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Disney World's Least Popular Park Cashes In on Early Risers

By Rick Munarriz - Oct 1, 2016 at 10:00AM

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Leading theme-park operator Disney is trying out another limited-access event at its Orlando resort -- charging $69 a person for exclusive morning access to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Image source: Disney.

Disney (DIS 1.84%) keeps rolling out exclusive park experiences before and after its gated attractions entertain day guests, as long as theme-park buffs are willing to pay up for the benefit. Disney is taking Disney Extra Morning Magic -- the early morning offering that it originally tested at its flagship Magic Kingdom in a springtime run -- for an extended run at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Guests paying an additional $69 on top of already pricey theme-park admissions can get into the park by 7:45 a.m., 75 minutes earlier than day guests for the official 9 a.m. opening. They'll have access to Toy Story Mania! and Star Tours, two of the park's few remaining rides. They will also have early access to meet-and-greet experiences with Buzz and Woody, Mickey and Minnie, and Olaf. Disney Extra Morning Magic also includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet that is available until 10 a.m., so it doesn't eat into the 75 minutes of ride and meet-and-greet exclusivity. 

Disney Extra Morning Magic rolled out earlier this year after the short-lived and perhaps ill-advised Disney After Hours that launched at the Magic Kingdom failed to gain traction. That event came with a stiff $149 cover charge. It did not require separate theme-park admission. It also featured more attractions and longer hours, but it included just non-alcoholic beverages and ice cream bars. It was too expensive and lacked the seasonal appeal of the hard-ticket after-hours events at the Magic Kingdom for Halloween and Christmas. Disney Extra Morning Magic -- at less than half the price of Disney After Hours and with an all-you-can eat breakfast -- seems to be hitting a sweet spot with park goers.

Living in Fantasyland 

We know that the early morning event is a hit at the Magic Kingdom. It's been extended a couple of times since its original springtime run, and it continues to be available on select Sundays and Tuesdays through mid-December. Disney's Hollywood Studios hopped on the trend in August, and it's now been extended to run every Saturday starting next weekend through mid-December.

Disney Extra Morning Magic makes perfect sense at the Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park. It's not exactly clear why this makes sense at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The park has been dead last in Disney World attendance for the past few years, and it has shuttered several rides, shows, and shops as it paves the way for the ambitious Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land that will take a couple of years to complete.

There just isn't a lot to do at Disney's Hollywood Studios in its present scaled-back state. Knocking off a pair of rides and the most popular meet-and-greet opportunities doesn't leave a lot to do for the balance of the day. Disney Extra Morning Magic may make sense for guests on annual passes or multi-day park hopper tickets that want to do Disney's least visited theme park by noon and hit up other resort offerings, but speeding guests through a park with already so little to do will only shine a light on its present shortcomings. 

Last resort

Disney isn't dumb. It offers a limited number of admissions to the pre-opening fetes, so this new premium product isn't going to exactly move the needle for the media giant. However, what it does do is draw attention to the the Extra Magic Hours perk it provides to resort guests at no additional cost.

A select park is open an hour early each day for guests staying at one of Disney's several on-site resorts. There are also two hours of access provided at a different park after it closes. Resort guest access doesn't include free food, but a family of four might wind up paying less for an on-site overnight stay that includes Extra Magic Hours than the $276 they would be shelling out for Disney Extra Magic Hours. 

The event hasn't sold out for any of the upcoming Saturdays, but that doesn't stop consumers from seeing it as the perceived value of the perk to stay at one of Disney's hotels. It's brilliant in that capacity, but feel free to peek into the park's ABC Commissary the next few Saturday mornings to see if folks are actually buying these things. Whether they sell or not, it's going to help Disney World's resort bookings at a time when attendance could use a lift. 

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