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When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open At Disneyland?

When Will 'Star Wars Land' Open At Disneyland


When can I book my Star Wars vacation? That’s the big question on the lips of every Disney fan.

We’ve taken a look at where ‘Star Wars Land’ will be built and what it may look like. In this post, we’ll try to figure out when we’ll finally see the new area debut at Disneyland.

Let’s start with what we do know and move on from there.

Harry Potter Brings Competition To The West Coast

Hogwarts Castle - Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Universal Studios, FL
Hogwarts Castle – Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Universal Studios, FL

There are many reasons why Disney wants to build ‘Star Wars Land’:

  1. Their wish to ‘mine more gold’ from the lucrative Star Wars franchise.
  2. As a way to expand the total area of Disneyland, addressing the overcrowding issue.
  3. It’s a cheaper, short-term alternative to building an entirely new theme park in Anaheim.
  4. To satisfy their recent agreement with the City Of Anaheim to invest $1 billion in exchange for no gate tax at Disneyland.
  5. The need for creative people to build something new.

However, these are all internal motivations and there’s one more big reason this huge area is being pushed into production: competition.

And by competition I specifically mean the Universal Studios chain of theme parks and a little boy named Harry Potter, their deadliest weapon to date.

Since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first opened in 2010, the growth in visitors to Universal Studios Florida has been double that of Disney World. The trend continued in 2014, allowing Universal to become a first-day park destination and a reason for people to visit Orlando at all.

Now people travel from all over the world not just to visit Disney World, but just to see the Wizarding World.

Wizarding World Coming To California

Disneyland To Universal Studios Hollywood

In December 2011, Universal announced that not only would it be expanding the Potter franchise in both of its Florida theme parks with a Diagon Alley expansion, it would also be building a brand-new Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood.

With new threat to their theme park dominance, now in their own backyard, Disney had no choice but to get serious about their own construction efforts. Increased competition with Universal brings increased benefits for the Disney fan, thus we get ‘Star Wars Land,’ among a whole slew of other expansions.

It Won’t Be Built As Fast As The Original Disneyland

Disneyland in 1954 v. 1955

One thing that’s for certain about ‘Star Wars Land’ is that it won’t be built as fast as the original park.

When Disneyland was built, the first shovel of dirt flew on July 16, 1954 and the world’s first theme park opened to the public exactly one year later. It wasn’t the park we know today and some of the rides didn’t work yet, but it was there for all to enjoy.

This kind of rapid expansion is almost unheard of in America today and unlikely to happen with ‘Star Wars Land’ for a number of reasons.

  1. Immense cost
  2. More building restrictions than in 1955
  3. Greater complexity of attractions and themed areas than in 1955
  4. Higher expectations of modern-day park guests
  5. Large number of simultaneous Disney global construction projects
    1. Pandora: The World Of Avatar (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
    2. Toy Story Land (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
    3. Extensive refurbishment of Disneyland Paris Resort for its 25th anniversary
    4. ‘New’ Fantasyland (Tokyo Disneyland) and new Arendelle port (Tokyo DisneySea)
    5. Huge new hotel (Explorer’s Lodge) and the Iron Man Experience (Hong Kong Disneyland)
    6. Shanghai Disney Resort (theme park, hotels, lake, infrastructure)

Other Disney ‘Land’ Construction

In order to get an idea of how long these large-scale construction projects take for Disney to carry out today, let’s look at two contemporary lands: Carsland and ‘Avatar Land.’

Carsland

Carsland At Disney California Adventure
Carsland At Disney California Adventure

One of the newest Lands in the Disney empire, Carsland is similar in many ways to ‘Star Wars Land’ (based on what we know now).

The area is surrounded by a highly themed, breathtaking man-made berm, which we also expect to see around ‘Star Wars Land.’ Carsland also has its own massive E-Ticket attraction, as well as several other smaller rides that complement the feel of the area.

The level of detail on the buildings, paths, props, and furnishings is staggering and make you feel like you’re actually walking into the movie. According to Disney CEO Bob Iger,

We are creating a jaw-dropping new world. We’re bringing Star Wars to life in a big way. …These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet.

Sounds like a similar experience to me and I think we can reasonably expect the build time to be similar.

At around 10 acres, Carsland is a good 4 acres smaller than ‘Star Wars Land’ will be and it took 35 months to build.

Pandora: The World Of Avatar

Pandora: The World Of Avatar outline at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Pandora: The World Of Avatar outline at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Originally announced as ‘Avatar Land’, Pandora: The World of Avatar is also of similar size and scope as ‘Star Wars Land.’

Huge berm-like structures? Check. Immersive environment? Yep. Unheard-of E-Ticket attractions? Three for three, you win the prize!

Also of note is the size of Pandora, right around 14 acres (the same as ‘Star Wars Land’).

Originally, construction was supposed to begin in 2012, with the land opening in 2015. However, this is largely seen as a knee-jerk reaction to announce anything new in the wake of the Wizarding World’s success in 2010/2011.

The real ground-breaking ceremony for Pandora was in January 2014 and, as of the recent D23 Expo, the area is now slated to be complete in early 2017.

Depending on which number you look at, this gives us a construction period of between 38 – 55 months.

Putting It All Together: When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open?

So we’ve put together some reasonable numbers for the time to build ‘Star Wars Land.’ It definitely won’t open a year from now and will probably take 35-38 months to complete, beginning January 2016.

We also need to consider the marketing angle to all this.

There are really three major Disney construction projects in America right now (Pandora, ‘Toy Story Land’, and ‘Star Wars Land’) and I’d expect them to extract as much press as they can from each debut.

What does that mean for our timeline?

I don’t expect Disney to unveil more than one of these new lands in a single year, not to mention compete with their international debuts as well. So here’s my prediction of what we’ll see in domestic theme park construction for the next few years:

  • Winter 2016: Construction begins on ‘Star Wars Land’ at Disneyland
  • Fall 2016: Third track for Toy Story Midway Mania opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Spring 2017: Pandora: The World Of Avatar opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Spring 2018: Toy Story Land opens at DHS
  • Spring 2019: ‘Star Wars Land’ opens at Disneyland

I say sometime around March/April 2019, just in time for Spring Break and the busy Summer season, we’ll all journey into ‘a galaxy far, far away.’ This leaves about 38 months for construction, which is certainly an achievable goal for Disney Imagineers based on their record to date.

While it will leave Harry Potter to run amok on the West coast unchallenged for three years, it will also give Disney time to expand its parking and backstage infrastructure to accommodate this and future growth.

Of course, this timeline only covers construction in the United States. Disney is also finishing up the resort in Shanghai, as well as expanding or extensively refurbishing each of its other international resorts in the next few years.

Conclusion

It looks like Disney has already learned from past mistakes by getting a jump on construction this coming January. Only time will tell what happens to the construction schedule for ‘Star Wars Land,’ and the premiere could easily slip by several months (like Shanghai) or years (like Pandora: The World Of Avatar).

However, I think it’s unlikely that Disney managers will tolerate any large delay. Harry Potter is set to open just down the road as early as March 2016 and it seems like Universal is announcing future expansion plans almost daily (Fast and Furious Supercharged, Nintendo ‘World,’ Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York).

Exciting times ahead for theme park fans! Leave me a comment with your thoughts on this ‘Star Wars Land’ timeline. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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What You Need To Know About ‘Star Wars Land’

Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline

A long time ago in theme park really, really close…

… Disney CEO Bob Iger unveiled a new ‘Star Wars Land’ for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this post, I’ll dive into everything we know about this new Disney ‘Land’ here in California, including a few educated guesses on how it might look.

What Is ‘Star Wars Land’?

The characters and storylines from your favorite sci-fi epic are invading Disneyland. A new 14 acre section full of droids, aliens, and adventures is being carved out from a sleepy corner of the park.

‘Star Wars Land’ will be a completely new ‘Land’ at Disneyland, similar to Frontier ‘Land’ or Adventure ‘Land.’

What Rides Will It Have?

According to the latest from Disney, there will be two ‘signature attractions’ in the new land.

One will be ‘an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.‘ The second will allow you to ‘fly’ the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission.

Without any more details from Disney on exactly what the new rides will look like or how they will function, its hard to form much of a theory.

I will say this – based on the description of the ‘signature attractions’ alone, I think either one could work for a relocated Star Tours. However, the Star Tours debate is a whole other topic and I’m writing a separate article for it. Stay tuned.

What Planet Is It?

'Star Wars Land' Concept Art © Disney
‘Star Wars Land’ Concept Art © Disney

The new ‘Land’ will feel like a remote trading outpost and won’t represent any particular planet we know from Star Wars movies, books, or comics. I think this is a great choice of theme for several reasons.

First, it will be easy to blend the theme of the new ‘Star Wars Land’ land into the existing feel of both Frontierland and Fantasyland from that section of the park.

Also, since the ‘trading outpost’ will be a completely new fictional place, there should be a lot less of the inevitable nit-picking by hard-core Star Wars fans (though this certainly won’t be the case with the Millennium Falcon on display).

Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?

Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline Zoom
Current Disneyland Boundary With Projected Star Wars Land Outline

The new land will be located at the rear of the park, encompassing Big Thunder Ranch and some areas beyond the berm.

In the image above, I’ve roped off part of the park that fits the area and description of the land provided by Disney. It encompasses 14 acres, overlaying Big Thunder Ranch and a large chunk of the Disneyland backstage. This includes the Pope House and Circle D Ranch.

The horses from the ranch will live off-site, while the Pope House will be relocated elsewhere. In fact, the permits to move it have already been approved.

I have an article taking an in-depth look at everything in the likely site of the new ‘Star Wars Land’. Check it out -‘Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?

What Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Look Like?

'Star Wars Land' Concept Art ©Disney
‘Star Wars Land’ Concept Art ©Disney

Other than concept like the image above, we don’t have a lot to go on when it comes to the design of ‘Star Wars Land.’ However, I’ve given some thought about how the entrance might look.

It will undoubtedly have a sunken entrance that takes you below the Disneyland Railroad, similar to the one for Mickey’s Toontown.

As you approach from the Rivers Of America, I’d expect to see something with a Southwestern/Tatooine feel. You’ll have Big Thunder Mountain on your right and they won’t be able to hide it easily without spoiling the view from both the path and the ride. I’d expect Imagineers to work the feel of the mountain into the entrance theme.

The entrance space should be pretty wide, swallowing up everything from the ‘photo wagon’ by the Rivers of America to the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. I think this should allow enough space to vary the theme slightly across the width of the entrance to accommodate the shifting themes from the adjoining lands.

When approaching from the Fantasyland side, guests will step almost directly from Pinocchio’s Village into a galaxy far, far away. The current transition between the village and BTR is helped by some large, plain, wooden doors, concealing the backstage areas behind Big Thunder BBQ and breaking up the competing themes.

I’d expect those doors to stay, they grant Cast Members access to the inside of the park and the backstage area of Big Thunder Mountain. However, I would like to see the ‘Fantasyland side’ of the entrance be more whimsical than the other ‘hard-bitten’ Frontierland side, possibly with some characters from the film. Imagine a big BB8 rolling around and checking out the scene?

Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be It’s Real Name?

Hopefully, Disney Imagineers will come up with a better idea than just tacking ‘Land’ onto the end of a valuable franchise, though you never can tell what they will call things in this modern era.

Welcome To Cars Land Sign In Disney's California Adventure
‘Welcome To Cars Land’ Sign In Disney’s California Adventure

Over in California Adventure, Disney stuck with the “highly imaginative” name ‘Cars Land’ instead of changing it to something more magical like ‘Radiator Springs’ or ‘Route 66.’ Mercifully, they have changed ‘Avatar Land’ in Disney’s Animal Kingdom to the nicer and more mysterious ‘Pandora: The World Of Avatar.’

On the flip side,  Disney has also announced a ‘Toy Story Land’ for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which they may stick with or change slightly to ‘Toy Story Playland’ to match the one in Hong Kong.

I’m hoping Disney will be bold and choose a name like ‘Planet/Outpost What-cha-ma-call-it: Galaxy of Star Wars’ and then 10 years from now, when it’s sunk sufficiently into society’s collective consciousness, drop the last part.

How Will You Get To ‘Star Wars Land’ In The Park?

Access paths to 'Star Wars Land' at Disneyland
Access paths to ‘Star Wars Land’ at Disneyland

If it’s one thing Disney is an expert at, it’s traffic control. So this begs the question- how will they accommodate the increased flow of traffic back into this sleepy, hardly used corner of the park?

One of the many innovations Walt Disney made when constructing Disneyland was to give it a single entry/exit point. Instead of parking on one side, exiting on the other side, and having to walk miles around back to your car, all traffic flows in and out from a single point.

If you look at the location of ‘Star Wars Land,’ it’s actually closer to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure than it is to the front gate. That make me wonder:

Will Disneyland build a second entry gate for ‘Star Wars Land’?

I’m going to say no for several reasons:

  1. It’s much easier to control traffic from a single entry point.
  2. It’s tradition.
  3. It also will stamp out the complaining from people who won’t be able to use the gate, like the problem Disney has at the DCA gate from the Grand Californian Hotel.
Two Paths To Star Wars Land At Disneyland
Two Paths To Star Wars Land At Disneyland

So, assuming that you’ll have to reach the ‘Star Wars Land’ from the front of the park, there’s only a couple of ways to do it- left or right around Big Thunder Mountain.

  1. Go through sleeping Beauty Castle, past the line for Peter Pan’s Flight, around the King Arthur Carrousel, and on to ‘Star Wars Land,’ or
  2. Turn left at the hub, through Frontierland, and hook right on the path around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Either path will take you to ‘Star Wars Land’ and it will be interesting to see which one works out better, especially first thing in the morning.

The Fantasyland route is slightly shorter, but it bottlenecks through the castle and area just beyond. There will also be fleets of strollers to contend with going this way.

The Frontierland path, while a bit longer, has a wider path and is far quieter when the park first opens (at least right now). I’m betting it will be overall quicker and more sane to take this route to ‘Star Wars Land’ than to rush through Fantasyland.

There is, of course, a third option, which would involve construction of a new path behind Fantasy Faire in still more backstage area.

Alternate Path To Star Wars Land Through Fantasy Faire Backstage Disneyland
Alternate Path To Star Wars Land Through Fantasy Faire Backstage Disneyland

A new route through Fantasy Faire would only be slightly shorter than the one through Fantasyland, and would also limit Cast Members backstage access, so I find it unlikely that such a route will be built.

When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open At Disneyland?

At the most recent D23 Expo, it was announced that construction on the new land wouldn’t begin until 2017. In reality, construction has already been announced to begin on January 11, 2016.

This is another massive topic for discussion, so check out my post When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open at Disneyland for more information.

How Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Compare To The Rest Of Disneyland?

Nine 'Lands' Of Disneyland Including 'Star Wars Land'
Nine ‘Lands’ Of Disneyland Including ‘Star Wars Land’

According to Bob Iger, the new land will fill up about 14 acres. While I’m sure at least part of the area will be new backstage area (off-limits to guests), I thought it would be interesting to compare that number with the rest of the Disney ‘Lands’ to get a mental picture of just how large the new land will be.

Original Disney ‘Lands’

When Disneyland was first built, there were five original ‘lands.’ All of these areas have grown in one way or another in 1955, leaving us with the existing boundaries we know today.

In this table, you’ll find the current size of the original ‘Disney lands.’ These numbers are based on what I call ‘guest areas,’ or the section of the park that we can all enjoy and not including backstage or support areas.

LandCurrent Size (acres)
Main Street, USA6.3
Adventureland6.7
Frontierland15
Fantasyland13.3
Tomorrowland14.2

As you can see, ‘Star Wars Land’ will be around the size of Frontierland, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland. It’s hard to picture the size it just with these areas as a reference though.

The size of Frontierland includes much of the Rivers of America, most of which you can’t see from any one place. The main section of Fantasyland behind the castle is easy to imagine, but then it hooks around the Matterhorn and all the way back to It’s A Small World and the Fantasyland Theater.

Tomorrowland can feel massive, but like its western brother across the hub, you can’t see half of it with Autopia winding out into the trees beyond.

The concept art we have of ‘Star Wars Land’ shows a more open layout. If so, I’m sure it will feel huge and otherworldly, no doubt what Imagineers have in mind.

Added Disney ‘Lands’

LandCurrent Size (acres)
New Orleans Square6.4
Critter Country3.7
Mickey’s Toontown3

The size of later ‘Land’ additions to Disneyland hardly compares to the first ones. ‘Star Wars Land’ will be roughly twice the size of New Orleans Square. This is good news to me, because NOS feels massive when you’re in it.

A lot of the reason behind this is through the use of forced perspective in the streets and back alleys of NOS. I’m sure Disney Imagineers will utilize this concept with ‘Star Wars Land’ to its utmost potential.

Conclusion

What we don’t know about the new ‘Star Wars Land’ far outweighs what we do.

  1. Location: Back, left corner of Disneyland
  2. Size: Approximately 14 acres
  3. Rides: At least two
  4. Construction Timeline:
    1. Demolition: Begins 1/11/16
    2. Completion: Who knows?

Disney has so much construction going on around the world that it feels like the first half of Michael Eisner’s reign as CEO, when theme parks and resorts were popping up like daisies and there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be accomplished.

I’m going to keep a close eye on this new ‘Star Wars Land’ and write more as new details are revealed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news about this and all of information on everything in the Disney universe.

Are you as pumped as I am about ‘Star Wars Land’? What excites you the most? Leave me a comment below. As always, thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?

Backstage Areas Being Removed For Star Wars Land?

Backstage Areas Being Removed For Star Wars Land?
Backstage Areas Being Removed For Star Wars Land?

The world of Star Wars is heading to Disneyland, starting next year.

Let’s take a look at it’s likely location and what will need to go in order for us to visit a galaxy far, far away.

What Will Be Removed For ‘Star Wars Land’?

Disney has already announced the removal or relocation of several developed areas. The following locations will definitely be going:

Big Thunder Ranch

Big Thunder Ranch Will Be Demolished For Star Wars Land In Disneyland
Big Thunder Ranch Will Be Demolished For Star Wars Land In Disneyland

Big Thunder Ranch will be demolished to serve as the gateway to the new ‘Star Wars Land’ beyond the berm. It will have a similar function to the area between It’s A Small World and the Fantasyland Theater- a sunken pathway below the Disneyland Railroad.

It will be interesting to see if Imagineers leave the trees along the berm in place, blocking the view from behind Big Thunder Mountain into the new area. I think they’ll leave them or erect some other natural looking barrier, to avoid a conflict in theme with the nearby Frontierland and Fantasyland areas.

The goats, donkeys, and other animals from the petting zoo will be relocated to new homes, outside of Disneyland.

Owen Pope House

Owen Pope House Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Owen Pope House Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

We also know that the Pope House will be relocated backstage. In fact, the building permits have already been filed and approved.

Owen Pope House Will Move To Team Disney Anaheim Parking Lot
Owen Pope House Will Move To Team Disney Anaheim Parking Lot

The only structure remaining from before Disneyland’s construction, the house will move to a new foundation in the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) building guest parking lot and supposedly serve as a Cast Member conference room.

Team Disney Anaheim Parking Lot Next To TDA Building
Team Disney Anaheim Parking Lot Next To TDA Building

I think the most likely place for the house will be on the East side of the lot, next to TDA auditorium.

Circle D Ranch

Circle D Ranch Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Circle D Ranch Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

One of the more unfortunate backstage removals will be the Circle D Ranch. Home to all of the real animals at the Disneyland Resort, including the horses that pull the Main Street Trolleys, Disney has announced that the ranch will be moved off-site. It looks like they’ll move the horses by truck each day to their new home.

I’m curious to know where they’ll move the secretive ‘Disney cat’ feeding stations, which are rumored to also be in the area.

What Else Will Be Removed Backstage For ‘Star Wars Land?’

Other than the well known areas we’ve already discussed, a large number of Disneyland backstage facilities will also need to be demolished, their services relocated elsewhere.

If our guess on the projected area of ‘Star Wars Land’ is correct, this will include the following:

Disneyland Environmental Services

Environmental Services Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Environmental Services Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

Once you cross over the berm, the first facility you come to is the Disney dump. This facility must either be removed or avoided. It would be possible to build the guest area on the East side of this site, but the smell alone would be hard to mask and I imagine they’ll just move it elsewhere.

Transportation Service Garage

Transportation Service Garage Backstage Disneyland Inside Star Wars Land
Transportation Service Garage Backstage Disneyland Inside Star Wars Land

The maintenance area and coordination facility for the Disneyland Resort shuttles will have to move. In this picture, you can see an extra tram parked outside, as well as what looks to be some Autopia cars in the parking lot.

Just across the street to the South is the maintenance building for the resort attraction vehicles. I wonder if they’ll combine these two functions in one location. Spare parking lot trams could be parked outside the perimeter fence in one of the parking lots.

Operations & Maintenance Costuming

Maintenance Costuming Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Maintenance Costuming Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

Next door to the garage and backstage Cast Member entry gate, this building provides uniforms for Disneyland Resort transportation, security, horticulture, and custodial staff.

Horticultural Services

Disneyland Horticultural Services Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Disneyland Horticultural Services Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

This building houses the equipment and personnel responsible for plants across the resort, primarily consisting of replacing dead and damaged plants. You can see rows of seedlings and planting materials surrounding the building.

Parade Storage Building

Parade Storage Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Parade Storage Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

The information I have says this is a parade storage building for Disneyland. Look closely, there seems be at part of a float on the right side of the building.

Route From Parade Storage Building To North Staging Area
Route From Parade Storage Building To North Staging Area

It still makes sense to have the storage building in this area of the park, so that floats can be pre-positioned at the beginning of the Disneyland parade route near It’s A Small World. However, if the building is going to be in the way of the new ‘Star Wars Land,’ I see a couple of relocation options.

Option 1: Move the parade storage into the adjacent Entertainment Building. It’s already being used for performer rehearsals, so why not share the space? Perhaps the building could be remodeled to house the floats on the ground level, with training and warm-up rooms above?

Parade & Entertainment Buildings Backstage Disneyland
Parade & Entertainment Buildings Backstage Disneyland

Option 2: Move the storage building behind Space Mountain. The parade goes backstage in two locations, so demolish the two existing buildings behind Main Street, USA and store the floats next to the South end of the parade route.

Possible Southern Location For Parade Storage Building Disneyland
Possible Southern Location For Parade Storage Building Disneyland

Magic Music Days Building

Magic Music Days Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land
Magic Music Days Building Backstage Inside Star Wars Land

This building houses rehearsal facilities for the Disneyland ‘Magic Music Days’ performing arts programs.

What Won’t Be Removed For ‘Star Wars Land?’

With all the buildings that need to give way to progress, there are a few spots I don’t expect Disney to touch.

Fantasmic Dry Dock

Fantasmic Dry Dock Next To Star Wars Land
Fantasmic Dry Dock Next To Star Wars Land

The launch facility for the Fantasmic floats sits next to Big Thunder Ranch on the Rivers of America. It’s also the starting point for the Disneyland ‘dark water system.’ I expect the ‘Star Wars Land’ entrance won’t touch this area.

Indian Village

Indian Village Along The Rivers Of America In Disneyland
Indian Village Along The Rivers Of America In Disneyland

The friendly Indian Village has sat on the banks of the Rivers of America since 1955. Not only will this stick around, I expect the surrounding trees to stay intact as well, to separate this Frontierland spectacle from a different galaxy not so far behind it.

Fantasyland Theater Backstage

Fantasyland Theater Backstage Area Next To Star Wars Land
Fantasyland Theater Backstage Area Next To Star Wars Land

Behind Big Thunder Ranch, but still inside the berm, is a backstage area that suits a number of purposes.

  1. It provides backstage access through the berm into the interior of the park.
  2. It serves as an access conduit to the backstage area behind the building housing Snow White’s Scary Adventures.
  3. It services the Fantasyland Theater.
  4. It houses the garage and repair facilities for the Casey Jr. Circus Trains.

The new entrance to ‘Star Wars Land’ may slice off a portion of this area, but it should stay basically intact.

Conclusion

Things will be shaken up for a while as construction of ‘Star Wars Land’ begins in earnest in January 2016. After the first year, when the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America are restored to us, I’ll bet guests will hardly know anything is happening.

We’ll walk by construction walls for years and, behind the berm, Disneyland backstage buildings will be shuffled around and combined. Then, one day years from now, the walls will come down and we’ll all be transported to a strange new world that sprang up like magic.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like.

That’s all for now. Leave me a comment. I’d to hear your thoughts on my thoughts about the new ‘Star Wars Land.’

Make sure to check out my other article this new land, which expands on everything we know thus far. When will ‘Star Wars Land’ open at Disneyland? I’ve got an article about that too.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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What You Need To Know About Disneyland’s Annual Passport Updates

RIP Disneyland Premium Annual Passport

RIP Disneyland Premium Annual Passport

Once again, Disneyland has shaken up their annual passport offerings. We’ll talk about what’s new, what’s out, and how this all affects you.

RIP Premium Annual Passport

The rumors are true –

Disney has officially cancelled the Premium Annual Passport.

The first and oldest AP, Premium will no longer be available for either purchase or renewal, replaced by several other AP options.

If you currently have a Premium AP, you’ll still be able to exercise the privileges of that pass until it expires. At that point, you’ll need to renew at a different passport level.

Two side notes:

1) The Southern California and Premium AP’s are now referred to as ‘legacy passports.’
2) After reading Disney’s announcement about the Premium cancellation Sunday morning, a funny thought struck me. Surely there are some folks who either bought or renewed at the Premium level as late as the night before, completely unknowing that the next morning their AP would be discontinued. And there are those folks who were going to buy a Premium AP Sunday morning, only to have it disappear during the night. Funny how life works, isn’t it?

Meet The Disneyland Signature Annual Passports

There are actually two passports replacing the Premium AP at Disneyland, the Signature and Signature Plus.

Both new passes are essentially more expensive clones of the Premium. They both enjoy unlimited parking and the highest discounts. As an added perk, both AP’s come with unlimited downloads from Disney’s PhotoPass®.

Disney Christmas Or No Disney Christmas?

The only real difference between the Signature AP’s, other than price, are the blockout days. While the Signature Plus is a true year-round passport, the Signature AP is blocked out for the 15 days surrounding Christmas and New Years.

The explanation behind these blockout days involves crowd control during the peak holiday season. Every AP except for Signature Plus and Disney Premier will now be blockout out for the winter holidays, providing traffic relief for guests with regular tickets.

For more discussion on this change, and Disney’s greater AP policy in general, check out my article ‘5 Steps Of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders.’

For grins, I decided to see how much it would cost to make up for the extra 15 days you get with the Signature Plus AP with regular tickets. You could buy three 5-Day Park Hopper Tickets for $945 or fifteen 1-Day Park Hopper tickets for $2325.

Compared to these numbers, the extra $200 for the Signature Plus pass is a real bargain.

What Else Changed At Disneyland?

As you would expect, the price of all Disneyland Annual Passports has increased. This is the second increase this year (the previous bump happened in February). The last time we saw two AP price jumps in one year was 2010.

The daily cost of parking also increased, from $17 to $18 per day for a single car.

Downtown Disney Is Keeping An Eye On Locals

The parking policy at Downtown Disney (DD) also changed. Free parking at the DD lot has shrunk from 3 to 2 hours, with an additional 2 hours free with validation from a restaurant or movie theater.

This is no doubt in response to a number of local AP’s using the closer DD parking facilities to make quick trips into the parks and skip the healthy Disney parking fees. Let’s just say I’ve never done this, but my friends have (I’m talking about you Jackie).

What Didn’t Change At Disneyland?

With all of these changes in pricing at the parks, let’s take a look at what hasn’t changed.

  1. The price for regular theme park tickets has not gone up (yet), but I’m sure it will. I take a closer look at seasonal ticket pricing in another article.
  2. You can still renew the regular Southern California AP, though new sales are still suspended.
  3. Valid days and discounts for the SoCal Select, SoCal, and Deluxe Annual Passports remain the same.
  4. The AP yearly parking option is still unavailable.
  5. Blockout day tickets are still unavailable.

Conclusion

Once again it costs more to play at Disneyland. While some folks will give up their Annual Passport, I’d expect most people to just grumble and pay up.

I won’t be surprised if Disney raises prices again next year and also introduces seasonal pricing models to regular park tickets. Like any good business, they’re going to raise their prices to reach peak profit at maximum demand. As the number of visitors continues to rise year after year, even though prices have gone up dramatically, I’d say we haven’t reached that point yet.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on the Signature/Premium debacle. Leave me a comment below.

Also, make sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’ll keep you up-to-date on AP news, as well as notable events across the Disney universe. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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5 Steps of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders

The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you're careful, you can still renew it.

The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you're careful, you can still renew it.
The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you’re careful, you’ll still be able to renew it.

Is the Disney Annual Passport under attack?

The days of deciding to throw up a theme park one day and start construction the next are over at the Walt Disney Company. Like me, they are logical and methodical, with their decisions reasoned out and planned weeks, months, and decades in advance.

So let me share with you their ‘secret’ formula to thin out the Disney AP population, including those Southern California Annual Passholders they no longer need or want. I’ve also included a bonus 6th step from October 2015 that will affect all park guests, but especially those with Premium passes.

1. Raise Annual Passport Prices Year After Year

Disneyland has had an annual passport (AP) since 1984, starting just two years after they got rid of the A-E ticket system and went to a all-day, all-attraction pass. In those early years, annual passes cost $140 and stayed around that range until 2003, two years after Disney California Adventure opened.

Since then, the price for annual passes at Disneyland have increased from $10 -$140 per year. In that time, the Southern California (SoCal) Annual Passport has risen from $105 to $459. This increase in price can’t help but have the added effect of winnowing down the mass of SoCal AP holders, some downgrading to the less costly SoCal Select AP and others cancelling their pass altogether.

Not only has the price of AP’s increased, the price of ‘blockout day’ tickets has gone up significantly as well in the past several years, from $59 in 2011 to $84 in 2013. More on why this is significant later.

2. Advertise Cancellation Of The Southern California Annual Passport

2015 Disneyland Annual Passport Prices
Ticket prices have increased and the Southern California Annual Passport is still not available for purchase at Disneyland.

Out of nowhere in May 2014, spokesmen announced that not only were Disneyland ticket prices increasing across the board, but they would no longer be selling the SoCal AP. This caused mass hysteria in the local Disneyland AP community.

The question on everyone’s lips, and what Disney tried to make damn hard to find, was: can I renew my SoCal pass if I already have one?

I searched the internet top to bottom for an answer after the price increase, and while some sites briefly mentioned possible renewal options, nobody reputable declared it with conviction. Only after calling Disney AP services directly was I able to get a straight answer. Which leads us to the next strategic step…

3. Don’t Make Renewal Options Easy Or Obvious

Let me be the first person on the internet to give you a straight answer on this issue:

YOU CAN STILL RENEW YOUR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ANNUAL PASSPORT!

What you can not do is buy a brand new SoCal AP right out of the gate. You have to start at any of the other AP levels and then, after one year, you can renew your AP as a SoCal pass. Confusing, right?

News outlets and online forums around the world seem content to simply regurgitate Disney’s intentional, semi-ambiguous answer on this topic. After the AP policy change, heading to the Disneyland annual passport website will hardly clear things up either.

While you can find a wealth of information about the SoCal Select AP, the regular SoCal has been deleted from the AP ticket store (along with another pass we’ll get to in a minute).  There is no renewal link for the SoCal pass and it doesn’t specify if you can still finance your AP (you can!), which my family does and is a big selling point in our ability and desire to have an annual pass.

If you’d like more guidance on this particular topic, I wrote a whole guide on renewals just to clear up this point.

This brings us to the next step in Disney’s AP demolition plan, which was also ‘hidden in plain sight’ from Annual Passholders…

4. Quietly Cancel Sales Of ‘Blockout Day’ Tickets

‘Blockout Day’ tickets, those little half-price park hopper tickets that allow AP’s in the park on days their pass is blacked out, are no longer available at the Disneyland Resort.

I found out this one by accident! A short while ago, my family had planned a multi-day trip to Disneyland and, since our SoCal annual passes were going to be blacked out, we were planning on buying ‘blockout day’ tickets.

It was while researching ticket prices for a continuing series of AP articles that I stumbled on the truth in the FAQ section of the Disneyland AP website and I’m really glad I did. It says that while ‘blockout day’ tickets used to offered, they were no longer available, meaning my family would have showed up on the first day of our vacation and been completely blindsided.

Remember earlier when I said the increase in ‘blockout day’ ticket prices in recent years was significant? It’s further proof of Disney’s annual passholder strategy.

How many people in recent years have upgraded to a more expensive Annual Pass instead of buying even more costly multi-day Park Hopper tickets? And when you combine this step with the next Disney policy change below, these upgrades will come even faster.

5. (Really) Quietly Cancel The Annual Passport Yearly Parking Option

This step affects all Disneyland guests and Annual Passholders.

As of February 2015, you can no longer add a year’s worth of parking to your Disneyland Annual Passport.

All SoCal Select, SoCal, and Deluxe Annual Passholders that don’t already have the yearly parking option now have to pay the daily rate of $18 on each visit. Depending on how many trips you take, this can add up to thousands of dollars!

However, other passports, including Premium and Disney Premier, still include unlimited parking: a proverbial ‘carrot’ to the ‘stick’ of higher parking prices. More people will cancel their AP’s altogether while others will upgrade to more expensive passes.

Guests with regular tickets will benefit from less traffic, both in the parks and parking lots. However, if you’re a passholder and make lots of visits to Disneyland each year, you may now end up spending more than it would cost to upgrade to a higher level of Annual Passport.

For more information on the new specifics of AP parking, visit our Ultimate Guide to Annual Passholder Parking.
If you currently pay for the AP parking option, don’t be alarmed: you’re protected from this policy change. It’s not being advertised by Disney, but current AP’s will be able to renew their parking privileges along with their passes.

Current passholders can also finance the yearly parking along with their AP and spread the cost over an entire year. Just no one else can from now on.

Also remember: renewing an expired Annual Passport is the same as buying a new Annual Passport.

Like I said in step 2, current Annual Passholders can renew their SoCal AP’s. However, if you get fed up with the price hikes and let your passport expire, a new SoCal AP will be denied to you  (or at least until you’ve had another AP for a year).

Based on the facts presented above, your average passholder is left with a few options for AP renewal:

  1. You already have the yearly parking option, and you renew at the SoCal Select, SoCal, or Deluxe AP level.
    1. You pay more each year as rates increase but keep your pass, while Disney gets what it wants: your cash upfront, or
  2. You don’t have the parking option, but you still renew your AP.
    1. The more you visit Disneyland, the more it costs you as you pay each time you park.
    2. Due to rising costs, you choose to downgrade to a Southern California Select AP but now you have significantly fewer available days, as well as no weekends, holiday times, or other peak periods.
    3. Either way Disney gets what it wants: fewer locals (potentially at peak times) and cash up front from you (including the extra money for parking each time you visit), or
  3. You upgrade to a Signature, Signature Plus (more on these AP’s below), or Disney Premier Annual Passport.
    1. You get essentially unlimited parking and admission and Disney gets what it wants: more up front cash, or
  4. You cancel your Annual Passport altogether or delay your renewal to a later date
    1. You miss the time spent at Disneyland and Disney gets what it wants again: fewer locals clogging up their parks on busy days and one semi-permanently removed SoCal AP and/or parking pass.

6. Cancel The Premium Annual Passport

I know this article is called ‘5 Steps,’ but recently Disney revealed more of their AP’s plans that are essential to this list. Such as:

On October 4th, 2015, Disneyland officially cancelled the Premium Annual Passport.

This cancellation isn’t like the SoCal one, where you can still buy the pass through some convoluted method. The Premium AP is simply gone.

Disney Shakes Up Christmas With The Signature Annual Passports

In the place of Premium, Disneyland will now have two top-tier AP’s: Signature and Signature Plus.

Both passes are essentially clones of the Premium, with free parking and identical discounts. The only difference between the two involves blockout dates.

While the Signature Plus is a true year-round pass, the regular Signature is blocked out the during the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years.

This two-week difference between the AP’s confirms an important update in AP policy: Disney is definitely dealing with the flow of traffic by using seasonal pricing methods. There have been rumors in the past few months circling this idea and now it looks like they’re at least partially true.

This feels like Disney is dipping a toe in the water of more aggressive seasonal pricing. Time will tell if they’ll apply this same model to regular tickets, making busier times of the year more expensive to balance larger crowd levels.

We’ll have to wait and see how this cancellation will affect the Annual Passholder herd. For now, I can think of a few more cause-and-effect scenarios that will play out in the next year, as the Premium AP population dwindles to zero:

  1. Existing Premium passholders will simply renew at the next-best passport level, Signature.
    1. This will be the simplest move for most Premium AP’s. They’ll miss out on Christmas, but still enjoy the other benefits.
    2. With the more expensive passport, Disney will make more money and cut down on peak holiday traffic, or
  2. Premium AP’s will upgrade to Signature Plus.
    1. Some passholders either want or simply need to visit the Disneyland Resort around Christmas. Maybe they’re going for 365 days at the park (366 next year)? Maybe it’s a family tradition?
    2. Disney will make even more money, or
  3. Premium passholders will downgrade to a lower level of passport.
    1. These AP’s will renew at either the SoCal Select, SoCal, or Deluxe levels. They’ll pay less overall, but also have less access to the resort.
    2. This is where the cancellation of the AP yearly parking option rears its ugly head again. If you had yearly parking at some point and then went up to the Premium level, you won’t be able to get the parking option again when you downgrade.
    3. Disney makes more money on parking and controls park overcrowding with more blockout dates.

Adding to that last point, I’ve included the two reference tables below. For each ‘non-Premium’ AP, you can see the number of times you’d have to pay for parking before you’d make up the price difference for either the Signature or Signature Plus passes.

Trips To Break-Even On Signature Annual Passport

Annual PassportParking/DayExtra Cost For SignatureTrips To Break-Even
Southern California Select AP$18$52029
Southern California AP$18$39022
Deluxe AP$18$25014

Trips To Break-Even On Signature Plus Annual Passport

Annual PassportParking/DayExtra Cost For Signature PlusTrips To Break-Even
Southern California Select AP$18$72040
Southern California AP$18$59033
Deluxe AP$18$45025

Local Annual Passholders Are A Financial Drag On The Disneyland Resort?

Other than the reasons I touched on above, why would Disney want to get rid of Annual Passholders?

The Disneyland Resort was not originally built for the current level of traffic it receives during the busy season, namely Spring Break, Summer, and the Christmas holiday season. With little exception, Disneyland itself has had essentially the same number of bathrooms, drinking fountains, park benches, and walkways for at least the past 30 years.

Compare park attendance in 1984 at 9.8 million guests against 2014 with almost 16.8 million. That’s an increase of 7 million guests during the year, all packed in the same area, and that doesn’t even include the increased attendance from Disney California Adventure!

Needless to say, Annual Passholders contribute to a crowding problem.

Another drain AP’s have on the Disney bottom line is their potential lack of spending at the parks. To put it frankly- how many Mickey Mouse ears does a person need, especially when they’re coming back next week?

Compare that to the mythical, middle-class vacationers on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Disneyland. These people are Disney’s bread-and-butter clients, where money is no object and they buy half of Main Street on a single day. As a company, which type of guest would you rather have?

Conclusion

Tracing a line from the yearly price increases, to the advertised SoCal annual pass ‘cancellation,’ and finally the actual elimination of the Premium AP , it’s obvious that managers at Disneyland and the Walt Disney Company have had some AP’s in their sights for some time.

And, despite how the article above may read, I can’t fault them from a business perspective. Gone are the days of Walt Disney, where you could get into the park for very little because he wanted to share his dreams with the world. We live in the age of the corporation, where survival depends on profits.

Disney obviously isn’t penalizing Annual Passholders across the board, otherwise they would have removed the financing options for all passes and jacked up the price of the SoCal Select pass.

I think in many ways the results of this annual pass strategy will be positive for all Disney AP’s, including ones from Southern California. Greater profits for the company help make additions like the recently announced ‘Star Wars Land’ possible. Maybe they’ll throw in a Monster’s, Inc. mini-land in DCA or even a brand new Tomorrowland someday? Maybe they’d bring back the Peoplemovers (a guy can hope)!

In the meantime, Cast Members from the annual passport office assure me that the SoCal AP will still be available for renewal in the future, though now at $439 (which includes the renewal discount). So, while it lasts, at least we won’t pay more more for the privilege of visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.

What do you think about all this? Are you a Disneyland AP? Are you going to renew your SoCal annual pass or just let it lapse? Please let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our regular newsletter, so you won’t miss out on all our great Disney content.

For more info and insight into Disneyland tickets and annual passes, check out the 5 Reasons Disney Doesn’t Want More Annual Passholders and our Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Resort Annual Passports. See ya’ real soon!

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5 Reasons Disneyland Doesn’t Want More Annual Passholders

Long lines clog the entrance to Disneyland.

Long lines clog the entrance to Disneyland.

Disney has a plan to pare down the number of Annual Passholders (AP’s) at the Disneyland Resort. We know this. One question that remains is why?

The answer has less to do with AP’s themselves and more to do with who the preferred target customer of the Walt Disney Company is.

Disney’s Perfect Guests

Disney's Preferred Customer: The Mythical Wealthy Family of Four
Disney’s Preferred Customer: The Mythical Wealthy Family of Four

Every business has an ideal customer. For surfboard companies, it’s surfers with money. For camping equipment companies, it’s outdoor-lovers with money.

And for Disney, the target group is what I call the ‘Mythical Wealthy Family of Four.’ Simply put, they’re vacationers with disposable income and a reason to spend it.

Why am I bringing this up? It’s important to know who the ideal customer is to really understand why Disney doesn’t really want more Annual Passholders right now.

1. Annual Passholders Fill Up Space

Crowded entrance to Disneyland.
Crowded entrance to Disneyland.

Bear with me here, I’m going to throw a few numbers at you.

Disneyland Guest Area Hasn’t Grown Much Over The Years

Guest areas added to Disneyland between the mid-80's and 2013.
Guest areas added to Disneyland between the mid-80’s and 2013.

In 1984, when Premium annual passes were first made available to the public, the guest accessible area at Disneyland (DL) was about 72 acres and park attendance was 9.8 million. In the years to come, the park guest area would increase slightly with the addition of Splash Mountain (1989), Mickey’s Toontown (1993), and the Indiana Jones Adventure (1995).

In 2014, Disneyland had a guest area of about 75 acres and attendance of about 16.8 million.

That’s an increase of 7 million guests in effectively the same acreage, resulting in about 1/3 less space per guest on an average park day!

Disney California Adventure Guest Area Has Grown, But So Has Attendance

Guest areas added to Disney California Adventure between the 2001 and 2013
Guest areas added to Disney California Adventure between the 2001 and 2013

When it was first built in 2001, Disney California Adventure (DCA) had a guest area of about 41 acres with attendance of about 5 million. By 2014, the area had increased to about 56 acres (thanks in large part to Carsland) and attendance to 8.8 million.

Even with the recent amazing expansion, guests at DCA still have about 1/4 less space per person on an average attendance day at the park.

The Disneyland Resort Is Busier Than Ever

Let’s look at the same numbers on a resort level.

After the completion of DCA in 2001, theme park guest area in the Disneyland Resort (DLR) rose to about 117 acres with attendance of 17.3 million. The number of visitors continued to grow, outpacing new construction efforts.

In 2014, DLR attendance was 25.5 million and total theme park guest area was 132 acres, leaving about 1/4 less space per person, like at California Adventure.

Numbers don’t lie: more people are visiting the Disneyland Resort than in past years, with only a relatively small growth in the resort guest-accessible area.

You might know this phenomenon by its other name: overcrowding. In the mid-90’s, there were fewer than 100,000 Annual Passholders. Now we number around 1 million.

There are simply more of us getting in the way of Disney’s ideal customer, our ‘Mythical Family,’ which leads us to the next point…

2. AP’s Increase Wait Times

This is fairly easy to understand:

More people in the park equals longer lines for rides and shows.

Fastpasses Don’t Fix Everything

Disneyland Fastpass

In order to make up for longer lines, the FASTPASS® service was invented to save a place in line for guests and magically shrink wait times. And it works beautifully, but there’s a catch: AP’s know how to ‘game the system’ a bit.

Our ‘Mythical Family’ might understand the concept behind this time-saving device, but they won’t be as successful using them because…

AP’s Know The Park Better Than Just About Anyone

Practice makes perfect and the very fact that someone is an Annual Passholder makes it very likely that they’ve visited the park before, probably many times before. This means they know things like:

  • Which lands, rides, and shows to visit and when
  • Where the lines will get longer later in the day
  • What the transit time between attractions is
  • What attractions, shops, and restaurants are near each other
  • Which FASTPASS® machines aren’t linked into the network

Disney’s preferred customer has nothing on the practiced passholder. They can read all the books they want and get all the advice in the world, but nothing beats actual time spent on the ground and that’s what AP’s have in spades.

3. Annual Passholders Make Shorter Visits

A significant number of AP’s live within a two-hour drive of the Disneyland Resort, making it very convenient to pop over for a half-day with ease. Some local passholders treat the DLR like a city park and meet friends there for a few hours just to hang out.

Disney uses past visitor data to schedule everything, from the number of balloon salesman on Main Street to the canoes on the Rivers of America. The shorter, random trips some AP’s make are hard for managers to plan for and therefore cause many of the other AP attendance problems.

Poor planning can lead to improper Cast Member scheduling and a scarcity of ride vehicles on popular attractions, once again messing with the vacation of Disney’s preferred guests.

4. AP’s Fill Up The Parking Lots

The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and some outlying parking lots around the Disneyland Resort.
The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and some outlying parking lots around the Disneyland Resort.

The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure is the largest in North America and was built to hold 10,000 cars. If every car inside was owned by a ‘Mythical Family of Four,’ then 40,000 guests could fit inside.

But annual passholders often visit the park in groups far less than four, often just one person per car. Disneyland managers have tried to discourage this behavior by increasing the daily cost of parking, from $8/day in 2003 to $17/day in 2015. A year of parking for Annual Passholders has also increased in the past decade, from $40 to $169.

Most recently in February 2015, new sales of the AP yearly parking option were cancelled. This couldn’t help but have the effect of decreasing both the number of trips Annual Passholders take as well as the number of cars they bring with them.

AP’s fill up spaces that could be used for Disney’s preferred guests, sometimes just for part of the day, making the big-spending family park in an outlying lot and get bused to the resort.

Not only are regular resort guests inconvenienced, but Disney Cast Members as well. When guests spill into overflow lots, CM’s are pushed further out into the outlying parking lots, where they’re shuttled in on inefficient and cramped trams or forced to walk over a mile just to get to their job.

The significant time delay between parking at the resort and finally arriving at work also leaves more cars in employee parking lots longer, further contributing to the problem.

5. Annual Passholders Often Don’t Spend Extra Money

Disneyland has merchandise for all ages.
Disneyland has merchandise for all ages.

On your first trip to Disneyland, you have to spend a bunch of money. There are Mickey t-shirts, plush toys, magnets, ornaments, and kitchenware to buy, not to mention fancy sit-down dinners and professional photographs. On your second trip, maybe you’ll get a thing or two you skimped-on last time, but not a whole lot.

How about the third trip? Tenth? Hundredth?

You get the point: AP’s aren’t as likely as the ‘Mythical Family’ to spend a bunch of extra dough on their regular trips, thus cutting into the Disney bottom line (and they don’t like that). This is perhaps the largest problem with Passholders.

Now that I’ve harped on AP’s, here’s a few reasons why we’re good for the Walt Disney Company and why we should continue to be embraced.

1. Annual Passholders Provide Guaranteed Income

While you can’t exactly predict when the ‘Mythical Family’ will schedule their Disney vacation, if you buy an annual pass Disney knows for a fact that they’re going to get a big chunk of change from you. Whether it’s all at once or in monthly payments, they’re going to end up with $300-700 of your money in their bank account.

This one is pretty straightforward: Disneyland is going to be manned and ready whether you buy an annual pass or not, so it’s good for Disney to pocket some money for something they were going to do anyway.

2. AP’s Don’t Have To Ride All The E-Ticket Attractions On Every Visit

I don’t need to ride Space Mountain on every visit to Disneyland. I’ve been on it a hundred times, so if it has a long line I skip it. For the same reason, I don’t need to go on Soarin’ Over California everytime I enter DCA. I’ve done it.

How about you? We all have rides and shows we love. They’re our favorite and when asked why we like to go to Disneyland, they’re the first words on our lips. But because a ride is your favorite, and you’ve been on it a bunch of times, it probably doesn’t kill you to miss it on one trip. Or maybe multiple trips?

There are a whole slew of rides I haven’t been on since my son was born over a year ago and I’m okay with that. I know that when I come back, they’ll still be there. A lot of AP’s have the same mindset.

So while Passholders can be the cause for longer wait times, the reverse can also be true. I say let the ‘Family’ wait in those lines. I’ll just chill on a bench and soak in the magic.

3. AP’s Are More Likely To Purchase ‘Value-Added’ Tickets For Special Events

In recent years, Disneyland managers have concocted a whole slew of special events requiring an extra ticket at extra cost. Mickey’s Halloween Party and the Candlelight Processional are perfect examples. A lot of these ‘value-added’ events happen during the school season, when our favorite ‘Mythical Family’ is stuck at home and less likely to travel.

So who buys these tickets? Local AP’s, that’s who. The Halloween Party has 14 dates and they all take place between late September and Halloween night. What’s that sound like? School season.

I know it’s a little off topic, but how about the D23 events that take place in the park? Our Family probably wouldn’t travel across the country just to see a screening of Sleeping Beauty, but a local AP would show up, dumping a little extra cash into the Disney coffers.

4. Annual Passholders Are A Good Source Of Information

Since they visit the resort more often than the average guest, Passholders are uniquely qualified to inform the WDC about what’s happening in their parks. Which plans are working and which ones aren’t. What rides and shows need to be replaced and what would be good replacements.

It wasn’t until I was a Passholder for several years that I realized I could give direct and specific feedback on Cast Member activities by leaving comments at City Hall. No matter how many times I visit, when a CM goes the extra mile for me, I always try to leave them some positive feedback.

While I don’t like to complain to Disney, and seldom have cause to do so, anyone can also use this process to leave negative feedback.

Passholders Are Perfect Brand Advocates

Brand Advocate: A person or customer who talks favorably about a brand or product and then passes on positive word-of-mouth messages about the brand to other people.

It has been pointed out to me that I often talk too much about Disneyland and Disney in general, which is probably true. Like a lot of AP’s, I do go overboard on the Mouse at times and not just about big premieres and park openings either. Most Passholders I’ve met can talk endlessly on the smallest of details, like which Hitchhiking Ghost is the coolest (Gus) or which shade of Sleeping Beauty Castle they prefer and why (I like the pink- it’s happier).

Hitchhiking Ghosts on the Haunted Mansion Poster, Disneyland
Phineas, Ezra, and Gus: The Hitchhiking Ghosts on the Haunted Mansion Poster, Disneyland

As reader Steve pointed out, AP’s are not only valuable information resources to the WDC itself, but to other park guests and the ‘Mythical Family.’ Our animated interest and palpable love of Disney parks is transferable to regular folks out in the real world, which leads to their later vacations to Disney resorts.

While managers do a pretty good job of engaging the fan community as a whole, Disney could do more to engage Passholders directly. For example, offering a larger array of discount options for AP’s looking to escort out-of-town friends and family through the resorts would be a good start. Harnessing AP brand-advocates and giving them more incentive to spread the word is a win-win situation for everyone.

5. AP’s Can Spend A Lot Of Money In The Park

Wait a second- didn’t I just say a minute ago that Annual Passholders were cheap? You weren’t dreaming, because yes I did.

However, as a reader pointed out to me, some AP’s do spend a healthy chunk of money during their visits to Disneyland. These Disney fans might collect pins, Vinylmations, watches, or artwork. Or they might simply like to purchase their wardrobe at the park.

Some passholders do the bulk of their Christmas shopping at the Disneyland Resort, and my wife and I look forward to browsing the seasonal merchandise to see what new treasures we can add to our collection. So although we may not spend as much every visit, we still have our big spending trips from time to time.

Conclusion

Disneyland Annual Passholders can definitely create problems for the DLR. We show up all the time, get in the way, and usually don’t spend a whole lot of extra cash at the park.

But we add value to Disneyland and the Disney company as well. We’re brand-evangelists. We love to talk about Disney to everyone and anyone. Not only do we love visiting the resort, we love other Disney products as well, like their animated films, books, and games.

When looked at in a vacuum, AP’s can get in the way of the Mythical Family of Four and hinder their ability to give even more money to the WDC. But don’t discount the possibility that we’re a big part of the reason the family showed up in the first place, spreading the word and whispering in everyone’s ear about all things Disney.

I’m not giving up my annual pass anytime soon, and with Disney’s strategy to decrease the number of SoCal AP’s in general, I may even buy Deluxe passes so my family can spend even more time spending less money at the Disneyland Resort.

What do you think about all this? What’s your annual passport plan? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And make sure to read the 5 Steps of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders and our Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Annual Passports. Thanks for reading and I’ll see ya’ real soon!

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Happy (Royalty Free) Birthday To Us All…And Also Dumbo

Mr Stork Sings Happy Birthday To Dumbo

Mr Stork Sings Happy Birthday To Dumbo
Mr Stork Sings Happy Birthday To Dumbo

This week, a federal judge in Los Angeles denied a copyright claim for the song ‘Happy Birthday.’

That’s right, for the past 80 years, someone has collected royalties on that little ditty every time the song was used commercially. The most recent ‘owner’ of these rights is Warner Brothers (since 1988).

Puts a few things in perspective, doesn’t it?

For example, why every restaurant chain has its own version of the birthday melody. Companies don’t want to shell-out money when their staff sings the song. This is also why you don’t hear ‘Happy Birthday’ in a lot of movies or tv shows.

Evidently the song has been ‘copyright’ since 1935. Reading about the recent ruling, I could hear a Disney version of the song echoing in the back of my head.

A Little Elephant Is Born

And then it came to me: Dumbo has ‘Happy Birthday’ in it! And not a patched up, Sherman Brothers concoction of it either. This here’s the real deal.

There’s a nice video of the scene on YouTube.

The first song in Dumbo goes ‘Look Out For Mr. Stork,’ but maybe it should be ‘Look Out For Warner Brothers.’

Released in 1941, Dumbo premiered six years after the song was protected under law. I couldn’t find any information as to whether Disney paid for use of the song, but I think it’s likely they did.

Other Disney ‘Happy Birthdays’

On a related note, I did find a few references to Disney paying for use of the song in the old EPCOT Horizons attraction. Nothing concrete, mind you, but interesting nonetheless.

Disney Epcot Horizons – Complete POV Ride (1992)

Disney lyricists did compose ‘The Unbirthday Song‘ from Alice in Wonderland. While the phrase itself was coined by Lewis Carroll in 1871, I wonder if the song isn’t a riff not only on ‘Happy Birthday,’ but also the company that held the rights to it.

Kind of like, ‘See, we’ll write our own song and not pay you a thing.’

Conclusion

Now that it looks like ‘Happy Birthday’ will be free again, maybe we’ll hear it more often in the media. I know that scene in Dumbo will have different meaning for me from now on. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!
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Mouse Monthly Meets The D23 Expo

Setting up for D23 Expo
Alex and his Mom in our booth at the 2015 D23 Expo!

Mouse Monthly took part in the D23 Expo this past weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. At booth number 1217 in Hall B, we started showing the Disney community our original designs in collectible pins, tank tops and t-shirts, as well as our newest product, Head Holders (stands for displaying all your collectible antenna balls). What an incredible experience!

Perfect Booth Location

Mouse Monthly Booth 2015 D23 Expo

The D23 Expo had over 60,000 attendees, and it honestly feels like we talked to most of them! Disney fans are such wonderful people and we had so many great conversations with guests as well as people who were working at the Expo.

Hall B Map

 

We couldn’t have picked a better site for our booth. None of us had been to the Anaheim Convention Center before, and when we picked our spot, half of it was planning, but the other half was just hoping. We ended up right at the end of Mickey Avenue, across from our friends at MiceChat.com and beside some incredible art.

Hall B, Mickey Avenue
View from our booth. All the way down Mickey Avenue!

Costumes, Costumes Everywhere!

Calhoun Cosplay
AmberSkies Cosplay as Calhoun from Wreck It Ralph

 

Rapunzel & Eugene
Sarah (https://instagram.com/skeaggy) and Cody (https://instagram.com/codysseus ) as Rapunzel and Eugene from Tangled

People were walking around in costumes and wearing their favorite t-shirts, which made the days all the more entertaining while we spotted our favorite characters and got to see all the inspirational designs. Check out @MouseMonthly on Twitter for more great cosplay pictures from the Expo!

Amazing Disney Talent On Display

Behind us signing autographs was Ed Asner (voice of Carl Fredricksen in Disney Pixar’s UP) who was such a trooper! He signed autographs and took pictures with fans all three days of the Expo!

Ed Asner

There were also many other notable Disney artists and Imagineers, like Terri Hardin, who was working on her own carving all weekend while signing copies of her collectible castle pin.

Terri Hardin

I was over the moon to meet Jim Cummings and have him autograph a photo of Pooh and Tigger for my son.

Jim Cummings

We talked about one of Alex’s favorite characters, Ray (from The Princess and the Frog) and he easily dropped into character, quoting one of the lines from the film, “Women like a man with a big back porch!”

Speaking of The Princess and the Frog, Michael Leon-Wooley was across from us at MiceChat.com signing autographs and hearing his booming laugh was such a treat throughout the day. How fun to meet “Louis”!

Michael Leon-Wooley

We also got to hear other familiar voices, like Bill Farmer the voice of Goofy and Pluto. And on the last day of the Expo the voice of Mickey Mouse himself, Bret Iwan was across from us at one of the art booths!

There was the most amazing booth two rows over from us called Legends Events, hosting celebrities like Dick Van Dyke, Lesley Ann Warren, Sean Astin, as well as the girl who does the voice of young Anna from Frozen, Livvy Stubenrauch! They were all so nice and happy to be meeting their fans.

Getting Around The Expo

It was neat being able to sneak away from the booth for a moment here and there to check out everything else at the Expo, all the while wearing my yellow exhibitor badge with pride! It felt so good to be a part of this community and to work alongside the Disney greats as well as the other small businesses who are trying to make a living while doing what they love.

Jamie with her D23 Exhibitor Badge

Hall C was full of eye candy with Star Wars displays, movie memorabilia, a huge Shanghai Disneyland display and store, as well as my favorite, Disney Pixar, who did giveaways the first two days of the Expo of their iconic Luxo balls.

Star Wars Costume Display 2015 D23 Expo

Even the Pizza Planet truck was there! Marco from PizzaPlanetTruck.com showed me all the details that they have included to make it authentic, including Buzz buckled in to the front seat and Woody in the back where ‘there are no safety harnesses in the storage compartment’!

Pizza Planet Truck

It All Started With A Baby…

We met so many wonderful people and got to share the story of how we started as a little blog ‘that thought we could’. For those of you who don’t know our history, when we were pregnant Alex and I would go to the Disneyland Resort every month or so, and as I became more pregnant I got bigger, more swollen, and a whole lot slower!

When we went to the park, we would sit quite a bit and would talk about what we noticed as well as what we loved about Disney. So we decided to share our thoughts through our blog and Mouse Monthly started growing, along with our son, Jack who was born in April of 2013.

We continued along blogging here and there, writing about our trips and posting articles about things that interested us. Then Disney discontinued selling the SoCal pass, and being Southern California passholders we had questions, and started looking for answers…and asking more questions, and finding more answers. Thus our Ultimate Guide for Disneyland Annual Passholders came about. Traffic to our website increased a bit, and a bit more, and soon we were getting over a thousand visits a day!

The Big Idea: Get A Booth At The 2015 D23 Expo

In the spring Alex told me his idea to get a booth at this year’s D23 Expo. My response? “…and do what?” Lol! So we talked about the designs that we liked and what we had always wanted to see on merchandise and what made us ‘feel Disney’. Then we contracted designers from all over the world to put those ideas together into a seasonal theme, and got so many wonderful designs that we had to narrow it down to a few Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter inspired designs.

Mouse Monthly Winter Snowscapes T-shirt

We sourced out quality tank tops and tees, and got them screen printed just in time for the Expo, and received our pins the day before we headed down to Anaheim to set up. With Alex’s mom’s help we set up our booth and displayed our new wares, including the Head Holders, our innovative new product for displaying all those wonderful, collectible antenna balls!

Mouse Monthly Ghostly Trio T-Shirt

Head Holders

 

It was a bit terrifying for me as a stay at home mom to put ourselves out there and make the transition from a little family blog into a small family business offering great information on Disneyland as well as originally designed products, but I couldn’t have asked for a warmer environment to do it in.

Jamie & Mary Morales

I received wonderful support from other exhibitors in attendance, especially other moms, like Mary Morales, a Disney Travel Specialist who was at the Legends Events booth. And I cannot finish this article without mentioning the overwhelming praise and kindness we received from all our new customers and the Disney fans in attendance at the Expo. It is you who make it possible for us to try to live our dream.

New friend and customer!

I made new friends, and have memories I will cherish from this experience. Wish us luck as we push into the future, and thank you again for your loyalty and your support.

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