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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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Grizzly River Run Goes Dry at DCA? – DLR Construction

Grizzly River Run Construction Sign at Disney California Adventure.
Even the waterfall below Grizzly River Rapids sits dry at DCA.
Even the waterfall below Grizzly River Run sits dry at DCA.

It’s heating up here at the Disneyland Resort and Disney management is scrambling to get Grizzly River Run back in working order for the busy summer season. Let’s see where things are at.

Grizzly River Run Entrance

Grizzly River Run Construction Sign at Disney California Adventure.
Grizzly River Run Construction Sign at Disney California Adventure.

Every conceivable entrance to Grizzly River Run is blocked by signs, scrims, tarps, and walls. The area still looks beautiful though, so make sure to stroll by and admire it anyway.

Load Station, Starting Channel, and Lift Ramp

Water Wheel under construction at Grizzly River Run, DCA.
Water Wheel under construction at Grizzly River Run, DCA.

The starting channel and load ramp for Grizzly River Run are dry-as-a-bone as construction workers scurry to and fro. Just about the only water in this area is a retention pond next to the water wheel by the load ramp.

Take a look at the rockwork and logs along the channel edge. You can really see how the textures on these themed surfaces stop just below the water level.

Splash-down & Exit Channels

Dry splash-down ramp at Grizzly River Rapids, DCA.
Dry splash-down ramp at Grizzly River Run, DCA.

Standing near Condor Flats, you can get a good view of the empty splash-down ramp and exit channel for Grizzly River Run. Make sure to check out the edge theming here as well. Also, a little further down the exit channel you can see a pipe in the floor that causes the ‘geyser eruption’ and gets you soaking wet at the end of the attraction.

Thanks for riding along with me on this construction update for Grizzly River Run. Stay tuned  for more detailed reports on the rest of the Disneyland Resort and check out my other recent post about construction on New Orleans Square.

Have any construction reports or pictures of your own? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you won’t miss future construction update posts (or any of our other great content). See ya’ real soon!

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Disneyland Trip Report – December 2012

Alex Blasingame with Uncle Walt at DCA

This trip is brings us to days 35 and 36 at the Disneyland Resort since first purchasing annual passports in 2010. It also marks our third total trip to the DLR with my parents and our last visit in 2012.

We spent two nights at the Paradise Pier Hotel, which was nice but would’ve been more convenient if they still had that private gate into Disney California Adventure (more about this on a future Monday MapDay post). Also, we just got a new digital video camcorder, so we’ll have a few videos to go along with this trip.

What’s New at the Disneyland Resort?

Jamie and Debbie Blasingame with Minnie Mouse

Disneyland was decorated to the max for Christmas as usual. The castle looked beautiful in it’s glittering white snow theme and the nightly lighting is always a magical time. Jamie tears up when they make it snow on Main Street.

Just like our last trip near Halloween, we made the journey back into Big Thunder Ranch, this time to check out the Jingle Jangle Jamboree. The hot apple cider and gingerbread cookies really helped to set the holiday theme. Billy Hill and the Hillbillies put on a great Christmas-themed show and the Country Bears from the old show (now only at Walt Disney World), came out to dance and mingle.

In another first for us, and while still out in BTR, we saw the ‘4 o’clock running-of-the-goats.’ This was really cute and something we’re looking forward to seeing again.

Debbie and Kevin Blasingame Omnibus DL

We took my parents on their first wheelhouse ride on the Mark Twain and also their first Omnibus ride. They got to sit up front with the driver and since we were the only ones on the bus for the trip around the hub to the main entrance, we got to have our own private tour of Main Street, USA.

In big family news, we finally got my Mom to ride It’s A Small World for the first time in thirty years. Before I was born, she got stuck on it for several hours (with the music playing ) and has always avoided the place. The entire ride was decked out in its holiday theme and she actually seemed to enjoy it. Maybe she’ll try the regular IASW next time she visits (but I wouldn’t count on it).

Alex Blasingame Beast's Library DCA

Over in DCA, we all got to see the new Carsland decorated for the holdiays for the first time and it looked great. They seasonal decorating team really did a great job of incorporating the Christmas into the mega-theming of the area.

We took my parents into the Animation Academy for the first time and into Turtle Talk with Crush, where my Dad promptly fell asleep (he’s getting ready to be a grandfather).

Disney Baby

Blasingame Baby Bump Dec 2012

This is the third bump picture and that honey pot is really starting to disappear! Jamie is 22 weeks pregnant and we’ve settled on the name John Alexander Blasingame, but we’re going to call him Jack for ‘short.’

Jamie Blasingame and the Honey Pots Dec 2012

The whole family is excited about our upcoming arrival and getting ready to spoil their first grandchild.

Disney Food Update

Jamie and Alex Blasingame at Storytellers Cafe

The first morning of our trip, we all ate breakfast at the Storytellers Cafe. After being attacked by a bear, I had my usual eggs benedict, Jamie and Mom had the banana-stuffed french toast, and Dad had steak and eggs.

Later in the day, we ate lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. They had changed the menu somewhat, but we started off with the same Jalapeño Cheese Balls all of us liked last time. My Mother and I both dined on had lamb, her the Lamb Rolls and I Cavatelli Pasta with Lamb, both of which were excellent. Jamie had Chicken Meatball Pasta and Dad had Short Rib Ravioli’s. It’s nice they keep introducing new dishes, but it makes the selection process a lot longer.

Jamie Blasingame's Disneyland Pickle Dec 2012

Jamie didn’t consume quite as many pickles this trip, but she did chow-down on one while watching the Dapper Dan’s. Also, since there were more of us this trip, I finally managed to get a plate of Plaza Inn fried chicken all to myself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat everything, so the first time will probably the last time.

That’s all for now. I’ll be adding videos and other content later. Be on the lookout for our next trip report. We’ll see ya’ real soon!

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Disneyland Trip Report – October 2012

Jamie Blasingame and the Honey Pots Oct 2012

This trip to the Disneyland Resort marks days 33 and 34 since we first bought annual passports. As you can see, compared to our last visit, Jamie’s baby bump is quite more pronounced.

Blasingame Baby Bump Oct 2012

This next picture is taken from the normal spot near Pooh’s Corner. I put the other picture first because the lighting isn’t very good in this one. However, you can still see how the honey pot is starting to disappear.

Mark Twain on the Rivers of America

The Mark Twain steaming the Rivers of America, as seen from the Hungry Bear Restaurant.

We discovered the Hungry Bear Restaurant on this trip and Jamie has fallen in love with their chili-cheesburger. Nestled among the quiet pines in a corner of Critter Country, we had walked past the Hungry Bear on many occasions, but now find it a shady place to sit and eat. The patio downstairs is a great place to relax in the shade and watch the ships float by on the Rivers of America.

Our next trip won’t be until after Thanksgiving, but we’ll still have a thing or two to share in the meantime. See ya’ real soon!

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Disneyland Trip Report – September 2012

Blasingame Astro Blasters 2012

This visit marks days 31 and 32 at the Disneyland Resort since we’ve had annual passports. It’s also our first visit since we found out Jamie was pregnant! We decided to take a picture of her standing in the same spot on each consecutive visit, so we can look back on them and see her belly grow.

Jamie chose to stand in front of a honey pot, near the entrance to Pooh’s Corner Bakery, just as you exit The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. And here’s the first official Disneyland baby bump picture.

Blasingame Baby Bump Sep 2012

Jamie’s first baby bump picture.

You can see plenty of that honey pot now, but she’s only about two months along, so expect to see the pot disappear in trips to come. Picking a Pooh-centric photo spot was intentional because we’ve decided to decorate the nursery in a Winnie the Pooh theme. It works for boys or girls. More on that later as we get more baby stuff.

Also, at the very top we have a lovely picture of Jamie enjoying Astro Blasters. We’ll keep working on that score. Our next trip is planned for October, so we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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Welcome to Mouse Monthly!

Jamie & Alex Blasingame at DCA

Jamie & Alex Blasingame at DCA

Welcome to the Mouse Monthly blog. Someone recently asked us if we knew all of Disneyland’s secrets. Well no, not yet- but we’re working on it.

Hello, we’re Jamie and Alex Blasingame and we love all things Disney. We live and work in Southern California and since first becoming annual passport holders for the Disneyland Resort a year ago, we’ve been over fifteen times. Initially, we felt the need to pack in as much as possible on each visit, but now we take a much more leisurely pace and notice more and more interesting details each time we go. We’ve picked up numerous books on Disneyland and read them to each other between trips. Then the next time we go back we have fun pointing out new details we’ve learned, such as the history and significance of the shop windows on Main Street, USA.

On our drive home from the park, we always talk about new experiences we’ve had and ideas to ‘plus’ the parks, as Walt would put it. So we’re having a blog to talk about all of that and all things Disney. Stay tuned for more and we’ll see ya’ real soon!’

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