One of the more fascinating communities I consider myself a fringe member of is the Walt Disney World fan community. We’re a passionate bunch, planning trips with an intense level of detail and discussing menu changes and ride updates at length on message boards and in social media groups. A favorite phrase when the Disney company makes a decision that the community disagrees with is “Walt is rolling in his grave!”
That nonsensical phrase was most recently recalled when Disney announced that they would begin charging for overnight parking at their 25+ on-property resorts. (Parking had previously been free.) Disney’s spokesperson insisted that this change was simply to align the Disney resorts with hotels all over the world that too charge for parking. Okay. Sure.
Disney is charging these fees because they can. Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth, and despite surging ticket prices and hotel costs, parents will continue to take their families there. And with the 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, people who formerly had no interest in visiting the Mouse will flock to Anaheim and Orlando. It’s classic capitalism, classic making the most money possible off the most people.
The fan community, however, feels personally attacked. How dare the company they rabidly support through multiple trips a year betray them? It’s really quite simple: Despite the community insisting (as they do every time) that THIS change by Disney will be the one that will make them stop going, I’m sure very few people follow through with that threat. Disney has no need to incentivize the group that has a historical knowledge of former ticket prices and hotel fees, because they’ll keep coming back. And the first-time visitor, the one Disney targets with their commercials of wide-eyed happy families smiling on the parks’ most popular rides, has no idea or interest in what Disney used to charge. They’ll pay what it costs now.
This is what happens when a company builds a brand around making patrons feel cared about—Disney’s most ardent fans take changes that remind them that the corporation is just that, a corporation trying to make as much money as possible, intensely personally. But in order for Disney to pay attention to this group, they’d have to speak with their wallets and stop visiting the parks. I feel confident in saying that’s not going to happen, at least for the foreseeable future. The Mouse Kool-Aid is simply too strong, and the genius branding simply works.