouldn't hesitate to immediately shutter DHS and DAK if it meant a return to the prices of the early 1980s.

Several have commented on how great the 1990s were. With additions constantly being added, it certainly was an exciting time.

But also recall that from late 1984 to 1989, ticket prices increased by more than 50%. The value was not the same as it was in the early 1980s, which is why WDW "only" scored in the mid-90s during that decade.

Adjusted for inflation, that 3-day ticket would cost about $85. Having lived through the era, I can tell you that today's equivalent of $85 was thought of a lot of money for an amusement park. Heck, even today, I can get a season pass at my local Six Flags for under $60. But, considering that a 3-day ticket cost $85 during WDW's best years, today's WDW will never come close to matching the value offered during those pre-Eisner years.

All things considered, my current score of 86 for WDW is fair, perhaps even generous.

When we first started taking our kids, the price of a ticket to MK and EC was slightly more than what our local aging amusement park charged, but the experience was so much better, and the parks were so much cleaner. It was so much more affordable then, even factoring in staying on property.
 

geekza

Well-Known Member
What I run into time and time again is the attitude of, "I just started going to WDW in the last ten years and I had a great time so, therefore, things are fine." Right now, you can still have a great time at WDW. However, like the OP has so deftly stated, there was a time when the experience was so much better and so far ahead of anything else you could get for your money. It was never exactly cheap to go to WDW, even in the 70's. The difference was that an average middle class family (remember those?) could afford to go every few years and return feeling like they'd had a top-shelf experience for the time and money they spent.

People say that the price increases were put in place to decrease attendance. That's bull-puckey. Disney increased the prices because attendance is up. More people, more money.

I won't go into great detail on the decrease in quality and care put into WDW over the years because I've said it a million times already and others in this thread have done a great job already. What I will say is that it is an unquestionable fact that WDW was a better experience for your money in the past.
 

pax_65

Well-Known Member
Professional sports teams are corporations too.

Heck, I'd argue Division I college teams are run as revenue generating ventures for their universities.

True enough. It calls into question the logic of being a fan I guess. It really comes down to loyalty. With sports teams there's a certain expectation that the team will try to be good, that they will try to win to earn that loyalty that their fans give to them. (Unless you're the Sixers intentionally trying to tank as part of the "process", but I digress.)

With Disney it feels like their goals changed at some point from a model of trying to exceed guest expectations to build loyalty and increase the long-term value of each guest (more repeat visits, more money spent on each visit, DVC, AP, etc) to a more short-term, profit-driven approach (maximize guest spend on each trip).

I wonder how things will look on the next economic downturn. In 2002 and 2008 my family was in the parks along with many other loyal Disney "fans". If Disney doesn't continue to foster loyalty (by providing outstanding experiences at a great value) I wonder how many of their guests will still support them when times get tough. It may take tremendous discounts to get people to the parks.
 

Nemo14

Well-Known Member
True enough. It calls into question the logic of being a fan I guess. It really comes down to loyalty. With sports teams there's a certain expectation that the team will try to be good, that they will try to win to earn that loyalty that their fans give to them. (Unless you're the Sixers intentionally trying to tank as part of the "process", but I digress.)

With Disney it feels like their goals changed at some point from a model of trying to exceed guest expectations to build loyalty and increase the long-term value of each guest (more repeat visits, more money spent on each visit, DVC, AP, etc) to a more short-term, profit-driven approach (maximize guest spend on each trip).

I wonder how things will look on the next economic downturn. In 2002 and 2008 my family was in the parks along with many other loyal Disney "fans". If Disney doesn't continue to foster loyalty (by providing outstanding experiences at a great value) I wonder how many of their guests will still support them when times get tough. It may take tremendous discounts to get people to the parks.
As long as there are credit cards, there will be die-hards who will go no matter what though.
 

erasure fan1

Well-Known Member
What I will say is that it is an unquestionable fact that WDW was a better experience for your money in the past.
I will 100% agree with this. I think too many people think that if you have this attitude you are hating on Disney and you think they are terrible. Like you said you can still have a good time and have nice vacation. But that doesn't change the fact things were better in a lot of facets of the parks.
 

Willmark

Well-Known Member
2 things...have you ever waited at the Apple store for customer service? I don't think it's that great...all they do is say your phone needs to be replaced after waiting for an hour. Secondly, you stated "Once Walt left, the bean counters took over" First off, Walt didn't leave, he passed away...BIG difference. If you stick by your logic, since Walt passed away BEFORE WDW even opened, I guess the world has been inferior since day one.
In terms of Apple. What was it like before Apple Stores? Best Buy and CompUSA.

Left/passed I’m using it in the context of no longer around by the time WDW Opened. Not trying to engage in semantics, thanks. Point being WDW is DL just bigger and on the east coast. Walt certainly was around for DL and wouldn’t tolerate anything we’re taking in this thread or site that is seen as not up to par, that’s my point.
 

eliza61nyc

Well-Known Member
In terms of Apple. What was it like before Apple Stores? Best Buy and CompUSA.

Left/passed I’m using it in the context of no longer around by the time WDW Opened. Not trying to engage in semantics, thanks. Point being WDW is DL just bigger and on the east coast. Walt certainly was around for DL and wouldn’t tolerate anything we’re taking in this thread or site that is seen as not up to par, that’s my point.
IF Walt retained ownership of the company. That's the nugget. WDW now has shareholders and the truth of the matter could be is that they really aren't that concerned if folks here wish it was 1990, they want a return in their investment.
When did the company become public?
 

ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
IF Walt retained ownership of the company. That's the nugget. WDW now has shareholders and the truth of the matter could be is that they really aren't that concerned if folks here wish it was 1990, they want a return in their investment.
When did the company become public?
I can assure you that investors in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were just as concerned as today's investors about wanting a return on their investment.

The major difference is that CEO compensation is tied much more closely to the stock price than it was in the past.

As a result, stock repurchases have reached astronomical levels. That's money that, until about 2000, used to be reinvested in the company and employees. The relatively sluggish growth and wage stagnation since then is largely the result of this change.

Walt Disney Productions went public in 1940. Walt had to deal with investors too.
 

Smiley/OCD

Well-Known Member
I'll rephrase what I wrote earlier...

More money is being invested today to turn concerts, sports, plays, movie theaters etc. into larger productions than was invested in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

The point is, producers of these experiences are spending more to justify their increased prices.

As others can attest to, I closely monitor corporate Disney's financials and can emphatically state that, until recently, Iger was spending less on WDW even as prices spiraled ever higher.
The point is, producers of these experiences are spending more to justify their increased prices.
I think you have it backwards...one of the MAIN reasons the cost of a concert ticket is going up is BECAUSE of the technology, not because artists are adding the technology to justify the ticket price. Some big name concerts (Taylor Swift for example) have 10- 15 trailer trucks crossing the country just for the stage and related special effects..there are also other factors, logistics, wages, GREED of the artists, etc. Remember, artists are not making money releasing "albums" anymore...their main source of income for them is touring. Watch or read interviews with "classic" artists...their royalty revenue stream is drying up, which is why so many "seniors" are on stage...they have no choice.
 

Sonconato

Well-Known Member
The most common response to your question is to use a sports analogy.

You mentioned you're originally from NYC. Have fans stopped cheering for the Yankees because they've won only one title in the last 18 years? This from a team that used to win multiple World Series each decade? Do fans abandon them because they just fell apart and lost 4 games to their arch rival Red Sox?

I've been a fan of WDW since (possibly) before you were born.

I don't stop cheering for my team just because the owners raise ticket prices and trade away the best players.

Like a true fan, I call talk radio or post online to let others know how I feel. I even contact the front office directly and express my displeasure. ;)

Even if I attend fewer games than I used to, I don't give up on the team.
As a Red Sox fan since I was 8 years old and a Walt Disney fan since my first time at 15 you truly spoke to my soul. I'm now 59. Great analogy. I miss the days of listening to Eddie Andelman on the radio...
 

KimAnnFran

Well-Known Member
Now that I've had a chance to experience Toy Story Land, it's time to update my "Walt Disney World Historical Grade" chart for 2018.

Using a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 meaning "absolutely fabulous" and 0 meaning "it's a dump and should be closed", I graded Walt Disney World (WDW) for each year since its opening in 1971. Ultimately I decided to grade WDW against itself, using WDW's best years as the Gold Standard.

It's an arbitrary chart based on my opinion of WDW's quality and value over the decades. It's not based on real data. You might very well have a different opinion.

Without further ado, my latest chart:

View attachment 300592


WDW was by no means perfect when it opened in 1971. The Magic Kingdom was a work in progress but still managed to blow the competition out of the water (only Disneyland was better) with an unflinching commitment to making its Guests happy.

Things only got better from there, with classic attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) and Space Mountain (SM) opening in the mid-1970s, River Country in 1976, followed by Big Thunder Mountain (BTM) in 1980.

WDW peaked with the opening of Epcot in 1982. Quality remained outstanding while total ticket price decreased. Previously, admission and attraction tickets were sold separately. Concerned about using that pricing scheme at Epcot, Disney leadership created a combined ticket, discontinuing attraction booklets. I recall many being upset about it but as someone who simply wanted to ride attractions all day long, the new tickets were perfect!

That perfection continued for a few years until Michael Eisner became CEO. One of his earliest actions was to increase ticket prices by double-digits. Those upset with the 1982 ticket change were furious with Eisner's massive increases, which continued from 1984 to 1988.

Attitudes greatly improved with the opening of Disney-MGM Studios and Typhoon Lagoon (TL) in 1989. Disney-MGM Studios got off to a rough start; there simply wasn't much to do. However, by the end of the year with the opening of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours, Disney-MGM Studios finally felt like a theme park worthy of the Disney name. Typhoon Lagoon was amazing, unlike any other water park in the World. It made the quaint River Country seem amateurish. By 1990, the anger resulting from the price increases had been largely forgotten. With 3 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping district, and a nightclub district, WDW finally felt worthy of a week's vacation.

By the early 1990s, the wood was starting to rot beneath the glittering façade. Disney’s Strategic Planning unit began to micromanage theme park decisions. Gone was the uncompromising commitment to excellence, superseded by a cost-benefit-analysis of every aspect of the resort. Year-by-year, quality slipped, replaced by a "good enough" attitude. Many devoted frontline Cast Members remained but senior management was forced out, supplanted by those "sharp-pencil guys" Walt Disney had warned about decades before. Externally, all was well. Internally, Disney’s Old Guard was fading, never to return.

Still, the 1990s experienced many exciting additions. Splash Mountain (SM) opened in 1992. Arguably WDW's best attraction, Tower of Terror (TOT), opened in 1994, followed by Blizzard Beach (BB) in 1995. To the casual Guest, it was a glorious decade.

Perhaps WDW's last gasp of true greatness occurred with the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK) in 1998. It should have been WDW's high-water mark. Instead, DAK opened with too few attractions and struggled with an image problem. (Remember the 2001 "Nahtazu" campaign?) Hardcore Disney fans were disappointed.

The slow decay continued as Eisner was under increasing pressure by Wall Street to improve margin, yet WDW still was an excellent resort, still the best in the World.

The vacation industry took a nosedive after those horrific events of September 11. WDW was not immune. Projects were cancelled, hotels were shuttered, Cast Members were laid off. Operating expenses were slashed and, for many, declining quality became visible for the first time.

After the initial shock, Disney took steps to correct its downturn in business, primarily through deep discounts such as the "Buy Four, Get Three Free" campaign. WDW's affordability improved even as the economy struggled.

WDW experienced another uptick with the introduction of the Magic Your Way (MYW) ticket in 2005 and the opening of Expedition Everest (EE) in 2006. Using an a la cart pricing scheme, the MYW ticket improved WDW's affordability for those seeking an entry-level theme park experience, while EE represented WDW's last great attraction to date.

The late 2000s arguably represent WDW's low point. Even though Strategic Planning had closed shop in 2005, budget cuts continued as corporate Disney increasingly nickel-and-dimed its Guests. Worse, for the first time in its history, capital expenditures were not keeping up with depreciation. The parks were aging yet Disney was deferring basic maintenance. It showed, with each year getting a bit worse than the year before.

Opened in 2012, the New Fantasyland (NFL) represented a change in direction, expanding WDW's most popular land in the World's most popular theme park. Yet ultimately it added only 2 attractions, replacing 2 that had closed. It was a small improvement but with much unrealized potential. NFL could have been so much more. NFL should have been more.

WDW held steady in the years following the opening of NFL. There were several modest improvements yet also more cost cutting and price increases, largely cancelling each other out. The net effect was a WDW no longer in decline, but not yet on the mend.

With the addition of Pandora, 2017 was a step upward. The entire land is well-themed and some consider Flight of Passage to be one of WDW's best attractions. Na'vi River Journey is immersive even if it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. The Satu'li Canteen offers bold (for a theme park) food selections.

Sadly, Toy Story Land (TSL) was not enough to continue this upward trend in 2018.

2018 saw some of WDW's biggest price increases in years. Rack rate for a Standard room at All Star Sports was up 8.0%. The popular 4-day base ticket was up 8.5%. Annual Passholders got nailed with a 9% increase! Plus Disney started double-dipping by (for the first time) charging for hotel parking, something that previously was included in the room price for WDW's first 46 years!

One of my bellwethers is the water parks' Sand Pail. I was disappointed to report a large increase to $13.99 last year. This year, they avoided a price increase and, instead, dropped volume from 36 to 24 oz while still charging the same amount:

View attachment 300593

Added together, 2018 became a horrendous year for those shopping for a (relatively) inexpensive WDW vacation.

Meanwhile, theme park attendance continued to climb, meaning Guests were waiting in longer lines even as they paid more. TSL had to deliver a lot to justify these increases. Sadly, it missed the mark by a wide margin.

In some ways, TSL is exactly what WDW did not need: an overhyped, modestly themed land with 2 low-capacity kiddie attractions in a theme park where multiple high-capacity attractions were permanently closed.

Let's recall how we got here. The Great Movie Ride closed. The Backlot Tour closed. Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground closed. Perhaps worst of all, the crowd pleasing (and mega capacity) Osborne Festival of Dancing Lights is gone. (And, on a personal note, one of my favorites, Starring Rolls closed.) Combined, these nearly returned DHS to its dire state after its May 1989 opening. At that time, many WDW fans were furious with what they (justifiably) felt was a ripoff of a theme park ticket. DHS will improve once Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway open but, for 2018, TSL may have made DHS even worse by attracting crowds that far exceed its two attractions' limited capacity.

Don't get me wrong; TSL is nice. Some dislike it but theming is consistent with the existing Toy Story Mania. Slinky Dog Dash (SDD) is a fun little coaster. Yet Alien Swirling Saucers and Woody's Lunch Box are disappointing. All three are vastly inferior to their counterparts at Pandora.

And throughout my visits this year, I saw sights like this far too often:

View attachment 300594

Higher than normal price increases. Increased crowds. Insufficient added capacity. A new land inferior to last year's Pandora. For these reasons and others, WDW took a step backwards in 2018.
I think I really am agree with this
Now that I've had a chance to experience Toy Story Land, it's time to update my "Walt Disney World Historical Grade" chart for 2018.

Using a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 meaning "absolutely fabulous" and 0 meaning "it's a dump and should be closed", I graded Walt Disney World (WDW) for each year since its opening in 1971. Ultimately I decided to grade WDW against itself, using WDW's best years as the Gold Standard.

It's an arbitrary chart based on my opinion of WDW's quality and value over the decades. It's not based on real data. You might very well have a different opinion.

Without further ado, my latest chart:

View attachment 300592


WDW was by no means perfect when it opened in 1971. The Magic Kingdom was a work in progress but still managed to blow the competition out of the water (only Disneyland was better) with an unflinching commitment to making its Guests happy.

Things only got better from there, with classic attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) and Space Mountain (SM) opening in the mid-1970s, River Country in 1976, followed by Big Thunder Mountain (BTM) in 1980.

WDW peaked with the opening of Epcot in 1982. Quality remained outstanding while total ticket price decreased. Previously, admission and attraction tickets were sold separately. Concerned about using that pricing scheme at Epcot, Disney leadership created a combined ticket, discontinuing attraction booklets. I recall many being upset about it but as someone who simply wanted to ride attractions all day long, the new tickets were perfect!

That perfection continued for a few years until Michael Eisner became CEO. One of his earliest actions was to increase ticket prices by double-digits. Those upset with the 1982 ticket change were furious with Eisner's massive increases, which continued from 1984 to 1988.

Attitudes greatly improved with the opening of Disney-MGM Studios and Typhoon Lagoon (TL) in 1989. Disney-MGM Studios got off to a rough start; there simply wasn't much to do. However, by the end of the year with the opening of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours, Disney-MGM Studios finally felt like a theme park worthy of the Disney name. Typhoon Lagoon was amazing, unlike any other water park in the World. It made the quaint River Country seem amateurish. By 1990, the anger resulting from the price increases had been largely forgotten. With 3 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping district, and a nightclub district, WDW finally felt worthy of a week's vacation.

By the early 1990s, the wood was starting to rot beneath the glittering façade. Disney’s Strategic Planning unit began to micromanage theme park decisions. Gone was the uncompromising commitment to excellence, superseded by a cost-benefit-analysis of every aspect of the resort. Year-by-year, quality slipped, replaced by a "good enough" attitude. Many devoted frontline Cast Members remained but senior management was forced out, supplanted by those "sharp-pencil guys" Walt Disney had warned about decades before. Externally, all was well. Internally, Disney’s Old Guard was fading, never to return.

Still, the 1990s experienced many exciting additions. Splash Mountain (SM) opened in 1992. Arguably WDW's best attraction, Tower of Terror (TOT), opened in 1994, followed by Blizzard Beach (BB) in 1995. To the casual Guest, it was a glorious decade.

Perhaps WDW's last gasp of true greatness occurred with the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK) in 1998. It should have been WDW's high-water mark. Instead, DAK opened with too few attractions and struggled with an image problem. (Remember the 2001 "Nahtazu" campaign?) Hardcore Disney fans were disappointed.

The slow decay continued as Eisner was under increasing pressure by Wall Street to improve margin, yet WDW still was an excellent resort, still the best in the World.

The vacation industry took a nosedive after those horrific events of September 11. WDW was not immune. Projects were cancelled, hotels were shuttered, Cast Members were laid off. Operating expenses were slashed and, for many, declining quality became visible for the first time.

After the initial shock, Disney took steps to correct its downturn in business, primarily through deep discounts such as the "Buy Four, Get Three Free" campaign. WDW's affordability improved even as the economy struggled.

WDW experienced another uptick with the introduction of the Magic Your Way (MYW) ticket in 2005 and the opening of Expedition Everest (EE) in 2006. Using an a la cart pricing scheme, the MYW ticket improved WDW's affordability for those seeking an entry-level theme park experience, while EE represented WDW's last great attraction to date.

The late 2000s arguably represent WDW's low point. Even though Strategic Planning had closed shop in 2005, budget cuts continued as corporate Disney increasingly nickel-and-dimed its Guests. Worse, for the first time in its history, capital expenditures were not keeping up with depreciation. The parks were aging yet Disney was deferring basic maintenance. It showed, with each year getting a bit worse than the year before.

Opened in 2012, the New Fantasyland (NFL) represented a change in direction, expanding WDW's most popular land in the World's most popular theme park. Yet ultimately it added only 2 attractions, replacing 2 that had closed. It was a small improvement but with much unrealized potential. NFL could have been so much more. NFL should have been more.

WDW held steady in the years following the opening of NFL. There were several modest improvements yet also more cost cutting and price increases, largely cancelling each other out. The net effect was a WDW no longer in decline, but not yet on the mend.

With the addition of Pandora, 2017 was a step upward. The entire land is well-themed and some consider Flight of Passage to be one of WDW's best attractions. Na'vi River Journey is immersive even if it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. The Satu'li Canteen offers bold (for a theme park) food selections.

Sadly, Toy Story Land (TSL) was not enough to continue this upward trend in 2018.

2018 saw some of WDW's biggest price increases in years. Rack rate for a Standard room at All Star Sports was up 8.0%. The popular 4-day base ticket was up 8.5%. Annual Passholders got nailed with a 9% increase! Plus Disney started double-dipping by (for the first time) charging for hotel parking, something that previously was included in the room price for WDW's first 46 years!

One of my bellwethers is the water parks' Sand Pail. I was disappointed to report a large increase to $13.99 last year. This year, they avoided a price increase and, instead, dropped volume from 36 to 24 oz while still charging the same amount:

View attachment 300593

Added together, 2018 became a horrendous year for those shopping for a (relatively) inexpensive WDW vacation.

Meanwhile, theme park attendance continued to climb, meaning Guests were waiting in longer lines even as they paid more. TSL had to deliver a lot to justify these increases. Sadly, it missed the mark by a wide margin.

In some ways, TSL is exactly what WDW did not need: an overhyped, modestly themed land with 2 low-capacity kiddie attractions in a theme park where multiple high-capacity attractions were permanently closed.

Let's recall how we got here. The Great Movie Ride closed. The Backlot Tour closed. Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground closed. Perhaps worst of all, the crowd pleasing (and mega capacity) Osborne Festival of Dancing Lights is gone. (And, on a personal note, one of my favorites, Starring Rolls closed.) Combined, these nearly returned DHS to its dire state after its May 1989 opening. At that time, many WDW fans were furious with what they (justifiably) felt was a ripoff of a theme park ticket. DHS will improve once Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway open but, for 2018, TSL may have made DHS even worse by attracting crowds that far exceed its two attractions' limited capacity.

Don't get me wrong; TSL is nice. Some dislike it but theming is consistent with the existing Toy Story Mania. Slinky Dog Dash (SDD) is a fun little coaster. Yet Alien Swirling Saucers and Woody's Lunch Box are disappointing. All three are vastly inferior to their counterparts at Pandora.

And throughout my visits this year, I saw sights like this far too often:

View attachment 300594

Higher than normal price increases. Increased crowds. Insufficient added capacity. A new land inferior to last year's Pandora. For these reasons and others, WDW took a step backwards in 2018.

I think I agree with the graph quite a bit
 
Now that I've had a chance to experience Toy Story Land, it's time to update my "Walt Disney World Historical Grade" chart for 2018.

Using a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 meaning "absolutely fabulous" and 0 meaning "it's a dump and should be closed", I graded Walt Disney World (WDW) for each year since its opening in 1971. Ultimately I decided to grade WDW against itself, using WDW's best years as the Gold Standard.

It's an arbitrary chart based on my opinion of WDW's quality and value over the decades. It's not based on real data. You might very well have a different opinion.

Without further ado, my latest chart:

View attachment 300592


WDW was by no means perfect when it opened in 1971. The Magic Kingdom was a work in progress but still managed to blow the competition out of the water (only Disneyland was better) with an unflinching commitment to making its Guests happy.

Things only got better from there, with classic attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) and Space Mountain (SM) opening in the mid-1970s, River Country in 1976, followed by Big Thunder Mountain (BTM) in 1980.

WDW peaked with the opening of Epcot in 1982. Quality remained outstanding while total ticket price decreased. Previously, admission and attraction tickets were sold separately. Concerned about using that pricing scheme at Epcot, Disney leadership created a combined ticket, discontinuing attraction booklets. I recall many being upset about it but as someone who simply wanted to ride attractions all day long, the new tickets were perfect!

That perfection continued for a few years until Michael Eisner became CEO. One of his earliest actions was to increase ticket prices by double-digits. Those upset with the 1982 ticket change were furious with Eisner's massive increases, which continued from 1984 to 1988.

Attitudes greatly improved with the opening of Disney-MGM Studios and Typhoon Lagoon (TL) in 1989. Disney-MGM Studios got off to a rough start; there simply wasn't much to do. However, by the end of the year with the opening of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours, Disney-MGM Studios finally felt like a theme park worthy of the Disney name. Typhoon Lagoon was amazing, unlike any other water park in the World. It made the quaint River Country seem amateurish. By 1990, the anger resulting from the price increases had been largely forgotten. With 3 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping district, and a nightclub district, WDW finally felt worthy of a week's vacation.

By the early 1990s, the wood was starting to rot beneath the glittering façade. Disney’s Strategic Planning unit began to micromanage theme park decisions. Gone was the uncompromising commitment to excellence, superseded by a cost-benefit-analysis of every aspect of the resort. Year-by-year, quality slipped, replaced by a "good enough" attitude. Many devoted frontline Cast Members remained but senior management was forced out, supplanted by those "sharp-pencil guys" Walt Disney had warned about decades before. Externally, all was well. Internally, Disney’s Old Guard was fading, never to return.

Still, the 1990s experienced many exciting additions. Splash Mountain (SM) opened in 1992. Arguably WDW's best attraction, Tower of Terror (TOT), opened in 1994, followed by Blizzard Beach (BB) in 1995. To the casual Guest, it was a glorious decade.

Perhaps WDW's last gasp of true greatness occurred with the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK) in 1998. It should have been WDW's high-water mark. Instead, DAK opened with too few attractions and struggled with an image problem. (Remember the 2001 "Nahtazu" campaign?) Hardcore Disney fans were disappointed.

The slow decay continued as Eisner was under increasing pressure by Wall Street to improve margin, yet WDW still was an excellent resort, still the best in the World.

The vacation industry took a nosedive after those horrific events of September 11. WDW was not immune. Projects were cancelled, hotels were shuttered, Cast Members were laid off. Operating expenses were slashed and, for many, declining quality became visible for the first time.

After the initial shock, Disney took steps to correct its downturn in business, primarily through deep discounts such as the "Buy Four, Get Three Free" campaign. WDW's affordability improved even as the economy struggled.

WDW experienced another uptick with the introduction of the Magic Your Way (MYW) ticket in 2005 and the opening of Expedition Everest (EE) in 2006. Using an a la cart pricing scheme, the MYW ticket improved WDW's affordability for those seeking an entry-level theme park experience, while EE represented WDW's last great attraction to date.

The late 2000s arguably represent WDW's low point. Even though Strategic Planning had closed shop in 2005, budget cuts continued as corporate Disney increasingly nickel-and-dimed its Guests. Worse, for the first time in its history, capital expenditures were not keeping up with depreciation. The parks were aging yet Disney was deferring basic maintenance. It showed, with each year getting a bit worse than the year before.

Opened in 2012, the New Fantasyland (NFL) represented a change in direction, expanding WDW's most popular land in the World's most popular theme park. Yet ultimately it added only 2 attractions, replacing 2 that had closed. It was a small improvement but with much unrealized potential. NFL could have been so much more. NFL should have been more.

WDW held steady in the years following the opening of NFL. There were several modest improvements yet also more cost cutting and price increases, largely cancelling each other out. The net effect was a WDW no longer in decline, but not yet on the mend.

With the addition of Pandora, 2017 was a step upward. The entire land is well-themed and some consider Flight of Passage to be one of WDW's best attractions. Na'vi River Journey is immersive even if it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. The Satu'li Canteen offers bold (for a theme park) food selections.

Sadly, Toy Story Land (TSL) was not enough to continue this upward trend in 2018.

2018 saw some of WDW's biggest price increases in years. Rack rate for a Standard room at All Star Sports was up 8.0%. The popular 4-day base ticket was up 8.5%. Annual Passholders got nailed with a 9% increase! Plus Disney started double-dipping by (for the first time) charging for hotel parking, something that previously was included in the room price for WDW's first 46 years!

One of my bellwethers is the water parks' Sand Pail. I was disappointed to report a large increase to $13.99 last year. This year, they avoided a price increase and, instead, dropped volume from 36 to 24 oz while still charging the same amount:

View attachment 300593

Added together, 2018 became a horrendous year for those shopping for a (relatively) inexpensive WDW vacation.

Meanwhile, theme park attendance continued to climb, meaning Guests were waiting in longer lines even as they paid more. TSL had to deliver a lot to justify these increases. Sadly, it missed the mark by a wide margin.

In some ways, TSL is exactly what WDW did not need: an overhyped, modestly themed land with 2 low-capacity kiddie attractions in a theme park where multiple high-capacity attractions were permanently closed.

Let's recall how we got here. The Great Movie Ride closed. The Backlot Tour closed. Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground closed. Perhaps worst of all, the crowd pleasing (and mega capacity) Osborne Festival of Dancing Lights is gone. (And, on a personal note, one of my favorites, Starring Rolls closed.) Combined, these nearly returned DHS to its dire state after its May 1989 opening. At that time, many WDW fans were furious with what they (justifiably) felt was a ripoff of a theme park ticket. DHS will improve once Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway open but, for 2018, TSL may have made DHS even worse by attracting crowds that far exceed its two attractions' limited capacity.

Don't get me wrong; TSL is nice. Some dislike it but theming is consistent with the existing Toy Story Mania. Slinky Dog Dash (SDD) is a fun little coaster. Yet Alien Swirling Saucers and Woody's Lunch Box are disappointing. All three are vastly inferior to their counterparts at Pandora.

And throughout my visits this year, I saw sights like this far too often:

View attachment 300594

Higher than normal price increases. Increased crowds. Insufficient added capacity. A new land inferior to last year's Pandora. For these reasons and others, WDW took a step backwards in 2018.
Really well done, yes it is still a fun place but not what it once was.
 

Sirwalterraleigh

Premium Member
2 things...have you ever waited at the Apple store for customer service? I don't think it's that great...all they do is say your phone needs to be replaced after waiting for an hour. Secondly, you stated "Once Walt left, the bean counters took over" First off, Walt didn't leave, he passed away...BIG difference. If you stick by your logic, since Walt passed away BEFORE WDW even opened, I guess the world has been inferior since day one.

I thought that was a weird analogy as well...

I know of no one who has ever been satisfied with the Apple store...

It sells vastly overpriced products that fail and the reason is ALWAYS “these things happen sometimes” and the solution is replacement at full prices with often refurbed junk in new packaging.

Anyone have a “brand new phone” heat up to 180 degrees out of the box and practically go off like a Roman torch?

That’s fun...you should try it sometime.
 

LMSB

Well-Known Member
lol, I think that's subjective too. I'm a native New Yorker. omg the big uproar (and it's still a complaint) when the Yankees built their new stadium and seriously upped the prices, some thing around 400% they said.

Movie theaters? way worse, movies are 15 bucks a pop. popcorn and soda? add another 25 bucks and this is the "old" theaters. Now the new theaters (at least in philly) with the surround sound and the reclining seats? a show there is 20 bucks a ticket. most of my friends now rarely go, what with On demand, hulu etc. they can stream in their own living rooms.

So I don't think any of them have stepped up their experiences. I wanted to take my nieces to see the queen Bee, Beyonce I simply refuse to kick out 400 dollars a ticket. I did finally finally break down and pay 437.00 for Hamilton. that was one ticket. I go October 13th so I'll let you know and this was what 2 years after it's come out. when it first hit broadway what where the prices?? 1,000 bucks a ticket and you couldn't get one. You really think that's a "step" up.

lol, I live in Philly now. the big music concert coming up is Jay-Z's made in America. It's being held outside on the Ben Franklin parkway. tickets for both days are starting at 200 bucks, for standing entry. no seat.

That's what imo I don't understand. EVERYTHING is off the chart, stupid expensive. a night at the theater in October will probably run me 600 bucks. me, one person (437.00 ticket, another 70 bucks for dinner and 30 bucks to park). I went to the Phillies game, $53.00 each, mid deck along the first base line, I take septa so I don't have to park but for a family of four that's 200 bucks before food, which let's not even compare the prices.
sure the ball park is nice but not any nicer than in 08 when the Phils won the world series. I'm scared to even see what the Eagles tickets are going tocost now that they've won the superbowl and Carson Wentz is healthy. jeez

Again remember I'm viewing this through my, "just began going to the world" and "I live in the highest cost ofliving area imaginable" eyes. :p I recognize that that's sort of the trifecta of death.
I grew up 45 minutes outside NYC, and am now living 30 minutes outside Philly -- couldn't agree with this post more!
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
What strikes me as funny...and it doesn't involve any kind of mathematical analysis...we started visiting WDW annually back in 1985 and went a lot in the early to mid 90s when I lived in FL. OPs ratings are fairly high for this period...yet, my most favorite trip to date was in 2011, when things were supposedly at their worst.
 

ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
What strikes me as funny...and it doesn't involve any kind of mathematical analysis...we started visiting WDW annually back in 1985 and went a lot in the early to mid 90s when I lived in FL. OPs ratings are fairly high for this period...yet, my most favorite trip to date was in 2011, when things were supposedly at their worst.
Just keep in mind that the rating takes into account value. In 1982-1984, the peak period, a 3-day ticket cost today's equivalent of about $85.

Also, your personal circumstances (e.g. who you went with, how long did you visit, what's going on in your personal life, etc.) greatly affect your "favorite trip".

My "favorite" trips were in the early 2000s when my children were young, theme park attendance dropped precipitously in a post 9/11 World, and Disney offered great discounts. (For example, buy 4, get 3 free for hotel, meals, and tickets.) This doesn't mean WDW was at its best.
 

righttrack

Well-Known Member
Moving towards combined entrance/attraction tickets was likely WDW feeling the pressure from Six Flags which pioneered the "pay one price" model. This became the norm in the early 80s for theme parks. WDW, your local amusement park and carnivals were clearly a target of Six Flags marketing and Disney decided to answer eliminating the ticket books.

Somewhere in the 90s WDW moved from being part of a Central Florida vacation to a WDW vacation. Prior to that, people commonly split their time in the Orlando area between Seaworld and WDW. Once the third gate (MGM) was added, that stopped. To me this is the peak. They had enough resorts, they had multiple price points for those resorts and they had three parks and the best possible experience, service, etc. It's all downhill from there.
 

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