Explore The Difficult Dilemma Behind So Many Disney Park's 'Attraction Capacity'

One of the "insider" facts about theme parks that people with experience know is that wait times are as much a function of attractions' capacities as they are their popularity. Rides that can't handle very many people per hour will have long waits, even if relatively few people line up to go on them. And rides with massive hourly capacities might not have much wait at all, even though as thousands of guests walk into their queues.

That's why insiders don't make judgments on a ride's popularity solely by its wait time. You need to know its capacity in order to make a true, "apples to apples" comparison with other rides and shows.

The issue of capacity lies at the heart of my Orange County Register column this week, Why Disney created 'Frozen – Live at the Hyperion'. With 2,000 people packing every performance and Fastpasses for the shows disappearing early in the day, Disney's new Frozen show in California Adventure looks like a hit. As it should be. It's a fun show, filled with visual delights

But from an operational perspective, big theater shows that only play a few times a day aren't the crowd-soaking workhorses that theme park need to keep lines from backing up all over the park. As popular as the new Frozen show appears to be, it will accommodate only the equivalent of about 667 visitors per hour of park operation — not much better than some carnival spinner rides. Ultimately, that 2,000-guest show capacity is done in by the fact that the production won't play more than five times a day.

For truly high hourly capacities, cycle time is everything. The more units you move in an hour (whether they be roller coaster trains, boats, or shows), the more people you put through. Ultimately, the number of people per unit isn't as important as the number of units you move. That's a lesson I learned driving Tom Sawyer Island rafts at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, as I explained in my blog post, Drowning under short-term thinking. (Which, BTW, is one of the many stories about working at Walt Disney World that are included in my book, Stories from a Theme Park Insider.)

So, to answer the question implicitly asked in the headline of my Register column... why did Disney create 'Frozen – Live at the Hyperion', if it wasn't to draw in massive numbers of visitors every hour? 

Franchise protection.

Disney needed a Frozen-themed attraction that drew more people per hour than the Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet and that also would draw more people to the resort than the sing-along show it pulled together quickly in the old Muppets theater. Switching from Aladdin to Frozen allowed Disney to better justify staging that big, expensive musical show, as it would support a franchise that's still selling tons of merchandise and building anticipation for a sequel. And Disney still could do it for less than the price of building a new, higher-capacity Frozen-themed attraction from scratch.

Either way you get to the end result, every decision in theme park business pretty much comes down to the math.

Source: Theme Park Insider

Banner Photo Credit: Matt Pasant