The concept seems like a wonderful idea – get past the long lines at at your local amusement park, just pay a few extra bucks for your admission. But, is it really that great of an idea, or is it creating more problems than it solves?
Today, we’ll look at arguments both for and against the “fastpass” system – as well as historical background on the topic.
First, a quick history…of lines.
Lines have been with us for most of eternity. The Bible speaks of how the animals lined up, two by two to get into Noah’s Ark. Lines also developed during the Great Depression, waiting for food at the local soup kitchen. At the same time, the concept of legally jumping the line was born.
Let’s face it, those unicorns probably should have gotten a fastpass…
So, on one side of the argument, a paid fastpass-type system effectively “punishes” those who can’t wait, by charging them more for their day at the park.
Now, the flipside of the argument, is that much like traffic fines, those with more disposable income will simply pay the extra amount, as it really doesn’t mean much to them. But, does this mean there’s a “class system” developing in our amusement and theme parks?
I don’t think so.
Why? Because we’ve had a class system in our parks for decades – it’s just that so many people now have access to the “upper echelon.”
Hear me out – if you’ve ever been to an amusement or theme park when a celebrity is there, you know (or knew) that they wouldn’t ever stand in line. They would be shuttled up the exit by staff members to get on the ride with as little fanfare (and fan interaction) as possible.
True fans of Disneyland and California’s Great America should also know about the secret clubs that are in the park, designed for those with deep pockets – 33 and The Consulate, respectively.
While The Consulate is no longer used for it’s original purpose, the fact that it was set up for that purpose 40 years ago shows that the “class culture” has been with us for quite some time.
So is it class warfare in our parks? No. Does it suck to wait an extra few minutes – sure. Is it worth the extra cash to skip the line?
Maybe the better question is this: are you willing to give parks more of your money to feel richer?
You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.
This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.
So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?
FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area.
Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus
AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole. Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.
Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point
THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.
Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure
What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!
This week, the amusement fan community and even the national media gravitated to the news that Walt Disney World was increasing their single day, admission prices to $99 at the Magic Kingdom. It was the second price hike in less than 12 months for the Florida resort.
Now, most people who read the story probably thought the same thing: HOLY CRAP – IT’S $100 DAMN DOLLARS TO GO TO DISNEY WORLD FOR A SINGLE DAY?!?
However, there are a few factors that most sources (and most viewers) probably didn’t take into consideration when the story broke. Let us then, consider the following:
A single day admission (purchased at the main entrance to the park):
Disney World: $99.00
Six Flags Over Texas: $64.99
Cedar Point: $54.99
So, “apples to apples,” Disney seems wildly overpriced, right? Well – first we have to ask if it’s really an “apples to apples” comparison. There’s one thing that most folks don’t take into account when price-comparing parks – it’s their line management programs (AKA “fast pass” systems).
Disney offers their “Fastpass” system free of charge, (built into the cost of admission, regardless of length of ticket) to all guests with a valid ticket on all of their operating “e-Ticket” attractions as well as many others. (The only constraint is how many you can hold at one time). Both Six Flags Over Texas and Cedar Point also offer their own version of a line management system (dubbed “The FLASH Pass” and “Fast Lane,” respectively). However, they are generally limited to set number of attractions or rides per ticket.
And unlike Disney, both chains charge additional fees for this service. Six Flags has three different tiers of pricing, ranging from $40 to $90 per guest, while Cedar Point offers two tiers of pricing, ranging from $75 to $90).
With that in mind, let’s now see how much each park is really costing you, “apples to apples”:
Disney World: $99.00
Six Flags Over Texas: $104.99 – $154.99
Cedar Point: $129.99 – $144.99
*It should be noted – that all costs in this comparison are calculated at the single person rate.
With the extra service of a “fast pass” system on some of their major rides, we can see that a trip to the Magic Kingdom is actually still quite competitive with other parks around the country – in fact – you’re getting MORE for your money on a single day admission.
Spread it out over several days, and the Disney price drops even further, whereas at Cedar Point and Six Flags, you’ll need to pay full price for their “fast pass” systems each and every time you go.
Now, this comparison does not take into account a season pass which – depending on the number of times visiting the park – can dramatically reduce these prices. But, considering most people visit Disney only once a year (or less in my case) then we’ve assumed folks will visit these regional parks the same amount of times per year.
What do you think? Was Disney out of order for raising prices twice in a single year? Do you use “fast pass” systems at parks OTHER than Disney? Why or why not? Leave me a comment below and tell me what YOU think!
Diane Disney Miller, the last surviving , direct descendent of Walt and Lillian Disney passed away earlier this week in San Francisco, from complications due to a fall she sustained several months ago. She was 79 years old.
Miller is best known as the champion of the “Walt Disney Concert Hall” in Southern California, as a winery proprietor in Napa at Silverado Vineyards as well as the backing behind the Walt Disney Family Museum, located on the Presidio in San Francisco.
But perhaps Miller’s greatest contribution to the arts has been missed by many – mostly because it came when she was only a young child…
It is said that Diane and her sisters’ favorite book growing up was a book by British author, P.L. Travers. The story, about a magical Nanny was so popular in the Disney household, the sisters would routinely beg their father to make a movie of the book – an odyssey that took Walt Disney 20 years to complete. The upcoming Disney film, “Saving Mr. Banks” tells the behind-the-scenes story of how Walt was able to finally get the rights to make “Mary Poppins” (considered by many to be the greatest Disney film of all time).
Miller was a philanthropist by all definitions – donating millions to causes near and dear to her heart, usually related to the arts. She will be sorely missed in the arts, wine and amusement park communities.
She is survived by seven children, 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Got a case of trixadexaphobia? (Fear of the number 13?)
Better take a pass on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, found at several Disney parks. Just a perfect theme for a free fall ride.
Fun fact: For many years during it’s development, the ride was going to utilize the original Intamin “first generation” free fall technology:
I hear the wait time is low today, too…
…only 13 minutes according to MouseWait!
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; Its a world of hopes, its a world of fear; There’s so much that we share, that its time we’re aware…
“…its a small world after all!”
You might want to add, “It’s a world of lawsuits” to that refrain as well.
Late last week, Disney got an early Easter present, in the form of an $8,000 judgement against them for not being able to evacuate a man off the ride for over 30 minutes. (The ride itself is anywhere from 12-15 minutes long normally).
Considering how much other Disney lawsuits have been settled for, this one just might feel like a present to settle so low.
So, how did we get here? Well, back in 2009, Jose Martinez, found himself stuck in the final “room” of the attraction the day after Thanksgiving. As per standard operating procedure, Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the passengers from the ride…except Martinez – who is confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis.
According to Martinez’s attorney, he suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, “…both of which became issues as he sat in the boat (with the song) playing over and over and over.” He added, “(Martinez) He was half in the cave of the ride and half out,” Geffen said. “The music was blaring. They couldn’t get it to go off.”
Apparently, Disneyland employes were unable to evacuate the wheelchair-bound Martinez and opted to try and fix the ride to get him back to the ride platform.
Now this is where I get to the litigious point of my article…
Martinez’s attorney continued, “This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people.” Anyone who’s ever visited Disney Parks know that the ride operators are some of the best in the business. As SOON as a ride breaks down, announcements are made and cast members generally walk out to the attraction (when they can) to speak with guests and re-assure them that everything is okay.
The next quote finally broke me: “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people,” Geffen said.
Now, this ruling is significant – as you’ll remember previously that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about a similar lawsuit that was thrown out AND became part of case law. You can find that post here: “Ride at your own Risk!”
Ironically, the attraction – which was added in 1960, after the World’s Fair – was created in the hopes of spreading world peace via the youth of the world.
Apparently, it now should incite fear.
And really, Disney itself has played on this fear, which has made it more of a cult attraction that ever before. Remember these scenes from “The Lion King” trilogy? (Yes, they made three of them under Eisner’s rule)
And legally, we have to state that these clips of copyrighted material are being used under the “Fair use Doctrine” of copyright law, for discussion, criticism, education or parody. In this case, we’re using them as examples of Disney making fun of itself to educate the readers of this blog. We’ve even shortened the clip playtime to the smallest possible to make our point.
So beware, small world riders – you could find yourself in court the next time a ride song traumatizes you!
After over 55 years in business, “the Happiest Place on Earth” is no longer a playground for unsupervised tweens.
Disney yesterday, announced that they would no longer allow children under the age of 14 to roam the park without parental accompaniment.
At first, it SOUNDS terrible, borderline insane. I mean, how could a Disney Park ban KIDS? Wasn’t that the point they were built, so we could all be children at heart? But then, after reading into it a bit more, not only can I understand the move – I APPLAUD IT.
Consider for a moment, the last time you went to, say a Six Flags. Their marketing is heavily focused on the under 18 market, especially for season pass sales. Remember all those annoying tweens in the park – blasting their cell phones on speaker so that EVERYONE in line could hear their favorite song? Cutting in line, being generally “rebellious” (or at least what that generation thinks is rebellious?).
After you’ve just paid $119 per PERSON to experience the Disneyland Resort for JUST ONE DAY – do you really want to have that same experience?
I didn’t think so. And neither should you.
Let’s face it, some parents use amusement parks as a de-facto babysitter. It’s apparently a $600 investment (Annual Pass approximate cost) in sanity it’s much easier for the Mom and Dad to dump you off at an amusement park for the day, than deal with your pre-pubescent problems. This is exactly what Disney wants to stop, even if it means sacrificing a few Annual Passholders to Knott’s Berry Farm, a few miles up. “the 5.”
It’s rare that a park will turn down easy money (Holiday World in Indiana does it all the time by offering free parking, free soda and free sunscreen) but considering how much The Walt Disney Company made in the time it took you to read the word “DISNEY” in this sentence – they can afford to purge themselves of such a small (but noisy and noticeable) market group.
And hey, since you can’t dump your kids off at the park anymore, you’ll just have to buy a ticket for yourself and – GASP – try to enjoy a little together-time as a family. Ahhh!
Remember when that was the point of going to Disneyland?
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel: