It's a new year and we're into the second month of 2010 and while a new year can bring some new ideas, promises or resolutions, one old bad habit has returned to Hollywood Studios for 2010, namely the reduced Fantasmic! showings. About a year ago on January 5, 2009, Disney decided to cut the showings of Fantasmic! from at least a show every day to a reduced schedule. During slower times of the year (like this month and last month), we've seen the schedule reduced to just two showings per week. If 2010 is anything like 2009 was, we'll see increases now and then but aside from around Christmas time, it will be rare to even get back to 5 shows per week, let alone a full week of shows.
Why should you care? The answer to that is simple. Your next trip to Walt Disney World will become more inconvenient and crowded. If you visited Hollywood Studios in 2009 and tried to see Fantasmic!, I'm willing to bet you know what I'm talking about. With Fantasmic! showings reduced to just a few days per week, it makes it increasingly more difficult to see Fantasmic! without a long wait or large crowds. You're still paying the same admission fee, yet you have to contend with potentially re-arranging your schedule to work Fantasmic! in. Or maybe you've just given up on it because "it's just too hard". Either way, park guests are the ones who find themselves struggling to adapt.
The Fantasmic! cut also represents something larger than just a more difficult touring schedule. It's a symbol for what we don't like at Walt Disney World, and that's paying more and getting less. I think many of you would agree with me that the Disney World we know today is different than the Disney World of five to ten years ago (or more) and that's not all a good thing. We've seen cutbacks but many we're willing to shrug off and ignore because truthfully, they aren't big enough changes to really warrant jumping up and down about. However this Fantasmic! cut has been one of the most visible changes to the parks and one that many guests have felt. It cannot be understated how difficult it is these days to catch Fantasmic! because of the schedule. Either you're visiting during a slow time of the year and there's barely two showings per week and that means you have to contend with lots of guests who also need to fit in on one day or you're going to during a busier time of the year where you may have three to five showings per week, but that means you'll be contending with lots of guests in general. Gone are the days of being able to find a show that you could guess you might have a chance of catching the show a few minutes before it started.
Last year many guests including myself complained often to Disney about the cutbacks to Fantasmic! and yet we still have the same schedule this year that we saw for the first time last year. Disney loves to cite "guest demand" when they make changes yet I find it hard to believe that Disney has not received a cavalcade of complaints, especially on days where there are no showings of guests get turned away because the shows fill up. I don't pretend to know about how the finances at Hollywood Studios are doing these days or what the budgets look like, however it seems to me that if the Magic Kingdom and Epcot can afford to put on their night time displays every night, so can Hollywood Studios.
Another very important reason to move the schedule of Fantasmic! back to once a day is to keep guests in the park. It's no secret that if there's no night time display, guests leave around the time of the afternoon parade. Look no further than the recent news that Animal Kingdom has pushed its parade back to 4:45. Want to know why? Because guests were leaving en mass after the parade was over so by moving the parade back, it keeps the guests in the park longer. Why are they leaving after the parade? Because there's no fireworks/night time show. And if you've been to Hollywood Studios on a non-Fantasmic! day and stayed until after Block Party Bash, check out the flow of guests out of the park and contrast that to a day when Fantasmic! is being shown and you'll see more guests flowing into the park even as the afternoon turns to evening. Again, I'm no financial wizard, but I'd venture to guess that more guests coming into the park than leaving is better because they are more likely to spend money in the park.
As always, I implore you to make your voice heard and make it be heard often. Let Disney know you aren't happy with the changes and you want Fantasmic! to return to once a day, because in the end, it's you who will have to suffer the consequences of this change. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can stop by Guest Relations at any of the parks and let them know. If they try to tell you the schedule, let them know you want it every night and that's the way it should be. After all, we love going to Walt Disney World and we want each and every visit to be fun and memorable and going out of your way to work in Fantasmic! isn't either of those.