While every attraction faces unplanned minor issues from time to time, the back-to-back-to-back major issues at the Magic Kingdom shows something bigger is happening. The Magic Kingdom remains the most visited theme park in the world, and many of its rides are some of the most ridden attractions ever built. The constant daily grind means these attractions see more unexpected downtimes than similarly-functioning attractions at other parks, in part because those attractions incorporate more planned downtime.
"Refurbishments generally aren’t felt as much at Disneyland as they can be at Disney World because each of Disneyland’s parks have more attractions than each of the parks at Disney World," explained Dusty Sage, CEO of Disney watchdog site MiceChat.com. "That means the temporary closure of an E-Ticket at Disneyland doesn’t cause as much impact on guests (or the wait times of other attractions) as the closure of a major ride at Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios."
The story is in the numbers. Here are the numbers of official rides at the Disney parks in Orlando and California:
Walt Disney World Rides: 51
• Magic Kingdom: 25
• Epcot: 9
• Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8
• Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9
Disneyland Resort Rides: 54
• Disneyland Park: 36
• Disney California Adventure: 18
"All rides have a regular refurbishment schedule that is budgeted. But from time to time, show conditions require that those schedules be sped up or possibly slowed down," says Sage, to accommodate the closure of other nearby attractions. He also notes that many of Disneyland’s attractions are older, some working since 1955, and require much more upkeep. Then there is Florida's extreme weather, which requires more exterior refurbishment.
universal budget cuts that have riddled Disney Parks, despite their record-breaking profits. It’s still unclear if former Disney Parks president and now CEO of the Walt Disney Company Bob Chapek will continue the cost-cutting initiatives he’s been credited with up until this point. After a round of budget cuts in 2016, Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider stated, such cuts will continue until guests begin voting with their wallets.
"The only way that Disney will back off cuts at its U.S. resorts will be if those cuts result in losses for the company," said Niles. "Ultimately, the parks' direction is ... determined by the decisions of Disney's theme park customers."
The issue in Orlando also seems linked to a decrease in preventative maintenance. From animatronics having their parts fall off during the middle of a show, to having multiple rides break down within the same week, its clear that the Orlando parks aren’t seeing the same level of maintenance quality they once did. This is also despite the parks operating for fewer hours per day. Many have faulted Chapek for the budget cuts across the parks division.
Disney insider Jim Hill has pointed to Spaceship Earth’s rumored two-and-a-half-year downtime now being bumped up to only a few months, as Disney becomes more unwilling to see iconic attractions, like Haunted Mansion or the monorails, being down for the months to years required to address many of the issues they face.
Without that willingness to close the attractions for extended downtime, it will likely mean park attractions will see more shorter, unscheduled downtimes as a band-aid. With shareholders more worried about the next quarter versus the next decade, that type of piecemeal approach will likely continue – until it becomes financially clear to Disney that it cannot.