Kim Tsuyuki
Arts & Entertainment Editor

It’s been almost two months since Disneyland announced that they were going to end their annual passholder program, and since then, it’s been ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.’ On Feb. 24, a ticketed, limited-capacity experience called “A Touch of Disney” was announced. The experience offers food and drinks, as well as some photo opportunities in Disney’s California Adventure. Originally, the event was going to run from March 18 to April 5. However, due to high demand, it was extended until at least April 19. When tickets went on sale on March 4, some people waited up to five hours to purchase tickets. The high demand for the limited-time event begs the question: what’s the demand going to be like when Disneyland opens back up?

On March 5, California health officials announced that outdoor stadiums, ballparks, and theme parks can reopen beginning April 1. Recently, Orange County moved back into the red tier. The guidelines for theme parks to reopen call for the city to be in a low-risk tier. They aren’t allowed to open if the city is in the purple tier (which is the highest risk tier); however, theme parks can reopen if it’s in any other tier. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said, at an investor meeting, “here in California, we’re encouraged by the positive trends we’re seeing and we’re hopeful they’ll continue to improve and we’ll be able to reopen our Parks to guests with limited capacity by late April.” In the red tier, Disneyland can reopen at 15 percent capacity. Due to the push to get Orange County to the orange tier, it’s likely that Disneyland will reopen in late April at 25 percent capacity.

So, what can we expect of COVID-19 guidelines and the overall Disney experience when the parks open back up? According to the Disneyland website, there will be enhanced health and safety measures to be put in place. Cast members and guests, ages two and older, will be required to wear a face mask, and hand sanitizing stations will be placed where appropriate. With the limited capacity, it will be easier to enforce physical distancing of six feet, and signs will be added to help “guests move responsibly throughout the property,” according to Disney. Guests will have to go through temperature checks before entering the parks, and cast members will have to go through regular health screenings. They are encouraging cashless transactions and updating their Disneyland App so interactions between guests and cast members are limited. As I wrote in my article about Disney sunsetting their annual passholder program, they will be implementing a ticket reservation system (which is similar to the ticket system at Walt Disney World). They have yet to announce an official reopening date, so we likely won’t get ticket prices until that announcement comes. However, I still hold strong in my prediction that tickets will be pricier. 

The removal of the annual pass program has made it likely that everyone is going to have to pay full-price admission tickets. Annual passes were one way to make going to Disneyland more affordable. As Julie Tremaine of SFGATE wrote, “The $649 Flex Pass, the lowest tier available to nonlocals, equates to about four days of park tickets. The $399 SoCal Resident Pass, about three.” To Disney, annual passholders were the ones who crowded the park.

Founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services Dennis Speigel said, in the same SFGATE article, “the season passholder is the ‘smartest’ visitor to the parks. They know when to come, what periods to avoid, how to hit it at the exact right time of day, weekend, weekday.” There have been hints that Disneyland is going to eliminate monthly payments when they bring the pass system back, according to a survey done with previous annual passholders. The survey asks, “imagine that monthly payments were no longer available at the Disneyland Resort in California. Which of the following best describes what you would have done? 1.) Would not have a pass, 2.) Would keep the pass but trade down to a less expensive version, 3.) Would keep the pass and stay at the same level.” A Disneyland fan website, MiceChat, asked its users this question, and the results were that 42 percent of users would give up their annual pass. One person tweeted out their frustrations if monthly payments were eliminated, “no monthly payments for #Disneyland annual passes?!?! [ . . . ] I am a single mom, not poor, not wealthy, but this was the one treat I could afford to enjoy with my son multiple times a year.”

Another thing that points to Disneyland becoming a more expensive experience is the cashless payments. Cashless payments are not inclusive. Tazara Mitchell, Policy Director at the research and advocacy group DC Fiscal Policy Institute, commented in an NPR article about the discrimination caused by cashless payments, saying “excluding people from paying with cash means essentially discriminating against people who are low-income.” So, the implementation of cashless payments means that Disney is trying to appeal to those who have more expendable income.

Disneyland also announced some major changes for their reopening, with the statement, “upon reopening, certain theme parks, hotels, restaurants and other locations may be limited in capacity and subject to restricted availability or even closure based on guidance from health experts and government officials. Furthermore, certain attractions, experiences, services and amenities will be modified, have limited availability or remain closed.” The Grand Californian Hotel will be open on April 29, with limited capacity. Disney’s Paradise Pier and the Disneyland hotel will open at a later date. They made the decision to open the Grand Californian Hotel because it’s the most expensive option out of the three (the cost range for the Grand Californian Hotel can go up to $980 a night). FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass services are currently suspended as a result of COVID-19, and the nighttime shows and parades will not be making a return at this time. 

April is quickly approaching, and Disneyland announced on March 17 that they will be reopening on April 30. Will tickets be as expensive as predicted, or, possibly, even worse? Is 15 – 25 percent capacity a lot more than we think it is? (Honestly, it seems like it.) Disneyland’s maximum capacity is around 85,000, 15 percent capacity would be around 13,000 people and 25 percent capacity would be around 22,000 people. That’s still a lot of people. Is Disneyland worth going to with the risk of catching COVID-19? I don’t think I miss the smell of the Pirates of the Caribbean water that much, but, for those who miss the Happiest Place on Earth, Mickey Mouse will be welcoming you back soon. 

Featured Photo Courtesy of Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Author

  • Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

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