Before I address specific attractions, there have been some controversial decisions made by Disney CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chairman, Bob Chapek with regards to theme park ticket prices and budget cuts at the Anaheim parks.
To try to help draw larger crowds during the non-peak days at Disneyland (which Disney is now referring to as "Value Days") by theoretically taking them from the busy weekend days, Disneyland and California Adventure have implemented a 3-tiered, demand based pricing system: "Value," "Regular," and "Peak." What that means is that you will pay $95 for a single park ticket during a "value" day (generally a non-summer weekday), $105 for a "regular" day (too many days apply to this to try to explain here), and $119 for a "peak" day (most summer weekends and holidays). To check the new pricing schematic, here is a link to Disneyland's Theme park ticket page.
The "regular" ticket price days make up the majority of the calendar at 46%, while the "peak" and "value days both come in at 27%. Many financial experts believe that the new structure will generate between 3% to 7% more revenue for Disneyland. I worked in the golf industry for almost 20 years. At the golf courses where I worked, the owners did the same thing - charging more for weekends and holidays. It is simply a supply and demand relationship. At the golf course, our weekends were constantly booked so we knew we could charge more on those days. At Disneyland, the same holds true. They know that certain people can only attend on weekends and holidays so they can charge more.
The new tiered pricing structure is designed to reduce congestion on busy days, a Disney Park spokeswoman said. But the cynic in me says that if they were truly concerned about over crowding as they claim, they would address the bigger issue that creates the problem - the monthly payment option of annual passes. Currently if you were to go to a Disneyland ticket booth, instead of listing the total price of an annual pass, Disneyland lists the monthly payment price which is as low as $50 per month! (depending on the pass you buy). So basically the locals can pay $50 per month to go as many times as they want that month! Even if they went once that month, they are still paying half price on the cost of a normal 1 day ticket! This is what is causing the horrible overcrowding problem at Disneyland. The reason Disney doesn't address the real issue is that more traffic inside their Parks means more food and beverage sales as well as merchandise sales. Like any business, Disneyland wants to pack in as many people as they can. So although Disney might pretend to be worried about the over crowding issue, their 3-tierred pricing system is realistically just another way for them to make more money by raising the price of tickets on days that people are going to be going to the park regardless of pricing.
But ticket prices are less of a concern than perhaps the next issue is. According to micechat.com, Bob Chapek, the Parks Chairman, has decreed that the American Parks need to cut $500 million from their 3rd fiscal quarter operating budget (which commenced April 1) to help offset the massive amount that Shanghai Disney is over on their budget. This major cutback has been seen and felt in many ways, most obviously in both Disneyland and California Adventure's new hours. Despite the increased ticket prices during their summer days, both parks close an hour earlier than normal everyday except Saturdays. Last summer, Disneyland closed every night at midnight and CA Adventure closed at 10pm. This year those hours have changed to 11pm for Disneyland and 9pm for CA Adventure.
Again, according to Micechat.com, Disneyland has all but put a hiring freeze in place during a time when normally they would be ramping up their staff for the busy summer time. Staffing has also been cut back. The hiring and labor cuts were already being looked at once the minimum wage increases were passed by California but now with the need to slash money from the operating budget, they have become a reality. What this means for visitors to the parks besides the earlier park closures is that rides such as Casey Jr Circus Train, which normally adds a second train to its rotation during the busy times, now has been operating with only one train all day long, thus doubling the normal wait time for that ride. The same has happened with the Storybook Land Canal Boats, and other rides as well.
These cuts are supposedly meant to be temporary until Shanghai opens on June 16th and starts generating revenue which it should as opening day tickets were sold out within hours of being available for sale. The budgets will then be re-evaluated for the 4th fiscal quarter. But I've worked in enough business situations to realize that once the upper management sees that their business can be run on fewer employee hours, even if it is at the expense of customer service and satisfaction, they have a hard time adding back that payroll into future budgets. I sincerely hope this isn't the case for Disneyland as service is one of the main things that sets them apart from their competitors.
On to the attractions!
Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
|Photo from Disney Parks Blog|
Frozen - Live at the Hyperion
Aladdin the Musical Spectacular has been replaced at the Hyperion Theater by Frozen. Frozen opened May 27 and the fast passes were gone for all three showings an hour after CA Adventure opened. Although many thought it would be nearly impossible to replace such a beloved show as Aladdin which had turned into a fan favorite after 13 years and over 14,500 performances, the first reviews of Frozen have been good. Most people rave at the use of projection effects and agree that the cast is amazing. For now, plan on getting a fast pass as soon as you get to CA Adventure to see the show! Also be aware that the new show is about 55 minutes long (slightly longer than Aladdin) and that snacks and beverages are now being sold inside the theater.
Tower of Terror
According to Micechat.com Disney is toying with the idea of re-theming the Tower of Terror with Guardians of the Galaxy. Apparently the Imagineering department has been experimenting with an all new show for months before the park opens and after it closes. The plan is for the Tower of Terror to shut down in the Fall and re-open completely re-themed next May in concert with the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie premiere.
The new re-theming of the Tower of Terror would be the first part of a multi-year plan to create more of a Marvel presence in CA Adventure. Disney has owned Marvel now for about 5 years and other than a hastily put together meet and greet in the Innoventions building, there really isn't any sort of a presence in the Disney Theme Parks. Well rumor has it that is about to change. The Marvel mega-coaster has been rumored for some time now and was originally planned to be built where the Timon parking structure was. But now the plan is to put it where the Stage 17 and Monsters Inc ride buildings are, possibly also using the stage 12 buildings. This, in conjunction with the re-theming of the Tower or Terror and a meet and greet, would constitute a mini Marvel Land. It is also possible, and hopeful in my opinion, that instead of creating a "Marvel Land," the execs will decide to have all the Marvel rides be a part of Hollywood Land, since they would still fit with the theme. Either way, it will help improve an underutilized portion of CA Adventure.
For those Muppet fans out there, I'm sorry to inform you that the MuppetVision Theater is no more and now is instead called the Sunset Showcase Theater which will preview new Disney movies until a more productive use for the space is discovered.
Soarin' Around the World
In just a couple of weeks, Soarin' over California will transform into Soarin' Around the World. The Disney Parks Blog reports that the debut of the new film will be June 17. Apparently there are only 2 shots in the new movie of parts of America - one being in Utah and the other the fly over of Disneyland at the end. I'll admit that I'm excited to see the new film, but I do find it a bit odd that in California Adventure, they are changing the ride from Soarin' over California to Soarin' Around the World. The new film would seem better suited for the Epcot Center in Florida. I'm hoping that they will keep the old film handy and revert back to it from time to time. A short 22 second preview of the new film can be seen here:
Star Wars Land
Now on to Disneyland and perhaps the most exciting update of them all - Star Wars Land! Much of Thunder Ranch was closed back in January and ground was officially broken on Star Wars Land back in April. It has been fun to track the progress that has been made from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure in particular. The back stage buildings have all been removed and dirt is being moved to get the land ready. The views from Big Thunder trail are also amazing! It is incredible to see the difference the trees made when they were in (they have been removed as construction is being done). It looks like another world over there right now! I used to enjoy sitting on the bench by the pond to the west side of Thunder Mountain with our younger children who couldn't go on Thunder Mountain, waiting for the rest of our family to ride it. It was so peaceful. Once Star Wars Land opens, we'll be saying goodbye to that quiet, peaceful area, as it will become a major thorough fare of patrons crossing the bridge into Star Wars Land. It is believed that another walk way connecting Critter Country to Star Wars Land will also be constructed which would be a welcomed addition. Hopefully it will also lead to future expansion of Critter Country to add one or two more dark rides or possibly bring back the Country Bear Jamboree. Either way, looking at the area, it appears that the river is being rerouted slightly narrower in that area, making room for a walk way. It is also possible to see that Tom Sawyer Island has been shortened slightly and the Rivers of America is starting to take shape behind it. The changes really aren't that drastic to the island or the river which makes me feel much better about the project. Star Wars Land is expected to be completed in late 2018.
Rivers of America
As was mentioned briefly above, the back half of the Rivers of America is beginning to take shape. With the rerouting just about complete, I would expect the concrete to be poured, train tracks to be put in place along the back of the river, and the boat tracks to be re-laid within the next few months. Currently cofferdams have been put in place so that the front of the river is still full of water which makes the views from New Orleans Square and Frontierland as amazing as ever. In another stroke of genius, Disney put scenic walls above the cofferdams to blend into the surrounding scenery so guests don't have to observe all the construction work behind them. The Rivers of America are slated to reopen in Spring of 2017.
Autopia reopened on April 29 with a new paint job and a new sponsor - Honda. The new Blue and Silver look is great! Another change was made to the large video screen above the ride and the small screens found throughout the queue. They used to show the Chevron car animations but, since Chevron is no longer the sponsor, the Chevron cars have been replaced with vintage Wonderful World of Disney Cartoons. It is a great change, particularly to have those fun, older cartoons at one of the parks original rides. There is thought in some circles that Autopia has outlived it's usefulness or that the cars should be changed to electric cars. I, for one, hope that Autopia is kept just the way it is. My kids love the sound of the gas powered cars as they hop into the car to drive (or ride for my smaller kids) for the first time. Even all the cars got a new paint job to match real-life paint color options of Honda cars. A video of the renovation process can be seen here:
Disney finally listened to the many complaints about sore backsides and added thin cushions to the Matterhorn seats back in March. This welcomed addition has helped significantly with the comfort of the otherwise bumpy ride and is a good example of what Disney should continue to do - listen to feedback from their guests.
In the more distant future, there are rumors swirling about a possible Fantasyland expansion. Some scenarios show that when the Disneyland Railroad is re-routed, it will be necessary to remove the Fantasyland Theatre to provide extra room for the railroad tracks. If this is the case, there will still be room in that area to add a ride. According to Mousechat.com, that ride will be a new Frozen E-ticket dark ride. Even if the theatre isn't removed for the new railroad route, Disney would still consider removing it for the new Frozen ride as it seeks to continue to promote the very successful Fozen franchise. This idea is still in the beginning stages and we aren't likely to see any significant movement on it until after Star Wars Land and Marvel Land are completed.
That concludes the update for this month! Let me know what you think or if you have any other information I can add!