The Problem with Disneyland’s Rising Prices

Disneyland is not just a place. No, it’s a cult. Thousands of people flock to Disneyland year after year to revel in fantastic escapism and Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles. Each person who passes through Disney’s gates pays a magical price—they do not forfeit their soul, but rather pay a pretty penny.

Calling Disneyland tickets “pricey” is an understatement. Currently, during peak pricing, a one-day, one-park Disneyland ticket costs $154 plus tax. If ticket prices continue to rise at a similar rate as they have been, the one-day, one-park ticket will likely reach $200 by 2026. Angry vacationers and Disney nerds alike have complained of the park’s rising prices as families are forced to vacation elsewhere. One question reigns supreme on everyone’s mind: are such prices necessary? The obvious answer should be no, but… it’s complicated.

Raising prices is, to a degree, necessary to compete with inflation and control crowds. Inflation is only natural, so there should be a rise in price to keep up. And as a Disney fan myself, as much as I hate to admit it, lowered prices create larger crowds, and large crowds devalue the Disneyland experience. Disneyland has enacted numerous measures to prevent stagnant crowds, such as removing many seats and benches from paths, but changing ticket prices is one of the most effective ways to decrease crowds. It bars many from visiting regularly, relegating Disneyland to only special events. That being said, such a measure prevents poorer families from ever visiting.

 But there is a bigger problem with Disneyland that few discuss—its cast members.

These cast members may smile for guests, but their life behind the magic is anything but magical; cast members sacrifice everything in the name of working at “the Happiest Place on Earth.” The tourist industry in Orange County has inflated housing prices to the point that Disneyland’s own workers cannot afford to live by the park. Employees must commute hours a day from the houses of family or friends. Many, such as Emily Bertola, sleep in cars because they cannot afford rent. On top of their living situation, most cast members are not paid a living wage. And as inflation mounts and causes ticket prices to rise, wages do not rise at the same rates, leaving employees to flounder.

If Disney is to raise prices, at least part of that additional money should go toward raising the wages of its workers. Disney’s net worth is already $130 billion, so clearly, money is not an issue. Disneyland could likely pay cast members more with a rearrangement of their budget.

But Disney has no real reason to pay their employees more. Unfortunately, cast members have few avenues to improve their conditions. Striking or quitting en masse would likely not change circumstances, or even be a possibility considering the situation of cast members. Many cast members refuse to give up their positions despite these repressive circumstances because of the benefits (for instance, cast members receive complimentary park admission and discounts on many Disney products at the park). Even if cast members quit, Disney doesn’t have to look far for a replacement. After all, over 10,000 applicants applied to work for the “Disney Park Moms Panel” without pay in 2019, receiving only five free trips to Disneyland in return for part-time work. And why should Disney care? With such a large supply, employees are replaceable at Disneyland.

Bottom line: Disney’s outrageous prices may serve a purpose, but paying cast members should comprise a larger part of Disney’s spending.