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Should Disney bring back theme park ticket books? – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

For many of us, when we hear the term “E-Ticket,” it simply means the largest and most epic of attractions at a Disney theme park. Although we may know its history, a lot of us weren’t even born when these tickets were in use at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Considering the current system in place for Genie+ and Lightning Lane, is it simply time for the ticketing system to return to the ticket books of yesteryear?

disney ticket book

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

When these ticket books existed, guests paid a nominal fee to enter the gates of Disneyland and every attraction was an added cost. These ticket books eventually went away in the early 1980s to make way for a Disneyland Passport. This obviously raised the price of theme park admission, but you no longer needed to pay anything extra to experience the rides.

disney ticket book

With the latest systems of Genie+ and Lightning Lane in place, they have some similarities to ticket books, but also several differences. With Genie+ and Lightning Lane, you are essentially paying above your theme park admission price in order to gain access to the rides, just like you did with ticket books. The biggest difference is that with ticket books, you needed a ticket, whereas Genie+ and Lightning Lane are optional in order to gain a shorter wait time.

But as we’ve seen many days in the Disney parks, those Genie+ and Lightning Lane lines are extremely long making it almost feel like a standard queue. Of course, that means the traditional standby queue is even longer.

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I noticed how a lot of attractions that used to be a 30-minute or less wait were now 60-minutes or longer. With this being the case, it seems as though the days of being at rope drop and staying until park closure to ensure you experience everything you want is nearly impossible. That is, of course, unless you upgrade your tickets for an additional fee.

lightning lane

The current system feels broken. So, what’s the solution? I’m not sure, but I think it might be worth taking a look back at the old ticket book system. That is, if there’s no chance of them simply returning to only standby queues.

In 1981, which was the last full year of ticket book use, admission into Walt Disney World cost $9.50. With inflation, that would be around $30.00 today. I would never expect to pay only $30.00 today to enter a Disney theme park. The fact is, there is a lot more to do in a Disney park these days when simply walking around than there was in 1981. There are parades, cavalcades, fireworks, nighttime spectaculars, characters, happenings, and more. But, what if it cost around $60.00 to enter a Disney park, but you had to pay for each individual attraction? Would that interest you? For a lot of people this would probably be unappealing. But for some, I think this could be an attractive option.

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

magic happens

But what if the majority of folks who feel that way didn’t get into those queues every visit? Let’s face it. Many passholders go to the parks just to visit their happy place. I’m sure a lot of them don’t feel the need to get on certain rides every time they go. But they do go on them simply because they can. If they couldn’t without the additional purchase of a ticket, the lines would most likely become less cluttered. This would mean that for the folks who did buy an individual ticket to an attraction, the lines would be more manageable. This could also mean that individual rides would need less maintenance given a lesser amount of abuse to the ride systems. This could potentially save Disney money on maintenance costs, and hopefully less downtime for attractions.

With devices like MagicBand+ in use, it seems as though a ticketing system for individual attractions would be easier to implement than ever before. Is this a perfect idea? Probably not. But I do believe it’s something worth considering. I think it has the potential of making more guests happy. Guests who didn’t consider rides a priority wouldn’t feel they were overpaying. And, in theory, guests who love the rides and are willing to pay extra for them would have a better queue and ride experience. Genie+ and Lightning Lane has proven that many people are willing to pay extra on top of an already expensive admission fee. If park entrance fees were lowered to a reasonable cost, I don’t think anybody would complain about paying for individual rides.

magicband

If Disney were to ever consider an idea like this, I believe there’s some appealing marketing already worked into it given the nostalgia of it all. As we all know, nostalgia is a hot commodity these days. I wouldn’t try and think of some fancy new name with a “+” added to the end of it. I would simply call them “E-Tickets.” But, of course, they’d be in digital form.

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

What do you think? Do you think a system like this idea could improve the current guest experience, or do you like the Genie+ and Lightning Lane system? Or would you rather it simply return to all standby queues? Or perhaps the return of free FastPasses? Let me know what system you think would make for the best guest experience by leaving a comment.


Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles.

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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6 comments

C Riddell January 6, 2023 - 4:35 pm

I had the same thought recently, but I think for me it would be better if they kept the current system but fixed/changed 2 things: 1) you should be able to use the lightning lane more than once per ride per day – even just upping it to twice would be a HUGE improvement, 2) you should be able to hold more than 1 ride reservation at a time – like at least 3.

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Jeff DePaoli January 7, 2023 - 1:52 pm

C, That sounds similar to MaxPass. How crazy that the past systems seemed to work much better than the current one. Thanks for reading.

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Brad+Barefoot January 9, 2023 - 10:45 am

Yes, bring back the A to E Ticket books … first time I went to WDW this was the normal in the early 1970’s. This would end the long lines, using the “lightning” thing is like using a credit card … it’s play money to an extent, when you peal off a E ticket you realize you’ve spent money. I remember using a E-Ticket for Pirates. The super long lines would end overnight.

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Jeff DePaoli January 9, 2023 - 12:58 pm

Hi Brad. Thanks for reading. My guess is if they were to ever bring back the idea of “tickets,” it would probably be all digital. I can’t imagine paper tickets ever returning for something like that. I did collect a bunch of paper FastPasses before they went away since the writing was on the wall.

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Carolyn January 9, 2023 - 7:49 pm

No don’t bring back the ticket. Books. Bring back the fast pass system there wasn’t anything wrong with it. With fast past had lines moving faster. We don’t need extra fees fgenie+ and lightning lane make for more expenses

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Jeff DePaoli January 10, 2023 - 2:21 pm

Carolyn, thanks for reading. The free FastPass system certainly did seem to handle the lines better than Lightning Lane currently does. They can’t seem to get them under control a lot of times. It seems like they sell too many of them and it’s messing up the whole system.

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