This morning there were cast member previews of the new Fantasy Land expansion of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. I decided to go to that area of the park and see what I could observe. There were numerous cast members out in front of the roped off entrance turning guests away and letting them know that currently this part of the park was only open to cast members and their families. They also said to check back later in the day in case they changed it to a soft opening preview which would be open to guests.
I decided to chat with a couple of cast members and kill a little time. While talking to one them I happened to look behind me and witness an elderly lady slip and take a pretty hard fall. She was laying under one of the new castle walls in between the Pinocchio Village Haus restrooms and the roped off entrance to the Fantasy Land expansion area. She seemed to be in bad shape and I pointed this out to the cast member I was chatting with. He was able to get a few managers over to her and clear out the area. We all watched for what seemed like 10 minutes to pass before a medical team was able to get to her.
In the meantime a few groups of guests were able to walk right behind a cast member who was supposed to be watching for non cast members trying to enter the roped off area. The main manager who was clearly in charge of the area noticed these guests but decided not to pursue them. He actually went to the cast member who they had snuck by and said “go ahead and adjust the count by 12″. It was then I noticed that particular cast member had a handheld counting device or clicker. He was not reprimanded nor were any of the cast members beyond the rope notified to stop or try and talk to those guests.
The lady who fell was now sitting up and the emergency crew were able to get her in a wheelchair. They patched up a small scrape on her arm and said she was good to go. One of the managers who had rushed to her aid asked her and her husband if they would like to have special access to the Fantasy Land Expansion. Then she proceeded to direct them right in past the ropes. 2 more clicks on the handheld counter.
One of the cast members came over to thank me for assisting with the lady’s incident. As we were chatting a family of three came over and asked what was going on behind the ropes. They got the same spiel about checking back later that this was currently for cast members only. The father started complaining about being on the Fantasy cruise ship and having a horrible time because of hurricane Sandy. He told the cast member that they had a flight in a few hours and wanted to get into the preview “now”. The manager came over and listened and tried to turn them away but in the end… 3 more clicks on the handheld counter.
I had seen enough and I decided to go guest services and voice my complaint at the inconsistencies. The guest services representative could not be more on my side. She told me that on her visit with friends and family there were hundreds of guests milling about who were not employees and it was a real let down. She asked what if anything she could do for me but I declined. She did encourage me to pass this info along through proper channels and gave me some info on who to contact above her.
In conclusion what is the difference between a cast member preview and a soft opening? I have a spot reserved next weekend for an annual pass holder preview. I know there was lots of confusion and folks weren’t able to sign up for the AP previews. Disney did add more days so those who could not book theirs online the day of can now still get a chance to preview. I think I have the right to be upset if guests who didn’t reserve a spot for the preview get in anyways. I enjoy sharing the magic of Disney, but I also follow the rules and hope the rules are enforced.