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Friday, May 11, 2018

Alcohol At Walt Disney World - A Few Thoughts

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Alcohol At Walt Disney World - A Few Thoughts  

After a recent announcement of alcohol arriving at Crystal Palace and and the Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom, a bit of debate was sparked in the Disney community. While I do have mixed feelings on the issue, the one main thing that stands out to me is that these two restaurants are in the heart of Magic Kingdom and have been somewhat "staples" of the magic for many years. Before I express my thoughts on this seemingly trivial issue, I just want to say that I plan on covering this from a wide variety of angles and I'll even throw two pivotal stories in the mix. Honestly, a vast majority of this post is going to be my option. My opion likely isn't the "best" opinion, but as conceited as it sounds I do believe a select few of you (likely a very select few lol) value my opinion to at least a certain extent. On the other hand, I hope Disney reads this. I highly doubt they will, but I hope they see these comments and inevitably many of your thoughts in the comments on your favorite social media platforms. 

As we get started for the day, I want to look at the issue from a few main perspectives: theming, guest experience, history, and something I'd like to call "what we've seen so far." Of course, this is largely pertaining to Magic Kingdom, because the other parks have already made the leap to alcohol at various locations.   


Theming 

Theming is an interesting part of this situation. First and foremost, I don't see Crystal Palace or the Plaza being a dining location that will sell any quantity of alcohol. Very few people want to drink with a buffet or a place that serves burgers and other pretty heavy food before heading back out into 90 degree heat. I could be wrong, but for these two locations I see this being a "non-issue." At the same time, it does raise a certain level of concern for the future. At what point do you water it down enough that you can grab a Margarita at Pecos Bill's? I don't think I'm alone in thinking that would be the tipping point for most life long guests and Disney fans in being "okay" with alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Not to mention, this gets away from the original reasoning Disney rationalized getting alcohol into the parks in the first place. To me, the theming no better lends itself to alcohol in these locations than it would if they opened a beer cart at queue of Dumbo (which obviously isn't likely to ever happen). Case in point, it'll be interesting to see how they rationalize this one with a press release or if they just let it ride. The claim of it being necessary for theming has pretty much been tossed out the window.    

On the other hand, if used carefully and tactfully, adding alcohol to other locations could be interesting from a theming perspective where it makes sense. Think, for example, an expansion or new offering in the future of something like the former Adventurer's Club of Downtown Disney or even something like Trader Sams making its way into the parks. That wouldn't be all that bad if done very very carefully in my opinion. Those locations have never been a huge issue because it was designed to be more about the experience than the alcohol itself (and they're outside the parks). While I can't share all that I may or may not know, this may be the direction Disney could be easing into for the future but not with these two specific locations mostly because they already exist. As always, I don't like to spread rumors, no matter what they may entail, but this could be leading to something that may arise in the next five years or less. For lack of a better phrase, Disney may be "testing the waters" before they try something new. Just keep your ears open for more on that in the future.   
         

Guest Experience

The guest experience as a whole is what tends to concern me more than anything and to better explain I'll have to share the first of two personal stories included in this post. On our last full day in Hollywood Studios, we were traveling with family and boarded a bus late one afternoon to head back to the resort and a dad and a daughter stumbled onto the bus. The dad was doing all he could to keep his daughter, who was probably around 30 or so, from hitting the floor. I don't know the situation, but she had obviously had a bit too much to drink. At times, the bus ride was almost humorous as she mumbled random phrases that nobody could understand and swayed back and forth in her seat narrowly avoiding falling in the floor multiple times. 

But, as a I looked around, there were far too many young children present for that type of behavior. Truth be told, it bordered on uncomfortable for everyone witnessing the situation. I want to make clear, this isn't the usual situation and we have had hundreds and hundreds of incredible experiences at Walt Disney World and truly love the parks and resorts. If I didn't care about the parks and the joy and memories they bring to guests I wouldn't write about it on this site day after day. I voice this story not to discourage anyone from going to the parks. (Honestly, GO!) If you haven't been you'll absolutely love it. At the same time though, I voice these situations because they are honest concerns of preserving that "Disney Difference" that we talk about day in and day out. 

Alcohol is inevitably a revenue generator but at rare times and in exceedingly rare situations, there's going to be a negative impact on the guest experience. It also could be beneficial for the guest experience in some cases, but is the trade off really worth it? I'll leave that decision up to you. I can only share my own thoughts based on experience. You may have an entirely different opinion and I encourage you to voice it. I may not agree with it, but you may be surprised at what Disney listens to even if they don't necessarily care to admit it. I love this company and I love these parks but if I'm completely honest I'm incredibly torn on this topic.                     
  

History

Out of all the reasoning many guests give for keeping alcohol out of the Magic Kingdom (which became a lost cause a few years ago), this was and always has been the "hot button" topic of discussion. When Walt designed and built these parks (at least the very early concepts for them - besides Disneyland) he had a main goal in mind as the very first inclination of his grand theme park project unveiled itself. As Walt sat on a bench in Griffith Park as his daughters rode the Merry Go Round, he came up with this revolutionary idea of a place where adults and kids could have fun together. The biggest issue behind that logic was cleanliness of the parks. Even Walt's own wife doubted that it was possible to create a truly clean theme park. To my knowledge the answer was a massive custodial staff and a cast that had pride in their park. 

There's an image of Walt that pops up from time of the man himself bending over and picking up a single piece of trash in Disneyland. That photo should be iconic well beyond the publicity it gets from time to time. That photo shows much more than a humble man who created this incredible place we still enjoy to this day, but transcends that simple concept to show a man that was truly forward thinking. 60 years ago, nobody thought his ideas were possible, they thought Disneyland would fail, but Walt knew he could make it great. He was truly a visionary well before his time. Regarding this issue, a few rare quotes exist about how he didn't want alcohol in his park. To the best of my knowledge. his reasoning was rather simple in that he personally didn't need alcohol to relax and enjoy a great day at Disneyland. It was something he might do at home after along day at the office, but wasn't necessary for the experience.

That simple idea is what I consider a lost concept in today's world. I'm a college student, and see first hand a portion of society that sees alcohol as the only way to have fun. Now, I completely understand that's not even close to the whole generalization of the population, but that small group tells a bigger story. Disney is a place that you can go to escape reality for a while and while alcohol may be something guests enjoy, I don't see it at all necessary for the experience. If anything, it detracts from that original and simple goal of a place where parents and kids can have fun together. 

Where does the slippery slope end? When do we start having to have "no alcohol beyond this point" signs going up in the Magic Kingdom? When does this concept get so watered down that we've got carts on Main Street selling alcohol to guests before the fireworks? 

On that last question, I believe that's where things will eventually stop or will begin to face some serious backlash from first time, but also an incredibly number of life-long Disney fans. The bright spot to all this in my opinion is that the alcohol prices are astronomically high and for good reason. In all reality, it vastly limits the potential for guests to drink too much and negatively affect the experience of the parks on a large scale. But, that brings me to our next topic of discussion...


"What We've Seen So Far"   

No matter if you're a participant or an observer, every guest that has visited Epcot in the last 5 years has noticed on growing trend, namely "drink around the world." Disney by no means encourages the behavior or the "goal," but it would be ridiculous to say that it has not affected the Epcot experience, at least for me and my family. Epcot has sold alcohol for years, but with other factors of social media and growing "entertaining" trends that go viral, this has become a rather large issue. On some nights and certain holidays, the situation borders on inappropriate. 

For a personal example, one night we picked a spot for Illuminations on the bridge between the United Kingdom and France. After standing there for around 30 minutes and eating a few snacks as we waited, a man and a crew of about 6 other adults rolled in and stood right behind us each with a beer in hand and we'll just say it was obvious that it wasn't there first, second, or likely even third... and so on. They were using profane language and were a bit too out of it for a Disney park. Now, I'm one of those people that can typically let a situation like this roll off my shoulders and I can just move on. But, with that being said, I'm a college student. However, two feet away from us was a stroller with two young kids and their parents who had been patiently waiting and enjoying their night setting up for a great final finale to the day with Illuminations. I couldn't help but think, what if this was there first vacation? What if this was the one experience they had and the one memory they had of a night in Epcot and of the incredible Illuminations performance? I don't think that's quite what is portrayed in Disney's advertising campaigns. 

Of course, this group was the minority out of all the guests at Epcot, but it's a situation worth thinking about. It turned out, after talking with the other family with the two kids, that they were local and could return another day. At the same time not everyone is and personally that's my take on this whole issue. As a company, you don't invite things into the environment you create that could negatively effect the guest experience. I'm sure Disney's done their research on this and I hope that they are successful in their pursuit to keep things enjoyable for guests, but I can't help but see this as a bad idea in the end. I don't have problem with alcohol, but at the same time one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.  


Wrapping Up 

I dont want to paint a gloom and doom picture here, so on a positive note I can say that I've never seen any issue whatsoever with the alcohol that is already present at Magic Kingdom or at Animal Kingdom and have only had one issue at Hollywood Studios (which was outside of the park). That particular guest may have even been asked to leave. Epcot is really the only consistent issue I've seen. 

Also worth noting is that Disney likely has a procedure in place to quickly deal with these types of situations, it's really just a matter of making it known so that it can be properly taken care of. 

At the same time, as it sits and as it stands today, this will not affect the vast majority of guests visiting the parks. The presence of alcohol is so minuscule at this time that it's not likely that it will create any problems. I only write this article out of a concern for the future and a concern for the legacy these parks have created. I encourage anyone and everyone to head to the parks no matter what your background is or your travel goals. Disney is place that caters to so many diverse audiences and so many different facets of entertainment that it truly is that "one stop shop" iconic destination fit for just about anyone.
  
Your Thoughts
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 

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