Disney has announced the resumption of Magic Key Annual Passes for Disneyland and California Adventure in January 2024! This post covers pricing, dates, details, past precedent, and everything else you might want to know.
As a quick recap, Disneyland Resort has resumed sales of Magic Keys several times in the last year–but it’s usually just ‘select’ tiers of Annual Passes. Around this time last year, sales briefly resumed without notice, and there was instantly a flood of demand and a virtual queue to access the sales page with a wait time measured in hours.
A few months later, Disneyland again resumed Magic Key sales. Within 5 days, AP sales had once again been paused on the Believe, Enchant and Imagine Keys. Even though those tiers sold out, demand was noticeably lower with the virtual queue not being nearly as bad. Most significantly, sales of the Inspire Key weren’t paused until last September–the longest duration of availability for any Magic Key since APs returned. Since then, all tiers of Magic Keys have been sold out and “available for renewal only.”
Despite being sold out, this didn’t stop Disneyland from increasing prices of Annual Passes during the recent round of that at the start of the new fiscal year. Here’s a breakdown of current 2024 prices vs. 2023 costs:
Inspire Magic Key: $1649 (was $1599)
Believe Magic Key: $1249 (was $1099)
Enchant Magic Key: $849 (was $699)
Imagine Magic Key: $499 (was $449)
Those will be the prices for each tier of the Magic Key when Disneyland Annual Pass sales once again resume on January 10, 2024!
All 4 Magic Key Annual Pass types will be available for purchase starting on January 10, 2024. As always, they are subject to selling out and there’s likely to be a lengthy virtual queue when AP sales resume.
For reference, we predicted in When Will Disneyland Resume Magic Key Annual Pass Sales?that sales would restart on January 15, 2024. So we were off by 5 days. But we also thought that Disneyland would want to wait until after the Disneyland Half Marathon, rather than resuming right after Los Angeles and Orange County schools go back into session from winter break.
Restarting Magic Key sales on January 10, 2024 means one of two things: that Disneyland is eager to sell more Magic Keys and doesn’t really care about the runDisney race and how it’ll impact crowds, or that internal forecasts aren’t really calling for the Disneyland Half Marathon to move the needle all that much. It could be a mix of both.
Regardless, we’re not the least bit surprised to see Magic Key sales resume in early 2024. Due to California’s slower reopening than Florida, pent-up demand at Disneyland has lagged Walt Disney World. But if the latter is any indication, Disneyland is likewise going to hit a wall in early 2024, and will need to pull its own “levers” to entice back locals and tourists. Resuming Magic Key sales and offering more AP appreciation is probably one way of achieving that.
To that point about pent-up demand, we also previously said there’s a “good chance” that the next time Magic Key sales resumed would be the last time. Stated differently, that Annual Passes won’t sell out in January 2024.
For reference here, Walt Disney World (finally) resumed Annual Passes last spring right as pent-up demand was dying down. Despite a warning that APs would sell out the day of release, that still has not happened. There was a multi-hour virtual queue to purchase and the system crashed once or twice on day one, but Annual Passes have been available ever since. So that’s kind of the basis for our thinking when it comes to AP sales in a post-pent-up demand environment.
With that said, we did crouch our prediction with the words “good chance.” Disneyland is very different from Walt Disney World, with a more massive local fanbase and huge population centers (with lots of disposable income) in LA and OC (and beyond). So I wouldn’t necessarily put money on Magic Keys staying available perpetually just because it happened in Florida. I am pretty confident that they’ll be perpetually available by the end of this year, but perhaps not this go-round. After all, several tiers of Magic Keys have not been available for purchase since last spring. That’s a long time!
Given the lengthy virtual queue and how quickly sales were paused before, you should absolutely join the virtual queue ASAP once it goes live. All of the predictions and speculation above are fun in theory, but that’s what I’d actually do if I didn’t already have a Magic Key.
In reality, how long Magic Key sales will continue is anyone’s guess. The downside of trying to buy on January 10, 2024 is that you might be in a virtual queue for 8-10 hours versus ~15 minutes if you instead wait until the following morning at 6 am. The downside of waiting until then is that sales may have already concluded.
The rational side of me says that there’s no way Magic Keys will sell out on January 10, 2024 and that it would be so much simpler and less stressful to simply purchase in the wee hours of January 11. That would mean way less friction and wasted time, taking a matter of minutes rather than hours.
But then there’s the emotional side of me who isn’t that much of a gambler. That side would win out, and I’d find myself in a 4+ hour virtual queue along with every other Disney fan not willing to take the risk.
As for theories as to why Magic Key sales keep being paused for so long, one is that the company is embracing the “Disney Vault” strategy of creating demand through scarcity, or rather, perceived scarcity. It’s possible that Disneyland has survey data showing a high dissatisfaction rating among Magic Key purchasers and low intent to renew.
That wouldn’t be the least bit surprising, especially with the difficulty some APs have reported in securing reservations. However, if these same fans believe they might not be able to simply purchase passes at their leisure down the road, they might err on the side of caution and renew when their time comes.
In our view, the biggest factor is most likely demand. Disneyland theme park reservations have been hard to book for months, with many dates–even in what should be the off-season filling up far in advance. Availability is definitely getting better, but part of that is probably due to the fact that the most popular Magic Keys have only been sold intermittently for the last year.
It’s also not as if Disneyland is setting aside availability for buyers of regular tickets and the parks are going mostly empty despite the lack of AP reservations. To the contrary, our consistent experience at Disneyland for the last year has been higher than normal ‘feels like’ crowds and congestion.
Diminished reservation availability has been exacerbated by the fact that Disneyland still is operating below 100% capacity. It’s not as bad as it was 2 years ago, but some shows are still dark, not all atmospheric entertainment is back, and not every venue in the park (dining, in particular) is fully efficient due to staffing shortages.
This is mostly “invisible” to guests and may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things–but it’s actually reducing attendance limits by a meaningful amount. Suffice to say, the self-imposed limitations on attendance impact Magic Key sales, as Disneyland would (understandably) rather prioritize regular ticket buyers who spend more per visit.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Magic Key pass purchases going forward. Will there be another virtual queue lasting well into the evening ? Or, have many locals gotten their Disney “fix” (or were most able to purchase APs when they were on sale last year)? Will the higher prices result in a significant number of people being priced out, or is there an insatiable desire for all things Disney among locals? Will former Magic Key Passholders take a wait and see approach, or will the ‘Disney Vault’ perceived scarcity strategy spike sales even further?
As we’ve said in countless posts, it’s still our belief that things aren’t too far from normalizing. (You might call it wishful–or delusional–thinking!) At some point, pent-up demand fizzles out, inflation on necessities influences discretionary spending, and the stimulus money plus what people saved during the pandemic is going to be depleted. Perhaps Disney is anticipating–or already seeing–the same, and that explains the return of Magic Keys.
What do you think about the Magic Key sales resuming? Will you buying an Annual Pass or not? If so, which one? If not, why not? Thoughts on the price increases, blockout dates, or anything else? Have you had difficulty making Disneyland park reservations? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!