Saturday, June 4, 2016

Disneyland News and Rumors June 2016

Much has happened in Anaheim since my last update, so without further ado, lets get started!

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
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters at Disney California Adventure Park
Photo from Disney Parks Blog
We'll start off in California Adventure where back in March Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters opened to mixed reviews. The ride looks amazing while watching it from a distance as the ride vehicle cars (which each have names) twist, turn, and spin in sync to various Italian songs. The ride uses a computer-controlled wireless communications system which guides the cars around Luigi's "backyard" making Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters the first trackless ride in Southern California. Although all that might sound somewhat spectacular, the ride itself lasts only 90 seconds and currently usually boasts 60+ minute wait times. The loading and unloading process frequently takes just as long if not longer than the ride. It is somewhat curious that Disney chose to remake a ride into something similar to Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, the Tea Cups, or Francis' Lady Bug Boogie. I get the novelty and bragging rights to say that it's a "trackless" ride, but when that all wears off, it seems very similar to a couple of rides we already have, one being right next door! Below is a video detailing how Walt Disney Imagineering created Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.

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.

Marvel Land
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.

MuppetVision
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
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:

The Matterhorn
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.

Fantasyland Expansion
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!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Planning your day at Disneyland


I have been asked numerous times, "What is the best way to go on the most rides and avoid standing in long lines while at Disneyland?" Although standing in some lines is an unavoidable part of Disneyland, in this post I'll share some ideas that help me and my family get the most out of our visits.

(1) Get there early! Even if you are not an early riser (or have teenagers that aren't early risers) make an exception. Get to the park at least 15 minutes before it opens - even 30 minutes before if you can. Disneyland starts letting its guests through the turnstiles about 10 minutes before the park opens. They will have areas of the park roped off so you still aren't able to go on rides until the actual opening time, but being in the park, in the actual area you want to be in right when it opens as opposed to just leaving your hotel room or being in line at the entrance when it opens can help you get more rides in and take nice pictures before the park is crowded. Also, the locals, who make up a significant percentage of the daily attendance, tend to start arriving in droves around 10:30 to 11:00, so get all the rides in that you can before that time. My family's traditional first ride is Peter Pan, which is notorious for a pretty constant 45+ minute wait throughout the whole day. Even first thing in the morning we still wait 10-15 minutes for it, but because it is one of our favorite rides that we will go on anyway at some point, we feel it better to get on it early and save the 20 or so minutes waiting in line later in the day. We were also able to get on the Matterhorn with only about a 10 minute wait instead of the typical 30-45 minute wait throughout the rest of the day.

(2) Stay late! In the summertime, Disneyland stays open until midnight. Take advantage of every last minute! My kids have gone on Splash Mountain 4 times in a row, just walking on each time, within about 30 minutes of the park closing. I walked right on Star Tours also right before closing. These two rides frequently have wait times of over 40 minutes and, in the case of Splash Mountain, up to 2 hours during the middle of the day. Because of the many parades and shows at night, many of the ride lines are shorter during this time.

(3) Use the middle of the day wisely! Because we wake up early to eat breakfast at our hotel with the desire to get to Disneyland 30 minutes before it opens, we end up getting out of bed around 6:20am. Since we stay at Disneyland until Midnight, we often don't get back to our hotel room until about 12:30am and then we eat a light dinner. That means that we are getting about 5 hours of sleep a night and when you do as much walking as we do at Disneyland everyday, that just won't cut it. So we go back to our hotel during one of the busiest times of the day to eat lunch and take naps. We usually head back to the hotel around 1:00pm and eat and nap until about 4:30pm. This allows us to stay rested, save money on food, avoid the hottest part of the day, and take advantage of the lack of people early in the day and late at night. If you are a machine and don't need sleep, the middle of the day is a great time to see shows such as Disney Junior: Live on Stage (mainly enjoyable for children under 9) or Aladdin (all ages) in California Adventure, the Tiki Room, or to even explore Tom Sawyer Island or try out the Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes. The middle of the day is also a great time to take advantage of the Fast Pass system.

(4) The Fast Pass system. Disneyland has a free Fast Pass system set up for its busiest rides. Near the entrance to most of the busier rides is an area with a few machine kiosks. To get a fast pass, you put your Disneyland admission ticket into the machine and the machine will give you a ticket for that ride. The ticket will specify an hour-long window to come back and ride the ride. When you go back to ride the ride, there is a separate line for fast passes. You show your fast pass to the cast member and he or she lets you in the shorter line. This is the only way to ride Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure, as its wait times are normally over 2 hours long. With a fast pass on Radiator Springs, we normally end up waiting about 15 minutes. Other rides/attractions that it is wise to have a past pass for are: The World of Color show, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, Grizzly River Run, Soarin' Over California and Tower of Terror. Only two fast passes are allowed at a time per admission ticket.

(5) Have a plan! Have a general idea of how Disneyland is laid out so you don't waste time walking clear across the park trying to find rides. As funny as it might sound, study a map of Disneyland before you go. If possible, go on a few rides in each area you are in to avoid wasted time walking back and forth. Know what rides usually have short wait times (Snow White, Pinocchio, Tarzan's Treehouse, Pirates of the Caribbean, Winnie the pooh, all rides in Bugs Land, The Little Mermaid, etc) and go on them during the busier parts of the day. This will especially come in handy if you have to drive to get to Disneyland and can't go back to the hotel in the afternoon.

Hopefully some of these tips help with getting the most out of your days at Disneyland! If you have any more ideas to add, feel free to respond and post them!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Disneyland Ride Tracking Sheet

Here is the ride chart my family uses to track our rides at Disneyland. Since we go from Monday through Thursday, I have space under each day for Shelby, in this case, to put a tick mark under which day she went on each ride.

Disneyland Ride Chart Shelby 2015
Land Ride Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Main Street USA Disneyland Railroad        
  Great Moments with Mr Lincoln        
  Main Street Cinema        
  Main Street Vehicles        
  The Disney Gallery        
Tomorrowland Astro Orbitor        
  Autopia        
  Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters        
  Captain EO Tribute Closed        
  Disneyland Railroad        
  Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage        
  Innoventions        
  Jedi Training Academy        
  Monorail        
  Space Mountain        
  Star Tours        
  Starcade Closed        
Fantasyland Alice in Wonderland        
  Casey Jr Circus Train        
  Dumbo        
  Fantasy Faire        
  It's a Small World        
  King Arthur's Carousel        
  Matterhorn Bobsleds        
  Mr Toad's Wild Ride        
  Peter Pan's Flight        
  Pinoccio's Daring Journey        
  Pixie Hollow        
  Sleeping Beauty Castle        
  Snow White Grotto        
  Snow White's Scary Adventures        
  Story Book Land Canal Boats        
  Tea Cups        
Frontierland Big Thunder Ranch        
  Fantasmic        
  Frontierland Shooting Expedition        
  Mark Twain Riverboat        
  Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island        
  Sailing Ship Columbia        
  The Golden Horseshoe Stage        
  Thunder Mountain Railroad        
  Tom Sawyer Island        
Adventureland Indiana Jones        
  Jungle Cruise        
  Tarzan's Treehouse        
  The Enchanted Tiki Room        
New Oreans Square Disneyland Railroad        
  Haunted Mansion        
  Pirates of the Caribbean        
Critter Country Davey Crocket Explorer Canoes        
  Splash Mountain        
  Winnie the Pooh        
Mickey's Toontown Chip N Dale Treehouse        
  Disneyland Railroad        
  Donald's Boat        
  Gadget's Go Coaster        
  Goofy's Playhouse        
  Mickey's House        
  Minnie's House        
  Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin