Ahh, Disney Adults, the controversial fans of the mouse and childhood nostalgia.
“Disney Adults” are the grown-ups known for visiting the Disney theme parks, packing the theaters when new Disney movies premiere, and buying up merchandise with their favorite characters like it’s their JOB. Whether you love them, hate them, or you are one, Disney Adults have a significant impact on the theme parks...and Disney might just regret having created such dedicated fans.
Taking it Back
Let’s start this quest by going back in time to when Disneyland and Disney World were still relatively new, and the iconic “Disney Renaissance” was just kicking off. By the time the 1980s rolled around, there had been plenty of Disney movies and there were already Disney theme parks on both coasts, but the company didn’t have quite the same pull as it does currently. Why’s that? Because there wasn’t nearly as much nostalgia!
Throughout the 80s, Disney built two more theme parks at Walt Disney World and kicked off the Disney Renaissance with the release of The Little Mermaid in 1989. That movie marked the beginning of a 10-film streak of theatrical successes for the company, including iconic additions like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. And if you’re an adult who’s a Disney fan, it’s likely that those are the films you grew up watching.
With hit new characters in the parks and on the screen, Disney World and Disneyland Resort started to become even more popular destinations for families looking to vacation.
Fast forward a few years — the Disney Renaissance movies became household titles and connected children all across the country with characters and stories to adore. Those growing up during that time learned the words to the Disney songs, bought the Disney toys, and begged their parents to take them to The Most Magical Place on Earth so that they could see their heroes in person.
All those memories created a sense of nostalgia in the kids who “grew up on Disney.” And now, those same kiddos are grown, some with families of their own. Now that they have their own money to spend and vacation to take, nostalgia is playing a big factor in the decisions they make. They’re returning to the magical places where they took trips as a child, or possibly the places where they always wanted to take trips as a child. In fact, a survey from Booking.com states that nostalgic getaways are appealing to 88% of travelers in 2023.
Essentially, Disney bred multiple generations of children with a love for princesses, heroes, music, and magic…and now they have to pay the price.
So what’s the problem with creating a multi-generational base of dedicated fans? Well, it seems that Disneyland Resort figured that out a while back. In the past few years, executives began to realize that the majority of Disneyland guests were locals and Annual Passholders. That may not seem like an issue…until you look at the financial side of things.
When it comes down to it, Annual Passholders don’t typically spend as much money in the theme parks as irregular guests. People who save up to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip are more likely to splurge on special experiences, table service dining, or expensive merchandise. They’re also paying the big bucks to stay at Disney hotels. So ultimately, with a higher percentage of guests being Annual Passholders (or Magic Key holders), Disneyland Resort was not making as much money as it could’ve been.
Therefore, Disney has come up with a solution. Recently, we’ve seen the addition of the reservation system for visitors in the theme parks. Since that system was added, reservations have been notoriously difficult to score for Annual Passholders at Disneyland. Add to that the fact that Disney started limiting purchases of Annual Passes for Disneyland, and it seems that they’re trying to keep too many Passholders from coming into the parks.
The Problem Has Come to Disney World
But now, it seems that the problem has arrived at Disney World as well. With more and more repeat visitors and Annual Passholders coming back for the magic over and over again, the parks don’t have quite as many guests who are seeking out those pricey extras.
So what does Disney do? They add the same restrictions to the east coast. Disney Park Passes are harder to come by for Annual Passholders and Annual Pass sales have been paused for quite some time. Disney simply can’t afford to let too many people buy passes — the more people who own APs, the less people who buy tickets for each trip.
And on top of that, they’ve introduced Genie+ on both coasts — a way to capitalize on the formerly free FastPass system. Guests who are coming on their rare family trips are willing to pay the cost to “skip” lines for rides. But those who come all the time…not so much.
In the end, Disney knows it’ll make more money off the once-in-a-lifetime or infrequent visitors than it will off of the locals and Passholders. So we can potentially expect more decisions that cater to those kinds of people. This could be one of the many reasons we see some older and more “nostalgic” attractions replaced by newer IP attractions. This brings in a whole new audience and more guests that weren’t tied to the previous nostalgic ride. It also gives people a new reason to return to the parks.
So, as unfortunate as it may be for those of us who “grew up on Disney” and have a deep sense of nostalgia attached to the parks, we may have to prepare ourselves for more changes like this in the future. Even though we have an emotional attachment to Disney, it’s a business…and businesses need to make money.
What Disney Fans HATE About Disney World — Click Here to Find Out!
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
WE KNOW DISNEY.
YOU CAN, TOO.
Oh boy, planning a Disney trip can be quite the adventure, and we totally get it! But fear not, dear friends, we compiled EVERYTHING you need (and the things to avoid!) to plan the ULTIMATE Disney vacation.
Whether you're a rookie or a seasoned pro, our insider tips and tricks will have you exploring the parks like never before. So come along with us, and get planning your most magical vacation ever!
Save 25% on the 2023 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining with code WDW2023.
Do you have nostalgia attached to Disney? Tell us in the comments!
In the past 30 years, my husband and I have probably had that many trips. Some years there were several trips, some years there were none. I can assure you that we have spent more money than the once in every 5-10 year trippers or even the big-money once in a lifetime trippers.
It doesn’t seem like Disney cares about us anymore. It’s sad. I now have more money to spend than ever, but they keep pushing me away with frustrating apps and changes to everything that feels like “home.”
It’s time to find a place to spend my money where they appreciate it.
So, the lessons I learned in business classes when I was younger: repeat/loyal customers and positive word of mouth are good things, apparently are no longer valid business models. I keep trying to understand the logic but cannot. I bought into DVC so we could go to Disney World 10 days every year, stay on property, go to the parks each day (with an annual pass up until the pandemic), and rarely leave Disney property. But somehow, my 50 days over 5 years is not worth as much as someone who goes for 10 days (or less) once during those 5 years. Or worse, goes for 10 days once – ever. This is not considering that before the pandemic, I would sing Disney’s praises to anyone who would listen (sometimes to the point of annoyance). Now – I cannot complain about them enough to anyone who “might” listen. Another minor business logic that apparently has been lost over the years: it’s far more challenging to get a previously loyal customer back after pushing them away, than keeping them in the first place. I guess, as the economy goes downhill and inflation rises, we will find out if the “newer” Disney business model will hold up. If not, Disney will have their work cut out for them getting loyal fans (like me) back on board.
Michelle, we feel the same. We honeymooned at WDW and bought into DVC a little over a year later, then added on twice. We used to absolutely love those vacations. Also have been on DCL 11 times. But sadly, we have no desire to go to the parks anymore. It’s more work than fun. I don’t want to plan every minute of my vacation months in advance and still have to get up before sunrise to get ride reservations or make rope drop in the hopes of experiencing what we want to. We are considering selling most of our points, leaving enough to visit the Vero Beach resort, which so far still maintains the old Disney feel while being in a quiet, relaxing area. We just got back from an eight-night cruise on Virgin Voyages, and after enjoying all that ship offered with the bonus of no kids and therefore more areas for adults to relax, dine, see shows, sink into a lounger to watch the ocean, etc., I don’t foresee ever going back on DCL. There’s a wide world out there beyond Disney, and that’s where we’ll be focusing our future vacations.
Bob Rex says
Once again, management fails to take DVC into consideration. My family (be it just my wife and I or including extended family) visit the world 3, sometimes 4 times a year. We don’t buy a tone of “junk” (although looking around the house, I might have to retract that statement), but all of our dinners and most of our breakfasts are sit-down. Of course we (wife and I) have APs, I venture that the majority of DVC members have them, but DVC members have put out substantial cash plus annual dues for the “privilege”.
Coral Schober says
I’m sorry, but my family have been annual passholders for many years. WE DO spend money on table-service dinners and the pricier hotels on property when we visit because back in the day, we could not afford to do this! NO, not always do we stay in the pricier hotels, but we have always spent about as much money in the parks and resorts as those who only come for that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Now that we have grandchildren, my husband and I spend far more money when we visit just buying things to bring home to our grandchildren!!! On a recent trip this year, we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge for 4 days and ate either lunch or dinner (or both) in table service restaurants every day! Our total spending for that trip far exceeded $4,000.00! Don’t tell me that Passholders don’t spend money!
After 30 years of Disney, as an annual passholder who went to WDW 4-6 times a year from Pennsylvania, only stayed in the best rooms in the Deluxe hotels, only ate in the most expensive Disney restaurants, bought enough memorabilia to fill not only my house, but also my now adult daughter’s house, my attic, my car antenna, my kitchen, my grand-daughter’s bedroom. and my storage unit, I smiled today when the real-estate agent handling the sale of my DVC membership called saying that my membership just sold!!! We love the magic, want the magic, crave the magic, but it’s just not there. The thrill is gone. The fire is out. Each other we will do without. VERY SAD. This will be the first year in 30 years that we don’t go to Disney, or take a Disney cruise, which we used to take once or twice a year!!! Money is not the issue. The value is just not there. $31 for 3 raviolis… sorry… NO!!! $89 plus tax and tip for dinner at Contemporary, when there’s not one vegetarian option, other than desserts… Sorry… NO!!! Thanks Walt for a good 30 year run. It was MAGICAL!!!!
Cary San says
Everything is more expensive in California due to Disneyland making us a tourist state with high taxes. If I am paying a premium to he here might as well have a Disneyland pass. However I will not deal with their cr appy reservations system. No thank you
They are crowed anyways it is just a way to keep annual pass holders out
The problem they have caused themselves is, they have priced even the once in a lifetime, overseas visitor out of the market as well. We see the crowds and the lines and know the reservation passes are rubbish. The crowds and lines certainly make it harder for overseas patrons to justify the cost of air fares and hotel rooms. Especially now the prices have gone up exponentially, while the perks and services have all but disappeared.
they only dont want passholders and locals there because they hold Disney to a higher standard, if they get rid of us all disney can keep doing stupid cheap things and details will no longer matter, theming has already gone out the window as it is, and christmas decor gets less every year. This is what they want, to spend less, the general rube tourists dont care and thats the type Disney wants, people who dont care about what the parks were built on and instead spend insane amounts of money on that horrible app and booze sales. Its so sad.
I am a Florida resident and former Disney World AP holder who frequently visited the parks before the changes. I may not have spent as much per visit as a once-in-a-lifetime visitor but believe I probably spent more per year while in the parks. I now have AP’s to Disney’s Florida competition, go to them at will, and will spend my money there instead of at Disney.
I’m another frustrated DVC member. I spent 10s of thousands of dollars on points–plus association fees we pay every month.
I go every year and, while I won’t claim to eat in the restaurants as much, the fact that you have a kitchen (or kitchenette) was part of the “home away from home” marketing. Their advertising even spoke of the joy of repeated family trips and knowing you were coming every year, and even leaving the contracts to your loved ones if you passed away. They also proudly use “Welcome home” as their motto–which clearly implies that they expect you to keep coming back. And BTW: we also still spend plenty on souvenirs.
If Disney was really concerned about the “family from Denver” who has to save up to come, they would build more value or at least moderate hotels. Instead, Disney keeps adding more and more DVC rooms–even converting former hotel rooms at Poly and GF into DVC rooms.
Instead, it seems that Disney wants the big payout of selling DVC points but then resents those same people for not spending enough when we keep using those points.
For the record–I have great sympathy for people who can only afford to come occasionally. But the fact that Disney has the nerve to keep blaming “Disney adults” who don’t “spend enough” for the ridiculously higher prices (with reduced services and portion sizes) is infuriating. In fact, I can only imagine that someone who saves for years to overpay for a visit is probably just as frustrated with the crowds, surcharges, and reduced services as the long term fans–if not more.
Pass Holders do not think they are the problem. Disneyland created the annual pass’s back in the 80’s when attendance was low (Disneyland was even closed on Mondays and Tuesdays because of low attendance). So now that the pass holders have using their passes as often as they can, Disney wants to screw them over and push them out because they can’t make as much money off of them.
I get it, Disney is a for-profit company as is out to make as much money as they can. But don’t screw your dedicate loyal fans in the process. Disney can have a happy medium if they choose, it just seems they don’t want to.
Does anyone from Disney read these responses. There is not one favorable response. My wife and I come twice a year by ourselves and twice a year with other family members. Almost every night we eat an expensive table service restaurant, topolino’s, citricos, and Narcosses when it was open plus others. In addition, we are always buying water, pop, coffee other drinks and snacks, Mickey Pretzels and ice cream. Don’t know who is doing the studies for WDW but they need to find some qualified men or women, and yes, I said men and women, to do these studies. Keep up in this direction and I will be gone and my easily $20K plus that I spend every year.
Sure hope you don’t censor me once again, nothing controversial in this post.
I think the families that spend at least or more, visiting the parks every year with APs, than the family who comes for a trip maybe once every 5-10 years are more valuable as consumers. I had only gone to Disney World about 2-3 times in the span of 28 years as a Florida resident whose family was more of the once every 5-8 years Disney trip family. Now, I’m an AP and have been 3 times within the span of 6 months and will be planning another week-long trip in March. You can’t convince me that visiting DW 2-3 times in 28 years is more valuable than APs that go every other month or so (and we’d go more often if the weekend AP pass was available). We spend a lot every trip eating on site, buying merch, purchasing experiences, etc. And we would eat tableside even more if we could get a damn reservation more often. I’m on the fence about renewing though because of the features that were taken away from APs and the jam-packed parks. Disney is playing a dangerous game because when the recession hits, I doubt the 5-10 year trip families they are trying to cater to will sustain their business. They better hope they haven’t pushed away all the locals by that time because they’ll be begging them to come back.
Mary Horvath says
We also honeymooned at the Poly in 1975 and came back every year. One of those years, we came to Disney World, took a trip to Disneyland and then to Disneyland Paris. My daughter and I have also been to Tokyo Disneyland so yes, we are diehard Disney fans but we are starting to fade by the negative comments about annual passholders. After 41 years of annual trips from Detroit and then Virginia where we moved for work, we retired in 2016 and moved to Florida just 5 miles from the Western gate. These past couple of years we are sorry that we did. We went to the parks often, we ate our meals there (at “sit down” restaurants), we bought tons of merchandise so we could decorate our house here with Disney stuff for when our kids and grandkids come to visit. Our room is decorated with Polynesian Village things since we had honeymooned there and came back every year. The kids preferred the Poly as well until the Beach Club opened. After almost 48 years we now feel like Disney is not interested in our coming to the parks. The magic has gone and it’s too bad because when we first retired, we loved walking or just hanging out and watching the entertainment. We don’t eat out as often now and not because we don’t want to but because we just can’t get reservations to the restaurants we always went to. For my 70th birthday last September I wanted to go to Jiko’s. John was able to get a reservation but because there were only two of us, we were sat at the table along with a whole row of other two person tables. The tables were so closed together that it seemed like one long table in a cafeteria. We always loved eating there – the food is great and it was romantic. For my husband’s birthday, I couldn’t get into any of the nicer restaurants even going into the system at 6:00 a.m. of the first day that I would be eligible to request a reservation. We ended up at Shula’s and we had a great time. We were sat at a table in a smaller room so it wasn’t very noisy and the waiters were wonderful. I am soooo sad that Disney has pretty much lost it’s magic – and yes, I spend waaay more in one year than I did in one week.
Disneyland is so overrated now. Most times the best rides are not in operation and when they are they break down during my visits. Tickets, food, and merchandise are ridiculously expensive. Time to look elsewhere for entertainment. And there is much more out there.
I absolutely disagree, I am an APH, and apart of alot of collectors groups and most APH have a dianey addiction and are also collectors. We may not spend as much money on fancy hotels but I spend on merchandise in the parks. I attended monthly in 2022 and spent well over 3k in merchandise each trip, simply with the idea that I go so often that it will be utilized. If I only attended 1x I can say I would have been dissapointed at wait times lack of ability to explore the park in the times alotted and annoyed by how un interested my children were after about 3 hours. Disney is not realeasing fairy tale princeaa stories back to back like they were when I was growing up and my children really werent that interested after attending 1x. Family vacations have become more affordable after the pandemic and I have alot of peraonal friends that chose hawaii and mexico over disney because it was cheaper for their family size and more family focused.
I agree with the view that Disney does not seem to like the return guests as much anymore and this will bite them in a downturn. My family (me) has had either AP or Florida Resident tickets for the last 35 years. Not living in Orlando we stayed in the nicer Disney hotels except when a new less expensive hotel opened up, just to say we had stayed there. Before COVID we did 20 nights a year. They are right that we did not buy many trinkets, but we did sit down Breakfast and Dinner most of those 20 days and never left the Disney bubble. Why not so many trinkets, well it seems like it’s the same trinkets at each location and all Disney stamped. When we started going, there were a number of unique thing to buy and not all Disney. That changed a while back.
Funny this is, we don’t go for the rides, we go to walk around, watch the people, etc. Half the time we just like to go hotel hopping.
Daughter bought into the DVC and goes there but extra days are being spent elsewhere. In a month she is going to Orlando and staying at a Universal hotel as opposed to Disney (banking her points for a bigger stay in the fall). We have all been to Universal before but always stayed at a Disney property. Apparently leaving our money at Universal this time will make Disney happy.
disagree entirely. Those APH are the ones spending their weeknights at the restaurants, thru weekends at the festival booths, and every celebration in their life at the parks. And the ones I know – don’t spare a penny on drinks, food, or merchandise to celebrate whatever it is: engagements, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
I guess it depends on what type of PH and what type of non local traveler. Disney definitely has a ton of travelers that stay off property, eat off property and don’t buy a ton of merch. Disney also has a ton of PH that frequent the parks and restaurants and stalk the merch.
Most of my money goes to Disney. I don’t know where they get these predictions from. Am I the only one that fills out the surveys lol ???
elmore hattlestad says
Well it does explain the splurge of ugly tacky overpriced underwhelming merchandise in the shops. Too bad that it seems the corporate management seems more interested in politics and bonuses than in the disney magic.
Stacey Brown says
Unfortunately, Disney is lumping all Annual Passholders together in one group. I have been a WDW passholder since 2005…and not once have I lived anywhere near WDW. Why do I have an AP?….because I go 2-3 times per year and it’s simply cheaper than buying tickets for each trip. That being said….I almost always stay on property (unless the trip isn’t just for Disney) and eat all of my meals on property. I buy (too many) souvenirs and gifts, etc. The only thing I avoid is Genie+…once and done. I would love to be able to pop-in for my free magnet….or AP sneak peak….but I spend a minimum of $600 to fly there for each trip. So, you’d think Disney would have the difference to determine differences in APs. For me…it’s a full-on vacation…meals, events, tours, etc. And let’s not even mention that out-of-state APs are forced to purchase the highest level of AP.
this makes no sense.
1) headline says disney regrets adults. article on the other hand says disney regrets locals and dvc members. not the same thing
2) more traffic and repeat is good traffic.
3) a one time visitor may spend more that visit but repeat visits pile
This is a joke right? As a DVC owner and an AP holder. I have spent somewhere around 100k easy with Disney. We go twice a year and yea technically we don’t rent hotel rooms. BUT I spent 50 thousand dollars with Disney to be able to do that. On our two person trip we spend around 7k for dining and souvenirs. When we take our daughter’s it’s closer to15k for everything. Every year we spend almost 20k at Disney not counting my DVC dues. The majority of AP holders are out spending guests. They just do it over a longer time period.
Susan R Gerritsen says
It doesn’t seem like Disney realizes how much their annual passholders actually spend in the parks. Coming from overseas, it doesn’t make sense for me to have an annual pass because I can’t afford to come every year. When we come once in 3-5 years, we DO spend 2 weeks there, but that’s 2 weeks out of a 3 year period. On the Disney forum I’m on, people who have annual passes a lot of times exceed that 2 week mark every year! That’s hotel stays and meals, merchandise. We have to budget a lot to come even as often as we do because flights are so expensive. We can’t afford the add-ons and extras. I’m not going to spend 60 bucks on a steak at LeCellier when I can eat at TWO other restaurants for the same price. I have to make my vacation money stretch. But those annual passholders can afford to splurge once in a while because they go more often. It might only be a 4 day stay here and a week there, but they don’t have to pay for 2 weeks-worth of restaurants all at once. So they might go to California Grill for that special occassion, because they will have another paycheck to have saved that back up by the next trip. Annual passholders also buy a lot more merch over the years because they get the discount and they see more seasonal things that aren’t offered all year round. Pass holders have also been there so many times that they are always looking for a new experience they haven’t had yet, and they are willing to pay for it. I can’t possibly experience everything in a 2-week period, so I prioritize our favorites over doing something new that may or may not be worth the money to us. And most AP holders I know also go ahead and buy Genie+ when they know it will make a large difference. People who go often know the ropes and all the tricks for getting to do what they want to do. That includes staying on property to take advantage of early morning hours and buying genie+ or the Individual attraction lightning lanes for rides without wasting hours in lines. People I know with APs generally spend WAY more in one year than I spend in 5 years. I don’t think Disney is looking at the big picture. Considering a lot of them stay at Deluxe resorts or the more expensive moderates while I’m at the cheapest moderate or value, they may spend more in one TRIP than I spend in 5 years. Trust me, Disney, you aren’t making as much money off of me as you do off your AP holders.
Disney did not invent DIsney Adults. Adults without kids have and will always visit Disney parks. They are guests. Kids or no kids. it’s irrelevant.