In case you haven’t heard, there are some MAJOR shakeups happening over at the Disneyland Resort. In January, Disney announced that they would “sunset” the current Annual Passholder program, leaving countless Disneyland fans wondering what was to come when the parks reopen.
The most recent update about Disneyland’s reopening has been an exciting one! Governor Gavin Newsom’s new “Blueprint Refresh” will allow theme parks to reopen as early as April 1st at limited capacity. In order to reopen, the county where the park is located must be in the red/substantial tier for COVID-19. Let’s recap exactly what has gone down thus far with Disneyland’s Annual Passholder program since the closures began, and what we can expect to see as a replacement program later this year.
What Happened to Annual Passholders Right After Disneyland Closed?
There were, understandably, loads of questions from Passholders on both coasts when the theme parks shut down in March of 2020. In the first few weeks of their closure, Disneyland offered refunds to Passholders who had paid in full, as well as payment freezes to Passholders who were on the monthly payment program. Passholders were also given the option to keep their original expiration date, or extend the expiration date based on the length of the closure. Of course, this was back before anyone realized just how long Disneyland’s closure would last.
As of this writing, we could see Disneyland reopening as early as April 1st. Orange County is currently in the purple/widespread tier, but it’s expected to move to the red/substantial tier next week. That change would make it eligible to reopen (with capacity limits) in April. However, the parks have remained closed for nearly a year now — leaving many to wonder what will become of Disneyland’s Annual Passholder program. By the time the parks reopen, every previously active Disneyland Pass would have lapsed or expired since no one had the option to renew.
What Did Disney Decide To Do Next?
Disneyland announced in January of 2021 (ten months after the parks closed) that they were “sunsetting” their Annual Passholder Program, effectively ending the program as we knew it. This was quickly followed by lots of confusion regarding Passholder refunds, and even more confusion for Premier Passholders with access to both Disneyland and Disney World.
This was a MAJOR culture shock moment to Southern California locals, many of whom had Annual Passes to Disneyland for decades. Understandably, even more questions were brought up regarding the future of Disneyland’s most loyal fans. A couple of weeks later, Disneyland announced that they were introducing a new “Legacy Passholder” program.
What (and Who) is a Legacy Passholder?
Legacy Passholders are those who had ACTIVE Annual Passes the day Disneyland’s closure began, which was March 14th, 2020. So if your Pass already expired prior to that date, you are not considered to be a Legacy Passholder.
Disneyland shared that their Legacy Passholders will still be able to benefit from “magical extras,” including food and merchandise discounts, special event sneak peeks, and more — but exact details on what those magical extras would include weren’t announced right away.
Most recently, we found out Passholders will get access to a “special opportunity” at the ticketed event coming soon to Disney Calfornia Adventure. So, aside from whatever that opportunity ends up being, nothing new or out of the ordinary has been offered to Legacy Passholders. So far the benefits look to be the same as before, just under a new name.
What’s Next For Disneyland’s Passholder Program?
As of this writing, a lot of the details are still unknown. Disney said that details about a new membership program will be announced when we hear about the parks reopening, so it’s possible that we could be hearing updates soon.
Disney’s wording on their website is that the Legacy Passholder program was announced “to show our appreciation until new membership offerings are announced,” so it sounds like the Legacy Passholder program will be retired once a replacement program is launched.
We will point out that there will likely be a MAJOR difference between the word “passholder” and the word “membership.” Whatever Disney comes up with, it could wind up being very different than the Annual Passholder program we used to know. Disney may have had to change the name to “Legacy Passholders” to avoid confusion down the road if they are indeed rolling out a “Membership” program.
A replacement system IS in the works, with Disney considering new factors like frequency of pass use, price, and the level of spontaneity of park trips (Disneyland Passholders are known for last-minute spontaneous trips!). Additionally, according to Orange County Register, Passholders may be asked to share about the specific times of the day, week, and year that they would prefer to use a new program.
Click here to read more about what could be on the horizon for a replacement Disneyland “membership” program!
Ultimately, it will still be sometime before we understand the full scope of the replacement program Disneyland is creating. While the details are still unknown, all signs point to something very different than what Passholders may have been used to in the past. Disney World has changed quite a bit since its phased reopening began in July of 2020, and we can expect the same to be the case when Disneyland eventually reopens as well. We’ll be following all the latest developments from the west coast and we will keep you informed!
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Are you now considered a Disneyland Legacy Passholder? Let us know in the comments!