Friday, the blogosphere started theorising an impending hike to the cost of Disney parks admission rates from single days to annual passes. Saturday, everyone’s fears were realised and the apparent rage from APs was loud and clear. To the casual single-day purchasers, it was just another day as people write-off Disney parks as already being astronomically expensive.
This post is to try to take a look at what’s going on here with no internal knowledge whatsoever. Just an observation and some theories about what’s going on here and what it means for APs and the parks. And, perhaps, even stick up for the parks a little bit.
Cars Land, Fantasy Faire, New Fantasyland, International Expansion, etc. Parks & Resorts, as far as I can tell, operate under the same umbrella (I’m looking at you, Aulani.) Disney Parks and Resorts have really expanded in the last few years. From a business standpoint, the money Disney makes from TV, movies, games, etc. is recycled back into that entertainment division. Same with ESPN and other Disney-owned properties. Those things influence trends in the parks, etc. but for the most part, the parks themselves act as their own division of the company, and rightfully so.
Disney Parks and Resorts are notorious for spread-sheet marketing strategies and planning. “Will this _____ themed attraction bring more people into the parks?” Unfortunately for Disneyland and Disney Parks enthusiasts (APs), the variable at the moment is movie franchises. These franchises make so much for the company, the money people look at the possibility of marketing it in different ways. So much-so that they go with the Star Wars model now of building franchises around marketing strategies — and it has been working.
Cars Land, Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest restaurant, etc. We are seeing this on both coasts. No new ideas a la Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967 where there was nothing quite like it and was started with an idea as simple as “how much fun would it be to plunder with pirates!?” It was fun and became an über successful attraction that begat an über successful film franchise which then, in turn, begat an über successful film adaptation to the original ride.
All of this said — there are people in the parks — hoards of them! The strategy is working and even with the negative PR from, unfortunately, the most dedicated fans, there’s still hours of lines at all of the parks indicating to the financial folk that something is working well.
If we were to go back to prices from just 20 years ago where you could get a single day for $28.50, adjusted for inflation today would be just $44.60. Then, take into account the people who aren’t coming to Disney Parks because of the (now) $92 (at Disneyland — $95 at Magic Kingdom at WDW) and start to factor those people in at a would-be $44.60 and you’ve got capacity days year-round with barely any room for us APs at a would be rate of $313 ($199 for a premium pass in 1993).
Let’s look at the positives that come out of this:
Crowd Control. While the APs hate these price hikes because we are long-time devotees to the parks, the single day tickets will still be flying off the shelves at a steady rate and tourist traffic will still drive the parks into the proverbial black (not sure how profitable or not that parks actually are). APs descend upon the parks at a rapid pace as the days get longer and longer and this affects crowds all week-long. TDA in particular has their work cut out for them and while I may not like it, I understand what they’re doing and have to respect it. It’s all for a better guest experience, in my opinion.
It’s still a bargain in some respects. If you’re still a super devoted Disney aficionado, chances are you have a Premium AP. The price difference between the Premium and Premier pass is $310 on the west coast. That more-than pays for itself after 3 days with a park-hopper option if you were to go to WDW. Unfortunately, that’s the only tier in which it’s affordable. The difference between a Deluxe pass and a Premiere pass is $480 which wouldn’t pay for itself with even a 10-day park hopper pass at WDW. WDW has a different AP structure with only two options that I can see: Regular AP and Premium. The difference between the Premium Pass (now $776.39) and a Premier pass is $202.61 which is $7.39 less than a 2-day Park Hopper option at DLR. I would assume that any WDW passholder wanting to visit the DLR would come for more than 2 days and that would, again, more than pay for itself. However, again, the regular AP (now 648.59) at WDW is $330.41 less than the Premier pass and that wouldn’t be cheaper than getting a 5-day Park Hopper to DLR for $300. So, really, the Premier pass is still a bargain if you: a.) already have a trip planned to the opposite coast, b.) plan a stay for at least 3 days at WDW or 2 at DLR, and c.) already have a Premium Pass. Otherwise, it might be the better option to buy your park-hoppers — and that’s not even including hotel accommodations!
New Attractions. While we don’t see a ton of movement on this front, let’s look at the stuff we do have at the parks and rejoice that there’s new stuff to do everywhere and refurbishments happening elsewhere. Unfortunately, those are taking precedence over some things like OSHA requirements and safety concerns (read: Space Mountain and Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland). We are all hardcore Disney nerds and we KNOW that new Tomorrowland and Frontierland attractions at Disneyland are in the Blue Sky stages at WDI so what are we so upset about?
It just wouldn’t be possible to handle those crowds. In another post, I’ll talk about why I think crowds have changes so drastically in the last 20 years and how, really, we are kind of to blame. But hey, we love Disneyland and that’s why the parks are more crowded than ever!