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Kenversations: The Summer That Wouldn't End
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
November 30, 2011
Former Cast Member Ken Pellman goes back 15 years to the Disneyland of Summer of 1996 - the summer that lasted all the way to Thanksgiving as Disneyland had one of its busiest years ever.
 
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Here we are, drawing ever so close to the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

But I was there at Disneyland the year summer never ended.

It was fifteen years ago, in 1996.

Oh, sure, schools had gone back into session in August and September. The almanac said summer was ending in September. The birds of Disneyland, fat and happy, were all set to head back to the gym to work off the summer eats.

Disneyland cast members looked forward to recovering from working full-time and a lot of overtime, and many of them expected to make their usual transition to being full-time students and instructors. Some planned to work as few hours as they could get away with. Others planned to beg schedulers and coworkers for more hours to cover their bills.

For many years, the familiar attendance patterns at Disneyland had been that after the Labor Day holiday weekend in early September, the crowds of 50,000-70,000 per day vanished and non-holiday weekdays, at least Monday through Thursday, were sleepy days where you might get crowds sometimes as small as 10,000 but almost always under 20,000 and the operating hours were 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or maybe 8 p.m., rather than from 8 a.m. to Midnight or 1 a.m. Live entertainment would be much more scarce, and temporary walls would go up as various refurbishments of attractions, restaurants, and shops were undertaken.

You have to remember this was when Disneyland had a parking lot just south of its main entrance instead of another theme park. The "Resort" upgrade hadn't happened yet. There was no Downtown Disney on the west coast, there was no Grand Californian.

But the crowds at Disneyland kept coming as though summer had kept going. The crowds kept coming… and coming. They were largely there to see the Main Street Electrical Parade before it “glowed away forever” after its much-hyped Farewell Season. It really was a brilliant (get it?) strategy. Why spend scores of millions of dollars on a new attraction when you could pack your park to capacity by merely marketing the end of what had become a summertime tradition?

The strategy worked - all too well.
 

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