New Magic Kingdom ‘Welcome Show’
In case you missed the news earlier this week, Walt Disney World announced that guests will now be allowed to enter the Main Street, U.S.A. area of the park before the park’s scheduled opening time.
At Magic Kingdom park opening, a new welcome show will officially open the park for the day on the Castle Forecourt Stage, as a Royal Herald delivers a proclamation that “the magic can begin!” while joined by characters on stage. In addition to this new show, Main Street Bakery will open early.
We’re late to the punch on this one, and that’s because, frankly, I didn’t really consider this news worth reporting. Based on fan response, I guess I’ve been ‘proven’ wrong. That response is what I find interesting, so I thought I’d take a few moments to offer my thoughts…
First of all, there are legitimate operational and safety reasons that motivated this permanent change. (It’s our understanding that this new show is not temporary during the upcoming railroad refurbishment–that’s wishful thinking on the part of fans given the coincidental refurbishment timing.)
If you’ve ever been for the current Welcome Show on a busy day, you know this area in front of the Train Station can get really crowded and downright uncomfortable. It can get so bad that it’s difficult–or nearly impossible–for more guests to enter through the turnstiles, and the whole area from the Train Station back through security checkpoints can get backed up.
Given that, and irrespective of all else, I can understand Disney’s rationale for making this decision. Moreover, I applaud the decision to introduce a new Welcome Show on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. The current show is a nice little moment that many guests like to start their day, and it would be aggravating to totally eliminate that without any replacement.
With that said, I can understand being saddened by the change. For many guests I’m sure this Train Station Welcome Show has become tradition–a way they start every day in Magic Kingdom. People hold nostalgia for the current show, and it will be sad for them to have their tradition end.
What troubles me is the outcry and actual outrage over the change. The line between being sad and being outraged is not a fine one. Being sad and understanding that change is necessary/important for the parks are not mutually exclusive concepts. People can be upset about this, but also understand it’s how things go. (To be sure, I think this is the reaction of most guests who are upset about the change.)
There are also people who are actually outraged, as if their vacation will somehow be ruined by this. There are also people cursing Disney, declaring that this change is only being made in the name of increasing profits. I want to address each of these reactions in turn…
First, let’s not pretend the current show is some masterpiece of themed entertainment. This is not tantamount to replacing Tower of Terror or some other iconic attraction with a thoughtless movie tie-in.
The current show is a quick smile and wave show featuring favorite characters arriving on the train and a family of the day. It is enjoyable, but most of what makes it ‘special’ to any individual guest is the imputed significance from memories and experiences formed around the show. It’s the start of an exciting day in Magic Kingdom–of course a lot of people are going to have good memories surrounding it.
Unless the replacement show in front of Cinderella Castle manages to be an inexplicable train wreck with Jar Jar Banks and Ivan Vanko showing up to attack Mickey Mouse, it’s probably going to be a similar show of comparable substance and quality.
As such, a wait and see approach strikes me as the right one in this situation. Over time, most guests will form new special memories and nostalgia around this new show.
Second, the ‘cash grab’ argument. It’s possible this move might make Disney additional money thanks to food, beverage, and merchandise sales. That’s not certain, though. In fact, history suggests otherwise…
I say that because the new practice of opening Main Street early is how things used to be done (meet the new way, same as the old way…). The switch to the Train Station Welcome Show was made post-9/11 (sometime ~2002-03 when attendance was down), reportedly as a cost-savings measure so Magic Kingdom would not have to staff Main Street early.
My childhood memories of rope drop at Magic Kingdom all involve an actual rope drop (hence the name) to the various lands. The old (and soon to be new, again) way of doing things at Magic Kingdom is how Disneyland and Disneyland Paris still do rope drop. It wasn’t until I was an adult that the Train Station Welcome Show became a thing.
So, it’s possible that this will be more profitable (especially given the addition of Starbucks to Main Street), but it’s also possible that it won’t. In any case, some of the best decisions Disney makes are mutually beneficial: for it as a company and for us as guests. I have a hard time believing that this won’t benefit most guests.
With the current Welcome Show, many guests rush around to leave their hotel room as early as possible, choosing between either waking up at the crack of dawn for breakfast or skipping it in a rush to get out of the room and arrive at Magic Kingdom as early as possible. They then stand around in front of the Train Station for ~30 minutes, doing nothing while waiting for the park to open.
With the new show and procedure, guests arriving early will be able to multi-task, having some of their party grab spots for the show (or line up at the ropes leading to each land), and others head to grab breakfast. Likewise, those guests will also be able to capture (uncrowded) family photos on Main Street and in front of Cinderella Castle while they wait, instead of rushing into the park and facing the dilemma of getting those photos or racing to popular attractions.
From my perspective, that’s a win-win for Disney and guests at best. At worst, it’s a win for just guests if the cost of staffing Main Street early still outweighs the revenue generated. Arguably the only potential loser (in terms of guests) is those with 8 a.m. breakfast ADRs who used to get empty park photos on Main Street, but I’m guessing Main Street is still going to be pretty empty right at 8 a.m. Most guests are not going to show up an hour early for rope drop–they’ll arrive at 8:30 a.m. or later.
While I think outrage is an inappropriate reaction to this, it’s not all that surprising. I believe this reaction is in large part due to a younger/newer generation of Disney guests now reaching the point in their ‘journey’ as fans when elements of the Walt Disney World experience around which they formed memories are starting to change (we saw similar reactions to Celebrate the Magic being replaced by the superior Once Upon a Time). As someone who has seen a lot of the things I grew up with at Walt Disney World over the years change or be retired, I can empathize with these people. I can also offer this piece of advice: try to separate out personal attachment and emotion when thinking about and discussing changes. There is nothing wrong with viewing Disney’s decisions with a critical eye (to the contrary: it’s healthy and good), but when everything is viewed through the lens of nostalgia, you are more inclined to be unduly critical of change. When you’re critical of everything, you render your voice meaningless as someone who constantly complains. Just as not all change is good, not all change is bad.
I agree with most of your post here.
There will be things about the welcome show that I will miss, but I think there are plenty of ways in which this change can be very good.
I will admit that I missed the welcome show when I visited Disneyland last year, but having grown up going to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, this kind of reminds me of their practice of letting visitors into the England portion of the park for an hour or so prior to the rest of the park opening. That area became an even more important focal point for customer service and filling guest needs without really losing any of its thematic charm. If you had forgotten to bring film, for example (in the olden days when the stuff was widely used), you tended to realize it before most of the park opened and you could buy some right there.
I will disagree with the idea that the show they put on the castle stage can get by with being relatively cursory. The current welcome show has the advantage of that real train rolling in during it and it seems to me that you need quite a lot to give equal entertainment value. One of the things I have really liked about the current show is its thematic connection with Main Street U.S.A. Quite a lot of guests rush through this part of the park on their way to one of the mountains or whatever else is on their minds and Main Street often gets short shrift. The Welcome show was one sure way to offer those thematics at the start of your day even if you were then rushing to Space Mountain first thing.
I’ll be interested to see how Main Street deals with this change overall. Will the vehicles show up right after the opening show on the castle stage? Will the citizens be there to greet you prior to it? Will the scheduling of the Trolley show and the Dapper Dans change at all? I’ll be paying close attention to these elements so I can plan appropriately before my next trip in April.
Well, I just watched the new welcome show on the castle stage as posted online by ITM and I gotta say that it was pretty darn lame. 2 good touches: 1) the herald using lines from Walt’s Disneyland opening day speech 2) using the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. Unfortunately, those two things are the only good things about this new “show.” There was no singing. There was no dancing. There was no family of the day. It really can’t be called a show at all. While I was always conflicted before about whether to get way up front near the entrance where I couldn’t see the show well or not, I will have no such confusion with this. I will be 99% ignoring it and will position myself for optimal entrance to my first planned attraction. Much less magical.
I’m actually very happy for the news. I think the Train was absolutely overrated. It really was just a 3 minute show where most people just broke their necks trying to figure out something going on up there.
And the crowds, even on easy days, became a little bit too much on the entrance.
I do embrace the change, and I find going though main street at a slow pace, looking at everything (Xmas time has some very nice decoration worth the time looking around) in the meanwhile might be a great thing, differnt from rushing through it to get to the attractions.
a very welcomed change…
I think the word you were looking for was “entitlement.” A large majority of WDW Guests don’t want THEIR experiences changed. Who cares about anyone else’s experience, its only about THEM. I don’t see that attitude changing anytime soon as WDW and DLR seems more and more to be catering to the more wealthy population with out pricing the rest of us. All of your points are 100% spot on, and can be applied to many situations and changes in the Theme Park industry. Nowadays its all about being damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
The pre-park-opening empty main street photos are a thing of the past anyway. My first experience was when there were only CRT and CP people in the park early and that did lead to a pretty empty mainstreet. But now that they’ve added BOG breakfast and early morning magic there’s a pretty big 7:45 am crush of people waiting to get in for the PPO breakfast etc reservations. When I was there in October it felt like a mini-rope drop, very different than the relaxed experience of years earlier when it felt like we were the only ones at the park. Hmmm…maybe I should be in a rage over that….I’m ambivalent about the opening show changes because we almost never see it anyway.
I thought having the characters arrive on the train was a nice thematic touch– as if they were actually commuting in from Toontown for the day– and I’ll miss that in a show set at the castle.
But outrage over it? I just can’t see that. While that was a nice touch, it was otherwise a pretty minimal show. Being on the castle stage– designed to support more elaborate shows– will offer advantages that could allow the new version to be a better show than the current one, even if it’s still a short/simple intro to the day.
I love this show – mostly for nostalgic reasons, as nearly all of my visits to the magic kingdom during my childhood started with the rope drop show. Part of me wishes that they would continue it, as it’s a charming way to start the day, but I completely understand why they’re changing it for logistical reasons. For all the fear mongerers out there, there’s this brilliant thing called YouTube…and the 4 Parks, 1 World cd! 😉
Tom, I do not know what you mean that change can sometimes be for the better.
On our one and only visit when I was a kid, we had to hike in from the back of the parking lot, 6 miles in the rain and snow, uphill both ways.
I could argue this either way. As a family that has been picked to open the park twice, I have a lot of fond memories of the show and I can’t hear that opening song without thinking of Disney (there’s a local commercial that uses it too and it brings a smile to my face each time). But that said, we’re there so early we’re under the train tracks and never really see the show, we only hear it. And we have been to Disneyland when Main Street is open and I prefer the lands rope drop. I can’t imagine how bad the line will be at Starbucks with this change! It feels like a lot has changed recently so I get that people may feel like it’s all too fast or not for the better but it’s supposed to keep evolving.
What about Mickey attacking Jar Jar?? THAT would be entertaining 🙂
Mixed feelings about this. My all time favorite family Disney moment came when we got in early for a Cinderella breakfast with our small kids, and we practically had all of Main Street to ourselves (a year after 9/11). But, it does make sense to lighten up the crowds, and I never was a fan of the train welcome.
I got adr at be our guest for the 10th. The only reason we did this was for the relaxed vibe! We were hoping for knocking out 7 dwarves mine train as soon as opening and getting good castle pics. I still think it will be good, but we are spending extra money we normally wouldn’t on a sub par breakfast. I am kind of bummed.
I can only go to WDW every other year as I live in Australia so I have no concept of what it must be like for those who visit there often and probably have much deeper connection to these things. For me, I have no choice but to get used to change. December 2015 was my first and so far, only visit to WDW and as it turned out, I got to see my first (and last) Osbourne lights, Lights Motors Action, Captain EO and Sum of All Thrills to mention just a few. Now, the Welcome Show is to go. I am sad that I won’t get to see these again but not because of tradition. No, it’s because they are all very good and they made my first memories of WDW amazing! However, the infrequency of my visits also means I will get to see something new every time I go to WDW. I’m going back in September 2017 and I am so looking forward to the ‘new’ with Pandora, Rivers of Light, Frozen and a new experience for me ….. EPCOT Food and Wine Festival. I video everything!! This preserves my memories of those things that will pass into the pages of history. I can always revisit them and smile. Exactly what I will do when it comes to the Welcome Show.
As an avid rope-dropper at my home park DL (full disclosure I haven’t been to WDW in a LONG time); I actually get upset on the rare occasions when DL doesn’t have it’s “stuff” together and doesn’t open Main Street at least a few minutes early. I depend on those 15-20 minutes to: go to the bathroom; get coffee; put my stuff in a locker; and browse the Main Street shops so I know what’s there as opposed to other gift shops in the park. Overall, it just helps me feel more prepared/relaxed for my day.
Hi Tom, I’ve been attached to your blog in prep for our first trip to WDW! We are running the half marathon Saturday and the 9th is the day we visit Magic Kingdom! It will be exciting to see the first show there. Do premieres like this usually draw higher crowds for the entire day?
A couple of points. One, opening Main Street before “park opening” is how they do things at D Land currently so it is no big deal to me. Second, The Welcome show wasn’t going to be the same for me after they dropped Scoop Sanderson. He was a regular host of the event and is what made it special for me.
I live in Orlando and I finally saw the welcome show on October 1st of this year. When it was over I was “That’s it? That’s what I’ve been hearing about all these years?” Underwhelming to me at the very least. I expected more….(and especially since it was the 45th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom. ) In the Disney facebook groups I belong to the most up in arms people seem to be (as you pointed out above) the ones that snag early ADR’s just to get pictures of an empty main street and castle area. I’m looking forward to checking out the show in the New Year!
Great perspective! After hearing the announcement, it never even occurred to me that there would be any outrage over this decision. I did feel some minor disappointment that I won’t see the quaint train station opening again, but I love the idea of being able to avoid the crowded pen feeling that sometimes happened on busy days. And being able to grab a coffee and a quick but to eat during a leisurely stroll up an uncrowded main street will be an absolute treat!
*bite to eat. I hope no one visiting Disney is having but for breakfast! 😉
I’m grateful that you chimed in. When I saw the news released, I was taken aback by the vehemence of many responses!
I’m interested in trying to figure out the logistics, in preparation for an April trip (I know I have time, since it’s starting January 9, but I’m trying to sort meal reservations). Is there any information about what time Main Street itself will open? So, for example, if you get to the park at 7:45 for an 8:00 ADR, will you be able to just walk right in, all the way to Cinderella’s castle? Or will they still be “holding” people at the turnstiles until a certain point, and then open Main Street (a kind of phased opening), and then rope drop from the castle after the opening show?
I am one of those who really liked morning ADRs in order to get “empty park photos”. There’s no benefit to a pre-park opening reservation (for me), if that’s no longer a help. But I am interested in your thought that Main Street will still be rather empty if you get there early enough… I hope you and others will report back after the change to see whether or not that’s the case!
My guess–and this is just a guess–is that everyone will be allowed in at the same time, and just those with ADRs will be allowed past the ropes blocking off the various lands.
At Disneyland Paris, this is how it works with Extra Magic Hours. Everyone is allowed in the park, but only those who are eligible for EMH are allowed past the ropes (by showing a hotel key or valid AP) by Cast Members. I’m not sure how WDW will distinguish between those with ADRs and those without (wristbands at the turnstiles?) but I suspect they’ll figure something out.
Or, I could be entirely wrong in these assumptions. I guess we’ll find out Jan 9!
Well stated….. All the “true” Disney fans need to spare us the fake outrage……. As an actual Disney fan, people need to realize the parks are always changing, and will never stay the same. Actually you stated it best in your Honeymoon Trip report quote:
“On occasion, I am critical of Team Disney Orlando, and whether they are actually working in the best interests of the parks. Experiences like this make me realize that I over-analyze this. No matter what snide remarks people make insinuating that others’ judgment is clouded because of “pixie dust,” I don’t think anyone is obligated to base all of their opinions of a theme park on pure or sound rationality. I have an emotional connection to the parks. Certainly that is going to prejudice my opinion a bit or minimally, be the basis for some opinions. While I am normally a highly analytical person, there are sometimes when you just need to “turn it off” and realize there is no reason to nitpick (or if it really is so terrible, cut your losses and move on). Walt Disney World is amazing. Barring a substantial departure from the status quo, it will be amazing for years to come. “
Ironically, you could use that quote to either contradict this post or support it, depending upon which sentences you choose to emphasize. 😉
While I don’t recall what ‘experience’ to which I was referring when writing that, I more or less still agree with that sentiment. I also would stress the “sometimes” [sic] in the statement about turning off the desire to nitpick. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being critical, it just needs to be tempered by an understanding of the necessity for change.
Once the Brickers earn posthumous recognition as ‘Disney Greats for services to Seinfeld’, perhaps future generations will see selective excerpts of that quote on construction walls around the World; including the one for “The American SNACKventre” coming to World Showcase and replacing a former attraction that only old fogeys go to see.
(Actually, that sounds like a rad attraction…).
Thank you for this! This is the type of article/analysis that I was trying to convey that I wanted more of when you asked for your reader feedback.
I’ve also noticed that the Disney fandom is just starting to complain about most changes, even if they are changes for the better. I feel this will be a win for guests and couldn’t understand the hate circulating on social media.
Please continue to write and analyze Disney news and the fan reaction to it!
The only reason I didn’t write about this earlier was because, when I read this on the Parks Blog, it did not strike me as ‘big’ news. Clearly, I was wrong.