Theme World: State of Disney's World

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By Ken Pilcher - Producer
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February 6, 2013

State of the Disney World.

Well, Wall St. seems like it is all smiles today. As I write this, Disney's stock price is up more than 1% to an all time high, amid an earnings report that, while down slightly over last year, was once again above what analysts expected.

But let's take stock of the company in a different way today. While seemingly every news outlet is talking about a plan for more even more Star Wars movies, many aren't paying as much attention to what is happening at our area's largest employer: Walt Disney World.

Bear with me for a moment, to make my point I need to talk a little about some financial numbers released yesterday about the last 3 months.

While profit overall was up 4% ($577 million for three months!!)  at all Disney Parks & Resorts,  Disney CEO Robert Iger was quick to tout the Cars Land addition to Disney California Adventure park for a large increase in attendance, as well as the popularity of the new  Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

While spending was higher at both US Resorts (Thanks to ever-higher ticket prices)
 and hotel spending rose for the same reason, the number of rooms filled dropped 4% to an average of 81% due to the opening of the vast, though popular, Art of Animation resort with its family suites.

Okay -- enough numbers. What WASN'T mentioned here? Disney World's four theme parks. When pressed, Disney's CFO, Jay Rasulo, says attendance here was actually  "up a hair." What does " a hair" mean? Who knows?  Disney doesn't release numbers. But keep in mind what happened in last three months: Disney formally opened most of the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland to fanfare and a significant ad campaign.

While it is admittedly very early, it seems that despite the popularity of the Beast's Castle restaurant & the Little Mermaid ride, New Fantasyland doesn't appear to be drawing more people to the parks.

Longtime Disney gadfly & blogger  Al Lutz  claims in his newest rant, errr, report:

"over the Christmas break a fire was l it under a few key Burbank executives when it was realized WDW's New Fantasyland project wasn't pulling in the numbers or customer satisfaction ratings that had been hoped for."

However Lutz also claims, because of Fantasyland, the crowd pleasing Cars Land will now be on the way to Hollywood Studios.

 Lutz writes: "WDI (Imagineering) execs returned from their Christmas break to quickly huddle and then directed their teams to figure out how to clone as much of Cars Land as possible so that it could open at Disney's Hollywood Studios park as quickly as possible, aiming for a late 2015 debut."

Lutz's  sources are extremely good, and his full report is well worth a read. Keep in mind, he is very pro-Disneyland and anti-Walt Disney World management.

My sources have NOT heard anything has been approved yet, just that a lot is being discussed for Hollywood Studios, and decisions could come very soon.
Numerous reliable sources online claim we finally will hear about new plans to replace Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney within weeks.
I'll keep you posted as I hear more. But at this point, any new attractions from Disney would be welcome news.

As of right now, the ONLY new projects under construction in all four theme parks are the Tangled restrooms (opening in weeks), a Princess Meet & Greet  (later this year) & the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster (gotta wait until 2014).

That's it. Nothing at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom. The last attraction added to Epcot - the return of 1986's Captain EO  came in 2010. I guess you could also count last year's conversion of the Kim Possible game into "Agent P's World Showcase Adventure."

At Hollywood Studios, the last big thing, the Star Tours revamp,  opened in 2011. Late last year did see the opening of "The Legend of Capt. Jack Sparow" -- but that is a minor experience.

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest opened in 2006. The Nemo musical opened in 2007.

And Lord knows when, or if, AvatarLand will every get off the ground.

Meanwhile, as we have mentioned, Universal and SeaWorld are going forward with large-scale groundbreaking new attractions.
I'll have an update for you tomorrow on SeaWorld's Antarctica. It's looking good!
'Til then, see you in the parks.

Here's a link to our most recent Theme World blog entries.

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