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PENNIES FROM KEVIN - Renew This!

The Disneyland Resort does its best to get Kevin to renew his Annual Pass. Or does it?

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: July 19, 2004 at 3:20 AM

I just received the package. You know, the package from Disneyland encouraging me to renew my Annual Pass.

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.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on July 19, 2004 at 7:59 AM
"Disney has been relying too much on the Disney name lately instead of the long-gone Disney quality we all grew to love"


Amen

From on July 19, 2004 at 8:33 AM
Hopefully Disney will go out of business and Anhueser Busch/Universal/Cedar Fair will buy them out.
From alex morehouse on July 19, 2004 at 9:21 AM
Derek, Disney would never let anybody get a hold of their Anaheim parks. They are not going to let DCA fail, and let Disneyland go to waste. they are going to improve and try get back the magic Disney once had, so grow up!
From Robert OGrosky on July 19, 2004 at 10:34 AM
Well, to each his own but im looking forward to my upcoming trip to wdw/USF/BGT and im sure if i went there often i may not enjoy it as much but as i only go every other year i always look forward to my next visit.
I go to my local SF park about 10 times a yr, though that is only to ride the roller coasters and people watch and nothing else.
From J. Dana on July 19, 2004 at 1:42 PM
Kevin, I must take issue with one statement: I think the Aladdin show at DCA is spectacular. It's GREAT! I've been in SoCal now for 4 months, and have seen it twice, and will make an effort to see it again next time I'm at the park (which hopefully will be soon since a friend of mine is up for one of the principal roles). It was designed by a top-notch Broadway afficianado, and it does have its eye on other locations. I've seen few productions that match the sheer showmanship of this musical. And if you do go back multiple times, you'll notice that the Genie's lines do change to keep pace with current events.

But not to worry if you don't like it...word from the cast is that it may soon ride it's carpet all the way to Orlando. Disney-MGM Studios may soon be hosting. It was designed for Broadway, but doesn't seem to be heading that way just yet. I hope it stays around here a bit longer....I'm not sure everyone agrees that it's as bad as you say it is. It's a good show, has great sets and effects, good music, and gets the audience going. Sounds like a success to me.

From Scott Carter on July 19, 2004 at 4:52 PM
I like Aladdin too,I also think Bugs Land is very well done.I pesonally can do without the Brother Bear thing over by Grizzly,its not that great.
For the most part the additions to DCA have been needed and pretty good.
what they need to do now is change Route 66 to something else and the place will really be great!!
From alex morehouse on July 19, 2004 at 6:48 PM
Kevin, let's have a friendly, adult conversation for a second. Now, I admit I only know a little bit about Disney's Annual Pass, but I have to say it: half-assed quality is what is killing the Disney name. $159 for two parks, with one offering 60 classic attractions, while the other offers only 32 ( well, make that 33 with the addition of ToT )? Of course, people treat Disneyland like it has 13 rides, but those are fun and you can ride those things over and over. Meanwhile, people treat California Adventure like it has just 4 rides (ToT, Grizzly River Run, Soarin', California Screamin') and there are still a bunch of crappy flat rides and outdated shows. But $159 for an AP? That's like $79.50 for each park! It's ridiculous. California Adventure is probably worth $30 (maybe even less), and Disneyland is probably worth $45. Until they get some quality into their 2nd park, they need to lower the price of thier AP. By the way, I didn't know Adventureland had a place that served thick burgers. WHY DID THEY GET RID OF IT? GRRRRR!!


Anyway, enough on that junk. I admit it: I've outgrown Disneyland, and I want to mature. My Dad doesn't like USH because he grew up loving Disneyland, but when we went there, I felt like I had a great time! When we ordered double hamburgers, they were thick! Now that is quality. I was blown away by Jurassic Park- The Ride and rode that twice, and I loved BTTF (despite that it needs a new ride film),and also rode that twice, and the Studio Tour was awesome. I thought some of shows were cool, especially Terminator 2:3D. I didn't like Honey, I Shrunk the Audience because it had mice (I'm admit that I'm squemish), so I was built for explosions and water. I just think they need at least 2 more rides.

So, overall, I feel like I have outgrown Disney, and I've been pressuring my parents to take me to SFMM, despite that it is a long drive. I've sort of come to like roller coasters all because of Disney. Have I outgrown Disney? And answer this: is that good or bad? Oh, and the suggested AP pass price should be $90.00.

From Kevin Baxter on July 20, 2004 at 1:36 AM
J, I think Aladdin is okay, but I have seen a lot of Broadway shows and Aladdin takes much of what is bad about Broadway and throws it into one show. The genie is the one thing that makes the show worth seeing, but all the flying carpets and camels and crap can't hide the fact that the story is lame and the songs mostly suck.

But my main problem is a show, no matter how spectacular isn't going to save DCA. In fact, Aladdin is probably less popular than Blast, the show it booted from the theater. Blast was actually the type of show people would want to see more than once. Any visit to the Hyperion proves that Aladdin isn't doing that. And that NEEDS to be done.

From Scott Carter on July 20, 2004 at 6:48 AM
Kevin,I say this with all due respect,but you mention that you only like people to post on this board who can help people plan thier vacations.Im curious but how do articles like this help anyone? I mean,just because you only "slobber" over Splash Mnt and Indy,and Millionaire at DCA,that doesnt mean a tourist from WIsconsin wouldnt enjoy many other attractions at the parks.You also "outgrew" the park,but not everyone is like you and not everyone outgrows it,some people enjoy Disney for what it is and not what it isnt.So while I respect your view,I think your off base,I dont think your helping anyone plan a vacation or even offering constructive criticism,this whole editorial is basically about how you outgrew Disney and how you like Universal and Six Flags now.
From Billy Barf on July 20, 2004 at 7:32 AM
...I outgrew Disneyland. I actually outgrew it earlier tha
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
From J. Dana on July 20, 2004 at 11:22 AM
Actually, Kevin, BLAST was superior to the Aladdin show. When I was at WDW and Blast was tearing it up at Epcot, I went mutliple times, taking friends who'd go. Yeah, BLAST was a ..... (I'm not going there). What I meant to say was that Aladdin far exceeds normal THEME PARK fare when it comes to stage shows. It doesn't reach Broadway status, mind you, but for a theme park production, it's head and shoulders above.
From Scott Carter on July 20, 2004 at 4:07 PM
I agree J,it definatly exceeds normal theme park fare,it sure as hell blows Spiderman Rocks out of the water.Thats for sure! Also,Kevin how can you say the music and story "sucks" for the Aladdin musical,its the same story and music that made the movie immensely popular,you might not like it but its still liked by very very many people out there.

From Derek Potter on July 20, 2004 at 4:11 PM
Alex, that wasn't my post about Disney parks being bought. Looked to be an anonymous poster that said that. I have some hairbrained ideas, but that one is a little too far out there for me. Disney parks won't be bought, unless they are taken over. Theme parks bring in over 30 percent of their revenue, so no I don't expect that to happen.

I still say that Disney has gone from a good creative company with a vision and magic to a bloated corporate shell of it's former self...with no interest in anything but the bottom line. Did they lower and discount some prices?? yes, but only because the parks aren't doing as well as they once were. Hotel rooms at WDW are easier to come by these, and 159 bucks for a AP is pretty steep for a park system that has continually added very little to their attraction lineups. I can go to a good restaurant or show for far less than the cost of an AP+cost of food. Kids don't buy AP's, adults do, and how much is really there for an adult to do in a Disney park?? Orlando has way too much competition for Disney to be slacking off now. Universal and Sea World and even BGT are better places to go at this point in time. Disney's name may be it's greatest draw, but a name that was made years ago doesn't carry for long when the current product is nothing like it used to be.

From PM 24-7 on July 20, 2004 at 4:44 PM
I think that Annual Pass Prices of $159 seem reasonable...If they were lowered to the $90 that was suggested by Alex, then every tourist coming to the area would just purchase an annual pass (instead of the multiple day hoppers) and flood the park making everything over-crowded and even less enjoyable. Broken down, if you visit the parks four days, you've beaten the gate price...Just barely impractical for tourists but a great deal for locals.

Regarding losing interest- KEVIN, YOUR RIGHT- This may be the wrong site to say this on, but, the more you visit a park, the less exciting it becomes...I think it's part of getting older...There is too much out there in the world to waste your life re-visiting theme parks...Whenever I tell someone that I'm planning a trip to Orlando to go to the parks there (AGAIN), I just start to get embarrassed...others are out seeing the world and I'm here planning my 6th trip to Orlando in 10 years...There is some excitement in planning the perfect trip, but, if I would just put the money from 2 of these trips together, I could go somewhere I've never been before and is probably a lot more interesting...I think it makes you a lot more interesting as a person to visit lots of other countries, rather than visiting the same theme parks over and over...

From alex morehouse on July 20, 2004 at 5:11 PM
To be honest, Kevin, I've personally become tired of going to the same parks over and over. I wanted to get my parents to visit Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana (I heard it is a lot of fun.) . I also wanted to explore more obscure and traditional theme parks like Dollywood, Visionland, Six Flags Over Texas, etc. I've outgrown Disneyland and want to see something unique. Give me any responses if you guys have been to any of these parks.
From Chuck Campbell on July 20, 2004 at 7:41 PM
Dollywood might be worth checking out, Alex, with the Tennessee Tornado and Thunderhead. There's a bizarre powered coaster/dark ride called Blazing Fury, too I'm thinking of heading up there myself because I haven't been to the park in years (I have friends over on the NC side of the mountains). It will strain your capacity for country corn, though.

Plus, you could take in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and maybe try your hand at some real whitewater--the Nantahala River is fun.

From Kevin Baxter on July 21, 2004 at 3:39 AM
Scott, where did I say I only like people to post who can help with planning vacations? I write a Blog Flume every week and what exactly does that have to do with people planning vacations? I like people to contribute something of worth to the conversations, unlike Billy Barf for Brains up there (wonder why he hasn't been banned yet... ROBERT?).

That said, why can't this article help someone make a decision they might be having about renewing their Annual Passes? Also, check out how other people have also questioned whether or not they would be better off spending theme park money on a new destination. And if people do choose a new destination, they can use this site to find a park nearby.

J, I probably shouldn't have used Aladdin in my garbage category, because I really don't find it all that bad. I just don't think it is what the park needs. The park needs stuff that will excite people and bring them to the park. Aladdin, no matter how good, was never going to accomplish that. Had the money spent on Aladdin, A Bug's Land, Playhouse Disney, LuminAria, every dreadful parade and most of the live shows had been spent on a couple more Tower of Terror-like attractions, the park might be a worthy destination.

Oh, and people weren't all spastic over the songs and story of the film version of Aladdin. They were spastic over Robin Williams' performance. Just as most people who see the stage version at DCA mention the Genie first when they mention it at all.

From Derek Potter on July 21, 2004 at 5:37 AM
Holiday World is a great little park. It's located in the middle of nowhere in southern Indiana, it doesn't have a whole lot of rides, and it is small potatoes compared to say IOA.

Despite that, the park experience is phenomenal. It starts when you get to the lot and they let you park for free. Then you find the 25 dollar ticket price to be nice, then all you have to do is walk to the nearest drink stand to get your free Pepsi products all day. The two wooden coasters they have are top notch, and their waterpark is one of the flat out best in the country. They get the awards for best customer service and cleanest park every year, and there is a good reason for that. The Koch family is doing a bang up job out there in the middle of nowhere, and the numbers show. Holiday World's attendance is up 25 percent this year.

From Billy Barf on July 21, 2004 at 8:40 AM
I like people to contribute something of worth to the conversations, unlike Billy Barf for Brains up there (wonder why he hasn't been banned yet... ROBERT?).

Why should I be banned? You don't like the tenor of my comments? They're neither particularly eloquent nor the most positively contributory to this dialogue, but then again, I don't mean them to be. The "ZZZ" bit is used all over the blog-o-sphere, and many writers and comment-ers seem to handle it without demanding the poster be banned.

On the other hand, I won't make any high-falutin' demands for free speech. Seeing as this is a privately funded and operated site, the moderator/owner can do whatever he or she sees fit. If that includes banning me, that's the breaks.

You want a contribution? Fine, here goes:

Robert's piece on DCA was well-writen yet didn't lack for caustic wit. One clearly understood his criticisms, and could easily compare his criteria for enjoyment to one's own, thus provoking further thought, reflection, and/or discussion. I find your writings repetitive, screechy, and grating, and it appears (to this reader anyway) you are overly pre-occupied with telling your readers just how himilayan the heights of your ennui have reached, without saying very much of why.

Others may disagree to the extent that the terms of service allow.

Shorter Billy Barf: more Robert, less Kevin

From Robert Niles on July 21, 2004 at 1:56 PM
Okay, who had July 21, 2004 in the pool for first use of "ennui" on the board?

;-)

(Other than that, I ain't sayin' nutin'. Y'all can work it out.)

From Kevin Baxter on July 22, 2004 at 1:31 AM
Hey, he used "manque" in another post. I love people who likes to pretend they's gots real booklearnin' by usin' such fancified words! Try "pedantic" in a sentence next time, and you'll actually achieve "irony."

And I don't care what is accepted in the "blog-o-sphere" (honestly, how damn retarded is THAT?) because most of the "sphere" of which you speak is populated by witless teens on even more witless websites. Just in case your Word-of-the-Day Calendar hasn't had "witless" yet, the definition would involve using "ZZZZZ" as a response to anything.

But let's get into exactly how full of crap you actually are. You find my writing "screechy and grating" yet you wittily added your multiple Zs to my Vegas trip column, which was filled with the fun I had in Vegas. How "Himalayan" (which is the correct spelling, by the way, Mr Dictionary) was my "ennui" there? Yes, I had some complaints, but I had a lot of good stuff to stay.

The best part is that the Vegas column was the first one you gave us the "pleasure" of your witlessness and it wasn't "screechy" or filled with "ennui." If you have actually been lurking for a while and you got to the point where you could no longer stand it and you felt the burning desire to say something, why choose that column as your first foray into pre-pubescent puerility?

I've said it before and I will say it again: I honestly don't give a sh!t if everybody on this site loves my ass. That isn't who I am and if you can't deal with it, then either seek professional help or don't read my columns. I'd suggest you do both.

From Robert Niles on July 22, 2004 at 6:06 AM
Hey, wait a minute, I used "sardonic" in a column yesterday. Let's not be bustin' on the book learnin'. (See, I've decided to adopt a California Adventure attitude toward the letter 'g' today.)
From alex morehouse on July 22, 2004 at 5:09 PM
I keep saying this: Disney needs to edge-up their image to meet the audiences ever-changing-tastes. First, is to sell Saban Entertainment, and strike a deal with Dark Horse Comics (Hellboy, The Mask, Men In Black) if they were going to create some kind of U.S. park, but ONLY after they have worked on DCA for a few years (And the proper theme for these comic characters to fit in is a hero-themed park). Secondly, they should give it a shot at a park that is aimed at teenagers, but will still have things for kids and thier families, like, unfortunately, Islands Of Adventure. I think it would be a good idea for Disney to get a little more hip with Superhero Comic Books in thier parks. By the way, all three of those comic books were made into movies. The Mask starred Jim Carrey (remember in 1994, when he bursted to stardom?), Men In Black starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and the current one, Hellboy - which opened back in April- that starred Ron Pearlman. However, if Disney would have acted soon enough, Universal wouldn't have made an attraction out of Men In Black already. GRRRRRR!!!!!!!
Anyway, those are my two cents.

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