So it took me a while to think about my first blog of 2010. I had so many topics to choose from. Would it be food? Nope. Tony took that one by announcing his Disneyland Dining Quest. How about events? Nope- with all the events that Walt Disney World has in January, like the Goofy Marathon weekend, the Disneyland calendar pretty much paled in comparison. Even the current rainy weather trend gave me ideas. And then it hit me.
Everyone always writes a retrospective of the previous year. What did we do? How did we live? You know, the DIS Unplugged blog archives can tell you that. I thought about all the talk about the California Adventure rehabs and how this is affecting the plans of vacationers -how people want to cancel their Disneyland vacations and wait for 2012, when all of the chaos is over. It made me shake my head and be inspired – all at the same time. One of the things I have never been tolerant of is letting other people tell me how to choose my fun, because they don’t think something is worth it. With such special occurrences as the 55th Anniversary of Disneyland Park and the special openings in Disney’s California Adventure, I decided to look at the glass as half full, otherwise known as “What’s worth seeing at the Disneyland Resort in the year 2010?”!
I actually delayed releasing this blog because I wanted to include the latest and greatest photos from the parks. I wanted y’all to be as up to date as possible. Then, as I was walking through Disneyland last weekend, I saw some things and it occurred to me that I had to start with a bit of a 2009 recap. As I look at it, there were a couple things that really got missed by a lot of folks, because of the holiday excitement. Some of these even directly relate to some of the upcoming 2010 highlights.
Let’s start off with Lincoln. Everyone loves Lincoln – memorials, holidays, the most revered President of our nation.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln has returned to the Main Street Opera House. If your initial response is “Oh boy – let’s watch a fake Lincoln jabber at us.” or “How fun is high school history class? “, then you have never taken the time out to visit this type of Disney attraction. There are a couple things that make this reintroduction so special. The first is that it is a restoration and return to an updated version of the original Mr. Lincoln attraction that opened in Disneyland on July 18, 1965. The voice tracks by famed Lincoln actor, Royal Dano, and narrator, Paul Frees, have been restored and enhanced to provide a quality experience. Add to that a blend of both traditional American music and Disney’s most famous patriotic songs, and you get a moving perspective of Lincoln’s place in our nation’s history.
However, the thing that will draw folks to this newly re-opened exhibit is the fact that it is now home to the latest generation of Disney technology – the Autonomatron. This isn’t your old fashioned audio-animatronic character. The newest generation has the ability to perform minute facial expressions, due to having state-of-the-art electronics perform the functions once served by older, hydraulic technology.
Another joy for Disney fans is the all new pre-show, which highlights the history of Walt Disney, Disneyland Park, and the original Lincoln attraction. You can take quite a bit of time looking at the museum exhibits that fill cases and line the walls. I really feel that even a Disney skeptic could find something that can help them gain some appreciation of what it took to build this icon of a park.
The second thing that went unnoticed was the addition of new remote control boats in the water feature on the ESPN side of the Rainforest Café’s Mayan Pyramid. These opened up fairly quietly, right before Christmas – so quietly, in fact, that I completely walked past them last Saturday afternoon. My kids are enthralled with this kind of thing – just check my blog on the ones at the Disneyland Hotel – and that means that if we didn’t see them, wow. I even had to ask Tony to stop by and photograph them in the middle of the week for this little missive. They weren’t in operation, but the photos are a good representation of what was installed. I can see where putting a small attraction like this into the busy Rainforest Café waiting area can be a good revenue enhancement for Disney. Certainly all the bored, hungry, waiting children I know would be bugging their parents for the cash to play them. I think the thing I found the most attractive was the sign that indicated all of the money for the attraction was going to support Disney Hand – the charitable, worldwide outreach foundation that is run by The Walt Disney Company.
Another quiet opening was the addition of the 50 new Disney Vacation Club Villas and 203 guest rooms to Disney’s flagship, the Grand Californian Hotel. Okay – maybe it wasn’t so quiet during the last 2 years of construction, but now that it’s done, these new rooms will provide the most premium view that any Disney hotel can offer – the new World of Color nighttime spectacular to be shown on the Paradise Pier Lagoon in California Adventure. But we’ll talk about that in another paragraph…
Decorated in Arts and Crafts furnishings, the new Villas feature all of the benefits of a “home away from home”. The larger units feature suites with furnished kitchens and washer/dryer units. The resort saw the addition of the new Mariposa pool, a new arcade, and a new 6th floor terrace that overlooks the Paradise Pier area – once again – a perfect viewing spot for the new show.
Now that I’ve rambled on about some of the the stuff we missed out on over the last couple months (my fault entirely…), let’s cut to the chase and start covering all of the NEW stuff that is already here or is coming in 2010!
I decided the best way to go about this is do it in chronological order, so bear with me if I don’t get to something you are excited about right away…
First up – a new Annual Passholder Center has opened in Disney’s California Adventure, behind Monsters, Inc. in the Hollywood Backlot area! “Oh boy…” you say. “What does this mean for me?” Let me tell you, there are a couple things to be impressed with.
First off, it resides in the old Hollywood and Dine Soundstage. Unless you visited California Adventure within the first 9 months or so, you have no idea what I am talking about. Let me explain. This location was a really cool food court eatery when the park first opened. Located as an indoor eatery, each counter service station was themed to a different famous and historical restaurant from Hollywood’s golden age. Places like Straubs Pharmacy (the soda fountain where many a starlet’s career was born) were shown. The early guest volume didn’t support the number of food venues, so many of them closed and until now, the soundstage has only been used for special events and as a rehearsal hall. If you ask them nicely and if no rehearsals are going on, they will let you peak around the curtain and see the facades. I’ve included a shot of one of the old wall decorations that was left out for guests to enjoy.
Secondly, no one seems to know about it. It isn’t publicized. I was wandering around with Lily and I stumbled on a simple sign with an arrow. So I followed it. In the 5 to 10 minutes I spent in there, I was the only guest through the door. Simply put, there are no lines. If you are buying or renewing your pass – come here instead of the Disneyland location on the hub. You will be happy you did!
February 10, 2010 brings the limited return of Michael Jackson’s famous 3D venture – CAPTAIN EO!!!! As many of you know, Captain EO has been a fan favorite for many years. Let’s face it – there is a whole generation that is completely unfamiliar with the “Honey, I Shrank the Kids” movie franchise, thus leading to the demise in popularity of the Honey, I Shrank the Audience attraction in Tomorrowland and Epcot. Here in Disneyland, you barely see any lines for the attraction, and that is something we’ve tried to take note of while eating lunch at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port or waiting for folks to finish riding Space Mountain. Well, on January 4, 2010, that all changed. “Honey” was closed to begin the installation of EO.
It was exciting to watching the “Honey” signs come down and the building get a new overhaul. I’m sure there will be a few changes to the show – nothing is done exactly the same, especially since the special effects for the original movie had to give way when they rebuilt the theater for “Honey“. Who knows what cool things they will do to enhance this original version? Tony took some photos of them fixing up the preshow screens and the queue area, in order to get ready for the limited run.
Now that the posters are up, no one seems to know it. They have them covered up! When we photographed the area last weekend, we couldn’t really get a feel that EO is coming. There seems to be quite a bit of buzz in the online community, but no one in the park seems to know. Disney is keeping it quiet, with no major signs on the building.
Since there has been no official word on how long the attraction will stay, the lack of large signage on the building really seems to confirm the fact that it is temporary. Some websites have reported 12 weeks, but that hasn’t been issued from the official Disney media sources. I know many are hoping that Disney will keep it for an extended run, if it proves to have renewed popularity. I definitely think it will revitalize that corner of Tomorrowland!
Make sure you check back for the blog we will have on Captain EO after it opens, so you can get a good feel of how they restored it and how its presence is affecting the park!
March brings about the 15th Anniversary of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction in Adventureland.
Now, probably not much will be done about this, not being a milestone anniversary like 10 or 25, but what they have done is pretty fun. They are sprucing up all of the Indiana Jones/Harrison Ford audio-animatronics, replacing them with the new Autonomatrons like the Lincoln one that I talked about earlier. These new figures look a lot more like Harrison Ford than the old ones, and have the wider range of expressions that make them so incredible to watch. I think it will add a nice pick-me-up to this already fabulous attraction.
They have already replaced the one at the beginning of the ride – the one that holds back the doors of the Temple and sends you down your treacherous journey. Unfortunately… I don’t have any pictures of him! Each time I tried to ride and photo it, the attraction was down. When I finally get the chance to capture his essence, I will definitely replace this text with a photo.
April 16 – May 31, 2010 brings the 5th Anniversary of Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival. This year’s theme will be the “The Art of Flavor”, and will celebrate some of the same great activities found last year. This event is very different than the one in Walt Disney World, as the events are centered near the entrance to the park and celebrated at the various counter service and table service eateries. Not only will there be the food, but a host of classes from experts in the culinary, brewing, and vintning industries, special wine paired dinners, dessert events, and celebrity chef sessions, like last year’s free appearance by Chef Robert Irvine.
Many of these events require tickets to be purchased in advance, so when they become available to the general public on February 16, you may consider snagging a few event tickets before they disappear! If you are a Disneyland annual passholder – act now, by seeing the special offers link at www.disneyland.com/ap. Classes that fill the quickest are the Napa Rose Cooking School, with Exectutive Chef Andrew Sutton, the Winemaker’s Dinners, Taste – Food • Wine • Life party, and the Taste Wine Like an Expert. These sessions range from $55 plus tax for the Wine Tasting, to $135 for most dinner events, to $475 for the Napa Rose Cooking School.
If these seem a bit steep for your pocketbook, you can opt for many of the free lectures given at the Festival Tent in the park. Last year’s schedule had such guests as Iron Chef Cat Cora, Food Network star Guy Fieri, and Campanille and La Brea Bakery pastry chef/owner and food legend, Nancy Silverton, as well as a host of famed pastry chefs, winemakers, and master brewers. This schedule is released a bit closer to the event start and can be found here. For a nominal fee, you can taste some of the great food available as well, such as these Lobster Nachos from the Cove Bar.
April is the big month of the year for Disney’s California Adventure and grand openings! Another section of the Paradise Pier area will be reopening with the World of Color and the Silly Symphony Swings! Unfortunately, unless they do soft openings, the folks coming down on the podcast Adventures by Disney trip won’t get to experience it. All I can say to them is… “I’m sorry…”
So since I’ve hyped this up in the last few paragraphs, let’s talk about that World of Color, rumored to be opening on April 24, 2010….
It’s a little show. Not much really. It is only touted to be the most hi-tech water spectacular of its kind. The Blue Sky Cellar, in Disney’s California Adventure, has had lots of wonderful concept artwork exhibited for this attraction. As you can see from my opening photograph – they have really gone all out in visualizing the scenes and even redesigning the whole lagoon area, based on the needs for the show.
Watching the construction of this “show platform” over the last year has been really interesting. Just the steps in the process, trying to guess what each new “bump” will do, have been enjoyable. From the photos below, you can see what an effort it is to create a show of this magnitude.
I actually have a whole lot more to show you about the wonders of constructing World of Color. Enough, in fact, that you can see the progress in another blog on the topic!
Large screens, made from fan shaped fountains of water will combine with color and music to bring alive such beloved Disney movies as Alice in Wonderland, Fantasia, Finding Nemo, Pocahontas, The Lion King, and more.
There will be viewing areas all around the lagoon, but the best seats in the house will be from the newly rebuilt Golden State Plaza, or if you are lucky, the Disney Vacation Club viewing deck at the Grand Californian Villas.
April 28, 2010 brings the opening of the Silly Symphony Swings. For those familiar with the older version of California Adventure, this new attraction is a re-theming of the Orange Stinger. The original ride was a twist on traditional carnival swings that rise and tilt inside a giant “partially peeled” orange. It’s not the first time this ride has been altered. The original “bee seats” were removed early on and replaced with traditional swing seats (that’s where the “Stinger” came from).
This time, Mickey comes to the ride with a rendition of his popular short “The Band Concert”, where Mickey leads a group of enthusiastic musicians in the William Tell Overture, while being swept away by a tornado. As you can see by the concept drawings, this experience will be brought to life as the ride lifts. As your swing travels up, more of the tornado appears on the shaft of the ride. Frankly, this ride is going to have a whole lot more thrill, now that they have removed the Orange. It is on a raised platform, for starters, and now there will be no walls between you and the lagoon! Eek!!!! It will feel as though you are flying out over the water.
Now the photo of the red and white canopy in the above collage was taken two weeks ago. When we visited with Tom Bell’s family last weekend, Tom took the following photos for me, while he took my daughter on the Golden Zephyr. You can see what a difference one week can make in the world of Disney theme parks. We were so excited to see the changes and look forward to the ride. For folks with excited younger riders, it used to have a height limitation of 48 inches, so I’m sure it will probably remain the same.
For those coming to celebrate the 55th Anniversary in the summer, June 2010 also brings about the completion of the Dreams Tower renovation at the Disneyland Hotel. The Dreams Tower is the “Premium View” tower of the hotel, hosting the best views of the Disney Parks and Neverland Pool, as well as the Concierge rooms. It’s only fitting that this tower is completed first.
Many have complained that the original hotel of the Disneyland Resort has become outdated and tired, with its 90’s floral décor. The new rooms feature contemporary design, with Sleeping Beauty Castle as the room’s focal point – complete with fiber-optic fireworks accents in the room headboard. The old faux-balconies and noise-leaking sliding doors are even being replaced with energy-efficient blue-tinted glass windows, creating a sleek sky-reflecting exterior.
Renovations in the other towers will be completed by 2012, in conjunction with the completion of California Adventure, but those choosing preferred views at the Disneyland Hotel will be able to get to actually experience the new rooms during their summer stay!
July 2010 marks two anniversaries for Disneyland. The 55th Anniversary of Disneyland Park occurs in July, but merchandise is already appearing on display in various key Disneyland Shops. The theme of the Anniversary is simply “The Happiest Memories on Earth“, a play on the Disneyland slogan of being the “Happiest Place on Earth“. Most of the merchandise is simply designed, but a few pieces (that I thought were particularly fun) are the recreation of the original ticket books for $5.95, the bi-color baseball hat, and the coffee mug – which had a really good quality weight and design.
Nothing has been announced yet as far as what activities or special events will top off this historical marker, but many guests have hopes that there will be something special to celebrate the occasion. After all, we are still “Celebrating” this year! Since there have been no official media announcements that relate to the 55th, I would probably caution guests not to expect as glorious of a celebration as there was for the 50th. After all, when you talk about 50th anniversaries in relation to weddings, the 55th is not nearly as grandiose of a marker in relation. Besides, I think it would be extremely hard to be the designer that is constantly expected to have to out-do myself with every single anniversary, just because guests enjoyed the last one so much. I am personally looking forward to the 75th Anniversary. I’ll bet someone at Disney, somewhere, has already started brainstorming what that blow-out will be like!!!! Just think, 2025……
2010 will also still be a year of construction. Let’s face it; they can’t fix everything in a day. Another thing they will have done this year in California Adventure is an upgrade of the Hollywood Backlot streets. They have elevated the street, eliminating the curbs, to install the tracks for the future Red Car Trolley, Line 98 through Hollywood Land and the new Buena Vista Street. This will mean that you will be able to take a famous Los Angeles street car from the entrance of the park all the way back to the Tower of Terror. While Buena Vista Street has not even started construction yet, they are laying the groundwork with this construction. The walls that line Hollywood Boulevard are filled with wonderful posters that feature the trolley cars, as well as vintage Disney movie posters. After all, this land is supposed to be that of the 30’s and 40’s!
The last few things I want to mention are the special events that 2010 brings. These events are so special that they deserve blogs of their own. Upcoming topics to visit us for in the coming months are:
May – Mother’s Day and the Brunch at the Disneyland Hotel Ballroom. This is something that is very special at Disneyland and a tradition for many local families. We tried it last year and we are hooked. To cap it off, When mothers enter Disneyland that day they are given a flower corsage, just to say “You are special”!
September – Labor Day Weekend hosts the Disneyland 5K and Half Marathon, which is celebrating its 5th Anniversary this year. All participants get to experience some great scenes of “Backstage” Disneyland and California Adventure while achieving success at a goal. The Half Marathon also takes its participants through the streets of Anaheim to Angels’ Stadium, where they have run the field in past races. Runners who have also participated in one of the official Walt Disney World races in the same calendar year, will also receive a Coast to Coast medal. It’s a heavy, beautiful thing, that I will show you in my family’s personal adventure blog later this summer. We have a runner that got to experience both races!
Of course, you know holidays are special at Disneyland. We will also be bringing you news on what is happening for July 4th, Halloween, Christmas, and the like, so keep in mind that despite all of the construction, 2010 is definitely a year to look forward to at the Disneyland Resort!!!!!
Photos by N. Johnson, T. Spittell, T. Bell, L. Imig, and R. Tobe