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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  • MonteJ

    All of the prices at Disney are high. It’s really noticable to those of us who only get there every few years. We were there in early July and both parks seemed plenty busy to us. In fact, we would have been hard pressed to ride everything we wanted to in the four days we were there had it been any busier. I specifically chose to vist the resort after the blackout had begun – knowing that I didn’t want to spend all of my time waiting in lines. It seems that the unique dynamic that the Dineyland Resort has with its annual passholders has become the driving force in attendance, pricing, and profitability. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – but it does mean that Disneyland doesn’t cater as much to the out of town tourists. I would expect that following this Summer, Disney will be making some serious adjustments to its passholder policies. I think that the DCA expansion will prove to be very successful over time. Disney just needs to understand the new attendance patterns and adjust their pricing and policies accordingly.

    Bottom line: I still love Disneyland and look forward to more new rides & attractions.

  • pinkertonfloyd

    I think there’s several issues…

    1) Ticket Prices might be a tad high in this market. Disney might have found it’s sweet spot (attendance didn’t go down, but with it’s new stuff hasn’t really gone up overall), and adjustment might be needed.

    2) There’s been no massive Hotel or Parking upgrades in the area, the area can STILL only handle x amount of people. This IMHO was a BIG mistake to not work on parking issues beforehand… Toy Story helps, but the lost areas of Mickey and Friends.

    Disney should of moves ahead on the Pumba structure.

    3) The economy… trips to disney are something people can skip… and see #1.

  • Crazee4mm

    I used to go to the park(s) with fellow Disney passholders. In recent years (and moreso THIS year) the prices have gotten so out of reach that I am now the sole APer of my group of friends. I often go alone and, on occasion even gift a friend (or two) with a ticket so that they can, once again, join me. I am happily single and I have a little spare change every week to be able to indulge in my love of theme parks. Most of my friends,m however, have families and mortgages and a trip to Disneyland is just out of the question.

  • jjjay69

    The new Matterhorn bobsleds are a tight fit for someone with long legs as with the old sleds, they were just right!

  • Ham Radio

    It’s all about the ticket prices. We are in the worst economy since the 1930s but Bob Iger doesn’t care. Our Annual Passes came up for renewal in July after the price increases were imposed. Disney’s customer unfriendly policy of not allowing APers to renew early and lock in the old price didn’t help either. We know of several people that allowed their passes to lapse. Fortunately we can afford the increase, but in retaliation we have essentially stopped spending money in the park on meals and souvenirs. As we live within 5 miles of Disneyland we keep the APs to join relatives and visitors from outside the region, but that will change in 4 years when we move away from the area. Congratulations to Mr. Iger for making a $30 Million salary, we are just tired of paying for it.

  • LoveStallion

    Folks, I think we’re missing the bigger economics of the whole thing.

    They raised prices to actually decrease the number of annual passholders. It makes perfect sense. Passholders are a bigger “problem” in Anaheim compared to Orlando, and even though they hiked up regular admission, the huge jump in passes will ensure that people start to drop off, thus leaving the park open for premium patrons – those coming in from out of town, eager to stay on the property, buy junk from the stores, and waste tons more money than the passholders who stroll in for 4-5 hours on an evening, maybe buy a corn dog, and move on with their lives.

  • darkamor

    Increasing your theme park admission? epic fail !
    Decreasing your capacity for riders on Matterhorn (& making said ride uncomfortable)? epic fail !
    Ignoring that we’re still suffering in a poor economy & overcharging theme park guests? epic fail !
    Creating a new section for DCA with only one way IN / OUT (a la Toontown)? epic fail !
    Not controlling Fast Pass better? epic fail !

    Sorry Team Anaheim, but your competitors offered plenty of new experiences with minimal increase in prices (but you have 3 years until Disneyland’s 60th to make some vital corrections – please don’t pull an Eisner & ignore the problems). This is the 1st October I will do without Disneyland so that I can enjoy Knott’s & Universal Studios (I have to take a stand against charging more for what isn’t worth it – in my opinion)!