Why Disney Parks Keep Retheming Rides

Disney Adventurer

Marshmallow Drop Frozen Ever After Ride Epcot Disney World

In recent years Disney Parks have been retheming an ever-increasing number of classic attractions across the world. This is almost always a controversial move, but Disney has consistently doubled down on the trend, most recently with the Splash Mountain replacement.

So why do they keep doing this, and will it continue in the coming years?

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout Attraction Building in Disney California Adventure

When all is said and done, retheming a ride is much cheaper than building one from scratch. While design costs are likely about the same, the construction costs are lower, and they often are able to open faster than attraction built from the ground up. There is also the added cost of having to remove what was already there, which most new builds in the Disney Parks have to deal with. Almost no empty plots of land are left, meaning removing things has to be factored into any new ride.

Retheming an underperforming attraction allows Disney to both get an attendance boost with a smaller investment, and ideally increase revenue in other ways at the same time.

Most of the rides Disney has closed to be rethemed in recent years didn't sell much merchandise. Maelstrom, California Screamin, and even Splash Mountain to some extent (before the closure announcement at least) didn't exactly sell much due to not being tied to a popular IP, or being tied to an obscure one. Meanwhile, Frozen Ever After and the Incredicoaster sell much more merch on a daily basis, with Incredicoaster even helping create a new snack.

Splash Mountain Frontierland Magic Kingdom Disney World

I have no doubt that on a yearly basis the Princess and the Frog attraction will sell more than Splash Mountain did (except maybe during the current eBay reseller period) especially if they do it right and incorporate a beignet stand at the same time.

Pixar Pier From Upper Level of Lamplight Lounge Disney California Adventure

There is also another factor to keep in mind with rethemes. They are much cheaper in the long term as well for Disney.

The Incredicoaster costs basically the same to run every day as California Screamin did. Mission Breakout costs about the same as the Tower of Terror. The trend continues.

Meanwhile, whenever Disney makes the decision to build an entirely new ride, they are committing to not only the cost of building it, but the added cost of maintaining it every day for the foreseeable future. Every entirely new ride adds to the daily operating cost of a Disney theme park, meaning Disney needs to earn more money to make the investment worth it.

It is this reason that makes me think we are going to be seeing even more rethemes in the coming years.

Disney is going to be spending the next several years desperately trying to get back to attendance levels from the prepandemic time. Add in prolonged economic problems that are likely to continue beyond the pandemic, and Disney isn't going to be wanting to make many elaborate, and expensive, new rides in the near future.

Just look back at the time after 9/11, which saw Disney finish already in progress attractions, then only invest in smaller additions and rethemes like Stitch's Great Escape. This is what we are going to be looking at for the near future.

Disney rethemes make a lot of sense financially, even though they aren't the most popular thing with the fans, and they aren't going away any time soon.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros Epcot Disney World