Disney, like many companies, will sometimes test the waters when it comes to ideas they have in the form of customer surveys. Did you know that in 1996 they surveyed guests about a potential annual pass that would have been the Disney pass to end all Disney passes?
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You see 1996 was the year Disney was celebrating Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary. The parks got a new parade, some new merch, and a castle makeover that looked… uh… unique. One other potential perk that Disney was testing the waters for, according to the Orlando Sentinel, was a special 25th Anniversary Annual Pass. It would have cost twenty-five hundred dollars and get this, it would have granted the passholder access to all current and future Disney theme parks in Florida for the following twenty-five years.
That’s not all though. The proposed pass would have also included a limited edition lithograph, a signed letter from Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney and a customized etched brick with the guest’s name on it near Cinderella’s castle. Talk about an ultimate anniversary package. A quarter of a century of park access and a way to immortalize yourself into the park itself.
Now, at the time an adult platinum annual pass cost guests $329. Even if you assumed the price would never change, which it would, 25 years of annual passes would cost $8,225. So needless to say in the long run this would have been a potential financial loss for Disney. I say potential because we could never know if guests who would buy this anniversary pass would otherwise buy 25 years worth of normal annual passes. In fact they probably wouldn’t.
When you combine that with the fact that space would have obviously been limited when it came to these custom bricks, assuming they’d be around the same size as the Walk Around The World bricks, it seems likely that this ultimate anniversary pass would have been an exclusive and limited product. Given Disney’s penchant for sticking to the anniversary number, I suspect it would have been limited to either 250 or 2,500 guests.
Now I would ask you all if you’d be willing to buy a pass like this, but it wouldn’t be a fair question. After all, while $2500 is nothing to scoff at, today it’s only about three times the price of a platinum pass, which is about $850. Back then the $2500 price point against a normal $329 pass meant that the anniversary pass was 7.5 times more than the normal price. So applying that to today’s prices, would you pay $6400 for such an annual pass? I’m sure plenty would, especially when you remember that we’re talking about 25 years worth of Disney access.
So what happened to the idea? Well, there aren’t any specifics, but it ultimately never manifested beyond that survey. Perhaps the value of the promotion just wasn’t worth the potential long term costs of the program. Maybe they felt they didn’t need a promotion that drastic when they were already pulling a stunt as large as transforming the castle into a cake. Maybe it wasn’t ever intended to be a real product to begin with and the question was just used to learn more about how much or little guests value access to the parks.
In any case the ultimate Disney pass to end all Disney passes, the 25th anniversary annual pass, would join the ranks as yet another “what if” project that never came to be.