Is IP Ruining the Disney Resorts?

Over the course of the last year, the Disney Resorts Collection has announced numerous Resort expansions across the Walt Disney World Resort hotels, many of which include the introduction of Disney media intellectual property (IP).  However, are these new character elements helping the hotels offer more magical experiences, or are they hindering the existing themes?

There’s nothing wrong with an update from time to time, to keep things fresh and exciting. Indeed, even Walt Disney himself once said that the Disneyland Resort “would never be finished…” although he did also originally keep most of his Studios’ intellectual property relegated to Fantasyland in favor of original storyline experiences within the rest of the Disney Park.

minnie and mickey at the aulani resort

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

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Now, Walt Disney World has taken this message to heart, rolling out all-new enhancements across Disney Parks and Resorts. For example, we know Disney’s Boardwalk Inn will receive a new lobby eatery, Carousel Coffee, as well as the table service bakery, The Cake Bake Shop, and the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort will reopen Victoria & Albert’s after extensive refurbishment.

What’s more, renovations at Disney’s Contemporary Resort lobby include new murals inspired by Mary Blair. On the other hand, for the rest of these improvements, Disney has simply thrown in more IP. For instance, Disney stated this “retro-boldness” will carry into the Contemporary’s guest rooms, which will now include tie-in references to Disney Pixar’s Incredibles films.

Little Mermaid Rooms Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

Credit: Disney

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Similarly, some of the rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort have received textural updates inspired by Moana (2016), while Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort had rooms in the Trinidad area designed down with simplistic touches matching 1989’s The Little Mermaid. Additionally, Citricos will now feature a London theme inspired by Mary Poppins Returns (2018), while Beauty and the Beast (1991) receives yet another dining location at the Enchanted Rose Lounge.

Despite some fans welcoming the changes, many others seem unhappy at the Company’s recent reliance on IP when introducing new content throughout theme park experiences. In fact, the Caribbean Resort disappointed some Disney fans by removing their immersive theming, including the treasure chest and pirate ship beds inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean, for the subtle stickers featuring images from “Under the Sea’s” backgrounds within a modern room.

While these details are subtle, where does it stop? Plus, some have claimed “specialty” theming attempts to make rooms a great distance away from the lobby or Park transportation bookable while driving up the price.

Remodeled Walt Disney World hotel rooms feature a new twist: a heavy focus on Disney characters | Arts Stories + Interviews | Orlando | Orlando Weekly

Credit: Orlando Weekly

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Furthermore, it feels like sometimes Disney adds IP simply for the sake of including it because it’s what’s culturally relevant at the time of its release, rather than because it actually makes the most logical sense. Truly, though it didn’t “flop” per se, Mary Poppins Returns did not receive the best critic reviews, or audience scores, especially compared to its 1964 predecessor.

It seems almost like there’s no reason to theme it to the sequel, other than that it came out more recently. Moreover, Beauty and the Beast, though iconic, already has multiple quick-service and table-service style dining experiences across the Disney Parks, including at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

So, is it simply adding in IP known to be profitable, even if only in the short term, rather than working to provide memorable, and original, Disney Resort experiences which make require more work but also stand the rest of time?

About Spencer Beck

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the halls of the Walt Disney Family Museum, and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @pinknpurble everywhere.