#thanksShanghaiby David Koenig, contributing writer
When Disneyland shut down a large swath of the park four months ago to accommodate the construction of Star Wars Land, management knew the park's downsized footprint would lead to one of two scenarios: either (A) horrible congestion that would force them to furiously build in temporary capacity, or (B) plummeting attendance, with guests, turned off by the crowding and fewer offerings, having to be somehow lured back.
Disneyland, miraculously, found itself with problem (A): record crowds—but responded with solution (C): make the problem worse. First, fearing a light spring, Disney reinstituted its Southern California flex ticket promotion. But then, instead of adding capacity, it did the opposite, mandated by Corporate in Burbank. Because Shanghai Disneyland went so far over budget (the resort's price tag: $8 billion and climbing), Disney's U.S. parks have been told they need to squeeze hundreds of millions of dollars of cost-savings to make up the difference.
Disneyland has responded by cutting back park attraction and restaurant operating hours, eliminating entertainment, and reducing staffing park-wide (thereby reducing capacity). As could be expected, the moves have worsened congestion.
Another cut is the annual 24-hour party on the Memorial Day weekend that had kicked off the past three summer seasons and Leap Day 2012. Just 16 months ago, Team Disney Anaheim was scouring the calendar looking for new dates to add 24-hour parties; now, thanks to Shanghai, all round-the-clock parties have been called off indefinitely.
Another concern is what if, after Shanghai Disneyland opens to the public next month, the new mega-park is a flop, a la the budget-minded Hong Kong Disneyland? Will we see even more cutbacks at Disneyland and Disney's other domestic parks?
In the meantime, "Shanghai" has become a curse word around Disneyland. I even overheard cast members deriding the new park's castle: "They claim it's the biggest and tallest of the Disney park castles. What they don't say is that it's also the ugliest!"
2 for 1 Fastpass
Construction walls outside the entrance of the Matterhorn and near Pirates of the Caribbean should be coming down by May 16 to bring Fastpass to the venerable E-ticket attractions.
Not long after, Autopia will be losing its Fastpass because it is used infrequently, and its removal frees up more space for the Jedi show registration outside the Expo Center. (In fact, Autopia's Fastpass has been down since the Expo Center opened—two months before the ride went down for rehab and right through the busy Christmas season.) The removal will be a quick job: just pulling out a sign and three kiosks.
At the Matterhorn, the new kiosks will replace some planters in front of the attraction's entrance. Pirates' station, in a little area below the attraction building's entrance, was one of the first Disneyland rides to get Fastpass in late 2000, but was one of several attractions to lose the service in 2004, amid fears that the park offered too many Fastpass opportunities, worsening overall park congestion.