Disneyland has just finished the busiest two weeks of the year with massive crowds of big-spending tourists packing the parks every day. This week, with Annual Passes unblocked, the crowds will moderate but flip to a local demographic before the slower weeks of January and February settle in. In this update we’ll fill you in on just what the numbers looked like for Anaheim this holiday season, why the winter will be looking so bleak in the weeks ahead, and when TDA will finally admit what is coming this spring for the 60th Anniversary.

Holiday Cheer

Ever since TDA execs decided fifteen years ago that Disneyland should “own Christmas” and began pouring on attraction overlays, parkwide decorations, and extra entertainment, the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years have become some of the busiest days of the year for the Anaheim parks. Despite a barrage of blockouts on Annual Passes and Disney Company complimentary admissions, Disneyland reached capacity nearly every day between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

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The Disneyland turnstiles were closed for several hours per day almost daily, as the executives and senior managers that make up the “Restricted Access Team” held hourly phone conferences to pour over the numbers and first-hand reports from around the Resort. The goal of the Restricted Access Team is to pull the right triggers at the right time to prevent the amount of people inside Disneyland at any one time from going over 52,000. Although any in-park figure over 40,000 already feels very crowded, it’s the 52,000 number that is simply taboo to cross. If the team can get the in-park number to never go above 50,000, that’s even better, but 52,000 is the absolute maximum allowable by Disneyland’s leadership. For the most part they succeeded this year, as the in-park number for Disneyland hovered around 50,000 most days and barely nudged over 51,000 for just a few hours at a time.

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The numbers tell the story here, but the shift this year is the surge in Premium Annual Passes as sales of that upper tier (not subject to blockouts) increased strongly in 2014.

Saturday, December 27th
Disneyland Total Attendance – 60,000
DCA Total Attendance – 43,000
Total Resort Attendance – 103,000
Premium Annual Passholders in attendance that day – 19,000

Monday, December 29th
Disneyland Total Attendance – 62,000
DCA Total Attendance – 44,000
Total Resort Attendance – 106,000
Premium Annual Passholders in attendance that day – 15,000

Wednesday, December 31st (New Year’s Eve)
This wasn’t a record setting New Year’s Eve for the Resort as a whole and had the lowest attendance of the week due to a severe cold snap (Californians don’t do cold). Even though DCA offered cocktails, dancing and a special World of Color with midnight fireworks, most guests of the resort opted to pack into Disneyland for the evening.
Disneyland Total Attendance – 66,000
DCA Total Attendance – 29,000
Total Resort Attendance – 95,000
Premium Annual Passholders in attendance that day – 18,000

Then on New Year’s Day the Deluxe Passholders became unblocked, and the numbers shifted again.

Thursday, January 1st
Disneyland Total Attendance – 57,000
DCA Total Attendance – 41,000
Total Resort Attendance – 98,000
Deluxe & Premium Annual Passholders in attendance that day – 44,000

And finally, this week all levels of Annual Passes became unblocked, while many SoCal schools were still out for winter break. The visitor demographic shifted heavily back to Annual Passholders, while the parks still remained very busy.

Monday, January 5th
Disneyland Total Attendance – 50,000
DCA Total Attendance – 41,000
Total Resort Attendance – 91,000
Annual Passholders in attendance that day – 51,000

Parks and Recreation

The result of that very strong attendance, numbers that most other theme parks in the country would love to see in an entire week let alone just one day, was felt in the parking lots and infrastructure around the Resort. The group that definitely gets the short end of the stick on these days is the Cast Members, who had to be shuttled in from Angel Stadium on multiple days, or left to circle an overflowing employee lot for 30 minutes or more hoping to find someone leaving. The lucky CM’s were those who were able to snag a space in the Pumbaa lot near GardenWalk and then walk a mile or more each way to their in-park work location, which is still preferable to the dingy and overcrowded shuttles from the Katella parking lot.

The total disconnect between Team Disney Anaheim decision makers and the daily parking experience of their 20,000 front-line Cast Members goes back through multiple Disneyland Resort Presidents and their leadership decisions. Current president Michael Colglazier is no different than any previous out-of-touch TDA prez. But at least Colglazier will get to smile big for the cameras as he cuts the ribbon soon on a new CM parking lot on the site of the old RV park on Harbor Blvd. and Ball Road. This new lot will open up over 1,000 additional spaces for Cast Members, but the lot will still be served by a rag-tag fleet of rattling, dirty shuttles that will require lots of patience from their Cast Member passengers.

And while the lot will be welcomed, those CM’s can still expect a snarky reminder on fliers from TDA’s Commuter Assistance team that parking there is a privilege if you “choose to drive to work”, as if a Cast Member leaving their 9 hour shift at Tomorrowland Terrace at Midnight has any bus or train or van pool options at that hour (and there aren’t). The “assistance” provided by TDA’s Commuter Assistance department to Anaheim’s hourly Cast Members is mainly just constant reminders that their lives would be much easier if they could just get out of that overcrowded theme park and get an 8 to 5 job in a cushy cubicle somewhere. Maybe Commuter Assistance is hiring?

But the extra CM parking will come in handy by May, as the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration finally kicks off. While we’ve been telling you about the plans for the 60th for over a year, the information from TDA has been very thin. A big media announcement planned last July was cancelled at the very last minute; so last minute that CM’s were scrambling a couple days before to stop the deliveries of all the catering, swag and décor heading for the Stage 17 media reception. But TDA is finally ready this month to pull back the curtain and reveal most of what we’ve already been telling you about.

60th Speak

The official 60th Anniversary media announcement is now slated to happen at Disneyland during a private event on the night of Wednesday, January 28th. A second media day on the 29th will be dedicated to Frozen Fun as the attending press is marched over to DCA to see those not-quite-temporary Arendelle offerings. And then on Friday, January 30th the Disney Parks Blog will kick into high gear and release 60th Anniversary artwork and information online to Disney fans around the world. On Monday, February 2nd, the Parks Blog is planning another 60th barrage, this time with the announcement of a special ticketed 60th Anniversary Merchandise event for fans on May 14th thru 16th. By May 15th most of the 60th offerings will be in soft open mode and everything should be open and running, while the splashy 60th media event will take place on Wednesday, May 20th.

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The formal public kickoff of the Diamond Celebration will be over Memorial Day weekend beginning May 23rd, although TDA is still trying to work out the logistics of the planned 60 Hour Party, and it may be relegated to a standard 24 Hour Party that weekend instead. That’s the timeline as it stands now, and those dates could flex a bit, but TDA has committed itself to that timeline and there’s not much that could change it at this late date.

And what will they be announcing the end of this month? Nothing you haven’t already heard about in our previous updates, but it still should be a good amount of information with some carefully chosen artwork to excite the fans. Much of what they’ll be announcing from January 28th thru the 30th will already be very apparent inside the parks; particularly in DCA. The full remake of Condor Flats into an extension of the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area theme will begin tomorrow and be very evident over the construction walls by late January. During the closure of Condor Flats, the Soarin’ theaters will receive new screens and all new 4K digital projectors and audio systems, with a digital version of Soarin’ Over California’s original film to return in May. A new ride film will need to wait until after the version of Soarin’ at Shanghai Disneyland opens sometime in 2016, in that very behind schedule Chinese theme park.

World of Refurbs

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Meanwhile, in Paradise Pier, the World of Color lagoon will be drained later this week as it undergoes a full refurbishment and installation of new equipment to handle the upgraded and tweaked version of the show for the 60th. And the Matterhorn Bobsleds will have already been closed for several weeks as a thorough interior refurbishment runs through May, with all-new animatronics and interior show scenes to “plus up” the circa 1978 show experience in that Disneyland classic. They’ll also install the beefed up support structure to handle the return of the 1960’s Christmas Star for the top of the Matterhorn next December.

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What won’t be closed yet during the media event in late January, but will get underway the following week, are the closures of Luigi’s Flying Tires and Peter Pan’s Flight. The saga of Luigi’s Flying Tires dates back to just before the Cars Land opening in June, 2012, when senior Burbank executives felt the finished ride concept was unimpressive and TDA executives became annoyed at how much of their 600 Million dollar Cars Land budget was dedicated to the underwhelming Flying Saucers remake. As we’ve told you before, the ride will be remade with an all-new WiFi controlled dancing car ride grafted onto the existing facility. The queue will be kept the same and visitors will wander out back to the garden area filled with music to find “Luigi’s Festival of the Dance” instead of the Flying Tires.

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The construction timeline WDI is working with for Luigi’s is aggressive, but by keeping most of the existing facility its hoped the new ride can open by next Christmas. TDA, for their part, will pretend WDI had a wonderful idea to bring Luigi’s dancing festival to Cars Land, and the attraction remake will be passed off to the media as a fun addition dreamed up just for the 60th Anniversary as some of the “new magic” coming to Anaheim in 2015. Yeah, the corporate speech writers really think people buy this stuff.

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Peter Pan’s Flight will close the same day that Luigi’s closes, but that popular ride will retain its beloved ride system of flying pirate ships. The interior of Peter Pan’s Flight will get a thorough rebuild over the next four months, with new animatronics and special effects throughout. Later this winter and into spring will be the 60th deluxe refurbishments coming to the other dark rides, in addition to the addition of the new animatronics in Alice In Wonderland that were held back on purpose last summer so they could be revealed with the Diamond Celebration in May. The return of the Hatbox Ghost character to the Haunted Mansion before May will also be one of the more memorable 60th Anniversary additions as part of the campaign to plus up and refresh some of Disneyland’s most popular yet aging attractions.

Also to be announced at the media event are the entertainment offerings coming for the 60th. For Disneyland, that means a plussed up version of Hong Kong’s Paint The Night parade, plus an all-new Steve Davison fireworks show for Disneyland Park and Steve’s upgrades and edits for World of Color next door. We’d been telling you about Paint The Night for months, but the cat was finally let out of the bag by Disney last month when the Entertainment Department posted full-color fliers backstage for big auditions being held this Sunday. The flier said the auditions were for “an exciting and high-energy nighttime parade that winds its way through the heart of Disneyland Park.” Needless to say, some folks in TDA were a little ticked off that flier got published since the info on the 60th is under such a strict embargo ahead of the media event.

Seeing Stars

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What won’t be announced by Michael Colglazier and Tom Staggs on the 28th are the two big projects being cooked up by WDI for Anaheim. The major project is the Star Wars Land concept that takes over most of Disneyland’s existing Toontown and Festival Arena area. After the original Star Wars Tomorrowland makeover was axed by Staggs and Iger, once the ink had dried on that 4 Billion dollar check Iger wrote to George Lucas, the plan to add Star Wars to Disneyland got bigger and bolder and morphed into its own separate land. An admission from Disney on that specific Anaheim project will have to wait until D23 Expo this August.

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The second concept rapidly moving forward is an expansion of the previous Marvel Studios mini-land we’d told you had been proposed to extend south behind Tower of Terror in DCA. That concept of a Marvel mini-land with elaborate atmospheric meet n’ greets, in order to get those valuable characters out of their Innoventions plywood purgatory, has grown in scale and cost now. The plan now is to have the Marvel Studios area be capped off by an indoor roller coaster with a thrill factor (and a height requirement) above Space Mountain or Big Thunder. Think of Rock N’ Roller Coaster themed to Marvel superheroes, but with sharper technology and a much healthier Iger budget, instead of the smaller Eisner budget that Rock N’ Roller Coaster got in the 1990’s.

But neither of those projects will be mentioned at the end of this month when Disney finally announces what’s happening for the 60th Diamond Celebration. Those two project are designed to increase park capacity for both parks and drive future attendance. The 60th Diamond Celebration, on the other hand, is designed to simply generate interest from Disney fans and freshen the overall park experience for visitors in 2015 and beyond. That’s not a bad goal for a major anniversary, but not quite as exciting as new rides and lands from blockbuster properties like Marvel and Star Wars. Still, the 60th Anniversary artwork and concept reveals at the end of this month should get the fan base fired up and counting down to spring.

Okay, that just about wraps things up for this update. Disneyland pulled in massive attendance this holiday season. Diamond Anniversary plans are about to be revealed. Changes are coming to Cars Land, Condor Flats and Fantasyland. And Star Wars and Marvel are finally on the fast track to making you fall in love with Disney all over again. Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

DON’T MISS: MiceChat 10th Anniversary Weekend at Disneyland – February 6 – 8th

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It’s been 10 years since we first started MiceChatting. While MiceAge celebrated 10 years in 2013, MiceChat came two years later, bringing with it meets, events, discussions, vacation planning tips and countless friendships. Our big celebration will be held in and around the Disneyland Resort and will include a cocktail reception with legends of animation, panel discussions with Disney Imagineers, authors and even a beloved legend or two. We’ll celebrate Yesterland, give away fantastic prizes in our annual game show, and enjoy a wonderful time with friends old and new at the Happiest Place on Earth. If you’ve been with us from the beginning or have only recently found us, we look forward to seeing you at the Disneyland Resort February 6th through 8th. Don’t miss out, sign up for more information in the form below and we’ll notify you as soon as event information and tickets are available.

Sign Up For MiceChat 10th Anniversary Information

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MiceChat Anniversary Hotel Offer

Looking for a hotel room for the MiceChat Anniversary? The delightful Anabella Hotel (just behind California Screamin’ at DCA) is offering a remarkable MiceChat 10th Anniversary Rate:

  • $89 (Standard Room Types)
  • $139 (Concierge)
  • Rate is valid 2/6/15-2/8/15

Rate only available for those who call in to reservations at 800.863.4888. Don’t forget to ask for the “MiceChat 10th Anniversary” rate.

 

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Happy New Year everyone!