As we approach Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021, it’s fun to take a look back and think about all the ways that the resort has changed over the years and dream about how it will evolve in the future. Entire books on the history of the parks’ evolution have been written, but today’s article is just a toe-dip into the subject. Here are 7 ways that Walt Disney World has changed in the past and how it may continue to change as we approach the 50th anniversary and beyond.
When the Magic Kingdom first opened its gates, the cost of entry was under $4.00 per adult; tickets were then purchased for each attraction based on their classification (A through E-ticket). Tickets for attractions cost a mere 10 to 90 cents. Today, the cost of entry into each theme park is well over $100. In between, we’ve seen price increases that more than account for inflation. We’ve also experienced a shift to seasonal pricing in an attempt, presumably, to distribute the crowds throughout the year. Today, ticket pricing is date-based and sometimes goes up more than once a year. As time goes on and Disney continues to feel the press of the crowds, we may see even more substantial price increases for the most in-demand travel times.
If Walt Disney were still alive, I can only imagine how excited he would be about the innovations in transportation that we are seeing at Walt Disney World. The monorail has been in service since the park’s debut in 1971, and in the coming years we should finally see the delivery of a brand new fleet of monorail vehicles. The bus service at Disney has seen improvements as well, namely in the reduction of the number of shared routes and provision of bus arrival times via computer signage at some resorts as well as via the My Disney Experience app.
Most recently, Minnie Vans made their appearance, though this experience incurs a cost whereas other DIsney transportation does not. At the time of this writing, we eagerly await the debut of the Disney Skyliner, a state of the art gondola system that will transport guests between Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and several resorts including the new Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, and Pop Century. If successful, we may see an expansion of the system to other areas of the sprawling resort. Having driverless cars on property has also been through the rumor mill recently, so it will be interesting to see what advances in transportation will make their way into Walt Disney World.
It’s amazing to recall that Walt Disney World opened with just one theme park, isn’t it? The additions of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, as well as water parks, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide World of Sports, and golfing experiences have turned the resort into a place you can easily spend an entire week and feel like you have not even scratched the surface. In addition, each of the parks have undergone serious expansion since their origins, the four most recent being the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland project, Animal Kingdom’s Pandora: The World of Avatar, Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, and soon to open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, also at Hollywood Studios.
4. Refurbishment, Replacement, Closure, & Controversy
Walt Disney intended his park to be a living, evolving entity, where progress is always happening and change is inevitable. Much to the chagrin of Disney die-hards, however, we’ve seen many attractions close over the years to make way for new and exciting elements- RIP Maelstrom (now Frozen Ever After), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), and the Great Movie Ride (soon to be Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway).
While some attractions are sacred and probably immune to being eradicated, no attraction is safe from the dreaded concept of change. Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, is a staple of the park and it would be a complete shock if it was closed. That being said, it was recently refurbished to bring the “redhead scene” into modern times, transforming the woman being auctioned off into a strong pirate herself. Especially today and in the future, each change is dissected and discussed in the online Disney community by millions of people the moment it is announced, often leading to a great deal of controversy that Disney did not formerly contend with on such a grand scale.