Disney: “E” Tickets Enjoyed a Great Ride
As Disneyland Resort gears up to celebrate the June 15th Grand Reopening of Disney California Adventure Park (featuring the highly anticipated Cars Land), let’s pause to honor an important part of the Resort’s history with ties to the same date. This item owed its existence to an earlier Park remodel, enjoyed a twenty-three year lifespan and spawned a phrase still in some use today.
It was once so vital that you truly couldn’t enjoy Disneyland Park without it.
I’m talking about the “E” ticket, which ended its amazing ride as the official ticket media of Disneyland nearly 30 years ago, on June 15th, 1982.
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.
Walt promised that Disneyland would never be completed as long as there was “imagination left in the world,” and in 1959, he and his Imagineers outdid themselves by “plussing-out” the Park with Matterhorn Mountain and a new Tomorrowland.
To acknowledge the new and improved shows and attractions for Guests to enjoy, an “E” ticket was added to the coupon book for the summer season.
Those first “E” tickets provided admission to the existing SF & D Trains, the Jungle Cruise, the Mine Train and Pack Mules thru Nature’s Wonderland as well as the brand new Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disney-Alweg Monorail, and the Submarine Voyage (long before Finding Nemo was a glimmer in Pixar’s eye).
As attractions were added throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the “E” ticket was revised to provide access to the newest and most popular. These included the Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967, the Haunted Mansion in 1969, and Space Mountain in 1977.
In 1971, the same A-E attraction designations were used when Walt Disney World opened.
For nearly two decades, coupon books containing either eleven or fifteen tickets (both came with an admissions coupon as well) helped dictate which attractions Guests enjoyed throughout the day. And, when the initial coupon book allotment of “E” tickets was gone, Guests bartered with friends and family members, or headed to a nearby ticket booth to purchase more.
But no matter how Guests went about acquiring additional “E” tickets, one thing was certain. They were essential to the Disneyland experience.
In 1977, “Unlimited Passports” were first offered as a Magic Kingdom Club members-only perk, and quickly became the most popular ticket media provided by the club. They originally hung visibly from a string, which Guests could easily wind around a shirt or blouse button to keep it in sight for the Ride Operators to see at the turnstiles.
After five years of peaceful coexistence (Walt Disney World had converted to Passports in 1981 for its 10th anniversary), the ticket books were slowly phased out. And, since Guests no longer needed to display their passports, the string was removed from the passport design as well.
The final Disneyland ticket books were sold on June 15, 1982, and the following day a redemption plan was put in place for Guests to redeem the old coupons for a discount on the new “one ticket that gets it all.” According to the June 10, 1982 issue of the Disneyland Line (a Cast Member newsletter) the actual value of the credit received was “based on a ‘point’ system according to the letter value of the tickets received.”
But although the “E” ticket was no longer available, it would live on in spirit.
In a June 18, 1983 interview with ABC News, a year after the ticket’s official retirement, astronaut Sally Ride added to its standing in popular culture. When asked to describe the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, she responded: “Ever been to Disneyland? …That was definitely an E ticket!”
The passing of the coupon book era also brought an end to the many ticket booths located throughout the Park, and had at least one other, unintended consequence.
I worked as a Disneyland Casual-Seasonal Cast Member on Main Street in the spring of 1982, and remember the drop in attendance at the Main Street Cinema (which, at the time, screened Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films, not Mickey Mouse cartoons) when the coupon books went away. The reason? Guests no longer had unused “A” tickets burning a hole in their pockets at the end of the day.
That was never the case with “E” tickets, which rarely lasted until the end of the day. They were then — as now — the ones we wanted most.
Both ticket images are from the Vintage Disneyland Tickets website. The photo of the Fantasyland Central Ticket Booth is from the Yesterland website. The Disneyland Line image is from my personal collection.