Disney Parks have always been the embodiment of magic, enchantment, and nostalgia for millions of visitors worldwide. However, as times change and Disney seeks to evolve and adapt, it has made several controversial decisions in its various theme parks.
Many fans do not want to see Disney change its classic and original attractions while others feel Disney should always be changing to accommodate current times.
Some changes have been met with excitement, while others have sparked intense debates among fans and the general public. In this article, we will explore 10 of the most controversial changes made at the Disney Parks.
In this article:
Alcohol in the Parks
Back in the earliest days of Disneyland, Walt Disney was extremely against the presence of alcohol at the park, saying: “No liquor, no beer, nothing. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don’t want, and I feel they don’t need it.”
Because Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are considered “family-friendly” parks, they did not introduce alcohol for quite some time. We have seen alcohol be a problem in other Disney parks such as EPCOT, so many guests disprove the addition of alcohol to these parks.
More recently, alcohol has been added to the menus of Disneyland restaurants other than Oga’s Cantina (a bar in Galaxy’s Edge) and Blue Bayou. This raises the question if alcohol will become more readily available at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Right now, the only place to get alcohol in Magic Kingdom is the table service restaurants. Some guests claim that Walt Disney would not have wanted this and are worried that the addition of more alcohol to the parks will have a negative impact.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
In 2017, Disney California Adventure made a daring move by replacing the beloved Twilight Zone Tower of Terror with a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride. The decision did not sit well with fans of the original attraction, who were attached to its eerie, vintage charm. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was famous for its elaborate storytelling and unique drop sequence, making it a favorite among visitors.
The Marvel makeover led to widespread disappointment and a sense of loss for many longtime Disney enthusiasts. However, in recent years, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! has become a California Adventure staple and is now even considered by many to be one best rides at Disneyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean Alterations
The classic Pirates of the Caribbean ride, featured at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, received some changes aimed at making the attraction less controversial and more politically correct. The infamous “bride auction” scene, depicting women being sold to pirates, was removed from the ride.
In 2018, this scene was changed from auctioning off a woman named Redd, to Redd doing the auctioning herself as she oversees the sale of the townspeople’s prized possessions. These alterations stirred debates among parkgoers, some of whom saw the changes as erasing a part of Disney history, while others believed it was a necessary step to address a deeply problematic scene.
The Introduction of Disney Genie+
In 2021, Disney announced the discontinuation of the FastPass system and the introduction of Disney Genie+ Lightning Lanes. The paid Genie+ system allows visitors to access Lightning Lane entrances once per each attraction per day to bypass the long standby lines. This change also introduced Individual Lightning Lanes, where guests can purchase Lightning Lane entry separately for the most highly demanded attractions, with pricing varying by date and attraction.
The introduction of Genie+ raised questions about the accessibility of popular rides and the overall cost of visiting Disney Parks, as some visitors worried about the increased expense. It also created confusion amongst guests on how to use this system, which made them feel at a disadvantage when trying to plan their trips.
Cinderella Castle Paint Job
For Disney’s 50th Anniversary, the castle was repainted from its iconic blue and gray color scheme to a pink and blue color scheme with a gold trim and a 50th medallion. Many fans took this change to heart and expressed their extreme distaste for the new colors, while other fans expressed their enthusiasm about the new changes.
When changing an icon like Cinderella Castle, it is important to consider fans’ opinions to ensure the change is perceived positively. Unfortunately, this change was not received well at the time and still gets complaints to this day, even with the 50th anniversary being over and the decorations being taken down.
Frozen Ever After’s Takeover of Norway Pavilion
One of the most talked-about changes in EPCOT’s history is the replacement of the Maelstrom ride with Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion. The decision to integrate a Frozen-themed attraction in a World Showcase pavilion ignited heated debates. Many visitors felt that it compromised the educational and cultural aspects of World Showcase. However, others enjoyed the addition of a popular and highly marketable IP (Intellectual Property) to the park.
Splash Mountain to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
The closure and retheming of Splash Mountain, though expected for many years, still shocked guests and continues to be a point of controversy throughout the construction of the reimagined ride.
While some people argue that Splash Mountain needed a retheme due to its story originating from the movie The Song of the South which consists of many racial insensitivities, others believe that this ride was a classic piece of Disney history and should not have been re-themed.
We have seen Disney’s commitment to inclusion in recent years, and this is just one example of what they are willing to do to ensure all guests feel included and supported. The reimagined ride is set to open in 2024, and you can read more details about it in our guide to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Lost Holiday Traditions
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was a holiday staple at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that took place in the now-defunct Streets of America.
In 2016, the Streets of America were closed to make way for a large expansion to the parks—Galaxy’s Edge. Though many fans enjoy and love Galaxy’s Edge, there seems to be an overwhelming sense of loss around the holiday season for fans of the Osbourne Lights.
Cinderella Castle has been adorned with beautiful Christmas lights for the holiday season since 2007, but in recent years, “Cinderella’s Dream Lights” has not taken place. The last showing was in 2019 and has since seemed to be replaced with holiday projections on the castle. This has led fans to wonder if Cinderella’s Dream Lights are permanently discontinued or just not being shown for the time being. Disney’s lack of response to these questions has also sparked some controversy and frustration. We just saw the new projection show at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party.
Park Reservation System
The pandemic led to many changes within the Disney Parks, with one of the main ones being the addition of the Park Reservation system.
This system requires guests to book a reservation for the specific park they want to attend during their visit. It limits the amount of reservations you can make and which parks you can attend due to capacity.
This system is extremely frustrating for annual passholders, who are not able to make reservations for certain parks on certain days. It has also led to many guests being turned away at the parks due to not having reservations before their trip on a busy day. Though the need to manage capacity was completely valid during the pandemic, many guests wonder why this system has been prolonged even in the later stages of the pandemic.
Overreliance on Intellectual Properties
One of the more widely disputed changes in Disney Parks is the addition of existing Intellectual Properties in the parks. Whether it be the addition of Big Hero 6 at Disneyland or the retheming of the rooms at the Contemporary Resort to the Incredibles, this issue is a big complaint of Disney guests right now.
Many Disney fans remember when Disney came up with original stories or concepts for the parks and hate the changes, while others appreciate the addition of their favorite movies and characters. Some believe Disney is losing its unique forms of magic by relying solely on IP and not original theme park stories.
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