Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek poses with Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Television / Flickr

Katie Baker
Opinion Editor

 I have grown up in a world completely surrounded and heavily influenced by Walt Disney. Growing up, my family were annual pass holders who took multiple trips to Kissimmee, Orlando to spend some time with Mickey Mouse. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to step foot into all four of the parks more times than I can even remember. 

But with such great opportunities comes even bigger consequences: I notice every single change the Walt Disney Company makes. Since the reign of COVID-19, Disney World has suffered tremendously and, even with their almost complete reopening for the 50th Anniversary in October, there are still difficulties that they face.

Almost all of their problems stem from CEO Bob Chapek. After replacing Bob Iger as CEO for the Walt Disney Company in 2020 he has made an alarming amount of changes that have left many loyal customers, including me, to stop and wonder what’s really going on. 

Some of these changes include getting rid of “Fastpass” and implementing a new program that requires guests to purchase their “Disney Genie Service”. Now you may be asking, why is this a big deal? Well aside from the fact that tickets already cost an alarming amount of money, guests are now forced to determine whether or not they want to spend an extra fifteen dollars in order to ride some of the most iconic Disney rides. The company has advertised the change to seem like a more convenient way for guests to plan their vacation. On the Disney Parks Blog page, they state that “Disney Genie service will maximize your park time, so you can have more fun.” This is one of the most greedy things the Walt Disney Company has done and, as an avid Disney fan, it’s extremely disheartening to continue to watch these changes be implemented. 

Continuing on the trend of greed, the Disney empire doesn’t stop with its greediness outside of the parks. Over the past year, Disney+ has been releasing original movies onto the platform and charging members $29.99 in order to watch the new film. This is an additional fee already $8 a month for a subscription to the streaming service. The real kicker is that the film is likely to be added as a free watch within a few months after being released onto the platform.

Now there are some benefits to this: members are spending a one-time fee to watch the movie in the comfort of their own home and they are not exposing themselves to COVID-19 by traveling to a movie theater. But on the other hand, box office numbers are lower, actors such as Scarlett Johanson are not being paid for the money made off of the streaming service, and it’s just another way for Disney to rope you into spending more money.

One of the biggest and most controversial changes that Disney has made in the past year is its annual pass services. Guests were unable to purchase or renew their annual pass if they had not done so before the COVID-19 shutdown. After the reopening of the parks, Disney was not massively affected by this change. Now as the school year starts back up and summer winds down, Disney parks find themselves pretty empty. Most annual pass holders take half-day trips into the parks after their kids get out of school, bringing a significant amount of business to the mouse. 

As frustrating as these changes are, I still find myself booking my next trip to Disney for next year. No matter how much the prices go, how outrageous these changes may feel, I am always going to find a way back to the parks. And I am exactly the reason why the Walt Disney company can get away with raising prices because Disney lovers always come right back.