Disneyland “Sunsets” its Annual Pass Program

Disneyland “Sunsets” its Annual Pass Program

If there weren’t enough major announcements coming out of Disney Parks this week, it has now been announced that Disneyland is ending its annual pass program. We’ll study the announcement, study the response that has been made by Disneyland fans, look at the ramifications of this announcement as well as the solutions for moving forward. I’ll also share my personal experience with Disneyland’s annual pass and how it’s been a part of my life since the 1980’s.

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The Announcement

Issued today from the President of the Disneyland Resort was this announcement:

In a message to Annual Passholders, he also said the following:

“For nearly four decades, our Annual Passport program has been an important part of connecting with some of our most valued Guests. We are incredibly honored and grateful for that legacy, and the memories and magical moments you have helped us create over the years.

It’s because you’ve played such an important part in the history of the Disneyland Resort that I personally wanted to share this news with you. In the next several days, we will begin the process of issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current Annual Passport program due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations and expected restrictions around the reopening of our theme parks.

I know that sunsetting the Annual Passport program will be disappointing to many of our passholders who are just as anxious as we are to reopen our gates and welcome guests back when the time is right.

We are also very excited about what’s ahead. We plan to use this time while we remain closed to develop new membership offerings that will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans. Once we have more information to share about future membership offerings, our Passholders will be the first to hear from us as we embark on this next chapter.”

Finally, they shared the following:

We are excited to share a special merchandise discount for our Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders! Passholders who held active Passports as of March 14, 2020, the park closure date, can receive 30% off select merchandise purchases at Disney owned-and-operated locations at Downtown Disney District and Buena Vista Street. This offer is valid Monday through Thursday, beginning January 18 through February 25, 2021. 

New parades and entertainment seek to handle large crowds. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


  • Annual Passholders are vocal, because they care about this a lot. This has a greater impact than removing the Magical Express.
  • Response is surprising even, with nearly a solid half of people responding online being happy with the possibility of decreasing the number of people in the parks (whether that really happens remains to be seen)
Annual pass crowds are especially heavy at night during Fantasmic! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


  • Universal and Knotts will probably increase the sales of their passes.
  • Moving forward, the idea of a casual few hours in the park seems like it’s going away.
  • It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on hotel rates in and around the area.
  • The Premiere Pass is dead (pricing was $2270)


  • Step One: Open up.
  • Get back to full time occupancy.
  • It has to be more strategic than charging higher prices, or eliminating passes on heavier days.
  • Disneyland has a long tradition of offering single and multi-day tickets with fairly deep discounts. So this is nothing new as an idea.
  • One idea was to couple it with the D23 program or something similar.
  • Could you offer a raffle/sign up for the Passholder Program.
  • The pass holder program could come back in simpler levels, but require a reservation system similar to what is at Walt Disney World.

My Experience

Pinocchio and I at Disneyland in 1972.
  • My first trip to Disneyland was in 1963.
  • In 1983, Disneyland started its annual pass.
  • In 1985, I visited Disneyland for the first time since 1980.
  • In 1987 I received my first annual pass. It was roughly $75.00.
  • In the 1990’s I became a Disney Cast Member and had free access to Disneyland. Ironically, it was the longest period of not visiting the park.
  • I returned the summer after Disney California Adventure opened, and came nearly every year or so ever since.
  • Last 15 years I’ve had a Premiere pass nearly half the time.
  • Something new like an attraction, a special festival, or even the sales of homemade candy canes seemed to bring out throngs of visitors. An entirely new throng of guests would come at night.
  • If you’re not staying off of Harbour Boulevard and/or Katella, it’s really a pain to get in and out of Disneyland–especially off of Santa Ana.
  • Two summers ago I was surprised how low attendance was on the Fourth of July due to the removal of lower tiers of pass holders.
  • My last trip was two days of single park tickets. That visit was when Galaxy’s Edge opened. But attendance was at best moderate.
Chewie and I on the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

J. Jeff Kober

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