Disney Dreams Out Loud

If Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) hits its mark, you won't need to travel to one of its lavish theme parks to soak in the pixie dust. The family entertainment giant is rolling out conceptual art depicting new destinations that include urban entertainment centers, stand-alone attractions, and themed resorts.

Disney doesn't usually dream out loud. However, Disney's latest annual report and the investor conference it held in Florida recently provide a sneak peek into what may become Disney's expansion strategy.

Magic never sleeps
Disney's new annual report features a foldout section full of artists' renderings of some of the attractions that Disney has on the drawing board. There's a new nighttime water spectacular, with colorful fountains serving as water screens for animated projections of popular Disney characters. A pirate-themed adventure features a fortress-backed Caribbean village on a waterfront setting. An elegant, glass-enclosed structure with a metropolitan skyline backdrop reveals a bent for entertaining in major cities.

Then you have the rides. Some of the artwork depicts greenlighted attractions. Toy Story Mania will open in both California and Florida next year, adding a new twist to the interactive shooting gallery concept with 3-D effects. As guests ride along a carnival midway, their 3-D glasses will help change the items they're shooting from their virtual lasers. Darts will pop balloons. Eggs will bean chickens.

Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek is another new attraction, opening in Tokyo in two years. Riders aim flashlights at objects along the ride to awaken audio-animatronic props.

Carland, a recreation of Radiator Springs from the Cars movie -- complete with its own auto-racing ride -- hasn't been officially announced, yet it takes up the biggest part of the report's foldout section. Using a track system similar to EPCOT's Test Track, cars race side-by-side to the finish line. Riders are then greeted by a welcoming committee of cheering cars including Mater, the film's wisecracking tow truck. Industry rumor site Screamscape.com indicates that the attraction will be opening at Disney's California Adventure theme park.

Bottling newness
Disney's new rides reveal plenty. The company is leaning on the seasoned classiness of Pixar's properties. The rides are also highly engaging. Making attractions interactive, or offering family-friendly thrills, is one way to keep guests coming back to Disney's parks more often. The intricately themed approach doesn't come cheap, yet it's one way to keep smaller regional chains like Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) and Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN  ) from following suit.

Then again, maybe Disney will be taking on the regional operators with its emphasis on stand-alone attractions. Would it be a threat to Great Wolf Resorts (Nasdaq: WOLF  ) if Disney began opening opulent resorts with massive indoor waterparks? Of course. If Disney copies its Downtown Disney and Boardwalk entertainment center concepts in major cities, will it dry up demand at other local leisure specialists? Perhaps, though not necessarily.

There's no such thing as a slam dunk here. DisneyQuest, Disney's themed video-game arcade, failed outside of the original location within the Disney World complex. Disney's forays into branded eateries and kiddie play centers were also eventually shuttered. One can rightfully argue that the Disney Store failed at the retail level because it overexpanded. The Children's Place (Nasdaq: PLCE  ) is doing a better job improving the performance of the remaining stores, but Disney has learned some hard lessons about cannibalization and brand dilution.

The upside of dreaming
The opportunities run as thick as maple syrup over a pair of Mickey Mouse waffles. Disney has the trusted brand. Its success in selling timeshares and cruise-ship cabins at industry premiums show that folks are willing to pay up for perceived quality. Failing to reach out further would be like leaving money on the table.

Plenty of wealthy cities like Phoenix and Miami are hundreds of miles away from respectable amusement parks. Asia's fascination with all things Disney, despite the slow start at Hong Kong Disneyland, also provides fertile soil to grow overseas.

"The Year of a Million Dreams" is the name of Disney's latest theme-park promotion. Guests are being randomly selected to win things like overnight stays inside Cinderella's castle. Thankfully, Disney is still doing its part to make sure that its own dreams keep coming true. We investors were in a dry spell a few years ago, but it's great to see the spigot of dreams flowing freely again.

Disney is an active recommendation for Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service subscribers. To find out all the reasons why it has been a winning pick for subscribers of the market-crushing newsletter, take a free 30-day trial today.

Cedar Fair is an Income Investor selection.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family to amusement parks of all sizes, all over the country. If Disney builds it, he'll find a way to get there. He owns shares in Disney and units in Cedar Fair. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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