Walt Disney Theme Parks
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/9/21) Magic Key Holders Now Finding that Reservations Are Impossible To Find
(8/19/21) Disney Genie, A New Upcharge Replacement System For FastPass Finally Announced (MORE...)
(8/4/21) Disneyland Resort Launches Annual Pass Program Replacement (MORE...)
(7/30/21) Disneyland Resort Parks Have Also Brought Back Face Mask Requirements (MORE...)
General Resort News - (10/9/21) The Disneyland Resorts new Magic Key passholders are now very unhappy it seems as what some are describing as a nightmare has unfolded, as some predicted it would. I’m talking about the mandatory reservation requirement to use the new Magic Key passes, and while at first things seemed to be going well just after launch, Magic Key holders are now complaining that reservations are now impossible to get.
Now before you say, “Boo hoo!” about this, keep in mind the prices Disney is charging for these new Magic Key passes that range from $399 to $1,399 per pass, and while the higher tiers lessen or completely remove the presence of Blackout dates from the schedule, the higher tier Keys do not get any better access to the limited number of passholder reservations slots available each day.
At the start of the month reports were pretty widespread that the entire month of October had already been filled up in advance, and November was already getting pretty full as well. Now add in the fact that, as you might guess, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday dates are said to have already been filled up and well. So what you are left with is a good number of Magic Key passholders who paid up to $1,399 for passes to visit theme parks that they are now being told that they can’t visit for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile the reservation system for single-day ticket purchases is entirely separate from that of the Magic Key passholders and is fairly wide open for the rest of the year. Looking over the reservation calendar myself this morning for a 1-day ticket, the schedule for the rest of the year (see below) is fairly wide open, except for the first week ahead and the following two weekends, but the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are completely available.
Of course, the immediate thought is that if availability is going to be so bad for passholders, then perhaps that $1,399 could have been put to better use by purchasing individual day passes as needed. Disney has not responded yet publicly to the issue, or to say if more availability will be made to the Magic Key reservations system as those dates get closer. The reservation system is constantly updated however, and as some reservations are cancelled, new openings will be added if you are there to check at just the right time.
Just keep in mind that the reason the old annual passholder system was scrapped and replaced with this new Magic Key program was simply because the vast numbers of passholders swamping the parks each day had gotten to the point where it had just become overwhelming to deal with, and made the park an over crowded nightmare year-round. So there will be some phases of adjustment as Disney feels out their new program in an attempt to balance their needs for the park.
(7/30/21) In addition to Walt Disney World requiring guests to wear face masks once again starting today when on any attraction or in an indoor space, the Disneyland Resort parks in California also made face masks mandatory once again as well.
(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. .
Disney Genie / Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane - (8/19/21) Disney has finally announced the promised replacement for the retired FacePass+ and MaxPass systems at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. As we long expected, the days of a free FastPass style system are now gone, as the newly announced replacement will come at an extra cost, much like Disneyland’s retired MaxPass tier. But don’t worry, there will be a free system in place for to help regular guests still maximise their time and enjoyment in the parks. Or at least it will if it works as good as they make it sound.
So without further ado, welcome to the age of the Disney Genie service, which guests will access through the existing Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort mobile apps that you probably already have installed on your phones. The familiar blue-faced lovable Disney Genie will arrive this fall at both of the US theme park resorts as your new virtual guide to creating the best Disney parks day possible. You simply tell the Disney Genie what it is you like to see and do when you visit the parks. Do you want to see the Disney Princesses or are you a Marvel or Star Wars fan? Are you there for the family rides with small kids or do you want to be sure to tackle all the biggest thrill rides Disney has to offer during the day? Let the Disney Genie know what you like and it will try to help plan your day with tips on where to go first and what experiences you would be better off returning to later in the day when the lines are smaller.
While the concept is a bit much for me, as I’m the type who generally likes to freely explore a park on my own, the Disney Genie is said to be designed to be as involved, or not, as you would like it to be, and able to adjust from providing a full day itinerary (complete with suggestions on where and when to eat along the way), to a more minimal tip-sheet approach. Even in the minimal tip-board mode Disney Genie will be able to provide me with a list of my favorite attractions, the current wait times and forecast times of the day when the lines will be smaller, which sounds great.
I briefly mentioned food, and that is because not only will Disney Genie be able to suggest good places to grab a bite to eat during your day at the park, it will also provide a mobile ordering feature so you can place your order ahead of time and have it ready for you upon arrival, thus maximising your free time in the parks by keeping you out of long lines to order food. This is another feature I like and would find extremely useful, and hopefully just as Disney Genie creates a profile of what attractions and experiences you like, I can only hope that it will be just as intelligent when it comes to food choice suggestions.
The technology behind this system has the chance to be something really special and hopefully has been designed with a little A.I. style machine learning intelligence to not only help the guests, but also help Disney maximise their park usage. To explain what I mean by that is, just because Space Mountain has a short line, the system shouldn’t send alerts to every guest in the park about it, creating a sudden slam of guests all trying to get to Tomorrowland. Instead I would hope that DIsney Genie will realize that the guests who like Thrill Rides and who are closest in the park to Space Mountain would be alerted that it was a good time to head to Tomorrowland, meanwhile guests elsewhere in the park could be directed to another target attraction, with the goal of not only evenly spreading out the crowds in the park, but to try and herd the masses to move away from areas of overcrowding with subtle tips about other things they could be doing with their time elsewhere in the park. I’m also hoping that the Disney Genie will be able to determine which guests are able to park-hop and even make suggestions to see if those guests might want to hop to another park if it is less crowded and has more things that they like to do in their profile.
Now that we’ve covered the basic Disney Genie service for everyone, lets jump to the extra cost part of the program, called Disney Genie+. For an extra $15 per day / per ticket at Walt Disney World, and an extra $20 per day / per ticket at the Disneyland Resort, you can activate Disney Genie+. The upcharge service will allow guests to choose the next available time to arrive and experience a variety of attractions and experiences in each park through a special access entrance lane just like the old FastPass system, but it is now called the Lightning Lane. (insert “Ka-Chow!” audio here).
Just like the original FastPass system, guests will be able to select only one attraction at the time, and then make a new selection once they have used the first pass. Only select attractions will be available on this service, and the list of what will be included will be released closer to the launch of the service. Disney was quick to mention that attractions that are currently using an online virtual queue system like Star Wars Rise of the Resistance or the new Spider-Man ride in California will continue to do so when the service first launches, but I would expect that over time they too may add their own Lightning Lanes.
Speaking of the Lightning Lanes, there is a second option for guests to pay a little extra to gain access to select attractions. Disney says that for an extra charge guests will be able to purchase up to two Lightning Lane passes during the day to visit select attractions that are in high demand that will NOT be included with the rest of the Disney Genie+ attraction lineup. For an example of attractions expected to be offered on the Lightning Lane service, they mentioned Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Radiator Springs Racers. However, the exact list of attractions included for the special Lightning Lane passes will be determined in the future, as well as the extra cost for these Lightning Lane passes, which are also expected to shift day-to-day based on demand and expected crowd levels.
The really good news to most of you is that the days of guests reserving all the passes a month or two in advance is now officially OVER! All Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane passes will not be issued until the morning of your visit. The exact time you are able to make your first selections will be different at each resort it seems. The way I understand it, nothing will be made available to Disneyland Resort guests until they physically enter the property, at which time they will gain access to both Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane purchase options. At Walt Disney World it sounds like guests may be able to make their first Disney Genie+ purchase and reservation at 7am, and Lightning Lane purchases will be restricted until they enter parks. The one possible exception I’ve heard is that as a hold-out perk for Disney World Resort guests, they MAY be able to purchase Lightning Lane tickets at 7am as well. I’m sure this will be confirmed closer to the launch of the system.
For now, you can hit up the official Disney Genie pages at: DisneyWorld.com/DisneyGenie and Disneyland.com/DisneyGenie as well as watch the video below showing off the service.
Ticket Pricing - (8/4/21) It has been a long time coming, but the Disneyland Resort has finally announced the details for the Disneyland Resort Magic Key Program, their replacement for the former Annual Pass program. As expected, this new program will be quite different than what Annual Passholders remember, and will definitely change how you experience the parks. However, this is also a change that has been needed to happen for many years and should provide a huge improvement to the guest experience for everyone once they go on sale on August 25, 2021.
The Magic Key Program will offer FOUR different tiers to choose from, each with a different price and a tiered set of options to allow everyone to choose the Key that is best for them. One important thing to note is that the days of just dropping into Disneyland on a whim are OVER, as no matter which tier you buy, you will have to have a reservation to visit the park.
The TOP tier is the DREAM KEY, which comes at the very steep cost of $1,399 and has NO BLACKOUT DATES, includes free parking, 20% discounts on Merchandise and 15% discount on select dining. Dream Key holders can book up to six different reservations at the same time.
The next tier is the BELIEVE KEY, which costs $949, with 10% off merchandise, 10% off select food. Parking will be at a 50% discount, and while it does have a few BLACKOUT DATES, these will be mostly on days you really aren’t going to want to visit anyway, like just after Thanksgiving or between Christmas and New Years, july 4th or Spring Break. Otherwise most days are wide open.
The ENCHANT KEY will cost $646 and comes with the same 10% discounts as the Believe Key, but you can only have up to 4 reservations at a time, and many more BLACKOUT DATES. The Blackout Calendar includes all the holiday periods from before, most Saturdays throughout the year, along with an almost complete blackout for June and July.
The final tier is the IMAGINE KEY which is just $399, and will only be sold to Southern California Residents living in zip codes 90000 to 93599. Only 2 reservations can be held at a time, you get the same 10% off discounts but the BLACKOUT DATES are quite extensive. In addition to all the dates from the previous tiers, pretty much every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year is blocked, as well as about half the Fridays during the year as well. So unless you’re able to visit on weekdays, this isn’t going to be the pass for you.
(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.