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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  • Madshef

    With regards to the flat attendance problem there are 2 major things you need to address:
    1) YOU NEED TO LOWER YOUR TICKET PRICES–the price of a Disney admission ticket is the highest in the country and, due to the current bad economy, most Americans can’t afford it. PERIOD. For the price of 1 Disney ticket a family can buy cheaper tickets to another park and get in cheaper for a day of fun. Most people can’t even dream of going to Disney anymore because every year the price goes higher….and higher….and higher and there seems to be no stopping of this. THIS IS YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEM.
    2) The additions in Cars Land are average at best. You have 1 really great ride which is the race track. You finally brought back the legendary Flying Saucers renamed Flying Tires so many of us old timers can enjoy them either again or for the first time. But the Junkyard Jamboree is really an ancient ride called THE WHIP repainted with cute faces on it. If you look at old footage of places like Coney Island you’ll see footage of it, probably sitting on You Tube right now.
    Since Walt’s idea for Disney Parks was to be completely different than other more conventional amusement parks, why bring in typical amusement parks rides. Didn’t you think someone would notice this? Guess what–we did!
    Lower your admission prices and go back to the drawing boards and come up with something that WALT would have done. That will solve your problems. If not things are only going to get worse and Walt’s nightmare about no one coming to the parks may just come true after all.

    • Marko50

      I think you’re being a little harsh. Walt brought in trains – not exactly a new idea. Walt brought in a merry-go-round. A spinner ride with elephants. A boat ride with – well, mud banks. There were a fair (no pun intended) amount of carnival rides dressed up a bit.

      As far as the prices go, you may not be harsh enough. ;-)

  • dougeebear

    Unfortunately, the poll doesn’t allow for a combination of factors, which I think is the cause. Disney has allowed its attendance figures to rely heavily on local Annual Passholders. The SoCal Passholders are blocked out for the summer, leaving the upper tier Passholders and tourists to fill the parks. A blockout day ticket is now SEVENTY DOLLARS, just a few dollars short of a full price ticket, probably causing many SoCal Passholders to delay a return visit until fall. I have never heard of Disney prices being reduced (and have actually read that they are talking about two increases over the next year in back rooms of TDA), so Disney has a choice: keep prices as they are or reduce them and increase attendance, leave prices as they are or increase them and reduce attendance. While it might be good for Disney that fewer people are paying more to get in to the parks currently, I don’t think that model makes up for the lost attendance and potential profits those missing guests represent.

  • We aren’t passing judgement on Disneyland with our comments on attendance. Attendance is what it is. But NOW is a great time to visit for anyone who was worried about crowds.

    What we are curious about are the reasons for the attendance situation. With a major new attraction open in California Adventure, the resort should be seeing a significant uptick in attendance, not just a redistribution of customers from Disneyland to DCA as it currently happening.

    Overall, with price increases, Disney should be making much more money this summer, and perhaps that was their ultimate goal. But I’m sure they were counting on more bodies than are actually showing up.

    Once passes are unblocked in the fall, crowds should skyrocket again. Which is also a problem. These boom and bust passholder cycles just aren’t good. There needs to be a way of varying the blackout schedules for each pass. Perhaps passholders should have to pick from a schedule when they buy their pass (blockout schedule A, B, C or D) or something like that to even out the crowd pattern.

    • DeneciePie

      Wow, what a great idea!

    • Algernon

      There’s can’t afford, and don’t afford. If it were a previous edition of Disneyland, I might be willing to pay that much. But as it is now, I choose not to.

  • eicarr

    I think benefits felt from the expansion will not come THIS YEAR. I think this is the summer people will finally see they should add more days to their NEXT visit, and it is a year of just impressing guests and seeding longer reservations. For the first time in years I thought of booking at a disney hotel next time due to the early entry into radiator spring for resort guests. I could have spend two days in Disney California adventure and two in disneyland instead of my regular 3 days. We enjoyed our time better at DCA due to the less tightly crowded paths and all the cool new stuff. Disneyland Park needs to come up with better new stuff than a rehabbed Matterhorn, sub, Winnie the pooh and a place to meet princesses(though I love all the upgrades and the jolly holiday). I can only go on Star Tours so many times. While we were in LA we did also spend a day seeing the new Transformers at Universal, but won’t visit there again till harry potter opens. Next time might try Knott’s(haven’t been in years) but will spend 4 days in the Disney Parks. Fun trip, enjoyed time at DCA more(shocked).

  • DeneciePie

    I just returned last night from 5 days at Disney including using my two Annual Passholders early admissions.
    Overall we felt that traffic control was a big issue affecting our experience. Where they usually have cast members directing lanes of traffic in TL and AL there were none, and lines for food and rides everywhere in the park were often allowed to block traffic causing a lot of frayed tempers. Not to mention the complete blockage of west bound traffic from Tomorowland towards Cheshire Cat restrooms during and after the afternoon parade. We could see it but couldn’t get there for over 30 minutes! We felt the traffic issues were probably due to an influx of seasonal castmembers who were not properly instructed. If we had been paying the exorbitant fees for daily or multi-day passes we would have been extremely turned off by our unmagical experiences.
    Having held a Deluxe pass for several years I was delighted with the perk of an early entry. Our first morning was Disneyland at 7am. There were about 200 AP’s there for the morning which was super deluxe! We enjoyed the parks’ lower attendance to tour all our favorites in uncrowded conditions. The second morning was DCA and it was not deluxe, to say the least. There were a couple thousand AP’s herded into a roped off area with very long lines, and at 7AM they allowed us to get in ALONG WITH SEVERAL HUNDRED RESORT GUESTS!! The resort guest lines were way shorter than the herds waiting at AP side and they were able to get in quickly while there were computer glitches and other hassles on the AP side that caused pretty long delays. This after the website said AP early entry and resort early entry were to be opposite parks for the day! We got inside to discover RSR was offline and by then the FP line for it was said to be over an hour! So, we felt pretty unhappy about getting up early for that!
    Our plan as AP’s is to avoid Disney resorts during the summer and just tour during the other three seasons. Too bad we don’t get the option of the SoCal pass as we live in the wrong zipcode.
    Another unrelated issue: we felt that it was unfortunate placement to have the Mad T Party right outside Monsters Inc which is a favorite ride for toddlers. The T Party is extremely loud and would have fit in better over by TOT perhaps using the plaza there and Alladin line up lot. Of course we had the same concern about elecTRONica but at least that needed Flynn’s as part of the experience.

    • Calcazoobie

      I have a premium pass…how do I take advantage of early entry? (I’m disgusted with myself for not knowing!) Thx.

  • Pingback: FYI, The Disney Gallery is opening at Noon (instead of at park opening)()

  • Madshef

    Dusty–charging increasingly high admission prices in a bad economy simply doesn’t work. A lot of Americans can’t even afford a daily meal or a walk on the beach or even some extra money for ice cream or a movie these days. People are not making the salaries they once were if they’re even lucky enough to be making one at all. so a day at Disney is simply too pricey compared to putting food on the table or gas in the car. America is going broke.
    If Disney would lower their prices or do Low Price Days on slower days when park attendance was slower they would make more money by getting more people in at cheaper rates But the corporate dinosaur mentality that is currently running Disney isn’t thinking that way or seeing the reality of our nation’s financial condition very clearly, if at all. If this continues the parks are going to have such dwindling attendance that they’ll be lucky to see the attendance figures that they used to see at all. Going to Disney is now a high priced luxury that most people simply can’t afford anymore. If the admission prices don’t go down–the attendance figures will.

    • I think you’re right. It’s just too expensive for many people. In a way, it would probably be better for Disney to lower regular day passes to the park and raise the Annual Pass prices. But they can’t continue to raise both. I think they’ve reached the tipping point.

    • Phillydawg

      Also don’t forget too that DL is a union shop!! These unions have basically priced themselves so high that Disney has no other recourse but to hike prices to pay their union employee’s collective bargaining agreements and their pension funds,etc.

  • [email protected]

    It is funny. This reminds me of a line from Jurassic park. They are sitting around a table talking about the park being for just the super rich. The lawyer says “Maybe we can have a coupon day. “

  • silentcmh

    I’m simply waiting until October because I don’t like to travel anywhere during peak season. I still think $200 for a 2-day hopper is a good value because my gf and I are going to enjoy the heck out of the parks, hit up every ride we can, and have a great once-in-a-five-year-ish span trip.

  • DisWedWay

    Disneyland admission tickets have finally surpassed Mammoth Mountain Ski Lift Ticket prices. They were always a few dollars less than their guide. Bad idea not having the Disneyland Gallery not open when the park opens for many reasons. For a free admission ticket for 2 I will let you know..

  • randyjay2002

    While I think the price to get into the park is a tad bit ridiculous, guests at Disneyland demand quality, therefore it is justified. We went to both parks on Sunday. I couldn’t believe how empty DL was and how manageable DCA was. But, isn’t this exactly what guests wanted? Reading reviews online about Disneyland, the #1 complaint is crowds. Doesn’t it make sense to raise ticket prices, lower attendance and increase satisfaction while there? I was dreading going on Sunday (seeing as how it was mid-July), but I had the best time I have had at the resort in quite a while. I have gone to DCA three additional times since Cars Land opened, and it has been surprisingly pleasant. If Disney requires a certain level of profit to consider itself successful, then higher ticket prices, lower attendance and a more enjoyable visit it fine by me and it probably works for them as well.

    Wouldn’t you rather pay $90 and wait 15-30 minutes for a ride, than pay $70 and wait two hours?

    BTW… I agree the new Matterhorn is terribly painful. It is now rougher (in an even worse way) than Ghostrider at Knotts. I am 6’1 and I could barely fit in the seat. No thanks, never again.

  • randyjay2002

    On a side note, I rode Luigi’s for the first time Sunday night right before closing. It was a virtual walk-on. I’m glad we didn’t wait for more than 5 minutes. While it was fun, the highlight was throwing the beach ball at other people’s heads.

    What I did notice were the burnt out string lights. There were at least 30+ burnt out lights in just the first few strands we could count near the queue. Also, one of the tire sculptures near the queue gates was missing, with simply a post there in its place. I also noticed that guests have been stealing the brass tires off the queue line poles in line inside the queue building.

    Anyone else notice this?

  • Lost Boy

    OK, I know what is going on this past week with attendance. I was there Monday and Tuesday. I was in DCA all day on Monday and Disneyland on Tuesday. DCA was very crowded on Monday, I don’t know about Disneyland. But on Tuesday both Parks were packed with people. Reason as I see it was that the NFFC Disneyana Convention was in town and the convention people are there because it’s Disneyland’s Birthday, the Park was very crowded. You could tell that Convention People were out in force. Now after the Convention is over, next week it will be interesting to see how the demographics of the Park either change back or level out.

    Also I was in DCA very early and got on Radiator Springs Racers and got a full ride. 15 to 20 minutes after I got off the ride it went down and stayed that way almost all day and night. If it came back it a couple of times but within 15 minutes the cars just stopped moving. This is a signature ride for Carsland (and by default, DCA) and it they don’t figure this constant failure every day, it’s going to be bad news for attendance. It’s a fabulous ride and the technology is very complicated so it understandable for things to go haywire at the very start, but this is now almost a month open now and instead of getting better, it’s getting worse. I hope they figure this out soon.

  • LoveStallion

    Am I the only one who thinks Luigi’s Flying Tires is totally boring?

    The price increase is awful. Disney doesn’t care if they price people out. They don’t want the Knott’s and Magic Mountain crowd patronizing their parks, anyway.

    But also, Disneyland hasn’t had anything REALLY new in a very long time. Let’s go down a recent list (feel free to correct me if I miss anything):

    2012 – Matterhorn (refurb)
    2011 – Star Tours (refurb)
    2010 – Fantasmic (new dragon!)
    2007 – Nemo Subs (effectively a refurb)
    2007 – Pirates Cove at Tom Sawyer Island (refurb)
    2007 – Present – Ongoing tweaks to Pirates of the Caribbean
    2005 – Space Mountain (refurb)
    2005 – Buzz Lightyear (new, but a desperate stopgap measure in the wake of the Rocket Rods failure)
    2005 – Excellent new fireworks show
    2003 – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

    I feel that I can stop there, lets we include rehashes of Captain EO.

    This is Disneyland’s problem. Management has been so obsessed (and rightfully so) with fixing DCA, that Disneyland has just received a continuing treatment of band-aids. New and “exciting” princess areas and character meet-and-greets do not a new attraction make.

    Attendance will continue to stagnate until Disneyland does something new and big, which I wouldn’t count on anytime soon. Tomorrowland should honestly be gutted. Not just some new paint and styles. Gutted. Keep the show buildings for attractions that need to stay (Buzz, Star Tours, Space Mountain). Keep the lagoon and Monorail station (obviously), but rethink everything else.

    I could go on with thoughts, but I won’t bore you all. But parks management needs to step it up. There are many areas that could be expanded or redeveloped.

    And while we’re at it, rebuild Cascade Peak.

  • Orange Co Native

    I’m not really seeing the imagination and thrill of Cars Land racers for adults. I drive a lot faster on the real highways in an actual convertible car on a daily basis. It may be fine for the teenagers I guess, but for anyone who actually drives a real car, I just don’t see it. Now, the bobsleds. I can see because not everyone rides through a mountain on a roller coaster on a daily basis.

    • Susan Hughes

      So what you’re saying is, in your everyday driving you often race the car next to you, drive over mogul hills and 45 degree banked turns? I’d like to live where you live if that’s what the roads are like.

      • Orange Co Native

        I never said I race the car next to me. Yes I have driven roads in Italy, France, California, Arizona and Nevada that are much more interesting. Most people also drive between 55 and 75 mph on a daily basis depending on where they are driving which is much faster than this ride at DCA.

        My point is the whole car premise. It is akin to the adult driving the Autopia at the Disneyland park. For anyone under 15 and who does not drive a real car, it is great, but for someone else who actually drives, it is mundane. Yes, to take my young daughter on the ride so she feels she driving a car. That is fine.

        It is the lack of innovation and imagination for some of the current attractions. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disneyland and have been going since 1962. I just think Disney should strive for something better than another roller coaster type ride with a new facade on it. I mean they already have the Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and the open air roller coaster at DCA. Enough with the roller coasters and build something interesting.

      • Orange Co Native

        Oh BTW. You seem to take criticism of an amusement park personally. Are you a CEO of Disney or something ? Critiquing only will improve something rather than accepting the status quo. That is how Walt would have wanted it. Believe me.

    • LoveStallion

      I won’t agree with you on every front, but I will agree that with Test Track going north of 60 MPH, it’s a bit of a bummer that RSR trods along around 35-40.

      • Susan Hughes

        I read that when John Lassiter went to Epcot to check out Test Track, one thing he wanted to investigate was why it broke down so often. The high rate of speed seemed to be the culprit.

      • LoveStallion

        High rate of speed, eh? So RSR shouldn’t break down.

        Oh wait, unless it freaking RAINS. :)