Magic Key Annual Pass Renewal Prices, Dates & Details

Disney has finally announced renewals for most levels of its Magic Key Annual Pass program at Disneyland and California Adventure, plus one new tier and another that’s being retired. This post covers pricing, dates, details, and everything else you might want to know–plus commentary about the changes.

As a quick recap, Disneyland’s overhauled Annual Pass program debuted last August with a new name, higher prices, and required reservations for all tiers. Demand was high from the outset, with a virtual queue and all-day waits to purchase Magic Keys on release day.

Late last October, Disneyland paused sales on the top level Dream Key. This came as park reservations were almost entirely gone for weekends over three months into the future. Then in November, the Believe Key also sold out amidst a similar shortage of reservation availability.

That left only the Enchant Key and Imagine Key available for purchase over the course of the last several months. At the beginning of summer, both of these had their statuses change to “Currently Unavailable” on Disneyland.com. This coincided with the summer season blockouts for the lower-tiered APs. The Enchant Key was blocked until August 14 and the Imagine Key is blocked out until August 21.

There were a number of Disneyland fan theories as to why Magic Key sales were paused, and why details about renewals have taken so long to be released. Before we delve into those or the commentary about price increases, let’s get down to brass tacks and share details of the updated Magic Key tiers and price points…

Let’s start with an overview of what each tier of Magic Key Annual Passes offers for those who are debating which to buy…

Imagine Magic Key – $449 (Previously $399)

(Only available for Southern California Residents living in zip codes 90000 to 93599)

  • Reservation-based admission to one or both theme parks select days of the year.
  • Hold up to 2 theme park reservations at a time
  • 10% off select merchandise
  • 10% off select dining
  • 25% off select parking

Enchant Magic Key – $699 (Previously $649)

  • Reservation-based admission to one or both theme parks select days of the year.
  • Hold up to 4 theme park reservations at a time
  • 10% off select merchandise
  • 10% off select dining
  • 25% off select parking

Believe Magic Key – $1099 (Previously $949)

  • Reservation-based admission to one or both theme parks most days of the year.
  • Hold up to 6 theme park reservations at a time
  • 10% off select merchandise
  • 10% off select dining
  • 50% off standard theme park parking (excluding blockout days, and available for purchase at Mickey & Friends Parking Structure, Pixar Pals Parking Structure and the Toy Story Parking Area)

NEW Inspire Magic Key – $1599 (Previously Dream Key $1,399)

  • Reservation-based admission to one or both theme parks except December 21 through January 1
  • Hold up to 6 theme park reservations at a time for different dates
  • Includes PhotoPass
  • Up to 20% off select merchandise
  • Up to 15% off select dining
  • Standard theme park parking included (excluding blockout days)

The biggest development is the Inspire Magic Key replacing the Dream Magic Key. The new option has blockout dates around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, whereas its predecessor did not. Despite that, the Inspire Magic Key is more expensive.

Another development is that all Magic Key tiers will be eligible for a per-day Genie+ discount of 20% off, which currently costs $20 per day at Disneyland and DCA, and also includes audio experiences and unlimited PhotoPass downloads.

Disneyland has indicated that Magic Key renewals will begin on August 18, 2022 no earlier than 9 am. If your Annual Pass expired or will expire before August 18, you can call Disneyland anytime between August 18 and August 31, 2022 to renew your Magic Key AP.

Note that this is the date for Magic Key renewals ONLY. Disney has not yet announced if or when Magic Key sales will resume for new Annual Passholders.

A virtual queue system will be used, which means that if you get in line at 9 am on the dot, the system might start working at 10:17 am and you might have your renewal completed by 1:34 pm…or 1:34 am on August 19, 2022.

We’re not kidding. Last year, the virtual queue for initial Magic Key purchases was brutal, lasting well into the evening. With this being renewals only, our hope is that it’s a bit less painful. (Wishful thinking, probably!)

As for theories as to why Magic Key sales have been 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 so many 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.

Another wrinkle is the Magic Key Passholder lawsuit in the Central District of California. The complaint in this suit alleges that Disney misled and deceived pass purchasers by artificially limiting capacity and restricting reservations. The lawsuit argues that Disney has effectively created a second tier of blockout dates by virtue of allocating reservations differently for passholders and regular ticket holders, in order to maximize the number of tickets that Disney can sell.

The federal judge ruling on Disney’s motion to dismiss found that the “plaintiff has adequately pled facts supporting how a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the advertisement, which states ‘no blockout dates.’”

We’re skeptical that this had any bearing on renewals or the sales stoppage of Magic Keys. Up until summer–when the passes were blocked out anyway–Disneyland had not totally paused Magic Key purchases. If the company truly feared a massive class action lawsuit, no passes would be sold at all.

Beyond that, Disney could easily avoid future litigation by clearly defining blockout dates and how those function in relation to reservations. Since the passes originally went on sale last fall, additional verbiage has been added to its marketing doing exactly that. As such, it seems unlikely that the lawsuit has caused Magic Keys to stop being sold.

In our view, the biggest factor is most likely demand. Quite simply, Disneyland theme park reservations have been hard to book for months, with many dates–even in what should be the off-season filling up weeks in advance. Availability is definitely getting better, but part of that is probably due to the fact that the most popular Magic Keys haven’t been sold for the last ~6 months.

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 since around last October 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 Walt Disney World, 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. During recent earnings calls, the company acknowledged that both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are still operating with undisclosed capacity caps in place, not for the sake of safety but due to a lack of staffing and other resources. 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.

Now let’s turn to commentary on the price increases of the Magic Key renewals…

Frankly, I’ve lost the capacity for surprise when it comes to Annual Pass or Magic Key price increases. If anything, I’m surprised that the tiers didn’t jump in price more, or have further restrictions added. After initial Magic Key sales exceeded expectations last fall and Disneyland paused tiers during the holiday season, colossal cost jumps seemed like a foregone conclusion.

At this point, attendance is trending upwards, pent-up demand is still strong, the parks have a devoted and passionate fanbase, and nighttime spectaculars and other entertainment have returned to attract more locals. On top of that, the popular Halloween and Christmas seasons are right around the corner, and Disneyland still has Magic Happens Parade waiting in the wings to boost attendance even further.

On top of that, inflation is running hot around the globe, with the United States hitting a four decade high of 8.5% in the last 12 months. Consumers have come to expect price increases, and it’s getting easier for businesses to blame higher input and labor costs. (It’s also a reality and not just a scapegoat–operational expenses are up considerably.) Why wouldn’t Disneyland increase Magic Key prices?

To be clear, I’m not saying I want to pay more. We are absolutely not those people who think the solution to crowding woes is simply pricing people out. That might work in the short term (debatable), but causes long-term reputational and brand damage. That’s especially dangerous in Southern California, where Disneyland is (still) so dependent on locals to fill the parks outside of peak tourist season.

Rather, my point is that initial Magic Key sales blew away expectations last fall, pent-up demand among tourists is surprisingly resilient, and Disney’s costs are up. Unless and until consumers start voting with their wallets, price increases are a fact of life. Disney will keep pushing until there’s considerable resistance. Not in the form of complaints from people who buy anyway, but reflected via lower sales.

While I’m surprised the company didn’t get more aggressive with these jumps, it’s also fair to point out that Magic Keys were introduced before the end of free FastPass and introduction of paid Genie+ and Lightning Lanes and this renewal period is occurring after. As such, the effective cost of visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure has gone up considerably (assuming you didn’t buy MaxPass before).

In order to have an equivalent experience as before, you’ll need to spend an extra $20 per day, at least. That’s still not exactly apples to apples, but it’s close enough for the sake of our comparison. Disney has indicated approximately half of guests are purchasing (I’d wager that’s higher in Florida and lower in California due to guest demographics), so they’re already capturing a decent amount of extra per guest ticket revenue there.

During Disney’s most recent earnings call in August 2022, CEO Bob Chapek directly addressed price increases. He said that Disney’s theme parks are seeing unprecedented demand, and have pricing power as a result. This marks at least the fourth consecutive call with similar commentary (probably more than that–I’ve just lost count).

Yet again, guest spending at the domestic parks was up more than 40% versus the same quarter in 2019, an absolutely staggering number–and another that has been consistent for the last year. This has been driven by higher food & beverage and merchandise spending, as well as contributions from Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Revenue and operating income exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and that’s even as Disney continued capping attendance.

One difference is that at Disneyland, this occurred despite an “unfavorable attendance mix.”

Disney has been touting the favorable attendance mix for the last several quarters, so this is an interesting twist. In plain English, this means more Annual Passholders or Magic Keymasters. Locals and/or regulars spend less per visit on average, making them less desirable in a high demand environment.

That statement coupled with the return of Magic Keys means it’s likely that tourist demand is starting to soften at Disneyland. It’s unlikely that the company would be bringing back Magic Keys with such insignificant price increases unless that were the case.

However, in a subsequent interview with CNBC, Chapek said that when it comes to the theme parks, the company reads demand. “We have no plans right now in terms of what we’re going to do, but we operate with a surgical knife here,” Chapek said. “It’s all up to the consumer. If consumer demand keeps up, we’ll act accordingly. If we see a softening, which we don’t think we’re going to see, then we can act accordingly as well.”

Personally, I don’t read much into that as it relates to Disneyland. When it comes to Disney’s theme parks business, the emphasis is always on the Florida cash cow. Although there will be an off-season lull in the coming weeks on both coasts, Walt Disney World appears poised well for October through December–and it’s likely a similar story for Halloween and Christmas at Disneyland.

It’s hard to make a compelling case that Disneyland Resort has any sort of pricing problem, at least for now. Even with all of the recent (non-ticket) price increases, the company is posting unprecedented numbers and demand is off the charts.

At this point, it would seem that price increases will continue unabated until the next economic downturn or there’s a precipitous decline in consumer sentiment (which is actually starting to rebound from its summer lows). As long as locals keep spending and pent-up demand is strong among tourists, people will pay the prices. The serious issue will come down the road when people are not feeling so hot about their economic circumstances and future.

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 on August 18, or have many locals gotten their Disney “fix” after the year-plus closure? 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 with relatively minor price increases to some tiers.

When all of some of that happens, consumers will return to being more cost-conscious and price sensitive, and things will normalize to at least some degree. However, there don’t appear to be any signs of those things happening anytime soon. So, get used to high prices, heavy crowds, and nickel & diming at Disneyland as this record run of revenue and income continues for the foreseeable future. We’ll be paying careful attention to all of the changes, and will keep you updated as we learn anything new.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

What do you think about the Magic Keys returning? 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!

23 Responses to “Magic Key Annual Pass Renewal Prices, Dates & Details”
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