Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: July 19, 2004 at 3:20 AM
Right about now many of you will be shrieking, "Kevin has an AP?!?!?!!!" Yes, I do. I have a friend who bought me one. Normally I would have said no thanks, but we made plans to visit in December and I had never seen all the Holiday hoopla. I wanted to not only see the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay again, but I also wanted to see the decorations, the snow, the holiday fireworks and the Small World overlay. Plus, although I think DCA is mostly useless, I do enjoy Millionaire and California Screamin'. With an AP, I could do this, and come back after the Tower of Terror and Snow White got going.
Well, Disney also sent me a card allowing me to buy up to five two-day Park Hoppers for $79, so I will take a few friends before my AP expires, and then I won't be heading back for quite some time. In fact, I may not return for at least seven years, or until I think my nephew and his future sibling become old enough, which may be even longer.
This is really sad, considering I grew up less than 15 minutes from the park. Like all kids I loved Disneyland with a fetishistic passion and couldn't go enough. In fact, whenever we drove near it, even on non-Disneyland related trips, my face would be glued to the window for that heart-stopping view of the Matterhorn.
Like most kids who grow up in Southern California, I outgrew Disneyland. I actually outgrew it earlier than many, for I was done with it before I turned ten. By that time I had discovered movies were my one true passion, so Universal Studios became the place I wanted to go. I simply could not get enough of that tram tour. Usually I also begged to go to Magic Mountain (it wasn't a Six Flags park back then) but its distance made that a very rare experience. Yeah, USH is far away too, but relatives always wanted to go to Disneyland and/or USH, so we got to do USH more than we normally would have.
Then we moved north. The cliche claims that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it did, for Magic Mountain only. There was still a little USH residue in me, but like most teens, coasters and thrill rides filled a void for me that USH's show-heavy park didn't and that DL's "baby rides" certainly couldn't. As state law demands, I did return to DL for Grad Night, which was probably my first visit at least six years.
I had fun that night but apparently not enough since I didn't return for another nine years. I had returned several times to USH and SFMM in those nine years, but not to DL. ToonTown and Splash Mountain were exciting changes, but little had changed otherwise. It took me ten years to return and even less had changed this time. Sure, Tomorrowland had changed, but certainly not for the better. And Indy - which was being built on my previous visit - was now open. But the rides I grew up with held little excitement for me.
My biggest problem is that I don't have the Disneyland nostalgia so many other people seem to have. The Haunted Mansion was the ride I always ran to when I was a kid, but now I only like it when it gets the Nightmare Before Christmas treatment. I never much cared for Pirates of the Caribbean and age has just made me loathe it. The Matterhorn is too jerky for my elderly body now, and you couldn't get me near Big Thunder Mountain Deathtrap with a flamethrower.
As much as I love theme parks, I never got the nostalgia bug that has kept Disneyland so popular. My nostalgic leanings are more media-oriented, so all my fondest childhood memories revolve around books I read or movies and television shows I watched. There's no room up there to get all aflutter over Space Mountain anymore.
In fact - and I hate to admit this - I find more to do at DCA. That isn't saying much, considering all I like to do at DCA is California Screamin' and Millionaire and maybe It's Tough to Be a Bug every so often. All I like to do anymore at DL is Splash Mountain and Indy, and that one only if I can walk right on.
Yeah, DL is definitely a nicer place to walk around. While Tomorrowland still needs extensive help, most of the rest of the park has great character, something that certainly didn't transfer to the Magic Kingdom when it was built. But I don't want to pay $159 for character alone. (For all of Matt Ouimet's posturing to have fewer APs by the start of the 50th Anniversary, offering $20 off if you renew isn't the way to do it.) I want great rides and attractions along with the theming. Disneyland has built all of two in the past 15 years! And their next biggie is really just new theming added to a golden oldie. DCA has very little character so it definitely needs the rides, yet for every ToT they build, look at all the garbage we've had to suffer through to wait for it: A Bug's Land, Playhouse Disney, Aladdin, crappy outdoor shows and even crappier parades. Okay, we got Millionaire, but the good is still outnumbered by the bad and mediocre.
Orlando has played a major role in my decision also. While I have grown seriously irritated with Disney/MGM Studios and have never liked MK, the other Disney parks shine even more light on DLR's problems. Animal Kingdom, like DCA, is too damn small. But unlike DCA, there are actually things to look at after you've done the few attractions it has to offer. Outside the Hollywood area, DCA is the worst-themed park in SoCal. Epcot, like both Anaheim parks, doesn't have a lot of attractions I slobber over, but it offers other entertainment like great restaurants/bars and live entertainment that is actually entertaining. Imagine that!
Things only get better outside WDW. SeaWorld proves that shows and exhibits can be entertaining, even on subsequent visits. Universal Studios Hollywood proves that greatly themed attractions can be surrounded by great theming and that you can have more than three of them be fantastic. Islands of Adventure has probably spoiled me the most, as more than half of its attractions are spectacular, as is the extensive theming.
And yet, with how much there is in Orlando, I probably won't be heading back for at least five years. Seven parks in the area, with an eighth an hour away, and they still don't build enough to encourage a cross-country trip. Considering they rely more on tourists than DLR does, shouldn't they be doing more to obtain my hard-earned dollars?
And that may be my main reasoning for bailing on my AP. There are so many vacation alternatives out there, so many places I haven't been, so many places I have been that offer a lot more than DLR. $159 can buy me plane tickets to almost anywhere in this country. Hotel prices are cheaper in most of these places too. Theme parks have more competition than just each other, yet that's where most of their focus seems to lie lately.
Disney has been relying too much on the Disney name lately instead of the long-gone Disney quality we all grew to love. Although they complain about too many APs, everyone seems to conveniently forget that Disney drastically lowered AP prices after DCA opened because APs were the only ones bothering with the park and they weren't going to bother at the exorbitant prices Disney was charging. What happens after the 50th Anniversary when AP prices have been jacked up and the two parks don't have anything new to offer for a couple years? I think many APs are only renewing to take advantage of the 50th offerings, so we'll see what happens in 2006. Only I'll be seeing it from the outside.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort