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An E-ticket ride is an especially thrilling or advanced amusement park ride. Deriving its name from the original practice of ride tickets prices relating to how thrilling the ride was, the term now can refer to anything extraordinary. What distinguishes this from any other ride is the level of detail, technology, and entertainment value.
From 1955-1982, the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, sold individual ride tickets with admission to the park. In 1972, simple rides like the King Arthur Carousel took A-tickets, while Alice In Wonderland and the Swiss Family Treehouse were B-tickets. C and D-ticket rides were a bit more advanced, including Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Flight to the Moon. The biggest, best, and newest rides in the park were reserved for the 85 cent E-ticket. In the 1970s, this list included Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
One interesting thing about the tickets is that Disney officials consistently referred to them as coupons, while guests insisted they should be called tickets, as they were sold in ticket books. The guests won this particular battle, with the terms becoming slang for a ratings system. In 1982, the tickets — or coupons — were phased out of the Disneyland world, as the park introduced a pay-one-price admission.
As a replacement of sorts for the ticketing system, Disney introduced the FASTPASS® for some of the rides. This system allows guests to avoid long lines at popular attractions by getting a free ticket to return to the ride at a specified time. Experienced park-goers have developed a variety of FASTPASS® strategies to minimize their waiting times when lines stretch up to 90 minutes. Generally, the FASTPASS® is used on the most popular rides, but some high level attractions, notably Pirates of the Caribbean, do not feature them. Rumors often circulate to suggest that Disneyland is planning to stop using this system in favor of VIP tickets, outraging some fans.
From 1997-2004, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida offered an experience called E-ride Nights. This popular, although costly, extra allowed ticket-holding visitors to stay in the park three hours after closing and ride some of the most popular attractions. Today, this has been replaced by Extra Magic Hours, in which parks remain open late at no extra charge for visitors staying at the resort.
Today, although the tickets no longer officially exist, Disney fans still classify rides by their ticket status. In the 2007 announcement of expansions to the California Adventure Park, at least two new E-ticket attractions were announced, the Little Mermaid ride and a test-track racing ride based on the Pixar movie Cars. Recent criticisms of the re-opened Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage suggest that some fans think the ride has been downgraded to a D-ticket from its former glory.
In popular culture, the phrase has been used to refer to an extraordinary experience. American astronaut Sally Ride famously referred to riding the space shuttle as an E-ticket experience. The phrase has appeared in several movies, songs and video games. Fans of the Disney parks have also produced a ride-based fan magazine called The “E” Ticket since 1986. Although the term no longer applies to the Disney method of ride admission, it remains consistently popular as a ratings system and a popular phrase.