Disney has made plenty of mistakes when it comes to their theme parks. From building a Papparazi-themed ride at Disney California Adventure to re-theming the classic Journey Into Imagination to the universally-panned Journey into YOUR Imagination, there have been plenty of moments over Disney Parks history that have made even the most ardent fans cringe. By all accounts, 2023 went off without a hitch for Disney Parks. EPCOT got a new fireworks show, the Disney Dining Plan was confirmed to be returning, Happily Ever After came back, and the much-anticipated Tiana’s Palace restaurant opened at Disneyland. However, that all changed last November when Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuted a little event called Disney Jollywood Nights…What went wrong?
Image: DisneyDisney Jollywood Nights is a separately ticketed event that was advertised as bringing the glitz and glamour of a holiday Hollywood soiree to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on select nights from November 11 through December 20. The 4-hour event features two new stage shows, fireworks, rare character meet and greets, event-exclusive dining options, and after-hours access to rides like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, with lower wait times. The highlight of the event is Disney Holidays in Hollywood, a new show featuring Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy that is inspired by old Hollywood TV specials. While Kermit and Miss Piggy play host, characters Tiana, Belle, Mickey, and Minnie come out on stage to perform classic songs that keep the energy in the stadium up. However, though the show was a highlight of the event, most guests, particularly on the first night, found the experience underwhelming. A lack of overall Christmas decor, hour-plus waits for characters, and experiences that under-delivered (the addition of a garland on a piano at the Brown Derby doesn’t automatically turn it into a Christmas experience, and a concession-style bar doesn’t turn the courtyard in front of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into a swingin’ club) contributed to negative sentiment around this event, with some calling the separately-ticketed event (which costs between $159 and $179 per person) a scam. Why did this happen?
Image: DisneyOver the years, Disney has been focusing more and more on premium, after-hours events, which basically allow guests to pay $150 or more to experience a theme park after dark, with lower crowds. Thus far, these events have been pretty successful, which likely led to the creation of Disney Jollywood Nights. However, this event wasn’t marketed as just another after-hours event, as it was specifically targeting folks who wanted another Christmas Party-style event, with shows, themed entertainment and more.Unfortunately, it looks like Disney cut some serious corners when making this event, and hosted what is essentially an after-hours event with some extra shows, instead of something similar to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while still charging a very premium price. Will Disney learn anything from this?
Image: DisneyTo their credit, after a disastrous first night, Disney did make substantial changes to Disney Jollywood Nights, adding more character meet and greets, re-tooling some of their dining options, and increasing staffing. However, by the time these changes were made, the damage was done, and many guests opted to cancel their tickets or asked to switch them to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Because Disney is actively losing money after putting on this sub-par event, it seems very likely that this event will either be reimagined substantially or completely scrapped for 2024. Hopefully, moving forward, Disney will see that there are limits to what people will pay premium prices for, and will adjust their future offerings accordingly. 

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