It’s Not Walt’s Disney World Anymore, and That’s OK

There is a lot of change going on around the Walt Disney World Resort right now in preparation for the resort’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.

Guardians of the Galaxy Attraction Coming to Epcot

Many of the changes mean closing, or changing, existing attractions as new attractions are added to the parks. In the next two years we’ll see a Tron attraction added to Magic Kingdom – and that isn’t all.

At Epcot we will see a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, Play Pavilion, New Entrance, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Beauty and the Beast Sing Along, New Nighttime Spectacular, and new restaurants in the Japan pavilion and Mission: Space area. Hollywood Studios may be seeing the biggest changes out of all the parks with the opening of the 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, plus the arrival of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. The list of changes is not complete without mentioning the resort-wide addition of the Disney Skyliner System as a new transportation option set to open this fall.

Walt Disney World Construction Progress on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Not all of these changes have been met with excitement or optimism. Change is hard, we get it. We shed a tear during our last time on the Great Movie Ride, and still miss The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights every Christmas in Hollywood Studios.

No, these parks do not look like the Disney parks Walt saw or planned. But we are OK with that! After all, Walt is a man who left us with quotes like this:

‘Whenever I go on a ride I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.’

‘I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination.’

‘In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.’

France Pavilion Construction

After reading these quotes, it is very easy to believe that if Walt was able to walk into any of the Disney World parks today he would be delighted. This is not the resort he left with us 48 years ago. The parks have evolved. They are focused on the future. That’s just what he would have wanted.

Walt himself oversaw changes in Disneyland after it opened — he didn’t let the park sit idle after opening day. For example, the Jungle Cruise, an opening day attraction in Disneyland, debuted with a documentary-style script that had a serious tone to it. In 1962 the ride’s script was changed into the first version of what is now our lighthearted, pun-filled commentary when we ride with the Skippers on the Jungle Cruise.

Walt Disney poses with a hyena figure as he walks the shores of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise attraction. ©Disney

Think about the technology in Animal Kingdom’s Avatar Flight of Passage, or the ride vehicles that are coming with the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, or what is to come in Stars Wars: Galaxy Edge’s attractions. We venture to guess Walt would be fascinated and delighted to see these rides and how theme park ride and attraction technology has evolved.

‘There’s really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward – opening up new doors and doing new things – because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting.’

Guardians of the Galaxy Ride Vehicle

Walt famously stated: ‘Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.’ If Walt walked into the parks today and they looked like they did when they opened he would be disappointed that they did not evolve and had sat “finished” for 48 years.

Plus, would we really go to a theme park that was stuck in time? Would we want to ride rides that have not seen any advances at all in 48 years? We would miss out on how Epcot evolved from its original plans (and continues to do so), the opening of Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, as well as all the new resorts, Disney Springs, and water parks.

Mission: Space Restaurant Construction Progress

Change is hard, but it is vital in any business, including the theme park business. We might not like all of the changes coming, but they are all a part of ensuring the resort’s future success and fulfilling Walt’s vision for the parks and resorts.

We most certainly are not in Walt’s Disney World any more, and that’s OK. That’s exactly what he would want.

Want to learn more about what is coming? We can help!

Which additions and changes to the parks are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments below!

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Sarah has built a career in communications and marketing that started when she was the editor of her high school newspaper. She has written for AllEars.net since 2018, and enjoys sharing Disney news and updates with the AllEars community. She's been a Disney fan ever since her first visit to Walt Disney World when she was 5, and has been known to arrange trips around visiting a Disney park!

24 Replies to “It’s Not Walt’s Disney World Anymore, and That’s OK”

  1. I’ve seen a very noticeable change in the path that WDW has taken in the last few years. Epcot is the easiest example. It seems like all of the core values that established EPCOT have been thrown away, and Epcot is looking more and more like every other theme park.

    I’m not against change, and some of the change has been great. The FastPass system for example is genius, but it’s getting harder and harder to go back, because….well, because I want it to stay the same.

  2. My first visit to WDW was February of 1972. We stayed at the Polynesian Village Resort for $35.99 a night. I still have the welcome package from when we checked in. I have no issue with updates and changes as they are needed to keep the resort in business. But they need to be done within the vision Walt had when Disneyland opened. A place for families to visit as a family.

    Resort and ticket prices have become borderline insane. Resorts prices need to be reduced 25 % to 35%. Tickets by 15%. This would allow middle class families to have an enjoyable vacation without having to decide between a t-shirt or mouse ears.

    The add-on charges like paying to park your car at a resort are just unimaginable. You pay to stay at a resort, visit a park, eat meals and buy gifts. All perfectly fine, but to park your car when you are staying a a Disney Resort. When is enough enough.

  3. I have been going to Disney World since 1971. I am a Florida resident Passholder and I have seen periods of imagination and periods of horror. I love Disney. But in the past ten years, Disney has stopped being the one setting the bar, they have become just another theme park. There is no real imagination left. Starting with the disappointment of new Fantasyland, continuing on to the Frozen ride. The Dwarf ride is really Thunder Mountain with a change of scenery. Ariel and Eric somehow got oversized dentures.
    Walt came up with Disneyland because he saw a need for a place for parents to bring their children. Now in order to spend the day there, you have to be extremely wealthy, save for years, put bills on the shelf for the next months or take out a loan. Parking is ridiculous. A quick service meal for two is forty bucks. Really! This is fast becoming a let down. Chip paint all over the parks, sloppy looking cast members, dirty areas, rides that don’t work. No, this isn’t Walt’s parks anymore. It’s an extension of hundreds of parks all over the world. It’s disgraceful what Iger has done,

  4. There is no imagination left in Disney. Walt did not believe in sequels. The “new” Disney executives keep rehashing all the movies that Walt made. If they are not making their 6th Pirates of the Caribbean, they are making a “live” version of animated Disney moves. No Imagination. Also, alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Walt must be rolling over in his grave. I know there are many Star War fans, but Star Wars isn’t even a Disney movie. Same for Avatar. There are more than enough Disney movie ideas they could have used for a land in the parks. This new group is all about the money.

  5. This is such a fascinating topic! Tradition vs Modernization/Change. And, as expected, almost all comments are solidly entrenched in one camp or the other. No middle ground and lots of emotions. It would be interesting (and revealing) to know some personal demographics of persons posting. Like your age and what year and how old were you when you first started visiting WDW. Also, your historical knowledge of Walt Disney and how important is/isn’t tradition in your personal life.

    I am 61 years old. I grew up with the classic Disney cartoons, Movies, and specials. I visited Disney Land in 1965 and first visited WDW in 1986 and visited several times a year until about 2004. I consider myself a Disney Traditionist, however, I did enjoy the beginning of the massive expansion that occurred from 1985 – 2000. I suppose because it was mostly just expansion and no destruction of classics. Every trip was filled with something new, but I could still enjoy the old. My attitude began to change as WDW stopped expanding so much and began removing and replacing. Some early disappointments for me were with the removal of the skyway in MK; 20,000 Leagues and Mr. Toads Ride. Later, major sadness with the removal of World of Motion, Horizons, and the original Imagination. These weren’t just rides they were some of the most educating and inspiring attractions ever built. But, I digress.

    It will also, be interesting to bring this topic up again in 15 years and see if those loving (and building their traditions on these new changes) are happy when their favorites are demolished and replaced with the next new thing.

    What is certain, is that WDW can mean something different to everyone and the Tradition vs Modernization debate will go on forever.

    1. I’m 62, started visiting in the mid / late 80’s with my kids. Last trip was September 2018 with my grand kids. Walt ensured there was enough space, I’ve never understood why they decommissioned any of the rides / attractions when they could just move them to a “Classic Disney” area. Sort of an Island of Misfit Rides.

    2. Change, the one certainty in life! I’ve been making annual trips to WDW since 1974. Honestly, I feel good just being there. The cast members, the restaurants, the parks, the rides, the fantasy; all became a part of my family’s life. We got to know several cast members. We felt part of the Disney family. We stayed at Disney hotels, dined at Disney restaurants, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Polynesian was our favorite destination for over 30 years. We anxiously awaited our next visit as soon as we returned from one.

      Around 2005, that all changed. Too crowded, too run down, too pricey. We have not visited the parks for several years now. The hotels are way overpriced for the amenities received. Disney’s executives essentially priced us out of our favorite destination. We were simply pushed to the side to make room for those who do not know any better. Would we consider going back? Sure. Unfortunately, we are not prepared to part with the kind of money now needed to relive our past. Simply outrageous. It is not worth the effort anymore. It should not require effort, it should be a vacation. It used to be.

      Yes, change is good.

      This kind of change, is not.

  6. Sadly, today’s Disney Company doesn’t think people can handle things that they’ve dreamed up if they aren’t tied to a movie. Walt had a great mix of things so you see things referencing your favorite movie etc., but also things you never saw or imagined before.
    Yes, Walt was a businessman, but Roy did all the heavy lifting in that area. Walt dreamed and Roy made it financially feasible, if possible. Today’s Disney would never open a park without it being tightly tied to movie IP. And, they won’t be able to because now they’ve conditioned their own audience not to expect that sort of thing anymore.

  7. I completely agree that Walt would be proud of the progression of Walt Disney World. It has continuously evolved. I, though, don’t think Walt would like the cost of a day at one of his parks. His reason for creating the park was so families could spend time together on rides, however with the cost of a park ticket the majority of families in the United States cannot afford to go to Disney World.

    1. Yeah, it pretty much is mostly because stagnation in any environment leads to failure.
      Besides, anyone who finds the changes too difficult to take could refrain from visiting.

  8. That quote: “whenever I go on a ride I’m thinking what’s wrong with it and how can we make it better “ makes me wonder how on earth the Journey to Imagination with Figment has been in its present configuration for so long. It is by far one one the worst rides in all of WDW. How did they let this attraction showcasin Imagination of all things be so boring and forgettable? It’s frustrating seeing the Magic Kingdom without a night time parade and Epcot with a few rides and decades old movies while they pour a fortune into Asian parks. Yes, definitely not Walt’s Parks anymore.

  9. Thank you for a well written and insightful article. I have often used the term “playing the Walt card” to describe when someone disagrees with a change at WDW. “Walt must be rolling over in his grave!” is a common reaction in the face of the replacement of a favorite attraction. The truth of the matter is Walt Disney passed away in 1966, over 5 decades ago. The world changed dramatically since his passing, as has Walt Disney World. How can we even start to interpret how he would react to the changes?

    Walt Disney was an innovator, but he was also a businessman. He may have embraced some of the changes and despised others. But he very likely have assessed the impact to the bottom line with every change made.

    1. The founding fathers passed away over 200 years ago, but the constitution still remains, keeping America progressing on the same philosophical path as it was intended. What the imagineers and corporate Disney folks are doing to WDW is the equivalent of tearing up Walts constitution and replacing it with some stale business model. And sadly, too many historically ignorant Disney fans are all on for the revolution.

      1. I appreciate the response but I don’t think a comparison of an entertainment company to the US government is on point.

  10. Unfortunately Sarah, you are one of the few who would say that they change is for the good. Look at any wdw fan site, many are decrying the annihilation of Epcot. Frozen in world show case? why? Is Epcot now really adhering to the original goal of innovation and showcasing originality. don’t forget that they are now replacing what is probably one of the best night time shows anywhere with another character fest show. where is the Originality in that? Most of the fans enjoy change but the change we are getting is lazy, regurgitation not the exploration that brought us Space mountain and POTC

    1. Hear hear! Let’s not forget that Walt also said that Disney World or Land should be a place where you can take your family and leave still having money in your pocket. He also said he bought up so much land so that he would never run out of room to keep expanding….not let’s knock this down and put up something new. Don’t get me started.

    2. You are sooooo right. The re-imagineering of EPCOT is perhaps the saddest of all of the “changes” at WDW. It’s one thing to build new updated rides and attractions, but they are destroying the whole Techonolgy, Innovation, and World Culture philosophy of EPCOT.

    3. Doesn’t matter if EPCOT is “adhering to the original goal of innovation and showcasing originality” because the true original goal of building a second theme park (and a third and a fourth) was to expand the business and make more money. They did that and now they have to tweak to keep up with an ever changing and demanding world.
      Frozen is in the World Showcase for the same reason Remy’s Ratatouille will be in the World Showcase, it’ll enhance the product and draw more people.

      1. The most disappointing ride is Frozen. Kids in kindergarten must have designed it. Elsa, Anna and rest stand waving throughout the ride. In Norway! Honestly, their are no more Imagineers working at Disney.

        1. Isn’t it though. ..and if you read other posts, there are many that are wanting even more kiddie rides in Epcot. Can we just leave one park for the adults. And mature kids.

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