As always, this article reflects my personal opinions and observations, not those of anyone else.
This week I went on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park to have one last visit with the Redhead, as one of so many guests who have admired and appreciated this beautiful audio-animatronic character creation over the years.
On Monday, April 23rd, the attraction will be closing for a few months and this iconic scene will be altered to better reflect the current audience’s sensibilities. The Redhead will be transforming into a buccaneer herself, running an auction of goods, rather than an object of human trafficking as she is now seen as portrayed through a modern lens. So the original bride auction version of the Redhead is going, though not everyone is happy about it, with some feeling it is destroying a piece of Disney history and Imagineering design in the process.
Thinking about this change and the furor over it made me realize that the park is really serving several different masters at this point, making it quite impossible to please everyone.
As I see it, there are three types of guests who go to Disney Parks:
- The old school hardcore Disney fans – those who have been visiting the parks for decades. They like things as they are – or preferably, as Walt Disney and his WED/Imagineering Legends originally created them. They resist change for any reason, and especially hate what they see as ‘change for the sake of change’ – which often means the adding of IP or “Intellectual Property” to a classic non-IP attraction. See the uproar over: The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), It’s a Small World (with added Disney characters), Maelstrom becoming Frozen Ever After, shortening the Rivers of America to make room for Galaxy’s Edge, or the various changes the Pirates attraction has already undergone from adding movie characters like Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Davy Jones to the first politically correct updates made several years ago so the pirates would no longer be chasing the women, but instead chase food or have the women chase them. This crowd feels the park was always better ‘back in the day’ and few changes ever improve an attraction or a park.
- The modern Annual Passholder – the folks who go to the park several times a year or once a month or even once (or more) per week. For this group, they like change and expect and embrace it! They want the parks to be constantly evolving and offering them something new every few months at least to make the experience different. This crowd is often social media driven and looking for the latest thing to post on their Instagram, Facebook, etc. So new is always good and desirable – from new food and merchandise, to show updates, to a new “wall” to take a selfie against. This group demands that Disney constantly change to keep their attention. And whether something has history in the park or not, if it’s outdated in its representation, these folks would often support its eviction or replacement with something new.
- The tourist – those folks taking an occasional or even once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Disney Park. This group wants a mix of both! They want the classic Disney Parks experience that they’ve always heard about, but also something unique to make their trip special and different to their neighbors’ who may go in another year. As long as they have a good time – whatever experiences that includes – it was worth the visit!
So how can Disney please all these different kinds of guests? There may be no answer to that other than perhaps giving everyone a little of what they want, even if they can’t have it all. Continue reading