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  1. #1

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    D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    I had a chance to talk to (the delightful) Dave Smith of the Disney Archives this past weekend. He had some interesting things to say about Disney's ticketing system and, in-turn, the origins of the annual pass.

    A Premium on the New: the D-ticket
    As we all know, Disney attractions used to be ticketed with park admission being free or low-cost and each attraction requiring a separate ticket. The park started in 1955 with A, B, an C tickets. The D-tickets were added in 1956 as the park needed increased capacity after its initial success in 1955. These D-tickets were for Tom Sawyer's Island, the Skyway, and Storybook Canal Boats. The D-tickets weren't exactly considered the "best" attractions, but they were the newest. So we see some example of Disney doing "supply and demand" pricing with new attractions (demand is greater for new attractions). This conflicts with the later, colloquial "E-Ticket" meaning that "better" tickets meant "better" attractions.

    The origins of the Annual Pass
    Disney began phasing out the tickets because they created the perception of increased cost. Even if you spent less per day using tickets, the psychological effect of constantly paying for attractions throughout the day gave the impression of high cost. This is where the bundled ticket books and eventual elimination of the ticket program in favor of "all access" admission came from.

    The elimination of the ticket books created one problem: locals had been using the $1, ticketless admission pass to visit Disneyland to eat, shop, or otherwise just soak in the atmosphere. These locals would not be able to do this with the elimination of ticket books and ticketless, $1 admission. Disney came up with the annual pass for these locals, allowing a larger up-front charge to defer the cost of multiple (attractions included) visits. With attractions now included with the cost of admission, there really was no other way for locals to visit casually throughout the year.

    Lessons learned
    • Disney charging "more" for new attractions is probably something we'll continue to see as it's something in Disney's DNA from inception. Think ticketed preview events, etc. Disney has been aware of supply and demand issues involving new attractions from the beginning. Honestly, I'm amazed Disney doesn't charge an extra $5 a head for Carsland admission for the first year or something to that effect. Many would happily pay it, and those that wouldn't could simply wait a bit longer until the land entered "normal" park status. This seems like a fine way for Disney to build expensive, Tokyo-level lands and attractions without taking the full brunt of the the extra costs. It is effectively no different than having a ride start out as a D-ticket and then moving it to a C-ticket after a few years. I guess the alternative is to raise ticket prices every time a significant addition to the park is made, but they seem to already have an annual ticket price increase thing going.

    • The annual pass program came from humble, honest beginnings before turning into the monster it is now. I still think the annual pass is a fine thing for some, but it shouldn't be the primary entrance method as it is now. Eliminate all but the Premium pass (effectively raising the price of an annual pass) and lower day ticket prices a bit. People going to the park 3-4 days a year should be buying tickets, not annual passes.

  2. #2

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Meh. Eliminate all of the annual passes. It won't be a big deal to revive them if I'm wrong (this is different from, say, tearing up a parking lot for a bad park, or destroying a heavily animatronic attraction for a kiddie ride). But, we never find out that I'm wrong otherwise. Therefore, I'm right!

    $50/day is about the market price of admission for DL. $20/day or so for DCA, until Carsland opens.
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  3. #3

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Thanks for your informative post.

    You state in the "A Premium on the New: the D-ticket" paragraph "...with park admission being free or low-cost..." But when was park admission free? I never have known any time when you could get in free to Disneyland. On opening day general admission was $1. I have never known of any period where they let the public in free.

    The brochure shown below, from 1986, shows the Passport prices then, including unlimited use of attractions except arcades, with the 1-day Passport at $19.00. In today's dollars, (depending on whose inflation calculator you go by) that's about $37.50. Now, of course, it's $80.00 for one day. And the annual pass (365 days) was $135, which is $265 in today's dollars, again depending on whose "today's dollars" calculator you use. Today, a 365-day pass costs $499. Yes, it includes DCA, which didn't exist in 1986, but even so, that's a big increase.


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  4. #4

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Wow.
    It was only $7.50 more to do the 3 hour tour (says you get unlimited attractions after the tour)
    Quote by Al:
    To that end I'd like the Internet community to join me in reminding the Disney company that "it all started with Walt." As you can see below we've created some T-shirts, plus a few simple graphics that you can copy and paste into your websites to let folks know how you feel.
    -Al Lutz



  5. #5

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by WED View Post
    Lessons learned
    • Disney charging "more" for new attractions is probably something we'll continue to see as it's something in Disney's DNA from inception.
    I think they're trying to solve this with the floating ticket prices Al talked about. Charge higher prices during peak periods and new attraction openings, and lower prices during slow days.

    Quote Originally Posted by WED View Post
    • The annual pass program came from humble, honest beginnings before turning into the monster it is now. I still think the annual pass is a fine thing for some, but it shouldn't be the primary entrance method as it is now. Eliminate all but the Premium pass (effectively raising the price of an annual pass) and lower day ticket prices a bit. People going to the park 3-4 days a year should be buying tickets, not annual passes.
    How about a "membership" program in which members would pay a discounted price for every entrance into the park for the duration of time they pay their membership dues. This would solve the, "free entrance for guests going in for the 12th time in one year" problem.

    But then how would we get our weekly miceage updates? Or get down to the parks on a moments notice when even the smallest thing changes?

  6. #6

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    This was in WDW rather than DLR, but I remember my father being so angry at paying $17.50 for a ticket in 1983 that he refused to bring us back for the second day of our trip.

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Wow, that's love.

  8. #8

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    I really don't see the APs leaving anytime soon. Locals are the majority at the DLR. Its not like Disney world where most of the people there are tourists. If a family from the middle of the country wants a disneyland vacation, they are probably going to go to disneyworld. There I can understand having high AP prices and lower ticket prices to encourage vacations rather than day trips. But at disneyland they rely way more on locals to generate revenue. And Im sorry but the argument that locals dont spend money is ridiculous. I am a Premium AP holder and I consider myself a frugal spender at the parks(as in I usually go across harbor to eat one of my meals of the day). Yet, since I got my pass in june, I've spent probably around two thousand dollars at the park!!! And thats all while eating outside the park, sharing plates and buying very little merchandise. I guess those chieftain chicken skewers and churos really add up . Anyway what Im saying is that to disney, The AP "problem" really isn't a problem. They're loving it. The only problem I see is that some people here want to see the pricing change to either a) price people out of the park or b) use the pricing to warp the mentality of the average guest so the park becomes more enjoyable to them(or what I hear a lot "make people come less so they appreciate the park more"). I find both reasons selfish. Personally, I would never want to see any of these things happen just to get shorter lines or more appreciative people to attend the park. As far as increased prices to fund new expensive lands and attractions well... I don't know if I could or couldn't support that. I mean on one hand I like new stuff but at the same time, I don't like denying things to others just so I can have a more enjoyable experience. I dont know. I'm done.

  9. #9

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Disney charging "more" for new attractions is probably something we'll continue to see as it's something in Disney's DNA from inception. Think ticketed preview events, etc. Disney has been aware of supply and demand issues involving new attractions from the beginning. Honestly, I'm amazed Disney doesn't charge an extra $5 a head for Carsland admission for the first year or something to that effect. Many would happily pay it, and those that wouldn't could simply wait a bit longer until the land entered "normal" park status. This seems like a fine way for Disney to build expensive, Tokyo-level lands and attractions without taking the full brunt of the the extra costs.
    You know, I don't think that's a bad idea. They'd have to be really careful with it, and by that I mean that they'd have to be super honest with themselves about whether the new attraction was good enough to avoid making people feel they'd been ripped off (which has the potential for creating public ill-will). But for something like Carsland, I think it would absolutely work.

    Also, that would give them something fairly cheap to use as a promotion; if they wanted to boost attendance on a certain weekend, they could offer a limited-time free access. Or free access with a Dining Plan, if they wanted to sell more of those.

  10. #10

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by WED View Post
    I had a chance to talk to (the delightful) Dave Smith of the Disney Archives this past weekend. He had some interesting things to say about Disney's ticketing system and, in-turn, the origins of the annual pass.
    What tour were you on? I was there too.

    I thought it was pretty interesting being able to talk to Dave, but I have to ask, what does it matter if the people who go to the park 3-4 days a year buy an annual pass or not? I'm not trying to argue, I've just heard people say that before and I don't get why it's a bad thing...it's not like they only sale a certain amount of passes each year and if someone buys it and uses it 4 times you can't get one.
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  11. #11

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by StaceeyL View Post

    I thought it was pretty interesting being able to talk to Dave, but I have to ask, what does it matter if the people who go to the park 3-4 days a year buy an annual pass or not? I'm not trying to argue, I've just heard people say that before and I don't get why it's a bad thing...it's not like they only sale a certain amount of passes each year and if someone buys it and uses it 4 times you can't get one.
    The topic can be controversial, but in brief: some feel that Disneyland is hitting its capacity limit, with many overcrowded days and few slow days. While in theory that is good for Disney, in practice much of this crowd is full of pass holders who go for a few hours simply because they already have an annual pass and Disney really isn't recouping much from these types of visitors. So we have these overcrowded Friday nights that aren't too pleasant for anybody, and Disney isn't really profiting much extra for all the trouble. Some also think that visiting Disneyland too often (think kids coming every day after school) creates a jaded and entitled mindset, but that's a much tougher point to argue or prove.

    Make no mistake: these people are doing absolutely nothing wrong given the passes Disney encourages and offers, but turning the park into a place where people spend a few hours every day while spending little money might be bad long-term. I personally think that if Disney had more reasonably priced daily passes and kept annual passes at the premium level crowds would thin a bit and Disney would still be making roughly the same profit.

    And again: this is all opinion and speculation. There is no right answer.

    ---------- Post added 11-08-2011 at 10:54 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by ttintagel View Post
    You know, I don't think that's a bad idea. They'd have to be really careful with it, and by that I mean that they'd have to be super honest with themselves about whether the new attraction was good enough to avoid making people feel they'd been ripped off (which has the potential for creating public ill-will). But for something like Carsland, I think it would absolutely work.

    Also, that would give them something fairly cheap to use as a promotion; if they wanted to boost attendance on a certain weekend, they could offer a limited-time free access. Or free access with a Dining Plan, if they wanted to sell more of those.
    I agree. If they *did* do something like this, they'd have to be very careful about when, how much, and how it was framed to the public. If they said "here's a new land: it costs $20 more, deal with it" there would be outrage. But if they came out and said "If enough people send us $20 we'll build Western River Expedition" I think people would swiftly open their wallets, and with a smile.

  12. #12

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    How do you balance locals and tourists? It's frustrating for those who spend their one vacation a year at Disneyland, only to have locals come in and inflate the lines for attractions, fireworks, shows, etc...during the afternoon and evening. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming locals for taking advantage of the ticket they paid for. It's just a problem. As a quick example, we were trying to see Fantasmic, making sure the kids could see, and we had a literal group of locals that told us they came in at least a couple times a week to watch Fantasmic. They were pleasant and nice to talk to, but as they stood in front of us and blocked my kids view...how did it make me feel? I'm there maybe once a year?

    This is another reason why I cheer increases in AP prices. When I'm asked survey questions, I always add, crowds are too heavy and AP prices too cheap.
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  13. #13

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by WED View Post
    ...
    And again: this is all opinion and speculation. There is no right answer.


    Yes there is a right answer.
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  14. #14

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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment View Post
    Yes there is a right answer.[/COLOR]
    Oh, that's good to know. I was worried it might be a complicated issue, or something. But if, as you say, there is a readily available correct constant that we can all agree upon, then that's great.

    In all seriousness, which 'right answer' are you proposing?
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    Re: D-tickets, premium pricing, and the origins of the annual pass

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment View Post
    Yes there is a right answer.
    Yep. And that answer is to dump the AP system. Charge all customers, locals and tourists, what Disneyland + DCA is really worth. Win-win for Disney and their customers.
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