MiceAge Disneyland Update: Parties, Parking, and Planned Projects

Written by MiceAge. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features, MiceAge Update

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Published on September 17, 2013 at 3:00 am with 260 Comments

The post-summer off season of low crowds at Disneyland Resort lasted only two weeks, and after the crazy Friday the 13th Villains event Disneyland has crashed into its wildly popular HalloweenTime season before it shifts almost immediately into Christmas mode in early November. While Team Disney Anaheim keeps their cards close to their vest on Burbank’s orders regarding big new rides about to begin construction in DCA and Tomorrowland, there are still some big changes coming to the parks in the next month. In this update we’ll fill you in on what’s ahead this fall, why there are only three more weeks to use a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) in the American parks, and why TDA is suddenly fine tuning their Resort parking strategy.

Got that freshly spun tuft of candy corn colored cotton candy in your sticky hands?  Have your Pumpkin Spice Latte poured?  Then let’s get this Disneyland update started. . .

The Good, The Bad, and the Unlucky

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Before we tell you about the termination of the Guest Assistance Card program, it seems appropriate to fill in a bit on the backstory behind that overcrowded Friday the 13th event last Friday night. The concept was dreamed up by the One Disney marketing team as a bi-coastal Limited Time Magic offering. At Disneyland it also coincided with the first day of Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, which is historically a very busy Friday evening anyway as the Annual Passholders all flood in after work to check out the seasonal overlays. Each property was allowed some leeway in what they could do, and the Disneyland entertainment team landed on the two dance parties and as many Villains characters in the park as they could find CM’s to staff properly. Ladle this concept with the usual marketing hype and a 1:00AM closing time for Disneyland, and judging by the online reviews people either loved it (Villains!) or hated it (Crowds!).

Disneyland Resort got hammered by those crowds on Friday evening, with the attendance at both parks basically tripling in size between mid afternoon and late evening. Between 10:00PM and Midnight alone, an additional 5,000 Annual Passholders arrived at Disneyland after fighting late night traffic around Anaheim and finally finding a parking space at the GardenWalk mall. The numbers for that day tell the story:

Disneyland Attendance on Friday the 13th
55,000 Total Guests, of whom 36,000 were Annual Passholders

Disney California Adventure Attendance on Friday the 13th
30,000 Total Guests, of whom 19,000 were Annual Passholders

Total Resort Attendance
85,000 Total Guests, of whom 55,000 were Annual Passholders

Compared to an average busy summer day six weeks ago, when an 80,000 combined attendance was average but only 12,000 of those are Annual Passholders due to summer blockouts, the Friday night frenzy caused by Annual Passholders is a uniquely off-season phenomenon.

In TDA’s defense, they pulled out every trick they had to get as much parking as was available and to keep off-duty CMs away. Earlier this summer TDA made Friday the 13th a blockout day for Cast Member sign-in passes, and Disneyland’s parking team went into the event planning for New Years Eve crowds with every tram and bus and satellite parking lot they have pressed into service and staffed to the max, with extra Anaheim traffic cops staffed at TDA’s expense at major intersections.

But out at Walt Disney Worlnd, the TDO team failed to think of blocking Cast Member passes and they had a parking strategy that was based on just an average busy weekend. The result in WDW was that thousands of Cast Members and their families descended on Hollywood Studios to get in for free, and the parking situation and traffic logistics quickly fell apart at the seams. TDO’s lack of logistics planning needs to take a lot of the blame for this one, and it doesn’t help that via “The Hub” intranet website they continually encourage Florida Cast Members to return to property on their day off by touting free park admission and discounted recreational activities on WDW property. Whereas in Anaheim, TDA rarely encourages CM’s to come back to Resort property on their off time and instead touts CM discounts at the much wider range of cultural and entertainment options throughout Southern California.

One thing that the WDW team did right was to keep the executives in the parks and let them experience the madness first hand. DHS Vice President Dan Cockerell was in the park the whole night watching the drama unfold, and he pitched in with Guest Relations to personally take complaints and help where he could. It is executives sticking around on a Friday night to see the mess their team caused that can prevent this from happening again.

Contrast that to Disneyland, where most executives left last Friday evening and went home, missing the overcrowded park venues and gridlocked surface streets and backed up freeway off ramps that usually play out on Friday evenings. The TDA executives routinely rely on daily reports from lower level park duty managers to summarize the operation, and the summaries provided last Friday were quick to puff up the positives, ignore the negatives, and gloss over the hassles and massive lines that most park guests encountered. It’s a classic case of corporate C.Y.A., and it would be a refreshing change if these reports from Anaheim’s middle management were honest and clear in their assessment of the huge hassles and long lines created by these events. Or better yet, just have a Vice President or two stick around to try and exit the Santa Ana Freeway at 6:00PM on a Friday night and then fight for a parking spot. (Those Gold Sticker spaces reserved for executives behind Rainforest Café would be off limits in that experiment.)

DAS all Folks!

With HalloweenTime now kicked off, it’s onward to the next bit of drama set to play out inside the parks in both California and Florida. The existing Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program is set to be discontinued and replaced with a new system on Wednesday, October 9th at Disneyland and DCA. As we’ve outlined for you before, after years of revolving door executives not wanting to get near the GAC issue, the rampant fraud inherent in the 10 year old GAC program was brought to an embarrassing light via an expose on The Today Show last May. Only then did the executives on both coasts admit that something finally had to be done, and the existing Guest Assistance Card will cease to exist on October 9th.

In its place will be an entirely new program called the Disabled Assistance System (DAS). The DAS will work similarly to the “return passes” issued at popular rides like Star Tours 2.0 and Radiator Springs Racers, where currently a GAC holder gets a Fastpass-style return time hand written on a card based on the current Standby wait time. But with DAS, that concept will be rolled out to several dozen high-wait attractions in Anaheim. Instead of going to the actual ride to get a return card, a DAS holder will report to one of several Guest Relations kiosks that will be set up around the parks, with a current plan to have four kiosks in Disneyland (Fantasyland alone gets their own kiosk) and three kiosks in DCA. The DAS holder will present their card and tell the Guest Relations CM which attraction they want to ride, the CM will look at the current wait time via the official Disney Mobile Magic app on an iPad, and will then write out a return time for that attraction and subtract 10 or 15 minutes to make up for the travel time to and from the kiosk.
Only one ride reservation on a DAS card can be made at a time, so if the current wait for Space Mountain is 90 minutes and your return time is written for 75 minutes later, a DAS holder will not get another return time printed on their DAS until the first one has expired. A person with a DAS card could go and do anything else in the park in the meantime; watch a parade, see a show, have lunch, go on low-wait time attractions, pull a regular Fastpass for any other attraction, etc. But only one ride time can be reserved at a time with DAS, unlike the existing GAC which serves as basically an open Fastpass for any Fastpass lane in the park or an access card to go up the exit on any other type of attraction. The DAS changes that quite dramatically.

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The DAS cards will be issued only at Guest Relations offices in both parks, and the DAS kiosks are only for checking in for a specific ride. There will be no different stamps on the DAS like the current GAC with its half dozen stamp codes; you will either be issued a DAS or you will be instructed to use a wheelchair or other aid for your mobility issue. DAS will only be issued for one day at a time, although folks who can prove they are staying at a hotel for a few days could get a DAS dated for a short length of stay.

The person who is disabled and who has the DAS issued to them will also have their digital photo taken at Guest Relations, and the photo will be printed on the front of the DAS card and used by CM’s at the attractions to confirm that the DAS holder is actually going on the ride. The photos will prevent a current form of abuse, whereby one member of a party gets a GAC issued to them but then insists to the CM’s that they don’t want to ride they just want their children or friends to go in through the exit and skip the line while they wait nearby on a bench. Or worse, children or others in the party are coached into telling the CM’s that they are the person listed who was issued the GAC. To use a DAS, the person the DAS is issued to must be present at the kiosk and at the attraction and must go on the ride for the DAS privilege to work for the rest of the party.

There are more radical changes in DCA, where all queues and park facilities meet ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility. In DCA, a person in a wheelchair or ECV won’t receive any extra courtesies or services beyond those visitors who are not in a wheelchair. People visiting DCA in wheelchairs likely won’t qualify for a DAS, and will now experience the park as everyone else does, including waiting in Standby lines and juggling Fastpass return times. The task of implementing that culture change will be more intense in Anaheim than Orlando as there are currently 55 attractions at Disneyland Resort that use a ride vehicle, and about 35 of those have wheelchair accessible queues. Comparatively, there are a total of 46 attractions at Walt Disney World’s four parks combined that use a ride vehicle, and 38 of those have wheelchair accessible queues. There are more rides overall at Disneyland Resort compared to WDW, and more of them in Anaheim are not wheelchair accessible.

At Disneyland Park there are 20 rides that have been identified as non-wheelchair accessible, and at those 20 rides an accommodation of going through the exit or a Fastpass lane will be offered to those in wheelchairs. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t need a DAS to get access at those attractions, thereby limiting the issuing of DAS cards in that park. Disneyland’s operations teams are studying ways to restore the wheelchair accessibility designed into the queues of some newer rides, like Indiana Jones, to allow a DCA-style equity to exist at as many Disneyland rides as possible. It should be noted that the work implementing DAS, which has had lots of executive involvement from both coasts, has now generated serious discussion in TDA on creating a five-year plan of capital expenditure to go in to those older rides and retrofit them with wheelchair accessible queues. But that’s still a few years away.

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The goal behind DAS is to still offer service to those who may need it, but to also eliminate the wild excesses of the GAC system which operated on most days and on most rides as an unlimited Fastpass card and/or a backdoor pass to slip in via the exit with a much shorter wait. The one exception to the DAS program is made for Make-A-Wish children. A new Genie lanyard has been created for Make-A-Wish children that will act like an unlimited Fastpass and instant backdoor access card (basically the same thing as the current GAC with the “green light” stamp on it), and it will be sent to the families just before their visit directly from the Make-A-Wish headquarters in Phoenix. The Make-A-Wish cards won’t be kept on Disney property, at the specific request of Disney to avoid any ability to use that courtesy for anyone other than qualified Make-A-Wish visitors.

Guest Relations and Attractions Cast Members in both parks have already been scheduled classroom training for the DAS program through late September and early October. The Guest Relations team will get the most intensive training day, as they’ll be on the front lines of this new system as they try and reel in expectations of Annual Passholders used to having a GAC with easy access to any ride they wanted. Staffing for Guest Relations is being beefed up as much as possible beginning with roll-out day on Wednesday, October 9th, and the Security department has also been asked to help staff officers in Guest Relations centers in Disneyland and DCA to help with anyone who may get verbally abusive or threaten violence against those Guest Relations CM’s doling out the more restrictive DAS cards.

The real day to watch will be Friday, October 11th, two days after DAS begins and the first day when 25,000+ Annual Passholders show up in the evening. This is going to be ugly for at least a few weeks, everyone agrees on that. It helps that the exact same program is being rolled out at WDW at the same time, and that finally there are several senior executives supporting the program. It will be interesting to see how strong the executives stand behind the DAS program when the inevitable ugly media stories begin showing up on the local news and online, or heaven forbid if the CM’s in the parks really start taking serious verbal or physical abuse.

A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrowland

While October will feature quite a few upset folks in the parks, there’s still good news headed to Anaheim this fall. DCA Vice President Mary Niven has instructed her operations teams to go full speed ahead on their strategizing over WDI’s plans for Monstropolis and the Door Coaster back in the corner of Hollywood Studios, as Burbank bosses have quietly nodded that the check for the new project will clear the bank just as soon as the new fiscal year starts in October. Meanwhile, Disneyland Vice President Jon Storbeck is keeping his strategic planners on the path to a virtual Death Star landing in Tomorrowland, with a two-phase approach still favored to get some of the “placemaking” done prior to the 60th Anniversary in ’15, with the rest opening after the 60th and bookended by the Monstropolis opening in early 2017. The recent “play tests” conducted by WDI in the Golden Horseshoe were an important part of that planning for Tomorrowland, as WDI and Disneyland’s operations teams are curious to see how they can get WDI’s plans for a rowdy night in a Tatooine cantina to work with theme park guests. And you can bet there’s lots of food and drink and merch sales piled on to the fun in that interactive cantina attraction planned for Tomorrowland.

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Captain EO is also heading to extinction, but Burbank caught wind of TDA’s plans to close the increasingly irrelevant show for a fake “reburbishment” this month in order to save some labor dollars at the end of the fiscal year. Burbank bosses and an important clique in Glendale’s WDI headquarters want to make the most of their newly acquired Star Wars property, and the parks announcement is a key part of that.

Burbank was upset that if EO was closed for a refurbishment, fans would be able to see what was really its permanent closure in advance of a replacement announcement, and they told TDA to back off and just eat the extra labor hours. So the Captain EO fake refurbishment was shelved, and the show will stay open until the Star Wars plans are announced. Don’t forget, there’s the first D23 Expo Japan being held at Tokyo Disneyland on October 12th thru the 14th, and Tokyo’s Tomorrowland not only has an underused Captain EO show but also has an aesthetic that has been screaming out for an update for over a decade. Bob Iger and Tom Staggs are both scheduled to fly over to Japan for that D23 Expo and make a few announcements about the parks, and perhaps also mention a galaxy far, far away.

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But those announcements are still a month out. And in the meantime the current exhibit at the Blue Sky Cellar touting last spring’s debut of the Fantasy Faire is looking more and more useless. The Blue Sky Cellar is currently planned to shut down and go into mothballs with the new fiscal year on October 1st, and then wait until the Monstropolis or Star Wars announcement is made so that WDI can stage a new exhibit there in 2014. Those Guest Relations CM’s that staff the Cellar will be needed elsewhere in October to help roll out the DAS program anyway, but if you are a fan of the Blue Sky Cellar a September visit to get your fix is advisable.

PARKS and Resorts

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With the stealthy plans for more Anaheim expansion this decade, TDA has gone back to the drawing board on a parking expansion for the Resort area. The latest news was Disney’s acquisition of a big chunk of property on the corner of Ball Road and Harbor Blvd., as the current site of an old service station and an RV park. The plan is to turn this lot into 1,500 spaces of Cast Member parking, thus opening up breathing room to begin construction on a multi-level parking garage and streetcar station on the existing Pumbaa parking lot. A portion of that Pumbaa lot had to be turned over to Cast Members in early 2012, when the Resort went on a hiring binge in advance of DCA’s grand reopening. There are 1,400 spaces in the Pumbaa lot, and they are now available for CM’s as an alternate to the infamous Katella Cast Member Lot (KCML) south of GardenWalk.

KCML has been in operation since late 1998, and requires CM’s to wait in long lines to take a rag tag fleet of smelly standing-room-only shuttle buses to and from KCML. Although when wait times for the KCML shuttle exceed 20 minutes on peak days, many CM’s just end up walking the 1.5 miles to or from the park anyway. And at least the opening of GardenWalk in ’08 created a bit of a shortcut for them. The experience of KCML parking is so disliked by CM’s, that several thousand CM’s per day now voluntarily park in the Pumbaa lot and then walk a round trip of up to two miles to and from their work locations inside Disneyland or DCA. And these are front line CM’s working in the park on their feet all day, they aren’t walking to and from a cushy desk job.

The Pumbaa lot

The Pumbaa lot

On busy days this past summer, the 1,400 space Pumbaa lot was often filled to capacity during the first and second shifts. Parking in Pumbaa sends those CM’s trudging back to their car down Harbor Blvd. and side streets late at night after their shifts, but the female CM’s try to walk in groups and have become street savvy to avoid the various panhandlers and con artists that lurk in the shadows there after park closing. But for most park Cast Members that darkened hike at the end of a long day spent on their feet is a better scenario than dealing with the indignity and hassle of the dreaded KCML shuttle.
TDA now realizes they have more CM’s than they know what to do with, but before they can seriously barter with the city of Anaheim over how to best use the Pumbaa lot, and some connected property Disney also owns, they will have to find more CM parking. They are already using small overflow lots across Harbor Blvd. much closer than Pumbaa to park a few hundred white collar Cast Members who work in the original Administration Building inside Disneyland’s berm. But those auxiliary lots are being snapped up by hotel developers, as a new hotel building boom hits the Disneyland Resort District this year and next.

There are currently a dozen new hotels under construction or planned to get underway this winter in the Resort District around Disneyland; from a swanky Westin and Hyatt House on Katella, to a boutique Hotel Indigo, to mid-range motor inns like the Marriott Courtyard about to be built on the current Administration Building parking lot. The unfortunate thing is that the new CM parking structure on Ball Road will be even further from the parks than KCML is, so packed shuttle rides are looming in the future for the CM’s that have escaped to Pumbaa.


MiceChat Podcast: The Great Disney Geek-Out

Doug Barnes and Dusty Sage jump head first into the cave of Disney wonders and return with quite a few gems to share from the recent D23 Expo. But what did Disney do that actually made Dusty cry? It’s a touching moment and a reminder why so many of us are true Disney fans. This show is for the Disney fan in all of you and well worth a listen.

Direct Link | iTunes Link

 


Oh-KAY, that wraps things up for this update. But there is still plenty of news coming soon enough.

Did you survive Friday the 13th in the parks? Have thoughts about the replacement of the GAC program? Looking forward to Tomorrowland updates finally being rolled out?

If you enjoyed today’s update, please be sure to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter and leave us a comment below.

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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  • Nland316

    Regarding Tomorrowland; What are they planning on doing with Autotopia/the subs? Are they still planned for demolition? I’ve also heard on another website that Star Wars was only going to take over a smaller area of Tomorrowland, and that the Tron themed light cycles were back on track. Can anyone shed some light on this?

  • EC82

    Man, oh, man — what a disaster on two fronts. First, why are any executives happy with crowds that are nearly SEVENTY PERCENT non-paying guests? I just don’t get how, as a business, Disney can justify the operational expenses of catering to non-paying guests. Now I understand why every INCH of the park seems to be about retail, because they’ve got to get those people to spend more and more money to cover their costs. But I’ve never understood the emphasis on the annual pass program. My own view has always been that they should phase it out over a five-year period and then keep admission prices STABLE, so that within five years they can have prices that are more in line with the marketplace and at least 60% of guests will actually pay for admission on any given day. The result will be shorter lines, smaller crowds but higher per-capita spending. Disney’s business model is very weird, indeed.

    Regarding the disabled guest system: why can’t Disney just require an able-bodied person to stand in line for the guest, then notify them when it’s time to enter the vehicle (through a restaurant-style pager system)? I believe more strongly than I can tell you in the rights of those who are disabled — but I draw the line at special treatment. Everyone has to wait in line. Until 10 years ago, Disney had better ways of helping these guests, until the whole thing just got out of control. Let’s go back to the way it used to be: Almost every ride is accessible to those who are disabled. If they genuinely cannot wait in line for whatever reason, then someone in their party can. And if all guests in a group are disabled, then there should be special assistance. But doing more than that is just asking for the abuse that has been heaped on the system.

    Like I said, I really don’t understand the way Disney works.

    Oh, and fix Alice in Wonderland already.

    • TheDude

      Well, I’m not too sure that AP’s are considered “non-paying” to Disney. Have you seen the AP prices? APs are now a major cash source for the resort. The APers who went on the 13th, paid for that right. (even if it was $20 a head based on total pass price divided by the number of trips to the resort.)

      I know a lot of people on here hate the AP program, as it’s basicly just a park filler program. However, you can’t ignore the numbers. Last I remember reading on here, they had just under a million APs. Even if they were all the $279 passes, that would be more than a quarter billion in revenue. If the 400K number of premium APs mentioned by Al in an old update we’re still true today, that number would look more like a half a billion. that It’s guaranteed revenue for them, if the APer shows up or not. Disney just wants to do anything they can to keep that $500M right where it is.

      I agree 137% on Alice.

      • WannaCub

        I pay for a Premium pass and I think I’m robbing Disney! I totally agree that I’m a non-paying guest because I’ve already paid for my ticket. I’m all for raising AP prices until I can’t afford it so it can thin out the herd.

    • cindylou

      “Regarding the disabled guest system: why can’t Disney just require an able-bodied person to stand in line for the guest, then notify them when it’s time to enter the vehicle (through a restaurant-style pager system)? I believe more strongly than I can tell you in the rights of those who are disabled — but I draw the line at special treatment. Everyone has to wait in line.”

      I see your logic on this. Our family does this for character meet and greets and other things. But say I wait in line for the rides and buzz my husband to bring in our disabled child when I’m close to the front then I’m not spending vacation with my child, I’m spending it waiting in the lines while my husband is having family vacation time elsewhere in the park. That’s to our son’s disadvantage and he’s being punished for being disabled, in this case.

      To anyone else who may have more info on the new system: I assume that since there will be only a few kiosks scattered around (our trips are mostly to WDW) the parks so there will be a line to get your “come back” time to ride. If the DAS ID is given out daily, there’s the line for Guest services every day. And then, after you come back to the ride at your designated time, you have to wait in the fastpass line? This amounts to more lines for people who have trouble with lines, for the safety of others. Also, the wait then would be equal to the stand-by line plus the actual wait in the fastpass line? How is that fair? If the stand-by line for TSM is 100 minutes and we’re sent away for that amount of time to just hang (so our son who doesn’t understand can get ready for his meltdown) and then we come back and have to wait in the fastpass line for 35 minutes where our son will probably melt down. So this is really meant to be a deterrent. Disney has apparently joined the small-minded folks who think that people with autism should stay home.

      I have a feeling that once the new system goes into effect and people have to actually stand in line with people with autism having meltdowns, because of the new system, they’ll long for the good old days when the GAC got us in and out of line more quickly. It’s an inconvenience to change the system for our child but it will be more than an inconvenience when these kids are melting down and the fairness police have to actually see it close up. As we won’t be paying thousands of dollars for a vacation and not ride the rides that our son wants to ride, a lot of people are going to see first hand why the GAC benefits them.

      • DobbysCloset

        I see a whole lot of kids out in the world and no more meltdowns by autistic kids than non-autistic kids.

        Dobby, being a Service Dog, rides public transportation with me. If he is around a child having a meltdown he can often distract the child from continuing. Bus drivers love it!

        As an adult, if I have a meltdown in line, I take myself out of line until I feel better. That is the Mom’s responsibility when the person having the meltdown is a child. Bring another adult. Hand over the child like parents have to when a child isn’t riding. But threatening to scream and turn blue unless one’s kid gets on first isn’t fair to the people who queue responsibly.

    • TRONAlex

      I agree,fix Alice already. It still looks really ugly.

  • EC82

    Also, I know Disney needs to wring the most bucks out of its overpriced Lucasfilm acquisition, and I know virtually no one cares about fine points like this (that have been made over and over and over by other people on the boards), but:

    STAR WARS DOES NOT TAKE PLACE IN THE FUTURE.

    Period.

    • stevek

      Old argument that really isn’t relevant in today’s tomorrowland. Do Buzz Lightyear, Nemo Subs, Autopia Cars, Iron Man, Thor or much else in TL take place in the future? It’s really a land of Science Fantasy verus a true tomorrowland. It’s tomorrowland in name only.

      • EC82

        No, they don’t. And the Disneyland experience is worse for it. There are few places left to dream at Disneyland anymore, assuming your dreams don’t involve franchise characters and branded entertainment. Tomorrowland was, for so long, a place to consider what the future might be like, or at least celebrate our vision. Even when “America Sings” was there, the simple fact that it was in such a marvelous ride building made it feel appropriate. Now, Tomorrowland is just the dumping ground for rides based on movie properties. It’s a real shame that there can’t be SOME nod to what it’s about, whether as a simple exhibit, a ride that even TRIES to evoke some future vision (Space Mountain perhaps comes closest), or some effort to make these attractions somehow fit. But just because “Star Wars” is set in space and Buzz Lightyear is an astronaut doesn’t make them Tomorrowland “fits.” (“Iron Man” probably comes closest, since at least it has SOMETHING to do with technology and a vision of the near future.)

    • DobbysCloset

      Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I am excited about the new attractions which are being planned. My disappointment is that there will not be a new attraction for the 60th at Disneyland. While I celebrate the improvement of DCA, I really feel that Disneyland has had to pay a big price. There really needs to be an E ticket planned and promoted for DL. I really hope that the new attraction is not just a glorified movie promotion.

  • lcasa

    Hopefully the requirement to physically go to a kiosk gets replaced by an app — seems like a logical extension to the My Disney Experience app especially since the CMs are checking on wait times using an ipad! That would alleviate the biggest issue I see in the complaints above..

  • TRONAlex

    My son and daughter are autistic. The GAC was a Godsend when we went at the most twice a year.
    Both have trouble waiting in lines. Severe meltdowns. It’s hard to explain to a child who is 7 with a mentality of 3 to say we have to come back to ride Buzz Lightyear. He would get a melt down. Also, doesn’t it bother anyone that Disney will take pictures of the people who will be using the GAC pass? Isn’t there a privacy issue with that?
    I feel like my child’s privacy is compromised. What will happen to all the pictures that are taken for the GAC?

    • cindylou

      This seems odd to me as well. I see lawsuits in the future if customers feel as if they’re being made to jump through a lot of hoops that non-disabled people are not. Disney has been sued before on issues regarding disabilities. We don’t go on vacation to be harassed and singled out. We just want to experience the parks and avoid meltdowns. We do that, with careful planning and the GAC system.

      If Disney doesn’t have a better plan for people with autism then they’re in for a rude awakening.

      In the end, the fastpass+ system will be another way for them to make money. They will probably have a tiered system so than you can buy packages to allow for different numbers of fastpasses per day. They’ll make money from disabled people by doing this as family members will pay more just to avoid the horrors of the new system. We’ll essentially be paying for what used to be a GAC. They’ll wait a while before doing this so that people can adjust to the new systems and then they’ll start offering the new packages. It’ll be deemed fair because it will be available for anyone who is willing to pay for it.

    • 9oldmen

      About the privacy issue, you do know that Disneyland is a public place, right? You’re constantly being photographed and taped by surveillance cameras, on-board ride photo cameras (which EVERY one of the thrill rides seems to feature), and also, cameras, iPhones, etc. being used by guests, who, unlike Disney, may not be following any rules regarding your privacy, or how the photos/videos are used, posted online, etc. They’ve been taking photos of multi-day ticket users also, to prevent those from being…regifted or resold.
      Every time I enter a park with my AP, I know that they are looking at my picture that they have in their database. I’m sure that they respect my privacy, though I know that I’m giving a little of it up by having the pass, and by going to a public place. Unlike the DAS photo, my AP photo is not going to be permanently deleted at the end of the day, which is what I’m guessing will happen with the DAS photos. I think the privacy issue is the last thing people should worry about. Unless there’s something different about the DAS photos that I’m missing.

      • cindylou

        I think you are missing the point. In the case of the DAS, disabled people are being asked to stand in one more line, perhaps every day and have a picture taken that is associated with a disability.

        That’s not the same as being on camera with the rest of the park.

        This is seen as a deterrent for abusers but as a side effect, disabled people are being subjected to more hoops to jump through as well as a photo that identifies them with something negative in the eyes of most cast members. They are a huge part of the complainers, after all, as well as part of the group who abuse the GAC system in the first place.

        Extra lines, photo to identify the disabled person, extra hoops. Not fair. Not equal.

    • stevek

      I don’t think the picture is any different than when you get your picture taken with an AP. It’s not there to compromise the privacy of the disabled person, only to provide proof that the person using the GAC is the person that it has been issued to. I completely understand that you are more sensitive to protecting your child but I truly don’t beleive that Disney is trying to do anything to invade your child’s privacy. If anything, I think they would be more sensitive to protecting it.

      • cindylou

        I’m less concerned personally about the photo than some of the other issues. It seems to me though that if they can take a picture of a child with a disability and then label him/her as such in the system then they could just go ahead and ask for proof of disability. This seems like a better fix for me. I think this would end more of the abuse. Someone else may know more about the specifics of the ADA but they’re both invasive. If it cuts down on abuse so that the system works better for the truly disabled then I’m okay with both. It doesn’t seem as though this is a system that will work for severely autistic individuals though.

    • WannaCub

      I think that you shouldn’t have to go to the ride to get the pass, that’s what the kiosk’s are for. I don’t know anything about autism so all I’ll say is, get the pass, then head to the ride.

      Also, if privacy is an issue, you kinda need to stay at home. Cameras are everywhere. Those with any disability AND an AP have their picture taken for their AP. I say, go to the parks and just enjoy yourselves. If that’s not possible, try something else.

      • cindylou

        Getting your picture taken for an AP is very different than getting your picture taken because you have a disability. I don’t have a big issue with this other than it is something that a non-disabled person would have to do, especially if we already have to go to all the extra lines.

        There’s always someone who says, “If you don’t like it, stay home or go someplace else.” My suggestion to you is the same, as you yourself said that you don’t know anything about autism and you’ll probably be the type who feels inconvenienced when my son meltsdown after having to jump though a few hoops to ride each ride.

        Waiting for the person who always says that it’s abuse to take a child with autism to Disney World, as if they don’t want to go.

        The crowd that wants fewer autistic kids interfering with their perfect vacation (or how they think that website comments should be worded) are just good practice for people like me who need to sharpen our advocacy skills.

        So thanks!

    • Rastuso

      Should all 3 year olds get to not wait in line?

      I’m sure Disney wants the pictures to sell them to people who collect photos of autistic children, and people with no obvious physical problems.

      And do you think non autistic seven year olds don’t have meltdowns? Apparently my son, AND ALL OTHERS, should have had a GAC pass when he was at least 3-7 years old.

      Jason

  • Not My Real Name

    Hasn’t obesity been declared a disability or a disease? Will they have to accomodate people who weigh more than 300 pounds?

    I weigh 270.

  • TRONAlex

    Im glad that Disney bought the Muppets. But I am sad to see the 3-D movie go away to make another Monsters Inc ride. Why did Disney buy TheMuppets if they don’t use it to the full potential.
    It seems like Disney bought all these properties just because they can.
    Disney should have cancelled AVATARLAND at Animal Kingdom and made a full on Endorland.
    Where’s the Marvel attractions? A Star Wars land? Muppets land?
    Everything is all Pixar.
    What next, turn Condor Flats into Planesland?
    They already got rid of the Bell X-1 on the front of Test Pilots Grill.
    At least get rid of Captain EO and make a new Muppet 3-D movie in the place of Captain EO,
    Maybe I don’t know, Pigs in Space?

  • Pingback: Big Changes GAC being discontinued; DAS more restrictive()

  • waymire01

    Regarding the GAC.. my husband suffered a back injury several years ago, and on our last trip to WDW he had no choice but to use a scooter for the majority of our trip (18 days), and while he could walk short distances stairs and long periods of standing were simply not possible. We were unaware of the existence of the GAC, and it was not mentioned to us at any time during our stay, even though we utilized the resort staff to help arrange our rental scooter and provide information on accessibility issues, and also had multiple daily contact with staff members involving accessibility throughout our stay. That said we were astonished every day by the helpfulness and respectful assistance given by every cast member we encountered in the parks, resorts, downtown disney, etc. Many times they went completely above and beyond to ensure he was comfortable and assist in any way possible. Having had a long time friend who is wheelchair bound I know the reality of just how uncompromising and difficult it is to find accommodation in “the real world” where simply finding a bathroom you can access is a bonus some days. I can’t say enough about how well Disney handles it. I hope people keep that in mind when reacting to the new program.

    It also saddens me greatly that the need was there to increase security to protect cast members from irate guests.. so very sad that there is a portion of the population who would go so far as to verbally or physically attack another person over something so trivial.

    • cindylou

      People with wheelchairs will be accommodated. People with other disabilities are being punished and made to jump through more hoops, stand in more lines. This will result in many problems, very few of which are “trivial”.

      One result of this problem will be that many autistic kids will require wheelchairs because of sensory issues, meltdowns (to protect the personal space of others) and will result in longer lines for the wheelchair folks. Some people with autism also have other problems that make the symptoms of autism worse when physically stressed like seizure disorders, heart problems, susceptibility to heat stroke, and gait problems. Wheelchair users are part of the problem for invisible disabilities being penalized since they constantly complain about people on the spectrum needing assistance, which they don’t think is deserved.

      These complaints are related to the new system. The old system worked for people on the spectrum. This is discrimination as it penalizes people who have autism.

      My son needing to use a wheelchair suddenly at WDW because Disney is making things more difficult for him is a further burden for our family.

      • stevek

        Are you 100% sure that Disney will not accomodate your needs? If not, I suggest you take a wait and see approach before condemming them. It may feel like an overcorrection right now but you may find it is actually different once you get there. If it isn’t, I completely understand and sympathize with your frustrations.

      • WannaCub

        Cindylou, are you 100% sure you’ll need to jump through hoops to get this new pass or rent a wheelchair? Just wait and see! The GAC wasn’t just for wheelchair people, right? You’d used one for your autistic child before, so why wouldn’t you be able to use one now?

        Take a deep breath and wait to see what happens.

      • charleen

        Cindlou- I agree with you it is going to make it impossible to get a wheel chair now because people that didn’t need them before will have to use them now.

        My daughter has Autism, weak muscle tone, immune issues and hip dysplasia so she needs a wheelchair when we go to Disney on top of those issues she is a runner so the wheel chair helps keep her safe.

        I also strongly agree that this new system is discrimination against people with Autism. I feel as Disney does not want people on the spectrum to visit their parks because it will be better for their typical visitors.

  • DisneyGeek138

    I would just like to point out that Katella Cast Member lot is nowhere as inconvenient as this article makes it seem. The buses are nice, air conditioned, don’t smell bad, and have comfortable seats. Very rarely do people stand, and if they do, it’s by choice. Lines are never long at all to get on them. Pumba lot is popular for CMs because when you are running law, you don’t have to worry about a shuttle possibly getting stopped at every light. You know exactly how long it takes to walk from Pumba. A shuttle ride can greatly vary in time. The exaggeration in this part of the article is disgusting.

    • Westsider

      How long have you been a shuttle driver?

  • danielz6

    Wow when I saw the 100+ comments I was so excited to read about everyone’s speculation on new attractions at the resort but nearly every comment is about GAC, DAS or ADA…what a snooze.

    • cindylou

      There are plenty of Disney forums/blogs where talk of the GAC / DAS is forbidden and any questions or comments result in a immediate locking of the threads/comments. FYI, if you’re bored.

      • DobbysCloset

        That’s awful, banning talk about disability!

        I’m not bored by the talk of access for the disabled, but it’s difficult trying to make one system work for everyone.

        It’s hard for me to get excited about development at Disneyland because I will believe it when I see it. Alice who?

    • CaptainAction

      Me too Danielz6

  • stitch1085

    Disney should just adopt the same program in place at Universal Studios. You go to guest service, tell them you need assistance, they hand you a rather nifty card with a barcode on it. You take this card to the greeter at whatever attraction you want to ride, they scan it and tell you “Come back at (insert time here).” When your time comes up, you go back to the greeter they scan your card again and like magic you’re in! No muss, no fuss, no walking back and forth (as some are concerned about). And it only allows you this assistance once per attraction, I think, not 100% sure. And anyone trying to beat the system saying things like “oh well I already came by and they told me to come back right now,” is a no-go because they have those scanners telling them when a person first arrived to the attraction. It might be a little costly but I think it’s cheaper than any lawsuit that Disney might get slammed with.

    • Westsider

      That’s about the same system Disney will be using, except without the barcodes and with centralized kiosks so you don’t have to go all the way to a ride and then wait nearby; you could get a Space Mt. boarding time issued to you in Critter Country after you get off Splash Mt. instead of walking all the way to Space Mt. for it.

      And that same basic system has lots of folks here screaming BLOODY MURDER! that it will be too much work for them and that’s it is hateful behavior on the part of Disney executives and hourly Cast Members alike. But it’s fair and equitable.

      Oh well, you can’t please everyone!

      • cindylou

        The difference between Universal’s system and Disney’s is that my family (don’t know about anyone else’s) doesn’t spend two weeks there. We get in and out, doing only what our child likes to do. If we want to spend the extra money and get their Express Pass, which is an all day fastpass, we can do that for two days, or stay at one of their resorts.

        I think that Disney’s Fastpass+ system will eventually evolve into a tiered system that you can pay for extra fastpasses, etc. That will result in negative PR when people with autism have to pay a lot extra to be able to go to Disney parks.

        Whether Disney puts the DAS system in place as described or eventually charges more to make things easier, the result is the same for people with autism. They are making it harder.

        I did read someplace that the DAS program for people with autism will be a bit different. We’ll see.

  • [email protected]

    Wow, lots of passion in here about the GAC. First let me say that I am glad that DLR is revamping the current system. I saw much fraud and deceit from both Guests and CMs. I, myself have a GAC. I don’t use a wheel chair, and to look at me, you would think that there was nothing wrong with me. I have Mesothelioma. I have had my whole left lobe (lung) removed. I am terminal, but I want to spend time with my young daughter at my favorite place in the world. I got my GAC after I found out I could not stand for extended periods of time. I don’t want to use a wheel chair or scooter because I enjoy walking through the park. I am a AP for two years now, and hoping to get at least one more year out of this body of mine. My family (3 of us), used my GAC as it was meant to be used. If there was a longer line than I could stand, we used it. If not we stood in the regular line. I never let anyone else use my card. And, when it came time to get a new one, I told the Guest Relations CM that I only need it for 3 people. There were times that a CM at an attraction would give me a look over, ask who name was on the card, and then ask why I needed it in the first place. I didn’t think it was the CM’s job to ask that particular question, and I told them so. The current system was broke, that was obvious. One example of how it was broken was this. Back on July 4th of this year, my family of 3 went to DLR for the day. I knew I needed to go to Guest relations first to update my expired GAC. I have Disabled parking on my car. at the same time I parked a Minivan pulls up next to me. A family of 6 jumps out of the van and they start arguing on who is going to be the “gimp” today. I was puzzled by this until I saw that they had brought a wheelchair with them. I watched as they kept saying “you got it last time” and “I want to be the lazy one today”. I just shook my head and walked away in disgust. I saw this same family now at City Hall, telling the CM that her son (he must have won the argument) has Vertigo, and can’t stand for more than 5 minutes at a time. Once again, I just shook my head and left. I saw this same family through out the day. Cheating not only DRL, but every other Guest that had to wait for them. I saw them verbally attack and threaten CM’s and Guest alike. After seeing this first handed, I felt sickened and ashamed to my GAC. So yes, I am glad that the are trying to fix the problem. For the wheelchair / scooter people. You are already sitting. You don’t have a reason to cut the lines. If the stairs are the issue, that is one thing, but a good amount of the attractions don’t have stairs. Just my thought.

    • WannaCub

      Thank you for your comment! I tip my hat off to you!

  • John Keola Lessary

    I hope they don’t take away Captain EO before our trip in November. Our kids love that show and were super bummed when I told them it wouldn’t be there. We also wanted to buy a Hooter doll while we were there.

    Any definitive date on when EO will be gone?

    • poohmeg

      I’m also a huge Captain EO fan – if there is a Disney Store Outlet anywhere you can get to, go now – I got one of the full-size stuffed Hooter dolls last week for $10. :) Obviously that doesn’t bode well for the continued presence of Captain EO in the parks, but at least you can get a deal!