There’s almost too much Disneyland news for one week. But those of you who live and breathe Disney will be in heaven today. More entertainment opens during the daytime. Space Mountain news from both sides of the world. Major changes on the way to Downtown Disney and the Disneyland hotels. More on Tarzan’s Treehouse. Plus characters, construction, and more…
It’s been a full year since Disneyland reopened and we are just now at the point were almost everything has returned. The kennels are still closed, as well as the Star Wars Launch Bay, the Hyperion remains dark, and some services at the hotels remain closed. But, overall, the resort finally feels fully open. There’s a certain amount of joy that returned with seeing characters take the hand of a child, or a guest running up to hug Mickey. Lots of entertainment returned recently as well.
You forget how it’s the layering of entertainment that really makes the Disney magic. Yes, the rides are as incredible as ever, but the last year has felt a bit off. And aside from the difficulties with park reservations, mobile order, and Genie, Disneyland finally feels like itself again.
I’d like to share the video I shot one year ago. I managed to get a spot inside the park to watch the first guests flow in through the gates and then up Main Street USA, where they found a sea of cast members lining the street cheering, waving, and many of them crying with joy. It was an incredibly emotional day:
And as emotional and wonderful as it was to be back in the parks after so long, there was still much missing from the experience. While there were some characters tucked away on lawns, on stages, and behind ropes, it was all very controlled. Many services like shops and restaurants remained closed for months and have taken a very long time to be restored. Today, it’s ‘almost’ all back with lots of new projects underway to accommodate the return of larger crowds and some new experiences. So, we are not just in a phase of returning to normal operation, but moving beyond it to debut new shows, attractions, and experiences.
Hear Ye Hear Ye
The return of entertainment has been fast and furious at Disneyland these past two weeks. In addition to the nighttime spectaculars, Storytelling at Royal Theatre has returned to Princess Fantasy Faire, and the Fairy Tale Treasures shop along with it.
Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones return to tell comical versions of Beauty & the Beast and Tangled, with the characters playing along. After the short production, there is an opportunity to meet the characters in person.
If you check the Disneyland website or the app, it will tell you that there are no showtimes (because the shows are still in the early roll-out phase), but if you visit the theater you’ll see the showtimes listed out front.
The shows are quick-witted, fun, include music and engage the kids in the audience.
And, of course, the characters stay behind after the show to meet their biggest fans.
Fairy Tale Treasures, the little shop and photo pass opportunity, has reopened as well. It’s odd that this shop is open, yet the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeovers have yet to return. But we do expect the Boutique to reopen soon.
The shop is small.
The space was really set up as a spot for little girls to have their photos taken after their Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments.
It’s a really cute photo op, but it was roped off and not being used during our visit.
World of Oh No!
It was a difficult night for the newly rebuilt World of Color on Saturday when the show had to be canceled right at showtime. It sounds like one of the fountain platforms started sinking. Surprising considering that Paradise Bay was completely drained so the platforms could be completely refurbished.
And while a canceled show isn’t usually a big deal (the fireworks get canceled for wind or rain on a regular basis), it causes a lot of trouble for World of Color due to all the dining and dessert packages sold.
Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience
Speaking of dining packages… Coming soon is a Tomorrowland dining package that includes a view of the Disneyland Forever fireworks from the top level of the Star Wars Launch Bay building.
For $60 guests get a choice of entrée with side, a dessert selection, unlimited soft drinks, bottled water or hot chocolate. But, note that there are no refunds if the fireworks are canceled… and that happens all the time! Buyer beware.
Downtown Disney transformation
We’ve been covering the demolition of the old AMC building on the west end of Downtown Disney for months.
Disney had released a single piece of concept art showing a mid-century style plaza with a low building, stage, and shade structures. The footprint of the new building is quite a bit smaller than the old theater, which allows for a large green lawn.
Last week we got some new concept art for the area and some info on the first tenants when the area opens. Here’s what that building will look like from the ground level.
And next to the building will be a stage and lawn suitable for entertainment and events.
And what might go into the new building? My favorite local dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung, has signed a lease. They are famous for their handmade soup dumplings. Delicious. But this place regularly maintains an hours-long wait at its locations… I can’t even begin to think of how hard it’s going to be to get a table in Downtown Disney.
There’s another new restaurant being revealed for the space currently occupied by Catal and the Uva Bar. A high-end new Mexican concept will take over the spot (but still owned and operated by the Patina Group). Michelin-starred Chef Carlos Gaytan will create the menu of the new Paseo and Centrico establishments.
And while many may miss the Uva Bar, Catal never really lived up to its potential. It was rarely busy in the way almost all the other Downtown Disney restaurants are. The confusing part in all of this is that there’s already a popular Mexican restaurant & bar owned by Patina in Downtown Disney called Tortilla Jo’s. With Disney’s stated interest in bringing a diversity of experiences to Downtown Disney, we expect this location to eventually be rethemed as well.
What we’d like to see in the new Downtown Disney is something with character. Gideon’s Bakehouse in Disney Springs just won the Themed Entertainment Association award (THEA) for “Themed Retail on a Limited Budget.” It’s truly exceptional not just for the whimsical Harry Potter meets vampire backstory but also for the delicious baked goods and coffee.
But where Disney Springs Gideon’s has character and story… the next Downtown Disney Anaheim project I need to show you lacks any of that. Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen is staying, but it appears they are going to strip out all that amazing New Orleans charm and make the whole building look like a boring strip mall. The restaurant will still be called the Jazz Kitchen, but how could we possibly get excited about this…
The new Downtown Disney concepts are a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think having mid-century architecture near the mid-century Disneyland Hotel is fine. Adding a bit of new theme to the somewhat lackluster mid-section of Downtown Disney (Catal and Uva Bar) is also acceptable to me, but not very exciting. But stripping theme from a highly detailed restaurant such as Jazz Kitchen to make it look like a nondescript soulless strip mall restaurant is lazy and unnecessary. Downtown Disney needs MORE character not less… more unique things like Gideons (at Disney Springs) and less things like stores you’d find in a mall (like the new Jazz Kitchen concept).
Good Changes Coming to Disneyland Hotels
There’s mostly good news on the way to the hotels of the Disneyland Resort. The Paradise Pier Hotel (which is themed to an area of Disney California Adventure that doesn’t exist anymore) is in the process of being converted into the Pixar Hotel (though the official name has yet to be finalized). Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on artwork and renovation of the facility and pool. It won’t be closed during the conversion. Instead, approximately one third of the hotel will be pulled out of inventory at a time until all the work is done. The goal is to be able to add new Pixar characters to the hotel over time so the theme stays fresh.
AND… guests of the hotel will have a new entry into Disney California Adventure, located next to Corndog Castle in the western corner of the park. This is approximately the same location of a hotel entry into the park when it first opened.
But, what’s most important to us is not new character artwork… it’s whether or not they will reopen the restaurant and lounges in the hotel. This expensive property currently offers NO food service at all. We can’t recommend you spend that kind of money to stay at a Disney hotel if it’s going to be operated like a Best Western. At the very least, they need to get the quick service coffee shop/bar open off the lobby as soon as possible. But, at the moment, this hotel is a miserable experience.
The really good news for all Disney Resort hotel guests is that early entry, 7 days a week, will be returning this summer, as well as package delivery from the theme parks.
For more info on changes coming to the Paradise Pier Hotel and Downtown Disney, please check out our full coverage (and additional concept art):
Disneyland Updates! New Downtown Disney Restaurants, Pixar Hotel & More
Theme Park Reservations Are Staying
We attended a state of the resort address that Disneyland President Ken Potrock gave last week and he mentioned that theme park reservations are staying. I know that some of you will be upset to hear this news. But others of you are likely relieved. I get it, it’s inconvenient to make park reservations and not be able to get the days you want on short notice. But, the parks are so much more enjoyable when they don’t reach those dangerous-feeling gridlock conditions of the past. It’s a complex issue. I’m of a mind that Disneyland may be better off as an experience you reserve a specific date for in advance. Otherwise, there’s just too much demand and not enough space for everyone. Curious about your thoughts and alternate suggestions.
Hyperspace & Space Mountain future
Hyperspace Mountain returned on Friday, just in time for May the 4th celebrations. This is sacrilege, but this is my favorite version of the attraction. I love the music, projections, physical props. And as a life-long Star Wars fan, this is so much fun for me. But it’s also nice that it isn’t permanent and different versions of the attraction come and go.
But there’s another little bit of Space Mountain news that has my mind in creative overdrive. Tokyo Disneyland is rebuilding its Space Mountain with a whole new look and a new track. Looks very much like TRON to me…
We expect Disney to announce plans for the redo of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland at this year’s D23 Expo in September. My bet is on a version of the Tron coaster as the new anchor of the land. But that puts a very modern show building next to the classic Space Mountain facade. But that new mountain for Tokyo sure does look like the perfect compliment to a Tron coaster. I can just imagine Disneyland’s new Tomorrowland swathed in those ribbons of glowing blue and white. And the development cost would be less because much of the work has already been paid for by Tokyo Disneyland…
OR they could cheap out like they did at the Magic Kingdom in Florida and squeeze a Tron coaster into Tomorrowland and not make any improvements to the rest of the land or to Space Mountain.
We’d love to see Tron, a revitalized Space Mountain, modernized People Mover, and a space restaurant come to Tomorrowland at the very least. But it’s all speculation and rumor right now. What do YOU want to see happen with Tomorrowland?
As more attraction/show capacity is added to the parks, additional park reservations are also made available. There are definitely more guests in the parks now than the week before, but attraction waits haven’t really increased. Why? Because so many guests are waiting for shows, shopping for new merchandise, waiting up to 2 hours to see characters, and taking advantage of new entertainment.
Main Street looks busy below as guests camp out for the Electrical Parade. But that also means fewer people in queues.
Main Street in the early afternoon on Friday…
Disneyland Spectaculars & Entertainment Have Returned – Everything You Need To Know!
Construction & Refurbishments
There’s a tremendous amount of work going on throughout the resort.
Tarzan No More…
The scaffolding hasn’t changed around the treehouse. The bridge is still up for now, but this view is about to change. We recently told you about plans to remove the tree stump in the middle of the Adventureland walkway that guests use to access the Tarzan Treehouse. In addition, Tarzan is being evicted for a new theme.
Here’s the good news on this evolving story. A senior Imagineer, Kim Irvine (and her team of Anaheim-based Imagineers), is in charge of the project to renovate the Treehouse and give it a new storyline. We no longer believe the theme is related to Encanto (though that would be a great fit), but the treehouse will one day be open to guests again (also very good news). We’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear more about these plans.
Fantasmic and the New New Orleans
From the scaffolds of the old Tarzan Treehouse come the construction walls of New Orleans Square. Refurbishment continues on the lighting and projection towers that rise out of the ground for Fantasmic!.
It appears that there is all new equipment being installed, just as was done for World of Color. An up-close look shows us new LED lights and projector boxes. It all looks shiny and new.
But all of New Orleans Square has been a construction zone for the last month as the old Fantasmic viewing platforms were leveled to make walking through the area easier. Last week we saw the first walls come down by Cafe Orleans and this weekend we noticed a freshly poured walkway that led from the bottom of the Pirates Queue area to the French Quarter shops and Blue Bayou area. The work won’t take too much longer to wrap up.
This was the view on Thursday before the construction walls were removed:
And just one date later the area reopened to guests:
The newly uncovered areas really are a lot easier to navigate.
As we walk into the shops area, we see that new construction walls are now up, covering the Blue Bayou Restaurant and the exit to Pirates.
But with all the foot traffic gone due to the closure of Pirates and Blue Bayou, the artists that are usually stationed in this area are gone as well.
Pirates and Blue Bayou
The Pirates queue remains blocked, but we can now see that the wait time and current time light boards have been removed.
We have some good news here as well. We had been sad to hear at the beginning of this project that the large shade trees in the Pirates queue needed to be removed due to disease. Well, new trees have already been planted. You can see the tops of some trees in this zoom:
And a quick snap through a hole in the wall shows a fairly good-sized tree.
As we glide over the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Monorail Blue, we see new scaffolding around the docks, but the scaffolding around the rocks in the lagoon are gone. The subs look fresh, the rocks and the plants are all in place, and the only thing that really appears to be missing are the animatronic figures. Some of those items likely won’t be installed until there is water back in the lagoon.
And just to poke some fun at all the folks who over the years have said that the Matterhorn would collapse if the Sub Lagoon was drained… it’s been drained for months and it sure does appear to us that the mountain is still standing! (I rode the Matterhorn on Friday and it was as painful as ever)
Disneyland’s entertainment department is preparing for the return of the Tale of the Lion King show which moves to the Fantasyland Theater from its previous run in DCA’s Paradise Park.
The cast have been rehearsing and we got to see the first two numbers of the show during that state of the resort event we told you about earlier. It will be so nice to have a show back in this location, and from the previous run and our little sneak peek, this should be a lot of fun.
Silly Symphony Swings
After a long mysterious closure, Silly Symphony Swings is open for guests, again.
Disney Jr. Fun Fest
This weekend, there was a strange event that took place in DCA, the Disney Junior Fun Fest. It wasn’t nearly as magical as the name makes it sound. The Disney Junior Fun Fest was a one-day event held last Friday. It kicked off with a parade from Pixar Pier to the Hollywood Gate.
There were photo ops on both sides of the main stage area.
Security was pretty tight around the main stage where filming was also taking place. Everyone running around had some sort of credential around their neck. Disney was trying to make this a very high-profile event, but they seemed to have failed on so many levels. It also wasn’t nearly as well-attended as influencers and social media made it seem.
A bare-bones and unshaded make-shift theater was set up in the World of Color viewing area.
The parade stepped off at 10am with the all too predictable snare line. The performers had a lot of energy, but this procession was nothing to write home about.
We thought it was particularly strange to see Main Street Vehicles in DCA, which don’t fit the time period or look of the park. They were covered with balloons.
The omnibus was carrying characters up on top and a group of Make-a-Wish kids on the bottom section (Disneyland began granting wishes to Make-a-Wish families again on Friday).
The most disappointing thing about this event was the giant DirecTV booth next to the entrance for the main stage. It reeked of trade show vibes. One of the items being handed out was a drawstring bag with the DIRECTV logo and Disney Jr. logos on it. It really felt like the entire “production” was an ad for the satellite TV company.
DCA Back to Normal
Now that DCA’s Food & Wine Festival has ended for the season, DCA has returned back to the normal range of activities. Over at the Hyperion Teater, the marquee has been replaced with a sign that simply reads “Hooray for Hollywood.”
Another aspect of the park that’s back to normal is the return of Soarin’ Around the World. While Soarin’ Over California is always a hit during its limited-time runs, they still insist on bringing back the inferior newer movie (which has terrible CGI and doesn’t display well on the curved screen).
Halfway to Halloween
There’s one more story to keep on your radar. We’ve passed the halfway point for Halloween and there’s some exciting announcements for the US Disney Parks and the Disney Cruise Line for this fall. Take a look at the article below for the details:
Disney Parks Halloween Announcements with a Focus on Hocus Pocus
You Need A Popcorn Bucket?
I have never fielded so many messages from friends and family wanting me to keep an eye out for those Eliot dragon popcorn buckets. They are essentially sold out, but small shipments come in. By the time you figure out that they are at the resort, they are sold out again.
The same is true with all of the Electrical Parade merchandise. It’s a VERY popular line of products. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things available. After an initial sell out, several items were back on shelves Friday. And the long-awaited Loungefly finally appeared over the weekend after having been shipped in error and placed for sale at Walt Disney World first.
And unrelated, but absolutely adorable, is this new line of Dapper Dan merchandise:
Much thanks to Elaine Wu for sending these shots to us. We love it!
Because We All Need Something To Smile About
To finish off today’s Disneyland Update, we’ll leave you with a collection of photos from Mike Kindrich and myself from this past week.
Say goodbye to New Orleans Square because we’re taking a trip around the Rivers of America!
The Chief had been missing for the last several weeks. He’s returned with his trusty steed and some fresh paint and clothes.
It’s always fun seeing Minnie and Pluto with the Disneyland Marching Band on Main Street.
There’s room for a 1000th ghost at the Haunted Mansion, but I’ve got some living to do! That won’t stop me from taking a spin around with this frightfully fun crew.
The gardens around the Matterhorn are in full bloom.
After weeks of awkward plant growth, it appears that Mickey’s ears have finally grown in
Disneyland Live with Dusty Sage
I have a fun news update video for you from Disneyland, but Facebook is being stupid and won’t allow it to be embedded at the moment. So, if the video below won’t play, click “Watch on Facebook” where it plays just fine:
Discount Disney Theme Park Tickets & Hotels!!!
MiceChat works with Get Away Today to bring you the BEST theme park ticket, hotel & package deals! (You’ll find extra nights free, big discounts, and special offers as well).
Check out the latest offers for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Universal Studios!
(MiceChat works with Get Away Today to provide you with the best theme park travel deals and we may make a small commission on any sales made through our links)
Let’s Hear From You!
We know you have things to say after that long update. Thoughts on Downtown Disney changes? What sorts of shops and restaurants do you expect to find in a Disney shopping district mall stores or something unique? Planning to attend any of the Star Wars after-hours events? Happy with the return of shows and entertainment? Do park reservations make the Disneyland experience better or worse? And it’s long past due for a complete Tomorrowland makeover, what are the essential items this languishing land needs? Let us know…