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The Disney Parks Confusion

Here is a math question for all of you, taken directly from “Fundamentals
of Probability with Stochastic Processes” by Saeed Ghahramani, Dean of the
School of Arts & Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Western New England

A child gets lost in the Disneyland at the Epcot Center in Florida. The
father of the child believes that the probability of his being lost in the east
wing of the center is 0.75 and in the west wing is 0.25. The security
department sends an office to the east and an officer to the west to look for
the child. If the probability that a security officer who is looking in the
correct wing finds the child is 0.4, find the probability the child is found.

Read the first line again. Consider the references to the
layout of Epcot. Not good is it?

What this shows is two things: the universal recognition of
Disney theme parks, and the overall confusion regarding their specifics. That
is, the existence of the parks is so well known that the author decided to
reference them in the problem (without explanation), but he placed a California
theme park inside a completely different themed Florida theme park and gave
that conglomerate odd physical characteristics (wings – as if it were a single

This is just a recent example of the confusion regarding
just what the Disney Theme Parks are. For many people, Walt Disney World is the Magic Kingdom, and that is it. In fact, a
recent online discussion about ticket prices had this little gem:

Epcot has WAY better rides than Disneyworld.
And for that matter, way better food – some of the ethnic restaurants are really
pretty cool…

These two examples serve to illustrate what Disney needs to
do. They must clearly explain to the general public that Walt Disney World is
four theme parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, and more. If people would
realize the sheer amount of things there are to do at WDW, Disney might see
more people at Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and the Animal Kingdom, instead of
the large divide in attendance that we see now.

Really, that is what it is all about. There are already tons
of people going to WDW every year. The goal is to increase the length of stay,
increase on property spending, and consumption of Disney goods and services. Cheap
multi-day tickets go a long way towards achieving these goals. Services like
the Disney Dining Plan do so as well. However, to fully take advantage of these
benefits, they must be clearly broadcast to the general public.

This is one reason I do not like the “Year of a Million
Dreams” (YOAMD) commercials. While they might spark interest in Disney Theme
parks by conveying the magic of a Disney vacation, they do nothing to elucidate
what a consumer gets out of a Disney vacation. That is, there is nothing new in
them. No new ride. No new park. No new benefit. The commercials remind me of a
new venture trying to get its name out, not a company with a firm place in the
market. The difference is that the general public knows of the Disney parks,
but they don’t know the specifics (although they might think they do). The YOAMD
is an attempt to garner interest in the theme parks in general, but relies on
the consumer to consider the specifics. The commercials lack the convincing
factor for those already aware of the product.

That is not to say the commercials are necessary bad. They
are well-done and do capture a certain excitement for the Disney theme parks. Many
members of Disney Fandom will probably enjoy them. However, from a business
standpoint, they are a general, vague advertising campaign that lacks specific motives.
General campaigns can work to increase overall attendance. However, they do
little to achieve specific goals.

More attendance to the theme parks is good. However, considering
that there are tons of people visiting the theme parks that are so close to
each other, Disney needs to not only increase the overall attendance, but to
also increase the attendance of the secondary theme parks (without cannibalization).
This should really be the primary goal. Another 1,000 people a day visiting Magic Kingdom is not that big of a difference. However, if Disney can convince 60% of the
visitors that go to Magic Kingdom each day to also
go to Disney-MGM Studios, the advertising would have been phenomenally more

A vague advertising campaign like YOAMD is not going to do
this. What will the marketing accomplish? Who is the target consumer? How will
the product satisfy a need? The YOAMD lacks specific answers to these

Instead, specific advertising is needed. Specific
advertising for specific consumers in specific situations. The YOAMD is not
even close.

Your Thoughts?

(Oh, and the answer to the math question was 0.4)

3 thoughts on “The Disney Parks Confusion”

  1. It’s not like Disney themselves have never had issues with this. I’ve got a very nice old soundtrack CD titled “The Official Album of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and EPCOT Center”, which contains a section of tracks from Disneyland and Walt Disney World and an additional section of tracks from EPCOT.

  2. One time I saw in a old atlas for children – on the page for California, there was a picture of Cinderella’s castle with a caption about “the castle at Disneyland.” So much for accurate, geographic research!

  3. First off the YOMD, I think is a silly gambling gimic. That’s right, what do raffles, lottery tickets, and slots have in common: Someone wins big “Cinderella hotel night” because most loose. Those 365 winners are staying there because Disney isn’t spending that money on other park activities.

    I think it is a mistake because people already have rediculously high expectations for their trips. When they see the person in front of them get a “special” fastpass they will be disspapointed it wasn’t them. Everyone can’t win, right?

    Yeah I think I’ll book a five thousand dollar trip becuase there were 15,million guests last year so that gets me a one in 41,095 chance to stay in the castle. Where is my credit card.

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