Disney Now and Then: Crowd Control

disneyland-crowds

A few years ago, I would frequently get called ‘bumblebee’ fondly by tons of Disneyland guests as I waved a lightsaber around and wore a yellow striped polo. Can anyone guess what job I was doing? That’s right! I was guest control for Fantasmic! On top of the plethora of jobs that I had while working for the Disneyland Resort, one of the jobs I jumped for to pick up overtime pay in the summertime was guest control. Back when I worked there, it felt like the size of the park was shrinking before my very eyes as the crowds grew and grew. There was no way for me to comprehend how the guest flow issue would change in years to come, and I’m so excited to announce a few really cool changes that I saw on my Disney trip about a 2 weeks ago.

When my summer visit came around, I hadn’t been to Disneyland in 4 years, and you can imagine how much I was trying to stuff into my itinerary.

I HAVE to see “Paint the Night,” the new fireworks and I CAN’T MISS Fantasmic!, because that’s my JAM.

I knew the crowds were going to be hectic…it was a weekend during summer peak season. I used to tell people they had to wait behind a rope following Fantasmic! then re-route them through the front of the park in bumper to bumper walking traffic only to have them double back just to get into Fantasyland. I am happy to say I conquered the evening entertainment crowds on both nights. Here’s how I did it:

DAY 1:

I spent my first Disneyland day with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, and Paint the Night was our top priority. Back in my day, the evening entertainment roster used to happen back-to-back, meaning, fireworks would immediately follow the parade and Fantasmic! would follow the fireworks. What you ended up getting was every single person in the park desperately racing in the same direction toward the same show to make the same start time. If you wanted to see the face of California traffic, you didn’t have to look further than the entrance of Adventureland where the entire park bottle-necked and I would fear for the well-being of the Tiki birds. Here’s the big thing that has changed: The evening parade and Fan! (The cool way to say Fantasmic!) happen at the same time, which separates the massive traffic locations into two parts of the park rather than one. It forces guests to choose which show they would rather see and at what time. If you choose the parade over Fan!, you can still catch Fan! on a 2-show night, but you will see it much later in the evening. Whichever option you choose, you can see the fireworks immediately after (which is what they did when I worked there), in either the parade or Fan! viewing locations.

paint-the-night-signage-better

On DAY 1, we kept things simple. We opted not to do Fan! at all, and we caught the first performance of Paint the Night. We camped out on Main Street starting at 7PM, where we were in view of both the castle and the tops of the Main Street shops (you’ll want this view for fireworks). After Paint the Night (and I was SO grateful for our awesome Main Street view. We were RIGHT NEXT TO IT), crowd control now has everyone who wants to see the fireworks step into the street off the curb. This simple change is incredible. What happens, is that the curbs become a clear walkway, while Main Street becomes a convenient viewing area. The fireworks begin 5 minutes later. If you’re looking for a way to ado the Main Street parade viewing option, this is it. Stick to the sidewalk in the middle of Main Street (somewhere near the Arcade maybe!) and once the parade ends, you take two steps into the actual street and have a perfect fireworks view. Wanna leave the park after? Just stay on the curb and walk right on out.

DAY 2:

I spent my 2nd Disneyland day with my mom, who was celebrating her 60th birthday, and it was also her first time to the parks in 4 years. We figured we didn’t want to waste time waiting around for shows, so we tried out the new fastpass system for Fantasmic!

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It’s a dream! Our fastpass told us to return to the BLUE area between 8-9PM for a 9PM show. We grabbed a casual dinner of bread bowls in New Orleans and around 8:30PM, we checked in at the BLUE area and we were escorted to our viewing location, which happened to be DEAD CENTER next to the stage management booth. When I worked at Disneyland, there was no fastpass system for the show. You camped out hours in advance, and that was that. Now, the viewing locations are divided by different names like BLUE, RED, etc. Any cast member can direct you on where to meet your leader for the viewing location that coincides with your ticket. The leader escorts your group to the location, and within that location, you can stand anywhere you like. Some people like to arrive at the beginning of their fastpass window to get even closer to the front of their assigned location, but honestly, we got a GREAT spot 30 minutes prior to the top of the show. After the show, we decided to stay in the exact same spot to watch the fireworks, and it was so cool to see the Fan! projection system used to project imagery from the fireworks show directly onto the water. While we didn’t have a view of the castle, we still had a view of various effects utilized in the show (no details, I don’t want to spoil), just a different angle.

fantasmic-00

After the fireworks, I noticed the crowds still re-route through the front of park. I asked a CM is I could just walk straight toward Frontierland to get to Fantasyland. She explained I still had to re-route through the front of the park. My response to this was to tell my mom to close her eyes and grab my arm because we were going to move fast. What I ended up doing was walking toward Frontierland as if I was heading toward Golden Horseshoe. By the time I got over there, I noticed they were dropping the crowd control ropes and you could actually walk behind Thunder Mountain directly into Fantasyland. Can you guess where we were heading? That’s right, Peter Pan. You used to either have to wait in the Hub for clearance and race through the castle (which was impossible if you were coming from Fan!), or you would have to wait at the ropes behind the carousel (which you could only access if you were coming from Tomorrowland). Either way, it used to always be a mad dash for the ride once those ropes dropped. Here’s what they do now: They start forming the line for Peter Pan, and once the rope drops, the line gets escorted to the attraction. By the time I raced over with my mom, the line (which starts near Mr. Toad area) had already looped past the tea cups. They cut off the line when it gets past tea cups and ask you to return directly to the ride later. They do this mostly so that they don’t block a major walk-way across Tomorrowland. We ended up skipping Peter Pan, but I gotta admit, I love that they have an organized line, because the stress of pushing your way through crowds used to be unbearable. Since we didn’t have a ride to visit, we visited the restrooms behind Alice in Wonderland. What we noticed was that people were starting to line up along the Matterhorn for the final showing of Paint the Night. We ended up snagging SEATS on the bench by the restroom and only waited 30 min. for the start of the parade. Not only did we have a perfect view and SEATS, we were at the part of the route where the performers could only interact with one side of the route due to the fact that the Matterhorn was on the opposite side, which meant that the side I was sitting on got 100% of the attention from all performers. It was pretty perfect.

At the end of the day, Disneyland is still crowded at night, but it was amazing to see what a difference tiny tweaks made. We really had a magical trip!

Erika Jenko
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Posted on August 31, 2015, in Articles, Disney Now and Then and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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