Disneyland has wrapped up another wildly successful Halloween season, and now finds itself in a slow period that is only two weeks long, out of the only 6 or 8 truly slow weeks per year the Disneyland calendar has left. The Christmas season kicks off this upcoming weekend however, and both paying customers and Disneyland employees alike should savor this year’s holiday festivities as wintery winds of change are blowing back in Team Disney Anaheim (TDA). But with 2010 fall attendance and spending patterns both up by solid single digits compared to last year at this time, TDA is confident they’re making the right decisions.
In this update we’ll fill you in on how the Halloween crowds were tamed and controlled quite effectively this year, what might now be ahead for future holidays in both Anaheim parks, and a rumor roundup from the state of the resort in general. Got that Mimosa chilled yet? Have that pound cake sliced now? Well then let's get going shall we? - Al
Pyro & Parades? Pay up!
It’s no secret that Halloween now ranks as the second biggest holiday on the American pop culture calendar, closing in on Christmas-like levels of spending. Disneyland was wise to spot that trend as it was emerging five years ago, by beefing up their Resort wide decorations, adding new Halloween-themed attraction overlays, ramping up extra-cost trick or treat parties, and branding the whole thing as Disney’s HalloweenTime in marketing and park décor. It was last year however when they seemed to have reached the breaking point by adding the well reviewed Halloween Screams fireworks show and the extremely popular Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy to the Halloween roster, at the same time that the Annual Passholder tally crested right at the one million mark. The result was record crowds, particularly on Friday nights after the Annual Passholder’s got off work, and endless gridlock on both the streets around Disneyland as well as on Main Street USA and the walkways inside the park itself.
As we told you in a past update, the decision to move the extra-cost Halloween parties from DCA to Disneyland is now seen as a brilliant idea. While there are still some AP’s upset at having the Halloween Screams fireworks show reclassified as an extra cost event upgrade, the dramatically improved parking and traffic patterns and the upbeat customer service surveys from party nights have proved to TDA executives that it was the right direction to move in. Those healthy profits from all the extra ticket sales don’t hurt either, as by the last week as TDA was emboldened to increase tickets offered by the easy flow of traffic around the Resort and the pleasant customer experience inside the park during the party. Instead of announcing it publicly however, a last-minute decision was made to simply add several thousand additional tickets to the higher cost walk-up tickets being offered each evening from the Disneyland ticket booths.
The result was that instead of capping the party at 18,000 trick or treaters, the last few parties trended upwards towards 20,000 ticket sales per night, with those last few thousand being the more expensive day-of ticket sales. This also meant that the parties never had to sell out that final week in October, which happened a few times in early October before the extra tickets were added to the mix and led to some unhappy people who had found it easy to park their car but then weren’t let in to a party that actually still had plenty of room. Compared to the 10,000 nightly ticket sales they used to sell when the party was at DCA, at lower prices, the Disneyland version of the party in 2010 was a money machine.
Photo: Sue Kruse
The outcome of this new Halloween dynamic is that the trick or treat parties at Disneyland are here to stay. The goal now is to work on fine tuning some of the weaker links of this year’s party, particularly the small parade and the roaming entertainment. Disneyland’s entertainment department is now considering proposals to beef up the parade with more floats and performers for 2011. Included in this plan is a return of the headless horseman performer that used to gallop up Main Street USA at Disneyland in the mid 1990’s and that is still featured in Disney World’s version of their Halloween parade.
In order to tap into the growing market for Halloween however, it won’t all be about Disneyland’s private parties. Steve Davison’s team at WDI is already working on a new Halloween themed World of Color show that could be performed nightly at DCA by next October. This could take the sting out of Disneyland only showing Halloween Screams fireworks to party guests, while driving additional traffic to DCA. The end result is that both local AP’s and tourists in area hotels would need to plan two full nights at the Resort to see all the Halloween events; a extra-cost night at Disneyland’s party, and another day dedicated to getting a Fastpass or dinner package for the Halloween version of World of Color. You have to wonder if driving extra attendance to DCA only recreates the parking and traffic problems from ’08 and ’09 when they were packing people in to Disneyland on DCA party nights?
But the future plans for holiday hype and profitable hard-ticket events don’t stop with all hallow's eve. After seeing just how popular the Halloween parties were at Disneyland, and how easily the existing Resort infrastructure dealt with that new crowd arrival pattern and visitation impact, TDA is now eyeing the Christmas season and five of the busiest weeks of the calendar for the Anaheim park. What is being proposed here is to take the basic Halloween party model and transfer it to the Christmas season, making the Christmas Fantasy Parade and the Believe In Holiday Magic fireworks newly exclusive events only performed on extra-cost party nights in December. The thought is that these two major entertainment offerings would be enough of a draw to drive 20,000 or more nightly party ticket sales if that was the only way you could see those two very popular holiday offerings.
If the Halloween parties were a huge hit just by setting up candy stations, some quick decorations, and performing a short and sweet parade, then the thinking in TDA is that offering the more elaborate Christmas parade and even more popular Believe fireworks with its snowy finale as party exclusives will create an even stronger demand for tickets. The transition to this new format might be eased, as least in some executives mind, by the new Soundsational parade that debuts at Disneyland in 2011. On non-party nights in December the Soundsational parade would perform and the regular Remember fireworks would be staged on weekends, so they wouldn’t totally abandon the entertainment offered to non-party guests. It just wouldn’t be directly themed to Christmas.
They could still offer a “snow moment” on non-party nights by hitting the start button on the “Wintertime Enchantment” snow shows that use the snow machines and the hundreds of thousands of new LED lights strung throughout the castle and up and down Main Street. But the full roster of Christmas entertainment would be reserved for the extra-cost parties with limited crowds and all the options thrown in. What would you pay for short waits for Small World Holiday, lots of elbow room at the parade, and the cattle herd mentality removed from Main Street USA? TDA is betting lots of fans would pay plenty to give that experience to their families in December.
This plan is still in its infancy, but it's gaining traction in TDA, and the recent first pass at numbers makes it seem like a no-brainer to at least the sharp pencil boys. The danger in this of course is the potential public backlash at making what had always been an expected part of a visit to Disneyland in December an extra-cost option. The Believe In Holiday Magic fireworks will be performing its 11th season this year, and an entire generation of Disneyland fans has now grown up on it. When it debuted in November, 2000 with the impressively realistic soap bubble snow finale, it became a “must see” for Southern Californians, many of whom had never seen a snowfall before and stood misty eyed on Main Street USA at the magic Disneyland was able to pull off.
The Christmas Fantasy Parade is an even more famous offering that has been performing daily during the Christmas season at Disneyland since 1994. In recent years they have replaced and improved some of the original floats from 1994, along with the usual tweaks over time to costumes and the latest trendy character or marketing push, but it remains true to its original format as the longest and most elaborate parade in Disneyland’s roster of parades from the last 25 years.
It will sound crass and greedy, but it’s exactly the emotional attachment and impressive brand equity in those two entertainment offerings that has TDA considering the plan to charge extra to see those two events at an extra-cost party. The silver lining here, if TDA moves forward with this plan for the holiday season of 2011, is that by capping the parties at 20,000 or 25,000 people the experience of watching the entertainment will be far more comfortable. As it stands now, on busy nights in December when the Annual Passholders descend en masse, the in-park attendance at Disneyland easily exceeds 45,000 by evening parade time, and can crest upwards of 48,000 or 49,000 by the time the fireworks begin.
It’s not unusual on these days for Disneyland to have to shut the entry turnstiles and force everyone into DCA instead. The result is that Disneyland becomes a sea of pushing and shoving humanity that the crowd control Cast Members struggle to control, and that tests even those who have the warmest Christmas spirit. Annual Passholders now take that Christmas crush in stride and they have their tricks and secret techniques to get around the park, but unsuspecting December tourists often become scared in the gridlocked crowds, and on the worst nights dozens of calls to 911 from tourists cell phones pour into the local highway patrol dispatcher telling of scary gridlock and dangerous overcrowding. The nearest highway patrol office (which handles all 911 calls from cellular carriers) politely informs the caller that unless someone is injured a busy night on Main Street USA is not an emergency. At worst the call is hung up on after a lecture from the highway patrol dispatcher, and at best the call is transferred with a chuckle to the Disneyland operator sitting in the offices above the Main Street Opera House.
While the daily attendance tally is always impressive on those busy days, the final tallies from the park’s cash registers don’t live up to all the hype however. The Annual Passholders coming in to see the fireworks don’t spend nearly as much money per day on souvenirs and gifts as the tourists do, and when the crowds are that bad the tourists don’t have the patience to stick around to shop at the end of the night. When it becomes overly crowded, the turnstile counts are impressive and the cash register receipts are not.
Before you go looking for a pitchfork or torch to help lead a mob to take over the Team Disney Anaheim building, it’s important to remember that this plan to turn the Christmas parade and fireworks into extra-cost options at exclusive parties still doesn’t have the executive green light, but the fantastic numbers and overall improved experience from this past Halloween certainly make the case for 2011. And once the ticketing and logistics are all in place for these Christmas parties, an even spendier extra-cost event could easily be slotted into the mix for New Years Eve at Disneyland. This may be the last holiday season that all of the perks and lavish extras that have made Disneyland so insanely busy from mid November to early January are available to anyone and everyone who enters the park.
Holiday Show Schedule Alert
Before I continue with the rest of the update, reader "PH" sent in a note with the following concerns:
This Holiday, entertainment schedule is World of Color at 8, Believe at 8:40, and Fantasmic at 9:00. This will not allow visitors to be equally spread out throughout the resort. People will not be able to go from one show to the other to the other. In particular, keep an eye out on the crowd flow from Fireworks to Fantasmic. Thousands will be filling the walkways looking for a spot in a already crowded show. And the snow will just add insult to injury. Keep an eye out for this. The suits are being stubborn and saying that it relieves the flow on Main Street. It does. But it just moves the crowd from one location to another. And Main Street is a lot wider than the crowded Fantasmic walkways.
I can tell you practically no one in Anaheim is happy about this schedule change. The Disneyland teams can see the writing on the wall on what this will do to crowd flow, and the Fantasmic team is the most concerned about it as the tsunami of park-hopping guests will hit them the hardest after fireworks.
BUT, what it does open up is the possibility to do three World of Color shows at DCA with a 10PM closing time; 8, 9:15 and 10:15. This would drive more dinner package sales, as those have been a big hit on busy days and are driving huge increases in sales for DCA Foods teams. It also gets more people in to see World of Color each night, since the amphitheater that was sold to Operations in '07 as being able to hold 9,000 viewers turned out to have a capacity in '10 of just 4,000.
Some key executives, (oh heck, let's just name her: Mary Niven), are pushing this schedule change hard. But pretty much every manager in the park and in entertainment is not a fan, and some are very worried that it could prove disastrous on the really busy nights. Right now it has enough executive clout (Mary) that it's going to be tested at least several nights, and only if it fails miserably will they go back to the drawing board and rethink show schedules for Pacific Standard Time.
The Party's Over?
It’s not just the regular Disneyland visitor who should take heart of this year’s holiday season, however. The Cast Members and employees of the Walt Disney Company in Southern California should also take extra pictures this year when they attend the annual Disney Family Christmas Party on December 13th and 14th. Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland’s Cast Activities department still hosts an elaborate private party for Disneyland Cast Members, and all other Disney employees working in Glendale, Burbank and Hollywood, as well as their families. The tradition of the Disneyland family Christmas party goes back to the 1950’s, and it’s an extremely popular event for both Disneyland Cast Members as well as the Disney employees working up in the LA area, and it’s literally an event where Disneyland reverts back to its quaint and homey roots as Walt’s family park.
The evening begins around 7:30 PM, after the park closes early to day guests, as Cast Members show up with toys to donate to Marine Corps Reservists staffing the turnstiles for their Toys For Tots campaign (a favorite charity of Walt’s, who gladly provided character drawings to the Marines for marketing purposes free of charge). Once inside the park, Bob Iger and John Lasseter greet arriving partygoers in the Town Square passing out candy canes and posing for pictures in front of the tree, a Disneyland Choir made up of Cast Members and Imagineers sings Christmas carols on the French Market stage, senior park managers wear the Custodial uniform and sweep the streets while their underlings enjoy the party and rib them on their sweeping skills, every family gets a free portrait taken that night with Santa Claus or a favorite Character, the party’s special performance of the Christmas parade has extra oomph as proud parents sit on the curb and cheer wildly as their children dance and perform for them, Cast Members roam the park showing off their children and spouses to their co-workers, and on the way out at the end of the night each guest is given a free glass Christmas ornament with the year of the party printed on it. (Legacy Disneyland families have dated party ornaments going back decades.)
The party is purposely split over two nights, a Monday and a Tuesday, so that all Cast Members can work one night to keep the park running and then return with their family the other night to enjoy the festivities and big discounts on food and merchandise. It’s the last vestige of old-fashioned Disneyland in an otherwise overly corporate Disney culture, and the park literally sparkles with warmth and community on those happy evenings.
But its very existence is being called into question this fall by the corporate entity known as “One Disney.” The One Disney philosophy is an understandable initiative meant to ensure that practices and policies are standardized across the various properties in California and Florida. The problem is that Walt Disney World abandoned their family holiday parties almost 20 years ago in a rather lazy decision to eliminate all the extra work it takes to plan and stage the event. The very last “Annual Cast Christmas Party” at Walt Disney World was held on December 4th, 1992 in the Magic Kingdom Park, and it hewed to the basic operation of the similar Disneyland party. By December, 1993 the Disney World event was rebranded as the “Cast Holiday Celebration” and it had morphed into a basic comp ticket that could be used any day during the first two weeks in December, and all of that hassle of putting on a specific after-hours party was eliminated.
Today the event has devolved further into a one-day comp ticket and a discount pass mailed out to Disney World Cast Members homes in late October, and it’s valid for one use through the following February. The Cast Member are then supposed to use the tickets with their families and make their own party on any average day at Disney World, but don’t expect a candy cane from Bob Iger, a serenade by the employee choir, or a dated glass ornament on your way out of your chosen park. It’s cheaper and easier that way, and many Disney World employees don’t even know that a far more elaborate and meaningful after-hours event existed from 1972 until 1992 (the first Christmas passed in ’71 at Disney World without an official employee party in the infant park).
These One Disney suits tasked with standardizing business between California and Florida have now fixed their humorless glare on the Disneyland Christmas parties, and recently many questions and meetings have popped up regarding the decidedly Walt-esque practice. With their One Disney blinders firmly in place, senior management in Florida is now demanding that Anaheim and Burbank justify why such an event still exists, and many TDA executives are whispering this will be the very last year for the popular party. The only saving grace for Disneyland in the next few months is if the executives in both Glendale and Burbank can push back the Floridians with enough corporate clout to overrule their strong objections to the homey California tradition. Burbank and Glendale families have just as many fond memories of the party as Anaheim families do, luckily. As it stands now, California Cast Members and employees should make sure they enjoy every moment and hold onto the 2010 ornament from what could be the very last Disneyland Family Christmas Party this December 13th and 14th.
Photo: Kevin Yee
What’s silly about this whole thing is not the typically bland corporate view the Floridians take to this type of stuff, it’s the glaring inequity between the services and facilities that WDW still provides its Cast Members compared to what Disneyland offers. Walt Disney World Cast Members enjoy far more perks and benefits than Disneyland Cast Members do, and yet no one in Anaheim has dared speak up about eliminating any of those Orlando area benefits. For example, Disney World’s Cast Activities department may have thrown in the towel on Christmas 20 years ago, but it still owns and operates Mickey’s Retreat, a private beach club and sports center on Little Lake Bryan that is only accessible to Florida Cast Members and their families. Posted signs state a valid Disney World ID must be shown at the gate (Disneyland ID’s aren’t welcome, even if the 2,500 mile commute wasn’t an issue), in order to be let in and allowed access to a private white sand beach, two large swimming pools, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, basketball courts, a fleet of pedal boats and canoes, a fishing pier, a playground, as well as party pavilions and clubhouse banquet rooms available for cheap rental for birthdays and family receptions.
The very nicely maintained Mickey’s Retreat beach club is in addition to other valuable perks located on or near Disney World property, like the Center for Living Well, a two year old private health facility that has a pharmacy, radiology labs, doctors offices, health classrooms, an urgent care center, all branded as a “holistic health center” to help any eligible Cast Member 7 days a week achieve their health goals, all compliments of the Mouse in Orlando. Not to mention the modern, year-round day care centers offered on Disney World property to Cast Members through a partnership with the YMCA, where infants through pre-teens can be dropped off and cared for at Cast-exclusive bargain rates while the Cast Member parent works nearby in one of the theme parks or hotels.
Nothing like those Disney World amenities exist in any form for Disneyland Cast Members. And yet the Disneyland Family Christmas Party is being eyed as an inequitable experience that must be eliminated in the name of One Disney. Let’s hope cooler heads in Burbank (with a boost from Imagineers in Glendale) can prevail on this one, and the One Disney steamroller can be stopped before it reaches the Cast Member party. Or, if the Disneyland Cast Christmas party is cancelled by One Disney, that at least construction of a fancy health center, a private beach club, and on-property day care get fast-tracked for Disneylanders to bring the Cast experience up to par with Florida. (None of those three Disney World amenities are even being considered for Anaheim, however.)
Dragons & Droids
In happier news, frantic work continues to go on late at night to fix ongoing problems with both World of Color and Fantasmic!
Fantasmic's Murphy the Dragon, the giant new animatronic that suffered an embarrassing failure and nearly face planted into the Rivers of America at the end of summer, has had all of the main issues with its platform and internal machinery fixed. In the past week they’ve been able to run Murphy through dozens of performance of his Fantasmic act during overnight rehearsals. While earlier in October it looked like he might be ready for a Halloween public appearance, several smaller issues cropped up with his programming and controllers and his reappearance was pushed back. Just last week Murphy got conflicting computer commands and sprang to life down in his pit, damaging his arm last week as he continually bashed into the concrete wall before safety overrides shut him down. As of this writing, it’s looking like Murphy should make a triumphant return to the show this Thursday when they perform two shows that night for the busy Veterans Day crowds. That’s the unofficial word however, and anything can happen during this week’s rehearsals to set that back by a day or two, but Murphy’s return is now imminent.
Over at DCA, they continue to work through a laundry list of pesky problems and technical glitches on the massive underwater platforms that support the show. Some of the smaller effects that had gone temporarily missing, like the projection domes that sprung leaks within weeks of the opening back in June, have returned with re-engineered seals and infrastructure and are working better than ever now. The central platform, mysteriously warped in a bizarre accident that just happened to occur after a very small earthquake this past summer, is still providing headaches as the engineers continue to work on a permanent fix and retrofit to that big structure.
And the increasingly murky water of Paradise Bay, that long ago was dyed an attractive blue shade, still continues to grow algae and prove problematic. The cause behind the brown water is due to a last-minute need to re-pipe a lot more water away from the filtration plant and to the rear mist screens in order to satisfy Bob Iger’s late mandate that the show be performed higher in the sky so more of the audience could see it. The result is that the volume of water sent through pipes daily to the filtration plant has been dramatically reduced, and thus the brown water that Disney’s environmental department swears up and down is still perfectly safe to spray on thousands of people per night. A re-piping project to restore capacity to the filtration system is being designed, but it’s proving hard to engineer in such a way that avoids a total shutdown of the show due to refurbishing, a closure that TDA is loathe to attempt now that World of Color has proven to be DCA's first genuinely unique hit since Soarin’ Over California.
Back across the esplanade on the other side of Disneyland, the lavish remake of Star Tours continues on schedule for its May debut. The extra six weeks of rehab the Disneyland version is receiving over its Disney World counterpart is due to a more extensive rework of the queue and pre-show area for the Disneyland version, and a typical desire by Orlando management to eke out a few extra weeks of summer operation of the high capacity E Ticket due to the razor-thin parkwide ride capacity that the Studios theme park has out there. In addition to the extra queue work, the four Disneyland simulators are harder to remove in their retrofitted 1967 building than the six simulators slotted in to the custom built facility out in Florida.
While the exact date in late May for the reopening has not been nailed down yet, TDA planners are still working out the logistics of kicking off Star Tours debut at the same time Little Mermaid and the dramatically remodeled Paradise Pier section of the park has the predictable media event around Memorial Day weekend. The break rooms in Tomorrowland were abuzz last month when an internal Cast Member communication pamphlet was released that had Star Tours now reopening in “January, 2012”. It had to be pointed out by Tomorrowland management that odd date was just a product of a glitch in the labyrinthine system of red tape and scheduling that TDA uses to track capital spending, and that Star Tours was still comfortably heading toward a May opening date.
Fret & Whine
Also at DCA, the sudden decision to cancel the Food & Wine event for at least the next two years took many folks by surprise. After several years of increasing the events scope with minimal increases in profits, the nail in the coffin for Food & Wine was none other than this year’s Halloween trick or treat parties. That only proved to TDA that up-sell events can be held at the parks that actually rake in huge profits, instead of merely scrape by after huge investment and resources are poured into it like Food & Wine had been doing. While the Food & Wine team had been creating two different logistical plans for the varying stages of construction the park would be in during the spring of 2011 and 2012 that could have proved workable, it was an easy excuse to use to cancel the event due to “construction”.
There’s absolutely no guarantee, and no current plan, to bring the Food & Wine festival back in 2013. What TDA will be looking at before they make that decision is how DCA performs after its Billion dollar makeover is completed in 2012. Food & Wine at DCA was copied from Epcot earlier in the decade as part of the push to drive higher attendance to the under-performing park. Unlike the Epcot version however, the DCA festival didn’t drive tourists to head down to stay at local hotels and hit up the festival. Instead the DCA version mainly drove attendance gains each year from the growing pool of Annual Passholders who had already purchased their park tickets. Since most of the food and beverage offerings were sold at barely above cost after all the festival overhead and labor was factored in, the profits from the DCA version were a weak fraction of what Disney World enjoys when the much larger and more elaborate Epcot version rolls out each year.
Cat Cora photo: Sue Kruse
Lots of last minute calls had to be placed to vintners, chefs and breweries who had originally been told to ready themselves for the 2011 version kicking off less than six months from now. Another minor problem TDA will be dealing with is what to do with all of the hundreds of extra vinyl signs they ordered for the 2010 festival, but never used in public. The signs were over-stocked in huge numbers on purpose, in order to turn the extras into the hip shoulder bags made of strips of “recycled” signs from last year’s festival.
The bags were a genuinely recycled offering in 2010, using the signs and banners from ’09. But with TDA’s merchandise team sensing a Green trend worth tapping, they ordered hundreds of extra vinyl banners to be made last spring with the 2010 festival logo on them. That way, they would have plenty of extra 2010 material to work with to sell the trendy “recycled” bags to unsuspecting customers at the 2011 festival who would think they are somehow saving the planet with their hip faux recycled purchase. Disneyland’s merchandise team is nothing if not shrewd and careful marketers, all wrapped up in a Green sustainable label, you have to give them that.
Odds & Ends...
Speaking of merchandise, Duffy the bear continues to wait patiently for his marketplace to find him. He’s still there in the seaside themed meet n’ greet, politely waving to passersby as they run to get in line to meet Mickey Mouse just down the boardwalk. The Duffy merchandise sales have slumped since his debut, although every once in awhile the holy grail of Duffy fans in the form of young female Japanese tourists will wander in to the DCA store with wide eyes and open pocketbooks and snap up huge amounts of Duffy products.
They spent so much money on the marketing launch and Duffy facilities inside the park that TDA is going to wait patiently through the approaching holiday shopping season to see where Duffy sales take them. But at least the waits for Duffy’s meet n’ greet is the shortest line in an increasingly busy California Adventure park.
On the other side of Paradise Pier, that row of shops between what was the Maliboomer and the midway games continues to sit there in its 2001 glory, completely oblivious to the extreme makeover the rest of the park has been getting. WDI has had several proposals to retheme those shop facades to fit in with the new architecture found in the nearby midway games and the Midway Mania ride. But the funding for that project kept getting put on ice, and then reallocated to other merchandise makeover projects closer to Mulholland Madness and the Little Mermaid ride. The end result is that strip of stores will remain looking exactly the same through the grand reopening of DCA in 2012.
With the removal of the Maliboomer, it’s no secret that WDI is eyeing that corner of the pier for future attraction expansion later this decade. The Maliboomer pad, or the adjacent stores, would be the entry portal for a new attraction housed in a backstage show building, much like the Midway Mania facility uses a boardwalk station that leads to a big show building hidden behind the coaster. That entire corner of the pier has now been taken out of the menu of projects for DCA’s extreme makeover, and will remain as is for the time being until a future project comes along. At least those midway shops aren’t as ugly as the stucco snack bars that were replaced by Midway Mania.
Park fans may want to take in the sight of that gaudy purple marquee out on Harbor Blvd. soon. While it certainly doesn’t have the charm and mod cachet that the original versions of the Disneyland sign had back in the 20th century, it’s the last vestige of the original layout of the park when thousands of arriving cars streamed off the Santa Ana Freeway every morning and drove directly into the Disneyland parking lot off of Harbor Blvd. With the DCA expansion taking out the last of the surface parking back in ’09, that marquee no longer serves a purpose and only confuses tourists who think that still must be the park entrance.
Now that they’ve plopped a hulking electronic traffic sign out there surrounded by a sea of orange cones and tacky signs and staffed it with glum parking attendants in ugly safety vests waving off confused tourists, it certainly drains the intersection of any glamour or sense of place that it was once supposed to have. That marquee will be torn down after the holidays and replaced with non-descript landscaping, and the last gasp of Disneyland’s traditional automotive welcome on Harbor Blvd. will come to a whimpering end.