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. The MiceAge news Editor can be reached at: [email protected]

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  • Wren

    Dont understand all this hate for Iron Man of all people in Tomorrow land, the one character that embraces a futurist view and technological progress out of the Avengers

    Hes not from “A long time ago in a galaxy far away” nor is he a “Toy”, hes much more thematically appropriate that those two properties.

  • hollywood1939

    I know a lot of you have already seen my posts over on Facebook, but I’m going to keep on saying it. I’m really really troubled that TDA claims they can’t find time for Cast Member parties, but they can sure find time for Guest Private Events during the same time frame. Nevermind the ticket increases, this is all the proof you need that it’s all about profit now and nothing else. Next time I’m there (which will be a while), I’m going out of my way to compliment Cast Members because it sure doesn’t seem like TDA will do the same.

    • You bring up a great point which is going to be very difficult for TDA to explain away!

    • jcruise86

      I went to Universal’s IOA park soon after it opened, and I spoke with an enthusiastic employee there who was proud that at that time Universal had better starting wages than Disney World. Near their parks, Universal could advertise, “Universal: a better place to work, a better place to play!” if this is true.

      Part of the appeal for me of Starbucks, Costco & Trader Joe’s is that their employees are generally compensated better than most of their competitors both with wages and insurance.

  • MrToadOfToadHall

    It appears TDAs goal of eliminating Annual Pass holders is working. It is obvious that there is little interest in maintaining tradition or loyalty amongst the local long term fans. This is all about the almighty dollar and from a purely business point of view, there can be no concern for upsetting anyone where a profit is concerned. Let us not forget that Disney is nothing these days but a huge money making corporation. You are welcome to live in a delusional world where Disney cares about you and all of those little things that used to make the parks warm and fuzzy, but the truth is much colder. There are some wonderful people who work at the parks and for Disney in general. I guarantee you that many of them are as angry about these changes as you are, but employment is a valuable commodity these days and there is little to be done at the lower or even mid management level when it comes to stemming these trends. Will I renew my premium passes next year? I’m still not sure but probably not or at least not at the Premium level. I managed to squeak in under the old rates this year just in time, but that 200 dollar jump per pass is a hard one to swallow and I suspect there will be another hike before my renewal comes up again in June. The sad truth is that the parks will still likely see increases in crowds even with the upcharges and changes in the wind. That is all that really matters to TDA.

    • Giant Panda

      I don’t think TDA wants to eliminate APs at this time as they still heavily advertise them. But I am sure they are willing to sell them at higher and higher prices, even past the tipping point of actually affecting total park attendance. Cramming the parks full everyday does bear costs that TDA may wish to reduce, especially if the lost income from diminished attendance is made up for by increased AP prices. Isn’t that sort of the model behind the parties?

  • cellarhound

    So let’s see you want to put a 50 year old comic book in Tomorrowland? The first edition of Iron Man was published in 63. The Peoplemover is 5 years younger, and they aren’t going to bring it back?

    • ahecht

      And Star Tours takes place “A long time ago”. What’s your point?

  • JiminyCricketFan

    From your article, there is a whole lot less magic at Disneyland than the old days. Instead of adding magic and improved guest experiences, Disneyland management seems obsessed with squeezing more dollars from every wallet.

    Candlelight at WDW is much less magical than Disneyland’s version, mainly because there is no nostalgic vibe and it is performed so many times during the season.

    Disneyland is just becoming more of a playground for the wealthy than the average person. Walt wanted his park to be open for all, but with these constant up charges, parking, parties, food, and souvenirs, the average family cannot afford to go more than once in a lifetime.

  • iamrumpleteazer

    This seriously breaks my heart! We already reluctantly decided not to renew our annual passes with the increase in prices and opted to just go at Christmas time… this? I have grown up with Disneyland, literally attending EVERY year (if not more as I became older and had an annual pass) since1977. I now have two kids- one who has just started creating his Disney memories and a daughter who will have her first trip there this Christmas. We will stop our Disneyland trips. Honestly. It’s ridiculous. My kids already ask to go to Legoland more than Disneyland anyway, so I’m going to give in and we will get our passes at Legoland and Disney will become a place that makes movies and sells shit. They’re killing the magic in the kingdom. So sad. :(

    • WesternMouse

      …and it’s filled with sparkly bits, too.

    • Kritter

      language. both of you.

  • bayouguy

    Just sadden that corporate greed is put above the spirit of Christmas. It’s a tad childish view that I have about this but it fits nicely into what Disney corp has become due to greed.

  • TL59

    I have a couple of problems with an Iron Man ride. I think my biggest concern is that it’s just focused on one character; that’s it. It’s all about Iron Man, Iron Man, Iron Man, he’s gonna be everywhere. For me personally, Disneyland is about the experiences, and I’m sure people have heard this before. You can fly through space, you can explore the Swiss alps on a bobsleb, you can pillage and plunder with pirates, you get a personal tour of a haunted mansion, you get to ride through a runaway mine train! All of these wonderful experiences that people remember, without these Disney characters (I ignore Jack Sparrow on Pirates). That’s what made Disney special, you could have these remarkable experiences and just have them be the wonderful experiences they are. That’s another reason Space Mountain is one of my favorite rides, an idea so simple, a track barely thrilling, but what they can do with it, WOW. You feel like you’re traveling in space, you believe you’re traveling in space. It’s simply wonderful. You can’t get that out of a movie tie-in. Sure, you could have “experiences” in the attraction, but it’s just going to be filled with one-liners from Iron Man himself. I just think that the less movie tie-in, the better (at least at Disneyland), and the more “experience” they can create, the better the attraction.

    • DisneyPhreak

      Totally agree. If any Disney “suits” are reading this, please consider this point of view. Almost everyone I’ve discussed this with feels this way.

  • Mike Wazowski

    I’ll take a Tomorrowland with Iron Man over Michael Jackson any day.

    • jchamb268

      I here ya.

    • jcruise86

      Me too, but–again–I’d take updated Circlevision, Innerspace & the Peopelmovers any day. How about Ironman’s Circlevision Tour of Earth in 3D? I’m serious. How about something original: for the first time ever a superhero doesn’t save the planet, but just has a great time visiting it. He could deliver the Small World message in the coolest most dramatic way imaginable.

  • mbyrd

    “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.”

    Lasseter doesn’t want overlap? What about the Buzz Lightyear that is hiding under a cone in the Cozy Cone Motel Office (recreating a scene from Toy Story 2).

    Honestly couldn’t be more disappointed with all this Christmas up charge nonsense. I’ve never purchased a Halloween party ticket. I considered it once, but now I definitely won’t; I won’t purchase an xmas one either out of sheer protest. I’m indifferent on the Iron Man attraction. On one hand I’m pumped that Innovations is getting axed, on the other hand “Iron Man” doesn’t scream Disney to me thus I don’t think it belongs in the Park.

  • stevek

    The pay for Christmas model was inevitable at DL. Will be interesting to see what DL charges compared to WDW. I absolutely loved the party and was willing to pay the extra, fairly reasonable ticket fee but we were also on vacation which influenced our enjoyment and willingness to spend extra. We made the decision to not renew back in September and thanks to free tix won in a contest, this will likely be our last Disneyland trip for several years. If fact, it’s not likely we go to any Disney parks until early 2015 for a planned trip to WDW. At this point, I’m willing to pay less, get less but still have fun and get Knott’s AP’s. Despite loving DL far more, It’s just a better value for our family of 4.

    While I’ve enjoyed the Avenger movies, I’m not really a fan of Iron Man going in to Tomorrowland. And I know all the arguments about Star Tours not being an original attaction but it still fits, it’s set in a timeframe that doesn’t exist. The Avengers essentially exist in today’s world based on the movies. How does that fit in a “Tomorrow” theme? Tron is a natural fit but there is no way it will resonate with people like Iron Man will…but does it really have to? A great attraction will resonate (hello big brother space mountain) no matter what the theme. I’d prefer original attractions but quite honestly, I think those will be few and far between here in the US.

  • DisneylandTraveler

    What if you pay big money for your family to enjoy a Chrismas package and it rains like a son of gun????

    Iron Man? – complete with Black Sabbath and AC/DC soundtracks, perhaps? My, oh, my…..

  • peoplemover

    No Marvel in Disneyland. It just doesn’t fit. Period.

  • ex-wdi

    So if Lasseter is opposed to other Pixar characters in Cars Land, then why is there the little Buzz Lightyear in the motel check-in at the Cozy Cone?

    This update sucks, every single thing in it makes me hate Disney.

    • jcruise86

      Good catch on Buzz, ex-wdi! And to the three other posters who
      already made this point.
      (Including ahecht, & mbryd).

      Al, we may not always read each others posts, but we read your words pretty carefully.

  • Sdlipton

    Maybe I am missing something here but I really don’t see the big deal here. The Halloween parties are a ton of fun, limited lines for some great attractions and some other nice entertainment throughout the park including the Halloween Fireworks and trick or treating. Yes, do we enjoy seeing the Parade and fireworks at holiday time; would we NOT visit the resort because we might have to pay extra, NOT a chance. Beyond the special parade and fireworks, its the ambiance of being at Disneyland for the Holidays that make it special; the decorations, the special merchandise, the character costumes; this is why my family and I go to Disneyland during the holiday season. And YES, we absolutely would pay extra to see the holiday fireworks and parade and snow show on an evening we are in the park; then again, if you are on a budget, Disneyland is probably not the right vacation for you, the Los Angeles Zoo at 20 bucks a head is about an hour north.

    • stevek

      I personally think the Halloween party is a mixed bag. The first events held in DCA we far less expensive, had arguablly far less to offer, but the crowds were very manageable. Disney has jacked up the price and though they’ve provided more “stuff” to enjoy i.e. fireworks, they’ve also packed DL. We went once after it moved to DL and vowed never to go again. DCA events were far more enjoyable.

    • DisneyPhreak

      I know people who have grown up in the area who have never been able to afford to go to Disneyland. Now I know where to direct them to make them feel better about it. Thanks!