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Brian Bennett

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Cutbacks in the World!

On September 18th, 2002, the following notice was distributed by the WDW News Office:

Subject: Propertywide Expansion of Entertainment Offerings

We are pleased to share the following information regarding an exciting propertywide expansion of our entertainment offerings:

Effective October 1, we will offer Walt Disney World® Resort guests exclusive time in our theme parks. We will launch this program, Extra Magic Hour, by opening one of the four theme parks for Walt Disney World Resort guests an hour early every day. As part of this change, we will no longer offer Character Caravan at our resorts as of this date.

To further enhance the guest experience, we are making the following additions beginning in October:

An unprecedented expansion of characters at the Magic Kingdom® Park, with more characters meeting, greeting and interacting with guests than ever before, starting each day with a special character-focused park opening. We will also increase the character presence in World Showcase at Epcot®.

The new Princess Storybook Breakfast at Norway, previously operating under a test phase, is now a permanent offering.

The Disney-MGM Studios will expand the show schedule for Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage from 5 to 7 days.

We are adding additional nights for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom Park.

Guests to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot will experience expanded name entertainment with the Eat to the Beat music series.

In addition, the Hunchback of Notre Dame - A Musical Adventure will be performed for the last time on September 28. This show premiered in 1996 with the release of the animated film when it was top of mind to guests. It’s a testament to the quality of the show and the Cast that it has been part of the offerings for so long.

This is AWESOME news! I'm so glad that WDW has made these changes to provide better service to it's guests. Hopefully, soon, I'll be able to completely remove this Cutbacks in the World page!

The rest of this page was put up on MousePlanet back in mid-October 2001. Please keep that in mind as you read the information...

During the weeks of October 15th and 21st a series of cutbacks have been implemented at Walt Disney World.  Ranging from reduced park hours to slashed entertainment schedules (for stage shows as well as "streetmosphere characters) to restaurant closures to the elimination of Early Entry and E-Ride Nights, these cutbacks are officially being implemented because of greatly reduced crowds at Walt Disney World.  

Port Orleans Resort French Quarter

Beginning November 3rd guests that were going to be staying at French Quarter will be reassigned to rooms at Riverside.  All services including the front desk, food court (Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory), Jackson Square Gift Shop, and the themed pool area (Doubloon Lagoon) will be closed until sufficient guest demand warrants reopening.  It's not yet clear what will be done with guests that are already checked in before the cutoff date.  They may be moved to accommodations at Riverside, or they may be allowed to finish out their stay at the French Quarter.  If you have reservations for the French Quarter and will be checking in in the next couple of weeks, I strongly urge you to call the resort at (407) 934-5000 and make arrangements ahead of time!

Note, Port Orleans Resort French Quarter has started accepting reservations for June 1st and later.

Park Hours

Effective October 21, 2001, park hours at WDW have been serious curtailed!

  • The Magic Kingdom hours have been abbreviated to 9:00am - 6:00pm Sunday through Thursday and 9:00am - 8:30pm Friday, 9:00am - 10:00pm Saturday.

  • Epcot is now opening (Future World only) at 10:00am, with World Showcase not opening until 12:00noon!  Future World now closes at 7:00pm except for Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Innoventions and MouseGear which remain open until 9:00pm.  World Showcase closes, as usual, at 9:00pm.

  • The Disney-MGM Studios is opening at 9:00am and closing at 7:30pm daily.

  • Animal Kingdom is operating only from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily.

Here's a copy of the letter that was provided to WDW guests:

Image courtesy of Russ Johnson
Image courtesy of MousePlanet Reader Russ

MousePlanet reader Russ, who sent me the image of the letter he'd received, writes:

Dear Brian,

The elimination of early entry wasn't included in that letter but was verified by several cast members in guest services. The Character Caravan is the replacement and will entail several characters appearing in the lobby of the hotel (I was staying at the Contemporary). Guest services suggested that I (and any other irritated guests) contact WDW Guest Communications via either e-mail at wdw.guest.communications@disney.com or write them at

Guest Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

and write on the outside of the envelope "immediate response requested". The text of the letter should reference your opinion and planned course of action regarding these changes. I am encouraging all my patients and friends to write in, and voice their displeasure over the condition of the parks, hour cutting, etc.

I hope this helps. I travel down there usually 2-4 times/year and would be happy to keep you updated.

I like the way that the Character Caravan is announced without mentioning the hiatus of Early Entry... which is our next topic of discussion...

Early Entry

Effective October 20th Early Entry, in which WDW resort guests (folks staying at a Walt Disney World hotel or resort) to enter the parks one to one and a half hours before scheduled opening times, has been suspended.  The Disney website has even eliminated Early Entry from it's list of resort benefits, so this could be a long-term change.

To compensate WDW resort guests, a resort "Character Caravan" has been instituted.  The Caravan will bring characters to the resorts so families with kids (or any other guest that want to hob-nob with Mickey and company) will be able to do so before park opening time.

Here is the tentative schedule for the Resort Character Caravan:

  • Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday -- Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Polynesian Resort, Contemporary Resort, All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, Fort Wilderness Campground.
  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -- Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Old Key West Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans Resort (French Quarter).

Note, as of October 2002, Early Entry has been reinstated under the new name "Extra Magic Hour" and the Character Caravan has been eliminated.

E-Ride Nights Suspended

Effective October 20th E-Ride Nights, specially-ticketed events at the Magic Kingdom at which visitors could spend several hours with reduced crowds and ride many of the parks most popular attractions have been suspended.

Note, E-Ride Nights have been reinstated.  Several E-Ride Nights have been held since January, 2002.  The second quarter E-Ride Nights have been announced and are listed on the page linked above.

Resort Package Delivery Service Curbed

Package delivery, for WDW resort guests, is now limited to a drop-off at a central location at each resort (the main store or front desk depending on the resort).  Actual delivery to the guest's room has been discontinued.

Resort Valet Parking Fees Implemented

Actually implemented back in September, the once free service of valet parking (for guests staying at a WDW resort) is no longer.  Now a fee of $6.00 is charged.

Attractions Closed

Several attractions have been cut or curtailed.  The list so far includes:
  • Carousel of Progress is closed indefinitely.
  • Operation of the Living Seas (ride portion) is closed intermittently but Sea Base Alpha is still open.
  • Mannequins, a club at Pleasure Island, had a delayed reopening from rehab, but has since started operating once again.  (Good news for Pleasure Island fans!)

Note, as of October 2002, the Carousel of Progress and The Timekeeper (which has also been closed) do open occasionally during periods of heavy park crowds.

Restaurant Service Cutback

Restaurants have been closed to save operating costs.  The list so far includes:
  • Yacht Club Galley is closed!
  • To compensate, Yachtsman Steakhouse will now serve Breakfast and Lunch, as well as dinner.
  • Citricos will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

  • Garden Grille will no longer serve breakfast.
  • Garden Grille and Coral Reef are no longer accepting seatings after 7:00pm.
  • Olivia's Cafe' will no longer have a character breakfast (regular breakfast will still be served).
  • Flame Tree Barbecue is closed.

  • Also, Tusker House is operating with greatly reduced hours.

  • No breakfast will be served at Tony's Town Square Cafe'.

  • Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue will not be running it's normally scheduled 9:30pm show.

Entertainment Cutbacks

Severe cuts in park entertainment have resulted in the following reductions:
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame will now be run only five days per week.

  • Beauty and the Beast will now be run only five days per week.

  • Flights Of Wonder will now be run only five days per week.

  • Pocahontas And Her Forest Friends will now be run only five days per week.

Note, as of October 2002, the Beauty and the Beast show will be back on a seven days per week schedule. Hunchback of Notre Dame, however, has been cancelled entirely.

In addition, the following "Minor" entertainment has been cut from Epcot:

  • Trunk Show and Cyranose de Bergerac (Norway)
  • Alpine Trio (Germany)
  • Alfredo's Restaurant Performers (Italy)
  • The Houzali Troupe (Morocco)
  • The Pipes of Nova Scotia and Fiddlers Joy (Canada)
  • Mélodies de Paris (France)

MousePlanet Reader Rick, informed me of the following Pleasure Island cuts:

  • "Pleasure Island Explosion Dancers (have been cut) meaning that there is no more New Year's Eve show, intermittent shows at the Hub Stage, etc."

Schedules are also cut back on other performances. You can read more in this Orlando Sentinel article.

Opening of New Resort Delayed

Robert Johnson and Todd Pack, Staff Writers for the Orlando Sentinel, reported on October 17th that Disney's Pop Century Resort has been delayed.  No new opening date for the resort (which was supposed to open beginning in March 2002) has been announced. (Editor's note:  This is the only "cut" that really doesn't affect customer satisfaction, as any guests scheduled to stay at the new resort can easily be accommodated -- even with upgrades if need be -- at the existing properties.)

My Analysis...

Certainly any company that is experiencing a reduced cash flow needs to curtail costs as much as possible.  That's a pretty basic and well-known law- of- the- economic- jungle.  There are two things that bother me about the cutbacks, though:

First, why has so much been cut back in the past, even before the September 11th attacks that caused the current downturn in tourism?  The shuttering of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ariel's (a restaurant at the Beach Club Resort), shortened hours at Epcot (the staggered opening of Future World and World Showcase was implemented several years ago), the closing of Bonfamille's and the marina at Port Orleans French Quarter, the fee implemented for valet parking, etc. -- all of these things point to a lowering of service standards long before the terrorist attacks.

Second, the cuts that are being made do, indeed, affect WDW's cash flow (as they are directly targeted at reducing operating cost), but they also reduce the quality that the park visitor and resort guest enjoy.  

I have no doubt that WDW management has operated under the assumption that the paying public would not mind the cuts in service and would still happily come to Walt Disney World.  Of course, that assumption was pretty much on target during the heady times of the Millennium Celebration, but the very slow months that WDW has had -- even preceding the September 11th events -- may have been a reflection of that reduced quality.  Low quality, given time, will always negatively affect the bottom line in a serious way. The Walt Disney Company's cash cow (WDW visitors and guests) has been milked for years. The question is, can the exploitation continue or is ol' Betsy on her last legs?

To everyone planning a trip to WDW, I can only advise, "Caveat Emptor!"

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