Walt Disney Theme Parks
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/15/21) Capacity and other COVID Rules For Disney and other California Parks May Change Next Month
(3/28/21) Black Panther's Wakanda Spoted In Concept Art (MORE...)
(3/27/21) Disneyland Resort - Announces Major New Forward Looking Expansion Plans (MORE...)
(3/21/21) Disneyland Resort Confirms Both Theme Parks To Reopen In Late April
(2/4/21) Do The Disney Parks Even Need To Offer Annual Passes Anymore? (MORE...)
General Resort News - (5/15/21) While Disney’s California theme parks are currently held to a 25% capacity limit by current state rules, we can expect those rules to become even less restrictive starting on June 15th. At that time the state will move away from the current “four-tier” COVID ratings system and towards a less restrictive environment at that time as long as things continue to progress in a positive direction. We’ll know more as that date gets closer when California lays out their new plan.
(3/14/21) While Disney has not set an exact date, Bob Chapek did say last week that they expect to be able to reopen the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks by sometime in late April. In the meantime they will start the process to recall over 10,000 workers who were furloughed last year who will undergo new training and begin the long process of getting the parks ready to reopen.
There will also be some changes when California's Disney parks are ready to reopen, starting with a capacity limit. The expectation is that when the two Disneyland Resort parks open again, they will be limited to just 15% capacity while Orange County remains in the RED tier. This means that reservations to visit will be required in advance. Certain attractions, restaurants and other locations may also have to remain closed as well when the park’s first reopen based on guidance from the state’s health experts and government restrictions.
Disney has also confirmed a few other changes that will mimic what we saw happen in Walt Disney World last year, starting with the suspension of the FastPass program, along with MaxPass and Magic Morning / Extra Magic hours. Unlike Walt Disney World, they were not so quick as to say that FastPass is gone for good, but for the time being it is simply ‘suspended’.
Large parades and the big nighttime spectaculars that cause large gatherings will also be suspended when the parks first reopen, but they will re-evaluate as time goes on and bring them back when it is safe to do so. Character Meet & Greets will also be suspended for the time being, but you will be able to find characters still in the park in ‘new ways’ that will allow them to be seen and entertain guests at a safe distance. From what I’ve seen and heard about this at the Walt Disney World parks, this may actually be a good thing, as I’ve never been a fan of most of the Meet & Greets that often come off as a sterile cattle-call experience. Instead this challenge has allowed the characters to try new things in new environments and entertain guests new new and exciting ways that we’ve never seen before.
(2/26/21) The limited-time Disney California event has been announced as “A Touch of Disney” and will take place within the Disney California Adventure theme park on select dates starting on March 18, 2021. Guests will get to experience Disney sights, sounds, characters and enjoy some special food and beverages during the event, as well as have access to purchase special Disney merchandise.
Regarding the food items, it is said this will be a selection of popular dishes from both the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks, including DOLE Whips, the popular Monte Cristo Sandwich from the Blue Bayou restaurant. Many of the park’s popular food destinations will be open including Smokejumpers Grill, Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, Award Wieners and more!
A Touch of Disney is currently set to take place on Thurdays through Mondays from Noon to 8pm. Tickets will also cost $75, but this also includes the price of parking, unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads and a $25 Touch Of Disney dining card to be used at the event. Look for tickets to go on sale starting on March 4 on the official website.
(2/4/21) This week I ask the question… Do the Disney theme parks even need to offer annual passes anymore? In the fallout after the Disneyland resort killed off their annual pass program, we look at the evolution of the Disney pass program, look at why it needed to be canceled this year and even possibly pinpoint the moment where things may have started going off the rails. Make the jump over to BlooLoop to read more!
(1/15/21) Attention Disneyland Annual Passholders!!! You may want to sit down for this one. According to the latest official news from the Disneyland Resort, they have officially ended the Annual Pass program.
ALL OF THEM!
Every tier of Annual Pass for the Disneyland Resort has now been retired after the park has been forced into staying closed for the past 10 months. For those who have been paying to keep their passes active and still had time left on them, Disney says you will be refunded. At best guess, it was thought that the Disneyland Resort had around 1 million passholders who will now all find themselves without their favorite card in their wallet. 4
Screamscape first brought up this very concept back in October 2020 after the Tokyo Disney Resort made sweeping changes to their own Annual Pass program and it was already rumored that Disneyland was making early plans to alter their own passholder program. With a rumored 1 million passholders, once the parks are allowed to open attendance will be limited to just 25% capacity. As Screamscape said back in October, “As crowded as the California Disney parks have become over recent years, some kind of drastic change is going to need to take place before they are faced with a future of parks full of passholders keeping out full priced ticket paying day guests, or a potential group lawsuit from passholders frustrated that they are not getting their money’s worth from their passes because of limited reservation availability. Either way, whatever happens, there is going to be a large vocal group of people who end up very unhappy with how things turn out, so stay tuned!”
Listen, do you hear it? To paraphrase how Obi-Wan put it so well, “It’s as if a million voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
In all honesty, Disneyland has long known that they created a beast of a problem with their annual pass program and has been longing for a way to fix it. Little steps have been taken over the years, which mainly attributed to making the passes even more expensive to afford and creating higher tier passes at even higher prices if you wanted a pass with no blackout dates. Speaking of which, those of you elites out there who have the rare “Disney Premier Passport” pass that is good at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland… your pass is now only good at Walt Disney World and you will also get a partial refund for the loss of your California park admission benefits.
On the bright side however, Disney did confirm that they will create some kind of new “membership” program to eventually replace the lost Passholder program, but no timeline has been set and I don’t think we’ll see this come up until the parks are at or near full capacity once again. In the meantime, once the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks to open again sometime later in 2021, the experience should be something of a level playing field when it comes to getting reservations to visit the park, where I think the only advantage may go to those staying at an onsite hotel or who have pre-reserved as part of an official vacation package. .
(1/14/21) People will soon be coming back to Disneyland… but just not for the theme park and rides. Instead it was announced that the Disneyland parking lot will be set up to become a massive COVID-19 Vaccination center able to offer thousands of COVID-19 vaccines each day. The plan is to open the site later this week and at first it will only be used by Californian in the state’s “Phase 1a” tier. It only makes sense, as people are used to dealing with crowds and waiting in line at Disneyland anyway, so why not opening it up for a good reason this time?
If only they could incorporate some of the rides into the experience… you could ride the Indiana Jones Adventure through the flying dart room only to get vaccinated along the way.
(11/7/20) Just in time for guests to be let into the front end of Disney California Adventure as part of the expanded Downtown Disney shopping/dining experience, the Disneyland Resort will also bring back an unpopular feature.
Starting on Nov. 19, 2020 the Disneyland Resort will begin to charge guests to park once again, with the new fees set to start at $10 per vehicle. Up until now, parking to visit Downtown Disney has been free ever since Disney was allowed to reopen it back in July.
(10/24/20) While Disneyland remains closed, Disney is taking a bit of inspiration from Knott’s Berry Farm and will soon open the Buena Vista Street shopping area of Disney California Adventure to guests visiting the Downtown Disney retail district for an expanded shopping/dining experience. Starting in November guests will be allowed through the gates to visit Elias & Co., Julius Katz & Sons, the Kingswell Camera Shop, snack at Trolley Treats and Fiddler, Differ & Practical Cafe, and even enjoy full dining and cocktails inside the Carthay Circle Lounge or try the Smokejumpers Grill.
(10/23/20) Falling in line with news that the Tokyo Disney Resort is making changes to their Annual Pass program comes rumors that passholders to the Disneyland Resort parks are said to be receiving word that news regarding possible future changes to the AP program in California will be coming in the near future.
For years I’ve heard rumors that the Disneyland Resort had been considering cutting the lower level Annual Pass programs in favor of just keeping the most expensive tier(s) in order to try to reduce the huge number of passholders to the parks. Now with the Disneyland Resort parks now facing a future where they may not even be allowed to reopen until mid to late 2021, the pent up demand of regular guests mixed with an overwhelming number of passholders is going to collide sharply with new park operations protocols. The new rules from the state will require advanced reservations to visit and parks limited to 25% capacity. As crowded as the California Disney parks have become over recent years, some kind of drastic change is going to need to take place before they are faced with a future of parks full of passholders keeping out full priced ticket paying day guests, or a potential group lawsuit from passholders frustrated that they are not getting their money’s worth from their passes because of limited reservation availability.
Either way, whatever happens, there is going to be a large vocal group of people who end up very unhappy with how things turn out, so stay tuned!
Ticket Pricing - (2/11/20) I told you it was coming, and this morning Disneyland followed through and raised and adjusted their ticket prices for 2020. The biggest change to keep in mind here was a change to the old pricing tier system, replacing the former 3 tiers system (Value, Regular and Peak Pricing) with a new 5 Tier system.
The good news is that the lower priced ticket (Tier 1) are still priced at $104 for a single day, single park admission. The bad news is that with the new 5 Tier system, there are going to be far fewer days in the year where you can get this Tier 1 pricing. On the opposite end of the spectrum the Tier 5 ticket for the most busy days will now cost you $154 for a single day / single park ticket, up $5 from the former Peak day pricing. So to break it down into the five Tiers:
Tier 1 = $104, Tier 2 = $114, Tier 3 = $124, Tier 4 = $139 and Tier 5 = $154.
If you want a one day / two park “Parkhopper” pass, it will now cost you between $159 and $209, depending on what Tier day you visit.
Annual Pass prices have also risen and are handing fans some of the steepest price increases of the year. The lowest level AP, the Select pass, jumped up $20 to $419. The Deluxe pass jumped to $829 and the Signature pass is now $1199. Oh… and if you go all in with your Disney habit and have the Premier Pass that gets you into both Disneyland and Disney World parks, the price just leaped up to $2,199 from the early 2019 price of $1949… which was already a huge leap above the 2018 price which was $1579.
The price of parking will stay at $25 however.
About this time last year I wrote a great article for BlooLoop where we looked over the history of these huge annual price increases for the Disney parks, wondering at what point they were going to go too far. We also predicted the likely prices for the parks in 2020, 2025 and 2030 based on a chart of past price increases, and our calculation for 2020 was $155 at Disneyland, so nice to see we were very close to the mark, but where these prices will go by 2025 and 2030 is kind of scary to see.
(2/7/19) When it comes to the price of admission, how much is too much? Surprisingly, despite what your initial take is, when you get down to it, this really is more of an individual choice question. Doubly so when it comes to Disney fans and the price of admission into Disney theme parks which have steadily been on the rise each year for the past several decades. This week I decided to take a look at past price increase trends from Disney and even predict where the price is going between now and 2030, based on past increases, all in my latest article for BlooLoop.
2023 - New DVC Hotel Tower - (1/25/20) A piece of concept art was released for the new expansion tower now planned to be added to the Disneyland Hotel by 2023. It will feature about 350 new Disney Vacation Club rooms, a spa, meeting space and more.
(11/23/19) While the Disneyland Resort canceled their last on-site hotel project (which was probably for the best, as it was a little funky in my opinion), the company has now submitted a new plan to the city of Anaheim for a new 12-story, 350-room hotel tower next to the Disneyland Hotel that would be for the Disney Vacation Club. This new DVC hotel may be the first dedicated DVC structure at the Disneyland Resort, though they do have a section of rooms within the Disney’s Grand Californian. With just half the rooms of the previously proposed hotel project, the new tower would be located on a grassy area next to the Frontier Tower along the backside of the current Disneyland Hotel property, which I believe is called the “Magic Kingdom Lawn” on some hotel maps. I believe the tower would take up some of the lawn and replace a current laundry facility building already on site which would be relocated. Essentially the plan would really just add a fourth similarly sized tower to the existing resort which currently has a total of 990 rooms and suites.
If everything goes as planned, we could see this new hotel tower up and running by the end of 2022.
Disneyland Forward - (3/28/21) While the concept art Disney posted for the Disneyland Forward initiative is said to just be an example of the kind of upgrade plans that they might create in the future, one interesting item was noticed on the plans. The tweet itself shows off best what appears to possibly be a Blank Panther themed Wakanda area that looks like it would fit into the small parking lot behind the movie theater building at Downtown Disney, which would also be removed. The large panther carving sticks out quite well when you zoom into the overhead layout art.
Is this a guarantee it will get built? Nope, but it’s fun take this as something that Imagineering had in mind at one point, even if it doesn’t get built. But it would great if it did make it into the final design. Wakanda Forever!
(3/27/21) The Disneyland Resort surprised everyone with the announcement of a new future initiative and growth plan called Disneyland Forward. According to Disney, the last time they established the future growth plans of the Disneyland Resort was 25 years ago, back when there was only one theme park at the resort and Disney California Adventure was still just a dream.
Back then the plans they set with the City of Anaheim established various “districts” or zones if you will, that would only allow for the development of various things in specific places. Parking here, shopping there, new hotels way over there, and so on. 25 years later, DIsney now feels that they have reached the limit of those plans, which are now restricting future concepts of growth now expected from more current and integrated theme park resort concepts. As such, Disney would like to explore new growth opportunities that could see mixed use concepts arise in all new locations going forward.
As Disney well put it, “Without broadening the uses allowed within each district or demolishing and replacing many beloved theme park attractions, further integrated development and theme park investment are not possible.”
While nothing is set in stone yet, the artwork examples Disney is showing explores the possibility of expanding both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to plots of land on the other side of Disneyland Drive, to the north and south of the Disneyland hotels that are currently used only for parking. Much like how foot traffic crosses over Disneyland Drive via a massive and well landscaped foot bridge that makes it just look like a regular pathway to the guests. Similar connecting pathways could be constructed to link up the theme parks to these parking lots, likely branching off from the backside of Critter Country inside Disneyland, and from the west side Paradise Pier somewhere between Inside Out Emotional Whirl and Boardwalk Pizza inside California Adventure.
The former parking lots would be transformed into all new theme park lands for each park. Again, no formal plans have been made, but the Disneyland Forward website does mention concepts like adding lands and attractions themed to Frozen, Tangled and Peter Pan to Disneyland (similar to plans now under way at Tokyo Disneysea) and adding other attractions like the new Zootopia land (under construction at Disneyland Shanghai), the TRON coaster (Shanghai and under construction at Walt Disney World) and a Toy Story Land (like the one at Walt Disney World) to Disney California Adventure.
The future plans also include ideas like adding a mini Disney Springs style retail and dining area to the land Disney owns South of the theme parks on Harbor and Katella, but this version would also integrate a brand new Disney Resort hotel into the complex as well. It also looks like DIsneyland is ready to revive their previous plans they put on hold to build another parking structure on the other side of Harbor that would lead guests over Harbor via another large footbridge and directly into the esplanade between the entrances to the two theme parks.
Based on past Disney history, you might think that the Disneyland Resort would be seeking some kind of tax incentive deal from Anaheim for all this future growth, but actually the truth couldn’t be further. Just as we saw Disneyland tell Anaheim that they were requesting the city to cancel two of their existing Tax Subsidies (a 20-year 70% hotel tax rebate and a 45-year exemption to taxes on theme park tickets) because they felt the existing deals from a previous political climate had become increasingly “divisive” and had made for a “difficult working relationship” with the current city of Anaheim.
According to Disney’s own statement, “We are at the very beginning stages of the process. While the project will be refined over time, we hope to explore the creation of integrated experiences featuring new theme park attractions, dining, retail, hotel, and more. Right now, we don’t have any specific projects planned for the future. To be clear, Disney is not seeking any public funding for DisneylandForward, nor are we seeking additional square footage or hotel rooms beyond what is currently approved and allowed. Rather, we are simply asking to update our existing approvals to allow for integrated development to be located and built on Disney properties.”
The timing of this announcement is especially interesting, as the California resort is now preparing to finally reopen to guests at the end of April after being closed due to COVID-19 for just over a year’s time. The fact that Disney is coming forward with these huge growth plans is a great sign that they feel very confident in the future growth potential of their California property, to say nothing of the huge potential for job growth from the planning, construction and staffing of these expansions going forward.