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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  • Pingback: Save Christmas for Disneyland From turning into a private christmas party next year!()

  • bam1748

    Looks like a rainy winter day might be my pick for future visits.

  • darkamor

    I personally will not be returning to Disneyland (I live in Nevada) until 2015 for its 60th Anniversary …. I do not support up charging for Holiday Experiences (so it looks like I’ll be spending more time @ Knotts in October & December – where there are plenty of quality experiences @ affordable prices, along with a yearly toy drive that’s a great benefit for charity (vs. Team Disney Anaheim wanted you to schill more money out of your pocket before you get through the Main Gate) … If you don’t like being up charged? Boycott it ! (send a clear message that this will not be tolerated anymore) …


  • darkamor


    Iron Man in Tomorrowland? No Thank You !! (just what we don’t need – another Ride that exits into another Gift Shop to schill out merchandise (rolls eyes!). If you see something being promoted @ D23 and you don’t like it? Please “Boo” loud and proud!

  • Disneylandfan85

    As per the request of the trackback, I left Disneyland an email in which I asked them not to make the Christmas entertainment only available at private parties. I’m not sure how much good it will do, though.

  • Quentin

    “Iron man thrill ride” I’m more excited that an E-ticket thrill ride is replacing innoventions then an Iron Man ride. I hope they create something truly unique. Not another Star Tours. I would be excited with another indoor coaster, if themed well.

  • brianpinsky

    Thanks TDA…I have never understood what the purpose was of that big building that sat at the back of DL untill last year and now I can’t stand it. Why is TDA trying to nickel and dime every little drop of money out of the parks. Don’t they understand that the best way to keep the guests and AP’s happy is not to change every little thing in the parks to satifiy their need for cash. Instead of trying to increase the pocketbooks why don’t they turn Pumba in to Parking Structure that would solve the over flow over at K Lot and make Toy Story smaller to expand K Lot. I know Disney does not own the land that Toy Story Sits on so that why expand Pumba and make the levels the old names that use to sit behind DCA before the expandtion. The next Gen idea will not work for Disneyland. The parks are to small to try to control everything the guest does. I can see it working for WDW because they have the room and numbers to roll the idea out to every park over there but not disneyland. Also Forcing the times on Fastpass is going to get the AP comunity pissed. AP is lossing all the benifits of paying for a big ticket once a year. The point of an AP is keep coming back over and over to keep the parks alive in the Late Winter and early Spring months when all is coming in is a few long distance travlers from out of country like Aisa, Austraila (love when its there hoilday, all the axcents in the parks), and Europe who are not going to spend money on big sovineers to ship back home. TDA is really getting under my skin. We need to stop being like WDW and be like the Original.

  • brianpinsky

    Is there any way for maybe we can do a call in to TDA and over welm every phone in the office to help get the message across that guests are not going to stand it any more. I feel like I don’t have voice here and it is getting tense between me and Disney and I think everyone else is getting steamed over it.

    • Mr Wiggins

      ^ The only message Disney will hear is when significant numbers of customers stop coming to the DLR. Disney’s experience is that people will complain but won’t give up the Disney habit no matter how much the prices are increased. Disney will continue raising prices, lowering services and upcharging for things that used to be included in the ticket price, until they see a significant drop in attendance.

  • zeitzeuge

    Disney wants to make money? People are just now getting that and complaining? I just don’t get it. It’s a corporation that’s not in business for ONLY making people have magical memories before they head home. They’re a corporation that needs to make money to survive and unfortunately that includes changes, raising prices, balancing attendance at the parks for best experience, etc. WDW has been having Halloween Parties and Christmas Parties that were an upcharge. People were surprised and shocked it came to DL? Really? Did anyone not think that the upcharged Christmas Party wasn’t coming? I love hearing all these people saying bye bye to Disneyland now because of it all and how they’ll get no more of your money. That’s fine, makes more room for me and my money. I’m a huge Disney fan and that will never stop. I might not like price hikes, but if I want to experience Disneyland enough, I’ll pay it. Price hikes are going up everywhere with everything. Expecting it not to affect DL is just not being realistic.

    • esmetutu

      Exactly. (see my comment below)

  • tt92618

    I wonder if anyone at TDA really realizes how absolutely absurd their changes really are from a purely cost / benefit value comparison. Annual passports have increased in price by about 30% in one year. ONE YEAR, people, which is in itself outrageous. Parking seems to move up in price almost monthly, as well, so in reality the increases are greater still. Now we find that they want to charge for seasonal events that have always been included in the price of an annual pass.

    It might be useful to understand what these changes do to the real cost increase, in terms of percent.

    Let’s assume they charge the typical ‘party’ cost of around $60 for the previously free Christmas celebrations, and that you attend just twice during the Christmas season. You just added $120 onto the cost of your annual passport, which would bring the one year percentage increase to 57% for a deluxe pass. Suppose you scale back, though, and only go once to the Christmas celebrations – it is still an effective price increase of 40% year over year, for what is in reality a dramatically reduced value. And that is assuming that they won’t further raise the prices for annual passports, which is itself an almost absurd assumption to make. The reality is that the cost year over year will wind up being north of 50% for most pass holders.

    I calculated the price differential for me, assuming my typical visitor-ship during the holiday season, and the effective price differential is about a 90% increase year over year in order to realize the same value. That is, again, assuming no further price increases in annual passes. That is OUTRAGEOUS – there is just no other way to put it. In fact, outrageous is probably an overly charitable term to use. Pushed out over the year, the cost of purchasing annual passports for a family of four is approaching the cost to lease (or outright purchase) a _car_. The reality is this: the suits in Anaheim have simply gone nuts; they are crazy to think that price increases of this magnitude are reasonable on any level.

    What is going on at the Anaheim resort, right now, is really just brazen and unbridled greed on a level uncharacteristic even for Disney, which has never been shy about shaking down visitors for as much change as possible.

    I think that this behavior is unsustainable in anything but the near term. In most discussions I see about this, I would say that about 60% of the people responding have announced their intention to simply stop buying passes. Disney may be able to coast for 4 – 12 quarters this way, but ultimately this behavior is going to create a backlash that is going to challenge their operating margins. Looking out 4 to 6 years, this is going to be a disastrous policy for them, because they are so dramatically altering the value proposition of their offering that they are going to alienate their consumer base, and they are going to create the necessity of many quarters of low or zero margin growth. This behavior represents a serious miscalculation in terms of sustainable margin growth, and honestly some people ought to get fired over it. Chances are, they will… after the damage has already been done.

  • ralzap

    No, Marvel Chacters are not Tomorrowland. Please Noooo!!!

  • dgpollard

    Thank you, as always for your very informative and helpful articles. My wife and I just returned from a one week visit to the Disneyland Resort. We did our homework on before getting there and it was very helpful. We learned about the crowds to be expected and learned about the Holloween Party extras, etc. So with this in mind we spanned our visit over the course of 6 days. On the nights that Disneyland closed at 6 P.M. for the Holloween Parties, we went over to enjoy the remainder of the eveing in California Adventure. And we wnt back and forth on purchasing the Holloween Party tickets and getting our son into costume, etc. We decided not to do so, and have no regrets. I am sure many familes enjoyed themselves.

    What my wife and I did not enjoy was the whole wall of people swarming over to California Adventure at the same time, after the Disneyland Holloween festivities were done. It just felt and looked like “mad-mob madness”. There isn’t any other way I can describe it.

    Perhaps this is what the Walt Disney Company will want to describe to us as this being the “new norm” for Walt Disney’s old Anaheim property?


    In terms of what will happen come Christmas 2013 at the Disneyland Resort? We’ll find out. I’ll continue to read the articles and be upated. Then I will make my informed descision on weather or not it’s worth my hard earned dollars to visit during that time of the year!

    Tomorrowland always should be updated. I can’t wait to see the new Iron Man ride. Marvels or not, as someone else pointed out, Disney has a long history of pulling in many different entities to contribute to its storytelling! :)

  • Pingback: Iron Man Thrill Ride Headed to Disneyland «

  • Quitterdan

    The greed is starting to get out of control at DL. And actually holding Fast pass times? Ugh. I anticipate my next visit will be frustrating…

  • Switch602

    You’re still reporting that Innoventions is being replaced with an E-ticket attraction? Cute. Might want to talk to the people who actually work there. Here is what myself and my fellow Innoventions CM’s have to say on the subject. *ahem*

    “Absurd and utterly clueless. For those Inno CM’s who attended the meeting with Christian [manager for Inno] a couple months back, you might remember that Christian mentioned that X-Box/Microsoft has signed as a sponsor for at least the next couple years. If this so-called “Iron Man” attraction is indeed even in the planning phase, don’t expect the idea to even hit our ears until at least 2014. I highly doubt Disney would opt out of a major contract with Microsoft simply to “shutter” Innoventions to make room for a new attraction. As for those “few fans of Innoventions”, we’ll be sure to let the few fans — oh, let’s say, 600-700+ per hour on average/good days, 900/1000+ on busy days — that their time is surely running out to pay their respects.

    We all know there are people out there like Al Lutz; there’s definitely at least more than one. A gentleman came through the exit door downstairs the other day and practically yelled loud enough for every guest to hear him, “When are they [Disney] going to shut down Innoventions? This place is terrible and it sucks. I never have any fun when I come here.” The ironic twist: his statement inclined he has been in the building several times. Typically, when you DON’T enjoy something, you don’t come back after a first, possibly second time. Well said, smart guy.

    Then again, we as Inno CM’s know that our building is bursting with magic that is often overlooked. How many people daily come into our building, JUST to watch Peter Pan? Even more so, how many of those people have come to see Peter Pan AGAIN? Or come to the kitchen asking to see Lilian? Want to see ASIMO? People like Al Lutz and his minions think they’re Disney genius’, claiming Inno doesn’t have any fans; however, as CM’s who actually witness what genuinely goes on inside our building, I think we have a better perspective on what our fans are like versus an Internet blogger.

    That is all, and have a magical day! :)

    • Switch602

      Also, from a financial standpoint, the money garnered from our contracts with Microsoft, Siemens, HP, Cornell University, Taylor Morrison, Honda, St. Joseph’s, and all of our smaller sponsors with few displays covers the operating expenses for all of Tomorrowland and then some. So the suits over at TDA aren’t going to give up that much income just to put in some Iron Man ride. The much more plausible theory thats been making it’s rounds around us is that Innoventions will simply be re-themed into Stark Expo. It will have the same feel of showing off technology and we get to keep all of our sponsors, it would just have a different environment.