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Disney loses its first love

Pass price increase leaves the middle class behind. | Amanda Sakowski/THE CHIMES

 

Back in the 1950s when Walt Disney first envisioned Disneyland, he wanted to create an amusement park where families could be entertained. The park only charged a small admission fee of one dollar in addition to ride tickets, which cost between 10 and 30 cents, and were primarily designed to keep out troublemakers. Today, Disneyland thrives with millions of patrons annually, but recent fee hikes may drive “trouble-making” middle-class families away. Even with his futuristic insights, I doubt Disney would have foreseen charging over $1,000 for annual park passes.

A new annual pass with no blackout dates was introduced recently for $1,049 — a $270 increase. A lower-cost pass for $849 is also available with blackouts around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Passholders will pay more and get a lower number of rides next year since Fantasmic, the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America will be closed.

ALL-TIME HIGH

Nonetheless, despite regular rate hikes, visits have not decreased. In fact, attendance at the parks has reached all-time highs. This is how Disney justifies increased admission prices.

This 35 percent fee increase, the largest increase in recent Disneyland history, is necessary the company stated, since there is strong demand for annual passes. This has caused overcrowding.

The smaller pool of pass-holders is expected to reduce overcrowding, while generating the same revenue. They also expect to reduce complaints from guests having to wait in long lines for rides with huge crowds, making the “happiest place on earth” not such a happy place after all. Lack of parking spaces from this overcrowding also allowed Disney to eliminate the annual parking pass option for all except Signature Plus pass-holders, who now must pay $18 every time they visit the park.

SQUEEZING OUT THE MIDDLE CLASS

These pass price hikes indicate Disney is squeezing out the middle class, or those who spend less and come on busy days, in favor of the big spenders.

Typically, local pass-holders do not spend a lot on extras at the park. It is the vacationers who stay at the hotels, buy souvenirs and eat meals at Disney restaurants the theme park seeks, not the locals. Are these the clients Walt originally wanted to serve? It appears not. Those who run Disney today, however, recognize die-hard fans will most likely see the black-out pass as a better deal than paying the daily admission rate of over $100. Hardcore Disney loyalists will continue to splurge on limited-edition collectibles and invite friends and family to visit the park for a few days.

MICKEY-MAMMOTH

We are not happy with the price increase and are contemplating not renewing,” said Karen Gerharter-Goodman, grad student, referring to herself and her husband. “Disney is the main source of entertainment for us, but they are trying to have their cake and eat it too.”

Mickey Mouse-sized admissions prices have certainly grown by “Mickey-Mammoth” proportions for annual passes. The bottom line — Disney is a business and wants its parks full of just the right amount of “high-paying” customers.

 

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Anonymous

    There are also cheaper passes. Buy the low end and do something else on high priority days like holidays. October 22, 2015

  2. Jade Cobos

    Dear Editor,
    As a current annual passholder, I wholeheartedly agree with Biola University’s opinion column (Editorial, Disney loses it first love;Oct. 20) criticizing the hiked prices for admission to Disneyland. Disney isn't only losing money by pricing out the middle class people, but they are also crushing children's dreams of experiencing the magical world Walt Disney has created.

    I would like to add my perspective to your discussion on why the “happiest place on earth” is turning to the most expensive place on earth. As an annual passport holder, I am very angry with Disney from turning my once $779 pass into a $1409 pass. I find it ridiculous that the passport prices have jumped so tremendously, and that if you have a deluxe passport you still have to pay an additional eighteen dollars for parking when the old passes had parking included. Another thing I find irritating is if you have a Disney signature or deluxe you visit both theme parks on the same day most days of the year. The key word is most; I don't understand why if I'm paying $800 and $600 dollars for my pass I should be allowed to go to both parks as I please without having a piece of paper telling me I can't. Walt Disney should be rolling in his grave from changing his vision from making this the most affordable theme park for all families to the most expensive . In the end Disney’s greed will keep doing whatever will keep the money flowing, even if this means raising prices extremely high. Let's face it, Disneyland will always have people coming and going that's never going to change.

    As a Disney fanatic myself I can’t find it in my heart, nor my pocketbook, to renew my pass anymore; it saddens me because this doesn't only affect me, but my children yet to come as well. I hope Disney will rethink their prices and hopefully change them in the near future, but for now I simply with sit this one out.

    Sincerely, Jade Cobos October 28, 2015

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