Sunday night’s big two-hour TV special on Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary may have disappointed audiences with embarrassingly little real Disneyland-related content but the actual parks continue through the winter off-season with big changes underway. At Disneyland, demolition is quickly getting underway backstage as the park’s massive Star Wars expansion gets moving. Disney California Adventure, meanwhile, will soon bid adieu to its Mad T Party nighttime dance party as that park prepares the return of its fan-favorite Food & Wine Festival later this spring. Meanwhile, as Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary celebration continues with not much more than the addition of a food festival and a minor new ride in Cars Land, a little park just an hour’s drive north of Disneyland is previewing its new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studio‘s magical new land has already changed the theme park landscape in Florida and now it’s preparing to change everything out here in California.
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We’ve got a big update for you today that covers both Disney parks and a detour to Universal Studios up in Hollywood, so let’s get started!
|Welcome to Disneyland!|
Spring color has already flooded park planters as Southern California’s winter quickly wrapped up with a recent heatwave. Temperatures have mellowed a bit but it’s still quite warm for the season, making Disneyland a popular destination despite numerous closures and refurbishments underway.
Details on the new interactive experience are short so far but don’t be surprised to spot additional props and set pieces pop up in the park over the coming weeks… Other elements for the new game may already be in place, with some existing park features giving a a glimpse into the future… Keep your eyes (and ears) open!
|Disney’s Zootopia Adventure|
Below, video of the new Zooptopia segment.
|The Frontier Awakens|
Disneyland’s new Star Wars project will be unprecedented in terms of scale for the park, dedicating 14 acres to a single property with massive new facades, rock work, and massive E-Ticket attractions that dwarf even Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones Adventure. Below, a map showing how the new land is expected to impact Disneyland’s landscape once completed in late 2018.
Disney’s two-hour “Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60” TV special aired Sunday night and despite running for two hours, the show managed to include very little about Disneyland itself. While the majority of the program played more like a two-hour ad for the Walt Disney Company itself, it did manage to sneak in a few bits of Disneyland, including a highly publicized sneak preview of the park’s upcoming Star Wars expansion. The preview featured Harrison Ford talking in broad-strokes terminology about the upcoming land as several pieces of new concept art was shown on-screen.
(Edited to add video Feb. 22, 9:50 pm) Below, Harrison Ford’s Star Wars segment from the TV special:
For more new concept art, WDWMagic.com has a gallery of quality images from the TV special.
Seeing that concept art fully realized will take some time, though, and Disneyland is now in the process of demolishing the backstage facilities that sit on the site that will eventually be home to Star Wars.
The first to go is the historic Circle D Ranch, home to Disneyland’s horses as well as the animals that were seen daily in the park’s Big Thunder Ranch. Circle D Ranch is now located off-property and the horses pulling the horse-drawn streetcars on Main Street are trucked in daily.
Inside the park, removal of trees continues along the portions of Rivers of America that will soon be rerouted
A look through the trees shows work underway along Big Thunder Trail and with removal of Big Thunder Ranch.
At New Orleans Square station, the cut-away boiler is now on display. The handcar has been moved next to the engine.
Disneyland Railroad engineers will happily explain how the boiler works. It’s very cool to see this up close and have it all explained to you by an engineer. Kudos to Disneyland for bringing this out.
In addition to the major Star Wars expansion, several other projects continue in both parks.
A couple ticket booths that were recently behind walls near the Harbor Blvd. esplanade entrance are out from behind walls… Ticket price signage still hang over each ticket window, but the signage above the first two windows on the building appear to be new boxes, likely housing screens. The screens aren’t in use yet but adding digital ticket menus to the ticket booths will allow for easy price updating and potentially even demand-based ticket pricing, which was recently rolled out at Universal Studios Hollywood.
On Main Street, the 20th Century Music store has reopened after its recent refurbishment.
In Critter Country, Splash Mountain reopened after its quick refurbishment.
Meanwhile, Mickey’s Toontown is getting quite a bit of facade refurbishment work
In Tomorrowland, the Autopia continues its refurbishment as it gears up to welcome its new sponsor, Honda.
In Disney California Adventure, Grizzly River Run is closed for refurbishment.
In Cars Land, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is scheduled to be hosting dedicated Cast Member previews in early March after multiple delays.
The new tram fueling station next to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure is completed and appears to now be in use.
|Hooray for Hogsmeade
A look at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
As Disneyland continues its 60th Anniversary celebration and begins the first stages of Star Wars construction, just up the freeway, Universal Studios Hollywood has begun previews of its new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The new six-acre land, themed as Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter franchise, is a copy of the wildly successful land at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter here in Hollywood is a close copy of its Florida cousin, with various improvements, including a relocated and expanded Ollivander’s wand shop and retail spaces. If you’ve never been to the Wizarding World in Orlando, the differences here are largely to address capacity and crowd flow issues at Ollivander’s and in the land’s shops.
This new offering has the potential to totally change the game for Universal Studios Hollywood, which has never been about cohesive, richly-detailed lands and more about one-off experiences and loosely-themed areas built in and next to an actual working film studio. With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal now has the quality, attention-to-detail, and immersive environments previously only seen in California at Disneyland.
Authentic British pub food can be found in the Three Broomsticks, which raises the bar substantially for quick service dining at Universal Studios Hollywood. The food here, such as the authentic Bangers and Mash seen below, is excellent and makes the Three Broomsticks your best bet for in-park dining.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t just food and shopping — the land includes two attractions. Flight of the Hippogriff — a small kiddie coaster that features an animatronic hippogriff and takes you past Hagrid’s Hut — is charming but not worth much of a wait. Of course, the land’s big E-Ticket ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is well worth your time in line. The queue itself is an incredible experience as it takes you through Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and through the Gryffindor common room.
The ride itself ranks with the best-of-the-best, alongside Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones Adventure. It’s thrilling, innovative, blending both digital projections with incredible, detailed show scenes and sets. While it could do without the 3D for its video portions, a feature added to the Japan and Hollywood versions, the ride is still a remarkable attraction. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced — a true achievement in the themed entertainment industry.
The new land doesn’t officially open until April 7 but has been open pretty consistently for “technical rehearsals” (soft openings) for over a week now. If you’d like to experience the wonders of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I cannot recommend visiting during technical rehearsals enough. You’ll experience lighter crowds and shorter waits, especially at Ollivanders and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You can enjoy Forbidden Journey with short 20-minute waits now or wait until April where they’re expected to reach 6 hours or more. Of course, technical rehearsals aren’t guaranteed and can end at any time, check Twitter and other social media before visiting to see if the land is open.
Congratulations to Universal Studios and the team behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The land, shops, dining, and attractions are spectacular achievements. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next! For more information and photos from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, check out MiceChat’s In the Parks blog.
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|Weekly News & Information Round-Up|
|Weekly Theme Park Hours
February 22-28, 2016
|Disneyland Park||California Adventure|
|Mon.-Wed.: 10 am – 9 pm
Thursday: 9 am – 9 pm
Fri.-Sat.: 8 am – 12 am
Sunday: 8 am – 11 pm
|Mon.-Wed.: 10 am – 8 pm
Thursday: 9 am – 8 pm
Fri.-Sun.: 8 am – 10 pm
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
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.
|Alright, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland. Did you watch the Disneyland 60th special? Are you more excited for Star Wars Land at Disneyland or Harry Potter at Universal? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Mark D., Bruno, Casey, Hastin Z.!
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|FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.|