Should Disney bring back theme park ticket books?

For many of us, when we hear the term “E-Ticket,” it simply means the biggest and coolest Disney theme park attraction. Although we may know its history, many of us weren’t even born when these tickets were in use at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Given the current system in place for Genie+ and Lightning Lane, is it simply time for the ticketing system to return to last year’s ticket books?

Disney ticket book

If you weren’t aware, in the early days of Disneyland and Walt Disney World history, individual theme park attractions had to be paid for. Just a few months after Disneyland opened, different levels of tickets were sold out in the ticket books. What started as A, B, and C tickets eventually expanded to include D and E tickets as well. The A ticket meant it was a smaller attraction with e-tickets giving you access to the greatest of them all.

When these ticket books existed, guests paid a small fee to enter the Disneyland gates and each attraction had an additional cost. These ticket books eventually disappeared in the early 1980s to make room for the Disneyland Passport. Obviously, this raised the price of admission to the amusement park, but you no longer need to pay anything extra to experience the rides.

Disney ticket book

With the latest Genie+ and Lightning Lane systems, they have some similarities to ticket books, but there are also many differences. With Genie+ and Lightning Lane, you’re essentially paying above your theme park admission price in order to get access to the rides, just like you did with ticket books. The biggest difference is that with ticketbooks you need a ticket, while Genie+ and Lightning Lane are optional in order to get a shorter waiting time.

But as we’ve seen several days at the Disney parks, these Genie+ and Lightning Lane lines are so long it feels like a standard queue. Of course, this means that the traditional standby queue is longer.

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I noticed that a lot of attractions that used to have 30 minutes or less waits are now 60 minutes or longer. In this case, it seems as if the days of being in the rope and staying until park closures to make sure you experience everything you want are next to impossible. That is, of course, unless you upgrade your tickets for an additional fee.

Lightning Pass

The current system appears to be broken. So what is the solution? I’m not sure, but I think it might be worth looking at the old ticket book system. That is, if there is no chance that they will simply return to the reserve queues only.

In 1981, which was the last full year the ticket book was used, admission to Walt Disney World cost $9.50. With inflation, that would be about $30.00 today. I never expect to pay just $30.00 today to get into a Disney theme park. The truth is, there’s a lot more to do at a Disney park these days when simply walking around than there was in 1981. There are parades, rides, fireworks, great nightly shows, characters, events, and more. But, what if it would cost you about $60.00 to enter a Disney park, but you had to pay for each individual attraction? Does this interest you? This may be unattractive to many people. But for some, I think this might be an attractive option.

There are many ways to enjoy the Disney theme park. Some go primarily to enjoy live entertainment in the parks. Others’ priority is shopping or food. For these groups of people, travel isn’t necessarily a priority. So, what if they only had to pay to enter the park gates? The immediate idea is that Disney will make less money. But not necessarily. I’m sure some people in this camp currently feel the need to ride at least some of the rides during their visit in order to get their money’s worth based on the high entry costs.

Magic happens

But what if the majority of people who feel this way don’t get into those waiting lists at every visit? Let’s face it. Many passport holders go to amusement parks just to visit their happy place. I’m sure many of them don’t feel the need to take a few rides every time they go. But they go for it just because they can. If they can’t without buying an additional ticket, the lines are likely to become less cluttered. This means that for people who have purchased a single ticket to an attraction, the lines will be more manageable. This may also mean that single rides require less maintenance due to less abuse of ride systems. This could save Disney money on maintenance costs and, hopefully, less downtime for the attractions.

With devices like MagicBand+ In use, it looks as though the ticketing system for individual attractions will be easier to implement than ever. Is this an ideal idea? Mostly not. But I think it’s something worth thinking about. I think it has the potential to please more guests. Guests who didn’t make riding a priority won’t feel like they overpaid. And in theory, guests who love the ride and are willing to pay the extra for it will have a better waiting and driving experience. Genie+ and Lightning Lane have proven that many people are willing to pay more on top of the already exorbitant entrance fee. If the park entrance fee were brought down to a reasonable cost, I don’t think anyone would complain about paying for individual rides.

Magic Band

If Disney has to consider an idea like this, I think some attractive marketing has already been worked in given the nostalgia. As we all know, nostalgia is a hot commodity these days. I’m not going to try and think of a fancy new name with a “+” added at the end. I would simply call them “e-tickets”. But, of course, they will be in digital form.

As they say, everything is cyclical. I think we can already see this today with how the Lightning Lane system works. It may have a different name, and even some differences, but there are still similarities that go back to the early days of Disney theme parks.

what do you think? Do you think a system like this idea could improve the existing guest experience, or do you like Genie+ and Lightning Lane? Or would you rather go back to all backup queues? Or maybe the return of free FastPasses? Let me know which system you think will provide the best guest experience by leaving a comment.

Jeff DiPaoli is a producer and voiceover artist who lives in Los Angeles.

Jeff DiPaoli is a producer and voiceover artist who lives in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Disney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate unofficial podcast for Disney fans. Get free gifts like “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit,” and more at DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attraction Magazine.


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