Disney is officially ending its annual theme park passholder program due to the “continued uncertainty of the [COVID-19] pandemic and limitations and expected restrictions around the reopening of our theme parks.”
Disney announced the news in an email to annual passholders and on Twitter. IGN employees who are annual passholders also received the email. Disney said it will begin processing refunds to Disneyland Resort Annual Passport holders and sunsetting the program as a whole for an indeterminate amount of time.
Disney’s annual passholder program is the theme park’s version of an all-year all-access membership, popular with California residents and Disney diehards. Depending on what tier you purchase, the pass allows holders to visit both Disneyland parks all year, with certain exceptions. It also gives holders certain discounts on Disney merchandise.
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People with annual passes as of March 14, 2020 will still receive discounts on merchandise, food, and beverages at select Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street locations. From January 18 through February 25, 2021, passholders will receive a 30% discounts on select merchandise at the same locations.
“I know that sunsetting the Annual Passport program will be disappointing to many of our Passholders who are just as anxious as we are to reopen our gates and welcome Guests back when the time is right,” Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock said in a statement.
Disney says it is spending the interim between now and when the annual pass program resumes on developing new membership programs.
The change does not appear to impact annual passholders for Disney World, Disney’s larger Florida resort, only California’s Disneyland Resort.
Among Disney’s theme parks, Disneyland has seemingly been hit the hardest due to California’s tighter restrictions on business and large-scale crowd management during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disneyland plans to lay off approximately 32,000 employees by the end of the first fiscal half of 2021.
Potrock has previously had harsh words for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to restrict theme park openings in the state, alleging that Newsom is holding theme parks to “arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
California, particularly Los Angeles County (Disneyland is located in Anaheim, Orange County), is one of the largest hotbeds of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States. According to NBC News’ COVID-19 tracker, California has experienced nearly 3 million cases and more than 31,000 deaths.
Disneyland has also recently opened a “super” COVID-19 vaccination site, with plans to vaccinate approximately 7,000 people a day, according to CNN.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer/Ziffkateer for IGN.