Wednesday, September 12, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 21 - Disney Regional Entertainment

This weeks post explores a slightly different post regarding my thoughts on opportunities for expansion and development of Disney parks.  The topic for today focuses on a defunct branch of Disney Parks and Resorts that I would like to revive: Disney Regional Entertainment.

Disney Regional Entertainment was originally developed to create local based Disney entertainment concepts in major metropolitan and suburban areas across the United States.  The division created the Club Disney children's play centers for shopping areas, the DisneyQuest interactive indoor "theme parks," and ESPN Zones, a Hard Rock-like themed restaurant with arcades and some with broadcasting facilities.  Nearly all of these are completely closed, with only two ESPN restaurants remaining at Walt Disney World.

I want to use Disney Regional Entertainment to develop to smaller, localized themed entertainment offerings across the country.  This would occur in two types of offerings: themed attractions and entertainment in connection with Disney resorts across the country, like the original Mineral King plans, and Worlds of Disney, a version of DisneyQuest that improves on its failings and creates a more attractive concept.  I'll talk about both in kind.

Additional Disney Resorts with themed attractions and entertainment:
The concept of additional hotels with Disney themed attractions dates back to Walt Disney with his ideas for a ski lodge in Mineral King basin in California.  This ski lodge would have been a recreation of a Swiss village in California, with a chapel, an ice-skating rink, lots of shops, restaurants, ski lifts, and lodging via two large hotels.  Disney treated the creation of Mineral King village like he treated his parks - it was a show and it needed to be presented as such.  The parking would be separate from the village, so that you rode a cog railway to access the village, making the village walkable and picturesque.   And of course, Disney wanted to bring his kind of entertainment to the village.  The original concept of Country Bear Jamboree was developed for Mineral King.

Mineral King concept art (c) Disney
Despite strong support from the governor of California and others and many initial approvals, the Sierra Club launched a successful campaign to prevent the resort from ever being built. I believe though that Mineral King provides a valid outline for regional entertainment going forward.

Disney has had many plans for resorts outside of Anaheim and Orlando.  Currently, Disney has vacation club time share and hotel properties in Hawaii, Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Vero Beach, Florida.  Disney had plans for resorts in Colorado, Washington, D.C., and New York City, but has not gone forward with them.  Disney resorts removed from Disney parks have historically been more difficult to keep occupancy rates at the high levels Disney requires.

One solution to increase the draw of Disney standalone resorts would be to add Disney attractions and entertainment to the resorts.  For instance, Disney's Hilton Head resort does not have a full-service/table-service dining option.  Would it be more beneficial to add a new table-service restaurant and add a character breakfast option? Would Hilton Head benefit from a Country Bear Jamboree?

Aulani in Hawaii seems to have addressed this issue.  It has a luau with appropriate cultural displays, storytelling around a pit fire, a high tech scavenger hunt with menehune, and a character breakfast.  It creates the experience that is more easily identifiable as Disney.

I would propose these kind of combination resorts in the following locations: a version of Mineral King in Colorado - a ski resort with the Country Bear Jamboree perhaps, a New Orleans resort with Princess and the Frog attractions and characters, and a Washington D.C. resort with an American History focus featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Liberty Tree, etc.

The key in selecting locations will be to identify areas that have higher-end moderate and luxury resorts with unique architecture and culture that can be adapted by Disney in its resort.  Existing ties with Disney properties is a plus.

This type of property would used in great combination with the second version of regional entertainment.

Worlds of Disney:
DisneyQuest presented Disney an interesting option.  The company looked to create an interactive indoor "theme park" putting virtual reality and like technologies into the space.  It was created as an opportunity for Disney to put the newest technology into attractions, games, and entertainment.  Almost a test lab for new attractions for the parks.  It was a Dave and Buster's on steroids.  Part arcade, part playscape, part "theme park."

DisneyQuest in Florida
The problem is that such a place gets stale quick if the games are not changed out frequently, if the technology is not consistently updated, if the place is not generally freshened up at regular intervals.  Accordingly DisneyQuest locations were only rolled out in Chicago and at Walt Disney World.  The Chicago location closed quickly.  The Walt Disney World location lasted for nineteen years, thanks in part to largely being a "free" add-on to the water parks and more option for multi-day tickets.  It was particularly popular on rainy days.

The concept is a good one, especially the idea of an indoor Disney theme park. For example, most people would look at the following aerial and see a shopping mall.

Grapevine Mills
I look at the aerial and see interconnected show buildings.  For example:

Perfect for conversion to an indoor theme park - just a start
Disney has experimented with indoor themed lands like Mermaid Lagoon in Tokyo DisneySea and many of the original EPCOT pavilions like The Land.  A true indoor theme park would be a very interesting change of pace.  There are issues.  For example, multiple entrances and exits, potential for vast un-themed exteriors, and limitations on type of attractions/lands that could be offered.  This size though would be best used for a new theme park resort.

DisneyQuest puts an interesting spin on this layout.  The DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney in Orlando was a five story, one hundred thousand square foot building.  I think this layout provides a good basis to start building regional entertainment options in metropolitan areas not suitable for the combination resort described above.

It should be noted, the way to combat the earlier problems that Disney encountered is to build more classic Disney attractions, A through C ticket level attractions that are essentially Disney and would contain nostalgia for visitors.  Further, the attractions should be built in way that allows for seasonal options (like the variations of the Country Bear Jamboree) or multiple variations (like Star Tours)

I envision these Worlds of Disney as following a similar plan but containing unique offerings. Each Worlds of Disney will have a "Main Street" floor acting as the entry to the worlds of Disney and containing a heavy guest services, shopping, and dining presence, and then floors each for Adventure, Yesterday (the Frontier), Fantasy, and Tomorrow.  Each floor would be themed to a specific Disney IP location and world that would fit the theme.  The goal would be to fill the building with a unique combination of current Disney rides and new small form attractions that would provide a varied experience for the guest.

For example, the following floors and their attractions would be possible options:

  • A Tiki Room themed floor with the Enchanted Tiki Room with seasonal overlays, Liki Tikis, Tahitian Terrace restaurant
  • A Jungle Book themed floor with Jungle Book dark ride, a Kaa caterpillar ride, temple ruins playscape, and Bare Necessities restaurant
  • A Lion King themed floor with the Legend of the Lion King show, an elephant graveyard playground (slides down the bones like Simba and Nala)
  • A Pirates of the Caribbean themed floor with the Captain Jack Stunt Spectacular from Shanghai, a pirate ship for exploration and Torgtuga Tavern


  • A Country Bears themed floor with the Country Bear Jamboree with seasonal overlays, Hungry Bear restaurant, Dancing Pavilion ride
  • A Western themed floor with Golden Horseshoe dining and show option, a larger shooting gallery, and mini-mine train with Rainbow Caverns ride.
  • A Woody's Roundup land with Woody's Roundup show, Bullseye Whip ride from Shanghai, Jessie Critter Carousel
  • A Liberty Square themed floor with the Hall of Presidents, Liberty Bell replica, Sleepy Hollow dark ride and Harbour House restaurant.


  • An Alice in Wonderland themed floor with Alice in Wonderland dark ride, Mad Tea Party teacup ride, Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall restaurant, and Cards maze
  • A Toon Town themed floor with Roger Rabbit Dark ride, Jolly Trolley, Gadgets Go Coaster and dining
  • A Dumbo themed floor with Dumbo spinner, Casey Jr Ride, and Dumbo Circus show
  • A Winnie the Pooh floor with Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, Hunny Pot teacup style ride, Thoughtful Spot play area, and restaurant
  • A princess themed floor with Fairytale Princess Hall, Snow White's Scary Adventures ride, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Carousel, and Royal Banquet Hall
  • A Nightmare Before Christmas themed floor with dark ride, Oogie Boogie show, and dining hall
  • The previously discussed Mermaid Lagoon


  • A Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger themed floor with Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, the Alien Swirling Saucer whip ride, a Pizza Planet restaurant, and Space Ranger Training
  • A Star Wars themed floor with Jedi Training, Star Tours (one or two simulators), and cantina, with some Galaxies Edge style shops
  • A Marvel themed floor with the Iron Man experience from Hong Kong, Ant-Man and the Wasp Nano battle, SHIELD training, and Stark Exposition
  • A Tron themed floor with End of the Line bar/restaurant, Tron racers, and VOID VR experience.

These are just a few of the types of themes that could be explored through the different Worlds of Disney.  The goal would be to appropriately mix the floors such that one floor would have a show as its central experience, one floor would have a signature dark ride and smaller attraction, one floor would have multiple flat ride attractions, etc.  There would also be the possibility that each Worlds of Disney location could have one signature E Ticket attraction with an entrance in the main building with the E Ticket show building behind.  Something like a Pirates of the Caribbean or Space Mountain. (Though this would be rare as it would be more likely to cannibalize from the anchor Disney resorts).

It provides a lot of different options, all with nostalgia built in and frees Disney up to put these in less obvious locations.

For example, one vision I have is for Disney to have a bigger presence in New York City.  The company was vital in the re-development of Times Square and I can envision creating a series of experiences that could create a grand Disney vacation package to the city.  Disney's Grand Metropolitan hotel.  Disney on Broadway tours with behind the scenes access to Aladdin at the New Amsterdam, which Disney owns.  ABC Studios tour.  Worlds of Disney New York City, with a new York themed entry floor.  It could be an incredible package.

These Worlds of Disney could go into locations like Chicago, Seattle, Phoenix, Columbus, Nashville, etc.

The combination of these two types of offerings could help draw regional crowds and appease guests Disney interests in between trips to the parks in Orlando, Anaheim, and hopefully Texas.


As always, thanks for reading.  Up next in the series, the expansion of the Disney Vacation Club. A bit of a preview in some of the locations discussed in this post.

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