How Disney World ticket prices have surged since 1971

Posted at 4:20 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 16:20:04-04

disney world

It starts with the blare of an early-morning alarm and a pair of sneakers that can withstand a day of walking. The agenda then might proceed as follows: a quick whip around Space Mountain to get your sea legs, a hair-raising tour of the Haunted Mansion, an aerial view of London from Peter Pan’s perspective and a Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream pop before the parade.

A staggering 148 million visitors frequented Disney theme parks worldwide in 2014, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Orlando’s Disney World, aka the Magic Kingdom, was the most-visited theme park that year — attracting 19 million guests alone.

It isn’t called the happiest place on earth for nothing, and due to its unreal demand the price of an adult-admission Disneyland ticket has skyrocketed 9,400 percent over the last 60 years — from $1 in 1955 to $95 today — according to CNBC. And tickets to Disney World are even more expensive.

The team at MooseRoots, a genealogy and historical data visualization site that’s part of the Graphiq network, wanted to take a closer look at Disney World’s price progression. To do this, they used data aggregated from the leading Disney forum AllEars to obtain face-value ticket prices since Disney World’s opening in 1971. Next, they used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the inflation-adjusted price of a ticket each year in today’s dollars.

Since the Magic Kingdom opened its gates for the first time in 1971, absolute ticket prices have climbed from $3.50 to $105, according to AllEars — representing a 2,900 percent increase. Comparing inflation-adjusted prices, the uptick represents a 392 percent change.

The introduction of Michael Eisner as CEO in 1984 was a major catalyst for Anaheim Disneyland price increases. According to Sacramento State University’s timeline of Walt Disney Company events, Eisner believed Disneyland tickets should be on par with those of Broadway. Prices were subsequently increased to $56 to surpass the average Broadway ticket price at the time.

In February 2016, Disney World and Disneyland introduced surge pricing to the mix, increasing rates on high-demand days. The price difference between “value” days, or slower days for the park, and peak days shakes out to $17 per ticket at Disney World, with a regular-day ticket coming out to $102 as of publication for the month of May. For a family of four, the difference in attending the park on a value versus a peak day could be $68, not including food and merchandise purchases within the park’s gates.

Over the 44 years since the Magic Kingdom opened, numerous noteworthy events happened for the Walt Disney Company. Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, and Shanghai Disneyland joined the company’s suite of parks. In terms of animation, Walt Disney Pictures entered the Disney Renaissance in 1989 with the release of “The Little Mermaid,” which would quickly be followed by “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, “The Lion King” in 1994, “Pocahontas” in 1995, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in 1996, “Hercules” in 1997 and “Mulan” in 1998.

The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion in 2006 and LucasFilms for $4 billion in 2012. It celebrated a revival of its princess story arc with 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog,” 2010’s “Tangled” and 2013’s “Frozen,” which took childhood delight in Disney animation to new heights.

Most recently, the 2015 release of the much-anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” continued the Star Wars story arc, with Walt Disney Studios planning to release two more sequels to the storyline that began in 1977 along with a handful of standalone origin stories, including “Star Wars: Rogue One,” which has an anticipated release date of Dec. 16, 2016.

Although fluctuating prices can make it harder for families to plan their Disney vacations on a budget — or might make a trip unfeasible all together — thousands of park-goers still manage to flood Disney theme parks for a day spent among favorite characters, rides and company.

Compare More Prices Over Time on MooseRoots