One More Disney Day, when both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland were open for 24 straight hours, was quite an unusual event for Disney. At TouringPlans we love unusual events so we were all over this one. We have decided to take an equally unusual approach to our recap of One More Disney Day by having Brian McNichols (who was at Walt Disney World) and Tom Bricker (at Disneyland) give a dueling account of the bi-coastal event. We are starting with the pre-opening and initial hours of the long day.
Walt Disney World
The official Magic Kingdom opening was 6am, but it started a bit earlier for some Annual Passholders. Beginning at 4:30am, special One More Disney Day mouse ears were distributed to passholders that had previously signed up online. My personal feeling was that 6am was plenty early to get to the park, so I was not one of those that signed up.
To be honest with you, I was expecting there to be a smattering of people at the park for rope drop with the normal increase in crowds heading toward early afternoon…I was wrong. While Tom was sound asleep in his bed, I bravely arrived at the Port Orleans French Quarter bus stop at about 5:15am to find one couple already there, and when the bus arrived a few minutes later there were about 8 people waiting to board. The bus then stopped at Port Orleans Riverside and quicky filled, including standing room…at 5:20am. Oh boy, this might be busy.
My fears were confirmed upon arrival at the Magic Kingdom. All turnstiles on the left were blocked off specifically for those Annual Pass holders that had signed up for mouse ears, who were allowed to enter early. The turnstiles on the right were for the general public and the lines were all the way past the bag check stations (wait, did I say lines? I meant undulating mass of people). The right hand turnstiles were not to be opened until the welcome show ended. Oh boy, again.
Right in between the two rows of turnstiles were all the television cameras and they were shooting the crowd, Disney executives, and Mickey and Minnie in their pajamas. Rather than wait in the pile of humanity at the turnstiles I wandered toward the stage in the center. Using my considerable charm I managed to get through the left hand turnstiles where I found out that they had a metric ton of those mouse ears that they were handing to anyone who had hands to hold them with. Now I’m really glad I didn’t sign up early.
The welcome show was pretty normal as was the rush of people through the railroad station. The major difference was the crowd distribution (this was a running theme throughout the day). My guess is that this was a crowd made up primarily of “regulars;” those who visit the park multiple times per year. Due to that, there was not a rush to the big attractions such as Space or Splash Mountain, instead much of the crowd ran directly into the Emporium to find special, limited edition merchandise (which was mostly underwhelming and available online anyway).
There was also a lot of people (including myself) just hanging around in the hub. Most just seemed content enjoying the park in the early morning hours, walking the paths, riding the Main Street Vehicles, just being there. It was downright eerie. As the morning went on the “normal tourists” showed up, many unaware of the early hours. What ensued was a mass of people, but still relatively low wait times. That would change soon though.
At this point of the day, the West Coast park had yet to even open. Lazy bums. I’ll toss it over to Tom for his California coverage of the early hours.
Lazy bums? Even though California is approximately 6.15 hours behind Florida (or something like that), “One More Disney Day” at Disneyland actually started quite a bit earlier than it did in Florida. At least for some people. This is because things are done differently in the Wild West (although SoCal can hardly can categorized as such). Out in Disneyland, rather than signing up early for the free limited-edition mouse ears, in California it was a free-for-all, with the first 2,000 guests lining up receiving them. To be frank, these hats were nothing impressive, but when the Disney Parks Blog slyly announced that guests could line up as early as 10 pm the night before to receive them, it pretty much guaranteed that some people would do exactly that.
We arrived at our hotel in Anaheim at 9:30 pm the night before “One More Disney Day,” and as is my tradition upon arriving, I immediately headed over to Disneyland to soak up the ambiance. When I arrived in the esplanade, I was taken aback to see roughly one-thousand people lined up to get in line for the ears. That’s right: a line to get in line to wait overnight in the cold to receive some cheaply designed mouse ears. To some extent, I can’t say I blame these people (besides a few of the idiots I spotted waiting in the 40-degree weather with their infants), as I’m sure it was a fun experience and spectacle to be a part of, no matter how lame the reward. One of those, “more about the journey than the destination” type deals. My journey was to be 24 consecutive hours in the park the next day, and adding another 6 hours on to that just didn’t seem pragmatic. This was one line I couldn’t use “Lines” to beat, so I headed back to the hotel to sleep.
I was back at the park at 4:15 am the next morning, where a massive line had already formed. Even though it snaked several times, I still found myself back by the Tower of Terror. For those unfamiliar with Disneyland, that’s an attraction in Disney California Adventure, and is a fair distance from Disneyland’s main entrance. As a photographer, my big goal for the morning was to photograph the sunrise over Sleeping Beauty Castle, which would occur around 6:19 am, according to my sources (the internet). With this long of a line, there was a strong probability that I wouldn’t even be in the park by then!
The line started slowly moving at 5:30 am; I started really worrying at 5:50 am, when Disneyland still wasn’t even in view. At that rate, I wouldn’t be in the park until 6:45 am, well after the sunrise! Luckily, right after I began worrying, a Cast Member informed our section of the line that they had just run out of the 2,000 mouse ears they were handing to the single file line, and things would start moving much faster. Since the line easily had 2,000 people in it by about 2 or 3 am, I wondered why they didn’t just give these ears out then to save some time and spare the other 4,000 or so people who were waiting in line from having to move so slowly. From what I understand, out East most all Annual Passholders in what Brian describes as the “massive crowd” received ears as long as they arrived even 5 minutes before park opening. Want to see a truly “massive crowd,” Brian? Go West, young man. In any case, the line did start moving quickly, and I breezed through security and the turnstiles and was in the park by about 6:10 am.
As I entered, I saw Band Leader Mickey and his band, and a whole slew of press-types. I had no time to stand around and gawk, I had a date with sunrise near Sleeping Beauty Castle! After all, I had already heard reports that sunrise in Walt Disney World was a foggy mess (at least that’s what Brian claimed–I’m not so convinced that he didn’t just take a bunch of out-of-focus photos on accident), so it as my blogging civic duty to capture some quality photos to run with this post. You’re welcome, America! (And Canada…and the United Kingdom…and wherever else people reside who read this–but mostly America!)
Much like the phenomenon Brian experienced in Florida, most guests at Disneyland headed not for Space Mountain, Dumbo, Indiana Jones Adventure, etc., but instead for the Emporium. Disneyland fans are crazy about collecting (Exhibit A: 10 pm line for crumby mouse ears), so they immediately gobbled up the “special” shirts for the day. When Disneyland eventually does roll out xPass, it should include an option for limited edition merchandise lines. The company would make billions, if not trillions, off that option alone!
At this point I entered the hub and my camera took control of me. The next hour plus are now a blur as I ran from the hub to one side of the park, to the hub, to the other side of the park, back to the hub taking photos. The sun didn’t rise over the trees around most areas of Disneyland until more like 6:45 am or 7 am, and I was snapping photos until around 8 am. As people emerged from the Emporium, I noticed that many of them headed to the hub or Jolly Holiday Bakery, and not to attractions. These die-hard fans could do attractions any day of the year. They wanted strong (coffee) drink and to enjoy the early morning light hitting the beautiful blooming Tabebuia trees in the hub. For most guests, the attractions in the park took backseat to soaking up the beauty of the experience, at least during those early hours…
This post is the first in a series of Recap posts brought to you by Tom and Brian as they attempt to outfox one another and survive twenty-four hours of “One More Disney Day.” Who will survive?! Who will win?! Stay tuned as our hero (and Brian) persevere through the day! If you were at “One More Disney Day” on either coast, let them know your thoughts of the early morning hours in the comments!