How the OC Register covered this weekend’s 24-hour event at Disneyland

This weekend, Disneyland stayed open for 24 hours on Friday – from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m.

At the Orange County Register, we knew we were going to cover it, but we wanted to do something different.

But first, a little back story … 

Last year, on Leap Day, Disneyland stayed open for 24 hours straight, and though it had happened a few other times in the park’s history, the Feb. 29 event wasn’t exactly smooth by Mickey Mouse’s standards. It was so popular that a place accustomed to dealing with large crowds pretty much was caught flat-footed.

Here’s how the Orange County Register’s preview story for this year’s event explained what happened the previous year:


“Last year’s 24-hour celebration was extremely popular and, as with any first-time event, there were learnings,” said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman. “We are confident that our preparation and collaboration with the city of Anaheim will allow us to execute more smoothly.”

The late-night demand at last year’s 24-hour party caught everyone off guard, creating hour-long-plus waits on city streets and freeways and prompting the park to close gates to new entries between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Disneyland reportedly had record attendance during the Feb. 29-March 1 event.

“It was pretty impressive that they were not prepared for what happened,” said Barrett, 46. “It was just chaos.”

Disney, city and traffic officials are getting ready for the worst-case scenario, holding meetings to plan ahead –something they didn’t do much of last time.

For the first time, the city’s Traffic Management Center will stay open for more than 48 hours to monitor traffic, extending green traffic lights to improve the flow. Last year, the center was closed by the time cars backed up.


As we began to talk about how we should cover this at the Register, we almost immediately knew what we weren’t going to do: We weren’t going to cover it with a 20-inch story and a photo or two.

We decided to cover the event from two perspectives:

* A photo essay featuring 25 photos, one from each hour of the event, and …

* A short story focusing on one group’s experience, from beginning to end.

Making the photos the primary storytelling element was an easy decision.

This was going to be a very visual event, filled with images most folks wouldn’t normally get to see of Disneyland, namely because the park sometimes stays open until midnight and typically opens at 8 a.m. Lots of things happen in those eight hours, especially when the park is filled with 50,000 people who haven’t slept or showered in an entire day.



Even the front-page reference to the package has a bit of a story to it. 


Here’s a closer look at that ribbon reference to the package:


We wanted to shoot a panorama of the park opening at 6 a.m. for the front page, but we didn’t want to try to complicate it. As explained in the cutline, Register photographer Mark Rightmire took the image on his iPhone.


Because we had decided this would be an hour-by-hour look at the event, and because open color news pages are pretty hard to come by in our ad-filled Sunday newspaper, we knew the project was going to have to run in the local section and that it was going to be pretty hard to get more than two open inside pages.

For that reason, we decided the 25 photos would need to start on the local cover, with each photo carrying a timestamp of when it was taken. We also wanted to tease to our story about the group we were going to cover for the entire period, so that group had to be a part of our “timestamped” photos, as well.

We knew from the beginning of this project that the photos and their cutlines were going to be the stars of the package. We had one of our senior reporters (Ron Sylvester) piece together all of the reporting from all of the writers involved, as well as work with the lead editor in the Register’s Anaheim bureau, Jim Radcliffe, to make sure all of the cutlines were filled with info and had a similar voice as the story.

So, here’s what it looked like in Sunday’s local section of the Register:


And here’s a look at the package pages:


Here’s a closer look at each of those pages:



Here’s a close up of the “How We Did it” box:


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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.