It's never been cheap to get through the turnstiles of a Disney (DIS -1.70%) theme park, and the budgeting burden only got harder in the wake of Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida reopening after prolonged pandemic shutdowns. The narrative is shifting to Disney's greed as it gets back to business. 

Disneyland's decision to end its annual pass program in January set the stage for that resort's reopening three months later. With annual pass holders refunded, Disneyland has been able to command top dollar from day guests. One-day tickets officially start at $104, but you're not walking down the middle of Main Street U.S.A. this summer at that rate. The cheapest July ticket is $20 higher than that, and that's on select weekdays. A visit on a Saturday or Sunday will set you back $154, and it will be another $55 if you plan to visit both gated attractions (including Disney's California Adventure) on the same day. In other words, you need to square away a park reservation and shell out as much as $209 plus tax just for a day at Disneyland.  

On the other coast, Disney World didn't wipe its slate clean of annual passes, but it did stop selling them to new fans in most cases. The method to the mouse-ness is the same. Disney World and Disneyland are limiting daily capacities so they don't disappoint visitors as we transition out of pandemic protocols. After a four-month shutdown in Florida and more than a year of theme park closures in California, you can't blame Disney for making sure that it makes as much money as possible this summer. It's easy to call Disney greedy, but in reality it's playing the hand that it's been dealt by the COVID-19 crisis the best way that it can right now.

Alice, Rabbit, and Mad Hatter appear confused at the Mad Tea ride at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Image source: Disney.

It's a small world

It's not just the fact that nearly every visitor to Disneyland and many of those at Disney World are paying three figures to spend a day at an iconic theme park. Disney has new ways into your pocketbook. 

A visit to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge that opened months before the pandemic at Disneyland and Disney World isn't complete until you pay $220 for a high-end lightsaber or $100 for a customized droid. The monetization is even more ambitious for the new Spider-Man ride that opened at the California Adventure park earlier this month. Guests can pay $30 for a themed wrist attachment that allegedly helps them sling better webs in the competitive 3D attraction. Another $25 will buy an accessory to complete the look. 

By now a couple of you are probably planning your next trip to a Disney resort to check out the new offerings. But I imagine that you -- yes, you -- are shaking your head. You're arguing that Disney is pricing its theme park experience out of the reach of most middle class families. I may have even heard a "This wouldn't happen if Walt Disney was still alive today" from a couple of you, but that's not fair. 

Disney is a business. You don't cut billion-dollar deals for Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm if you're bad at business. It didn't have all six of the country's highest grossing films of 2019 by chance. It knows what consumers want. It's armed with a price gun, and it's not afraid to use it. 

Disney has become one of the market's most valuable media stocks because it offers premium content on all fronts. Theme park ticket prices inch higher seemingly every year, and you can be sure that Disney will use new tech tools and just plain common sense to make sure that it fills its parks with the folks most willing to part with their money for an aspirational getaway.

You might come to conclude that Disney's greedy, but isn't that ultimately the trait that separates the unlocked turnstiles from failure? Greed in and of itself isn't noble, but brilliant greed is the ticket to success. And right now Disney knows that you're willing to spend more on said ticket.