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Night Kingdom

Following is an alternate proposal I pitched on Intercot 3/28/08 discussing the idea that was supposedly in development at WDI, rumored to be “Night Kingdom” at Walt Dinsey World.  The rumoured project was apparently scrapped, or put on hold for now.

A while back I read an article by Jim Hill’s and the supposed new after dark park/adventure idea that’s in development right now and being called “Disney’s Night Kingdom” (DNK).  Ever since I read it, I’ve bee struggling with the concept. I know that this idea is supposedly in development, and details are sketchy at best, but still the whole idea left too many unanswered questions for me and overall it just didn’t sound like a good fit for WDW. Two of the bigger questions for me, 1) Why only operate after 4pm? If this is supposed to be a unique sort of adventure or park even, with new attractions and offerings, what’s stopping it from being open during the day during regular hours? 2) Why on earth will it require 4000+ cast members to run this new attraction? That’s a lot of people, what will they all be doing?

In pondering these two questions about this supposed idea for a new park/adventure, and taking into consideration a few of the other things Disney is working on, as well as the rebuttal comments that Lance Hart at Screamscape had, I believe I may have an answer or at least an alternate idea. Mind you, this is pure speculation on my part. I have no inside information and no contacts at Imagineering, but thru some deductive reasoning and creative thinking, I’ve come up with my own idea of what Disney’s Night Kingdom just might be or at least could be. But first, let me try and expand on how I conjured up my idea.

Supposedly, Disney has been looking at new ways to generate more revenue, and reach the more affluent clientele who have a lot more disposable income and think nothing of dropping $10-50K for a lavish, and exclusive vacation. Obviously, the new Four Seasons and Waldorf Astoria hotels will help address some of this by giving these more affluent guests luxury accommodations. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, March 28th, written by Scott Powers, there may be another level of accommodations the affluent will be able to stay in if the plan to allow private homes on-property moves forward. They’ve also been looking at, with envy, SeaWorld’s Discovery cove and its exclusive, and expensive, but supposedly profitable offering. Rumours have been floating around that Disney wanted to create something on a similar caliber that would give guests with deeper pockets looking for an exclusive experience  on Disney Property.

So then, the question comes up, with these more affluent guests coming to Walt Disney World, what then can Disney offer them that would meet their expectations and draw some of the cash out of their deeper pockets to give them the kind of experience they would expect and cherish? First, we need to understand their expectations. While I’m not among the affluent, I’m just guessing they don’t want to be surrounded by 50,000 other guests with screaming kids, strollers, body odor, cutoff t-shirts, etc, and waiting in line for an hour with “common folk” to ride It’s a Small World. No, I’m thinking they’re going to want their own front of line experience that everybody else visiting WDW in the middle of July could only dream about and they’re willing to pay for it. I think they’re also going to want a restaurant or two to eat at that’s not overly crowded and has something to offer that can’t be found elsewhere.

So, how can Disney offer this kind of exclusive VIP experience to the affluent 1 percent visiting without upsetting the other 99 percent? The only feasible way that I can see them doing this is to offer an after regular-hours kind of experience. They already do something like this in the form of hard ticket events like the Pirate and Princess parties, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, where they charge guests for an exclusive and (somewhat) limited access to the Magic Kingdom. And, they also have the Extra Magic hours where they allow only resort guests to stay in the parks for extra hours after they close to non-resort guests. In theory, it shouldn’t be too difficult to offer a similar kind of experience, but even more exclusive and with more opportunities to see the parks than EMH or hard ticket event would.

Why not offer something akin to an all access, to ALL PARKS hard ticket event? Let’s call it “The Ultra Keys to the Kingdom tour” or maybe, “Disney’s Night Kingdom”. Call it whatever, but make every park, or most every park open to only those guests willing to pay the extra bucks, allowing them to ride the most popular rides, and throwing in a few extras here and there like their own personal guide to take them wherever they wanted to go, and within limits, ride whatever they want, as many times as they want. I think this helps to explain the 4000 cast members, and by offering it after regular hours, the other question is also answered. Each park could also offer exclusive shows, fireworks or merchandise that would only be available to DNK holders, kind of like the other hard ticket events.

This, I think, is more feasible than a whole new park or attraction. They could operate it on a reservation only basis, starting with once or twice a month/week, then expand it more as demand grows. Now, this is not to say it answers all the questions. There is still the remaining question of food and an exclusive place for these guests to eat. I offer two thoughts on this. 1) A brand new, highly themed restaurant, maybe taking ideas from the Adventurers Club like Jim alluded to. 2) Buy out the Rainforest Café at AK, and use this property for a new exclusive eatery. I’m not sure what kind of deal Disney has with the owners of Rainforest, but this location just seems like it would be a perfect home for hosting the gateway for such an exclusive new “adventure” like DNK (or whatever they call it).

Hours

AK closes most days at 5
MGM around 8 or 9
Epcot at 9
MK 8-11 depending on events.

If DNK runs from 4-11 or maybe 12 or 1 even, then the parks that were open for it could be closed a little early on DNK nights (if necessary) in a staggered manner. Then the parks would re-open in a rolling window kind of manner for the DNK guests as follows:

AK 5-8
DHS 7-9
EPCOT 8-11
MK 10-12 or 1

NightKingdomChart

* These hours are just an example. Depending on other events, they could vary greatly.

They could start DNK at a central location around 4 with dinner and each party would meet their personal guide for the night. During dinner they could plan what they wanted to do for the night. Once dinner is finished they would then be escorted to the parks and do the things they planned.

Depending on the time of year and crowd levels, and other events happening, they could still have EMH and hard ticket events on the same nights. They might have to either limit the number of EMH bands, or just give the DNK guests, special access fast passes to take them to the front of the line for at least once per ride. Alternatively, the park with EMH for the night could be cut short by an hour, or left open a little longer exclusively for the DNK guests.

Essentially, guests with a ticket for “Night Kingdom” could see and do much of WDW without having to wait like the masses in long lines in the heat of the Florida sun.

Cast Resources

Another thought crossed my mind with regards to the 4000 cast members required to run this. At first, due to my poor math, I couldn’t see how it would be profitable for them to do it.

Consider: If the average pay per hour (guessing) is $12 x 8hrs x 4000 = $384,000 and that’s just in wages alone, it doesn’t count the overhead for operating the park, food, water, etc. This would be IF the new park/adventure is an actual gate (park) like what Jim Hill has proposed. By the time all is said and done, it would be (guessing) close to $500,000. Meaning, they would HAVE to charge MUCH more than $250 per person, since $250 x 2000 is only $500,000.

However, if they do something like I’ve suggested above, where they have rolling parks and attractions open for a few hours (4-6), then most cast members would only work about 5 or 6 hours for this. So, doing the math, $12 x 6hrs x 4000 = $288,000 for wages, which is probably high, because not all 4000 of the CMs would be working in a given night, but let’s just leave it at that.

With the wages reduced to under $300,000, and guessing another $75-150k for overhead, a ticket price ranging from $200-250 would make sense, and actually be somewhat profitable.

Of course, all this is speculation and a LOT of guess-work on my part. If nothing else, this just goes to show that a night time adventure/park could be feasible and even profitable for Disney.

Alternative restaurant ideas

1)      Tusker House would also be a great location to start off the night.

2)      New restaurant and attraction at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This section of Animal Kingdom is ignored by all but a few guests at the park. Why not upgrade the area and provide something that would be unique for DNK visitors.

Something else to think about, along these lines. The original ideas for DNK presented by Jim didn’t really sound too appealing to me, it was originally described as an adventure type of park that had a physical element element akin to mountain climbing, among other things, not something that I personally could see myself shelling out $200+ for. But, look at this from another angle. A single day, single park ticket is around $80, which is quite expensive, and a price that a lot of guests might not go for. But, if you could have one-day or night actually with exclusive access to all the parks, and the most popular attractions for around $250, and it included a meal and special/personalized access to the parks, wouldn’t that be a more enticing offer? It would to me, and if I was only in town for one or two days, I might go for it.

Implementing this idea would seem to be pretty easy, as there is not anything new to be built, unless they build or redesign a restaurant. There shouldn’t be too many additional cast members to be hired, and the impact on regular guests would be minimal. In fact, it might generate additional revenue from some of those regular guests who might purchase a ticket at least once to experience DNK during their 5-7 day trip.

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