2014 Theme Park Attendance

June 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Theme park attendance estimates for 2014 have been released by TEA/AECOM. Below are the top 12 U.S. Parks.

Disney parks remained on top for this year, with modest growth at all of their U.S. parks. However, the big winner this year was Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood both with more than 10% attendance bumps over last year. Oddly, in this growth, Islands of Adventure saw little or no improvement over last year. The bad news this year is that Sea World took an even harder hit than the previous.

Park Change 2014 2013
1 Magic Kingdom +4% 19.33m 18.58m
2 Disneyland +3.5% 16.76 16.20
3 Epcot +2% 11.45 11.22
4 Animal Kingdom +2% 10.40 10.19
5 Hollywood Studios +2% 10.31 10.11
6 California Adventure +3% 8.76 8.51
7 Islands of Adventure 0% 8.14 8.14
8 Universal Studios Orlando 17% 8.26 7.06
9 Universal Studios Hollywood 11% 6.82 6.14
10 Seaworld Orlando -8% 4.68 5.09
11 Seaworld San Diego -12% 3.79 4.31
12 Busch Gardens Tampa +1% 4.12 4.08

As usual, I have updated my spreadsheets with even more data, if you’re interested. Click the links below:

U.S. Theme Park Attendance

WDW Attendance History

The link to the full report from TEA/AECOM, can be found below:

2014 Theme and Amusement Index – Global Attractions Attendance Report

 

Categories: Imagineering, News

Rainworks!

May 22, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m very curious by nature, which plays along nicely with my Disney fascination. As such, I occasionally run across things that I find interesting and I think, “hey, Disney should take a look at this“. Today, I found just such an idea. Take a look and see if you agree:

With the rain that central Florida gets almost every day in the summer time, this would be an incredible idea to do in the parks, at the resorts, around pools, etc. etc.

They already do something similar in the parks, in almost a reverse kind of way with soap and water. Disney artists, masquerading as custodians can be found on occasion drawing characters on the sidewalks (see video below). So, why not do this in more of a permanent kind of way. It would be just another of those “hidden magic” items you find at Disney, only these would “magically” appear when it rains.

You can see more about Rainworks at:  http://rain.works/

Virtual Queue Addendum

January 4, 2015 Leave a comment

I experienced a real-word example of how my Virtual Queue idea might work last night, while visiting a new restaurant close to where I live. The restaurant was using a system called Nowait that is essentially a wait/reservation system. The patron adds their name to the wait list by giving the host their cell phone number, and when the table is ready, it will send them a text. The system also includes a user-downloadable app for both Apple and Android products that will allow you to monitor your position in line by telling how many parties were ahead of you and an estimated number of minutes remaining. It seemed to work pretty well, although, the estimated time given on the app was longer than what we waited. Around the time when the app showed 12 patrons ahead of us and 25 minutes estimated time, we received a text telling us our table was ready. I didn’t ask why this happened, as we were happy to be seated sooner than expected.

I really like this app and I can see where something like this could work at Disney parks (or any other really), to allow guests to get in line (virtually) for attractions and restaurants. The Nowait app also utilizes bluetooth capability, which allows guests to check-in quickly and easily just by walking in the door, or it can be used remotely using the app to check-in to get a place in line, prior to arrival. In my opinion this is a game changer, and integrating similar type of functionality with Disney’s MagicBand and a smart phone would take things to a whole other level that would truly be “Next Generation”!

Categories: Imagineering

Virtual Queue

October 10, 2014 1 comment

Disney’s Hollywood Studios started testing the use of a FastPass+ only line this week, where the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania has been eliminated, at least for the time being. Guests were directed to kiosks or the MyDisney Experience app to schedule a ride time and not allowed to use the standby line.  

Online discussions about this temporary change have led to some guests being very upset about the removal of the standby line, and being forced to schedule a time. Many have already complained about not being able to just go to the standby line and wait for whatever the standby wait time was, something I find a bit puzzling, considering waits for this attraction can be 90+ minutes on most days.

I’ve speculated in the past that Disney might try to roll something like this out on a broader basis where the majority of attractions, or at least the popular ones would work this way. Some insiders have said that this is just a test for the rumored addition of the third track for TSMM. Regardless, my thinking here assumes that they would go ahead with such a plan. With that in mind, and the uproar it’s caused, led me to an idea on how to potentially accommodate these guests in their desire to wait in the standby line, if they really were to roll out FP+ only lines on a wider scale.

The idea is pretty simple (at least in my head), and focuses around the whole concept of getting guests out of line to wait for their time. Sounds familiar, right? Wasn’t this one of the original promises of FastPass? Yes, it was at least part of the marketing campaign and still is part of the marketing for FP+.

It involves creating a virtual standby queue/line where guests in the park are given the option of choosing a FP+ (scheduled return time), or a virtual spot in line. I’m going to call it “Virtual Queue” or “VQ”, but it could be called “Virtual Pass” or “Standby+” or even “FastPass”.

Essentially, it would build into the FastPass+ system, the capability to allow a certain percentage of guests to use FP+ and others (smaller percentage) to use VQ. It sounded easy enough when I first thought about it, but when trying to figure out how to do it, I realized it was a bit more complicated. The fine details and calculations of how it would work will have to be figured out using numbers I don’t have. However, for the purpose of demonstration, I will use Toy Story Midway Mania, and its estimated 1000 riders per hour capacity. Rumor has it the actual number is somewhere between 900 and 1000.

Listed below are a couple of ways I could envision this working:

1) Fixed, alternating standby queue availability. Fastpass+ and Standby alternate, with FP+ receiving higher priority and more allocations.
Example:
9:00 – 9:10 – 160 FP
9:10 – 9:15 – 80 Standby
9:15 – 9:25 – 160 FP
9:25 – 9:30 – 80 Standby
9:30 – 9:40 – 160
9:40 – 9:45 – 80
9:45 – 9:55 – 160
9:55 – 10:00 – 80 

This would equate to 960 guests per hour – 640 FP+, 320 Standby. The numbers don’t add up to 1000 intentionally, in order to allow some flexibility.

2) Variable, system assigned, next available time. Smart logic to vary the availability of FP+ and leave a buffer of open/unscheduled times for every time slot.

Example:
Each hour can be broken down into 4, 15 minute blocks, allowing for up to 240 guests per block. By default, the system would reserve 20% for standby in each 15 minute block. This number could be adjusted based on demand forecast by the day and/or hour.

FP+ times would be assigned in 15 minute blocks, where every 15 minutes instead of the system allowing 240 slots to be filled, it will only allow a percentage, based on the expected demand for the day. So, if it’s a busy day, it might reserve 40% for standby (96), leaving only 144 slots available for pre-scheduling.

The FP+ selection time process (MDE) would have to incorporate this functionality, and vary the times available in such a way as to allow for this kind of flexibility.

As an added feature, and maybe in order to help alleviate some of the issues that might arise from such a system, the last hour of the day could be left open/unscheduled to allow for a traditional standby line. This way, anyone could ride regardless of whether they had used a FP+ for the day or gone thru the standby line. It would also give those that wanted to re-ride the opportunity to do so.

Here’s how it might look in action:
1. A guest approaches an attraction with FP+only line

2. The guest will scan their MagicBand as if entering for FP+. If they have a FastPass+, and it’s their time, they will proceed into the attraction. If they do not, then they will be directed to a kiosk close by or alternatively, if the guest has a smart phone, they will be able to use the MyMagic+ app.

3. At the kiosk (or on the smart phone), the guest will select the attraction, then they will be prompted for a Virtual Queue spot, or FastPass+.

4. If a Virtual Queue spot is chosen, they will be given a return time.

5. If FastPass+ is chosen, and the guest has not used all of their FP+ options, they will then be presented with the choice of several times to pick from for a return.

The guest can then go about their business in the park, until such time as their virtual queue spot/time comes around.

Optionally, the guest can be notified 15 min before their line entry time, and then be given a 15 minute window in which to use it.

Some operating rules might need to be established to avoid abuse, and keep it running smoothly,here’s a few I thought of:

1. Guests can only be in one virtual queue at a time.

2. Virtual queue is only available for use once a day per attraction for guests in the park.

3. Guests can “get in line” at the normal line entry, via kiosk or smartphone app, but only if they’re in the park.

4. Guests cannot hold a FastPass+ for the attraction for a later time, when attempting to get a VQ option.

5. If the guest holds a FastPass+ for the attraction for later, it can be exchanged for a VQ/Standby option. But, they are not allowed to hold both.

Optionally, offer guests the opportunity to trade their FP+ for Virtual Queue.

If all of this sounds complicated and confusing, you’re not alone. I can’t help but think FP+ and the features it has brought to WDW, have also made things a lot more complicated in planning a vacation. I like the ability to pre-plan and schedule the attractions I want to ride, but I have to admit that it does add more work to the process, and I can see how this might take away some of the fun for some. I guess the question has to be asked, “is this really worth it, just to avoid standing in a few long lines?”.

The Failure of Epcot

October 8, 2014 2 comments

In response to a recent post on Screamscape regarding Epcot’s failure.

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I believe Epcot’s “failure” began a long time ago, when the remaining execs at Disney launched the idea and began building the park. It was an idea that I think existed solely in the mind of its creator, Walt Disney, and nobody in the company had the vision or any idea of how to bring it to reality. So, they came up with this idea, that wasn’t bad really, and had some merit, but lacked a true leader who was charismatic enough to make it successful. Businesses and even some countries bought in to it, only because of the Disney name, which was known for several successful ventures prior. However, as they quickly found out, this wasn’t exactly an idea that Walt dreamed up, and it didn’t have the kind of creative vision and sustaining entertainment value that the public would embrace more than once. Without this, the park soon began to falter and they started tweaking the model to try and stem the flow of bad press, attract guests and hopefully have them return. But, once word got out that it was a dull and boring place with little entertainment value, crowds died down, businesses turned away as did the flow of money to sponsor attractions and pavilions due to little or no return for their contributions. Which is kind of where we are today. Without major investors willing to commit millions of dollars for essentially advertising, not too many are willing to jump in with Disney. The name is no longer known for success and more importantly, investing in a Disney park provides very little return for a company.

So, where did it all go wrong? In my opinion, it was the death of Walt that killed the idea of Epcot. In the absence of a charismatic visionary who could lead the company and sell its successes in such a way that businesses would eagerly buy into and even line up to be a part of, it became more of an expense for the companies that did buy in rather than an investment that yielded returns as well as recognition. Without investors to help fund the parks and attractions, Disney is left developing and funding them out of their own pockets, which means they have to find something suitable and entertaining enough to draw the public in order to produce a quick return on their investment. Good or bad, this means that many of the attractions are going to be based on pop-culture or current, proven entertainment media such as movies like Frozen or even Avatar, because, developing and building original attractions and stories is expensive and a risk that nobody wants to gamble millions of dollars on.

That’s not to say that I’m displeased with what’s happening, I’m just a little let down. Because, like many, I liked the idea of Epcot, and specifically World Showcase, a place where you could get a small taste of a variety of real cultures from around the world. But, in the spirit of Walt’s famous words about Disneyland, I know that Epcot (as well as all the parks) will never be completed and will continue to grow and change, based on imagination and the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar.

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