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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor

Disneyland's Tink-a-Thon 

Why would anyone go to Disneyland at one-thirty on a Friday afternoon and stand in line for 20 hours to buy one pin? That was the question a lot of people were asking this past weekend, as about 700 pin collectors gathered for the event I fondly named the Tink-a-Thon. Several hundred people braved cold weather, hard cement, and the ridicule of their friends and family to buy the final pin in the Character of the Month Series. Others paid big bucks to avoid the line by staying in a Disneyland resort hotel. Even stranger than all of the fuss over a pin was how many of them enjoyed the evening!

The whole thing started a year ago, when Disneyland began its Character of the Month collection. The premise was that a different Disney Character would be selected each month. That character would get to select their favorite place at Disneyland have their portrait drawn there by Disney Artist Peter Emmerich. The resulting portrait would be made available for purchase on a lithograph, note card, watch, t-shirt, ceramic tree ornament, and, of course, a Limited Edition Pin. 

Tinker Bell promotional art  Disney
Tinker Bell promotional art Disney

For the first few months, collectors lined up around 5 in the morning to get the items they wanted. The limit was two pins per person. If you were there by 6:30, you were pretty much assured of getting at least one pin. As the promotion wore on, Disneyland realized that 500 pins were not going to be enough to meet the demand. They implemented a new policy which allowed each person ONE pin.

With the release of the Donald pin in July, the lines started forming earlier and earlier. The line for the October release of Maleficent began around 3 a.m. The November release - Chip & Dale - attracted a large tour group from Japan. To compensate for the large group who would be using early entry to get into the park - and into the pin line - before the rest of the crowd, some collectors got there just a little after midnight, parking their cars in the lots of nearby restaurants. 

The line started in front of guest relations.....
The line started in front of guest relations.....

The early entry aspect threw an interesting twist into the process. Guests of the Disneyland Resort Hotels were able to enter the park 90 minutes before opening. Rather than face what was expected to be a long wait for the Tinker Bell pin in December, quite a few collectors booked rooms at the resort hotels. Some collectors were sure that ALL of the pins would go to the early entry guests. Those who were not able to get a reservation at the sold-out hotels started plotting their strategy. 

At the same time, the Special Event department knew that they would have to do something about the expected crowds. (Local merchants had not been happy about all of the cars filling their lot the prior month.) To accommodate the crowd, and keep the local businesses happy, Disneyland announced that the Chip & Dale parking lot would open at 2 am Saturday morning for the collectors. As it turned out, 2 a.m. was WAY too late.

 ... past the lockers ...
 ... past the lockers ...

I knew several people who had planned to go to the park Friday night for the fireworks, and then start (they thought) the line. As I was leaving for the Bay Area Saturday, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do the all- nighter with them. Instead, I went for a lovely dinner to celebrate fellow MousePlanet Columnist Kevin Krock's Birthday, and stopped by Disneyland to see how everyone was doing. We got there just as the fireworks were starting, so I thought I might have a wait until the group showed up to start the line. I shouldn't have worried. 

The first people in the line got there at 1:30 Friday afternoon. The next group arrived at three. By 9 p.m., the line extended from the new Guest Relations window, past the lockers, past both restrooms, and down the path toward the picnic area. Some came prepared with blankets, pillows and chairs. Others just came to the park for the evening and ended up staying the night. Food was abundant. One person joked that it was the best buffet available on Harbor Blvd. 

There is a saying that when something is inevitable, the best practice is to relax and enjoy it. Disneyland certainly seemed to take that attitude for this event. A Pin SuperTrader was stationed outside the park with the folks in line, swapping pins and chatting with both the people IN the line, and the people who wanted to know what the line was FOR. 

... and past the restrooms. All by 9 p.m!
... and past the restrooms. All by 9 p.m!

Special Events personnel were also on hand to make sure the event ran smoothly. Bruce Snyder walked up and down the line, talking with everyone. At 2 a.m. he was relieved by another event manager, but returned just a few hours later to start handing out the place holder vouchers. I talked with Bruce Friday night, and he seemed really happy with the way things were going. He told me that the people were enjoying themselves, that everyone was having a good time, and that the atmosphere was similar to Colorado Blvd on New Year's Eve. He said that there were some concerns from the Duty Manager that having people lined up outside the gates looked "tacky." Bruce said that he agreed, but that he would rather have them in a clean, lit, secure area than on the street. 

A little after the park closed at Midnight, an Outdoor Vending Cart was set up for the folks to purchase coffee and hot cocoa. This was a very nice touch, and generally appreciated by the crowds. The only complaint I heard was "what - no refills?" 

About 2 a.m., the line suddenly got much longer as a number of very surprised people turned up to find that they were NOT the first people in line. By 4, most were just trying to sleep, and hoping that there would be some pins left after the early entry group got there. 

Some brought blankets and pillows ...
Some brought blankets and pillows....

The first few early entry folks started lining up at 5 a.m. While they were pretty much assured a pin, some wanted to make sure that they got a "good" one, without scratches or dings. Others just wanted to be a part of the action. A few even went to far as to camp out with the rest of the group overnight, even though they were eligible for early entry. By 6:30 the early entry group was allowed into the park, and event personnel began counting how many were in the standby line. At 7:00, the remaining placeholder vouchers were handed out to the people in the standby line.

The only incident of the night happened when two people attempted to join the line at 7 a.m, claiming their friend "saved" them a spot. They were quietly escorted from the area with almost no commotion. At 7:30 those in the standby line were allowed into the park, and joined the line of early entry visitors to actually buy the pin. This line stretched from Disneyana all the way down Main Street, around the Plaza and almost to City Hall. 

When all was said and done, 300 visitors used early entry to get in line to buy pins. This left only 200 pins available for people in the stand by line. Person number 500 had joined the line at 2:30 a.m. Quite a few people ended up waiting in line for over 4 hours, and still went home empty handed. 

...others brought the necessities - board games and pizza!
... others brought the necessities - board games and pizza!

Why did all of these people do this? There were not QUITE as many reasons as there were people in line, but everyone seemed to break down into four main categories:

1) The Set Holders - People who had the other 11, and wanted to get the last pin for their collection. One person wore a sign which said "11 down, 1 to go!" 

2) The Dealers - People who headed right home and listed their pin on eBay. Every completed auction so far has closed above $100. Complete sets of all 12 pins are going for $600 or more.

3) The Collectors / Re-Sellers - People, generally couples, who bought one to keep in their collection and one to sell to support their pin habit.  

4) The Curious - I met several people who had not collected any of the other pins, but who wanted to "experience" an all-night camp out with a bunch of Disney fans.  

This was the Prize - one of 500 Tinker Bell Pins, and a story to tell the grandkids!
This was the Prize - one of 500 Tinker Bell Pins, and a story to tell the grandkids!

When I've talked with people who were at the event, both those who did and those who did not get a pin, the response has been consistent: The event was great, the people were fun, Disneyland got high marks for organization, but the Early Entry thing was a problem. However, most people agreed that Disneyland could not have made a major change to the policy that far into the promotion without causing some real problems with the people who had already booked rooms months in advance of the event. 

In my opinion, Disneyland did a great job of accepting the inevitable. There was very little they could have done to prevent the line from forming, since they had allowed lines every other month. Short of drastically changing the policy at the last minute, a line was going to happen.

By insuring that people had a safe, well lit, secure place to line up, Disneyland accepted the situation with grace. By bringing out an ODV cart, scheduling a SuperTrader and making sure that special event personnel were available, they made the most of what could have been a difficult situation. The fact that so many were turned away with such little trouble really shows the effort that Bruce and the Special Event Staff put into this event. 

Some collectors have already asked if there would be a new Pin of the Month series for next year, and several told me that they would "miss" the camp- outs with their new Pin Pals if there was not a new program. After hearing about how much fun this event was, I may join them next time!

PS: Do you know where you'll be on December 13th? I'll be at Disneyland, waiting to buy the new Annual Passholder Pin. Details should be coming in the mail soon, but I was asked to share this with our readers ASAP. 

PPS: Do you know where you'll be on January 19th? I know where I'll be - and you'll hear more about it next time!

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Adrienne here.


Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is the super-shopper behind MouseShoppe, your personal and unofficial shopping service for the Disneyland Resort, and the owner of CharmingShoppe, a Disney collectibles store located in Anaheim.

In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she keeps you updated on all of the merchandise events happening in the parks.

If you want to talk to her about this column, merchandise, or events, contact her here.


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