It looks like Walt Disney World is continuing the experiments with “value-added” experiences for those willing to pay for them. Yesterday, Disney After Hours was officially announced. For $149+tax per person, attendees get up to seven hours of access to the Magic Kingdom, with the last three of those hours open only to those with an event ticket. All of the announced dates for the event so far are Thursday nights, on weeks when the Magic Kingdom is scheduled to have Extra Magic Hour evenings on Wednesday nights for all on-property guests. Thursday night is not usually an Extra Magic Hour evening in any of the WDW theme parks. Even the official announcement was somewhat sparse with details, other than to say that guests will have “quicker than typical access to popular attractions,” and that ice cream novelties and bottled drinks will be provided to guests. The announcement also specifically stated that admission is limited – with the ticket price running roughly twice the cost of a full-fledged party event (and without the promise of a special parade, fireworks, or show like a party), the expectation at least is that the number of tickets sold will be kept extremely limited, to ensure access to attractions with almost no wait. If tickets are oversold (Villains Unleashed, anyone?) I would expect this particular experiment to die quickly.
Another value-added event was apparently leaked from the Disney website yesterday before it was intended to be released, as it was quickly pulled back and is no longer listed. But details of the Disney Early Morning Magic event managed to show up on a number of fan sites (hat tip to Kenny the Pirate, whose post I relied upon for details). Early Morning Magic (according to the leaked information, at least) would cost $69+tax for adults and $49+tax for children (ages 3-9) and would allow guests an hour and fifteen minutes of early access to the Magic Kingdom on a morning when the park usually opens at 9:00 a.m. The price includes a breakfast buffet at Pinocchio Village Haus (surprisingly, at least to me, including hot dishes and not just a Continental spread), and exclusive, unlimited access to three Fantasyland attractions until the regular park opening time of 9:00 a.m. The leaked information specified the attractions as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight. The value proposition for this offering is a bit tricky to determine. Unlike Disney After Hours, guests attending Early Morning Magic are required to have a regular theme park admission as well (like you generally need for pre-opening tours or dining reservations), the number of attractions is limited, as is the time frame. On the other hand, Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are both must FastPass+ attractions (unless you ride Peter Pan very first thing after entering the park) and breakfast alone at Be Our Guest Restaurant is $20/adult. Again, the key premise here is that paying extra gets you an opportunity for faster access to attractions.
Much of the initial fan reaction to these events was highly negative. There’s no question that these are expensive events of at least questionable value. Some have even suggested that these events are harbingers of the end of Extra Magic Hours as a free perq for on-property guests. I agree that these events are very expensive, and are of dubious value. But I think it’s a mistake to see them as experiments in replacing Extra Magic Hours. Rather, these events are just the next in a series of offerings Disney Parks has been experimenting with, in which an additional experience is available to a limited number of guests who are willing to pay for that additional experience. This approach isn’t anything new – after all, these events are fundamentally not any different from the existing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If anything, these events are designed to be LESS intrusive on the experience of guests who are not participating in the special event than are the parties, which cause the Magic Kingdom to close to the rest of the admission-purchasing public at 7:00 p.m. on party nights. I don’t know whether either of these new events will last very long. But I welcome the continued experimentation with these kinds of events. I think we’ve seen a pretty good mix of hits (Villains Soiree, Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party), misses (Villains Unleashed, Epcot Food & Wine Festival Premium Package), and maybe/almosts (the dearly departed Epcot After Hours Wind-Down; even farther back, the Pirates & Princesses Party). Disney continues to experiment on other value-added fronts as well. The premium parking experiment is the most recent. That one also triggered what seemed to me to be an unwarranted outcry. Disney had specially reserved premium parking for years under its preferred provider agreement with AAA. Since that agreement was discontinued a couple of years ago, I’ve seen lots of questions from guests interested in premium parking who were disappointed that AAA Diamond Parking was gone. If they’re willing to pay for that premium access, why not let them buy it? It doesn’t have any substantial impact on any other guest who chooses NOT to purchase premium parking. Why should I care whether someone else chooses to spend in a manner I would consider wasteful? We all have different priorities and our own reasons for making the vacation choices we make.
What do you think? Are you considering booking either Disney Early Morning Magic (when/if it becomes available) or Disney After Hours? If you are, what element or elements of the event clinched the decision for you? If not, what’s missing from these events to convince you to give one a try? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!