Why Six Flags Fails And Disney Succeeds

I grew up going to Six Flags. I used to have a season pass and spent many of summers in the park. Six Flags was the IT place for my friends and me. We would meet there without our parents to hang out for hours. We loved it.

©Six Flags

It wasn’t until after I became a Cast Member and visited Six Flags again that I realized why Six Flags fails in comparison to Disney. My family had visited Disney, but we couldn’t afford to visit on a yearly basis. Once I was able to visit the Disney parks more often, I started to value the way Disney runs its theme parks. When I came back to Six Flags, I realized that they don’t hold up to many of those standards.

Six Flags has been around since 1961. That means that a Six Flags park was created before Disney World had even opened. You would think that after all this time they would be more well-known. Instead, Six Flags history is filled with financial struggles and the fight to stay afloat. So why does Six Flags seem to be failing while  Disney continues to do so well? We have come up with a few ways that we think Six Flags falls short.

The Feeling

For starters, Six Flags doesn’t give you the feeling of fantasy or magic when you enter. You walk into Six Flags already knowing exactly what to expect. There is no sense of wonder or mystery. You’re getting exactly what you pay for, a theme park filled with thrill rides. The park itself doesn’t offer much more.

 

Cast Members

Friendliness

Another major difference is friendliness. Cast members are usually very friendly. They are often more engaging and knowledgable than the typical Six Flags employee. Most cast members have a passion for the company they work for. They want to learn the ins and outs so they can be of better assistance for guests. This is not the usual case for a Six Flags employee.

For many, this is just a summer job to make some money while in school. This makes a BIG difference when it comes to interactions. Disney cast members are trained to be transformational, meaning to leave a lasting impression on the guest. Six Flags employees are trained to be transactional. This means that their interactions consist of hello and goodbye. This interaction all boils down how employees are trained. I have worked for both Hurricane Harbor (a Six Flags owned park) and Disney and I can say with certainty that the difference in training is immense. Disney teaches you the major components of what the parks stand on, many of which are mentioned below. Six Flags training is much more hands-off and basic. It focuses more on learning how to perform the task at hand, like operating a ride, which is important, but it doesn’t go past that.

Floating Na’vi in the Flight of Passage queue

Innovation

Innovation in another place where Six Flags fails in comparison to Disney. Six Flags creates thrilling rides, but they also feel very cookie cutter,  like they could be rides at any theme park, anywhere. Six Flags also does not go above and beyond when it comes to technology. There are no new and exciting ride experiences like that of Avatar Flight of Passage. Yes, the rides are very intense and fast and fun, but they don’t present us with anything new.

Immersion

Immersion is a BIG difference as well. You’re placed in a whole new world when visiting Disney, as if you have been transported to an entirely new place. Six Flags does not give you this same experience. Theming plays a big part in this. It would be incredible if I could walk through Gotham City on my way to ride Batman, but this just isn’t the case. But I really feel like I’m walking through Pandora on my way to the Na’vi River Journey.

 

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Another major difference is that Six Flags has nothing to do or look at while in line… so the waits seem to last for an eternity. Disney’s ride queues are usually immersive and enhance the ride experience.

Six Flags calls themselves a theme park, but where’s the theme? This also goes for the costumes or uniforms. When you visit Disney, the cast members’ costumes fit the surrounding area. Six Flags employees dress like camp counselors. There is literally no theme there.

Cleanliness

When walking around Six Flags, you’ll probably notice that there is gum EVERYWHERE. On the ground, on tables, rides, everywhere. The trashcans are typically overflowing with trash. There are strange smells… and let’s not even mention the bathrooms. Disney is quite the opposite. They actually pump yummy smells into the parks to help you associate locations with certain scents!

Disney’s custodial cast members really do their best to keep the parks clean and it shows. There is a Disney trashcan every 30 feet. This helps to prevent guests from throwing their trash on the ground or placing it in random locations out of annoyance.

Efficiency

Six Flags also really fails when it comes to efficiency. They must have policies in place to make the park flow more smoothly, but if they do it doesn’t show. Disney uses moving walkways on some attractions, like Pirates of the Caribbean, which keeps things flowing. Disney also offers free FastPasses. This gives everyone a chance to breeze through a few rides throughout the day.

Hands-on activities in the Haunted Mansion queue

Six Flags has something similar, but it costs caboodles of money.

The Heat

Everything’s outside at Six Flags, including most of the queues. Air conditioning is hard to find, so you’re usually a sticky, hot, sweaty, disgusting mess after just a few hours. This doesn’t make for an enjoyable day.

Skipping the Lines

Disney gives you the ability to plan things in advance. You can create your FastPasses up to 60 days in advance, and dining reservations in further. Six Flags doesn’t give you this option. You just kind of show up and do what you can.

The Holidays

The holiday activities at Six Flags are what I’d call sub-par, at best. It does offer Holiday in the Park and Fright Fest which I’d say are probably the best times to visit. They still do not compare to Disney’s holiday offerings, like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Disney offers big shows, unique ride experience, and rare character greetings. Six Flags gives us typical haunted houses and makeshift snow for the holidays.

Main Street Trolley Show

Entertainment

Disney is HUGE when it comes to entertainment, so of course, Six Flags is going to fall short.  Especially, when they rarely change their show offerings. To be honest, I’m pretty sure that Six Flags Over Texas has had the same Halloween show for 15 years. And although I loved it as a child, let’s change Ariana’s Nightmare! Six Flags doesn’t usually have parades or fireworks. And their stage shows… well,they aren’t the most dynamic.

Renovations

Six Flags also lacks in changes and renovations. Yes, the parks get new rides from time to time, but it’s rare that big changes occur.  Few changes happen in terms of the atmosphere or the food. They also fail at renovating locations and rides that are currently in the parks. That is why the rides give you a major crick in the neck or back pains that will never leave. The tracks are old, rusted, and bumpy!

Safety

This leads me to my next point, SAFETY! This is Disney’s top priority and although I am sure Six Flags values it highly as well, simple things seem to fall through the cracks. This is why Six Flags has had such a large number of significant incidents on their theme park rides.

Recently renovated World of Disney, just one of the constant updates to Disney Parks

All of these things add up to why I think Six Flags fails and Disney excels. It makes me a little sad, because, as I said at the outset, Six Flags used be IT for me. I’m sure I might have upset a few Six Flags fans, but, in my opinion, Disney just manages to do everything so much better.

Do you think Six Flags fails in comparision to Disney? Or do you think it holds up? Let us know in the comments below! 

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22 Replies to “Why Six Flags Fails And Disney Succeeds”

  1. I live five minutes from Six Flags New England but I have been to WDW more times than I’ve been to Six Flags. I am not particularly a big amusement park person, but I’ve always enjoyed the immersive entertainment experience of the different parks. In many ways you are comparing apples to oranges. Disney does not want to try to have the fastest roller coaster around – that isn’t what they are about. They are about unique experiences you can’t get anywhere. Even the coasters they do have, while they aren’t as fast and fancy as the modern steel coasters of six flags, they have unique elements which make them uniquely enjoyable – for example Expedition Everest (Disney’s fanciest coaster) and even space mountain feel more intense and thrilling than they really are because of the darkness and the theming. As many know space mountain doesn’t move very fast at all but the darkness and not being able to see where the coaster is going make the ride more interesting than if that same coaster was outside. I enjoy both rides as much as I enjoy the Superman coaster at Six Flags NE. Sure Superman blows them away as far as speed and the coaster design itself. But the darkness and unique theming really for me enhance the disney coasters where there isn’t a need to have it be the fastest. If all you care about is riding the fanciest coaster go to an amusement park, but if you are looking for the immersive experience with unique experiences you can’t get elsewhere Disney and universal win.

  2. Thank you to the many posts that actually gave an unbiased comparison of Disney and Six Flags parks. Disney has wonderful parks, two in the USA, and caters to and provides a whimsical, fantasy experience for a certain age group. Its billion dollar branding alone sets it above all others, so my expectations would be greater for the Disney corporation and its affiliates. You get what you pay for, unfortunately it prices a lot of families out of the market. I grew up going to Disneyland and when I moved away and had a family we did Disney World about every other year, but once my kids got to that pre-teen age Disney no longer had that appeal, they were more into the thrill rides of an actual amusement park like Six Flags, they outgrew Disney. Six Flags is more like a franchise, there are a lot of them, and your experience is dependent on that owner. I’ve been to expensive places with not so great service and I’ve been to some not so great places with awesome service; and some people will share the opposite view. Comparing Disney to anything is like comparing apples to oranges, its in a class of its own, there’s nothing like it, but as for an actual amusement park, Six Flags wins hands down on the thrill rides and price.

  3. I beg to differ. Six Flags is way better because they actually have rollercoasters, instead of the hundred-million-dollar kiddie coasters. All Disney has is boring dark rides and stupid shows. You couldn’t pay me a million dollar to go to a garbage Disney park. They are literally the worst parks in the world, I’d rather go to a park in Russia!

  4. While Disney does beat SFMM at consistent theming considering it has its own brands to fall back on, SFMM has been both Looney Tunes and it is currently Comic themed.

    Some of these other points are poo-poo.

    Heat? Wow. I didn’t realize amusement parks could control the weather. For one thing, they’re both in Southern California. Its going to get hot in the summer, its been getting hotter every year, due to global warming, indian summers are getting longer and Disney has more indoor flat rides then SFMM does.

    The Mountain beats Disneyland on pricing, $100+ gets 1 person in for 1 day at the house of mouse. $100+ can get 3 people in for 1 day at SF. What seems more attractive to people with families, lower income or large groups?

    Magic Mountain doesn’t offer fast passes? Then you must not be looking very hard, because it most certainly does. In fact so do many amusement parks.

    Friendliness, that depends on location, the people hired and how their day is going. I’ve never had a problem with surly employees at either park. They have always been professional, friendly and helpful everytime we’ve gone.

    Experience? Both are an experience, both offer different experiences. Disneyland is more child friendly, and offers a wonderland experience, but less for adrenaline rush junkies. SF is more for the adrenaline rush crowd, and less for child friendly. If you want a better proportional mix of both, then your local fair, Busch Gardens or Knotts Berry Farm would better serve your needs.

    Safety-every park has accidents. They’re usually rare, both care about safety to the extreme.

  5. Six Flags is growing and its attendance is up and the parks are amazing. It may not seem as big of an attraction if tour from the east or west coasts but in the central united states, these parks are a great attraction. The parks are full of hard working employees that are there to help you and your family have fun, and enjoy your experience. The network of parks has a great sense of community and all the parks seem to be involved in the community in which they are located in.

  6. I get the sense that you’re coming from an East Coast location, which I have no experience with, but from my West Coast (Magic Mountain and Disneyland) experiences, I mostly disagree.

    First, Six Flags is not failing. They’ve had increasing attendance year after year in recent history, and their stock has had a booking upward trajectory for years.

    Second, Six Flags and Disney are two completely different kinds of parks with two completely different audiences and purposes. Disney is mostly a family park with mostly child-friendly attractions. Their primary focus is creating an immersive themed environment where the lands and rides are there to make you feel like you’re a part of that story. Six Flags is mostly about adult-level thrill rides and intense experiences. Themes are present, but only there to make the view more interesting while waiting for that thrill. And yes, there are definitely themed areas at Six Flags. At least there are at Magic Mountain (my local park). Could they do better at theming? Absolutely. But the theming isn’t the point of the park.

    Third, you say new rides and renovations are few and far between at Six Flags? At Magic Mountain, they’ve built a new ride every single year for quite a while now. And every time, while they’re building that ride, they renovate or completely rebuild the area of the park that it’s in. For example, just look Kat the past few years: In 2017, Magic Mountain got the Justice League dark ride, which had a number of quite innovative elements and became one of the highest rated theme park rides of the year. They also created a brand new Metropolis themed area around it at the same time. 2018 they got Crazanity, which is a new and record-breaking, yet still fairly standard thrill ride, but they nicely renovated the boardwalk-themed area around it. This year they are getting West Coast Racers, which sounds like it will be a terrific and relatively innovative ride, and they are building a while new Urban themed area around it from the ground up called The Underground. In between building all of those new rides and themed areas, they renovated several of their existing rides, like Revolution and Viper.

    Also, I was looking around last year and noticed that, just like Disney, Magic Mountain also had trash cans approximately every 30 feet as well. And the grounds looked very nice. Maybe not Disney level nice, but not in failure territory by any means. I agree, though, that bathrooms could use some attention. Some of the rides did have gum on them. I think that has sadly become a tradition for some park goers. On both Gold Rusher and Jet Stream, there are places where people seem to ritualistically stick gum to specific spots on the ride. And there’s even a spot on Gold Rusher where people throw hats off the ride into a pile as they ride by it. I’m not sure why they do this, but I wouldn’t call Six Flags a failure because of it.

    As for holiday events, my wife and I did an anniversary trip this past the Christmas season to both Disneyland and Magic Mountain. And frankly, Magic Mountain made just as big an event of it as Disneyland did. They had lights covering almost every tree in the park, which for a forested mountain park is a huge undertaking. They had oversized Christmas props and decor all over the place. They had a snow-covered section of the park. They had two separate very impressive light show areas synced to music, including one in the new Metropolis area that was a bunch of lit up Christmas ornaments that were large enough to walk through. They had snow every 20 minutes several certain places. They had fire pits set up in various parts of the park where you can make your own s’mores. They had themed Christmas trees in nearly every themed area. They had some very nice holiday shows. Granted, not as many shows as Disneyland, but for the vast difference in admission price, this can be forgiven. They also had a food festival, similar to Disney’s Festival of Holidays, but my wife and I both thought the food at the Magic Mountain version was better. And they had any number of holiday treats all over the park.

    And while on the subject of food, most of Magic Mountain’s food in general is much better than a lot of Disney’s food, in my opinion. There are some standouts in both parks, and some missteps in both park. And if you’re willing to spend quite a bit, Disney has some outstanding dining such as Blue Bayou. But, those high end experiences aside, just comparing the standard family-level affordable food options, Magic Mountain generally does better. Pizza (my kids’ favorite theme park for) is especially terrible at Disneyland.

    Employees used to be very gruff at Magic Mountain, but have gotten much better and much more helpful and engaging in recent years. Disney, I’ve noticed, while still top notch, had actually gone down a little bit in that respect.

    The biggest difference between the two that you really must take into account is price. Disney is well over $100 for a ticket these days, and generally doesn’t do discounts, other than their standard sliding scale multi-day ticket discount. Magic Mountain will give you a ticket at the ticket booth for a little over $90, but go online and you can get one for $70. Shop at the right time of year and you can get their highest-level season pass for $80, which includes free parking, occasional free or incredibly low-priced discounted extra tickets (sometimes as low as $10), and loads of in-park discounts, so it pays for itself on your first visit, and then some. Using only mine and my son’s season pass, we once got 6 people into the park for $40. My son and I with or season passes, two people on free tickets, and two people on $19.99 ticket discounts. You can’t do anything like that at Disney.

    I personally love both parks, for different reasons. I’m a huge coaster fan who loves being immersed in a story. Disney, with its story telling prowess and it’s near monopoly on very popular IP does the immersive story thing like no one else can, whole Magic Mountain doesn’t really focus on immersion. Magic Mountain with its huge property and the most coasters of any park in the country does thrill rides like no one else can, while Disney just has a small handful of very mild (some would call them boring) coasters. So they’re both very successful for different reasons. I suppose it depends on what you go to an amusement park for.

    1. I thought Cedar Point was the “coaster capital” of the world? I think Magic Mountain might be the darling of the Six Flags parks because out of all that I’ve been to, the others definitely don’t sink the money into them like MM does. I still have to agree that Disney has something that no one else does and it’s not really fair to say, “yeah but that’s not what Six Flags is going for!” Oh yes it is, ALL theme parks strive to find that magic and get people to feel the way they do at Disney. You can see it in their feeble attempts at theming their lands. The bottom line is, Six Flags and the like have nowhere NEAR the kind of money to sink into their parks that Disney has. Disney has money coming in from all sorts of different areas, other parks do not. If they did they would probably have fully decked parks as well. The only park I’ve seen even halfway capture some of that Disney charm (other than Universal, who is quickly catching up in my opinion)is Dollywood. She spends a good deal of money and seems to have a grasp on how to make a theme park thrive. Her friendly employees put even Disney’s to shame these days. I’ve been to many many theme parks and no one seems to get it exactly right…no one. Believe me, we pay dearly for that magic, it don’t come cheap!

      1. I’d say Knotts is better themed then SF however. You can’t go wrong with the Peanuts Gang, or the fun little areas like Fiesta Village, Gold Miner area, Camp Snoopy and the Boardwalk. Busch Gardens has great theming too.

      2. WOW! So funny how everyone has different opinions on the same thing. You mention Dollywood very favorably. Sadly for us, Dollywood’s themepark is a huge disappointment that doesn’t even measure up to the now gone Opryland themepark in Nashville, much less get close to Disney level. Not at all disputing your opinion, and obviously many people agree with you by looking at the number of visitors. Disney has ruined us on all other parks.
        I really really wish we could share your enthusiasm for the Dollywood since it’s only about 3 hrs away.

  7. The rollercoasters were about the only rides I could go on the last time I went to Six Flags. Most everything else spins & makes me puke. We never went very often as it was a 4hr drive to 2 different 6F parks. We did go to King’s Island in Ohio a couple times & thought it was a lot better. Still prefer WDW though!

  8. I agree with just about everything you said. I’d also like to add that Disney parks very rarely have a light out. Also Six Flags should power wash Everything and give a paint job to everything. Some of the tables, hand rails and rides look pathetic and disgusting.

  9. Food service is where Six Flags really fails for me. the food is bad and you have to wait in a long line to get it, as opposed to Disney’s mostly good food and faster lines and even ordering in the app.

  10. About $50 gets you a season pass good at any six flags, that won’t even get you in the door at Disney, can’t really compare the two…

  11. Six flags Great Adventure/Hurricane Harbor in NJ are both pretty nice parks. They are super convenient and my 6 year old loves going. She loved the little kid sections when she was smaller but now is graduating to the mid-level thrill rides.
    Yeah it isn’t Disney, nothing compares to Disney, but it also doesn’t cost a whole years salary to get in. We get the season pass which costs around $70/pp for the entire year which includes the park, water park and parking all year.
    I just don’t think it’s fair to compare the two because they are going for different things in my opinion. You can totally afford one and the other you need to save for….that’s the #1 difference.

  12. Six flags is not trying to be Disney. Totally different concept and marketing. Having soda that, WDW is trying very hard to be just as bad as Six flags in many of the areas you mention.

  13. Six Flags started with a great premise. It was designed to be a regional experience for those who did not plan to travel across the country to go to a theme park. It started with the 6 different flags over Texas. Each was a separate land. There is no evidence that France remains a land. Accommodations for visitors centered around a Holiday Inn and a few places a little further away. People drove in for the day. The attractions and shows were restricted and only got worse over time. Younger kids hated it. And the older kids wanted thrill rides, not shows. Lots of teens hung out there based on the cheap passes.So 6 Flags expanded around the country and became the coaster parks. None of this holds up to the variety, safety of Disney. I was there soon after the opening in 1961 (when food was not great, but really cheap). But my kids and grandkids could not care less re 6 Flags.

    1. I definitely agree about younger kids hating it. I remember my parents took me when I was about 7 and I was at that in between age where I was too big to enjoy the baby rides and too little to enjoy the big rides and there simply wasn’t anything in between. I made my dad ride some spinning barrel ride with me over and over because that was the only ride there for me. I’ve never had such a bad time at a fun park.