First let me warn you.....incoming rant alert. And it might be a little long, so please bear with me.
I know what you're thinking, "Oh great! Another complaint about crowd levels at Disneyland! When you've read one, you've read them all." Let me say this first, if you don't want to read about another complaint on the crowds, which in turn would just make you complain about someone complaining again, please just exit this thread and go to the next one. But I do invite everyone, such as those that are connected to the Disney organization in some way - I'll touch on that in a minute, to please read on because perhaps you might come away with another perspective on this ever increasing problem.
Now there might be some that will say "Why don't you just write in a letter to the Disney company about your concerns?" Well, up until today I had highly considered doing that. That was until I went to the weekly mice chat meet at the park and was informed that due to legal reasons, the Disney company is not able to read any complaint letters. They send them back, or if you fill a complaint form in GR, it is discarded. So one would ask, what is the point to complain, right? What good will it do? That's where this friendly board and wonderful world of Mice Chat comes in to play. In Mice Chat's near 5 years of being online, it has grown to not only have so many members to be kind of like an extended family, it appears that it is also serving as a sort of feedback forum for the Disney Company. Yes, many Disneyland cast members as well as a lot of higher ups at Team Disney Anaheim, and perhaps at other parks too, visit this site A LOT. We have all seen and heard about how many in the company take comments online very seriously. So if they watch this board and read what is said on here, and won't allow any complaint letters to be mailed in to be taken seriously or under advisement, then I say let's use this forum as the great way of communication that it is, by posting them here on the boards.
Anyways,.....to the point of this thread.
Let's go back to BEFORE this problem started, a little trip down memory lane. This is just as a reminder to what it USED to be like back in the days. Most of us remember there used to be only two busy seasons during the year at Disneyland, even after that neglected stepchild, DCA, came into the picture. That was Summer and Christmas. Disneyland didn't even celebrate Halloween, there were no decorations, there were no costumes for the characters, there was nothing. And for the lucky few AP's who were at the park on Halloween night, and there again the following morning, might be lucky enough to see the Christmas tree put up in Town Square. First in 1997, Small World was the first to get a Christmas overlay. Then in 2001, TDA decided to give Mansion an overlay of it's own. A feature that can be enjoyed from Halloween all the way through to the end of their Holiday busy season in early January. Then a short time later New Orleans Square decided to join in on the festivities being decked out in it's own festive holiday lights and decorations.
Have a nice little trip down memory lane? Well let's bring it back to Christmas of 2008......To briefly sum it up, the whole country going through a bad economy, and Disney did one thing to survive which probably turned out to be their biggest cash cow for 2009. Disney started it in December of 2008, with what I believe was no outward advertising. Or at least none that I ever heard of. My wife and I were not annual pass holders, but since we live in Anaheim, we were close enough to just visit Downtown Disney that is outside of the park and free to the public. It was one evening in December of 2008, riding the tram over because of where we parked when another couple who were riding with us told us about what Disney was doing with their annual passes. The start of their new monthly payment plan on all annual passes. We were surprised, and though it took a couple of weeks, my wife and I jumped on that bandwagon. We had a 1 1/2 year old who we would love to take to the park. And how did we know about it? Simple. By word of mouth. A person told you, and you told everyone you knew, and so forth, and so forth. And yes, I was a part of that. I told everyone I knew from co workers to friends. Disney did not need to publicly advertise this new feature. "The people" would do it for them.
AND THE SALES ON THEIR ANNUAL PASSES SKYROCKETED!!!!
By probably the end of the first quarter (end of March) at least half, if not 3 quarters, of Southern California had an annual pass. With as little as $5.27/month at that time, guests could go to the Disneyland Resort when they wanted, provided they weren't blocked out. (These aren't the official numbers, just my estimation, so I could be wrong. But it's my "guestimate" so please bear that in mind and don't hold me to it.) This little "bail out" on behalf of Disney, this little incentive plan, this cash cow probably or most likely turned out to be Disneyland's saving grace during the troubling economy. That's good for them, they did what they needed to do to survive.
But what about the little guy? What about "days gone by?" I'll touch on that in a minute.
Though I don't have the numbers, there are many that concede that Disneyland has been experiencing record numbers in attendance for most of 2009, probably since around March or April. The last time this year when it was slow enough in the parks was back in February. But from around the 2nd quarter and on, the crowds have been flowing in with many days getting near capacity. There were times back in April during the Food & Wine Festival where there was no parking available because of the size of crowds. But while I've mentioned "capacity", let's touch on that for a few moments. What is the true definition of capacity? What should be the definition of capacity? Is it where a theme park has reached the safe maximum level of attendees allowed in a specified and enclosed area? Or is it where a theme park has reached crowd levels so high....that wait times for rides are 45 minutes and above? Where people are squished together shoulder to shoulder making it difficult to move? Where everyone is just simply too aggravated and grumpy by mid day that they start to take frustrations out on each other? I ask again, what about the little guy? And I don't just mean that little child walking next to their parent, or strapped in a stroller. This includes every man, woman, and child who come to the Disneyland Resort and want that escape from reality. Who have had that tough day, or tough week and want to be entertained. Those parents that want to see their little child run up to their favorite character grinning from ear to ear. (To those at Disney - you need to SERIOUSLY take this small factor into some consideration - moments like this that shouldn't just mean DOLLAR SIGNS!!! Really, take a moment. There is not a single person who hasn't experienced this and smiled, whether with a child of their own or not. We were all children once.)
Here's my personal take on this. I am an annual pass holder, and yes, I live in Anaheim - ten minutes away from the park. Which means my family can go to the resort anytime we want. But with the way that this year has been at the resort, and from what it looks like in the future unless something is done, "anytime" is very few and far between. On October 16 2009, I took my 2 year old son Aiden to Disneyland for a little father/son time at the resort. Granted, it was Friday night and it was during Halloween time. But the park was extremely crowded. Overhearing one cast member tell a guest "It is because there are no black outs so people are coming to the park...." The ENTIRE road of "Main Street" including what wraps around the central plaza hub was packed from curb to curb of guests waiting to see the new Halloween fireworks. Having already seen them, not being too thrilled with them, pushing a 2 year old in a stroller in thick crowds, I wanted to leave before the fireworks started. We came to the plaza from the entrance to Tomorrowland. And had to walk ALL THE WAY AROUND THE PLAZA, IN FRONT OF THE CASTLE, just to get to Main Street, to exit - IN A VERY THICK, SLOW MOVING, CROWD OF TIRED, EXHAUSTED, AND CRANKY PEOPLE, just to exit the park. Is this how you want your guests, whether they're annual pass holders, or one time visits from out of town, state, or country, to experience their visit to the Disneyland Resort? If the answer to that question is yes, then that says that the Disneyland Resort does not care about the little guy. NOT....ONE....BIT!!!
One might ask, and I asked Dusty Sage this very question......who would have a bigger problem with regular high level crowds? Who would complain about them more, and have the legitimate right to complain about them more, voicing their opinion? The annual pass holder, who depending on black out days, can go anytime they want? Or the person who can only go once a year, or once every two years and so forth? A pass holder such as myself can just go when it's not crowded. Well, like I mentioned earlier, this year has pretty much been busy consistently since around March. As I said today to Dusty, the busy season hasn't ended for Disney this year. But the guests who only visit once in a year, or less, don't have that luxury of choice or convenience. They used to be told that they could come during the "slow months" and experience smaller crowds and little wait times. Again, 2009 has not been the case. So the question that arises, how much longer is this going to continue? Does the average "limited visit guest" have to gamble on what time of the year they visit, with what little choice they probably already have? And get on what, only 2 to 3, maybe 4 rides? Sure there is Fastpass. But that doesn't always work when on very busy days they run out quickly, and a lot of out of towners just don't know how to use them sufficiently. And there are a lot on here that feel that FP should be eliminated entirely, but that's a different topic.
Please allow me to provide some extra perspective on what may make a person a fan of Disneyland. Is it the attractions, the shows like Fantasmic or the fireworks, the merchandise, or the characters? Yes, it can be all of that to one, to a few, to many who visit every day, from one time visits to pass holders. But for a pass holder such as myself, it is the "little things" that make it worth while. To those that I hope are reading this, I invite you, and highly recommend, that you take a walk in Walt's shoes. Retrace his steps, walked where he walked, literally. Because we have all heard the stories of where he would walk around the park, like on days before it opened, to appreciate the little things. Absorbing what would make his park, his dream, great, and what could make it better, without having dollar signs in his eyes. And those little things can sometimes vary depending on the person. For a lot though, it is the ambiance. The atmosphere you get when you walk through those tunnels and into Town Square, or off that monorail ramp into Tomorrowland with the Matterhorn's huge presence before you, cast beautifully against a cloudless blue sky. It's one thing to see it from the 5 freeway, but its a whole different perspective - a magical perspective, to stand before it, gazing at it from within those walls. From the freeway, one is like "I want to go there.' Walking down Main Street and seeing it, one is like "I am there." The same goes for seeing It's A Small World during Christmas, from that same freeway. It is nothing compared to what lays before your eyes as you walk down Fantasyland one December evening and seeing that spectacle at the end of that road. There were days where I would love to just simply come into the park on a November evening, during the middle of the week. Suck in, completely absorb, the atmosphere and the ambiance of Disneyland during the holidays, seeing the Christmas tree, and the decorations, and just enjoy the Christmas music that's played on Main Street. Either sitting in Town Square, or in the Central Plaza, absorb the atmosphere, relax, take in the setting, and just people watch. Believe it or not, a lot of pass holders do like to just people watch. To come in, and watch other people have fun. Think it's crazy or stupid? You sit there, watch a group of kids singing (or screaming) "It's A Small World" at the top of their lungs as they walk by, and just try not to smile or laugh, and wonder where they get their energy from. And just try not to imagine what it was like for you when you were that young and you were at Disneyland. Even during the non-holiday times, one can experience and enjoy the little things. I would think that I am not the only pass holder who can appreciate this, and perhaps this goes the same for any "west side" cast member, but it is really nice on those evenings when one can walk by the Rivers of America on an evening, and there are no crowds waiting for Fantasmic. It is quiet, it is peaceful, it is completely enjoyable when you can go to Splash Mountain or the Haunted Mansion and not have to worry about being stuck in a wall of people when you come out. It is also nice to take an evening trip on the Mark Twain around the island on a starry night. A crowded park full of guests paying money can mean a positive end on the stock market for the Disney company. But all I am trying to enlighten you with, is to learn to appreciate the little things, learn to appreciate what the "down times" or the "slow times" can bring you. (Take a moment, and picture Main Street during Christmas. Close your eyes and try to picture it. The smell of peppermint sifting through the vents. The sounds of Christmas music, and the laughter of children. Can money buy you that? I don't think so!) Because everyone should know, no matter how you try to look at it, money does not bring out a child's laughter, or a scenic cloudless, blue sky. Remember that.
To see the thread I created asking others what the little things are to them please keep an eye on this thread by clicking here, which hopefully will continue growing.
But I ask, how can one enjoy the little things, when you're packed in like sardines among thousands of other guests, all crossing each others paths, trying to get from one place to the next, when there are just too many around you, that you can barely move? Whether a person is a pass holder or a one time visitor, one cannot enjoy those little things when the park is overly crowded. And the Disney Company, or at least Team Disney Anaheim, is the main contributor to that problem. And whether you choose to see it or not, Disney is adding fuel to a highly combustible powder keg, that could go off at any given moment if action is not swiftly taken to defuse it.
Look at it from this view, because this is the potential problem that is brewing here. On any given day where the park reaches to near capacity, tensions are going to build, which in turn increase stress levels. And this can happen across the board, between guests & cast members alike. And take it from the perspective of a guest, and ask yourselves what do guests complain about the most on average? High crowds and long wait times. Everyone crossing each other, cutting each other off, walking into others, walking on their feet all day long, waiting in long lines, not getting on their favorite ride because of long lines, getting their feet trampled on by strollers because of thick crowds....ALL OF THIS adds to stress, builds up tension, which can set a person off by the end of the day. And the fireworks towards the end of the night, during this year it has been almost every night, only compounds the problem. This thick crowd of people, either waiting to see a show which on some nights may not happen, or trying to navigate around to either get to another attraction, or just plain leave, are going to have those here and there that are aggravated, exhausted, and snippy with other people. I have heard with my own ears guests yelling, swearing, or near fighting with others either while in these crowds, or while waiting for the parking lot trams. On that night in October, while in that thick crowd of people, navigating AROUND the plaza to leave, I heard just about everyone complaining. One guy was getting snippy with me because he felt I was going to run over him with the stroller. If something is not done, and SOON, you are going to have an incident on your hands which could involve a senseless fatality because a tempered guest went off on another for running into them, cutting them off, or running over their foot. Again, Disney needs to think about the "little guy."
The core of this problem is about numbers, the marketing, & what Disneyland is doing with the timing of it all. The vast amounts of guests that are flocking to the park because of the increase of sales of the passes, but also Disney's part in constant marketing their product to continuously entice pass holders and one time visitors alike to come into their park every single day of the year. Where there used to be 3 or 4 months of off season & down time, there is now only small, limited breaks between promotions leaving many to feel the park is always crowded. This year, it has been one promotion after another, after another. New fantasmic, new parades, new fireworks....it leaves me to wonder what's next? Fireworks for Valentines or Easter? To solve the problem, they need to do the following:
1.) Stop the monthly payments on all new annual passport purchases. It was the start of this new feature that caused the sales in passes to skyrocket, and it's the huge, and still ever growing number of pass holders, that is making up a good chunk of the large crowds, which are coming to unsafe levels.
2.)Stop the continuous marketing. Go back to the few months of down time, to not only allow a breather, but to allow time to refurbish rides, and work on other parts of the park that need to be repaired or refurbished. A fine example of this was the work that was being done at the Tomorrowland entrance during September & October, blocking most of the entrance, during days where the park was quite busy. That place is a bottle neck enough as it is.
The bottom line is, Disney needs to stop the constant marketing for 365 days of the year, and appreciate the down times. It's great to make money if you can do it in a troubling economy. But not at the expense of those guests who want to escape the hustle & bustle of reality outside the park only to find it inside the park because it's way over crowded. But there is one other thing that Team Disney Anaheim needs to do, and I made mention to it earlier. To those at Disney who read this, I strongly urge you consider the human factor, and remember the little guy. You need to learn to appreciate those "little things." In case you haven't heard, the recession is fading away (or at least the chances of one) and the economy is on the road to recovery. You have had a prosperous 2009, but you really need to take a step back and look at it from a guest's perspective, honor those little things. Learn that down times, or slow times at the resort may not bring the big dollar signs that you want to see 365 days of the year, but it will bring out A LOT MORE that is worthwhile, and will mean more to your guests that you invite throughout the year. A happy and comfortable guest is more likely to take home that intrinsic souvenir, that cherished memory, as well as that other souvenir, that one can only find in a gift shop and puts the kind of profit that you want, where you want it. Where as uncomfortable guest, tired, cranky and dealing with high crowds, will only complain about the crowds, buy nothing and demand refunds that they will not receive. If there is a Disney VIP that is reading this, I implore you to take a moment after reading this, and consider what are the necessary and positive steps to go beyond the "happy medium" and bring the crowd levels down to a much more safer level. One thing to bear in mind, Disneyland does not have to be "entertaining" 365 days of the year, in other words, there doesn't have to be some heavy promotion running consistently throughout the year. Because that only says dollar signs to you. If you allow those slower times, where there are chances to appreciate the little things that make Disneyland what it is, the rewards would be beyond any monetary value. Please, consider that, and consider the little guy. Because as I said, money does not bring the greatest treasure.
And there is no "U" in money.