Disneyland‘s historic Rivers of America and Disneyland Railroad saw their final guests over the weekend as they closed to undergo major changes to accommodate the upcoming Star Wars-themed expansion coming to the park. The River will be rerouted, a change which will effectively reduce its size and the Railroad will receive a new path that hugs the River’s new northern shore. The changes to the River come alongside permanent closures of the nearby Big Thunder Ranch area, which will be absorbed completely by the new Star Wars area. Meanwhile, Disney California Adventure bid a fond farewell to its popular Aladdin musical, as the Hyperion Theatre gets ready to stage a new musical based on Disney’s hit animated film, Frozen. Today we take a look at those projects along with several others as well as filming for a new T.V. special, which will begin today.

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’ve got another big update for you this week, so let’s get started!

Welcome to Disneyland!

The parks said goodbye to numerous attractions over the weekend, some permanently and others for extended closures and construction projects…

Meanwhile, the holidays are over but the parks were still shaking off the last bits of the season over the weekend…

The Center Street flower market has transitioned over to spring flowers along with the rest of the park…

The holidays have mostly disappeared from Disney California Adventure as well…

Sailing Away…

Of course, the big news over the weekend was the closure of Disneyland’s iconic and historic Rivers of America, which we discussed in depth in our editorial last week. Following the River, Big Thunder Ranch, and Disneyland Railroad’s final day on Sunday, Disneyland released concept art for the re-imagined north shore of the river on Monday morning. The concept art showcases some stunning new additions that come at the expense of a significant portion of the River’s existing route — changes which we hinted at last week. The biggest addition is a new trestle that the re-routed Disneyland Railroad will take across the north shore of the River. The trestle passes through forced-perspective mountain and waterfalls, which are likely to be the highlight of the river changes. Also worth noting are the repurposed show elements that guests have seen along the river for decades, including the Native American village and the (formerly burning) Settler’s Cabin. [ Click on the image below for a larger version of the concept art ]

If you’re curious how this concept art might make more sense, our interactive map of the River and Railroad’s re-routing as they’ve been rumored is below. Disney’s concept art of the railroad running along the River’s new north shore is consistent with our maps below, which we originally ran here last week. The existing Railroad path only runs up the western edge of the River, before going up and curving around the sprawling Big Thunder Ranch and Festival Arena area. Big Thunder Ranch and the arena, along with backstage areas, will soon be absorbed entirely by the Star Wars expansion. The new path of the Railroad will cut across what is currently part of the River’s original 60-year-old layout. The Railroad’s new path will go across the re-routed River’s new north shore, which will effectively reduce the size of the River and Tom Sawyer Island, eliminating much of the winding backwoods portion of the River. Below, our interactive before-and-after map that will give you a look at what may end up being similar to the project’s final outcome. Slide back and forth between the current river and the rumored future. Please note maps are approximate, based on what we’ve heard from sources. They’re to help illustrate the rumored future, they aren’t the blueprint of the plans.


A map with an overlay of the expected changes. If you haven’t already, be sure to read our extensive editorial on this massive change to historical features of Disneyland, which we featured in last week’s blog.

Sunday saw big crowds in the parks as guests came to see their favorites before they closed. Below, a long line of guests at the Disneyland Railroad before the park officially opened.

Take a full grand circle tour on the Disneyland Railroad

Steaming through the wilds of Adventureland…

Approaching New Orleans Square station

Passing through Critter Country

Into Frontierland

Below, a video clip of the Railroad’s Rivers of America portion…

The stretch along the Rivers of America always felt very serene.

Passing behind Big Thunder Ranch after the Rivers of America…

Likely the last time we’ll see any of this simple but nice placemaking.

The backstage gate and fencing for the Festival Arena was never particularly great scenery

Steaming into Mickey’s Toon Town Station

After Frontierland, the steam trains circle the back edge of Fantasyland, passing through the facade of “it’s a small world.” No changes are expected here when the Railroad reopens in 2017.

Entering Tomorrowland…

Of course, the train passes by the wonderful Grand Canyon diorama and Primeval World after its stop in Tomorrowland.

The train emerges from the Primeval World back at Main Street Station

Of course, Monday morning brought the closure of the Disneyland Railroad and guests visiting Disneyland will now be able to experience the park’s classic Railroad only at Main Street and New Orleans Square via parked locomotives serving as photo-ops and meet-and-greets.

At Main Street Station, the E.P. Ripley locomotive is parked and now you can meet with a train conductor, see the engine up close, sit for a while in a passenger car, or have your photo taken with the train.

It’s a unique experience, but perhaps not nearly as exciting as actually getting to ride the train around the park. Still, it’s a nice compromise while Disneyland makes the necessary changes for its Star Wars project.

In New Orleans Square, the Ernest S. Marsh is parked with only one observation car and the caboose. You can meet a conductor at this station as well, see the engine up close, and step inside the caboose.

Signs notify guests of the Railroad closure in Tomorrowland and Mickey’s Toon Town

Nearby, the Rivers of America saw its final guests until sometime in 2017 when it reopens with a smaller footprint and with other significant changes.

Views along the New Orleans Square waterfront are likely to remain unchanged, as the big changes are taking place in what was the River’s backwoods section…

It will be some time before the Mark Twain and Columbia ply the waters again.

Below, a final ride around the Rivers of America aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat

Guests enjoyed bittersweet final cruises on the ship throughout the weekend, seeing the Rivers of America for the lsat time in their current form…

If you can’t get enough of the Twain, below are full P.O.V. videos from the Mark Twain’s portside and starboard sides, respectively.

The Twain lit up the Rivers of America on its final trip Sunday night.

Farewell to Walt Disney’s original Rivers of America. The river had changed a lot over the years, but never on a scale this large. Here’s hoping the changes don’t shrink the river quite as much as we fear and that the new additions and relocated features are executed well.

On Monday, the Mark Twain was docked at Fowler’s Harbor, where it will likely stay as it hosts tea time dining experiences with Princess Tiana, utilizing the nearby Harbor Galley’s kitchen facilities.

The Columbia, meanwhile, is now docked at the Frontier Landing, and is open for viewing.

Tom Sawyer Island is also closed now.

As are the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, which dock in Critter Country…

The canoes are now docked and closed until 2017.

Enjoy some sights and sounds from the Rivers of America in our video below

Big Thunder Ranch is also now closed, but got a big send off from fans on Sunday. The petting zoo’s “running of the goats” at dusk was so popular that the gates had to be closed because the ranch was full of guests. The goats and remaining farm animals will now move to their new permanent home — a ranch in Murrieta, California.

Big crowds at the petting zoo throughout the day on Sunday

Of course, by Monday, it was all closed and the goats were gone.

Guests can expect demolition along Big Thunder Trail and in Big Thunder Ranch to get underway soon, as Disneyland’s current park maps already show Big Thunder Trail closed. Construction walls could go up any day now.

Will the tunnel from Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland survive?

And with that, the change is coming whether fans like it or not. Disneyland saw significant turnout on Sunday as fans came to say goodbye to the River, Railroad, Ranch and Disney California Adventure’s Aladdin musical, with all available theme park parking filled by 2:30 p.m. Will Star Wars be right for Disneyland in the long term, or should it have been saved for a third park? Over 1,200 of our readers on Twitter said they would have preferred Star Wars Land in a third park. We won’t know if Disneyland is equipped to handle a new massive IP-based area until Star Wars Land opens several years from now and the crowds come… until then we have a lot of construction to watch.

Refurbishment Round-Up

In addition to the Disneyland Railroad and the Rivers of America, several other attractions in both parks closed over the weekend.

Honk for Honda

In Tomorrowland, the Autopia is now closed as it gets a refurbishment and some changes for its new sponsor, which is rumored to be Honda. The attraction is set to reopen in late April.

Sprucing up the Jungle

In Adventureland, the Jungle Cruise is now closed as it gets some refurbishment TLC along with new safety enhancements.

While the attraction is closed through early May, Jungle skippers stationed outside are hosting Skipper School, where guests can perform some classic Jungle Cruise jokes and get a commemorative map of the jungle and a Fastpass for when the attraction reopens in May.

End of the Season

In New Orleans Square, Jack Skellington is moving out of the Haunted Mansion after his seasonal stay.

The rest of New Orleans Square is still decked out for Christmas as well but should be transitioning to Mardi Gras soon.

Frozen Over

In Disney California Adventure, the hugely popular Aladdin musical in Hollywood Land ended its impressive 13-year run on Sunday to sold out shows. The line to obtain Fastpass for the show (which was the only way you could get in the theater over the final weekend) on Sunday morning stretched from the Hyperion Theater, through the Mad T Party area, down Hollywood Boulevard, and down Buena Vista Street. The line was so long, the line reached the Disney California Adventure main entrance gate and doubled back down Buena Vista Street.

The sold-out final weekend for Aladdin didn’t change Disney’s mind, though, and by Monday the Hyperion Theatre’s marquee had been swapped out to announce the upcoming Frozen musical’s summer debut.


In Cars Land, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is still expected to open within the next few weeks, assuming El Nino rains don’t delay the new attraction’s test-and-adjust phase even more.

No Fly Zone

In Grizzly Peak Airfield, Soarin’ Over California is closed intermittently over the next few weeks while Imagineering programs the new show, which will open later this spring here in Disney California Adventure and at Walt Disney World’s Epcot park.

This & That

Back in Disneyland, setup was underway over the weekend for the filming of the upcoming “Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60” TV special, which will air in February on ABC. Filming is scheduled to begin today, Tuesday, January 12 and continue through Friday.

If you plan on visiting this week, be aware of the following:

    Tuesday, January 12

    • Filming on Main Street, U.S.A.: 7:45 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
    • Areas of Town Square restricted to Guests.
    • Horse Drawn Street Cars are closed all day.
    • Opera House closes early.
    • Mickey’s Soundsational Parade (traveling northbound) will perform at 3:00 p.m.
    • Sleeping Beauty Castle courtyard will close beginning at 5:00 p.m. and will not reopen due to filming.
    • Mickey’s Toontown closes at 5:00 p.m.
    • Disneyland Forever fireworks at 6:00 p.m.
    • Paint the Night parade will not be performed, however some floats may be brought out to Main Street at 8:00 p.m. for filming.
    Wednesday, January 13

      In the event of rain on Tuesday, January 12, all events scheduled will take place on Wednesday. A modified entertainment schedule is planned in case of the rain plan, including no Paint the Night performance and Disneyland Forever at 6:00 p.m. Horse Drawn Streetcars are closed all day and a stage will be erected in Sleeping Beauty Castle forecourt.
    Thursday, January 14

      Horse Drawn Streetcars are closed all day and a stage will remain up in Sleeping Beauty Castle forecourt.
    Friday, January 15

      Horse Drawn Streetcars are closed all day and a stage will remain up in Sleeping Beauty Castle forecourt. Star Wars 5K begins at 5:30 a.m.

    • Filming at Sleeping Beauty Castle: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    • Invited audience members will enter the park from 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    • Mickey’s Soundsational Parade will perform at 3:00 p.m..
    • Locations in Fantasyland will close early beginning at 5 p.m. and will not reopen due to filming.
    • Mickey’s Toontown closes at 5:00 p.m.
    • Disneyland Forever fireworks at 6:30 p.m..
    • The Disneyland Monorail will be closed due to fireworks beginning at 6:00 p.m..
    • Paint the Night will be perform at 5:45 and 10:45 p.m.

Stay and play just steps away!
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For those that like to spend the afternoon relaxing and recharging in the room, the HoJo offers spectacular vistas into the theme parks, so you’ll never feel too far away. Look out your window or from the pool area to see the historic Disneyland Monorail speeding along Harbor Boulevard or the iconic Matterhorn Mountain rising from the park. HoJo guests can often hear the horn of the Monorail, the whistle of the steam trains, and possibly even the roar of the Matterhorn’s fearsome abominable snowman from their balconies!

Of course, staying so close means you’ll be enjoying a lot of the parks… but if all the fun inside the berm wears you out before fireworks, don’t worry! The South Harbor Neighborhood offers spectacular views of Disneyland’s nightly “Disneyland Forever” fireworks spectacular! Since you’re seeing the Matterhorn and main fireworks launch sites side by side, the HoJo and the Courtyard have some of the best views in town, offering stunning panoramic views of the show! With the viewing area so large, you’re treated to an impressive and unique perspective not available anywhere else. Whether you choose to watch from the Pirate Suite’s top-floor balcony or on the ground at the Castaway Cove water playground, you’re guaranteed great viewing of the show!

Enjoy retro fun just steps away from Disneyland at
Howard Johnson Hotel & Water Playground

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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
January 11-17, 2016
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]California Adventure[/B]
Mon.-Thu.: 10 am – 9 pm
Fri.-Sun.: 9 am – 12 am
Monday: 10 am – 8 pm
Tuesday: 10 am – 9 pm
Wed.-Thu.: 10 am – 8 pm
Thursday: 9 am – 9 pm
Fri.-Sun.: 9 am – 10 pm
[CENTER]For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
[center]Closure and Refurbishment Schedule[/center]
[b][center]Disneyland Park[/center][/b]
  • Disneyland Railroad: Closed for over a year starting January 11 while the Railroad path is rerouted for Star Wars Land.
  • Rivers of America: All River traffic and attractions are closed for over a year starting on January 11 while Star Wars Land construction reduces and reroutes the northern portion of the River. The extended closure includes:
    • Mark Twain Riverboat
    • Sailing Ship Columbia
    • Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island
    • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
    • Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
    • Fantasmic!
  • Haunted Mansion Holiday: Closed January 11-21 to remove holiday overlay.
  • Jungle Cruise: Closed January 11-May 5 to remove holiday overlay and for extended refurbishment.
  • Autopia: Closed January 11-April 28 for refurbishment.
  • “it’s a small world”: Closed January 25-February 4 to remove holiday overlay.
[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters: New attraction opens early 2016.
  • Soarin’ Over California: Closed January 4-22, January 25-28, February 1-4 to install new Soarin’ Over the World attraction.
  • Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular: Closed permanently starting January 11. A “Frozen”-inspired musical stage show will take its place.
  • Grizzly River Run: Closed January 11-14 for refurbishment.
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!: Closed January 13-21 for refurbishment.
  • World of Color: Closed January 19-February 1 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Blue Sky Cellar:[/B] Closed indefinitely.
[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]
Tomorrowplan Crowd Estimates for Disneyland Resort from Mouseaddict

January 11-17


  • The rivers are still. The goats and sheep have packed up and moved. The Genie has his freedom. The rails are silent. Welcome to Disneyland, post-holiday and pre-Star Wars. We expect cool weather, less crowding… and less to do, with a long list of refurbs.
  • Hotels? Wide open. Go for it!
  • Plan your visit with Tomorrowplan crowd estimates two months in advance. And lose wait with Wait Watcher. Get more in Mouseaddict.

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.

[center]Headline Roundup
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.[/center]
  • Disney Imagineer drops big hints about upcoming Star Wars attractions (Business Insider)
  • A backstage chemical leak briefly closed some Disneyland attractions last week. (OC Register)
  • Disney Legend and former animator Floyd Norman wrote a blog recently noting that the Disney Studio “hasn’t had a fresh idea in decades” (Floyd Norman)
  • Disneyland is offering discounted tickets for Southern Californians this spring. (Disney Parks Blog)
Well, that’s all for this week’s update. Did you visit the Rivers of America one final time over the weekend? Share your experience in the comments section below!

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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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