It has been decades since I last visited Disneyland in Anaheim, so up front I'll admit that I might be living in a time warp. But I spent some time reading a couple of articles detailing Disney's newest ticket price increases, as well as a couple of blogs wherein people detailed their experiences, and the costs they incurred, on recent vacations to the iconic amusement park. I have never been to Orlando's Disneyworld, so I can neither compare nor comment upon how the two experiences differ. But it now costs anyone older than 10 yrs $92 apiece just to walk through the entrance gate at Disneyland. For those between the ages of 3 and 9, the ticket price is $86. As if that is any meaningful difference.
That's after you pay $16 to park your car.
For the typical family of 4 (which isn't that typical anymore), You have already spent $400 as soon as you pass through the turnstiles, and it's going to be a long day. At some point, everyone gets hungry and thirsty, gets a sweet tooth. Little Billy and his sister want a mouse cap, or a pirate hat.
Before you know it, your bank account has taken close to a $500 hit. Maybe, as I said, I'm just living in a time warp, but that sort of takes the amusement out of "Amusement Park" for me. Let's say you're a single parent, which is pretty common these days...the cost of treating the kids to a day at the Magic Kingdom becomes quite possibly even more onerous.
What's going on here?
I was trying to remember the last time I went to Disneyland...it was sometime in the 80's. But a brief review of "the price of admission" is a good place to start. A book of tickets didn't pass the $10 mark until 1980, and at that time they still issued a booklet of individual tickets, marked 'A' through 'E', depending upon the popularity of the rides. For those of you born after 1980, that's where the expression "E-Ticket Ride" comes from. They discontinued individual ride tickets in 1982, which allowed them to raise the price for a daily pass, and rid themselves of the operating expense of maintaining ticket booths inside the park (as well as the wages of the extra employees who manned them).
Still, in 1981 the admission fee was $10.75. By the end of the decade it rose to pass over the $20 benchmark, and Eisner was at the helm of the company. By the end of the 90's ticket prices doubled once more, surpassing $41 in 2000. The most recent price hike to $92 is a 6% increase over 2012's ticket price...but since 2010 alone the admission fee has increased an incredible 28%.
By the way...since 1985, middle class incomes have remained exactly stagnant. Flat. In just the past decade, they have actually fallen. So it isn't a rise in general prosperity that explains the rather remarkable inflation rate that Disneyland tickets have experienced. The past 12 years have seen two recessions in this country, and an actual decrease in average incomes, while the price to spend a day with the kids at Disneyland has gone up 2.5 fold.
Back in the 60's, when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, there probably wasn't a more middle class way to spend a family day than loading into the Chevy Impala and driving to Anaheim to spend a day at Disneyland. It was a very democratic experience. I have to wonder how true that is today, although I haven't been there in years.
There are about 10 million residents of LA County. Orange County has another 3 million or so. Disneyland doesn't need everyone of them to be able to afford a ticket, obviously...and they probably, for purposes of attracting the clientele most desired, prefer that most of those 13 million cannot afford it. But it isn't just Southern Californians that visit Disneyland. People from Northern California, from out of state...indeed, from all over the world visit the park regularly.
The ticket prices are being determined not on the basis of what most can afford, but on the basis of what a sufficient number to keep the park full are willing to pay. I guess that shouldn't be surprising. It is basic capitalism, and the law of supply and demand. In 1960, Disneyland was a regional attraction. Today it is an international attraction. And the ticket prices reflect the global auction process of "admission goes to the highest bidder."
Still...it's just one more example, albeit a small one, of how the America I grew up in is no longer within the reach of so many people of average means. The affluent, both domestic and international, have priced it increasingly out of reach. There is no democracy in capitalism...only return on investment. It wouldn't really bother that much if Disney didn't try so hard to infiltrate itself into the heart, soul and mind of every child...instilling in them a burning desire to visit their park. The fact that that message gets disseminated so democratically and pervasively, while the affordability of the experience continues to recede farther and farther out of the reach of so many who receive their message, is a little troubling. A little cynical.
I respect the LA Lakers more. They make no bones about it. If you don't have the Benjamins to attend a game....there's always the radio. Seats at the Forum are for the well connected, the glitteratti, the conspicuous consumers and corporations who can take advantage of our tax laws to write them off as "business expenses."
I wouldn't be surprised if corporations aren't currently able to buy yearly passes that they can provide to clients as needed, and write that expense off as a business expense. Just like corporate box seats at any major sports venue.
I never liked Mickey Mouse that much anyway, but the Matterhorn was always fun. I'd be curious to hear from those of you who have visited Disneyland much more frequently than I have over the past 40 years. How has it changed? Is it still, relative to other ways to spend a family outing, a fair deal?