Update 1 at bottom.
Update 2 below that.
So some pretty big news coming out today is that effective January 2013, evening Extra Magic Hours will be two hours long instead of three. We’ll have to take a moment to digest exactly what that means. I like evening Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom because there are so many open attractions that lines are considerably shorter and the close is usually later, so many families are long gone by 11pm. Any time after that is smooth sailing in very light crowds. In past summers, Magic Kingdom was open until 3am twice a week for resort guests. As I’ve mentioned before, I (and you) like it because there’s virtually no one in the Park that late. You can take a look at my visit last August where I stayed through 3am. From Disney’s standpoint, they must be thinking, “Why are we paying so much money to keep the Park open for virtually no one?” I’m less enthusiastic about evening Extra Magic Hours at the other Parks because far fewer attractions are open and lines continue to be long until the end of the night. For example, the only ride anyone cares about during evening Extra Magic Hours at Epcot is Soarin’.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to see additional evening Extra Magic Hours added. For example, Hollywood Studios could host a two-hour evening Extra Magic Hours session every Monday and Thursday night. We also aren’t seeing a return of evening Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom. This January, that means you could see Animal Kingdom close at 5pm, Magic Kingdom close at 8pm without the Electrical Parade, Epcot close at 9pm, and Hollywood Studios close at 9pm with evening Extra Magic Hours attached. Likewise, with just a morning Extra Magic Hour scheduled on a Wednesday at Animal Kingdom, you’re looking at a 5pm close there, an 8pm close at Magic Kingdom with no Electrical Parade, a 7pm close at Studios, and a 9pm close at Epcot. That doesn’t leave a lot to do at night. That series on Downtown Disney Drinking In Depth becomes all the more relevant.
With virtually every other “Disney fan site” going into hysterics over this as another example of prices increasing/perks decreasing, I’m not going to freak out for your amusement here. Maybe later. What does it mean as far as crowd flow is concerned? One can only speculate. With evening Extra Magic Hours being slightly less attractive, we can expect more people to ignore them in favor of nightly entertainment elsewhere. The fact is that evening Extra Magic Hours are only scheduled three times a week most weeks. And the vast majority of guests will continue to follow the Extra Magic Hours schedule along with hunting down rarer evening entertainment.
But it’s a big change that makes a casual evening Extra Magic Hours visit less fun. The days of saying good night to Epcot at midnight are effectively over. You can forget about your 3am shut down of Magic Kingdom. Disney has changed the wording on its Extra Magic Hours page to.: “Each day, one of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time,” so it appears that this is a permanent change that will continue through the entire year. It used to say, “up to 3 hours,” even though it was always three hours.
I’m updating the August 2012 Crowd Calendar image and I have the January 2013 “official schedule” with the Extra Magic Hours included. I’ll have August 2012 and a preliminary January 2013 Crowd Calendar image available in a couple of hours.
I want my Disney Parks napkins and 3am closes back.
Update 1: Looking over the January schedule, it appears that Disney has actually extended the normal close at Magic Kingdom on Sundays with evening Extra Magic Hours attached. For example, after January 5th, Magic Kingdom is currently scheduled to close at 8pm every night, other than most Sundays.
Sunday January 6th – 9pm
Sunday January 13th – Still 8pm, but this is one of the least crowded weeks of the year
Sunday January 20th – 10pm, but also Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
Sunday January 27th – 9pm
So at least at Magic Kingdom, we may actually see the same total number of operating hours remain the same. At Studios and Epcot, the same 7pm and 9pm closes are seen.
Here’s the preliminary revision of the August 2012 Crowd Calendar:
Click for larger. I don’t expect the recommendations to require further modification. Most of the changes reinforce why the recommendations were made in the first place.
And January 2013:
Click for larger. I was expecting a slightly different Extra Magic Hours schedule over the first week due to the higher overall crowd level and altered schedule earlier in the week, so the recommendations there have changed there. With the Studios’ evening Extra Magic Hours switching with Epcot’s, there are also slightly different recommendations over that week. The rest of the month should be largely the same.