Disney World’s 50th anniversary kicked off on Friday, October 1st, and we were in the parks to take in all of the celebrations.
We tried a ton of new food items, saw new entertainment, checked out a new ride, and more! The day was exciting and historic, marking a huge milestone for Disney World — but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have its issues. We noticed some not-so-magical things happening on the 50th anniversary, and we’re here to share our experience and what could be done to fix or avoid these issues in the future.
Let’s start out with something that was probably obvious to you if you were in Magic Kingdom on the 50th — there was a problem with how the merchandise was being handled. SO many people wanted to get their hands on 50th anniversary merchandise that there were huge lines starting before the park even technically opened.
The Emporium saw long lines to get inside and once you actually made it IN the store, it was PACKED with people basically standing shoulder to shoulder at points. Tensions rose due to the demand for merchandise and the large crowd, and a fight actually broke out inside the store, which resulted in security being called, according to a Cast Member.
And, a good majority of the merchandise at the Emporium for the 50th anniversary wasn’t even limited edition and had been in the store for days, if not weeks, already. Much of this merchandise should be around for the whole 18-month celebration, or at least a decent portion of it. But of course, it ran the risk of selling out, which increased demand even more.
There WAS some more exclusive merchandise back at Big Top Souvenirs in Fantasyland, and because of that, it was not a great situation either. The store used a virtual queue system, as they were probably the most in-demand store in the whole park due to those exclusive items. And, by 7:25AM, the virtual queue was full. And we mean FULL! This lead to angry guests being mad they couldn’t get into the store (more on that in a minute).
Then, there were new items released that day for the celebration, like popcorn buckets, that Magic Kingdom just simply did not have enough of to meet the demand there. Plus, they should’ve been located in more locations so as to not have one massive line waiting for these items. This isn’t their first rodeo — Disney knows the merch people WANT on days like this and they could have been a bit better prepared.
In the future, when there will be big event days or days known for being crowded in Magic Kingdom, Disney needs another plan of action! They should have stricter capacity limits for the inside of stores and they should spread out the merchandise to MANY different stores around the parks so everyone isn’t trying to get into the same place. They also should be prepared with a higher supply of items they know will be in major demand, like the popcorn buckets.
Disney historically has not handled limited releases smoothly, and this is no exception. Limited releases on shopDisney are still regularly plagued with issues, special merchandise drops in the parks can also still often lead to LONG waits and poorly managed crowds. The one area we DID see Disney make a change recently was implementing the 2 per guest limit on merchandise. That has helped a bit with the initial burst of people buying out a given piece of merchandise, but wrangling crowds and meeting demand is another issue entirely.
More virtual lines might be the answer to avoid crowding as well. More Cast Members stationed to help manage crowds would have likely been welcomed. But, it is not Disney’s fault for the behavior of guests that got angry and were fighting because of merchandise — that’s on the guests, which brings us to our next issue.
A tale as old as time! Some people just don’t know how to be nice to others, and it is NOT okay. There were far too many times on October 1st we heard our mothers in the back of our heads saying, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” We witnessed many, many guests being rude to Cast Members in Magic Kingdom for things that weren’t even in their control. Even if they WERE in their control, it is unacceptable to yell at a Cast Member. They are the people that keep Disney World running and help make your trip magical! Without them, there would be no Disney World, so they deserve to be treated right.
Because of the virtual queue limiting who could go into Big Top Souvenirs to get that day-of-only merchandise, we saw guests getting extremely angry with the Cast Members there. Guests were screaming at them, and eventually, several managers were handling the situation. While guests should not act like that toward Cast Members, Disney could’ve possibly alleviated some of this if they didn’t put the only super-exclusive merchandise in one location. Spread it out!
We also repeatedly witnessed Cast Members getting yelled at by guests over things like those popcorn buckets being out of stock or long mobile order waits. If you’re in Disney World on the 50th anniversary — which you already knew was going to be insanely popular — didn’t you think you would have to wait longer than usual for food and merchandise? Hate to break it to those folks, but we had been bracing for this madness for over a year — we KNEW it would be rough. We were right.
And, again, the new food items people were waiting for are going to be in Magic Kingdom for the next 18 MONTHS. They were not exclusive to that singular day. We’ve been hangry in Disney before too, but we don’t take it out on Cast Members! We will say though that this was definitely NOT the case for everyone. Many guests were simply there enjoying the day and their ability to say they were there on the historical day.
But as they say, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch.” In this case, it was a fair number of bad apples and they were mad they didn’t get their tumblers or cheese fries. We spoke to far too many Cast Members close to tears over the course of the day due to unruly guests taking out their frustrations on those magical people that are just trying their best to help.
Things can get stressful in Disney World. We know. You can be hot, hungry, and tired. But please take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and do your best to handle a difficult situation with kindness. It will make the situation better for both you and the Cast Member.
If you were following along with us on October 1st, you probably took notice of the large crowds in Magic Kingdom. When we first entered the park, Main Street, U.S.A. was filled with people everywhere. And we mean EVERYWHERE. This leads us to the first big problem we noticed of the day with the crowds.
It’s a BIG anniversary, so naturally, guests expect some sort of pomp and circumstance to go with it. Someone coming on stage, a rededication for the public — something! But an incredibly brief good morning from Mickey and Co. was all they got. If there was no real intention of having a special welcome at the Castle in the morning, Disney should have prepared guests.
Station signs at the entrance if needed or have Cast Members informing the crowds what would or wouldn’t be happening. But guests’ imaginations ran wild with what could be and the result was overwhelming crowds waiting for something that was never really going to happen. This, ultimately, led to a lot of disappointed guests.
Like we said, there were long lines for merchandise, but also incredibly long lines for food. We waited almost two hours at a few locations for our Mobile Orders and that seemed more common than not. This led to gaggles of guests crammed at the entrance to fast food locations. And, people started staking out their spots for the new fireworks show that night VERY early on, so the area in front of Cinderella Castle had a lot of people there basically all day.
One of the issues with crowds has to do with Disney letting people into Magic Kingdom before the park opened. The park was officially supposed to open at 8AM, with Disney hotel guests allowed in at 7:30AM, but by 7AM, Main Street was already crowded with people. Yeah, before the sun was even up. This was not great for other Disney hotel guests who thought they were going to get an early start, especially for those who specifically stayed on property for that perk.
Disney could have done a better job at crowd control throughout the entire day. Since the main new offerings were all food and merchandise, that’s where the crowds were for the most part — waiting in line. There was also the new cavalcade and fireworks, but those took place on Main Street as well, where it was already crowded due to the food and merchandise situation. So, that whole area was just slammed all day.
If Disney had more new offerings around the park, maybe that would have better distributed the crowds. New entertainment or special ride overlays could have created a demand in more areas of the park, which would have alleviated the huge crowds in line for merchandise and food. And, again, they could’ve spread the 50th merchandise out way more so guests could get it at stores all around the park. We noticed other sections of the park, like Tomorrowland, downright pleasant with lower crowds for big portions of the day!
Better yet, if a brand new ride had opened in Magic Kingdom that day, it would’ve been a HUGE draw for crowds! Imagine if TRON: Lightcycle Run had been ready, then more people probably would’ve been over in Tomorrowland instead of waiting in line for merchandise. The good news for fans of rides was that, because everyone was waiting for other things, there were super short lines for all the rides, which was awesome and very unexpected! A headlining new attraction would have been the big draw the center of the park desperately needed.
All of this is to say we genuinely enjoyed most of the 50th Anniversary. Did it go off without a hitch? Nope. Not at all. But at this point, it’s a teachable moment. What can we take from this so we don’t make this mistake again? Disney is a master at crowd control, merchandise drops, and more, so we know this is very much something they can get under control. And remember — days like this are few and far between. So, we hope Disney considers these issues when planning for future major events — or even busy holidays. Stay tuned to DFB for more Disney news and updates!
Check out our video for more of what the 50th anniversary was like in Disney World:
Did you notice any of these issues in Magic Kingdom on the 50th? Let us know in the comments.