What on Earth is happening this summer at Disneyland?
I've lost count of the number of people who have asked, emailed, or messaged me that question over the past couple of weeks. With its new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land, Disneyland braced itself for record-setting crowds by raising ticket and annual pass prices and remaking pathways around the park to both reduce the size and improve the flow of crowds.
But they never came.
Instead, Disneyland Resort visitors have been enjoying some of the shortest wait times in years. Increased capacity with the addition of a new ride and locations inside Galaxy's Edge have helped to dilute crowd levels, but attendance clearly appears to be down across the resort this summer. The observed decreases in wait times and crowd sizes throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are simply too significant to pass off as the result of adding one new ride and a few food & beverage locations in Galaxy's Edge.
So why did this happen? Why did the biggest, most expensive expansion in the history of Disney's original theme park appear to lead to fewer people visiting?
First, I don't believe that anyone should be laying the blame for reduced crowds solely upon Galaxy's Edge. Even the land's harshest critics ought to agree that there's nothing so repulsive about this new Star Wars land that it would prevent people from visiting the rest of the parks that they so often filled before Galaxy's Edge opened. At most, Galaxy's Edge failed to entice enough people to overlook Disneyland's price increases and to come anyway... they way that Disneyland assumed many fans would do.
Last January, the Disneyland Resort raised one-day, one-park summer ticket prices by 10 percent, with annual pass prices that covered the summer season rising from 10 to 22 percent. That followed the resort last year implementing expanded blockout dates for Disneyland versus sister park California Adventure.
For years, Disneyland has been raising its ticket and annual price passes annually while attendance continued to rise at both parks. The market was telling Disneyland that it could keep raising ticket prices and people would keep coming to the parks. So if Disneyland wanted to use a price increase to limit the crowds flooding into what it expected to be its biggest hit in years (because, duh, it was its biggest and most expensive expansion ever, right?), then it needed to get super-aggressive with those price increases.
So Disneyland did... and apparently overshot its mark. Is that a rejection of Galaxy's Edge? Perhaps in part, but other factors may have contributed to this being the year that Disneyland's price increases finally drove down attendance.
Seen gas prices lately? Many stations in Southern California are charging more than four dollars a gallon now, with some flirting with five bucks for regular gas. Prices have been rising for the past two years nationwide, making it more expensive to drive to Disneyland (as well as other theme parks).
But gas prices were even higher four years ago, when attendance was booming at Disneyland. What's the difference now? Well, four years of Disneyland Resort price increases, for one reason. And escalating competition for another.
If you live in Los Angeles County, it probably costs you a lot less money and time to drive to Universal Studios Hollywood instead of Disneyland. And now with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal is much more competitive with Disneyland than it was years ago, when locals dismissed it simply as the place to go see the Studio Tour with friends or family from out of town.
To the south, families in San Diego County might find it more convenient just to stop with the kids at ever-expanding Legoland California rather than press on an hour north to Disneyland. Even in Orange County, Knott's Berry Farm has been keeping the pressure on Disneyland, with value pricing and special events to accommodate fans who feel like they can't afford the Disneyland parks any longer.
Across the region, California's tourist destinations are feeling a slowdown in visitors from China, who had been flooding the U.S. west coast with cash in recent years. That slowdown also affects the local real estate market, which has been bubbling up on Chinese money, too. If you've been using a home equity line of credit to pay for that Disneyland AP (which is a stupid, stupid thing to do financially, IMHO), you might be finding that your available credit isn't there anymore to keep making those payments, as home prices stop climbing. But those escalating home values did push up rents across the region, squeezing millions of local consumers who don't own their homes.
With less cash to spend, thanks to housing and transportation expenses and more competition in the market, Disneyland now faces the squeeze that it had managed to escape for so long. Look, people in Southern California still love Disneyland. But ticket prices over $100 a day and annual pass prices pushing $1,000 strain that relationship. Too many fans think it's just not worth the hassle to make the trip at those prices. Not when so many of those fans can enjoy visiting a closer park for less money.
Disneyland still has its legions of fans holding $399 SoCal Select annual passes standing by, ready to flood the parks when their summer blockout lifts September 3. But they feel the same pressures on their family budget, so Disneyland's current $99 one-day Park Hopper tickets for APs are not enticing them to flood the park during the summer as well.
And that, ultimately, falls in part on Galaxy's Edge. Earlier this year, I wrote two contrasting posts about the project: Why Disney's Star Wars land will be the biggest theme park hit ever and Why Disney's Star Wars land won't be the big hit people expect. Now that the land is open, I am hearing more complaints about the lack of original characters, unfamiliar world building, and frustrating interactivity than I am hearing praise for the land's build quality, opportunities for interactivity, and opening up of the Star Wars universe.
Ultimately, it seems to me, that most people like Galaxy's Edge but too few love it — at least not enough of them love it to create the critical mass of fans reaction that drives people to say, "to heck with the cost" and plan a visit.
So what is it? I'm throwing this debate over to you.
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You left out the most obvious reason: people are waiting to visit because SW:GE's premiere E-ticket attraction (ROTR) has not yet opened.
Imagine if WWOHP opened without Forbidden Journey.
Imagine if Pandora opened without Flight of Passage.
Overall, it's impressive that SW:GE is getting such positive reviews without its showcase attraction.
I agree it's not just one single reason but a combination of them. Some Disney should have forseen (raising ticket prices) others beyond their control (gas prices, economy and other issues in California). Obviously, those who hated the land to begin with will blame it all on Galaxy's Edge but I do think it's a case of several factors combining in bad timing.
I still think the main factor is that the land itself doesn't seem to inspire. People want to see something Star Wars, and for the majority of people, that means the original trilogy. Even the name Star Wars Galaxy's Edge has no built in meaning for people.
Yes, the art direction and workmanship are great, but nobody knows what Batuu is. If you built the Death Star or Tatooine, people would be excited to see it, but Batuu? Yes, I know the problems of building some planets and locations, but I'm sure the Imagineers would have found a way.
I can imagine people thinking, 'It looks nice, but, aside from seeing the Millennium Falcon, there's nothing that particularly tugs on my heart strings'.
In the long run, it might be successful because of the quality of the detail, but for now, I don't think it inspires people to see it, or at least they can wait. The fact that a lot of Star Wars fans didn't like The Last Jedi doesn't help, and personally, I don't have high expectations for Rise of Skywalker. Just compare Darth Vader vs. Kylo Ren and you have the answer.
I don't think any one thing caused the soft summer attendance that Disneyland is seeing this year. Instead, I think it's a combination of all of the following (not necessarily in equal measure):
-Galaxy's Edge is only partially open, and Disney is not hiding the fact that the area's headliner attraction will be opening in the near future. As a result, many guests are postponing trips. I don't think the quality of what's there is an issue, as an overwhelming proportion of reviews have been positive, but I've been hearing that there isn't enough to justify spending more than 2-3 hours in the area.
-Opening identical versions of the land on both coasts mere months apart significantly decreased the desire for those living outside driving distance to make the trek to Disneyland to see it first, especially when combined with the above point.
-In addition to the above, fear of crowds likely led many guests coming from out of area to delay visits in anticipation of fewer crowds at a later date.
-Passholders numbers are down, especially for the upper tier passes that aren't blocked out. Relatively few day visitors are coming to replace them.
-The park is promoting nostalgia-oriented attractions this year, but those don't have as much draw with infrequent visitors as regulars. The legitimate new attractions (beyond Galaxy's Edge) are small additions that have relatively little drawing power.
-With new attractions in both parks, an investment of at least $200 per person is required to see everything. For this price, it is possible to get a season pass to any other So Cal park and enjoy unlimited visits for the entire year.
-D23 is not until late August, so it's likely those attending the con will combine their Disneyland trip with the event.
-The Marvel area has been announced as opening in Summer 2020, which may encourage those who visit only once every few years to hold off until next summer.
Ultimately, I think the biggest culprits are the staggered opening of Galaxy's Edge combined with the high cost to visit. Many guests who used to do annual Disneyland trips are now only visiting once every 2-4 years, so with a very convincing reason to delay that visit and a lack of passholders to fill the parks, it doesn't surprise me that numbers are down. Granted, over the past few years, summer has generally been a lighter season for the resort than spring or fall, but the magnitude of the discrepancy is far greater this year. How Disney will react is the question that really intrigues me, as it's clear something needs to change for better or worse.
Disney need to ban their local cheap annual passes (that are only for people who live near Anaheim or Orlando).
Essentially they lose out, because these people aren't going to pay to go at any other time of the year but the dates they are allowed.
All you are doing is giving them cheap tickets, and crowding the parks when the blackout dates lift - thus causing those who are outside the states, or international to have a miserable experience from crowding.
With it’s aggressive AP blackouts this summer, I think Disneyland expected the park to be swarmed with tourists and even blocked out APs with day tickets to see. Galaxy’s Edge.
The marketing seems completely non existent to tourists. I haven’t seen commercial spot let alone a prime time special like Diagon and Hogsmede. Blocked out APs probably didn’t see the value for buying a day ticket with the only ride getting middling reviews and the low availability of the two experiences that are basically up charges.
The popular cry is get rid of SoCal APs and monthly payment plans to solve the overcrowding, but with most APs blocked out this summer, including the Deluxe, Disneyland, as someone said, is a ghost town. IMO this is proof that Disney needs the APs to fill in moderately attended days.
Galaxy's Edge is the equivalent of Universal Orlando having opened "Harry Potter: Durmstrang Institute" back in 2010.
I'm sure the build quality is top-notch, but nobody can connect with it, because it's never existed before. It wasn't in the movies. It's not in the books. It's not in the video games. There's not even a single character - because WE are the character. *yawn*
I'm sure attendance will pick back up, and once Rise of the Resistance opens in 2020, things will be better.
BUT... Disney really miscalculated, prices not withstanding. This will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in theme park history. That's a huge statement, but I believe it. Had they built a land based on any of the original trilogy planets, it'd have done insane business, even if only one of the two attractions was open.
I haven't been. I'm sure it's amazing for the 2-3 hours that I'd spend looking around and admiring all of the details. But I can't see myself connecting with it, and unless the attractions themselves are, wait for it...out of this world (oh yes, I went there), I don't see why I'd need to come back again and again.
I'll probably hit the Orlando version next year, along with Universal and Sea World, because I haven't been to any of those parks in...whoah. 5 years. But I expect to be underwhelmed by Galaxy's Edge.
The whole "should have been a known planet" thing has been argued at various forums. And for every person who says "we should have had Tattoine or Death Star," another states that "it's too expected" and wanted something fresh.
Heck, the point of the WDW Star Tours is a recreation of Endor as part of outdoors que. I've learned a very long time ago that Star Wars fans and Disney folks share being incredibly nitpicky on things, very judgemental and a constant aura of "I can do so much better than them."
Again, it's not just one issue but a combination of many. Of course, can remember quite a few past attractions with rough starts that improved (that includes the Studios themselves) so takes a while to truly judge how this will be.
Both Disney and Universal have ended up with miscalculated major openings this summer so far and I think they both need to move their collective eyes off their franchise IP obsessed screens for a moment and relearn a classic story neither bothers with, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," and aim for that "just right" strategy that earns both their respective "happy endings" for both the Disneyland debut of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and the IOA debut of Hagrid's. Disney went for "too hard" by pulling away the welcome mat both figuratively and literally on many of their guests, between block out dates, Stardust infused crowd warnings, high prices and reasons to visit anytine but right now. Universal opted for "too soft " by ironically not having a true soft opening technical rehearsal for an attraction they were well aware had issues, with absurd wait times, down times, and constant rearranging of iffy operating hours. Perhaps the Walt Disney World opening of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge will benefit by being way less micromanaged and restricted. Come late November here in Florida, by IAAPA time, expect Hagrid's to be working more reliably and Rise of the Resistance to be in soft opening, leading the industry and media attending to declare both Disney and Universal's newest attractions to be "just right" and the Goldilocks zone achieved better late than never. But for now, neither story is the way it should be...
The trouble with a situation like this is that the facts allow almost anyone to put their own interpretation upon things and to be able to point to 'evidence' that supports their particular viewpoint. So I'd go with a combination of all of the above plus probably other factors that we haven't even considered. I'd make a couple of observations however:
It's been noted that Galaxy's Edge isn't 'Star Wars' enough, basing itself on a planet no one has ever heard of. This might be an issue for hard-core Star Wars fans who are almost certainly over-represented on forums like this but frankly I don't think there's enough of them to fill a land like this. The vast majority of visitors and the target market are those people for whom Star Wars is a 'known franchise' but frankly that knowledge doesn't go all that deep. It's a damn sight more popular and well known than Avatar was and yet the crowds came there and continue to come so I think the setting is frankly largely irrelevant. Ultimately it will be a question of whether it's a good looking land that transports people to another place and offers a great attraction.
Which brings us to the point about there only being one attraction. Um, how about Diagon Alley? Or really to be fair how about Hogsmeade in Hollywood? (you really can't count Flight of the Hippogriff as an 'attraction').
From my own perspective we were going to go to Orlando this year but have delayed our trip to next year primarily because of the opening of Galaxys Edge.I'd rather visit when it's up and running and had time to settle down. As Universal have discovered the cost of opening an attraction before its ready can be a lot of negative publicity. I suggest we wait until GE is open in Orlando before we come to any strong conclusions about whether Disney have a slow-burn huge success or a disaster on their hands. Personally I think they are playing the long game and that GE is and will be a very important, but non essential, element in that game.
This was my biggest fear come true. Disney pours money into its largest attraction-investment yet and no one shows up. Good luck getting good news from future D23 events.
Just spent the past five days at the California parks and I’ll say this...The employee blackout lift this week seriously increased traffic in both parks...Wait times were still under what they’d normally be during a typical July for the early mornings, but attendance was near shoulder to shoulder by early afternoon...I’d say the majority of the low crowds, not solely, can be chalked up to the AP holders simply waiting until they’re able to visit the place...Haven’t been able to freely ride Peter Pan’s Flight in years but pulled it off yesterday morning...By mid afternoon the line was back to being its normal outrageous experience...Probably because the Cast Members visiting the parks this week, after having their blackout lifted, aren’t too keen on the rope drop stuff and are more prone to visiting later in the day...This tells me the AP’s and the lack of a cohesive blackout schedule for the AP tiers are the major factor in park attendance being so out of control over the recent years...Wait until the blackouts fully lift and the place will be out of control...
RotR not being open is another big hit...Smugglers Run was great but after riding it a few times, and reading all the early leak info for RotT, I definitely get the feeling that Smugglers will end up being the Navi River Journey of Galaxy’s Edge once the dust settles...
I’d wager that we haven’t seen the full pull of the new land yet...We won’t know for sure until the AP blackouts lift and RotR opens...As is, I can 100% agree with you in that I walked away liking the new area but not loving it...
It is way too early to say SWGE didn't live up to its expectations. Disneyland blackout most of their annual passes and without having the entire land open, why would an annual passholder buy a single day ticket to see a partial land when they can wait till Rise of the Resistance open in January for free. Remember Disneyland is not a destination resorts but a regional themepark. Lets see how WDW does in December and if there is a small bump in September for the partial opening.
It's a combination of a lot of things but to be frank a lot of the possible problems you mentioned in your article already existed before the slum started 6 weeks ago.
Why would Disney build Star Wars land in the first place. They wanted new customers. They know they can fill their park with local ap holders but they don't spent as much as a tourist on vacation. It is clear they don't care for their ap holders anymore or they need to put down more money. They rater lose ap's and get Potter like fans in return who go to their mekka to adore Star Wars. So what better than taking money from a Star Wars fan who bought lightsabers, statues and other stuff for +40 years.
And there Disney went wrong. Because those die hard fans, who wrote and read fan fiction, made fan movies, played the games, collected the comics and cosplayed the hell out of their beloved characters got a slap in the face when Disney said their fan fiction and other crap was non canon. Then they made a bunch of bad movies where the fans watched their original characters, the classics, get portrayed as weak and stupid and killed off while replaced by characters who all at once could fight a trained Jedi without training and a ton of other stupid stuff. They hatted Disney for that.
Beyond that Disney created something no one recognizes. And the characters are of the new, hated movies but even if they injected the old characters it was still putting lipstick on a pig. Sure it's a nice looking pig but it still looks like a Chinese knockoff where clearly they don't get it.
It's clear from the numbers no one else, except for Disney fans, like to visit the Disney parks. They don't think it's worth the money nor the hassle.
All that said it also doesn't help that the iconic Falcon ride is mediocre at best and the rest is a glorified, overpriced shopping mall with broke lightsabres and bad food and drinks.
Disney bet on the wrong horse and ended up with a donkey who kicks them in the balls.
You nailed it OT!
I'll wait 3 or 4 years and visit Disney again when ALL the new Attractions are open, it's just too damn expensive. Universal APs are economical enough to visit every year if there is a new experience to see, and based on reviews Hagrid is Amazing, plus I'm excited to try Big Fire. If Disney fixes FP+ then maybe I'll change my mind but that system sucks unless u r a local.
I'm a lifelong "Star Wars" fan and I've been excited about Disney's Star Wars land since they first announced it, but I'm a bit crowd phobic to begin with and I don't visit a major theme park every year. There's no way I'm going to invest in a trip to this new land when it promises to be packed to the gills and only offers one attraction with the most exciting looking attraction not even open yet. No way. I'll wait until the other attraction is open and then if it looks worth both the expense and the battle with the mob, I'll go.
@MrTorrance .... finally someone who finally says that FP+ sucks ... except for us locals .... :)
Couldn't agree with you more ... it's the best system in the world for me to get on any ride at almost any time.
Although I am struggling to get a TofT fastpass this morning b4 I leave ... !!!!
It's been really interesting talking to the security guys and CM's this morning. Everyone is so excited ... time will tell.
The new entry plaza is open and the old way thru is now being upgraded to match the new half. They are all getting ready for Aug 29th that's for sure.
Update .... March of the stormtroopers finished last week and will reappear at Galaxy's Edge.
Price increases have impacted our family’s decision on going to Disneyland. We used to go every holiday season for 5 days/4 nights. We then scaled back to every other year. Now I am not sure when we will go. We choose to stay on property because of the “Disney bubble.” This year we are going to Costa Rica for about the same price. Not sure we will ever go again for a longer stay. The cost has increased so much it is just not worth it.
If we lived in So Cal we might do a day trip. But even then the cost would be $1,000 for the four of us when you add in park hooper, max pass, parking, food and buying stuff.
I love the place making and escape that the resort provides. The price and until this summer the crowding just kept us away.
I was going to write something but AJ Hummel pretty much nailed it...All those reasons is why I'm not going and instead headed to Netherlands and Efteling theme park in November
Many of the arguments given don’t hold up to scrutiny. Even if you account for AP blackouts, ticket and gas prices, two-day resort vs whole-vacation destination, there are still over 24 million people in Southern California alone which they failed to entice. As others have said they blew it by creating an environment nobody is emotionally invested in. The whole reason for using an IP is to recreate the world guests have seen in the films. It was obvious from the preview period that most of those really excited about the land where older guests who had grown up with the original trilogy. They should have built that world instead. I mean come on, Disney sells nostalgia. We want to see R2-D2, C-P30, Jabba the Hutt, the Ewoks, etc.
It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and make any number of conclusions based on limited data. Disneyland's Galaxy's Edge has literally been open for 6 weeks.
I'm still of the opinion that Galaxy's Edge will be an incredibly popular land for years to come. If ROTR is even remotely as good an attraction as Avatar FOP the crowds will be consistently high for the foreseeable future.
I'm 100% confident many many fans pushed their travel plans based on fear of crowds (myself included). Barring a major economic downturn over the next year, 2020 will be a very busy year for Disney on both coasts.
Regarding prices, that's a relatively easy thing for Disney to control through incentives, discounts, or God-forbid, price reductions. You can be sure if the trend of low crowds persists, Disney will adjust. BUT...remember, I believe Disney understands you can't have a theme park with elbow-to-elbow crowds year round. The pricing has to be at a level to discourage some (if not many) fans from attending. The myth that the Disney Parks are for everyone is just that, a myth. Disney Parks are in limited supply, so, unfortunately, they will never be available for everyone.
I think Cameron nicely points out the fact that we're judging the success or failure as a final thing for a land that's not even been open two months. It really does seem that a lot of theme park attractions are judged by instant viewing and not long-term.
Look at Sea World's Antarctica section. I remember several places (including this very site) praising it when it opened for its immersivness and "better than some recent Disney rides" and such and saying it was a success. After a few months, it became apparant it was doing nothing to help business and its flaws very obvious.
To use another example, folks today complain about Expedition Everest because of how bad the Yeti robot looks. As someone who rode it in its first month of operation, that thing was top notch and the entire ride looked amazing. Or the reactions to Universal's own stuff like the Hagrid ride and others.
The internet has made it easy to make knee-jerk reactions a "final judgement" on things and this debate showcases that nicely. Again, I think it's more a combination and once Rise of Rebellion opens and crowds pick up, folks will forget the rough start and Galaxy's Edge becoming the monster success expected.
We live in Tacoma, Wa. and have been going to Disneyland for years. We love to stay at the Disney hotels and have gone at various times of the year including Christmas, Halloween and may other times. For the very first time it's just really beginning to be too expensive. We can afford it however there are other choices now for us if we are going to spend $4000 to $6,000 dollars plus by the time you buy airlines, hotels at a Disney property and then the park tickets are just way to high. We do also think Galaxy Edge will be disappointing with out the "Star War" characters but will go as just part of the Disneyland experience.
I said it in the prior blog... lack of transparency in Disney's communications was my big factor. I don't work off maybe, I work off open.
Price impacted my decision but in a different way. I did not want to drop $260 plus for a 3 day pass. If I have to spend that money I will become an APH.
We moved on last November when it became clear the entire land would not be ready for summer. If "they're" not telling you, they're telling you.
I will say (after the fact) it sure put things in perspective when we went to Hawaii early this year. We spent over 15 days their on 2 different islands. And we still spent $800 less than our 8 day 7 night at wdw in a budget Disney resort w/ 5 day passes. I was in prineville which not exactly economical.
Disneyland is suffering because they bit the hand that feed them. The APs.
Robert deserves a ton of credit because he has been subconsciously implying that Disney may be nearing saturation. The economic factors have always been their but Disney has adjusted to compensate. I am more curious as to what their plans are to win APs back. It's not going to be lifting blackout dates....
We are probably seeing a "perfect storm" of causation at the Disneyland Resort.
-First of all, Disney may have actually found a price increase that reduces attendance - at least in the near term. For the long term, they will be fine. The crowds will return.
-Locals may have had their fill with the blackout dates. Disney may want to pay a little more attention to making the locals happy. Like Robert and many others on this thread have said, there are quality alternatives to Disneyland theses days.
-I don't think the Disneyland Resort can rely on international tourism to drive attendance like Disney World does.
-National tourism may also be impacted by the perception in the rest of the country that California in general and Los Angeles and San Francisco in particular are not good places to visit these days. Between the homeless crisis, the immigration crisis, and the open hostility towards supporters of President Trump, most followers of Fox News may think that California has descended into a state of bedlam. (Please note that I said perception. This is not my belief, but many of my friends and coworkers are very leery of California these days.)
-Disney missed the mark by avoiding the familiarity of the older Star Wars movies and going with the Galaxy's Edge concept. As an older Star Wars fan, my initial reaction is "Meh!"
-Disney is also being punished by doing too good of a job developing new lands and attractions these days. (Ten years ago, I would have NEVER written that statement.) People don't feel compelled to visit because there's something newer and better coming in six months or a year. Who cares about seeing just Smugglers Run now when Rise of the Resistance will be open in a few months? And if that doesn't whet your appetite, there's also the new Marvel Land opening up in short order. Between the Comcast expansion at Universal and the Iger expansion at the Disney resorts, we are spoiled.
Personally, I'm waiting for Robert's article where he tries to ask and answer the question, "Nothing's Changed; Why Did the Crowds Return to Disneyland?"
Imagine if Disney had gone down the 'classic' route for their Star Wars Land....
After much hype and build-up of expectation they revealed their version of Tatooine to the expectant masses, only to be bowled over by the cries of "What's that D2 mark 4 droid doing there? It was only ever in the THIRD movie so was never seen on Tatooine! Why didn't they make Endor instead? This place sucks!"
Whilst everyone under 30 went "So where's Rey and Kylo Ren? This place sucks....."
Its a combination.....I took.my kids last summer to Disneyland. We live near ft Lauderdale and go to Disney world often. It was so darn hot for.us last summer I hear it's just as bad this summer in southern California, long expected waits too and only half a land ready is not intriguing. The prices even here in Orlando are getting ridiculous and the cost to drive, food, and hotels during the summer aren't worth the wait....it's it going anywhere and by November it's cooler and less people just take a day when kids can miss a day of.school.and lines shorter and all.working properly because hagrids at universal Orlando has been a nightmare since opening last month
Wait and. enjoy all !!! Cheaper price
..cooler days and nights and ride works
David Brown nails it: Star Wars fans (and I speak from experience) are a bunch who will find fault in anything and never be satisfied with what they get.
Many spent years screaming "Lucas ruined it with the prequels, get it away from him and do something new"....then complained when the new films did just that. They bicker about getting rid of the Expanded Universe, forgetting millions didn't care about it and (let's be honest) a lot of it was garbage. Just see the reactions to the last film to see the divisions among them.
Like David said, no matter what Disney did with GE, so many fans would find major fault and huge complaints and "Disney ruined it all." Which just reminds me of the classic line from Supernatural: "For fans, they sure do like to complain a lot on what they hate."
@Tim Hillman re. what Southerners and Midwesterners think of California. Since this is "Trump/Fox News Country" so their perceptions & opinions have been largely politically driven. But they’ve been that way for awhile so I don’t think that factors into it at all. They aren’t the target audience for Disneyland anyway. The problem has been attracting a new audience within their sphere of influence.
Maybe Disney miscalculated Star Wars’ appeal? But Pixar’s Cars wasn’t exactly a big hit, however Cars Land was. What’s the difference? Cars Land is as fun as it is clever. And most importantly, it appeals to all ages, even though the film was more directed towards kids. Again, I think not focusing on the original trilogy was a huge mistake. But it will still be a draw, especially once the ROTR is opened and AP blackouts are lifted. Still the people I talk to are more interested in Harry Potter because they know and love the characters. IMO Disney needs introduce some of the original Star Wars characters.
It is my belief that the CEO and board have so misjudged who their customers (guests) are that it may, and I stress may, be finally catching up to them. Every decision they have made over the last ten years has been to maximize revenue and make it easier to run the parks. That is great for the shareholders, but people come to that type of vacation destination to HAVE FUN. For a family of four that would need to fly to either destination, a trip to Europe or Hawaii is cheaper. Also, at least for Orlando, that vacation does not need two stages of meticulous booking, one for meals and one for attractions that pins down what you are doing eliminating changing things on the fly.
We used to go once every two years. Now it is much less. We can afford it. You now have two classes of non-rabid Disney family vacationers. The first that can barely afford it. They are one and done based on cost. The others are people that can afford it, and are the families that the CEO is targeting, are going once and saying this is #%^*%^ crazy and vowing to never return. I recently returned from a Caribbean trip. It was raining, so I rescheduled my scuba for another day. If it is raining and you want to reschedule Animal Kingdom for another day, just see if you can get those Avatar fast passes back. That Caribbean vacation? One third of the Disney trip.
There will be people here and on other boards that say maxpass and fastpass plus and the parking fees and the hotel rates and the add-one are fine, but once you get down to the basic vacationer that is not a theme park junkie, they realize this is not fun. Then they realize that they can fly to Europe or other places and not have to micromanage every aspect of their trip, of course those people will stay away. I know the corporate parks ideology used to put the guest’s enjoyment first and foremost. At some point that changed. I doubt it will completely mess with their bottom line, but at some point people will realize that the system they have set up have diminishing returns on the fun. There will always be a group of people that this does not matter, like retired adults that can just pop in for a day. I am talking about the family that wants their children to experience to magic of these parks. These systems that are in place based on cost and planning put a huge burden on that.
The fun thing is that when the AP blocking dates are over Disney will be crowded again and the lines for the Star Wars ride will be long.
Disney apologists will tell you that in fact it's a great success but it isn't. Because Disney doesn't want all those AP's but rather have tourists and day guests from who they can milk much more cash. This period shows that clearly.
JC VanHouten raises a valid point.
Next year when we go to Orlando it will be the first time under FastPass+ and frankly I'm not looking forward to having to plan out entire vacation up to 180 days in advance (for dining) and 60 days to lock us into which park we'll be in on which day regardless of the weather or our health or fatigue of anything unforeseen. I've hated the concept of FastPass+ since it was announced so we'll see how it affects our Disney Vacation but I much preferred the old style Fast Pass which was egalitarian and easy to work, as well as allowing you to adjust your plans on the fly and make the vacation relaxing and flexible....
I have been living in California for over 26 years. When we first arrived we would go to Disneyland on average twice a year. Our children would with their grandparents for their birthdays, they also go on school trips every year. In the last 10 years as the prices have climbed at a pace much higher than the cost of other goods, service, and needs. The pricing model has made it clear Disney is not interested in locals coming multiple times a year for day trips. They are only interested in destination vacationers who will spend thousands in the parks over a 3 to 5 days. If you are not planning on spending $2000 or more in their park you are not wanted. I had this conversation with many of my fellow Disney fans and most of them feel like they have been pushed out of the park by the cost. Some will no longer go or have limited the visit to every few years. If you live in California it is not cheap and most of us have choose to spend our thousands of dollars on needs not nostalgia or entertainment. So until the prices start to come back down I have washed my hands of Disneyland and will instead see the other great things in California.
Been lurking the last couple of days, so my comments may be a little late, but here are my thoughts anyway:
If the cost is turning you away, then go elsewhere. If enough people do that, costs may drop (or at least level out), AP blackouts will be lifted. If not, then there will be more room for those who are fine with the cost.
If cost is an issue, there are ways to cut costs. Do you really need to eat 2-3 meals per day in the parks? Must they all be sit down service? Must you spend $800 per night on site at a deluxe resort (or even $150 for a supposed Disney “value” resort where you still have to spend $20 for a burger and fries)? Last year at WDW we stayed off site in a 3 bed, 2 bath condo literally 5 miles from the southern edge of Disney property for $800 FOR THE WHOLE WEEK!. We cut costs further by eating breakfast and supper at the condo.
To build upon that, cutting some of those costs will save you some planning. No need to get 180 ADRs or worry about FP+ (at WDW) 60 days out (as you will have to wait until 30 days if not staying onsite). Do a little research and get a working touring plan that blows by all those spending thousands more just to get a 60 day FP+ window.
A new planet needed to happen for Galaxy’s Edge. Speaking for WDW, would Tatooine make sense when the daily afternoon thunderstorm in the summer happens? Maybe Tatooine would make sense for DL since I hear is doesn’t rain in California anyway. :)
A lot of good points above, but GE will still be a huge draw for many years to come, probably forever. At least, ROTR will be GE`s answer to FOP, if the ride comes even somewhat close to living up to the advance hype. And just wait `til all those APs unblock...
Is it less insanely popular than expected, though? It seems that way. Given the whole ``what the %/"! is Batuu?" backlash, Disney should seriously consider just building an entire Star Wars park as a fifth gate in Orlando -- complete with Tatooine, the Death Star, and all the other iconic Star Wars locales. People will definitely come from all the over the world to experience that.
TwoBits, I hear you. There are many things you can do to save money. However, let's say you are a family of four and one kid really, really wants to ride Slinkey Dog and one kid really, really wants to ride Flight of Passage. They are both school age kids. What do you do? You aren't getting those FP+'s day of. You probably aren't getting them 30 days out either. That means you are staying on site and waking up at 6 or 7 in the morning to plan it out 60 days out (and hope it doesn't rain on the Slinkey Dog Day). There is no way to cut financial corners to make it work for those children. Under the old system you could do it. With the system that makes it convenient for Disney, you cannot.
So... Disneyland got EuroDisney'd???
Plus Ca Change....
@JC .... as a local and annual passholder I only get my FP+’s on the day of. Yes, if I want a FofP I might get a Navi River a week before, and then modify it on the day I’m in the park.
But, it’s absolutely not true to say “You aren’t getting those FP+’s day of”
Because you can, with a little perseverance.
I was at DHS on Saturday and went in with no FP+ selections and left at noon with 2 Slinky Dogs, and 1 Aerosmith. As I’ve said a few times, TofT is proving very elusive, but for a quite a while now only 1 side has been working and I’m pretty sure Disney is restricting the FP+’s because of this.
@Makorider, Although you are correct, you are flying solo, not trying to co-ordinate day of FP+ for a family of 4, or in my case 5. That is almost impossible!
JC, last year June we were able to get FP+ 20 days out for FoP. As already states, it does take a little persistence to get them with me checking multiple times per day between 30 days out and when I was able to get them, and I know the prior planning turns people off on Disney. The theory goes Disney releases new FPs once they believe they have a good idea what the crowd levels are, and believe it or not, there are some people who release a FoP FP for one reason or another. I can’t speak for Slinky Dog because it was not open when we were there (just missed the opening).
And if push comes to shove, you get in line in the mid-afternoon and wait two hours to ride as the line was shorter that time of day than it was at rope drop after those staying on site had an hour head start.
The expected huge crowd isn't coming and won't be coming. This isn't the crowd who can only afford to come once, and therefore must wait for the second ride to open. This isn't the crowd who is staying away for fear of crowds. And this crowd certainly aren't the APs, who are free loaders. Those people exist, but that's not the crowd Disney is banking on. Disney is banking on SW fans who will come to Batuu and then refuse to leave, who will come the first time and then the second time, who will sell their kidney to pay for plane tickets, who will claw over other people just to get a glimpse of the "Star Wars Land", which they dreamed of all their lives.
Before GE's opening, Disney thought those SW fans would come by the millions. At the least, the millions of fans who live nearby, who don't normally visit Disneyland, would not hesitate to show up. Disney announced that "Grown men will cry; they will kiss the ground." Disney wasn't the only ones who thought so. Every single internet article about GE said the same thing. Even Theme Park insider, who wrote an article that said it won't be that bad, still said it would be bad, but just not so horrendous as people were making it out to be. Nobody, absolutely nobody expected what is happening at Disneyland the last few weeks.
Disney built GE for those fans. They didn't build GE for the existing AP holders; they already have them as existing profit. They built GE for newcomers to increase the number of AP holders and tourists to increase profits. If the increase doesn't happen, then the entire billion dollar investment has gone down the drain. So it isn't enough that GE will have visitors or be a success. It has to be a big enough success to repay the billion dollar investment. Basically, if GE isn't stuffed to the gills every year for years to come, it is an automatic failure.
When the AP blockouts are lifted, it will not increase park attendance except temporarily, for the first week or so, and the following reasons will be offered to explain the continuing low attendance:
1. School is back in session. That's why they lift the blockouts.
2. Tourism is down because summer is about to end.
3. RotR won't be open till next year, so people are waiting for that.
4. tickets/hotels/gas etc are still expensive, and California is still a dump.
5. GE in WDW is opening, so people are going to that instead.
6. When the blockout is first lifted, people fear large crowds and therefore don't go.
Ultimately, Disney has completely missed their target audience: Star Wars fans who aren't already Disney parks fans. Regardless of the reasons for this failure, in building Galaxy's Edge, Disney has equivalently built two billion-dollar guns, which Disney used to shoot themselves in both feet.
For a family of four, who are not well versed in the system, it is impossible and incredibly frustrating. Ever seen newcomers try to navigate that app? Seen it with a child in meltdown? That family is not coming back or buying into the DVC. They are going elsewhere with the $10,000 they just spent. They need to change the system.
This is what I have said on other posts. Disney has just become too expensive for the experience they provide.
You spend most of your time in a queue for a two or three minute ride with upcharges for everything that are way too expensive.
65 or 70 dollars for a fireworks dessert party. That's 350 dollars on top of your admission price for a family of 5. These experiences exclude a great number of people from such events due to their inflated prices. Even 20 dollars for such an experience would be expensive e.g. 100 dollars for five for dessert and the chance to get on a boat you can already use anyway.
While I remain a Disney fan my last experience was only ok. If I spend 100 dollars for an after hours experience I expect some value for that not a park that you can barely move in due to crowing and get to experience about 5 or 6 attractions for the whole evening, while only 19 attractions were open in total.
If they are going to only open so few attractions they also need to limit the amount of tickets for sale accordingly.
As I have said before corporate greed at its finest and this is the main reason I will not be visiting Disney anytime soon. I am gland to see attendance is down maybe its time Disney learnt a lesson.
@MrTorrance ... you are correct, most of my visits to WDW are solo, but I have my son and his wife as guests on my FP+ selections, and even though we don't do too many rides as the grandson is with us, I can still snag a FofP for them on day of, if Granddad stays with Junior ... :)
As usual, I will already have a Navi ride, and modify it to get the FofP. FofP's are available though, but I can work the system much more to my advantage when I'm modifying and not searching.
I am not a pass holder of Disneyland, but I feel that there might be a small reason why Disneyland's attendance is low after GE opens. Disney installed the reservation system for the first 3 weeks and put in other limitations concerning matters such as stroller sizes. Personally, that would turn me off to the whole park. Disney is playing too much hard to get, and it makes me feel unwelcome as a guest. Even when the reservation system is over, it killed the mood, and I am no longer in a hurry to get there.
Whether the low crowd is due to Galaxy's Edge or some other factor will be obvious in a month when GE opens at Disney World. If Disney World's attendance also goes down within a short period of time, as is predicted by Touring Plans, then you know it has to be GE and not some other reason, because Disney World has not raised its prices before GE opening, and the APs are not blocked. And if GE at WDW also draws low crowds, the following reasons will be given:
1. September is normally the slowest season in WDW due to hot weather and hurricanes, and school just opened.
2. WDW doesn't have near the number of APs who can just pop in whenever they want to flood the park.
3. Tourists have to travel long distances and pay great expense to get to WDW, and therefore will likely come only after RotR opens.
4. WDW is opening extra hours, and therefore diluting the attendance to make it look less crowded.
5. WDW is not offering big discounts for fall hotel stays, even though they have always done so in the past in the summer. (They did offer one back before GE's announcement, back in February, but a lot of people missed that because Disney has never done that before.)
6. It is the second opening, so people who are desperate to visit GE has already done so at Disneyland. Especially for a lot of non-locals, going to Disneyland vs Disney World aren't that different -- you have to travel far either way. I am a WDW visitor, not Disneyland's, even though I'm closer to Disneyland and it is cheaper to fly there than WDW. So the people who are visiting WDW's GE are the ones who aren't that desperate and can wait.
7. Other factors: WDW is too expensive, gas is too high, Florida is a dump.
As some of the posters said, a WDW vacation is not that fun. While I would like to visit the park to enjoy the new rides and attractions, the idea of dealing with the lines and crowds drives me away. I think that I would be more interested in visiting during one of the evening events because of limited number of people.
Are we even sure that crowds are that much down from previous years? It's clear that the doom and gloom predicted prior to the opening of Galaxy's Edge hasn't arrived, and the "Boarding Groups" system Disney put in place to manage the influx of Star Wars fans hasn't been needed, but does the lack of wall to wall people in Disneyland really indicate that crowds have decreased from last summer. Sure, the lines for popular attractions have been below where they were last summer, but who's to say that's not because of Galaxy's Edge and the increased capacity/space the new land has brought to Disneyland? What about a fully realized Pixar Pier and strategies at DCA to better balance crowds between the 2 parks? How about the impact of Project Stardust and the ability of guests to actually navigate around Disneyland without running into each other and clogging at bottlenecks?
The behavior of Disney seems to indicate that Galaxy's Edge has not brought the crowds to Anaheim like they predicted, but has Disney really gone backwards? It's hard to say because of those reasons I listed above, and the fact of the matter is that Disney is probably at least generating the same amount of revenue that they were in previous years, and likely more, especially when you consider they're cashing in nearly $3,000 every 15 minutes from Savi's and probably another $5-6k an hour in Oga's, along with thousands of dollars in merch that is completely under their licensing umbrella (unlike Avatar and many of Universal's attractions that route a percentage to revenues to the IP originators), assuming they can keep it in stock.
However, I do think there are a number of variables at play that has caused Disneyland's version of Galaxy's Edge to fail to generate those nightmare scenarios...
1. Disney utilized a very controlled and limited soft-opening to show Galaxy's Edge to the world. While a lot of people were annoyed with the reservation system, it meant that those that absolutely HAD to see the new land in the first month of operation got their chance. Anyone who wasn't lucky enough to grab a reservation likely will be waiting until AP blackouts lift or until the land is deemed complete after the Rise of the Resistance opens.
2. The land opened without what Disney called the land's marquee attraction. While the Falcon ride seems to be solid, and far better than any recent second tier attraction Disney has built over the past 2 decades, a lot of guests are just waiting until they can get the full experience. It also doesn't help that Disney is running our of popular souvenirs like Kyber Crystals, droid parts, and creatures, because even devoted Star Wars fans that would probably be willing to experience the incomplete land are reconsidering their visits because a number of the items that are unique to Galaxy's Edge have been out of stock for over a month.
3. Galaxy's Edge opening in Florida is what I think is having the biggest impact on California crowds. I think Disney was right to assume that Disneyland was going to get crushed with crowds when Galaxy's Edge debuted. Star Wars fans have been geeking out over this development since it was clear that they were clearing backstage space at Disneyland for the IP. However, when it was announced that an IDENTICAL version of Galaxy's Edge would be opening in Florida, everyone east of Colorado probably decided it was better to wait the extra few months until the land opened at the larger, more tourist friendly WDW resort. The fluid nature of the actual opening dates didn't help things either as the most serious Star Wars fans who need to see the new land as soon as possible were taking complete guesses as to when the lands would open and who to work a visit in around that little thing called "life". For us personally, when Disney initially announced the lands coming to BOTH coasts, we were seriously considering trying to go to both, but resigned ourselves to just Disneyland when the Florida version of Galaxy's Edge appeared to lag further and further behind the work occurring in California. Ultimately, we will be seeing both installations within about 6 months of each other, but not in the way that I had originally imagined back when Galaxy's Edge was announced in 2017. So with WDW being more of a tourist destination than Disneyland, and the California park only holding exclusivity for about 3 months, it means that anyone not already planning a trip to California or living within driving distance of Anaheim was probably going to wait to see the land at DHS, a decision that was further validated with RotR opening in Florida first just in time for the busy Christmas/New Year's season. Throw in the additional restrictions placed on APs and sky high single-day ticket prices, and it's no wonder that Disneyland is not seeing the shoulder to shoulder crowds that many feared.
Honestly, Disney should have more closely studied what Universal did with WWoHP at USH, where they too inflated ticket prices and expanded AP blackouts to the point where crowds were not nearly as bad as expected shortly after the initial rush of fans bombarded the California version of the land. USH definitely went a bit too far, and I think Disney is discovering the same. However, I don't think it's because Galaxy's Edge is a failure or that the demand isn't there, I just think Disney has bumped up against the ceiling of what they can charge and the drawing power of an IP that has identical attractions on both coasts. It also doesn't mean the the land is a failure or it is not generating the projected revenue (only Disney can say for sure, and my guess is that they will keep those specifics close to the vest).
The answer is all of the above, plus one not mentioned here explicitly: Disney brand fatigue. Disney is now omnipresent in media and people are starting to get tired of the brand and its products. This is not unusual, and every brand goes through its cycles of ups and downs. Disney went from being decidedly uncool two decades ago, to very hot in the past few years. A correction is inevitable. What is not helping Disney is taking an explicit and confrontational stance in the US culture war. Alienating half your potential customers with full-throttle and -throated identity politics is usually (Nike being an exception) a death wish for corporate profits. A little here and there would be fine, but Disney is just consistently ticking off so many long-time customers. Disney's brand has been predicated on nostalgia, and that is precisely the customer base that Disney is ticking off. Iger needs to be the adult in the room and pull back his division heads from driving headlong off dangerous political cliffs. Unfortunately, it's probably too late for Star Wars, which will need to wait to appeal to the next generation as my two teenage children tell me that liking SW is now totally uncool at their schools for boys and girls. Star Wars is now something that kids make fun of as a laughingstock. Kathleen Kennedy's destruction of one of global media's great intellectual properties will be studied for decades as a cautionary tale in what not to do.
Why is attendance down at Disneyland?
- The quality of Galaxy's Edge
- High prices of tickets and passes
- Fear of crowds
- Competition from other parks
- Other external factors (economy, etc.)
I've not voted because, really, it's not that simple. Do we really understand what is going on in summer 2019 ? Not really...
To start with,
A nice visual by TheDailyWoo :
Some report however, other Socal parks are lower TOO !?
Mysteriously, THIS summer, I see lower attendance rates in Efteling ... YES, other side of the ocean, no connection with California at all, nor with price rises as the 2019 5% rise is futile compared with what Disney is doing and 3% of that is due only to VAT tax-rate rise.
Yet, for instance on the first few 10am-11pm full evening entertainment show days (fri/sat every week of the summer, the usual TOP attendance days), I've seen at most parking 1 + 2 getting filled, while in 2017-2018 parking 1 + 2 + 3 were exploding. (35000 day visitors on such a day, now at best 15000-20000 ...)
(To explain about COST: My 2019-2020 renewal AP at Efteling costed me € 199 including : one year long for the park (except for 12 special business days / year), the parking (also on resort hotel parking), ..and GIVES (!!!) me 5% rebate on all food, drink, merchandise, theatre tickets... and low rates on accomodation even for the "friends" I would bring. In other words, cost is no issue here, Yet, attendance falls...)
Is there a mystic theme park virus epidemic going around ?
It for sure WILL be a topic on the upcoming IAAPA Europe seminars (Paris, sept 2019) We cannot be blind. However, it's a mystery until now. It cannot be explained by one factor only !
... See what the 3 main feasibility study companies are going to TRY to explain, on those days...
Lets meet up in Efteling in november !
Just drop me a line well in advance !
So many great comments already but I personally think that the main reason is not even the prices but the fact that the Rise of the Resistance isn't open yet. Had that ride opened at the same time the parks would be packed because people planning trips outside of California would go. I personally don't care about Star Wars but a lot of family here in Edmonton are waiting until both rides are open to go. The fact that Disney has blocked so many AP's over the summer is I think the reason there is a slow down. They actually didn't even need to do that this year but next year when both rides are open they will cause the crowds I think will be much bigger.
We normally see advertisements here in Edmonton for both Disney and Universal Studios but so far I've seen nothing from Disney and a bunch of adds for Universal. I think that's mainly because they don't want to spend money until both rides are opened. I really think next year we will see a whole bunch of adds and prices will of course go up again but the parks will be packed.
I should mention that I was a huge star wars fan. I have read and own every post-return of the jedi book written before they were made non-canon. I look forward to seeing the new attractions, but the star wars aspect mean virtually zero to me. At this point I see star wars in Disney as generic science fiction. The rides I am really excited about are the Avatar attractions. I think Tony is 100% correct combining it with the crowd issue.
@ Tony....while there can & probably is some brand fatigue, overall I don't think Disney is alienating "half" of their potential base due to whatever political stance they may be at.
There is a current trend of MANY thing being politicized...but I also think for the average consumer ( in Disney's case & other companies as well)) it doesn't necessarily translate into "boycotting" the brand. The box office (and theme park) still lead in attendance.
I'd wager their pricing is more of a deciding factor than ANY political stance Disney may take. (Their new streaming site is expected to be huge. WDW is still the number theme park and resort in the world)
While most people have their political opinions.....we have to remember for a large percentage of people, those opinions fall second to their day to day life. They'll still watch a Marvel, Star Wars, or Pixar film. Buy a Minnie shirt for the grandkids a Wal-Mart, watch a tv show on ABC, etc.
Disney is a global brand....so even if you have some people who are reject anything Disney now.....that's still a small number compared to those who are apathetic to it all. There has always (and will always) be a US culture war going on. It's the nature of humans. But we all know the parks are filled with people who span the political & cultural spectrum.
Whether is looked at as a good or bad thing, there is a large portion of the population that just doesn't care enough about any companies political position for it to override their personal life if its not affected on a day to day basis.
I don't think this is unique to Disneyland. Saw a commercial over the weekend for heavily discounted day passes being offered by Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park here in the San Diego area. They have also reduced the cost of a season pass by 30%. I haven't seen discounts like this at that park before - especially mid-summer! Have also noticed empty movie theaters and plenty of restaurants with ZERO waits this summer. Methinks there is some contraction afoot.
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This may sound like the easy way out, but I actually think it's a COMBINATION of a few of the reasons listed above. (with the exception most like being the quality of Galaxy's Edge).
High ticket prices PLUS the thought of crowds....equals "Let's just wait". Plus, as it's been mentioned, there are other options in anyone is looking to get their theme park fix.
Yes, Galaxy's Edge didn't open with its flagship attraction (another reason why some may wait), but in terms of the quality, I don't think that's an issue at all. It's a land "within" the park, not a separate gate....
Even if Galaxy's Edge wasn't open....these crowds are low for summertime DL in general....which points to any or all of the reasons.