$100 a Head?by David Koenig, contributing writer
Emboldened by record crowds at Disney California Adventure despite a record admission price hike, Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) executives reportedly are hard at work on trying to decide how quickly they can raise prices again—possibly as soon as the start of this Christmas season.
A single-day, single-park pass, warned one cast member, “could push past the $90 mark. And guests can look forward to another price hike next summer. It looks like they will be paying $100 a head before Christmas 2013.”
The trick for TDA is figuring out some excuse—any excuse—to justify another gargantuan increase, now that Cars Land and all other high-profile construction projects have been completed. Anything currently in the hopper for Disneyland—new character shows, a relocated Princess Fantasy Faire by February, replacement of the OSHA-fied exterior of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride hopefully to start in January—likely won’t register any bump in attendance.
Unfortunately, as long as the crowds remain strong, TDA has all the rationale it needs to keep raising prices without adding significant attractions.
Continuing strong attendance also worries cast members that their future will be filled with more off-site parking days—and worse.
“TDA has been very quiet on when we’ll be parking at Honda Center and Angel Stadium again,” says one employee. “Which means we will be doing this again in the near future. It would be a loss of face if they don’t. Especially after all the fuss they made.”
He says cast members are even more fearful that allowing guests to park in the Katella Cast Member Lot (KCML) will spark other bright ideas inside TDA. “Because KCML does not make money when we use it, when will TDA start charging us to park there?” he wonders. “It is no secret that GardenWalk employees have to pay to use their parking structure. We can imagine TDA making us pay, because card scanners have been installed at the entrance. If you have not paid the fee, the gate arm will not go up and you can’t go in. Remember that statement that was issued when we had to park outside KCML: ‘As a reminder, driving to work and parking in a Cast lot is not expected or required and is just one commuting option. Other commute alternatives available to Cast Members include carpooling, riding the bus or train, vanpooling, bicycling or walking.’”
In the meantime, the resort has drawn up tentative plans for a second massive parking structure, this one slated for the Pumbaa Lot across from GardenWalk. But approvals and construction would put any mega-structure at least two years away.
Princess Shows Get End Date
August 12 is expected to be the last day for performances at the Princess Fantasy Faire. About a week later, the princess meet-and-greets will relocate from the facility to the old Light Magic viewing area along Small World Mall, a temporary way station as the maidens await the opening of the new and improved Princess Fantasy Faire at the former Carnation Plaza Gardens.
The Spirit of Luana
I’ll be the first to admit that after a few years of dealing with crabby crowds, discouraged cast members, questionable entertainment offerings, and runaway prices, my cynicism starts to peak. Fortunately, about every five years or so, I’ll luck into a visit in which so much is done so well, so uniquely, so old school, that my love is rekindled and my faith that Disney can do things right, even today, is restored.
In the late 1980s, it was my first trip backstage at Disneyland. Then came my first, wide-eyed visit to Walt Disney World, then the first time seeing Disneyland through the eyes of my own child, and finally witnessing the miraculous restoration of the park for its Golden Anniversary.
And it just happened again. I just returned from a week at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii. An entirely new resort in an entirely new market, Aulani reminded me of that mythical ideal that Disneyland has always aspired to, but rarely is due to guest congestion, corporate greed, and other inconveniences of real life.
The level of detail at Aulani was all encompassing. From the impressive yet welcoming lobby to the powder-soft beach, from the restaurants to the restrooms, every square inch of the place looked perfect. No filler. No short cuts. No obnoxious design elements. And no sign of Pixar anything.
Every cast member was constantly smiling, friendly, helpful—as if they’d just been purchased out of the Disney Catalog. Best of all, every one seemed contented and sincere; there were no signs of that weariness I often sense among even the heartiest of theme park cast members.
The guests appeared happy, calm, relaxed. They were enjoying something new, without having to squeeze through a crowd of elbows and strollers, or wait in a two-hour line for a show they’ve already seen dozens of times before.
Even the Disneyfication was subtle. Characters were restricted to a handful of appearances each day. There were no giant sorcerer’s hats or “Best Kept Secret” billboards.
Sure, everything about the resort is pricey (after all, you are on Disney property, in the state of Hawaii), but—to its credit—Disney doesn’t try to sell you something at every turn. There are no ODV carts or pin-trading stations clogging the pathways.
Maybe it’s the newness of the place, the freshness of the concept, or simply the smaller size and recalibrated expectations of the audience. My guess? Luana, that intoxicating Aloha spirit that compels everyone to slow down a little bit and better appreciate their surroundings. I can’t wait to return.
Meet Me at Disneyana
I’ll be signing copies of Mouse Tales, Realityland, etc., and hopefully have on hand a preview copy of my next book at this weekend’s All Disneyana Show & Sale on Sunday, July 22, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza Resort, a mile south of Disneyland on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. Conventioneers can enter at 9:00 a.m., Disneyana Fan Club members at 10:00 a.m., and the general public at 11:00 a.m.
Hope to see you there!