In Spite of Cars Land, Disneyland Attendance Seems Flat

Written by MiceChat Staff. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features, In the Parks

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Published on July 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm with 73 Comments

It was a milestone week for Disneyland, which turned 57 years old on Tuesday.  The little park which Walt was told would never work has only grown more popular over the years. And it honestly looks better today than it ever has. However, there are initial signs that attendance is not living up to the lofty expectations for this summer. So much so that they are no longer opening the Disney Gallery with the park, but rather waiting until noon to open.  There are also continuing capacity concerns at the Matterhorn, and we’ll check on the status Fantasy Faire Village construction site.  We also venture over to Disney California Adventure to check on things across the Esplanade.  Cars Land here we come!

On Tuesday the 17th of July, Disneyland celebrated its 57th birthday with a small ceremony in Town Square (the little park in front of the Main Street Train Station).  By about 2:45,  cameras were in place and a crowd gathered for a brief happy birthday sing along and an airing of Walt Disney’s opening day speach.

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

-Walt Disney

As usual, character flooded from the corners of the square and took center stage.

All of the characters were holding balloons and sang.

Low level pyrotechnics were launched.

And then it was done.  After the ceremony was over, the characters offered their balloons to children in the audience and quickly took their exit.

There wasn’t much to expect from the 57th birthday, as it isn’t exactly a landmark number. But, at least it was acknowledged by Disneyland management.

Is the Disney Gallery closed?  No, but operations has decided to begin opening the tranquil, high-dollar retail space at noon each day instead of at park opening.  The reasoning behind it may be that most sales come in the second half of the day, or perhaps its just a budgetary move brought on by lower than expected attendance this summer.  Regardless, it is a shame to see any store on Main Street closed during regular park operating hours. At the very least, can’t they find a way to leave the new gallery exhibit in the back open?

There’s a new gallery exhibit here, that you can’t see until Noon, long after the average guest has arrived for the day.

A shot through the front door and the shuttered store.

The wait times at Disneyland continue to be surprisingly low for this time of year.  This has a lot to do with the block out dates for the SoCal and SoCal Select Annual Passes that are not allowed to enter the park again until August 20th. Disney had been so worried that the parks would be packed to capacity this summer, that they blocked Castmembers from signing in guests for the season. However, in light of low attendance, those privileges have been restored.

Guests are nearly evenly split between Disneyland and California Adventure. But, the fact is that Disneyland can absorb twice as many people as DCA can at full capacity before breaking a sweat.  While Disneyland Cast members are “bored” as one Castmember mentioned, their DCA counterparts don’t know what hit them and are scrambling, admirably, to keep up with their new found attention. That makes 30,000 guests seem a bit snug at DCA but leisurely at Disneyland.

With the opening of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, new entertainment and shows, new shops and restaurants, The resort should be pulling in about 20,000 more bodies every day than it currently is. We’ve been told that the resort attendance is flat from last years numbers (roughly 60,000 people per day). So, what’s the problem? That’s the question that everyone seems to be asking (employees, guests, and suits). Was it the daily news during Cars Land opening about recording crowding? Was it the huge price increase slapped on guests and passholders just before summer got underway? Competition from other local parks who all launched new attractions this summer as well? Or is the economy to blame? Or perhaps a little bit of all of the above? What do you think the problem is (survey below)?

Regardless of the reason, NOW is a GREAT time to visit the Disneyland Resort. Grab the kids and head to the parks before school is back in session.

We can only hope that the recent weakness in Disneyland attendance doesn’t result in aggressive entertainment and operations cuts. We firmly believe that as long as the resort doesn’t move forward with another round of price increases this year that they will see a major rebound in the fall and winter once annual passes are unblocked.

Matterhorn is still achieving wait times that hover in the 45 minute to one hour mark throughout the day.  We were curious to see how the new meticulously engineered bobsleds would effect capacity once the looky-loos and pass holders took their initial rides on the re-opened coaster.  It may still be a little too early to tell, but it seems that the new, single person bobsleds have not helped capacity at all.

We will keep an eye on this situation, but everyone from the guests to operations are well aware of the burden the slick new sleds have wrought and the poor guest reaction to them.  One point visitors need to keep in mind is that the Single Rider line is a great option for those who don’t mind riding with the rest of their party.  You will already be sitting separate anyway due to the new seating configuration.  Give it a try.

Al Lutz mentioned in his editor’s note yesterday that Alice in Wonderland’s ratty looking scaffolding  will finally be getting a permanent, more attractive, redesign soon.  He writes…

The long delayed and much debated redesign for the outdoor track portion of Alice In Wonderland has finally been decided on. The multi-month rehab at Alice is now scheduled to begin September 4th, along with shorter rehabs starting that same day at Indy, Storybookland, and Casey Jr Circus Train. After shorter rehabs, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain will open as their Halloween versions on Friday, September 14th. 

Work continues behind the construction walls on the interactive, princess meet and greet near the castle.

Passage from Rancho Del Zocalo is blocked.

Cars Land is doing the job and absorbing the throngs of people coming to see the new land.

RSR is still pulling in 3 hour wait times.  A lot of this has to do with the temperamental ride system.

New rides often have down time while operations finds its groove and and maintenance figures out what the glitches are. Still, that can mean some hefty waits.

While some of the show scenes inside are already failing and in need of attention, they have repaired the namesake fountain of Radiator Springs in the queue.

On a recent ride through, we noted that while most of the animatronics were operating just fine, there were a few  things that needed attention.  The tractor tipping scene is completely broken now, with none of the tractors actually tipping. And the backfire effect from the final tractor has long since vanished after the opening weekend.  The other problem is the Luigi’s Tires scene, which is horribly out of synch with the vehicle position.  Let’s hope they are able to fine tune these issues sooner rather than later.

Outside the E-Ticket,Luigi’s Flying Tires is pulling in waits well over an hour long all day.

Mater’s seems to steadily flirt with the half hour mark.

In other news, the wildly popular specialty souvenir cups and popcorn holders are back and well stocked.

That’s all that we have from the Disneyland Resort today.


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  • Dadoo

    “Matterhorn is still achieving wait times that hover in the 45 minute to one hour mark throughout the day. We were curious to see how the new meticulously engineered bobsleds would effect capacity once the looky-loos and pass holders took their initial rides on the re-opened coaster. It may still be a little too early to tell, but it seems that the new, single person bobsleds have not helped capacity at all.”

    I said it when they announced the new bobsled configuration, and I have said it since, and will continue to say it, until they change it….The loss of 2 people per bobsled train WILL increase wait times! It’s NOT a good idea! It’s going to piss people off! They need to go back to the 8 person bobsleds. If it’s safety that’s the issue, then supply the bobsleds with belts for ALL the passengers.

    You can say all you want about things running more efficiently, or there’s just more people wanting to see the newly updated Matterhorn. But, the truth of the matter is that the new bobsled configuration is the culprit for the long wait times. Get used to it folks! They’re not going to change them out any time soon!

    • PoopedPirate

      I don’t think it’s running more effeciently at all. I was there three weeks ago and saw that guests struggled unlatching the spring loaded seatbelts at the end of the ride. It’s especially true for larger-sized guests. This causes a backlog at unload and many times the ride went into shutdown because of it. I tried to ride the Matterhorn five times in a two day period, but only succeeded once. The rest of the time it was down while I watched cast members struggle to help guests get out of their seatbelts. I’m not sure the new design is an improvement at all.

    • Algernon

      They should have left the bobsleds alone. People loved them just as they were for half a century. And the single rider line? They always used to have a cast member walk the line asking for single riders if they needed them. And let’s face it: no tall or plus-sized riders complained before, and they do now. How can that be better? And a loss of two riders per bobsled not affecting things? Who are they trying to kid?

      • Marko50

        Actually, the bobsleds were not that way for half a century. They started out as four-person cars. And I wish they had left them that way.

    • I’m an average guy. 6′ tall and about 165 pounds. Aside from the fact that the new bobsled seats make the ride painful, I have a really hard time getting in and out of them. I think they are worse than the old seats as far as ease of access goes.

      But I’m done with Matterhorn. It’s just too painful. I had bruises on my shins after the last time I rode. Painful!

    • DeneciePie

      I think I am only one of many who will not want to repeat a ride on the “new” Matterhorn. I am small so fit in the sled OK, but the ride is slower and much bumpier than I remember it. I wish they had smoothed the tracks, It feels more like going over cobblestones in an unsprung buggy than sliding over ice and snow. And no padding in the seat! I also had trouble unlatching the seatbelt. No more Matterhorn for me!

    • Marko50

      I’m also done with the Matterhorn. Don’t want to ride with me knees up my nostrils, even if it wasn’t painful.

      I think the best idea would be to force the lawyers to ride. Possibly over and over.

    • marla0411

      I agree. I have a family of 7 and the kids would share seats so we would only take up one car. Now we have to split up and can’t even ride together.

  • Malin

    Very enjoyable update. Summer is now my favourite time of the year to visit. Extended hours and entertainment. Much more manageable crowds. I think the ticket prices have a big factor in the numbers. But perhaps it’s also to do with Cars Land as a concept. The theme certainly didn’t appeal to me much until I read and looked into it more. From my recent experience attendance also appears to be flat at Knotts. But SeaWorld and Universal have been pulling in healthy numbers. Hoping the talk of flat attendance will stall the ridiculous plans Al mention of a third Marvel themed park aimed at teens and young adults.

    Good call to mention the show scene issues happening over at Radiator Springs.

    • From what we understand, Knott’s, SeaWorld and Universal are all pulling in strong attendance this summer – all up from this time last year..

      Disneyland’s resort wide attendance is currently flat. DCA is up and Disneyland is down, but the overall number is about the same as last year. They should be packed to the gills at this point.

      We think this may be a bit of a fluke as crowds may have been scared off by media reports of overcrowding during the grand opening of Cars Land. But it is also quite likely that they’ve just priced themselves too high. All the parks mentioned above are now bargain priced compared to Disneyland but offer a robust line up of attractions.

      By mid-fall, Disneyland should know the real reasons for the attendance softness and be able to make necessary adjustments.

  • Susan Hughes

    I’ve been noticing Disneyland is dead, dead, dead in the morning. It’s easy to see where everyone is headed. Now that Disneyland and California Adventure open at the same time, you can see where the crowds are lining up.
    But with Radiator Springs Racers with a 2 hour wait at 8am, and the Fast Pass being sold out by 9am, I can understand why everyone heads over there first.
    But around 11am or so, those DCA guests start flooding into Disneyland and it looks like it normally does for the summer. So that seems to be the pattern; DCA first, Disneyland later.
    I am curious to see attendance numbers though. Has Disneyland actually hit the skids like this article says?

    • eicarr

      I think this is partially true. But with all the new stuff and less cramped walkways I enjoyed my time at DCA with all the cool new stuff. As I said elsewhere refurbished old rides and new princess meet and great areas over an entire decade is not keeping my interest.

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  • sjdimon

    Between the pricing and the fact that there is nothing new at DIsneyland Park this summer, it is no wonder that people are not coming this summer. We too started our days at DCA, then we hopped over to DL. Once we discovered that DL was empty in the morning hours, we adjusted our strategy a bit and started out there. UNLESS you are trying to go on RSRacers, this works GREAT. You can get a load of stuff done at DL before NOON (when it starts to get busier).

    Sorry to hear about all of the breakdowns in RSR – esp with the Animatronics. Maybe the new deal with Garner-Holt will help to improve upon this (though I think most of these AA’s were built by GH).

  • PoopedPirate

    If attendance is “flat” after the huge price increase this spring, isn’t that a win/win for both Disney and Guests? The resort is handling the same amount of guests as last year, but each of those guest is paying 15-20% more than the previous year. And with the increased capacity, the guests see lighter lines, even though the crowds are the same as last year. It’s a win/win for all. We all complain about price increases (including me), but this is the benefit that everyone gets from it.

    • Algernon

      They’re so concerned about the ever-rising numbers of annual passholders. But does it ever occur to them that many people buy an annual pass because the single day admission is so high, to average out their costs, then force themselves to go there a few extra times to get their money’s worth (after dining at McDonald’s, first, of course)? If they scrapped the annual pass and radically lowered the admission, they’d get far more people who are there to spend money, not to mention the admissions.

      • eicarr

        Bingo! The day pass price force you to get an annual. And I’m from northern california so even more so. I make a 4 day trip every year, so I time the second trip just before it expires. I get bonus trip if I happen to go within the year. I went last week but will not renew till I visit in May.

  • SpectroMan

    I agree, flat attendance is nothing to cry about with the increase in prices. Also, DLR traditionally hasn’t been packed to the gills in Summer for many years now, thanks to the AP program. Instead, the capacity days hit during Halloween, Christmas, and Spring Break. It’s just a pattern that hopefully TDA has gotten used to by now and not so much a sign of poor attendance but just a modified attendance pattern which is now the norm.

  • Algernon

    How many less people would be going to the resort minus the mega-millions they’ve spent hyping DCA? Perhaps there is a cumulative effect to all the bogus changes they’ve made over the years, and people are finally waking up to the fact that it isn’t the same Disneyland anymore. This is a great article, but I disagree that this is the best the park has ever looked. Some things, maybe, might look better, but the trees are overgrown, I liked the smooth featureless pavement they used to have, and I wish they’d bring back Skull Rock Cove and the Pirate Ship in Fantasyland. Next to the Castle, it was probably the second most photographed part of the park. Then bring back Swiss Tree House, the old Subs, the Skyway, Peoplemover…on and on. A Disneyland like that would be packing them in. They’re just lucky Las Veags is committing suicide by not being a family destination anymore, ot they’d have even less visitors.

    • ayalexander

      over the years I’ve kinda become an unofficial disneyland historian and I would have to disagree on your comment. The trees may be overgrown, however they do help with shielding views of disneyland from outsiders, and they are at least well maintained. The pavement they used to use was unsafe during rainy & windy weather and it didn’t support the theming of the lands. The skull rock cove was awesome, however close to 1983, it was becoming vastly unpopular as it was difficult to maintain because it wasn’t an attraction that should require constant attention, only a restaraunt. I would have to admit the Swiss Treehouse would probably get the exact same attendance as Tarzan’s, but I doubt any more than it. (kids nowadays don’t know the Swiss Family story.) The old subs were costly, didn’t draw in enough crouds toward its last years and became too -forgive me- boring. The skyway was too costly and difficult to maintain as well as unsafe for the amount of guests that tried doing unsafe things on it -so much so that disneyland saw it pointless to keep- and finally, the people mover wasn’t drawing in crowds, there simply wasn’t much else to do with that track aside from a MASSIVE redesign to add compelling scenes of some imaginative sort. -I loved the old Disneyland, but for the new generations, those old elements would no longer cut it and Disneyland would be empty, except for the few dedicated fans that would die to see all of it again (like me).

      • Algernon

        They forget that the new generation comes with their parents.

    • LoveStallion

      So you don’t want Disneyland to change, ever.

      Should we also bring back the Monsato House of the Future and Adventures Thru Inner Space? Like Walt said, the park is never done.

      • Phillydawg

        Actually I kinda miss the “Wonderful Tomorrow” ride in the big round turning theatre in Tomorrowland. Turning it into a video game arcade is pretty dissapointing.

  • The survey results are fascinating. Over 1,000 people have voted and more than 60% of you think that prices are to blame for the Disneyland Resort attendance problems.

    • Quentin

      looks like “Folks avoiding crowds based upon news reports” has taken the lead.

    • Phillydawg

      I think a little of “all of the above”. Myself as a local am very disheartened that I can’t afford to go to DL for a day nor can swing an AP with the prices rising every year.

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    Went to Disneyland and California adventure yesterday. The crowds were really not too bad for a summer day. DCA was, in my opinion, more crowded with fastpass being the requisite way to get on the big rides. Disneyland was more easily manageable with most wiats being 45 min or less.

    Two really bothersome issues at Disneyland though. One, putting Bily Hill and the Hillbillies outside was a mistake. Grabbed a snack at Golden Horseshoe in the afternoon, to primarily get out of the heat, and it was noticibly dead in there. After sooo many years of live entertainment, now none at all? Very, very missed, even by my kids who love the Billies.
    Two, the bobsleds are nothing less than torture now. with a mild hip issue, there is no way for a 6’2″, 225lb adult to comfortably sit in the sleds with absolutely NO legroom. Very poor design and planning on Disney’s part. Who did they use for mockups? 6 year olds? Sadly, this will be one of the attractions that I will have to forgo in the future. Thanks Disney.

    • I agree with you FREQDUDE, time for them to return Bill Hill to the Golden Horseshoe. No one is going to the Festival Arena to find them back there.

      • DeneciePie

        Agree, although we sure enjoyed the peace and quiet and chance for serious interaction with characters. There were never more than a couple dozen guests and 6-8 characters were present to greet them!

      • Algernon

        I really liked the Golden Horshoe Revue, except for the part where the lady came out into the audience looking for a man. The last thing I want to do is be in the spotlight.

      • Crazee4mm

        I saw the Billy’s a few days ago and it was painful to watch. There were so few people at the 3:00 show that I was embarrassed for them. They are now visibly struggling to keep people in their seats that I almost left due to being uncomfortable. A family in the front row got up and left and the lead singer stopped the show and begged them to come back. In total I’d guess that there were less than 25 people there. Love the billy’s but they really need to be put back into the Horseshoe. Leaving them wasting away at the “Jamboree” (HA!) is only damaging to the public’s perception of them. The old real estate adage of “Location! Location! Location! definitely applies here.

      • Phillydawg

        the Golden Horshoe Revue got shut down over a lawsuit brought about by unfair audition practices and such. I have a buddy who was one of the actors who was witness to the argument between a middle management guy trying to order and throw his weight around at the musicians in the band. He fixed it(and he wasn’t even part of the music dept.) so that the whole band had to re-audition for their parts. I was at that audition and was among 25 trumpet players. Any/all of us could cut the part, but alas none of us made it of course. Audition was done out of spite and power per the middle management nazi, heh.

  • Gregg Condon

    I think the reduction in attendance has to do with the price increase, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t buying passes, they are just opting for the SoCal passes. All this means is that this fall when SoCal passes are allowed back in, the parks are going to be PACKED.

    I won’t be attending any days where any of the SoCal passes are not blocked out. It’s going to be crazy IMO.

  • dbhays

    I skipped on Disneyland this summer, and chose Knott’s instead because of the higher prices. As a Npr Cal resident, daily prices are just too high for a family of 5 who only visit once a year. Kids had a blast at Knotts!

    • dbhays

      Northern California to clear that up.

  • RatherBeAtDLand

    I think that part of it is because there are just so many annual passholders that it has gotten to the point where when they are blocked out, the Disneyland Resort has attendance issues. I really think the annual pass problem needs to be fixed. It will fix a lot of problems with it.

  • [email protected]

    Great “In the Parks”. As long as I have been going to DLR, the price of admission has been the biggest influence on how often I go. The price increase this year has been, percentage wise the largest increase. The fine line that a company walks to determine pricing structure is determind by the paying public, not the company. I feel Disney has crossed that line with it’s latest pricing adjustment. Luckly, Disney always lower their admission prices. Disney has also made it clear that the AP customers are not their prime target anymore. Full price summer/ Holiday customers are their prime target now. That is not a bad thing, especially for the bottom line. But, the best place for DLR to gather not only a substantial consumer insight and feedback, but a considerable boost of capital income, is it’s AP’s. I will be getting my AP this fall, like most of you, but I will be feeling it more painful than in the past. Once again, Great article.

    • knechts

      I agree. This last price increase did cross the line. On my trip last month, I noticed a lighter crowd than usual, but I assumed Disney understood that by raising prices, attendance would decrease, but the profit margin per guest would increase.