Disney: An E-Ticket Anniversary
The Walt Disney Company, never an organization to let an anniversary or celebration fall by the wayside, has finally missed the boat, er, ride. So as Disneyland celebrates its 52nd birthday this month (officially tomorrow), join me in pausing to honor an important milestone in the Park’s history, one which lasted twenty-three years and spawned a phrase still in some usage today.
That’s right, the opportunity for an actual “E-ticket ride” ended 25 years ago this year. And unlike some of today’s airline tickets, the “E” wasn’t short for electronic.
Ticket books (or “coupon” books, as they were officially known) were first issued a few months after Disneyland opened in July 1955 in denominations “A,” “B” and “C,” with the “D” ticket joining the booklet a year later. But the 1959 Tomorrowland remodel meant bigger and better rides and attractions, so the “E” ticket was issued that June, enabling Guests to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds, The Disney-Alweg Monorail, and The Submarine Voyage (long before Finding Nemo was a glimmer in Pixar’s eye, or, for that matter, long before Pixar was…you get the idea).
The final 11- and 15-ticket books were sold in May/June of 1982, a full year before astronaut Sally Ride co-opted the “E-ticket ride” phrase to describe her flight in the Space Shuttle Challenger. The move away from ride tickets ushered in the era of the unlimited passports (which began as a Magic Kingdom Club-only perk, and hung visibly from a string) which has, in turn, given way to the Fastpass.
I worked as a Casual-Seasonal Cast Member on Main Street in 1982, and remember the drop in attendence at the Main Street Cinema (which, at the time, screened Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films, not Mickey Mouse cartoons) and on the street vehicles because Guests no longer had unused “A” tickets burning a hole in their pockets.
Of course, when coupon books were available, the E-tickets were always gone before the day was over. They were then — as now — the ones we missed the most.