Disneyland Resort outperformed Walt Disney World this summer

Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:11 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Disney officials tell the Orange County Register that attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., fared "modestly better" during the company's fiscal fourth quarter than the overall 1 percent gain that the Walt Disney Co. recently reported for its two U.S. resorts combined. The Disneyland disclosure comes a little more than a week after Disney told the Orlando Sentinel that Disney World attendance was "within a percentage point of last year during the quarter which ran from July 4 to Oct. 2.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:23 PM

Its been that way the past several years, Disney California is very efficient,

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:31 PM

It's interesting, but not super surprising. Disneyland Resort has the very successful World of Color at DCA, where as WDW does *not* have Potter.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:35 PM

It seems like they are comparing just then two parks. Howeverr, the 22 and 24 million sound more like resort numbers. Also, I'm curious as to why they decided to only release combined figures from now on.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:55 PM

Word is that Disney knew they were going to look weak compared to Universal Florida's 30% some-odd gain riding on the heels of Potterland.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 1:30 PM

The thing that's so fundamentally different about Universal is that they manage to still reach a high level of profitability with wild swings in attendance, as we've seen in previous years. I think because they're smaller, it allows them to be a bit more nimble in that regard. I'm not sure analysts should really be comparing the two.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:02 PM

It must have something to do with the percentage of FT staff. Disney probably has a larger percentage of the workforce that MUST work 40 hours/week regardless of attendance/occupancy. (I think they still guarantee no less than 30 hours a week for the College Program kids.) I'd bet Universal uses a lot more local college students (UCF) and high school students who are PT seasonal.

Universal will level off when this initial hysteria over Potter dies down, as it inevitably will. I think I would be slightly more concerned about Legoland if I were an Orlando attraction. No doubt that is going to draw some family business. Now, people are probably not going to overnight in Winter Haven for the most part but it could pull away a days worth of business.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:10 PM

I have a pretty new calander, and Harry Potter won't fizzel anythime soon. They hit a grand slam with that one. After everyone on the west coast comes, next year, then after the movie dies overseas, they will get major crowds for at least 3 years out of this.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:48 PM

Well, I didn't mean to imply it would die down this year. 3 years is relatively soon in Orlando theme park time.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:56 PM

Not a show guy...but World of Color is a home-run. Not sure if that led to some repeat visits to California Adventure...but I know people are talking about it that otherwise would not talk amusement parks. With all their improvements coming, I suspect California Adventure will lead the growth potential for the theme park division.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:59 PM

Well, the other way of looking at it is that they failed miserably with the first incarnation of DCA and the only way they could go was up.

But, their greatest obstacle will be space in California. All that is really left for expansion is the strawberry field, right?

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 3:53 PM

Which for the record...is a much smarter parking option (where the strawberry field is) than the standard garage. They have buses non-stop versus the garage where the trams are hit and miss...

The "only way to go but up" seems to be a trend for a lot of the "newer" parks they built. In time they get it right...

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 4:27 PM

Well, they raced to open Disney Studios (Disney-MGM) in order to beat Universal. What was there on opening day was well done but the park was too small to begin with. That park has much improved with age.

Animal Kingdom cost a fortune so it is no surprise they always had intentions to build it in phases. I think by and large Phase I was a success and they just lacked in the "rides" department. They fixed that temporarily with the Dinoland expansion and then more permanently with the water ride and Expedition Everest.

The overbuild Disneyland Paris to begin with and have in recent years just started to dig out of that mess. DisneySea seems to be an unqualified success out of the gate.

I guess your assertion that they seem to have had problems with the newer parks might be true for Hong Kong Disney. I haven't seen it for myself but I've heard some of the complaints.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010 5:28 PM

All those past Disney comments are now textbook studies. When you set the bar, its sure tough to dupicate. I think the mindset is that if you can dupicate McDonalds after McDonalds, why not Disney? I guess its more moving parts, but all of their openings have struggles. Even WDW Magic Kingdom had some major issues, including a lack of thrill rides.

Disneyland Paris's theme parks are great, and have performed as projected. What is struggling is the 'resort itself', which was overbuilt with hotels, camping, etc. And to boot, they are still in an agreement to build more, as they announced when construction is underway. Not sure who will stay there, but its a nice thought.

Each time a park opend, the GP expects a 'smooth' Magic Kingdom experience, and it took Disneyland many years itself to get where they wanted, capping off with the 1959 enhancements of the monorail, Matterhorn, and Submarine Voyage. Disneyland now was king of the industry, and the money fights begun.

After all, WDW takes in a massive amount of revenue, but its operating costs are huge, just think of the infrstructure of hotels, groundskeeping, transportation, etc. Disneyland Resort if so similar in scope and size to Universal Orlando, and, being on a small footprint, the resort is managed similar to major theme parks, as it should.

WDW is operating a destination unto itself, and the payroll is staggering, and I am even lost on how they keep tabs on everyone. At UO, someone could stand next to Margaritaville, and basically see the crowds. At DR, someone could stand in the plaza between the 2 parks, and see the crowds.

DR has about 40% the payroll of WDW, yet it is cenetered on 500 acres. Like Jeff mentioned, UO is nimble, and you can make staff adjustments quicker at DR in a smaller bubble of operation. I don't know what goes in Florida, but you have to be 18 to work in DR, so it seems once you are in, you are in. Schedules are made for adults, and that is that.

I know DR grosses over $1 billion a fiscal year. Mind boggleing indeed.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 3:55 PM

How can anyone say that Disney failed miserably with the first incarnation of the California Adventure park? Since its opening the park has ranked every year in the top 10 most attended theme parks in the US. If you define that as a failure then basically nearly all theme parks are failures. You can then label every Cedar Fair and Six Flags property as one as well.

Those who claim it's a failure often point to a pre-opening estimate Disney reported to shareholders claiming the park would attract about 7.5 million annually. That number was an estimate and there is no magic formula to accurately predict the performance of the park in advance of the opening. I believe Disney was on purpose overstating the attendance to appease the shareholders in an attempt to justify their $2 billion resort expansion. I think it's also important to note that Disney has never released the attendance figures for the park, so we don't actually know the real number.

If you attended one of the California Adventure preview days in January 2001 then you experienced a theme park that was extremely crowded, difficult to navigate and had excessively long lines. I'm glad those attendance levels did not continue after the park opened as it was not built to accommodate those crowds.

I'm also pleased that Disney didn't build the perfect park from the beginning. Universal's Islands of Adventure was near perfect from the opening and thus we had to wait 11 years for a major new attraction – Harry Potter.


In contrast, the past 10 years at California Adventure have been exciting with many new attractions added and some phased out or replaced. The park wasn't perfect, but continuing with Walt's tradition of constant innovation, Disney has been able to consistently improve and enhance California Adventure, which has kept the park fresh.

Now we're in the midst of this latest phase that in my opinion is less about fixing and more about expansion and accommodating the growing attendance and interest in the Disneyland Resort. Yes, the company stated it was a fix, but in my opinion they were saying that to appease the media who have been so negative about the park since the beginning.

In recent years, the Disneyland Resort and theme parks have been experiencing major growing pains with the massive increase in the number of annual passholders. As many have witnessed the past couple of years, both parks are now rarely uncrowded. The slow, off-season weekdays of California Adventure's early years are long gone and thus the expansion of the park and resort infrastructure is absolutely necessary to accommodate the growing crowds and continue the growth of Disney's business in Anaheim.

Last edited by egieszl, Thursday, December 9, 2010 3:59 PM
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Thursday, December 9, 2010 5:15 PM

Are you seriously going to defend DCA as anything but a failure?

I don't have the time to go back and find the various threads here on that particular subject, but there are many, and they explicitly refute your point.

I love DCA, I will love it more when Phase 1 is complete in 2012. However, my enjoyment of it doesn't contradict the fact that it has never met the NEEDED financial numbers, let alone the "projected" ones.

Your theme park is not a success if Tony Baxter has a meeting where one of the three options is to CLOSE your park.

Those attendance numbers you quote are made up of the following classes of people (at least prior to this summer's introduction of WoC). In descending order of magnitude: Annual Pass holders hanging out waiting for Night time entertainment at Disneyland
Annual Pass holders escaping crowds at DL, for a quick spin on the big rides (Screamin, Soarin, Tower, Midway Mania)
Tourists who bought a multi day resort hopper
Locals on some variety of Two-Fer ticket, where they essentially got a free forced day at DCA after enjoying a full price day at DL.
Anyone stupid enough to pay a full price one day park entrance to DCA.

Again, DCA has some home runs, Soarin' being first and foremost.
Actually the elecTRONica event running currently, and the World Of Color show are absolute home runs. WoC has already turned the normal traffic flow for DCA on its head, forcing people to hit DCA first rather than DL, and has added a volume of crowds throughout the summer and fall that have been UNKNOWN to DCA since its opening. That will only continue, and those crowds will get larger, once Mermaid opens this summer, and the monstrous Cars Land in 2012.

however, please don't embarrass yourself by saying that DCA was a success.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 8:30 PM

Failure is based upon expectations...both financially and recreationaly. I think if looked at through those prisms, a strong argument can be made that the park failed. But as most Disney ventures, failure is typically a temporary state.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 9:02 PM

IMO, DCA is a great part. Yes, they opened with 'off the shelf 'rides, which slowly are being replaced one by one. This is the park that Disney's Hollywood Studios should have been. Screamin, ToT, Monster's Inc, and the Golden Zephar are instand classics. IOA opened with 'off the shelf' rides too, but that seemed okay for some reason.

I haven't seen the new World of Color yet, but it will be replacing Fantasmic in Flrorida one day, and DCA has some incredible food, and all the classic art deco buildings you could ask for. Myself, I dig the whole Route 66 thing, so I am anxious for the new Cars Land expansion.

Of course, one proposal that was shelved at the last minute, was to expand Disneyland into a giant mega-sized park. No one knows what the outcome would have been, but DL still would have warranted a visit from true park and Disney fans from back East.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 9:48 PM

I dug DCA when we were there. I can see how it'd dissapoint, though. It's in the same market as Knott's and Magic Mountain, so the deluge of standard rides can't help... especially with the locals.

Cars land will be awesome, though. If it had been open this year we may have gone there instead of Florida.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 10:40 PM

Can't wait. The animatronic Ric Ocasek will probably be even more lifelike than the original.

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