Boredom and its discontents (Part II)

Amusement parks, crowd control and load-balancing

Cory Doctorow
6 min readJul 18, 2021


Queue for Walt Disney World’s ‘it’s a small world.’ Image by Michael Gray: CC BY-SA:
Michael Gray, CC BY-SA 2.0

In Part I, I opened the with news that Disneyland Paris is getting rid of its Fastpasses in favor of a per-ride, per-person premium to skip the line, and explored the history of Disney themeparks and what they meant to Walt Disney.

What we talk about when we talk about themeparks

The long-lost original Disneyland prospectus introduces a place you visit for the simple pleasure of enjoying an immersive built environment, as well as a collection of rides and amusements. It’s a vision of a place you go, as much as activities you do.

That wasn’t mere aspiration: it was embodied in Disneyland’s inaugural business-model. Entry to the park in 1955 was $1.00 ($0.50 for kids), but this did not include any of the rides. To board the rides, you needed to buy a $2.50 ticket book, which included eight tickets. But your $2.50 didn’t get you any eight rides. Disneyland’s 33 rides were each classified by how intense or desirable they were, with the least intense rides grouped as “A-Ticket attractions” and the most daring thrill-rides classed as “C-Ticket attractions” (“D-Ticket” attractions were inaugurated the next year, while “E-Tickets” were born in 1958).

Disneyland ticket-book. Elf: CC BY-SA:

Ticket books allowed Disney to both set expectations among visitors and manage its crowds. The 1959 “Big Ten” ticket book retailed for $3.50 ($3 for “juniors” and $2.50 for kids) and included one A-Ticket, two B-Tickets and two C-Tickets, and three D-Tickets and three E-Tickets.

By unbundling admission from the rides, Disney was telling guests that admission itself was a worthwhile reason to come to the park. You might come just to watch the strolling players perform live music or sketches; or watch the psychedelic spectacle of a sunset over Tomorrowland, see a parade, or browse the shops or eat a (remarkably small, by modern standards) bag of popcorn.

Likewise, by not unbundling rides themselves, Disney was telling visitors that the rides were like courses in a prix fixe menu: choose your amuse-bouche (A-Ticket rides…



Cory Doctorow

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