D23 Expo has come and gone and Disneyland is now enjoying the last weeks of its busy summer season before jumping head first into its popular Halloween Time. Jack-o-lanterns and seasonal decorations are popping up along Main Street, U.SA. and the Haunted Mansion has now closed for its seasonal overlay as Disneyland gears up for the launch of Halloween Time in mid-September. Meanwhile, the park continues to roll out some more small 60th anniversary offerings, including a new enchanted window on Main Street and the return of The Little Man of Disneyland in Adventureland. Over in Frontierland, rumors are already circulating about when the recently-announced Star Wars Land project will get under way with some saying it could start as early as January.
Don’t miss your weekly Disneyland Resort crowd forecast — provided by our friends at Mouseaddict — in the Weekly News and Information Roundup at the end of today’s update!
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We have a huge post-D23 Expo update for you today, so let’s get started!
|Welcome to Disneyland!|
In Frontierland, guests can now find some new entertainment at the Golden Horseshoe. Unfortunately, this isn’t a proper show for the Golden Horseshoe stage, but it is a fantastic musical group that plays on the outdoor balcony of the saloon.
The Silver Dollar Six is one of the park’s new break-out groups that plays sets throughout the day. It’s a great new bit of atmosphere music that complements the Mariachis del Zocalo that play regularly now in the nearby Zocalo Park.
A video clip of the great new group
As August comes to a close, Disneyland has started ramping up for Halloween Time, which will officially kick off September 11. Main Street, U.S.A. shop windows are in the process of getting their Halloween overlays, with jack-o-lantern, hay bales, and other decorations brought in.
With Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration continuing well into next year, this year’s Halloween Time will be notably different due to 60th Anniversary offerings taking precedent over regular Halloween Time offerings. While the giant Mickey jack-o-lantern should appear in Town Square, don’t expect orange bunting and Halloween Time lamppost banners to make an appearance this year — instead, the Diamond Celebration bunting and lamppost decorations will remain in place. In addition to decorations being different this year, Mickey’s Halloween Party guests will see the new Paint the Night Parade instead of the Halloween cavalcade that usually runs during the party. Additionally, guests visiting Disneyland on Halloween party nights will not see the 60th Anniversary “Disneyland Forever” fireworks. Party guests will still be treated to the popular party-only “Halloween Screams” show. Disney announced this in a Disney Parks Blog post last week:
- Mickey’s Halloween Party – This year, Mickey’s Halloween Party will feature “Paint the Night” parade and “Halloween Screams” fireworks.
- Non-Party Nights – On non-party nights (including weeknights), you can catch both “Paint the Night” parade and “Disneyland Forever” fireworks.
- “World of Color – Celebrate!” – Our new “World of Color” spectacular will be presented every night, including weeknights.
Please note: Guests visiting with regular admission during Mickey’s Halloween Party dates will not be able to view “Paint the Night” parade or either fireworks spectaculars. If you plan to watch “Disneyland Forever” fireworks, please check the calendar at Disneyland.com to be sure you are attending on a non-party night. All show schedules are subject to change.
In New Orleans Square, the Haunted Mansion is closed starting today for installation of its Nightmare Before Christmas-themed holiday overlay. Haunted Mansion Holiday officially opens September 11 but usually soft opens a day or two early.
|Down on Main Street|
On Main Street, the latest Enchanted Window has debuted. The new window is themed to The Princess and the Frog and is a great addition to this new series of window displays being installed as part of the 60th anniversary.
The window magically transforms to a riverboat scene with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen dancing to the music of the Firefly Five plus Lou (a clever nod to Disneyland’s old Firehouse Five plus Two)
Below, check out a video of the wonderful new window display.
|The Little Man returns to Disneyland|
SPOILER WARNING! We spoil the location of Patrick Begorra’s, the Little Man of Disneyland, new home below. If you’d like to search for his home on your own without spoilers, click here to skip to the next section!
Two weeks ago we featured the new reprint of the classic “Little Man of Disneyland” Little Golden Book in a special Dateline Disneyland Bookshelf feature. Then, at the D23 Expo, the Little Man of Disneyland was featured in the excellent Walt Disney Archives exhibit and the folks at the Archives hinted that little Patrick Begorra may have moved back in at Disneyland, just in time for the Expo. Sure enough, the little leprechaun has returned to Adventureland.
The faux tree that acts as the support for the Indy marquee is also now the home of Patrick Begorra, but his home isn’t immediately noticeable. The leprechaun’s home faces inside the planter, not out. So if you aren’t looking closely, it’s pretty easy to miss.
I love that Disney brought this little hidden detail back. A perfectly subtle, little tribute to Disneyland history, just in time for the 60th Anniversary. I recently gave a copy of the Little Man of Disneyland for my three-year-old niece and was able to FaceTime with her while I was in the park on Sunday. She lives a couple hundred miles away and has yet to visit Disneyland, but we were able to find Patrick’s house together thanks to the magic of technology. Her eyes lit up when she saw Patrick’s house and we made plans to find the house together when her parents bring her to the park for the first time. Kudos to everybody involved in making this happen — great little things like this don’t go unnoticed and are much appreciated!
Below, the “Little Man of Disneyland” part of our recent Dateline Disneyland Bookshelf feature. At only $5, this is a fun little vintage souvenir you can’t pass up.
|Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland
Just in time for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, Little Man of Disneyland is a reprint of the classic 1955 Little Golden Book that tells the story of a leprechaun named Patrick Begorra who lives in the Anaheim orange groves that would become Disneyland. Mickey and Donald convince Patrick to let them build Disneyland in his orange groves after they show him the fantastic plans for the park. The little $5 book is really a just clever vintage marketing piece for the then-under construction park but 60 years later is still wildly charming and filled with spectacular illustrations typical of Disney’s classic Little Golden Books.
|The Farm Awakens|
The biggest news of the year in the Disney theme park community has to be, of course, the announcement of the 14-acre Star Wars-themed lands coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Disney has yet to announce any sort of timetable for construction or opening dates for the major new attractions, but rumors are already swirling that the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue is closing in early 2016, which means that demolition work for Star Wars Land could be getting on fairly quickly.
Rumors are circulating that Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Cast Members have been notified the restaurant will close in January, and with Star Wars Land officially taking over the Big Thunder Ranch area of Disneyland, it seems pretty likely that the closure is directly linked to the Star Wars Land announcement.
Of course, Disney has yet to officially announce any sort of opening date for Star Wars, so it could be a coincidence. Time will tell, but until then it’s probably a good idea to get your final visits in at Big Thunder Ranch soon before Star Wars really moves in.
The Big Thunder Ranch area has long been considered for significant expansion, including Disney Legend Tony Baxter’s “Discovery Bay” plans. Nothing has ever made it off the drawing board, however, and until now Big Thunder Ranch has been home to a petting zoo, a large outdoor stage, and a restaurant facility. The large outdoor stage was once home to a fondly-remembered Hunchback of Notre Dame show and has most recently been home to seasonal festivals featuring character meet-and-greets, entertainment and activities.
All-in-all, I don’t think losing the ranch will be much of a loss for Disneyland. It has long been underutilized space and while I have advocated for quiet corners of the park like this in previous blog posts, the ranch is located in the far back of the park — it’s too far detached from everything to really allow for a quiet moment in the middle of the chaos like things like Carnation Plaza Gardens or the Court of Angels did. Does a petting zoo like this have a place in Disneyland? Certainly, and while unlikely, it would be nice if Disneyland finds a place for something similar elsewhere in the park.
What is worth saving in all of this, however, are some rocks. Separating Big Thunder Ranch from the rest of Big Thunder Trail is a series of vintage Disney-made rock formations leftover from Walt Disney’s Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland. They’ve received some slight modifications over the years and various paint schemes, but the basic formations remain and they’re just some of the various remnants leftover from the sprawling Mine Train attraction, kept as theming for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or the Rivers of America when Frontierland dramatically changed in the 1970s.
We’ve got a while to see just how Star Wars Land is laid out and how it utilizes the space currently occupied by Big Thunder Ranch and backstage facilities, but hopefully the new 14-acre land will be set back a bit from the Big Thunder Trail. Having Star Wars immediately behind Big Thunder Mountain would be an incredibly jarring juxtaposition, and some buffer space is needed to properly transition guests from the old west to a galaxy far, far away. Hopefully this rock work can be integrated into this much-needed transition space, acting as a sort of curtain between Frontierland and Star Wars Land. Sure, it’s just rocks but it’s historic features like this that are worth keeping around in Disneyland– little bits of the past to remind us where the park has come from as the park continues to evolve into the future. Below, a 1970 photograph of the rock formations, as seen as part of the Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland attraction. Photo courtesy Daveland.
Meanwhile, Mickey’s Toon Town has appeared to have dodged the wrecking ball despite rumors from MiceAge that the land would be closed to become part of the new Star Wars Land.
Disneyland’s official Twitter account, @DisneylandToday currently denies that Star Wars will take over Toon Town
@Wraithkelso It is not replacing Mickey's Toontown. It will be in the Big Thunder Ranch area, inclusive of some backstage locations.
— Disneyland Today (@DisneylandToday) August 17, 2015
The ride doesn’t get nearly as much love as it should, probably because it’s all the way back in Toon Town, but Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is top-notch and worth revisiting if you haven’t recently.
Meanwhile, Tomorrowland has avoided getting its historic Submarine Voyage, Monorail and Autopia attraction complex bulldozed to for the previously-rumored Star Wars-heavy makeover of Tomorrowland. This is great news, and hopefully Disney realizes how important the Submarine Voyage and Monorail are to Disneyland’s rich history. Still, that doesn’t mean Tomorrowland isn’t getting its fair share of Star Wars. This fall, the bottom level of the old Innoventions building will be home to the new Star Wars Launch Bay featuring props and interactive exhibits on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The upper level will house “Super Hero HQ,” an enhanced version of the Marvel exhibits and meet-and-greets that were slowly introduced over the last few years.
And in the spring, Tomorrowland will play host to “Season of the Force,” which will include the new “Hyper Space Mountain” overlay for Space Mountain along with additional entertainment throughout the land including enhancements to the popular Jedi Training Academy show.
|Thoughts on the D23 Expo|
Well, it’s been a week since the D23 Expo came and went and I think I’ve finally recovered. I think at this point we’ve all heard the big headlines from the Expo, so today I wanted to wrap up some loose ends and share my thoughts on this year’s event.
The 2015 D23 Expo is Disney’s fourth outing hosting these big weekend-long conventions. In many ways, this year was Disney’s biggest and most efficiently-run Expo to date and, at the same time, just more of the same headaches as in years past. On its fourth outing, Disney finally found a solution for the D23 Arena capacity issues, using a large hall instead and doubling capacity in the process. Hall D23, in conjunction with the Hall E queueing area, seemed far and away a better process than the Arena but what Hall D23 gained in ease-of-use, it lost in audience visibility. While the Arena certainly had nosebleed sections, there was still practically no bad seat in the house, whereas, the one-level Hall D23 meant that most views were of the back of another audience-member’s head or a digital screen overhead. Unfortunately, getting a good view of the stage often proved to be a difficult task. Still, the capacity gain and a seemingly better queuing and entry system were wins for Disney and I hope that the next Expo continues to improve on making the biggest venue at the Expo a pleasant experience for all guests.
Of course, Hall D23 still wasn’t big enough for the Expo’s most popular panels, including Parks and Resorts and Walt Disney Studios. Unfortunately those that didn’t make it in to those presentations had no other option than to scroll through Twitter to read about the breaking news they were missing out on seeing live. Of course, there’s probably never going to be a room big enough for these big marquee presentations, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. For starters, digital stages — where the presentations are projected in large rooms that people can enter and exit as they please — would be great additions. Not only is there enough demand for this, but there’s plenty of space in the convention center to make it happen. And if renting out additional rooms at the convention center for digital stages is something Disney’s unwilling to pay for, then why not just stream online? Disneyland had several live webcams running for the 24-hour event earlier this year and Star Wars Celebration also offered live streaming of some of its presentations and panels. All of the major presentations are recorded already, with many being projected on supplemental screens in the venues. All the pieces are already in place, so why not live stream the big stuff online?
For those that didn’t get into the big Hall D23 presentations, the D23 Expo luckily did have a lot to offer elsewhere. We’ve already given you exhaustive tours of the amazing Walt Disney Archives exhibit and the great Walt Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion, but those were only two corners of a dramatically improved show floor this year. In years past, the D23 Expo has always seemed to put a larger focus on panels and presentations than it has on the show floor, but this year changed all that. Every major division of Disney seemed to be represented on the floor this year, along with some third-party partners as well. Everybody had fancy booths or pavilion set-up and finally, the D23 Expo had a show floor worth spending some time in.
The Walt Disney Studios brought interactive Alice Through the Looking Glass magic mirrors and Star Wars: The Force Awakens costumes and props, while Pixar and Disney animation had live drawing classes, animation displays and more.
The Disney Music Emporium showcased its new Silly Symphony box set and offered a variety of music titles for purchase. ABC TV had sneak peeks of new shows and Disney Channel had special meet-and-greets throughout the weekend.
And of course, if you got your fill of the show floor, a full lineup of smaller panels and presentations was available to keep you busy. I still can’t get over the incredible Silly Symphony Celebration concert with Leonard Maltin, which was an absolute highlight of the Expo for me. And smaller panels, such as Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo BBQ and the conversation with Disneyland ambassador Julie Reihm Casaletto were exceptional as well.
Was it the best Expo so far? It’s hard to decide, but it’s certainly up there. Of course, there’s still a lot to learn and improve on. Scheduling panels at 10 a.m. as the Expo is opening to the general public is just poor planning. Not only does it create even more anxiety for those waiting to get in, but it inevitably results in unnecessary confusion between Expo attendees and Convention Center employees. Friday morning events like the Disney Legends Ceremony and a panel on the Muppets had issues filling seats due to this oversight in scheduling. In addition to the scheduling issues, Disney just needs to figure out a better solution to getting guests inside the convention center more efficiently in the mornings — whatever is lacking (whether it be communication, direction, or planning) between Disney and the Convention Center staff needs to be addressed. Mass confusion in the mornings is a problem that seems to play out at every D23 Expo and there has to be a way to fix that.
Inside the Expo, I applaud Disney for increasing capacity at all of its major venues this year. Hall D23, Stage 28 and Stage 23 were all notably larger than in years past and it was a huge improvement. Of course, for a convention this big, the venues need to get even bigger yet, digital stages need to be set up, or more programming needs to be scheduled to spread guests out even more. The much-improved show floor seemed to help with spreading guests out more than ever this year, but as this event continues to grow in popularity, the show floor is going to have to get even better and even more programming for the stages will have to be added. Still, all-in-all, kudos to the team at D23 for organizing an excellent event this year — certainly making great strides over years past. I eagerly look forward to seeing what’s next in 2017!
|This & That|
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|Weekly News & Information Round-Up|
|Weekly Theme Park Hours
August 24-30, 2015
|[B]Disneyland Park[/B]||[B]California Adventure[/B]|
|Mon.-Thu.: 9 am – 10 pm
Friday: 9 am – 12 pm
Sat.-Sun.: 8 am – 12 am
|Mon.-Fri.: 9 am – 10 pm
Sat.-Sun.: 8 am – 10 pm
|[CENTER]For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar[/CENTER]
|[center]Closure and Refurbishment Schedule[/center]|
|[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]|
|[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]|
August 24 – 30
The free Mouseaddict app for iPhone and iPad features more than five dozen categories of searchable resort information, weather forecasts, park and show schedules, the latest news and articles from MiceChat, and more. Download free on the App Store or at mouseaddict.com.
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.[/center]
|Okay, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland! Are you going to go find Patrick Begorra’s house in the park? What do yo think of Star Wars Land? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Benjamin, Mark, and Bruno!
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Thanks for reading. See you at Disneyland!
|FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.|