Does this affect your plans to go to Disneyland in 2016?
Hugo Martin Hugo MartinContact Reporter
To make way for “Star Wars,” Disneyland is about to launch its largest expansion ever, which means shutting down a significant chunk of the Anaheim theme park.
In January, 10 attractions and eateries will close — some temporarily, some permanently — only a few months after the resort hiked the price of annual passes as much as 31%. This spring, Disneyland’s biggest rival, Universal Studios Hollywood, plans to unveil a widely anticipated Harry Potter attraction.
For any other operation, charging customers more and giving them less would be a perilous business strategy, especially if the competition is upping its game. Not so at Disneyland.
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“At the end of the day, you won’t see any attendance drop,” said Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati. “The tourists will come, hell or high water.”
Instead, the construction project to build a new “Star Wars” area is likely to demonstrate the devotion of hard-core Disney fans.
Daniel Bowmen of Sylmar, who has owned a Disneyland premium pass for 24 years and visits at least twice a week, said he is disappointed that the park is closing so many attractions during construction. But that won’t keep him away.
“I just renewed my annual pass, so I’ll be going to Disneyland,” he said.
Disney officials won’t say whether the announced closures and the annual pass price hike have affected pass sales so far. During the quarter that ended Oct. 3 — before the closures and the price hikes were announced — Walt Disney Co. reported a 15% jump in attendance at all domestic parks.
Orange County, home of the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, is expected to be the country’s fourth-most-popular destination for Christmas travel, according to a study of hotel reservations by the travel website Priceline.com.
Park executives don’t seem worried, noting that Disneyland has added several new features in recent months to appeal to devoted “Star Wars” fans. Disney acquired Lucasfilm, along with the “Star Wars” franchise, in 2012 for $4 billion.
In Tomorrowland, the Space Mountain and Star Tours rides have been overhauled to include special effects borrowed from the recently released movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
An underused area in the Innovations building of Tomorrowland has been converted into Star Wars Launch Bay, a hall where parkgoers can play “Star Wars” video games, buy merchandise and meet costumed characters from the movie franchise.
The Galactic Grill eatery now sells treats inspired by “Star Wars” characters, such as a dessert dubbed Darth by Chocolate and the Cheese 3PO Burger.
The additional “Star Wars” features, part of an overall celebration called Season of the Force, launched Nov. 15. No closing date has been announced.
Perhaps the only crowding problem facing Disneyland over the next few months, say theme park experts, is that park visitors will be swarming around Tomorrowland.
“It’s going to be crowded and they are all going to be in one corner of Tomorrowland,” said David Koenig, an author of several books about Disney. “The question is, how many bodies are you going to get in there?”
To build the new 14-acre “Star Wars” area, the park will permanently close Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree, starting Jan. 10.
(Disneyland officials say the animals in the petting zoo have been adopted by a Southern California family that has worked with Disney animals in the past.)
Nearby attractions on the Rivers of America — mainly Fantasmic, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, the Disneyland Railroad and the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes — will close temporarily.
In total, 14% of the park’s attractions will be closed either permanently or temporarily in an area that represents nearly a quarter of Disneyland’s 85 acres.
Also, Autopia, the mini car attraction that opened in 1955, is set to close for routine maintenance in January. According to Koenig, the car ride will reopen with a new sponsor, Honda. Disney officials declined to comment.
To clear more space for the new “Star Wars” land, Disney employees who work in offices outside the park, just north of Big Thunder Ranch, have begun to move into two office buildings that Disney purchased last year a few blocks away on South Manchester Avenue.
A completion date has yet to be announced for the “Star Wars” land, but industry experts predict that an opening date could be at least a year away.
The last time that Disneyland closed several attractions for a major construction project was between 1995 and 1998, when the park overhauled Tomorrowland with several new attractions and a gold-and-brown paint scheme replacing the previous blue-and-white colors.
Disney has yet to reveal what will be included in the new “Star Wars” land. In announcing the park expansion in August, Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said it would include a re-creation of the Millennium Falcon, in which guests can take the controls for a “customized secret mission,” along with an immersive attraction that will put visitors into “a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
Instead of discouraging visitors, Speigel said the construction for the “Star Wars” land could even pique interest among fans who hope to get a glimpse of the new attractions behind the construction walls.
He noted that attendance increased during an expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Florida from 2011 to 2014.
“It became a great marketing tool,” Speigel said. “They capitalized on it.”
Meanwhile, Disney officials say they have plenty to offer visitors. The park’s 60th anniversary celebration — including a revamped fireworks show, a nightly parade and a water-and-fire extravaganza at Disney California Adventure — will continue until Sept. 5.
“We are excited to begin the work that will lay the foundation for the future ‘Star Wars’-themed land at Disneyland,” Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said. “With our continuing Diamond Celebration entertainment and the new Season of the Force offerings, there is so much for guests to do during this time.”
If Disneyland sees attendance drop before the new “Star Wars” land opens, the park might try to boost fan interest by creating new stage shows or parades based on other popular Disney franchises such as “Frozen,” said Robert Niles, a Disney expert and founder of Themeparkinsider.com.
“The market will dictate how aggressive Disney will have to be to counter the effects of the construction,” he said.
No change to me. Although Star Wars fans I know who have gone to Disneyland sine The Season of the Force started love it. They said Space Mountain is great.
I love Disney, but it’s so expensive I don’t see myself visiting very often any more.
Big Thunder what?
I don’t go often, but when I do it isn’t over there.
Stay modern my friends.
Only the 3 kids are going to Disneyland for their Senior trip. What kid doesn’t like DisneyLand, it’s been one of their subjects they talk about a lot, they are greatly excited.
My daughter is very excited for the 8th grade trip in March. 16 hours on a bus in one weekend for a day at Disneyland. Whatever….
Our kids loved Disneyland when we went last year but at their absorbent prices it’s only in the vacation rotation every 3-5 years tops. We went when two kids were still free and it was a killer. Now we’d be paying for all 7 of us. A three day pass would be at least $1,500 not including lodging, travel, or food. It’s really nice but becoming a vacation for the wealthy and not the middle class.
I agree, the timing of the higher gate rate when planning this closure is bad. I was just there and they are improving the older rides like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, and I get adding this newly refurbished franchise as a future draw; but I wish Disney wasn’t so money hungry. Why not lower prices while things are down and look a little less like Scrooge this time of year. Walt wanted Disneyland to be available for the average Family….they are now pushing that dream out for higher profits….sad
Our family of 5 went a few months back. I think the room and tickets came to around $2200 for 4 nights at a mediocre hotel and 3 day park hopper passes. We packed most of our meals for each day’s adventure and really didn’t purchase much while in the park, other than drinks. We did buy the Disney Photo Pass though, which turned out very well and we were quite pleased with. Think it was $79 or so. It’s not the cheapest vacation option, but we only do it every 4 or 5 years anyway. We’re taking them on a cruise to Alaska over the summer, and that’s a price tag that’ll make ya cringe. But hey, you can’t put a price on memories with your family.
Dang voice to text: Exorbitant. Although absorbent works too because they’re soaking us. Haha
We go maybe once a year or 18 months. We went just after Christmas in 2013. It was still pretty crowded. We went this past summer for just one day. We were down there to take the kids on their first cruise and stopped off to hit Disneyland one day. So that was over 18 months. One day there is usually enough for us, sometimes two. Three is too many days IMO, unless you want to ride the same rides over and over and over. The prices are becoming too much. And it’s not a relaxing time by any means. It’s walking and standing around. I can’t imagine going with 5 kids. Not sure when we will go next. I doubt we go in 2016. We have some friends from EG that I think have season passes. They go 2-3 times a year. They went for 4-5 days in June and went again during Thanksgiving for 3-4 more days. If I lived down there, maybe I would get season passes and go for half days or whatever. I can’t imagine living up here and going more than once a year if I had to pay for a place to stay too. We stayed at the Grand California Hotel back when it first opened and the kids were small. It’s expensive, but it was convenient back then and they could come back and take naps. Now we stay a nearby hotel and walk. We like the Holiday Inn. We walk to the parking garage and then take the tram in. Or we found another place we like, the Annabella Hotel. It’s about a 15 minute walk to get to the gates.
One year we went and our kids were almost 3 and almost 1, so we decided to bring my MIL with us. So we got two adjoining rooms, thinking that the kids could stay in either room and then maybe she could watch them part of the time and we could go to the park ourselves. Complete waste of money. At the time she was 68, she was slower than molasses, so it took forever to get around the park. Then she got a headache and didn’t feel good. So we basically paid like $1800 for her to come down there for 3 nights and then sit in the room much of the time. My wife will sometimes suggest taking her when we go places and I just say no. There is nothing enjoyable about it.
I took my then 7 year old son last year in October when he was off track. We had not been in 3+ years and I could not believe how much more crowded it was at the same time of year. I used to take the kids twice a year-October and March-when my oldest was off track. Now she’s in 8th though and on a traditional schedule with just my son on year around.
I want no Disney for me. You guys can go. Our new son has never gone. so I am thrilled for them, but I don’t want to go. I love it, but I have put my foot down on what they have done with the prices. I just won’t do it. My kids they have a meany mom.
Terrible. Mean. Grumpy even!
I shouldn’t go because when the crowds get a little thick I get too tempted to hold my shoulders stiff as I pass through crowds. My personal space is my personal space, but it’s not nice to knock down kids and small adults who are trying to cut it too close. If I go near Christmas, you might as well paint me green and wait for me to steal the decorations.
They keep increasing the price yet they are more crowded then ever. Hard to blame them for increasing the price. How bad would the crowds be if their prices were lower?
I think this quote is attributed to Yogi Berra and it applies here: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
They raised rates to try to get the attendance in check.. Ever since they introduced the payment plan, the daily attendance, even in the most deserted times, was through the roof! We used to go 6 times a year until this past year when we only went three times. I refused to renew our passes last year. I just don’t enjoy the crowds they have created.
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