What Is Happening to the Disney Parks?

Change is not always a good thing. When it came to the Disney Parks of old, Walt only wanted to make changes that would support the advancement of technology, new movies, and the overall enjoyment of his guests. For a very long time after his passing, his philosophy seemed to remain in tact. In 2013, Walt Disney World did a complete redesign of their outdated Fantasyland in Florida. New Fantasyland was everything a modern princess could possibly want from a Disney park, with gorgeous real-life reproductions of locations from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast along with stunning new rides featuring the latest in animatronic technology. Unfortunately, happy endings last forever, and many of the changes that the parks have made since then have not been for the betterment of the guests. Instead, they came as a result of business partnerships and corporate greed. These changes range from insane price hikes to the recent closing of my favorite restaurant in Disney's California Adventure, Ariel's Grotto.

To say I was a bit distraught to learn this mermaid wonderland is now gone forever would be an understatement. Not only was it themed after my favorite movie with gorgeous mermaid mosaics adorning the dining area, but it was also the only location at the Disneyland Park where you could go to dine with the princesses. Walt Disney World has multiple princess dining options, so something like this would be less of a deal-breaker over there for a princess fan. For California locals like myself, Ariel's Grotto was the only option. I have many pleasant memories from there, the most recent of which was celebrating my one year anniversary of having met my now husband. The spiral staircase, mermaid mosaic, and fish lanterns inside the restaurant were some of the most creative and beautiful decorations I've ever seen, superior even to the interior of Cinderella's Royal Table, which skimps out on decorations in favor of the benefit of eating inside Cinderella Castle. Another big princess loss for Disney's California adventure is King Triton's Carousel, the only carousel I've ever seen that allows you to ride giant seahorses and dolphins instead of horses.

Both of these attractions have been forgone to make way for a new area in Disney's California Adventure called Pixar Pier, which is set to replace a large portion of the former Paradise Pier area. Adding more Pixar-themed attractions is not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering that the Toy Story Midway Mania ride is objectively one of the best rides in California Adventure, but it is unnecessary to kill off so many other great attractions in order for it to exist. The issue of Star Wars and Pixar movies conquering other areas the Disney Parks appears to be an even bigger problem on the east coast. Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida is doing a massive to theme their park after these two franchises to the point where they almost changed their name because the "Hollywood" had become practically moot. It's particularly tragic that they closed The Great Movie Ride last summer to build an attraction based around the new Mickey Mouse shorts because having a ride dedicated the golden age of Hollywood seemed like just the sort of timeless family tradition that Walt would have loved if he had still been alive when it opened.

A few months ago, I went to visit Florida and took a look at the new Disney Springs, which replaced the Downtown Disney shopping area roughly three years ago. I was shocked to see how little the new structures felt like part of Disney. The Marketplace area was still in tact, but beyond it was a ritzy-looking mall containing upper class brand name stores that lacked any of the theming or bright colors that you would normally find on Disney property. It made me very sad to see that this is what their legacy is turning into--a corporate wonderland of greed and profit. Changes like these are happening all over the parks from the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Disney's California Adventure that replaced the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to show off their ownership of Marvel to the Avatar-themed land in Disney's Animal Kingdom to profit off James Cameron's franchise. It's all about corporate sponsorship now, not family entertainment.

I remember a time when hearing announcements about new attractions at the Disney Parks was exciting, making me impatient to plan my next trip. Now, news of change seems foreboding and sad. My favorite restaurant is gone forever. Who knows what they'll get rid of next? Instead of building new attractions to entertain people and feed their imaginations, they are using them as a means to show off their power by dedicating everything to showing off the franchises they have purchased, from Pixar to Star Wars to Marvel, and continuously hiking their prices through the roof just to rub salt in the wound of what once was.


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