There’s just too much happening in the 43 square miles of Walt Disney World to notice the instant that EVERYTHING changes. So I can’t say with certainty that the turkey leg prices are new. Maybe they are just “new to me.” I don’t normally buy the things; though, oddly, I had my first one in a decade only perhaps two months ago. But I happened to buy mine at Islands of Adventure.
WDW’s turkey legs now cost $9.75 – the price strikes me as high. You, too? It’s the cost of a theme park burger, for crying out loud! In 2005, the price was $6.50; if you assume the cost should have risen with inflation, that $6.50 turkey leg should cost $7.19 by 2010 (using the inflation calculator on westegg.com)
$10 turkey legs. $0 upkeep and maintenance of the ODV Cart
So it’s not your imagination. WDW really is getting more expensive, and it’s not just inflation. I’m not going to deny there’s an element of greed and money-grabbing in this move. There must be. But still, the scale of the climb is a bit breathtaking. Is there anything behind it?
Turns out, there is. Look around the Outdoor Vending (ODV) cart and you’ll discover a second sign. Like the price hike, this one might have been around for ages and I just never noticed, but then again I’m not the target audience. It’s for tourists staying at Disney hotels and using the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), you see.
All too common in WDW - I’m trying not to look at the grease smears on the glass.
As the sign points out, you can now use the DDP for a turkey leg “meal.” This will cause rejoicing among some tourists. I know the turkey legs have their fans. But others may see a more ominous future implied by this move.
What came to my mind first is that the price hike might be related to the customer quest for value. If you’re on the DDP, you feel like you haven’t been ripped off if your meal would have cost $15 to buy out of pocket. But you might feel ripped off if your meal would have only cost $9. Solution? An artificial price hike to make it seem like your DDP purchase was a wise move. Unfortunately, it punishes those people NOT on the DDP with higher actual prices.
This also cheapens the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) entitlement of the DDP. If you’re using the QSR DDP, what you think you’ll get it burgers and fries, but now apparently turkey legs is added to the mix. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that if this sort of thing is considered acceptable by the DDP users, they will expand the project. Meaning that your DDP might in the future pay for carts rather than restaurants—the restaurants, even burger joints—might become saved for a higher level of DDP than the QSR one. Funny. Not too long ago, there was only one DDP. The price you paid included appetizer, dessert, and gratuity. They chipped away at what’s included (no more gratuity, no more appetizer) and redefined that old price as the QSR version of the DDP… that was nothing more than a stealth price hike.
Something similar is happening with the move to ODV, especially if they expand it and start closing down QSR restaurants. A reduction in services and choices is tantamount to a price hike. But hold on. “Start” closing down QSR restaurants would mean doing something new. The reality is, they are already closing them down. Remember Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station? It’s not open all the time these days. Despite its recent rehab, Tortuga Tavern still is closed on many non-peak days. The Adventureland Veranda is long gone. So is the canteen in the fort on Tom Sawyer Island.
It’s expensive to run a restaurant, even a QSR one. You have to staff it with 15-40 people. An ODV cart, by contrast, is run by 1-2 people.
Back in the late 90s in Disneyland, they expected a restaurant to run about $70 sales per labor hour. But an ODV cart was expected to generate $120 sales per each hour of labor. So not only does it require fewer people, an ODV cart looks better on the margin than its restaurant cousin. You get more leverage out of each person. You can see why Disneyland shifted to a cart-heavy (and restaurant-lighter) approach during the Paul Pressler era in Anaheim. It was all-around better on the financial end of things.
The problem is, it’s not better on the customer service end of things. I’m not anti-ODV; there’s a use for carts to sell the kind of food and drink that you want to walk with. I use them myself sometimes, and gladly so. But it’s a different story for ODV to be used for “meals,” and especially different to EXPECT your guests to purchase their meals from carts. People want to sit and relax, to reflect on the parts of the day that have passed and plan for those that have not. A restaurant with an attached dining room (in air conditioning, please—this is Florida, after all) can do this well; an ODV cart cannot.
Let’s not forget theme. Close your eyes and imagine Aunt Polly’s, a restaurant serving mostly snacks on the Liberty Square side of Tom Sawyer Island. It’s themed well, it provides a human touch, and it’s got nice seating to enjoy your food along the river. The food service is PART of the theming and the integral overlay of various elements in the experience, thank you very much. It’s not just rides or even painted facades. It’s everything, and food is part of that.
Now imagine Aunt Polly’s closed, shuttered up without even paying the money necessary to remove the building. Instead of a human selling food and drinks here, toss in a couple of vending machines. Since people were mostly buying drinks, why not let the machine do the selling?
OK, open your eyes. Welcome to today’s Tom Sawyer Island, where indeed soda machines loom over the boarded-up Aunt Polly’s.
No, it isn’t a nightmare. (Or Six Flags.)
The seating is still there, but no one uses it much because they only have bottled drinks, rather than something to eat, during their time sitting alongside the water. Shame. And this sort of reduction by increments is going to expand if this cart thing takes hold. I’ve seen it happen at Disneyland.
Just across the water from Aunt Polly’s is that turkey leg cart which caught my attention. Right next door to the turkey leg cart is a pizza cart. And what do you know? I can use my QSR entitlement to buy a meal here, too!
If bought alone, ODV pizza is under $8. For the moment.
This is a real decline for such a premium priced resort operation, and I hope customers take the time to tell Disney that they want restaurants, not choices among food carts.
Let’s all take a moment to welcome Monorail Peach to the fleet! Built off the OTHER half of Monorails Pink and Purple (with some pieces having to be re-made using molds that themselves had to be re-created), Monorail Peach brings the total number back up to 12.
That should ease things a bit and allow for routine maintenance to again take place. That won’t help the beams, though, which are aging and need renovation (hence the early beam closures when they can).
Legoland Grand Opening
It’s here! The first theme park to open in the area since I moved here is now open to the public. Legoland is a full-day park optimized for kids 2-12.
I had a chance to visit last week during an annual passholder preview day, and wrote up the details here. This past Friday was the media day, and then Saturday was the grand opening (where they handed out commemorative Opening Day tickets to patrons on the way out). Here are a few photos from the press day:
(Above Left) Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainment, announced that not only is the water park
coming back (with a separate admission), but there would also be a LEGO-themed hotel. And a new
experience next year will allow you to build your own lego boat and float it down a stream. (Right)
Kjeld Kristiansen, grandson of the LEGO inventor, presents Adrian Jones (Legoland Florida president)
with the “Golden Brick” used to complete the park. (Below) Adrian Jones, park president, places the
final Golden Brick atop the octopus structure.
There’s a charitable art project that is going on in Orlando right now. It’s being put on by some artists at Universal Studios and many of the 80 pieces were created by people from the theme park industry.
The idea is similar to the cows on parade or Mickey 100 years events. 80 busts of Frankenstein were created and given to artist to do whatever they wanted to. They are going to be on display in downtown Orlando at the City Arts Factory on Orange Ave.
It starts this Thursday at 6pm. They are going to be either sold or auctioned off over the course of a month to raise money for St. Judes Childrens Hospital.
As a reminder, look below the video for a bullet-point list of what’s talked about. For those of you about to watch the video, don’t peek at the bullet points! They would be “spoilers.”
This week’s slideshow covers these topics:
Legoland pictures (with special focus on Miniland zoom photos)
New acrobats at the China pavilion in Epcot
The Velcro exhibit is long gone; the rehab walls came down to reveal a sign saying “Story Time”… and that it will be exclusive for AAA members. I wonder what this is?
The die press at the exit to Test Track was broken, unmoving, and silent. The whole room feels eerie without that loud clang.
New columns at the exit to Epcot point the way to the turnstiles that are exclusively for going out (rather than coming in).
Weekly Walt Disney World
As always, feel free to join the group that hangs out every week at Walt Disney World; we welcomed five new folks (some visiting from out of town) last week. This Sunday’s meet will be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s 2pm, like always. This time, we’ll meet in the Disney Animation building – just go “upstream” from the gift shop and you’ll find us in the wide open space after the Animation Academy.
Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.
Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:
The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.
In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.
Also recently issued...
Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:
As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.
The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.
The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.
Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.
Also written by Kevin...
Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the
first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their
menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo
Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free
for non-speakers of Japanese.
Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland
park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller
story on this place rich with details.
101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented
book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book,
namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides
101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World
follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages
in the four Disney World parks.
More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.