As we all know, Disney announced some major changes to their Annual Pass program at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland this week, the biggest changes coming to the "non-Resort/Local" park Disneyland. (sorry folks, it's not a resort)
This of course caused the internet to implode with the force of an atomic test in New Mexico (side note, if you aren't watching Manhattan on WGN America, you need to be).
This also caused some tweets sent out by yours truly to be grossly misinterpreted, so I figured it'd be easier to explain my stance in more than 140 characters.
Written by Gregg Condon
As I mentioned above, the price changes came down on Sunday morning while everybody was slumbering after a long weekend of Haunts and recovering from our event at Six Flags Magic Mountain last Friday. Such slumbering that when I originally put together the article regarding the price increase I thought the $1049 Annual Pass was actually good for both Disneyland AND Walt Disney World (and if that was the case, we wouldn't be having this conversation today).
But no, those passes are in the $1400 range if you want both WDW and Disneyland.
Since February the no-blackout Disneyland pass now called the Signature Plus has gone from $699 to $1049. Now, nobody is denying that this is a huge increase. A ludicrous increase. An insane amount of increase. A plethora of extra dollars flying out of your wallet every year, or realistically, every month.
The next level down is the Signature Pass which is $849, which again is a HUGE increase from where it was in February. But the only blockout days on this pass are around the holidays, so I'm guessing for the most part, people will be going with this particular pass, which will hopefully mean that more families going for that 1-day trip for the Holidays can have a nice time at a park that doesn't have to shut down for capacity every few hours.
Now, the "Disney Spin" on this is that these increases are necessary to decrease crowds at peak times of the year, and to hopefully cut down the number of Annual Passholders which has gone from around 100,000 in 2002 to well over 1,000,000 now.
And at first glance it would appear this would work, but there's still that pesky little thing over there called the payment plan. And while that option is still available I think most people will still renew.
Which now brings us to the semi-controversy I may have created on twitter due to that 140 character thing and the lack of reading comprehension by some people.
See, I have no problem with people being Annual Passholders. We were Passholders from 1998 to 2012 and had an amazing 14 year run going to the park a couple of times per month. Well, really, 13 years.
That least year, 2012 going to Disneyland became more of a "chore" to get our money's worth, and really, that's not the reason you want to go to Disneyland.
Our kids who had the Deluxe pass in 2012 used it exactly once. So for us, the value wasn't there and we gladly let our passes go when they expired in January of 2013 (also the reason you don't see a whole lot of Disneyland updates on this site).
So here's the problem. If you look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Message Boards, comments put on articles about the increase, the OVERWHELMING response from the vocal minority (because let's face it, there aren't 1,000,000 bitching on Twitter about this) is that Disney is greedy, that they haven't done anything to justify this and why are they closing down half the park (they aren't) just after raising these prices.
And those arguments would be alright if there wasn't one little problem. Most of those people complaining are still going to renew their passes. And of course Disney knows this.
So here's the tweet I sent out that got everybody mad at me:
If you don't like the AP increases, remember, Disneyland isn't the mall or Promenade, stop treating it that way. Go hang out somewhere else.
There were some responses that weren't so kind, I won't repost them, but you can find them. I even got a response from a rather prominent, nah, notorious, no, that's not what I'm looking for ... ahhh, high visibility Disney Blogger who has been adamantly against this increase.
The whole point of the tweet was this (as most people pretty much ignored the preface of the tweet and concentrated on the 2nd half) ...
If you enjoy going to Disneyland every 2 weeks, every week, every day then by all means, it's there, it's amazing, have a great time. More power to you.
But ... if something that is supposed to bring you joy and happiness causes you to lash out on the internet twice a year (at minimum) then why do you continue to do that thing?
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
As I said above, Disney was in 2012 becoming a chore. Making sure we got our $$ worth. We didn't that year. Since then we've been back once in November of 2014. That 1 1/2 year gap of not going to Disneyland was the longest I've been away from the park since I was a kid. It was undoubtedly the longest gap my two children in their late teens have ever had. And you know what, the magic was back. Sure it was insanely busy but we didn't mind waiting in a line or two to ride what we wanted to ride.
I wasn't running all over the park getting Fastpasses. We took our time. Spent the whole day together. Rode what we REALLY wanted to ride and just enjoyed time at Disneyland. It was amazing.
We are hoping to go back in late Nov/early Dec again this year and are expecting it to be crazy busy, but we will have a great time.
For those of us who only go to the park once or twice a year, or once every few years, the prospect of having a park that isn't filled to capacity on a random Tuesday in October (yesterday had a crowd rating of 88% according to MouseWait) is good news.
If you want to go between Xmas and NYE, maybe you'll actually be able to get into the gate after 8:00am.
And for those of you who are angry but still going to renew, I have some bad news for you. Star Wars Land is probably 4-5 years off at this point (although Iger is throwing $$ at Star Wars so it won't take as long as Avatar). This isn't the end of the increases. This isn't the end of the changes. The prices will continue to go up. If I had to guess, the payment plan will eventually go away.
For a real solid indicator of where Disney may go with the future of Annual Passes we should all be paying attention to what Universal Studios Hollywood comes up with when they announce their Annual Pass/Season Pass structure for next year. When that's going to come is anybody's guess. But Potter is going to be huge in Southern California. Star Was Land will arguably be even bigger.
Remember when DCA opened and they tried to limit the number of Annual Passholders because they thought it was going to be so busy? Well think along those lines, but instead of DCA something that people will actually come see.
As we did in February, let's look at a breakdown of Disneyland Passes vs every other park in Southern California. And as we did then, we'll use comparable passes with no blackout days and free parking.
* These Prices are current as of Oct 7, 2015
So if my math is correct, you can get Annual Passes to 5 major Southern California Theme Parks, most of which include admission to their attached waterparks, two which include admission to all other parks in their respective chain (Six Flags/Cedar Fair) and all of that will cost you less than the Disney Signature pass at a grand total of $768.99.
And obviously you can pick and choose based on your location/family members. Many may not live close enough to Legoland to justify that expense, or have children in that age range. There's another $189 in savings.
Maybe you don't like coasters at Magic Mountain, there's another $76.99.
The point is, this gives you options to go out, maybe take a year off from Disney and see what else is out there. And at the end of the day, it's not going to cost you a whole lot of money.
And remember, we've compared only the top tier passes to each of these parks. There are lower cost options for each of them (other than Six Flags) that could easily fit your budget even more.
It will be interesting to come back and compare these numbers once Universal announces their Season Pass structure to see if it's still an added value or not. And of course, this isn't even taking into account another Disney increase that may come in February as it did earlier this year.