For the second year in a row, Disney’s most popular theme park had to close for some of its potential patrons on Christmas Day. Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida turned away guests who had single-day passes to the crowded theme park, shortly after 10 a.m.
Guests staying at any of the many on-site resorts and folks with annual or multi-day passes were allowed to enter the park. Those with restaurant or premium experience reservations were also allowed into the Magic Kingdom. This was merely the first of several phases of park closures that the gated attraction reaches on the way to full capacity.
It’s a discouraging sight for guests, and having been on the right side of the turnstiles on a day like yesterday, I can assure you that it’s not necessarily a treat to have made the cut. The lines are long, and just getting around poses a challenge. However, it’s ultimately sweet news for Disney shareholders. If you have to close your park to folks willing to pay top dollar for a day of whimsy — and that’s just what we’re talking about with folks paying as much as triple digits for a single-day admission — you must be doing something right in terms of marketing and attraction.
Both parks also had to turn some potential patrons away last year. This makes sense at first. Disney has made Christmas at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom a tradition by airing a star-studded parade on ABC every Christmas morning. The parade and musical segments are actually filmed a couple of weeks ahead of the actual airing, but that won’t stop guests from showing up. They already associate Disney World and Disneyland with the Christmas holiday.
However, it was also easy to see how recent ticket price increases and a dramatic spike in annual pass rates could’ve kept some folks away. It didn’t, of course, but the real test on that front will come with next year’s holiday festivities. The annual pass increase — the one that made waves in October by jacking up prices by as much as 35% in California and the double digits in Florida — won’t go into effect until pass holders are up for renewal. That will naturally happen through next October, so the real measuring stick should be next Christmas at both resorts.
Disney’s decision to jack up annual pass rates less than three months ago was accompanied by a push to steer regulars to shift to more affordable passes with blackout dates during peak periods including Christmas. Again, we’ll have to wait until next year’s holiday season to see if the move worked.