Nearly everyone wants to come and play with Mickey Mouse in his back yard.
While the company will not officially release attendance numbers, Amusement Business magazine estimates 13.4 million people passed through Disneyland’s gates in 2004. This means skillful crowd management is in order to make the park truly the happiest place on Earth.
“The group of people coming to the park has become more and more varied over time,” says Kris Theiler, director of operations planning and integration for Disneyland resorts. “We have people coming from all over the world and many of them speak other languages. And people with special physical needs are coming to the park in greater numbers. We’ve added translators and we print park guidebooks in many different languages. And we’re making sure everything in the park meets standards set out by the Americans With Disabilities Act.”
Moving people through the park during parades or special events is also delicate business. While some guests are competing for the best vantage spots, others are trying to get to rides or other attractions.
“There’s nothing worse than wanting to jump on to the Matterhorn Bobsleds and not being able to get there so we try to plan crossovers on the parade path where people can get to the rides,” says Al Nassar, senior event manager for Disneyland resort special events. “I would also tell guests to ask a cast member about the best places to watch a parade because they always know those spots where no one ever seems to line up.”
Theiler says the park conducts guest surveys every day to stay in touch with visitor concerns.
After guests expressed frustration with the amount of time spent in line waiting to ride an attraction, Disneyland introduced another important tool in crowd management –the Fastpass. This technology was first introduced on around 12 rides in the late 1990s. It allows guests to choose to return to the attraction at a later time for quicker entry on to the ride through a prioritized Fastpass line.
This means visitors can go ride another attraction or see other parts of the park instead of spending an hour in line.
Sometimes bringing Fastpass into an area of the park creates more problems than it solves, however. “We’ve taken Fastpass off of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and the ‘Haunted Mansion’ with the exception of having it on during the holiday period because it actually resulted in too much crowding in those areas,” Theiler says.
More than anything, Theiler and Nassar are aiming to give guests a seamless experience in which they’re able to see attractions and events without being too aware of the planning that made it possible.
“I always tell my team that if at the end of the night the guests just had a great time and never knew you were there, then you’ve done a great job,” Nassar says.