Yesterday, Walt Disney World announced a new nighttime event in the Magic Kingdom called Disney After Hours. In a nutshell, guests pay $149 plus tax for a ticket to get three hours in the Magic Kingdom “after hours”, basically after the parks close. Tickets will be extremely limited, so it should feel like the park is pretty much empty. The Disney internet went all sorts of crazy when this was announced, you would have thought that they were closing the place permanently rather than offering a new event there.
I have owned and operated a Disney only travel agency since 2002, plus I have traveled with my family on vacation to Walt Disney World over 20 times in the last 20 years. I have also visited the parks without my family on many, many occasions. Not only do I help hundreds of families each year visit Walt Disney World, I visit there myself quite often. I feel like I am in a unique situation to comment on the news.
Here are my thoughts on Disney After Hours:
- This is a test and only a test. – At this point, Disney After Hours is not a “real” thing yet. Dates have only been announced during April and May, over a 5 week period. It is pretty clear this is a test period for Walt Disney World to see if people are going to be willing to pay $149 per person for this event. We may never see this event extended to additional dates.
- Disney offers others high cost, limited access events every day in the Walt Disney World theme parks. Think about it. You have the Wild Africa Trek in the Animal Kingdom, which runs about $200 give or take a little bit depending on the time of year, for a three hour event that gives you access to parts of the park others do not get to see. In your mind, just classify Disney After Hours in the same category as these other high cost, limited access tours, because that is all that it is, nothing more.
- Disney will continue to offer more and more high cost, limited access events. For years, there was a rumor going around that Walt Disney World was going to build an entire theme park that would be available at a considerably higher fee than the existing parks, with the intent of offering guests who were willing to pay for access a unique experience. I am sure the math never added up on this, so it was never built. However, the one thing Disney did learn from that project is that people are willing to pay for unique experiences. While some people are as happy as clams visiting the same parks year after year (that would be me too), there are others who may have already done Disney World once with their family, but want to return and have a different experience. So, events such as the Wild Africa Trek, backstage tours and fireworks cruises will only be added to as Disney creates new events. Remember the suite Disney built inside of Cinderella’s Castle (appropriately named the Cinderella Castle Suite)? How much would you pay to sleep there one night? What if there was a suite inside your favorite attraction? While you may not want to pay several thousand dollars a night to sleep there, I bet there are plenty of people who would line up to be able to have that experience just once at any price.
- Disney is not now charging for Extra Magic Hours. This was the biggest gripe I heard yesterday, that Disney had the audacity to charge $150 for something that used to be free. Please note: Disney is not charging for Extra Magic Hours, and certainly not $150. This event is not Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours is open to all Disney resorts guests. On property, Disney has about 28,000 hotel rooms, plus you have to figure in the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green and the Hilton in Downtown Disney. That is in excess of 31,000 hotel rooms. If you figure that the rooms are full, and there are on average 3 guests per room, that is 93,000 people that have access to Extra Magic Hours each day. That is a crazy amount. Even if only half of the people show up, that would pack any Disney park with the limited number of rides they make available during Extra Magic Hours. Disney After Hours will be extremely limited. Rumor has it that tickets will be limited to less than 3,000 per night. So, you are not paying $150 to share the Magic Kingdom with your 93,000 closest friends, you are paying to have access to a basically empty park.
- Extra Magic Hours are not going anywhere. If you look at the Walt Disney World calendar, you will notice that Extra Magic Hours did not change at all during the test period, and are still on the schedule all the way through September, which is as far out as the calendar goes. I don’t expect to see Extra Magic Hours go anywhere. Disney has spent a lot of time and money advertising the benefits of staying on Disney property, and Extra Magic Hours is probably the biggest “perk” Disney guests receive. When Disney World announced the Wild Africa Trek, they didn’t close down the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. Disney After Hours will be held on nights when the Magic Kingdom is not scheduled for Extra Magic Hours.
- This will not effect your upcoming, or any future, Walt Disney World vacation. If Disney After Hours is something you really want to do, you can choose to pay the money and attend, or you can just visit the parks during the day and evening like you have in years past, nothing is changing. My guess is that if you didn’t even know about Disney After Hours, you will not notice any change at all. Park Hours are not being effected, Extra Magic Hours are not changing, so why worry about it? Some people can afford Disney After Hours, but whether you choose to attend or not will not effect your vacation.
- The Walt Disney Company is so greedy! This is the one thing that I hear constantly, Disney is greedy. Please note: the Walt Disney Company is a public company, they exist for one reason only, to make money. I am not a shareholder of Disney, but I am very happy that they make money on the theme parks each year, as it means Disney will continue to put more and more money into the theme parks and build new additions such as the upcoming Avatar, Star Wars and Toy Story Lands. If Disney were to just eek by and keep prices as low as they could, the quality would suffer and the parks would eventually shut down. I have spoken to many higher ups in the Walt Disney Company, their main focus is to provide a quality experience unlike any other to every single guest that walks into a Disney theme park. In order to do that, one thing they have to do is to balance supply and demand. Keep the prices lower, more people will come, which just leads to more lines, more wear and tear on the parks and much less of a quality experience. Personally, I would rather spend one less day in a Disney park on my vacation, and ensure that my family has the best time possible while I am there.
- Walt himself would be appalled by what the Walt Disney Company is charging now. Hogwash! Walt was a business man. When he released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the theaters, did he lower admission prices so everyone could see the movie? Nope. When Disneyland was opened, admission was different, as there was a small admission fee charged, and you had to have a ticket to ride most rides, but the approximate cost for one day at Disneyland was roughly $7.50. That was a crazy price for 1955, and you were limited to the number of attractions you could ride, it was not unlimited. Walt charged a boatload of money for entrance to Disneyland, and he found that people were willing to pay.
Well, there you go. Personally, I am super excited to see new events such as Disney After Hours being added to Walt Disney World. While I may personally never attend Disney After Hours, I know that there are plenty of people who will, and it will make their Disney experience just that much better.
If you would like more information on the Disney After Hours event, check out the Walt Disney World page: Disney After Hours