Theme Park of the Day: Knott's Berry Farm

Why Disneyland should create its own Very Merry Christmas Party

November 10, 2010, 11:53 AM · For a while now, I've been urging Disneyland to follow Walt Disney World's lead by creating a hard-ticket, after-hours Christmas party. But Al Lutz's article this week suggesting that Disneyland might do just that, and as early as next year, is reviving a debate between some Disneyland annual passholders and fans like me who want to see a Disneyland Very Merry Christmas Party.

Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle
Photo courtesy Disneyland

The AP-holders' gripe is that they already get Disneyland's Christmas parade, fireworks and "snow" show with their current passes and they don't want to have to pay extra for those holiday festivities.

The counter-argument is that the same crowd of annual passholders is overwhelming the park. The weekend evening crowds in late November and December at Disneyland can be crushing. Converting those weekend evenings to a hard-ticket party would thin the crowds, open up the park for more non-APs to visit enjoyably and, not insignificantly, bring in a fresh source of new revenue to Disney, allowing it to fund even more improvements and additions to its holiday offerings.

I see part of my job being to defend consumers against money grabs by theme parks. But that doesn't mean parks should not find new ways to make more money. I just don't want to see theme parks charge more without delivering more in return. To me, it's not the cost - it's the value.

In this case, making evenings a hard-ticket, as Disneyland just did with Halloween, would allow the park to deliver a substantially better experience for more guests. During hard-ticket events, Disneyland limits the number of admissions sold - usually to around 20,000 or so. Compare that with the 40,000-50,000 people, mostly annual passholders, who've been packing the park during December weekend evenings.

For day guests, the people who buy individual admission tickets and spend the most per visit of any park guests, this decision is a no-brainer. For less money than a regular day ticket, they get to enjoy smaller crowds and a full line-up of holiday-themed entertainment with a hard-ticket event. At Halloween, they got no-extra-charge candy by the bagful with Disneyland's trick-or-treating. I'd expect to see a similar "freebie" at the Christmas party as well, such as the unlimited cookie and hot cocoa provided at Walt Disney World's party.

For annual passholders, yes, they lose the weekend holiday evenings at Disneyland Park. But their APs remains valid during those weekends for day-time visits, and they still get to enjoy the decorations and holiday attraction overlays throughout the season. And they should also get discounts on online advance purchase of the party tickets, as they did at Halloween. Throw in a holiday-themed "World of Color" show over at California Adventure as a new alternate event for non-party-goers (perhaps paid for with the extra revenue from the party) and we'll call it even.

It's supply and demand. The demand for Disneyland on Friday and Saturday nights in late November and December is exceeding its supply. So the park needs to raise the price for those people visiting the park now. A hard-ticket event manages to achieve what seems economically impossible: It effectively "raises" the price for annual passholders (who weren't paying extra to get in those evenings), while lowering it for higher-spending day guests who are interested in the evening festivities (since they'd pay less for the party than they would have for a regular one-day ticket).

Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween Parties were a huge financial success for the park, and provided solid value for the price. Sure, I'd like to see more walk-around entertainment and more restaurant options, but I'm hopeful that Disneyland will learn for its experience hosting that party for the first time this year. And I hope that those lessons would be applied to a Disneyland Christmas Party, as well.

So let's see a Mickey's Very Christmas Party at Disneyland, with a Christmas parade, fireworks and "snow." Let Disney bring out the no-extra-charge cookies, cocoa and a take-away holiday tchotchke for visitors as they leave. Let's even take it a step farther with special holiday dinner options during the party at the Blue Bayou and Big Thunder Ranch, too.

All that would deliver value well worth the extra expense of the party (and the optional meal). So, in this case, I'm hoping that Disneyland ignore some of its vocal annual passholders and goes ahead with creating a new high-value, hard-ticket Christmas party for the rest of its many fans.

Replies (11)

November 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM · It's a good idea, however, the part that I'd have a hard time with is the fact that they want the normal parades/fireworks to be shown during the times they're not doing the parties. Honestly, I feel that that detracts from the overall holiday feeling. Who wants to see RDCT in December, when I can see it in the spring, and off-party nights in the fall?

Disney is making a lot of money as-is. I think it would be great if they charge for the Halloween events, but leave Christmas open. That's CHRISTMAS. The biggest holiday in America. I wouldn't pay for the Holiday events at Disney if it came to that.

> Jake, or Mainstreetjake on MiceChat.

November 10, 2010 at 12:42 PM · As an AP holder for several years, I've watch the prices go up each year and now you want to take away more... That's not fair! Unlike most AP holders I live out of state but enjoy comeing every couple of months to enjoy the magic Disneyland has to offer. I can see the rational behind this but as Ap holder I bought an Halloween ticket and did not get a discount because of coming on the weekend, so do this for Christmas too would be a bigger expense. However if Disney does it and make the hard coupon event cheaper for ap's then I wouldn't comPlpain but as it stands now it's not so my family if five who has premium passes might as well not renew and just wait for the holidays to visit and be able to go at a cheaper rate and invest the money for the cost of an ap at another venue or multiple venues for cheaper rates. Then if alot of ap people feel the same then would Disneyland loose more money than they would make? Why can they not include 1 hard ticket night for each event at no added cost for ap holder and limit the Amount of ap holders who can attend or adjust there block out dates? There are other options just need to get more people opinions and have a discussion open to the public first.
November 10, 2010 at 9:48 PM · Do it and give Passholders a discount!
November 11, 2010 at 6:18 AM · Ok now for the east coast. Our Mickeys VEry Merry Christmas Party has always been a hard ticket event.
So to everyone on the west coast, Pony up.
November 11, 2010 at 4:52 PM · I'm a little touchy about the way Annual Passholders are portrayed in the online theme park blogging community. I currently am not an Annual Passholder, but I have been one for many years in the past, and certainly intend to purchase an annual pass again in the future.

Most of the articles I read talk about the Annual Passholders "overwhelming" the park - descending en masse, like locusts. The articles always mention that annual passholders, usually locals, don't spend as much per visit as foreign tourists, and that they are obnoxious, and act with a sense of entitlement.

1) Nobody twisted Disney's corporate arm and forced them to sell annual passes. They offer the opportunity and we purchase it. That's also supply and demand. They can't have it both ways. They love us when we renew our pass but then complain when we USE the pass.

2) Some of the most ardent and committed fans are the annual passholders. We may not spend as much per visit as a family on vacation, but we do come back again and again.

3) What I resent is the characterization that annual passholders are greedy and act entitled. There are always some people in any group who will give the entire group a bad name, but the vast majority of annual passholders are supporters of the Mouse who have put their money where their mouths are, who come back again and again, and have chosen to make the Disney Parks an important part of their family and lives.

I understand the the huge annual passholder base poses logistics problems, but I wish the theme park blogging community would stop treating them like irritating second-class citizens and appreciate that they too are park guests that deserve to be treated with respect and consideration.

Ultimately, I think the hard ticket events are worthwhile in terms of value and make sense. Further, the idea isn't going to go away. This is one Genie that isn't going back in the bottle. Offering a discount to annual passholders would go along way towards placating them.

I'd love to see the blogging community act with a little more insight and stop treating annual passholders as subhumans.

November 11, 2010 at 8:55 PM · A bit off topic but, I have a question to any SoCal AP holders out there. About how many days do you guys visit the parks in a year?
November 11, 2010 at 10:02 PM · As an AP, I kinda support this. It is getting ridiculously hard to enjoy the holiday offerings with the crowds the way they are. On the other hand, as libertarian/captitalist as I am, I've always made Disneyland an exception and see it as a place that should be rather egalitarian. Walt wanted a place where parents and children could have fun together, and one could extend that reasoning to all adults and children having fun together, not a place where the rich get special treatment. That's why I hate the idea of pay-for-front-of-the-line access. Still, I know I'd pay good money to enjoy those Christmas festivities I love so much with half the crowds.
November 12, 2010 at 10:04 AM · Your right. I to hold AP to all the major theme parks in Fl. However I see lots of AP holders who feel that gives them certain shall we say rights over everyone else. And when you purchase your AP you are made well aware that restrictions apply. But I agree with you 100%. I also wish they would do away with fast passes...The hosts and hostess tend to let the fast pass holders run rampete. And those of us who have waitted have to wait even longer. The average cycle time is a new groupe every ten minutes. So you do the math.
November 12, 2010 at 12:41 PM · Having been to both hard-ticket events in the Magic Kingdom (MVMCP in 2005, MNSSHP last Oct.) I think it's a wait-and see approach. (I haven't been to Disneyland.) But I think it would be great because it alleviates the crowds a bit and it deserves something special for Christmas.
November 12, 2010 at 1:07 PM · I love love love Disneyland California!!!!!
I love love love Los Angeles!!!!!
I love love love California!!!!
Renata Schulz de Macedo.
November 13, 2010 at 4:02 PM · Speaking as one that visits using a 4-5 day ticket, a category entirely absent from the discussion so far, doing this would mean my ticket would have significantly less value if I get fewer hours to enjoy being in Disneyland-at Night-my favorite time.

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