Just two months after opening, Disney is hoping to fix the problematic Luigi’s Flying Tires attraction in Disney California Adventure‘s new Cars Land area. The attraction has suffered in guest satisfaction surveys and wait times at the attraction have been long due to notoriously slow load times. Changes at the ride include the removal of the giant red-white-and-green beach balls that added an interactive and kinetic flare to the attraction as well as the removal of heavy infrastructure on the ride vehicles undercarriage that was deemed unnecessary after Disney removed directional joysticks during pre-opening ride testing. Disney hopes the removal of the joystick infrastructure should help to speed up the movement of the ride vehicles, which should help enhance the overall ride experience for Guests. Meanwhile, construction on Disneyland‘s new Fantasy Faire meet-and-greet village continues as the first signs of Halloween hit store shelves.

Get a closer look at today’s update! Click on any photo in today’s column for a large, high-resolution version of the image.

Welcome to Disneyland!

Crowds drop off this week as schools go back in session and tourists head home after the busy summer season.

Annual Passholders previously blocked out for the summer will keep crowds moderately high, but overall this week should be lighter than last week. TouringPlans.com can help you navigate the parks with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines – Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. With summer crowds here, it’s a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

— Fred Hazelton, Statistician, TouringPlans.com

[center][/center] [center]Overall
Crowd Prediction
[/center]
[center]TouringPlans.com
Crowd Tips
[/center]
Tues., Aug. 21 [center]4 /10[/center] Here are some quick-hit notes that we hope you’ll find helpful as you prepare your visits for the week:

  • Southern California Annual Passports Summer blockouts are over, so expect more locals in the parks.
  • Partial blockouts on Saturday.
  • Disneyland (park) is a 3.2 on Thursday.
  • Due to its incredibly low capacity, consider riding Luigi’s Flying Tires standby right after starting your day by grabbing a FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers.
Wed., Aug. 22 4 /10
Thu., Aug. 23 4 /10
Fri., Aug. 24 5/10
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

See Disneyland crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disneyland wait times on your iPhone, Android, or Smartphone.

Do more. Wait less.

Dateline Disneyland is sponsored by TouringPlans.com</span

Last week, Disneyland announced its traditional two-night run of the extremely popular Candlelight Processional would be expanded to a 20-night run this year.

Twenty Nights of Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony Performances Scheduled for 2012
The Candlelight Ceremony and Processional has been a Disneyland Resort tradition since 1958, bringing holiday magic to Main Street, U.S.A., with the help of celebrities like Cary Grant, John Wayne, Dick Van Dyke and, in 2011, Gary Sinise.

This holiday season – for the first time in its history – the Candlelight Ceremony and Processional is being extended to a total of 20 nights at Disneyland park, with two performances each night. The first two nights, December 1-2, will be invitation-only events; however, performances from December 3-20 will be open to Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders and guests booking special, to-be-announced dining packages for the 2012 holiday season. [ FULL STORY ]

A look at wait times mid-day on Saturday.

Last week, Disney also announced the “Glow with the Show” light-up ear hats would soon be brought to Disneyland, interacting with the park’s popular Fantasmic! show. Disney released information for a special Annual Passholder showing of Fantasmic, but Passholders are required to bring their own ears for the show — Disney won’t be giving them out for free like they did for World of Color’s Glow with the Show events.

Disneyland Resort APs: Register Now for Your Chance to ‘Glow With the Show’ at ‘Fantasmic!’ on August 28
Bring your “Glow with the Show” Ears and be among the first to see this magical new experience! That’s right – the premiere showing of this special technology during “Fantasmic!” will be a private viewing exclusively for Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders. Register now to attend, because space is limited and based on availability!

Here are the details:

  • One night only – Tuesday, August 28
  • 10 p.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Private viewing of “Fantasmic!” will begin at 11:30 p.m.
  • Select attractions, shops and food offerings will be open for event guests until 12 a.m.
  • Attendees are strongly encouraged to bring their own “Glow with the Show” Ears. Hats are not required for event attendance, but strongly encouraged for optimal viewing experience.

And here’s how you register:

  • Registration applies to Annual Passholder and up to 3 Annual Passholder guests
  • Visit any open ticket booth in the Disneyland Resort Main Entrance Esplanade
  • Present your active Annual Passport and a valid, government-issued photo I.D., as verification of your eligibility to register for the event
  • Based on availability, cast member will complete your registration and give you a voucher, required for admission to the event. Limit one (1) voucher per eligible Annual Passholder; multiple vouchers will not be honored

[ FULL STORY ]

Construction Kingdom

Construction continues on the new steel framework in the upcoming Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet area next to Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Views at construction from the Omnibus:

Meanwhile, walls have gone up at the Fantasyland Theater after last weekend’s closure of the Princess Fantasy Faire. Although Disney has made no official announcement for what is coming to the theater, work is now underway to prepare the space for a new entertainment offering.

Signage for the Princess Fantasy Faire is still up for the time being…

The Troubadour Tavern snack stand will remain closed while the Theater is dark.

Nearby, the princesses have relocated to a new “Princess Royal Walk” along Small World Promenade.

Long lines for the princesses even in the heat with spotty shade.

Princesses meet with guests and pose for pictures in front of lightly-themed backdrops.

Welcome to California Adventure

Patriotic bunting has been down for a couple weeks now along Buena Vista Street.

Businessweek had a great interview with Disney CEO Bob Iger about the recently re-imagined California Adventure park. Below is an excerpt, but we highly recommend reading the full interview.

Bob Iger on Disney California Adventure
Iger has committed more than $1 billion over five years to remake the 11-year-old Disney California Adventure. On a hot July morning, he shows Devin Leonard around the park.

Thanks for squeezing me in.
My pleasure. It’s sort of killing two birds. My granddaughter is over in the Magic Kingdom [the original park, California Adventure’s adjacent sister], so she’s going to come over later, and we’re going to go on some rides together.

Where to first?
Well, just to give some perspective, Disneyland, the first park we opened in ’55, is on the other side of this promenade. This opened in February of 2001. And Michael Eisner actually had a good concept, and that was to turn Disneyland into more of a destination resort. To do so, he wanted to build a second park—a second day—so that people would want to stay longer. And it coincided with us building a beautiful hotel, the Grand Californian. Like all of our parks, this one was a work in progress. In this particular case, there was a lot about it that wasn’t working.

You once described it as a “brand eyesore.”
What I really meant—look, to quote a friend who is no longer with us, Steve Jobs, there’s brand deposits and brand withdrawals. Obviously, whatever you invest in, you do so with an eye toward making a brand deposit. Once in a while you do something with a brand that is the opposite. But rather than dwell on that—there were definitely parts of this park that needed changing.

It does seem strange that it was a California theme park with hardly any Disney characters.
We probably underestimated how much people would demand Disney when they come to a park that has the Disney name on it.

Did you imagine the overhaul on a smaller scale? Isn’t it now a billion dollars?
A billion, a billion-one. It’s a big bet. But I was determined to pay off the vision that Michael had. Yet there’s always a bit of chicken and egg to it, too. Even though I may say, “OK, time to fix California Adventure,” until the [Imagineers] come back with great concepts, you don’t say, “OK, let’s do it.” And they blew me away with their ideas. I loved the idea of Buena Vista Street. [ FULL STORY ]

More shops along Buena Vista Street are operating with their doors open in an effort to draw more guests into the shops

Still, not all shops have the same open-door policy…

A look at very reasonable park wait times Saturday afternoon:

Still, despite the low wait times this last weekend, the new offerings across the resort remain popular and the success of the re-launched California Adventure has helped boost hotel occupancy rates in Orange County. More from the Orange County Register:

Cars Land helps fill O.C. hotels, boosts rates
Orange County hotels enjoyed a boost in occupancy in June as the blockbuster “Cars Land” attraction opened at Disneyland’s California Adventure in Anaheim.

The lodging experts at Colliers PKF report that 84.5% of Orange County hotel rooms were filled in vs. 80.0% the year earlier. In the Anaheim area, 85.9% of rooms were full in June vs. 82.3% in June 2011.

And rising room rates didn’t scare off visitors. Orange County hotels in June saw average room rates at $157.46 per night — that is up 7.0% in a year (or $10.28 a night.) In Anaheim, room rates were up 5.9% in a year to $156.40.
[ FULL STORY ]

Tried & Tired

In Cars Land, Luigi’s Flying Tires is getting some notable changes only two months after opening.

The ride’s long queues and notoriously slow loading times have been well documented here and elsewhere online. Last week we showed you that the number of beach balls had been significantly reduced and Cast Members were no longer handing out beach balls to Guests boarding the attraction. Now, the beach balls have been removed completely.

Last week, the OC Register shared more details about the changes coming to the attraction, including the plan to remove heavy infrastructure on the undersides of the tires leftover from turning mechanisms that were removed from the tires in early Guest testing:

Disney already changing Cars Land ride
Disney California Adventure visitors soon will fly faster on Luigi’s Flying Tires.

The Cars Land ride, in which visitors float on tire-shaped vehicles similar to bumper cars on an air-hockey table, is undergoing major changes just two months after it opened with the park’s massive makeover.

Disney recently removed gigantic beach balls that visitors had tossed to one another as they floated along on the vehicles.

Over the next three weeks, crews will remove weight from the undercarriages of the vehicles, said Mary Niven, vice president of Disney California Adventure. This should increase the speed, although Disney has not disclosed what it will be.

Originally, the vehicles were to have a joystick, but it confused riders during testing. Still, the spin-control infrastructure remained below, weighing about 20 pounds, Niven said. The removal of that infrastructure is underway and should be done by September. The ride is not being shut down.

About 90 percent of surveyed visitors have said they plan to return to Cars Land. But Luigi’s has ranked as the least popular of the three Cars Land rides.

The beach balls were added to Luigi’s shortly before it opened as a way to give the attraction a more festive look, as well as add fun for riders.

But the wait times lagged, often lasting an hour or more, usually because people slowed down to pick up balls as they were getting aboard. Also, there were some “minor incidents” when visitors were hit by beach balls, Niven said.

“We just thought it was going to be more fun,” Niven said. [ FULL STORY ]

Keen-eyed riders can see the covered hole leftover from the failed turning joysticks.

It’ll be interesting to see how the removal of the remaining infrastructure will change the ride experience.

Soon, these instructions could come in handy and you might be able to fly a little faster…

Below, video of the attraction from Sunday as the ride is now experienced without the beach balls and in its current speed.

Below, a video of the Flying Tires during the Cars Land media preview, complete with beach balls:

Meanwhile, other Cars Land attractions continue to draw crowds without needing notable changes

Creeping In…

Halloween has started creeping into the Resort with merchandise hitting store shelves in the parks. Below, a selection of this year’s offerings:

Of course, plenty of costumes and accessories…

Also available in the parks is the spectacular new Poster Art of the Disney Parks book. The gorgeous large-format art book was available in limited quantities a couple weeks ago and sold out in days. Book authors and Imagineers came out for a book signing on Saturday that drew big crowds for the highly-anticipated new title. You can find the book in art and collectible stores throughout the Resort. If you can’t make it to the parks to pick up a copy, you can order the book on Amazon for less than $25, a nearly 40% savings over the price you’ll find it in the parks.

Also available now in the parks are the new Disney theme park air fresheners that Disney announced a couple months ago. Yep, there really is a turkey leg air freshener available now… and yes, we agree that the term “air freshener” is a misnomer for this particular scent.

And in California Adventure, we noticed a great new Red Car Trolley big fig a few weeks ago and thought the $160 piece was worth sharing here:

Building Sandwiches

In Downtown Disney, a look at Earl of Sandwich construction:

Restaurant logos are now on construction walls

The old Compass Books newsstand has been mostly demolished


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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
August 20—26, 2012
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]Disney California Adventure[/B]
Daily:
8 am – 12 midnight
Daily:
8 am – 11 pm
[CENTER]For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
[/CENTER]
[center]Expected Crowd Levels[/center] [center]presented by TouringPlans.com[/center]
[CENTER][B]Disneyland Park[/B][/CENTER] [CENTER][B]Disney California Adventure[/B][/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]MEDIUM[/B]
[B]3.2—4.2[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]MEDIUM—HIGH[/B]
[B]4.4—9.8[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER]Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10,
with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

[B]For crowd predictions for the next 365 days, visit
[/B]
[center]Closure and Refurbishment Schedule[/center]
[b][center]Disneyland Park[/center][/b]
  • [B]Princess Fantasy Faire at the Fantasyland Theater:[/B] Fantasyland Theater closed August 12. Princesses have relocated to Small World Promenade allowing the Fantasyland Theater to close and prepare for a new show.
  • [B]The Haunted Mansion:[/B] Closed August 27—September 13 to install Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay.
  • [B]Storybook Land Canal Boats:[/B] Closed September 4-18, 2012 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Casey Jr. Circus Train:[/B] Closed September 4-18, 2012 for refurbishment.
  • [b]Indiana Jones Adventure:[/b] Closed September 4 – December 7, 2012 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Space Mountain:[/B] Closed September 10-13, 2012 for Halloween overlay installation.
  • [B]Big Thunder Ranch:[/B] Closed September 10-13, 2012 for Halloween overlay installation.
  • [B]Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes:[/B] Closed September 17-18, 2012.
  • [B]Alice in Wonderland:[/B] Closes early September to install permanent safety rails to outdoor portion of ride track.
  • [B]Fantasy Faire:[/B] New princess-themed meet-and-greet area in former Carnation Plaza Gardens is under construction and expected to open in early 2013.
[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]
  • Muppet*Vision 3D: Closed September 10-13, 2012.
[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]
  • [B]Earl of Sandwich:[/B] Former Compass Book store and cafe will reopen as the new Earl of Sandwich restaurant summer 2012.
Disney names Epcot chef as Executive Chef for Anaheim parks
Last week the Disney Parks Blog announced that Disneyland is getting a new executive chef from Walt Disney World. This could be interesting for Disneyland’s theme parks…
Meet Chef Christine Weissman, New Executive Chef for Both Parks at the Disneyland Resort
If you’ve been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, or sailed with Disney Cruise Line, chances are you’ve seen Chef Christine Weissman – a flurry of energy as she spent her days keeping an eye on all things food and drink.

After 12 years on the East Coast, you’ll now see Chef Christine spending time with her chefs at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks, where she says she’s working “to always improve our guests’ dining experience.”

She got her start on the opening team at Disneyland Paris, then headed to Walt Disney World Resort for stints at Seasons Dining Room at the former Disney Institute; as the specialty chef in the Biergarten Restaurant at Epcot; chef de cuisine of catering at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Magic Kingdom Park; executive chef of Epcot; and executive chef of Disney Cruise Line.

Christine Weissman is also a certified Master Chef (Meister Pruefung I.H.K.), and is certified at Level One by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Her love of cooking started as a child in Bielefeld, Germany, where her family owned a restaurant. She started out as a dishwasher, then learned culinary skills from her father and grandmother. Her favorite kitchen gadget still is a spaetzle board, an old-fashioned way of making German soft egg noodles. “I like to make spaetzle the old fashioned way, ‘scharped from the board,’” says Christine. “I often do this with my daughters at home.”

Full story: Disney Parks Blog: Meet Chef Christine Weissman, New Executive Chef for Both Parks at the Disneyland Resort

So, what do you think of the changes underway at Luigi’s Flying Tires? What do such big alterations mean for such a young attraction? Let us know how your ride experience at Luigi’s has been and if you liked the beach balls. Will you ride again now that the tires will fly faster?

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For more Disneyland news, be sure to read MiceChat’s weekly In the Parks blog. And be sure to check out our sister blog, Dateline Disney World – a fantastic weekly photo blog covering Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida!

Thanks for reading. See you at Disneyland!
[B]- Andy[/B]

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FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by TouringPlans.com | Do More. Wait Less. and the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.