Arts & Entertainment Editor
I’ve been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since I was three years old, so hearing the news that Disney was going to cancel the program was a bit of a shock. However, I wasn’t completely torn up over it, and neither were other passholders (the memes that came out of the announcement were hilarious). “But Kim, this means you can’t go to Disneyland whenever you feel like it. What about your Disney personality?” Yes, I know, and as much as I love Disneyland, I’m okay with that for a couple of reasons.
The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we do everything. The CDC advises everyone to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, avoid crowds, and frequently wash your hands. Certain theme parks are open in the U.S. and have to significantly change the way that they function. Universal Studios Orlando is open, and they have guidelines that require guests to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, have their temperature checked, and use hand sanitizer when needed. The same goes for Disney World in Florida, except they also require guests to schedule a reservation to visit the park. After learning about this when Disney World opened back up in July 2020, I assumed Disneyland would follow suit. While they haven’t announced when they will reopen because of California’s stricter COVID-19 protocols, it’s safe to say that the reservation system will become the way we visit the parks.
How would annual passes fit into this? The perks of having an annual pass came from going to the parks whenever you felt like it. My mom would often peek her head into my room and say, “Hey, are you done with classes? Do you wanna go to Disneyland?” Then we’d go to grab lunch or dinner, and people-watch. That liberty won’t be available with the need of a reservation, and there aren’t that many benefits for annual passholders.
According to the Disney World website, passholders can make reservations for up to three consecutive days and can visit more than one park a day. How much of a benefit is this, though? When you get an annual pass (and this was something my mom would always tell me), you’d have to go to the parks a certain amount of times to get your money’s worth. My family had the Signature Plus Passes, which were $1,449, and we’d have to make 10 trips to Disneyland in order to get our money’s worth. When Disneyland opens back up, there’s going to be a very high demand to go (I cannot tell you how many “I miss Disneyland” tweets I’ve seen), so reservations might be backed up for who knows how long. Not to mention that the AP program was struggling even before the pandemic.
It’s no secret that annual passes were expensive, and Disney just kept raising the prices. In 2020, they raised the price for annual passes up to 13 percent. This was done to help manage crowds along with the Flex Pass (which was introduced in 2019). The Flex Pass was $649 and allowed for guests to make reservations on AP blackout days. It was one of the less expensive passes (the Signature and Signature Plus Passes were $1,199 and $1,449, respectively) but did not include parking or access to fastpasses from your phone. The Flex Pass worked a little too well at attracting crowds (they had to close their gates in December 2019 because they were at capacity), and they couldn’t find a solution to manage crowds. The pandemic may have been the saving grace for Disneyland’s ticketing system. They can now rebrand and make their ticketing more accessible for the casual visitor. However, this may upset some passholders who contributed to the toxic and entitled culture that surrounded annual passes.
If I say “Disney Adult,” what’s the first picture that comes to mind? Is it someone who incessantly tweets out “Missing Disneyland, my second home” and goes to Disneyland daily? Is it someone who acts entitled because they have an annual pass? Is it one of those Disney vloggers? Annual passholders got a bad reputation because of those types of people. YouTube creator Jenny Nicholson tweeted out, “Whoa got an email from Disneyland that they’re discontinuing annual passes, that slaps honestly. The AP program and the culture around it was pretty bad.” Others joked, “A lot of people just lost personalities.” Some passholders were infuriated, “I feel like it’s not making enough noise that DISNEYLAND REMOVED ALL ANNUAL PASSES. LIKE THAT’S [F—ING] MASSIVE WHAT THE [H—L] ARE THEY THINKING? THEIR ANNUAL PASS NUMBERS ARE A VERY LARGE PROPORTION OF THEIR TICKET SALES.”
Disneyland is planning on releasing a replacement program, but it’s just hard to gauge what exactly it’ll be for now because of the ever-changing pandemic. It also isn’t that big of a deal. Disney adults who’ve made their entire personality revolve around access to an annual pass and feel like they have the right to talk down to cast members are incredibly toxic. We shouldn’t be judging people based on if they’ve been to Disneyland or not. Going to Disneyland and being an annual passholder is a privilege because of how expensive it is.
Part of the reason Disney raised their prices, as stated earlier, was to control crowds. If they are going to go forward with needing reservations, isn’t that enough control? On the other hand, they may keep prices on the expensive side to recuperate their $2.2 billion financial loss the pandemic brought. In late September 2020, Disney announced that they were laying off 32,000 employees. We won’t know until they announce AP’s replacement, but this may indicate that they are moving in the right direction by making Disney more financially accessible. Maybe now Disneyland can feel like a vacation instead of an ego trip.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Disney