When I read last week that Disneyland had unveiled a new annual pass with a high price of $1,600, I almost spit out my coffee. (Well, technically $1,599, but who’s counting?)
I make no claim to comprehend the park’s perplexing pass system, which was halted during the epidemic then reintroduced a year ago with a new structure and increased charges before being halted again in May to better regulate crowds, according to park authorities. Disneyland reopened ticket sales last week. However, you cannot purchase one unless you already own one. Did you pay attention?
Magic Keys, the new passes, are available in four levels. The cheapest, at $449, is exclusively accessible to residents of Southern California. However, passholders should not expect to visit the park at the busiest times of the year, notably shortly before and after Christmas.
“The price hikes — as high as 16% — and the limitations on Christmas visits,” writes my colleague Hugo Martín, “are the latest chapter in the saga of the resort’s annual pass program, which is very popular with hard-core Disneyland fans but has been blamed for increased crowding … especially during peak summer and holiday travel seasons.”
One disgruntled annual ticket user filed a $5 million lawsuit against the corporation in December, claiming she was misled by the firm’s promise of “no blackout periods” when she acquired her $1,399 annual membership in September. According to the suit, when she attempted to make a reservation for November (yep, all guests now require reservations), she was told that nothing was available on her preferred dates. However, according to the dissatisfied pass holder, single-day tickets could be purchased on all of her desired days.
“Disney,” says the lawsuit, “appears to be limiting the number of reservations available to Dream Key pass holders on any given day in order to maximize the number of single day and other passes that Disney can sell.” That, it claimed, means that annual passes are “essentially, a ‘second class’ ticket.”
Officials at Disneyland said they have been upfront about the requirements of the passes and will actively fight the case. It wouldn’t harm the corporation to be more open, even if I doubt the lawsuit would have even a little impact on the park’s appeal.
Also, good luck determining the cost of single-day tickets. There appear to be six distinct tiers with varying pricing. All I can say is that a single-day ticket for my 12-year-old niece in June cost $154. How do working families pay such exorbitant prices?
Many years ago, a Times consumer writer enraged Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios by suggesting that families simply avoid the parks during the summer. “It would certainly thin out the crowds if more people did it,” she wrote. I believed she had a point, but the amusement parks were not amused and evidently informed our then-publisher of their displeasure.
Simply put, for more than a half-century, the Disney world, or multiverse, has been intrinsically linked to the lives of American children. (This includes adults.) Simply search for “Disney weddings.” My stepson once witnessed a newlywed couple exiting their horse-drawn glass carriage at the end of their excursion. “Is that all?” said the dissatisfied bride.)
We gathered in front of the television in the living room at the end of every weekend when I was a youngster to watch “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” It was always a fantastic way to beat the Sunday night blues. Each episode would be introduced by Uncle Walt himself. Yes, it was family entertainment, but it was also an overtly enticing advertisement for Disneyland, the groundbreaking amusement park that debuted in Anaheim in 1955.
A vacation to Disneyland was a big deal fifty years ago, especially for a family with four kids like ours. It was a rare pleasure, something to save for and enjoy.
In my first 30 years, I probably went to Disneyland three or four times, including on “grad night” at my high school. Back then, young males with long hair had to tuck their locks beneath a hat or face expulsion, while young ladies could only wear pants as part of a pantsuit.
The Disney dress code has softened somewhat since then, while several TikTok influencers recently claimed they purposefully wore skimpy tops to the park to earn free shirts, and another complained after being informed she needed to change out of her poufy, floor-length princess gown. (Park authorities claim it confuses tiny kids looking for actual Disney princesses and might get tangled on rides.)
When I was older, Disneyland taught me how much I despise crowds. Sure, I enjoy a high-speed flume ride as much as the next person, but I have no desire to stand in line for more than an hour to be tossed around Matterhorn Mountain, to see a ghost appear on my shoulder in the Haunted Mansion, or to gawk at lascivious pirates of the Caribbean who used to auction wenches before Disney caught up.
My family members are Disneyland devotees who visit as frequently as they can afford. But these days, when they organize a day at the park, I decline.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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