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Grad Nites Flunk Out, Disney World to End Near 40 Year Tradition

Remember when you were young and you didn’t walk and wash your dog? Then your mom would tell you, if you don’t walk and wash your own dog I’m going to give it away? This would go on for weeks and eventually you either started to take care of your dog yourself, or your parents would just capitulate. Well that’s not what happened this time. This time Mom really did give the dog away.

Indeed Walt Disney World says that this year is the last year for Grad Nites at the resort. The tradition that was borrowed from Disneyland in 1972, the first spring for the Magic Kingdom, had been a thorn in the side of Disney World for the last 10-15 years or so due to higher costs and less responsible kids.

A subset of kids at Grad Nite, and similar events (hint: if I was planning on attending future Night of Joy events I’d be worried right now), have been acting inappropriately to the point of damaging attractions and running through backstage areas. Even if it was just a subset of attendees, it was a growing problem.

Complaints about the value of the event have also been rising. Add to that Disney’s recent reduction in entertainment at the event and an unsuccessful experiment of moving Grad Night to DHS in 2009, and the writing was on the wall. Disney says the move was purely a fiscal reason, but it was most likely a combination of a number of factors.

While I think it’s sad a tradition is going away, as a non-grad nite guest, I can tell you I’ll be happier having those few spring weekend evenings back. There was nothing so frustrating as showing up at the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday afternoon and seeing the closing at 6pm sign. I don’t have that problem anymore, since I have a phone app that tells me what crowds are like in the parks and park schedules, but I still appreciate having another choice on which park to visit at night.

Universal Orlando is not canceling their Grad Bash so those students who want a dedicated event can continue with that tradition. Disneyland will continue their event as well. Otherwise, I think Disney World’s plan to offer a lower price ticket for individual grad groups to mix-in with current park crowds is a fine idea. Perhaps throw in a nightly something at Downtown Disney during the traditional grad night season and you have a great mix. Grads get more hours in the park with their friends and still have the opportunity for some memorable fun.

(photo credit: Elvissa on Flickr)

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8 thoughts on “Grad Nites Flunk Out, Disney World to End Near 40 Year Tradition”

  1. That’s too bad. I was looking forward to taking my daughter in a couple of years. More proof that kids are not being taught right from wrong and ruining the fun for the rest of us.

  2. A sign of the times, and how sad it is.

    I knew this day would finally come, teenagers don;t want to go to the magic kingdom for grad night. They would rather go to universal or go off on there own and get drunk. This is just one toward disney’s fall in the near future. I truly do believe that disney is going to have a hard time competing in the next 10 plus years. Kids are changing and are subjected to violence and more sexual content then they were back in the day.

    People who were in the love with the brand will die off, and take the brand with them. I sadly think with in the next decade it will all be about universal six flags and places like dubai land! once that place opens it’s all over twice the size of WDW and it is going to feature some of the most innovative ride experiences ever. It’s a good thing I sold off my DVC seen as how it will be obsolete before it’s up I bought a great time share right near universal I figure I will get my monies worth with a more reputable company that actually innovates and listens to the people! Disney is shooting themselves in the foot and caused there own demise!

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  5. In reply to Frank’s comment:

    Wow – that’s an extreme view of things. And one that is possibly completely false. Disney has been around for 83 years now (using the starting date of 1923) and I don’t see why all of a sudden would become obsolete. They continue to use innovative technologies and ways for guests immerse themselves in the parks. Yes, this Dubai Land may have more thrill rides (I have never heard of this), but does it have the magic, the guest experience, the quality service, that Disney can provide? Probably not. Disney has become a part of the American culture. The movies are still loved by each new generation of children.

    Yes, children are changing. As a student of mass communications, I know all too well the effects of what we are showing on television and in movies on children. They are exposed to more adult things at an earlier age, and some can’t handle it which makes them less mature and unable to behave properly. Yet, I’d say that it isn’t the majority of children and/or teenagers who are like that. I think it’s a hand-full that is ruining it for the rest.

    As for young people not caring about Disney anymore, I consider myself a young person and I care about the company a lot! I also have tons of friends who feel the same way. Our favorite place in the world is Walt Disney World, and I don’t think we would let it become obsolete!

    Sure, the older generation of fans may be getting even older and, as you so bluntly put it, will “die off” soon. But, I’m still young (a whopping 20 years old!), and I don’t plan on dying off quite yet, and for the next 50+ years of my life, I know I’ll still be a Disney fan.

  6. Back in the ’90s I was a Magic Kingdom Guest Relations Host who organized two consecutive Grad Nite events with an amazing Team of fellow Guest Relations Cast Members. We worked out of an office building in the Village, contacting shcools, organizing the entertainment, worked with Costuming to have alternate clothes for kids who didn’t show up in appropriate attire, and of course, worked closely with Security in planning the entire event. Although there were challenges, the events were successful. I am sorry to see Grad Nites go. They were complicated events, full of comprehensive planning, yet we always felt great when it was said and done.

    Park Guests would, indeed, be unhappy to see the Park close early on nights of the event — regardless of signs posted at TTC, the other Parks, in hotel rooms — throughout the Resort. It would come as somewhat of a surprise to them (because who ever reads signs?).

    However, times change. I do not recall kids ending up backstage. Short of amorous activities on some of the Attractions, I do not recall specific damage being done to them. Sad that such things should happen with the passing of time. What had once been a tradition will be but a memory. I am grateful to have been a part of that memory, and look back with fondness (if not exhaustion — Cast Members working the event were often on close to 24-hour shifts).

    Time to move on. Mixing the kids with Park Guests is a good idea in the long run. Normal Ops as it were. However, again, sad to see a long tradition fall to the wayside due to the irresponsible behavior exhibited during the event. Always a bad apple in the bunch. Sad and unfortunate. Grad Nite will now become what it was intended to be: a memory — a memory that will forever more be on a permanent basis.

  7. This is pretty sad. Growing up in Florida, everybody I know looked forward to Grad Nite. I have some incredibly fond memories of our bus ride up there, our time at the park and the ride home. Truly something that graduates were excited to do.

    Having worked at Walt Disney World during several Grad Nites, there were a few situations of kids run amuck, but most of them were incredibly nice, very respectful and happy to be there. Disney took pretty significant precautions to ensure nothing too serious happened, such has have attractions cast members staffed in larger show scenes where it was typical for kids to get out of rides, etc. It was still pretty rare that kids did anything serious.

    This seems like just a cost-cutting move designed to save money when they could be keeping the park open later for paying guests, who spend money on food and merchandise.

  8. In Response to B

    Though I commend you for your defense, you have to realize that it’s all about thrill rides and harry potter! People want harry potter and Lord of the rings lands, and disney doesn’t have the rights to any of those, yes disney has been around for 83 years and that is a great accomplishment. However things are so different now and social culture is shifting, you said you work in media so you should know.

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