“Declining By Degrees” is an idea coined by Disney blogger Kevin Yee, which refers to the concept that over time Disney’s changes to its parks are not always positive. In fact, the deletions and quiet changes may outpace the additions. This issue becomes worse with prices continually on the rise and the value of your money lowering each time you visit Disney. However, since the cuts and changes are often so small, many guests barely notice them let alone kick up a stink.
In the last few years since I’ve visited the Walt Disney World resort, there has been a ton of quiet small changes to help with budgets, guest flow, and the like. A lot of Disney fans will notice and initially make noise about these changes, but overtime they slowly go quiet leaving each guest with a possible lesser experience than the last.
The two big changes just within the past few months that seem to embody this idea are the silencing of Mickey at Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom and the quietening down of the shenanigans at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. A lot of people have thrown around reasons as to why they believe these two guest experiences have been changed, ranging from budget cutting measures to calls of political correctness at Whispering Canyon. (Even though they have always handed out a coaster to allow you to indicate if you no longer feel like playing along with the waiters during your meal). No matter the official reasoning though, it’s clear that these changes have removed a special guest experience with their “replacement” being a lesser version of the same thing.
The biggest realisation of this idea of “Declining by Degrees” for me was the removal of guest privileges that were originally provided for free just to turn around and offer them for a premium price not long later. One of my best experiences of my year working at Disney World in 2015 was getting to enjoy the last ever Star Wars Weekends. I attended every single weekend for the event seeing all the talks and panels that I could and loving every single minute of it. Then midway through the event Disney announced that this would be the last ever Star Wars Weekends, as they wanted Hollywood Studios to be the place where you could experience the Star Wars Universe 365 days of the year not just for a few weekends. This was a huge bummer at the time but seemed like an okay compromise. Fast forward a few years and you will notice that now a lot of what was offered during Star Wars Weekends for no extra ticket costs is now being offered as “Galactic Nights”, an expensive upcharge experience held only a few nights a year. So much for compromise.This removal of guest privileges to sell them back at a premium isn’t just seen through this example. Most recently we have seen the free Fireworks Fastpass gardens changed to be expensive dessert party viewing areas, as well as essentially selling Extra Magic Hours to guests through Disney After Hours.
But what’s driving this need to maximize profit? Simple. The Walt Disney Company is a publicly-traded stock. Like most public companies, Disney feels it has to deliver results every quarter that are not just steady, but have to be better than last quarter over and over again to keep its shareholders happy.
To be fair.
There are obviously changes in the parks that are done for the greater guest experience that has no direct impact on how much guests spend such as the completely new paint job Tomorrowland recently went through. But match these against the removal of the small things such as free guacamole at Pecos Bills combined with some other bigger changes as well, and it seems like Disney guests are getting a less magical experience each time they go especially partnered with the consistent year after year ticket price increases.
Now don’t mistake what I’m saying here as a hatred towards Disney Parks. I absolutely love Disney, and I spend a lot of time and money exploring the World of Disney Theme Parks and everything they have to offer. I just don’t want the magic that makes the parks truly Disney to vanish. Disney is known for going that extra mile for their guest, but I’m worried about the scary precedent all these changes are leaving on guest experience. This is mainly because this year will lead up to what could possibly be Disney Park’s biggest year ever with the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge on both coasts next year and I’m scared that the far reaching positives of those areas may allow a lot more quiet cuts to go through with no uproar.
Of course those are just my opinions but I would love to know what are your thoughts? Are there things you have noticed that have gone missing between Disney visits? Are sudden up-charges appearing on things you used to experience for frees? We’d love to hear about your opinions in the comments.