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Disney Adults

Why Disney Parks Need to Prioritize “Disney Adults,” Annual Passholders Again

The Guest dynamic at Walt Disney World has changed dramatically over the past year, mostly thanks to the decisions made by Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro and former Disney CEO Bob Chapek. In an effort to harvest the most revenue per Park Guest per day, Disney altered its priorities and utilized the Theme Park Reservation System to favor the “binge-spending” families who come for one week every few years over the Park “regulars,” namely the local “Disney Adults” and Annual Passholders who already have their own ears and are likely to pack their own lunch to eat in front of Cinderella Castle.

walt disney world resort parking

Related: OpEd: Bob Chapek is Out to End Annual Passholders’ Free Reign of Disneyland, Disney World

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that 2022 has not been kind to “Disney Adults.” Voices across social media have ridiculed them for their “religion-like devotion” to the brand, telling them to grow up and leave Disney Parks for the real children and their families. But after returning to Disney World Theme Parks earlier this week for EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays, I realized that a lot of the issues with the Guest experience could actually be solved by returning the “Disney Adult” Annual Passholders to their rightful place. Whether they are the level-9000 Disney nerds that live up to every negative stereotype or simply the local parents who know how to make the most of raising their kids in Florida, While I can’t speak for Disneyland Resort and all other Disney Parks, I have come to see that “Disney Adults” (and Annual Passholders who take umbrage to the term) are the secret to actually improving the Guest experience at the Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks.

In short, they exude and utilize their own level of savvy and appreciation for the Parks that is able to offset the tense frustrations of the once-in-a-blue-moon visitors both logistically and atmospherically.

Let me explain:

“Disney Adults”/Annual Passholders Already “Know The Drill”

 

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Credit: Disney

From knowing how to navigate security checks to mobile ordering properly, Disney World Regulars, by and large, know how to properly navigate Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and every other area of The Walt Disney World Resort. They know when to grab their spot for the fireworks or parades and where to sit, while the one-time Guests who are not Park savvy get mad when they show up to the good spots too late.

Yes, there are the more computer-centric “Disney Adults” who only show up once every year or two and discover the hard way that they are not as savvy as they thought they were, and those that are so far down the Neverland Rabbit hole that they don’t know how to act like an adult. But when considering the Annual Pass-toting Disney Adults who treat the Theme Parks as their playgrounds, it is clear there is a deeper level of understanding. Yes, they are known to talk over monologues. Yes, they tend to be the ones filming dark rides in an effort to gain some sense of clout on TikTok or Instagram as a “Disney Influencer,” but at least they know how to navigate a ride queue efficiently and are more than likely to listen to the Cast Members when given a direction. They know to move all the way forward and know how to finagle their way into the best spots without being obvious about it.

“Disney Adults”/Annual Passholders Come with the Right Expectations

Disney Parks

Just like every other experience, the true enjoyment of a Disney Day comes down to how one manages expectations. The most frequent and/or seasoned visitors to the Disney World Theme Parks have–or are expected to have–solidified the best expectations and how to make the most of their days based on that. They are not fazed by the 100+ minute-long lines for their favorite attractions or ride breakdowns.

They more or less know what to expect from the rides themselves, so they will take advantage of their “frequent flier” level Passholder privilege to pass on all but probably their favorite attractions, knowing which rides are worth the wait, and they will ride it another day regardless. This is a subtle subconscious way that naturally distributed people across the Theme Parks throughout the day. They know where and when to stand for the fireworks and are more likely to understand the true “first come, first served” basis of the available space.

Yes, it is crowded. Yes, there is a line for everything. Yes, the flood of people going to the Ferry at the end of the day and the monorail is insane. Yes, sometimes you have to stand up on the Monorail or bus. Yes, everything is expensive. Yes, every restaurant you want to go to is probably booked up by the time you get to the Park. What were you expecting?

“Disney Adults”/Annual Passholders Have Better Relationships with Cast Members

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Credit: Walt Disney World Cast and Community / Facebook

Being the most frequent visitors means having the most sympathy and empathy for Disney World’s magic makers. Many “Disney Adults” have friends who are Cast Members and/or are often current or former Cast Members themselves, and they are less inclined to ask stupid questions. We take pride in being on a friendly basis with them, speaking their language, and staying out of trouble. Walk up to a Cast Member who just got a quick chat with his friends, and then walk up to another Cast Member who just got telling his fifth angry dad that Fast Passes are not a thing anymore, and tell me who will be found in the better mood?

The greater number of people who are cordial to Cast Members, the better Cast Members’ spirits will be throughout the day. Of course, one will find people who are just bad Cast Members and who are actually sick of dealing with “Disney Adults.” But on the whole, the adage rings true: if Cast Members are happier, then everyone else in the Parks will be happier.

Nowadays, It is a Different Story…

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My most recent days at Disney World mostly involved navigating around the large swaths of those once-in-a-blue-moon Guests who had no idea where they were going. They had no idea how to operate the turnstiles, mobile ordering, etc., which means a domino effect is triggered down the line by performing even the simplest tasks. There is tension in the air as people put more emphasis is put on getting the most for the ever-higher cost paid for their trips.

Despite the Theme Park Reservations supposedly keeping capacity lower than normal, the Parks are still packed, the rides still see multi-hour waits, and lines for food and drink are long as well. Lightning Lane selection is distributed by the time of day rather than by data-backed demand flows, leaving many folks waiting in a line they paid $25 per person in which to wait. Then the rides suffer an unexpected stop, making the wait even longer. Then they finally get on the ride only to deduce that it was not worth a 75-minute wait after all. As food options deteriorate in quality for the price, there is little understanding of which spots are still good. They get on the MyDisneyExperience App five seconds after 7 am or 1 pm and miss all of the virtual queue slots or find out then that they need a Park Pass for that Theme Park to qualify for the virtual queue. They don’t know when to stand where for the fireworks shows and are still somehow shocked when Main Street, U.S.A., gets packed to the gills and a Cast Member tells them to move out of the clearly-outlined walkway.

Disney guests fight fireworks

The only thing that Park Passes, Virtual Queues, and Genie+ have done, beyond matters of cost, is further drive the sense of “shortage” into the psyche of Disney Parks Guests and make their day as rigid as possible. Instead of prioritizing the magic and relaxation, they are essentially forced to prioritize making and meeting Park and Dinner reservations, Lightning Lane passes, and virtual queues. Once upon a time, waiting in a 6-hour line to experience a new attraction could amount to a fulfilling day. But thanks to the virtual queue, a day can be declared ruined and wasted by 7:05 am. Combine all of this with the natural pestering un-cooperation of children (whether they are yours or someone else’s nearby) and the seemingly increased availability of alcohol, and it is a small wonder why more people are getting into fist fights and mouthing off to Cast Members this year.

I am not trying to belittle or vilify these poor people who spend an arm and a leg to bring their families to the Most Magical Place On Earth. If anything, I feel sorry for them as they deal with all of the changes from Bob Chapek’s short but poignant reign as Disney CEO. All I am talking about is simple math. If Disney rigs the system to guarantee the Parks are filled with a supermajority of these new folks suffering from these frustrations, their shared tension will radiate outwards and dominate the whole Parks experience, clogging up everything months in advance. If Disney returns attendance procedures to their pre-pandemic levels and returns to “Disney Adults” the open reign on the Parks that they pay for, then that tension will be allowed to dilute once again, thus allowing the magic to shine on through once again.

Bob Chapek Firing

Sure, Annual Passholders are not the biggest spenders day-to-day in the Theme Parks, and, sure, “Disney Adults” can be annoying. But I am convinced that if their access to the Parks were not changed as it has this past year, we would not be talking so much about how the magic is gone from Disney Parks. Hopefully, all of this forced-shortage nonsense will finally come to an end in 2023.

We at Disney Fanatic will continue to update our readers on Disney Parks news and stories as more developments come to light.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.

About T.K. Bosacki

TK is a writer and editor based in Tampa, FL with a passion for all things Disney, and adventure.