At Disneyland Christmas may be extra

Written by MiceAge. Posted in Cars Land, Disney News, Disneyland Resort, MiceAge Update

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Published on October 16, 2012 at 4:57 am with 160 Comments

October began a new fiscal year for Disney, and the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) suits are rushing quickly to kick off projects big and small over the next twelve months to help capitalize on the stunning popularity of Cars Land and the successfully re-launched Disney California Adventure (DCA). The new fiscal year ahead will be the launching point for several big changes to come to the Disneyland Resort and its changing demographics.

In this update we’ll fill you in on some of those new projects about to be launched, just how strong the numbers are for the Resort, and why it’s not too early to be making your Christmas plans now so you can say goodbye to some of what may be your favorite Disneyland traditions this year. We even have some info on what the next E-Ticket in Tomorrowland might be. (And that should help you understand why they are keeping such a tight lid on it.)

Since the Christmas coffee isn’t available yet at the local java joint, we’ll have to settle for the pumpkin spice variety instead this morning. (But we’ll still avoid the fruitcake okay?) As always special thanks to Andy Castro and Fishbulb for all their help in putting this all together. On Dasher, on Dancer… um, sorry, I forgot they are gone now… not a creature was stirring… well there was one Mouse… – Al

(Cash register) bells are ringing, can you hear them?

Since June we’ve been detailing the huge jumps in attendance for DCA and the monumental changes to the ways both tourists and locals alike are now using the Resort property. Those trends have continued into the busy HalloweenTime season this fall, and the numbers have strengthened nicely from last year’s already healthy autumn attendance.

DCA continues to pull in 40,000 per day on weekends, and Saturday’s are now seeing a surge in one-day tickets being purchased for DCA by locals or day-tripping tourists who don’t have Annual Passes, which is a ticket demographic that DCA has never been able to capture. As the word spreads on Cars Land, the Disney and local area hotels are seeing occupancy rates at 95% or higher most days now, and the rush is on every morning as the hotel guests scurry to Cars Land as soon as Disney will crack the gates open.

As usual, the numbers tell this story the best. As a reminder, Disney counts attendance based on a “first click” turnstile policy, which counts daily visitors only once at whichever park they enter first. A visitor bouncing between both parks will only be counted once per day and at only the first park they entered. Below are the attendance figures for this past Saturday, compared against the year-ago figures;

Saturday, October 13, 2012                                        Saturday, October 15, 2011

Disneyland – 55,000                                                       Disneyland – 57,000

DCA – 40,000                                                                      DCA – 18,000

2012 Daily Total – 95,000                                              2011 Daily Total – 75,000

As you can see, that’s 20,000 additional visitors to the Resort, which pushes the numbers from an already healthy Saturday in 2011 into figures in 2012 that were once only seen in Anaheim during the hyper-busy week between Christmas and New Year’s. And that extra 20,000 is weighted heavily towards domestic and international tourists staying in hotels. Disney California Adventure is driving all of that attendance gain, obviously, and yet the results are crowds that seem evenly balanced across both parks and that can be accommodated inside the revitalized DCA with amazing smoothness.

Cars Strand

That’s not to say those swelling attendance numbers aren’t causing cracks in the foundation beyond the parks. Parking is a problem that we’ve been telling you about since the first warning flags went up on the issue back in 2008. With those types of daily attendance figures, and with the Resort’s Cast Member population now swelling past 23,000, the parking situation is at a breaking point. Cast Members working on recent weekends have again been forced to park at the Honda Center and be bussed in, while Disney’s parking team commandeers Cast Member parking lots for visitor use. Even then, some satellite employee parking lots like the Pumbaa lot across from GardenWalk are filling up by mid-morning and unceremoniously being shut down to CM’s without warning, sending CM’s to circle the Resort area looking for an open Cast Member parking facility and then run to their shifts to avoid being marked late.

Those CM’s being forced to park at the Honda Center on certain days are at least given a few days’ notice, but the free lunch vouchers are no longer handed out like they were back in June. The new expectation is that on any busy day when the Honda Center trigger is pulled, CM’s will simply park there without any extra perks being doled out. And this November and December, with the extremely popular Christmas season arriving, the parking problems will only increase.

Scrooge you!

It’s the Christmas season that TDA is now most intently focused on, as they try to ignore the fallout from cancelling the employee Christmas party and tinker with a new plan to offer the Candlelight ceremony for 20 consecutive nights in December. Regular readers will remember that a year ago we told you of the plans being considered by TDA to begin offering extra-cost private parties in December that would bundle a few of the popular holiday entertainment offerings into one event, and leave regular day visitors without the Christmas parade and fireworks and festivities that TDA has been offering to everyone since the late 1990’s.

That plan for extra-cost Christmas parties is no longer a matter of if, but now just a matter of when. This year will likely be the last that a regular visitor will be able to experience the full menu of holiday offerings at Disneyland by simply buying a ticket and walking through the gates anytime in November and December. The 2012 Holiday Season will be the end of an era, as Disneyland takes yet another step to becoming more like Disney World.

While the exact offerings and dates for 2013 have yet to be worked out, the most popular concept now kicking around TDA’s executive offices is a calendar where two or three parties per week would be offered from late November through the third week in December, and they would feature the exclusive performance of the Christmas Fantasy parade, the Believe In Holiday Magic fireworks, and the snowfall shows on Main Street and the digital projection snow shows at the Small World Mall. The upcharge to the private party cost would be the dinner packages, and it’s those folks who purchase both a party ticket and a dinner package who would get seats for the nightly Candlelight performance also performed during the party.

The logistics on all of these major entertainment offerings that are focused on and around the Main Street USA and Hub area will be tricky, but TDA is working under the assumption that they will need to bundle all of that entertainment together to make the party marketable. TDA would love to have the new back alley behind the east side of Main Street we told you about in the last update already built, but that’s still a few years away. So for the holiday season of 2013 when these private parties will likely kick off, expect that the crowd control for the party on Main Street will be rough.

The parkwide decorations and two holiday attraction overlays at It’s A Small World and Haunted Mansion will still be on offer to non-party guests, obviously, so it’s the entertainment and little extras that will be heavily leveraged to set the extra-cost parties apart. During non-party days in December the Soundsational parade will perform instead of the Christmas Fantasy parade, and on non-party weekend nights the regular fireworks and Fantasmic! will be shown instead of Believe fireworks and the snow shows.

Knowing that private Christmas parties are coming in 2013, TDA has apparently let lapse a few of the smaller offerings this year to try and condense the menu of things that anyone can do without extra charge. One of those casualties is the live reindeer they’d been shipping down from the Pacific Northwest for display at Santa’s Reindeer Roundup in Frontierland. Those reindeer won’t be coming to Disneyland this year, and the two remaining Presidential pardoned turkeys will be yanked backstage permanently as well. TDA will instead be focusing on beefing up the entertainment offerings in the Festival Arena beyond the petting zoo.

If they can create a package of holiday offerings back there that people enjoy, it would be an easy thing to add it to the extra-cost parties. Those big wooden gates at the Arena make it easy to shut off that area from the park during normal hours, so then they can swing them back open for the evening to offer yet another special activity and reason to buy a ticket to the Christmas party. (And for those of you grumbling out there about those greedy TDA suits, remember where the blame should really go – all those Halloween party ticket sales.)

While the extra-cost parties have TDA salivating over the numbers they could pull in for November through mid-December, Disneyland would revert to its usual offerings during the two weeks in late December and early January that frame Christmas and New Year’s. During those two extremely busy weeks, when all but Premium Annual Passholders are blocked out, they would perform the Christmas parade and fireworks daily for regular paying visitors.

But there could be a ticketing catch there, as well…

Crowd control in your pocket

Don’t forget, TDA is still toying with the idea of expanding its peak-season price increases from restaurants to the ticket booths. They’ve been cooking up those plans for seasonal pricing levels for about two years already, an idea already used at Hong Kong Disneyland. It is not inconceivable that 2013 launches that ticketing concept, where visitors arriving during the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s would pay higher prices to enter the parks.

This temporary ticket increase would help limit attendance a bit while raking in more money, and could be explained by the predictable PR release from Disney that those visiting during the busy upcharge weeks would also get the Christmas entertainment people had to pay extra for at the private parties earlier in the month. There would be lots of marketing and logistical work to do around that still, especially with park tickets being sold off property at Costco or the Disney Store.

All chips, no Dale

To help with all these new party plans that depend heavily on special ticketing and processing, the main entrance turnstiles of both Disneyland and DCA are in the final stages of planning for a major refurbishment. Gone would be the same basic turnstile setup the park has had since 1955, and that has been repeated at most Disney parks around the world. In its place, the new technology that ties in directly with the coming NextGen concepts would be installed. The churning, clicking turnstiles all manned by an army of CM’s would be ripped out entirely, and instead there would be wide open lanes interspersed with digital RFID readers on short podiums, all staffed with a much smaller CM presence.

The slim RFID readers and the elimination of swinging gates and turnstiles will turn the appearance of the Disneyland entrance into a much more open facility, where strollers and wheelchairs can enter and exit unimpeded and some unscrupulous visitors might be tempted to sneak in amongst the crowds without a proper scan. The ultimate goal of the new entrance concept is not just to implement the use of RFID technology as part of the massive NextGen initiative, but also to speed the entry and exit of crowds through the area.

This would be put to the test most strenuously at the Disneyland Resort, which is the only Disney property that has two successful theme parks sitting directly across from each other bordering a small plaza. With DCA now proving it can pull in huge crowds and keep them entertained for a day or more, the ebb and flow of those crowds between the two parks will put the new RFID NextGen technology to a unique test.

Use it or lose it…

Another required piece of the coming NextGen program will roll out next month at both Disneyland and DCA. That’s when Cast Members at attractions will insist that anyone using Fastpass must return during their assigned one hour window, and they will stop letting people show up hours late for their Fastpass time. This change has already occurred at Disney World, and after a decade of ignoring the rules it was a tough message to deliver even though most of their visitors are tourists.

Extra signage and as much communication as possible will be used to try and get the word out at Disneyland and DCA, but the goal is to roll this out by Thanksgiving and then end the grace period of bending the rules by this Christmas. Wish those CM’s luck! As if they didn’t have enough problems with parking and cancelled Christmas parties and trying to carve out a little respect from TDA suits, they’ll be forced to play the role of Grinch this year and not let anyone show up late for their Fastpass appointment.

Yule honk

Meanwhile, there are smaller changes coming to both parks through this fall and winter. Although Disney has yet to formally admit it and we’ve been talking about it for months, they’ll be going big with Christmas decorations in Cars Land this year. A dozen extra telephone poles were added down the side of Route 66 solely for the purpose of helping string up garland and lights along the most popular street in Anaheim. Cars Land will also be featured this holiday season as Disneyland returns to the iconic Rose Parade after a six year absence with a massive float dedicated to the new DCA and Cars Land. Stephanie Edwards should love it.

The Pixar team has weighed in heavily on all of these Cars Land Christmas decorations as Disneyland’s talented decorating team cooked them up, down to the smallest detail. For example, the statue of Stanley near the Courthouse will soon be transformed into a new version of the statue called Santa Stanley, with a Santa hat and beard and bag full of toys slung over his rear axle. The original concept had a small Woody doll sticking out of the bag, as a sly nod to other Pixar successes. But John Lasseter and Pixar nixed that idea, not wanting to let other stories and characters creep into the Cars Land environment.

DCA’s Christmas tree will be going up just outside Elias & Co. in the plaza currently filled with ficus trees, and Buena Vista Street’s tasteful 1930’s holiday décor will offer TDA a chance to redeem itself after the clueless merchandising group in TDA trashed its charm this fall with tacky window displays. The Mad T Party will also get its first holiday overlay in November, with decorations and new holiday music added to the nighttime dance party.

Iron will…

Tomorrowland won’t get any Christmas decorations, as the last holdout of a land that ignores the holidays. But the plans to shutter Innoventions and begin work on an Iron Man themed E Ticket thrill ride in that space continue to move through the approval process in both Burbank and Glendale. If you are one of those few fans of Innoventions, or simply want to get a look at what’s left of the revolving theater ride system there since 1967, stop by and pay your respects before February.

Bob Iger can’t wait to get the Marvel characters added to the theme park environment, and WDI is running with this one since the budget is healthy and Cars Land has emboldened them to push for higher quality in these big headliner projects. The question remains whether they can keep this quickly approaching project under wraps until the 2013 D23 Expo in Anaheim next August, or if they at least announce the E Ticket this winter but hold back on the details publicly until the D23 Expo.

So what are your thoughts? Are you thinking about changing your Disneyland Christmas plans after this year? And what about Tomorrowland, should its future be Marvel or should they put that franchise in its own separate Park down the street? Our new format allows you to comment on this article directly below. By the way thank you again for your patience as we continue to improve the site and how it functions for you.




Oh-kay – that should do it for today. Remember your support is vital, your donations to PayPal help keep the bills paid. We’ve also added this link to an Amazon wish list if you would prefer using it instead. As always we wouldn’t be here without your kind contributions that help us pay all the bills each month.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. (People do change their minds you know.) Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

See you at Disneyland!

About MiceAge

The MiceAge crew was started by Al Lutz in 2003, and is committed to bringing you the inside Disney story that you just can't get anywhere else. As much as we'd all like to see more frequent rumor updates on the site, we only publish when reliable news and rumors are available to share. Generally, you'll find a new MiceAge news update from Al and crew once or twice a month on Tuesdays. The MiceAge news Editor can be reached at: [email protected]

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160 Comments

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Comments for At Disneyland Christmas may be extra are now closed.

  1. Well, I guess its a good thing my Annual Pass expires before next Christmas…

  2. My Disneyland Christmas vacation of 2008 is fresh in my mind. I can still see all the magic, and beauty of it, and I didn’t break the bank to do it.

  3. …Waves goodbye to Disneyland Resort in May. Nice knowin’ ya.

  4. Disneyland’s christmas decor has gotten totally out of hand, from the ugly snow job on an otherwise charming castle to the over the top decorations in main street and new orleans square. After a thanksgiving visit 4 years ago, I had already decided to stick to non holiday periods in the future, so any changes won’t affect me. Main street circa 1900 would not have modern decorations, it’s just wrong!

  5. I’m not opposed to it at other Disney parks, but something about Marvel in either Disneyland or Magic Kingdom just doesn’t sit well with me.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Put Marvel characters in DCA by the bucketload but not Disneyland. Their logic of course is everyone likes Star Tours and Indiana Jones. Seems like the beginning of the end to me.

      • That’s a good point I somehow overlooks Star Tours and Indy…maybe Iron Man COULD work (although I have some issues with it).

      • But Star Tours fits in TL as does Indy in Adventureland. If I remember correctly, the building of these two amazing rides was really just the beginning of outside of Disney tie-ins and opened the door for more tie ins in the future.

    • At least Iron Man could potentially fit into the Tomorrowland theme, especially if they use a “Stark Expo” concept.

  6. If Holiday Party ticket inventory is tightly controlled and lighters crowds are guranteed, then the up charge will be worth it. But if they try to sell out the park, then I have no interest in the up charge.

  7. Disneyland keeps slipping more and more. I’m out once my pass expires.

  8. I’ll miss the Reindeer and having the Christmas Parade be part of the regular Disneyland Christmas experience. There’s something sleazy about charging for exclusive Christmas parties. Christmas should be free! (Just kidding, unfortunately.) I don’t have a problem with seasonal pricing to help reduce those miserably large holiday crowds (while maintaining profits) as they do in Hong Kong.

    This is as minor as minor can be, but Al, you wrote:
    “the statue of Stanley near the Courthouse will soon be transformed into a new version of the statue called Santa Stanley, with a Santa hat and beard and bag full of toys slung over his rear axle. The original concept had a small Woody doll sticking out of the bag, as a sly nod to other Pixar successes. But John Lasseter and Pixar nixed that idea, not wanting to let other stories and characters creep into the Cars Land environment.”
    What about Buzz peeking out from under a cone?

    • P.S. Thanks for another interesting update!

  9. I’m making a Disneyland visit during Christmas for the first time this year. I’m glad I didn’t wait a year.

  10. If John Lasseter and Pixar don’t want to let other stories and characters creep into the Cars Land environment they better remove the Buzz Lightyear figure in the Cozy Cone office.

  11. Iron Man is 100% wrong for Tomorrowlan. It doesn’t fit! They would destroy everything that Walt stood for to make Iger’s Marvel investment pay off. Well, I’m here to make sure that no one forgets what the Disney company is SUPPOSED TO BE.

    If they want to build the Iron Man ride, build a super hero land at DCA and put it there. DCA is essentially a hodge podge anyway. But to further ruin Disneyland . . . what’s next, getting rid of Christmas? Oh wait, they are!

    Something is rotten in TDA folk. We’ve got a problem on our hands. Be vocal about what’s important to you. (This is where a team of Disney marketers jump in to say how excited they are about Iron Man and how they never really liked Christmas at Disneyland).

    • A man who invented a hi tech suit of futuristic armor and clean renewable energy “doesnt fit’ in Tomorrow land?

      I get that there is the “Dont get Marvel in my Disney crowd”, but how is this any different than Star Wars in Tomorrow Land? At least he’s a character from Earth that embraces technological progress.

      • The suit may be Tomorrowland worthy but the crude, crass attitude is not. I enjoy Tony Stark as a character very much but not as a Disney character which he is not anyway, no matter how much they paid for him he will always be a Stan Lee character and with that comes a decidedly non-Disney attitude. Marvel up DCA and make George Lucas happy by putting in a Howard The Dick ride ;)

      • I am so sorry about the typo that WAS meant to read Howard the Duck sorry it was an accident

      • Sorry that WAS meant to say Howard the Duck, it was a typo, I apologise.

      • What is your defintion of Tomorrowland? For me, it’s not things like the Stark Expo or Super Hero’s set in today’s world. It’s about a futuristic vision or some fantasy of it. That’s why Star Tours and Space Mountain fit so well. Even the PM worked as it was “transportation of the future.” Buzz Lightyear…eh, not so much. TL will always be the most challenging land, especially if the theme continues to get muddied up.

        This will be a very divisive topic for years to come (as it has been for awhile). There are Disney traditionalists who want more original, non tie in attractions and there are those that are Marvel fanboys (not pointing any fingers here) that will fall on a sword to get Iron Man, Avengers, Thor…into Disneyland or the less MK in Florida.

      • Tomorrowland’s theme has always been future technology, and space exploration. Star Wars technecally does not fit the theme of future tech because it is by definition “a long time ago (past, not future), in a galaxy far far away”. But it does fit the theme of space exploration, albeit on a fantastic level, rather than a realistic one, which tomorrowland was originally about as it was conceived during the space race.
        Iron man has nothing to do with the future, or space exploration and I feel it doesn’t fit tommorowland at all. Why not put it in the underused hollywood backlot section in DCA? With that said, autopia and the subs also no longer fit the theme of tomorrowland aswell.

    • Dusty how does placing Iron Man into Tomorrowland wrong? Lets not forget this

      “To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

      Lets look at the “youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future” Iron Man is very much a promise of the future. He always has been.

      Oh and lets not forget about what Walt wrote about Tomorroland

      “A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man’s achievements…a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come.

      Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the Atomic Age…the challenges of outer space…and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.”

      Walt Disney
      July 17, 1955

      Sound like he would be fine with an Iron Man attraction in Tomorrowland. Disney owns Marvel so why not use it. He used Zorro in Frontierland and they used Tarzan in Adventureland.

      As far as Christmas goes, I live in Northern Ca. My family and I are annual passholders and we get to the park about three times a year. We always make a trip the week of Thanksgiving to enjoy the Christmas theme in the park. Will what they have planned ruin our trip? make us not go? No, it will just be different. I have been going to Disneyland since I was three and I am 44 now. I average about three trips a year. I have seen Christmas in the parks for decades and never once thought it was over the top or that it was bad show.

      Things change, life changes and brings new challenges and opprotunities, it only “ruins” what some people are trying to hold on to as what is perfect in their mind. But it does not “ruin” it for everyone.

      • Very well said. 100% agree. Nice post.

      • I see so much fear and panic about non-Disney rides coming to DLR, and also a lot of complaints that WDI doesn’t come up with enough original ride ideas, based neither on Disney movies nor any other movies (Pixar, Star Wars, etc.). I feel like I’m in the minority here when I say that I like going to the parks to experience a great THEME PARK. Regardless of whether the themes of the rides come from Disney movies, other movies, or the imaginations of the designers. It’s not about where the ideas come from, it’s about whether we end up with a great ride. At the end of the day, that’s why I go. That’s why I enjoy it. If they can make an awesome Iron Man ride that people will enjoy for years to come, GREAT! I will welcome it!

    • 100% agree. I say save Iron Man and any other super heros for a third gate. I think even putting it in DCA doesn’t work.

    • I can’t agree with you more. What does a comic book character have anything to do with new idea’s of tomorrow, which is what the original theme of tomorrow land was supposed to be. What’s next the planet Krypton and Superman!! If they want to fit Ironman into a Disney theme it would be better suited in the Hollywood back lot section of DCA. On the subject of DCA and it’s theme which is supposed to be a California theme. Carsland is themed more to the Ariz desert portion of Route 66 not the CA Route 66 portion.

      To me Star Wars is old and dated, What can you do with Star Wars and Indiana Jones that they haven’t already done? It seems to me the best part of the Lucas purchase is the technical side of the business,,( ie THX).

  12. We just got back from the parks and the crowds were unbelievable all week. While we enjoyed ourselves, the wait times and price increases have taken their toll on us and we will not be returning for a few years. A prime example was the wait time for Tower of Terror on Friday the 12th. After DL closed for the MHP, the wait time soared to an hour and a half by 8:30 and fast passes were sold out by 4:30.

    If the Halloween parties are the template for the upcoming Christmas parties, I can see no benefit for anyone to attend. We were at the Halloween Party on the 9th and the crowds were beyond anything we expected with wait times for character greets too long for us to consider wasting our time. If they do not limit the crowds to manageable levels in the future, I expect a significant drop off in attendance. We would never attend a party (Christmas or Halloween) in the future based on our experience.

    I agree that the Marvel concept should be kept out of Disneyland. Can’t WDI come up with an original Disney based ride?

    One event that has had little coverage has been the AP Movie Nights. We were fortunate enough to attend on the 11th and saw Toy Story. It was a nice added touch and did not cost extra. I hope that they can continue to offer this and would recommend it to any AP holder.

    Anyhow our AP expires in December and we won’t be heading down there before then, so thanks for the memories.

    • I too was at the park last week/this weekend and had the same reaction. In the last few years, I’ve visited the resort once every year for fours days at a time, but after this weekend’s unmanageable crowds and extremely high prices, I’m out for the foreseeable future.

      While this decision makes me sad, reading Al’s report makes me see that it is, indeed, the right decision.

  13. Honestly, reading all of that makes our decision to NOT renew our AP’s next year that much easier. Getting our Xmas visit in at one of the parties instead of having to deal with the crush of AP’s showing up at Fireworks time will be enough for us.

  14. I have never been to DL during HolidayTime but have always wanted to go, but the planned upcharges for things that used to be included with regular admission really irks me. We are already paying a premium price for entry, well above what the competition charges. I am planning a trip to Universal in Florida next year. Who knows, maybe after my visit, my lifelong love of DL will fade. It’s like having a high maintenance girlfriend, no matter how gorgeous she may be, eventually, you realize you cannot afford to keep her and must let her go. So sad.

  15. This is just sickening. Personally, I’m not effected by these Christmas changes, as I visit Universal Studios Hollywood during the Christmas season, but that’s not the point. The greediness of TDA is disgusting. We’ve gone YEARS without having to pay for these extras at the parks during Christmas, and now they want to start charging. GIVE ME A BREAK. They’ve already increased prices (apparently they’re going to increase again). Why do this to us?

    The Fastpass reinforcement sucks, although I’ll admit to always returning during the specific time. Again, not the point. What about others who don’t do this? This is not good, TDA! GIVE US A BREAK!

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