Disneyland – the ‘Un-Happiest Place On Earth’

Walt Disney Statue at Disnleyland
Walt Disney Statue at Disnleyland

A day out with my son and grandson turns out to be part disaster


The official tagline for Disneyland is “The Happiest Place On Earth,” so it was great anticipation that my wife Norma and I took along our eldest son, Andrew, and his son, Edward, our 11-year-old grandson from Sheffield, England, both of whom had flown over from the UK to spend Christmas with us, to visit this so-called “magical” place, on Thursday, December 26, 2013.


The Disneyland Resort Public Relations had kindly supplied me with two “Park Hopper” media passes to visit both the Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park -- “where dreams come true” -- and so we then shelled $137.00 for each of the 1-Day Park Hopper tickets for them, plus $16.00 for parking.


We had read on the Disneyland website -- https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/ -- the following:

“Enter a magical kingdom where you can sail with pirates, explore exotic jungles, meet fairy-tale princesses, dive under the ocean and rocket through the stars—all in the same day! Disneyland Park is a beloved Southern California destination where generations of families have made their Disney dreams come true. Opened in 1955, Walt Disney’s original theme park is divided into 8 extravagantly themed lands—Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland.”


We started off at California Adventure, where we enjoyed Soarin' Over California, and then Andrew and Edward twice screamed their way through California Screamin' and I joined my son and grandson, for my favorite, The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror, as Norma waited patiently for us.

Then we headed over the Disneyland and took the Disneyland Railroad, which actually worked. But then followed a series of unfortunate problems.


Wanting to “sail with pirates”, Norma and Andrew and Edward, joined the long line for Pirates of the Caribbean, but after a lengthy wait, they were told that it was no longer working.


Not to give in, they agreed that they it would be wonderful to “rocket through the stars,” and so headed over to Space Mountain, which again, you guessed it, was not working.


So far, several hours had gone by with only one ride working – the Disneyland Railroad – so they thought that surely the Matterhorn Bobsleds, an attraction composed of two intertwining steel roller coasters, modeled after the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Swiss Alps, would be in operation. But once again, after waiting in line for about 90 minutes, Andrew and Edward were told that it also was not working. But they were determined not to give in, so they patiently waited for another 30 minutes, and were eventually told that it was now working and so they were able to “enjoy” the short ride.


By now, it was getting late, and so we all decided to give up and came home, extremely disappointed.


But the story doesn’t end there, because I put in a written e-mail complaint with the Disneyland Resort Public Relations explaining what had occurred and asking if it might be possible for two tickets to be issued to Andrew and Edward so they could go back to the park before they returned to England, and then I followed it up with a phone call today.


I was shocked, to say the least, when the Public Relations officer accused me of trying to “shake” him down, by asking for these tickets. I had hoped that, if he represented the “Happiest Place on Earth,” he would show some concern that there were two extremely unhappy customers, but he certainly appeared not to want to help.


In an e-mail he said, “I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed with your day at the park when you were here on your complimentary passes.”


He went on to say, “The purpose of the complimentary media pass program is for working media to experience the park as a guest once a year, which you did. We cannot offer complimentary tickets to all of our other guests who may feel their visit was not satisfactory, so unfortunately we cannot approve more complimentary tickets for you for another twelve months according to our policy which can be found here- http://disneylandnews.com/disneyland-resort-public-relations-courtesy-ticket-policy/.”


When I pointed out that Disney is one of the largest companies on earth, and two complimentary tickets wouldn’t actually break the bank, that still did no good and he told me to contact Disneyland Guest Relations, which I did, but so far have not had an answer to my request for the tickets.


So all I can say to Disney is shame on you. What was meant to be a wonderful visit to this park that I have been to many times before without any problems, turned out to somewhat of a disaster for my son and grandson, and now they can call it “The Un-Happiest Place on Earth.”


Dan Wooding, 73, is an award-winning journalist who who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Lake Forest with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 50 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his mother called “Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary”. 

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A December 29, 2013 at 09:51 PM
It does suck when that happens but it's been my personal experience that when you wait in line at Disneyland and the ride suddenly breaks down , which it does sometimes, they will give you a "fast pass " good for any time and any ride of your choice . I do wonder why that didn't happen? And if your son had complained at that time, they likely would have given him fast passes for another ride. It is never that enjoyable to go at the height of the season but if he ever wants to come out again to go to disneyland, consider a weekday in February. Just a suggestion... Sorry it sucked .
Homer December 30, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Your experience is unfortunate. We cannot interpret the tone of the email from the PR rep. In context with your article, it appears negative. OTOH, the rep may have been intending to express the conditions, of which you should have been aware, in reply to your email. Honestly, I am surprised that a rep replied to you. As for the park, Disneyland does post ride status on their web page. You are able to check prior to your visit.


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