After four decades, Disneyland has ended its popular Annual Passport program, and the park’s biggest fans are kinda losing their minds. Disneyland president Ken Potrock sent an email Thursday afternoon explaining that the company was “sunsetting” the popular tickets due to the “continued uncertainty of the pandemic.” The company was also concerned about accommodating the hordes of fans expected to descend on the park when it reopens with limited capacity. Potrock, who was named president last May, offered passholders a temporary 30 percent discount at the Downtown Disney shopping district, as well as an automatic prorated refund on the pass. He hinted about a new membership program but did not release any details. Soon after the announcement, Mice Chat reported there was a five-hour wait to speak with Disney customer service.
We asked some longtime annual passholders to share their thoughts about the end of the program and what it would mean to them. One ten-year-old could be heard crying in the background while her mom spoke to us.
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“I’ve had a pass on and off since the 90s. There are different cliques of passholders. I’m not one of those rabid fans or a pin trader, I just love being there. I have the pass that includes parking and I like just breezing in. Sometimes we just ride the train around the park, grab something to eat, connect with friends, and come home. Sometimes we’ll sit in front of a fire at the Grand Californian. Back in the ’80s when they still had the ABCDE tickets, my parents were members of the Auto Club and they offered a magical pass you could wear on your clothing and go on any ride without needing extra tickets. I still have it in my photo album.” Brooke Keesling, Burbank
“My wife and I honeymooned at Disneyland 30 years ago and started getting passes then. It became our favorite staycation. When they introduced the $99 pass, it made Disneyland a babysitting spot where parents could drop off their kids and that took a serious toll on the park. There’s that unpopular nickname “passholes,” which applies to people who feel entitled because of annual passes. Last year we were pretty much living at Galaxy’s Edge. I met all the hardcore people who had the same interests I do and were Disneybounding with costumes. I would wear a rebel jacket and a utility belt and felt like a resident of Black Spire Outpost.” Shawn Crosby, Westchester
“I used to be an employee and had a silver pass. Our daughter is ten, so we’ve had the annual pass for nine years. Having it gave us the luxury of not being stressed to do everything in one trip. I’m tightly wound, so my husband says they must pump pure oxygen into Disneyland because it made me super relaxed. We have friends who hate Disneyland but their kids wanna go, so they send them with us. We are socialists, practically communists, so we should hate it, but as artists and creatives it’s super inspirational to us and brings us so much joy. We are Disney pros. I literally have a Google spreadsheet of how to hack Disneyland. It’s been so hard this year. I keep saying the first thing I’m going to do after COVID is hug everyone and then go to Disneyland.” Genevieve McCaw, Eagle Rock
“I’ve been a passholder since 1999 except for a little lapse when I couldn’t afford it. It’s gotten more expensive over the years and I’ve had to sacrifice things like concerts or certain clothes, but I made it a priority because I needed that escape and the happiness it brought me. I would go two or three times a week. Sometimes I’ll run down even for an hour just before they close. That’s one of my favorite times. I’m still in denial and that speaks volumes about how much it affects me. It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to go down and check on things that have always been there. It gives me comfort that certain things are unchanging.” Ginger Leigh-Lanny Duncan, Alhambra
“My wife and I have had the Premiere Pass for both parks for about ten years. We go to Disneyland every other week and Florida five or six times a year. We’re both teachers. I teach high school and she teaches middle school. We do not have children but we’re around kids constantly. Seeing the famous cast members like Maynard at the Enchanted Tiki Room is like seeing an old friend. Disneyland is a great way to connect with my students. Their music is different and their TV is different but when they find out I like Disneyland it really connects with them: ‘Oh Mr. K, I was just there last week!’ It will come back at some point. I’ve got my fingers crossed.” David Knatcal, Sherman Oaks
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“We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I fly down every other month with my daughter. She’s a filmmaker and has done two summers at USC. My first trip to Disneyland was when she turned two in 2004. We went down for the Rose Bowl, and since my husband is a football fan, he got to see the game and we got to go to Disneyland. I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s about more than the attractions. I love sitting on a bench. I love the Dapper Dans. I love watching little girls running by. If we had to pay $100 a day it would start adding up for sure. I don’t want to go less, but we’ll see how much we have to pay for college.” Christy Vaca, Richmond
“We’re so spoiled with the Annual Pass that many of us just go whenever we could. I’ve had a pass for ten years. The annual payment was $100 a month which is reasonable but if we’re paying $200 a day that might be a little more cost prohibitive. Its disappointing but not unexpected. When they get the all-clear from the state, they will have to do something to avoid a million people showing up fighting and screaming to get in. There are some passholders who want to feel important and like they’ve accomplished something. The obnoxious ones have a sense of entitlement and feel like the pass grants them some magic right to personally possess the park—to sit where they want and ride what they want, but you can’t blame the pass for someone being a jerk. It’s a privilege and not something that’s guaranteed—even at a cost.” Robert Ratinoff, Sherman Oaks