Disney World will offer annual pass previews for its Star Wars land

June 17, 2019, 4:47 PM · Walt Disney World today announced that it will offer free previews of its installation of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to some of its top-tier annual passholders.

The previews will come in advance of the planned August 29 public opening of Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The first installation of Disney's new Star Wars land opened on May 31 at Disneyland in California. That was a reservation-only opening, with the land debuting for all Disneyland ticket holders one week from today, on June 24.

No special reservations will be needed to enter Walt Disney World's Star Wars land on August 29 or after, but Disney will allow select Platinum, Platinum Plus and Premier Annual Passholders to preview the land before that. No details yet on when those reservation opportunities will open, but Disney says they will be first-come, first-served. Stay tuned.

For everyone else, Disney World is offering Extra Extra Magic Hours, opening Disney Hollywood Studios at 6am each morning through November 2 for its on-site hotel guests, giving them a three-hour head start each day on visiting the Black Spire Outpost before the park opens to all ticket-holders at 9am. But Disney World will open the early access to the land to all guests at 6am for its first three days of operation: August 29-31, 2019.

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Replies (17)

June 17, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Local reports earlier today mentioned August 11 as likely start of Passholder Previews, then suddenly stopped quoting any specific date and simply saying "prior to August 29."

June 17, 2019 at 7:10 PM

Another kick where it hurts for the silver and gold pass holders.

Disney sure knows how to piss-off the vast majority of it's life blood.

June 17, 2019 at 9:21 PM

And yet another reason I'm breaking up with Disney for Universal in September. You only matter to Disney if you're in an upper income bracket.

June 18, 2019 at 5:48 AM

@evanweston broke up with Disney back in 2015 and became a Universal passholder … never looked back since

June 18, 2019 at 7:43 AM

And this morning they come out with a huge increase in AP prices! Looking forward to the switch.

June 18, 2019 at 7:53 AM

Essentially, Disney is using it's highest, most loyal guests as guinea pigs to make sure everything in Galaxy's Edge is working before the CRUSH on August 29th. A "soft open" is essential to success, and with Disney not sure exactly how the public at large will react to Galaxy's Edge until Disneyland's version takes its restricter plates off next Monday, they don't want to commit to anything specific beyond a limited soft opening until they have more data.

Think of this as a "thank you" to those that pony up the BIG money to visit Disney on a regular basis. In the past, WDW would conduct "soft openings" by just pulling in random guests walking past a new attraction/land (there were actually strategy guides out there suggesting how to get picked to be part of the soft opening for New Fantasyland). This ensures that those that have paid the most to visit WDW are given a chance to see the land before anyone else. I don't see anything wrong with that, and announcing it way ahead of time is only fair. Perhaps if not enough guests RSVP to meet Disney's needs to properly stress test the land before Labor Day Weekend, they will invite random guests and/or lower tier passholders as well.

Honestly soft opens and media days are not always the best way to experience a new attraction/land, because there are always hiccups, issues, and spotty customer service. These are nothing more than glorified training days, not official operational days.

June 18, 2019 at 8:50 AM

@Russell Meyer Not sure how buying the most expensive of passes qualifies you as being "most loyal". I have been an Annual Passholder since I was a child and only until recently did I downgrade to a pass with block-out dates because I simply couldn't justify the cost. $700, $900 and $1000 for Gold, Platinum and Premium is astounding considering the reduction in benefits for passholders for food, merchandise and benefits at the resorts. Let's all be honest. This is another ploy by Disney to push guests into upgrading their passes in hopes of getting an opportunity to see GE before everyone else. It's sad watching how Disney treats its most loyal guests : ALL disney passholders.

June 18, 2019 at 9:11 AM

I completely agree with Russell, and I'd also add this - Disney knows the folks who spend that kind of money on APs won't abandon them if things don't go well. It's essentially a no-risk trial period. If things go well, they have a group of die-hard fans who won't stop talking/posting about it. If things go poorly, then hey, "they're just working out the kinks." It will always have a silver lining. Heck, I'm one of those folks, to a fault of course. Heck, if the thing blows up, I'd probably say "Oh, they're testing a new Death Star explosion show!" :-P

June 18, 2019 at 9:40 AM

@huszyourfather - Disney is first and foremost a publicly traded company, not a charity, and generating dividends and value for their shareholders is going to be their #1 priority. They have been increasingly exhibiting this behavior over the past 10+ years if you haven't noticed, maximizing profit opportunities at every turn. They adjusted their season pass prices and tiers at Disneyland ahead of the Galaxy's Edge west coast opening, and guests should not be surprised at similar revenue generating tactics on the east coast.

Loyalty is not just measured in longevity, but also in the amount of financial commitment. That's the way loyalty programs work in virtually every industry, and people have been able to buy their way to the head of the line for ages.

In the end, it comes down to what YOU value. If it's important for you to receive top level treatment and service, you need to be willing to pay for that. If you just want to get through the gate, then you can save some money for other things. However, don't complain when those that pay more are given extra perks or that they trim back your benefits while trying to keep the prices for the lowest tier passes relatively stable compared to standard admission prices. In the end, is $1000/year really that much to pay for an all-access, no-blackout, annual pass with discounts, gifts, and special events to a theme park resort that would otherwise cost $80-100/day to visit? I mean, really. The cost/benefit is not that difficult to calculate. If you don't visit WDW more than 15 days a year on an annual pass (the break even point for the Platinum Pass), are you really that "loyal"?

Hey, at least they're not doing a $200/person paid preview night, like they did for Pixar Pier. I'm sure Disney marketing will read this and start planning it with an announcement in the coming days...

June 18, 2019 at 10:21 AM

Loyalty .... "a strong feeling of support and allegiance" Disney is screwing over it's most loyal supporters, and they are the silver and gold pass holders. You can't say Platinum pass holders are more loyal because they have more money to spend. Maybe Disney sees it that way, but it's not the true definition of loyalty.

Of all the pass holders I know, and it's getting more and more each time I visit, I still only know one platinum pass holder. The vast majority are silver, and it's very common to see a family with, let's say, 3 members a silver and 1 a gold (to get the photo pass)

I'm a platinum pass member at SeaWorld, and for the opening of Tigris, the 2 weekends that we had exclusive ride time included all levels, except for the fun pass. I would not even anticipate such an event to exclude all of the lower tiers of membership, and only be open to 'higher levels'.

I like going to Disney, but I don't consider myself a loyal pass holder. SeaWorld, absolutely.

If Disney wants to segregate the 'commoners' from the upper echelon, so be it, but at least give the others their fair chance, by giving them some exclusive days as well.

June 18, 2019 at 11:07 AM

I can't speak for BGT or SWO, but BGW does segregate membership tiers at special VIP events. Six Flags does the same, and that's above and beyond the additional perks of holding the highest level pass/membership. All of the Sea World parks have exclusive seating areas for Platinum Pass Members at shows and were allowing immediate re-rides on certain attractions like Manta, Steel Eel, and Kraken. The last time we were at the San Diego park, they had a planning service for Platinum Passholders that would go over all of the shows and integrate them into your schedule along with any special tours so you could see as many as possible. I feel that Sea World treats Platinum Passholders on a different level from the lower tiers, and Disney appears to be doing the same here.

I think it's a bit ruthless of Disney to announce this Galaxy's Edge preview for the elite passholders and then turn around and jack up the prices. However, most elite theme park passes do include "special invitation events" as part of their benefits, and Disney is simply leveraging that benefit to maximum effect. Lower level passholder may not even realize that these events exist, because they were rarely made public, and this Galaxy's Edge preview is one of the few that has gone wide with Disney trying to capitalize on this carrot to increase their elite-level AP base. Also, let's not forget that APs are not the "lifeblood" of WDW. This is not California, where slight tweaks to the APs reverberate across the state. WDW can be sustained on daily admissions alone.

This is most likely a numbers game, and a way for Disney to control the flood gates for the soft opening of DHS's Galaxy's Edge while throwing a bone to it's highest-paying guests. If they were to open this up to all passholders, the land would be overwhelmed, defeating the purpose of the technical rehersals ahead of the official opening. If most APs are silver and gold as Makorider has observed, this keeps the numbers manageable for Disney during this soft opening period. If Disney opened this to all APs, they would probably have to do a reservation system like Disneyland, which might leave many passholders (and some elite passholders) on the outside looking in. Again, I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney gauge interest from the highest level APs, and if they can't load the land with enough of those people, they will extend invitations to the next tier, or simply grab random people from the park like they used to do for soft openings.

June 18, 2019 at 11:47 AM

Russell .... you are correct, as a platinum SWE pass member, I get my perks. But as a gold Disney pass holder, I also get my perks. This isn't about what you get for being on a higher tier, this is pure elitism on Disney's part.

And yes, as we all know, Disney can raise ticket and/or AP prices and some will shrug their shoulders and pay, but I can see this substantial price increase losing Disney a lot of AP's this time around.

And I still believe, even in Orlando, that pass holders make up a large percentage of the touted millions of visitors the parks get every year. It's still one of those mysteries .... just how many pass holders do the parks have when compared to the number of people thru the gate ?

i.e. .... I've been approx 35-40 times to Disney since February. Multiply that by the thousands/10's of 1000's of pass holders who go a couple of times a week ?? OK, maybe not the be all and end all for WDW, but to not have that income running thru their veins, would not be a good situation for Disney.

June 18, 2019 at 12:45 PM

I don't know about you Makorider, but my BGW Platinum Pass used to have a benefit called "invitations to exclusive events and experiences". Now, they've ceased offering this benefit to me because they're trying to coerce passholders into buying "memberships", but they've included that as a benefit on the highest membership tier. So when I hear about an exclusive platinum member animal talk, special event, or ERT, I know they're still doing it and not extending the benefit to lower tiered members or passholders (though they've brought back FREE BEER for the whole summer, even for passholders).

What Disney is doing here is no different, and while invitations to events like this are not explicitly listed on the AP information page, they're pretty common even outside the theme park world at restaurants, clubs, museums, parks, and many other institutions that sell tiered memberships/annual passes.

I still think this comes down to Disney not wanting to overwhelm the land while they're still working out the kinks ahead of the announced opening date. They did it at Disneyland through the current reservation period, with reservations disappearing just hours after they became available. To avoid a similar run on reservations that left some of the most loyal and highest paying Disneyland fans staring at a perpetually refreshing screen, they're giving an advantage to those that pay the most to visit WDW. I don't see where they're wronging Gold and Silver APs by doing this.

Yes, it's elitism, pay to play, oligarchy, or whatever other pejorative term you want to assign to it. However, I think it makes more sense for them to limit crowds during this period, which has been a very successful strategy at Disneyland, than to simply let all APs invade the place for 2 weeks before CMs and attractions are ready for that kind of stress.

Also, as far as APs at WDW, I don't think there are as many as you think. There are almost 40,000 on-site hotel rooms at WDW (not including Dolphin/Swan or the Disney Springs hotels). If you assume even a conservative 80% occupancy rate and just 2 people in each room, that means there are 64k people staying in WDW hotels on any given day. Now some of those people may actually have APs (mostly DVCers), so maybe of those 64k perhaps only 50k of them are visiting with single/multi-day admission tickets. If you spread that 50k across the 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Disney Springs, and other attractions, that accounts for @30-40% of their actual daily attendance according to the TEA/ACEOM Index. Tack on the tens of thousands of people that visit WDW and stay at off-site hotels/time shares/resorts and purchase single/multi-day tickets (more than stay on-site based on most estimates), there's not much room left for APs in the @160k daily WDW visits.

June 18, 2019 at 1:25 PM

WDW, in particular, has always been reluctant to divulge the number of AP's, but all I can go by is friends and co-workers. Out of an office with 31 people, 5 of us are Disney pass holders. My friend her 4 kids, and 4 of the grandkids are pass holders. (the other 2 are <3) My son and his wife are also pass holders. My daughter-in-law's Mum and 2 brothers are AP's. So that's 19 people (who I see on a regular basis) out of a total of 45.
Almost 50%. Is this a skewed percentage because it's people I know/identify with ?

BGW definitely works in mysterious ways (to me anyway) when compared to SWO/BGT. The only platinum perks, other than discounts, I know of is preferred seating at some shows, and the ride again privilege. When I visited BGW it was the food fest, and the perk for May was a free sample. They wouldn't give it to me, saying my pass was an "old platinum"

June 18, 2019 at 9:10 PM

@Russell

The elitist Medieval mentality you are asserting is really foolish. You better be careful because if you dont satisfy the "insignificant" lower classes who do most of the work and pay most of the bills they might just come for the kings head.

June 19, 2019 at 7:44 AM

@Daniel - This is not about a Medieval Feudalistic mentality, this is and has been standard business practice since the dawn of time. Taking a vacation to WDW is not a right (maybe a right of passage for some) nor is it a need like food clothing or shelter (though you might argue that some Drones out there are as addicted to Disney as others are to their cell phones).

A vacation to a Disney resort is a luxury, and choice many families make based on their individual preferences and financial status. If the price increases are too much for people to bear, they can go to another theme/amusement park (TPI has chronicled many trips to parks far beyond the Disney/Universal bubble that are a fraction of the cost of a trip to Orlando) or simply chose a different type of vacation to National Parks, beaches, museums, or other points of interest. If these price increases affect Disney's bottom line, then they'll most certainly see the affect and adjust, but a successful business doesn't simply reverse course because a bunch of bloggers and Drones extracting every penny of value out of the cheapest products the company offers whine on the internet and wave their hands around.

I've already said that I thought this was a pretty ruthless move, particularly since they raised prices at the same time as announcing early access to Galaxy's Edge for the highest tier APs. However, Disney has been making moves like this for the better part of a decade, often raising prices just before or shortly after making major announcements regarding additions to the parks. This is what Disney does all the time, yet people keep coming, filling Scrooge McDuck's Vault with more and more money every single year and packing the parks with lines that are unbearable for some and intolerable to others to the point where they have stopped visiting because of the crowds. People have been feeding the beast of Disney's greed since the Great Recession, and what would be foolish is if Disney stopped trying to push to envelope and not attempting to maximize revenue like any successful business. In maximizing revenue, Disney also addresses their biggest complaint, which becomes a win-win, so long as most guests continue to come.

So, I again ask, what is Disney supposed to do when one of the biggest complaints about WDW is lines/crowds and the $1 billion investment in a system to combat them is a certified failure? People keep showing up in record numbers despite admission prices almost doubling over the past decade. Perhaps people complaining and vowing to not renew their APs is EXACTLY what Disney wants so those that are paying top dollar to visit the parks will keep coming back. Disney sells products that people can't get enough of, but perhaps by making them a little more expensive will encourage fans to change their view of what was considered a "value", blue-collar destination into a more luxury, white collar destination.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's absurd how expensive it's become to visit WDW, but my response to the price increases has been to decrease my every other year visit frequency to every 3 years (or more based on new attractions). Every person's situation is different, but I doubt those that were paying for even the most inexpensive APs will bat an eyelash at these increases. If they were paying for trips to WDW with money found in their couch cushions and living paycheck to paycheck, perhaps price increases like these can help wean them off of their obsession. Those that already had the most expensive APs that are being hit with the biggest increases here likely have more than enough financial reserves to cover this increase and are either well-off retirees or DVC owners that visit WDW 2-3+ weeks per year already, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars. Saying that Disney has to "satisfy the insignificant lower classes", is a twisting of reality, and a misunderstanding of what a vacation to WDW has become, which is a luxury destination.

June 19, 2019 at 2:28 PM

@ Russell

Um no. A luxury destination is Fiji or Monte Carlo. Not a place where you wait 2 hours to ride a kiddie coaster.

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