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I'm Irrationally Excited By The Newest Disneyland Update Because It Will Hopefully Fix One Of My Biggest Frustrations At The Park

 Wonderous Journeys.
Wonderous Journeys.

I have been a theme park fan for decades and a theme park writer for years. To some degree, I will admit this can make me a bit jaded. When a place like Walt Disney World announces everything new coming to the resort, while I’m certainly interested, I don’t get nearly as excited as some people. I look forward to new attractions, I'll happily tell you what the best ride at Disneyland is, and I tend to love any time a theme park does anything special, but I rarely get too worked up about it. However, I am going crazy with excitement right now at the news that Disneyland Resort will be replacing its entry gates later this year.

Yes, I’m excited about turnstiles, but hear me out. When you spend a lot of time at a place like Disneyland, which I am lucky enough to do, you find more joy, and more annoyance, in the little things. The things that get me excited on a trip to the park today are a new food item or a limited-time event that wasn't there the last time I visited. The things that annoy me are the things that annoyed me last time and haven’t been fixed or updated.

Disneyland Resort is my happy place. It’s still my favorite theme park resort, and I love it when I’m there, but the place does have some issues, and a new set of front gates may fix one of them. Getting inside Disneyland or Disney California Adventure can be an infuriating process, especially when you consider how easy it is at Walt Disney World and other theme parks. I’m so glad this is finally going to change.

Disney California Adventure gate at Halloween
Disney California Adventure gate at Halloween

The Current Disneyland Resort Gates Are A Nightmare

The current system uses classic turnstiles, with Cast Members at each gate to scan your ticket or your MagicBand+. If it’s your first time in the park for the day, take your photo to link it with your ticket. There is also a wide gate in between pairs of turnstiles to let wheelchairs and strollers through.

If you’ve been through the front gate of Disneyland before rope drop, or during the 11 a.m. Park Hopper mess, you know how frustrating this process is because it's incredibly slow. A single person with a single ticket and their shit together can move through quickly and easily, but get behind a large family with a stack of disorganized tickets or need to wait for a Cast Member to open the gate for even one stroller, and the line just stops. The most stressful part of my day in the parks can be trying to pick which line I think will move fastest. I’m almost always wrong.

Compare this to how it works at Walt Disney World, where you can easily scan your own ticket, or MagicBand+ and fingerprint, and get around people who are holding things up, because there isn't even a physical gate, and it’s just no contest. And while it doesn’t appear Disneyland is shifting to the Disney World model, what they are doing should work almost as well.

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

How The New Disneyland Gates Will Reportedly Work

According to theme park reporter Scott Gustin, who revealed the news of the front gate update, Disneyland will be shifting to gates similar to what is used at Disneyland Paris. At that park, plexiglass doors open automatically when you scan your own ticket.  Cast Members are on hand to deal with any issues, but won’t be needed unless there’s assistance required. What’s more, the gates are wide enough to likely let most strollers through, and possibly even some wheelchairs. Making the gates stroller and ADA accessible is part of the plan for the new gates.

This is wonderful. It should speed up the process of getting into the parks, especially during the busiest periods, considerably. One assumes the new gates will also work with MagicBand+, which was finally introduced at Disneyland last year. Thus far, using a MagicBand at Disneyland is less useful than it is at Walt Disney World because the Disneyland Resort hasn’t implemented all the band’s features, but using a MagicBand+ at the gate will speed the process even more, which might make buying one at the park more attractive to guests.

It won’t be perfect; no system is. There will still be guests who have trouble with the system and slow down the queue, but incremental improvement is still improvement.

Sleeping Beauty's castle with Oogie Boogie projections for the Oogie Boogie Bash.
Sleeping Beauty's castle with Oogie Boogie projections for the Oogie Boogie Bash.

Now To Do Something About The Security Checkpoint

This just leaves one major bottleneck when it comes to entering Disneyland: the security checkpoint. There are four locations from which one can enter the Disneyland Resort area, and at each is a security checkpoint. Currently, they have metal detectors and security Cast Members who hand-check bags. Guests must stop to go through this whenever entering the property, and the lines are frequently long and annoying because the process is inherently slow.

At Walt Disney World, things go much faster. There the resort uses a contactless body scanner that guests simply walk through at normal walking speed while carrying their bags. Only if the scanner senses an issue are the guests stopped to have their person or bag examined. Disneyland Resort desperately needs this technology, but thus far we’re still waiting on it. Reportedly the hold-up is an issue with the union representing the security Cast Members, as the contactless system would require fewer security personnel to be working at any given time.

2024 is looking to be a slow year when it comes to new stuff at Disneyland Resort. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has been announced to open in late 2024, but I’m honestly wondering if it will make that target based on the outward progress we are seeing. Beyond that, we’re expecting an update to Star Tours that will add Ahsoka Tano to the attraction, and likely The Mandalorian as well. New turnstiles are certainly not the sexiest update to Disneyland Resort, but they are without question a needed improvement, and one that will, in a meaningful way, make everybody’s day at Disneyland just that little bit more magical.