The Most Controversial Changes in Disney World History

Disney World is constantly changing, and some of those changes have been quite controversial.

Disney World

Disney fans are notoriously resistant to change and that can mean some differing opinions when Disney World makes an update.

Here are some of the most controversial changes in Disney World history!

Cinderella Castle Changes

Cinderella Castle is the most famous Disney World icon there is, so of course there is uproar when Disney talks about changing it. There have been a few super controversial changes to the castle over the years!

More recently, the change in the Castle’s color scheme from grey and blue to pink and blue came with its fair share of supporters and dissenters. Some thought the new look was magical while others thought it strayed too far from the vibe of the beloved Cinderella Castle.

Cinderella Castle

But even some temporary options have been controversial. Occasionally, the Castle will get an overlay for a special occasion (like the 50th Anniversary right now), and these are not always universally loved. A particularly notorious example is the time that Stitch covered the Castle in toilet paper. Some people weren’t too happy to see that their family picture in front of the Castle would involve that much TP!

Photo courtesy of imgur

Don’t even get people started on the 25th anniversary’s cake castle. Nightmares in the color of Pepto Bismol.

Skip the Line Tools

Skip the line tools also have a long history of inciting debate among Disney fans. Most recently, Disney Genie+ has been stirring up quite the controversy. Not only did the new system make some fundamental changes to the Fastpass+ system guests were used to, but it also costs money where Fastpass was free.


Lots of folks consider Genie+ to be a money-focused decision from Disney that isn’t in the best interest of the guests. Others like the option to purchase or not purchase. It truly has been one of the most divisive Disney changes in recent history!

Lightning Lane

But some Disney fans might remember that the shift to Fastpass+ from paper Fastpass was almost — if not just as — divisive. Prior to the virtual Fastpass+ system, Disney World used paper Fastpasses. Many guests thought the shift put too much reliance on phones and that paper Fastpasses leveled the playing field more.

Ride Changes

When asked about controversial decisions, many Disney fans will respond with a ride change. Disney World changes rides relatively regularly. While this usually means a fun new experience, it also can mean saying goodbye to a beloved experience.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Some of the most notorious changes include the changes to Journey Into Imagination, the change from Great Movie Ride to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the story changes to Jungle Cruise, the retheme of Splash Mountain, the removal of the Skyway, and the change from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

The boarding area for The Great Movie Ride. [The Walt Disney Company]
Some of these changes have made for wonderful results, but that doesn’t change the fact that Disney fans weren’t happy to say goodbye in many of these cases.

Magical Express Closing

This next one is still a sore spot for many. Disney has discontinued the Magical Express service that offered free airport transportation for Disney World Resort hotel guests.

Magical Express

This one has been widely criticized as another way that Disney has cut out perks for guests. Now Disney World travelers will need to budget airport transportation into their trips.

The Addition of Intellectual Property

Another controversial trend in recent years has been a shift away from original stories in the theme parks and toward the use of Disney’s existing intellectual properties.


You can see this most notably in EPCOT where Disney movie-based rides and experiences have been added and announced around the park. Plus, the new nighttime spectacular, Harmonious, is completely focused on IP rather than original music and stories. The hotels have also seen IP refurbishments.

Moana-themed rooms at the Polynesian

Some guest love to see their favorite characters represented around Disney World while others would prefer the parks keep some of the charm that comes from original stories.

Nighttime Show Changes

And no list would be complete without mentioning the controversial changes that Disney World has made to nighttime spectaculars. Many guests were upset with the shift from Wishes to Happily Ever After, and then from Happily Ever After to Enchantment.

Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom

The shift from Illuminations to Harmonious also drew ire from some guests and delight from others. But this show has been made even MORE controversial by the addition of the Harmonious barges to World Showcase Lagoon.

What Disney World changes do you think are the most controversial? Tell us in the comments! 

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6 Replies to “The Most Controversial Changes in Disney World History”

  1. We’ve taken our family to WDW over 30 times over the years. We will be taking our 5 yr old granddaughter next month. My most disappointing changes are:
    #1- Having to buy AND SCHEDULE AT 7:00 am Genie+ to avoid lines with young kids.
    #2- No Magical Express!!!!!!Not only do we pay for transportation, but we can no longer hit the ground running and meet up with our luggage in the room at the end of the night.
    Still love Disney, but these two changes are really terrible!

  2. I would agree with Jared’s comment about Bob Chapek. It seems that since he took over it changed from the happiest place to the money grabbing place ala Ebenezer Scrooge. Walt Disney had envisioned a place were families could come and spend a fun filled time together. Now it seems they are just seeing how much money they can squeeze out of the guests and by doing so completely squeeze some families out of the Disney experience. The Magic bus wasn’t great just because it was free it was extremely helpful when we brought my Mother, who was wheelchair bound, to Disney. It was a great help in not having to wrangle baggage and a wheelchair. The same was true when we came down with with our niece, nephew and their 3 children. This was the children’s first trip to Disney and the trip was magical because of the convenience of the bus and the free fast pass. Now every little thing is an up charge and is making us think twice about repeating the trip with our other niece, nephew and their children.

  3. Changing Fastpass from paper to paperless didnt cost the consumer any money, again it only saved Disney money by no having to spend on the paper and not having to maintain the dispensers. SDly this company is all about maximizing their profitable at he cost of the visitor experience. Not what it used to be.

  4. Don’t forget closing the Adventurers Club! It led to petitions, reunions, and more. And now, almost 14 years later, Disney is still mining it: some of the Club Members were cheering on runners this weekend at Run Disney, and a new shirt featuring the Club went on sale in Disney Springs.