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.

Flags were at half-staff this week following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.




Playing Games

A new binnacle compass appeared in Fowler’s Harbor near the Haunted Mansion last week and with it came murmurs that Disneyland is gearing up to debut a new interactive experience.

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!

Power running to the compass but it isn’t functional yet.

Passholder Perks

Disneyland’s AP Days wraps up this week with Tomorrowland-themed offerings, following last week’s Fantasyland-themed event.

The screenings at the Main Street Opera House have been popular.

Stage 17 doesn’t offer much but it’s a nice spot for Passholders to take a break and grab a free bottle of water and some popcorn.

Roger Rabbit made appearances last week

Disney’s Zootopia Adventure

Nearby in Hollywood Land, the Disney Animation building features new Zootopia clips in its always-impressive lobby animation loop.

New Zooptopia posters on display

Entering the Animation building…

The new Zootopia segment plays twice in the loop and features the new “Try Anything” single by Shakira, recorded for the film.

Below, video of the new Zooptopia segment.

Exiting the Animation building…

Zootopia merchandise can be found in shops around the parks…

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.

StarWarsExpansion-BeforeStarWarsExpansion-After

[ View Map Large ]

Sneak Peek

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:

Below, a few pieces of that artwork including the one below showing the a view from the upcoming Millennium Falcon attraction.

A look at X-Wing photo-ops and what may be the outdoor queue for the “Battle Escape” attraction

Village marketplace

For more new concept art, WDWMagic.com has a gallery of quality images from the TV special.

Relocating Backstage

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.

Other backstage facilities are still in place but will likely meet the wrecking ball soon enough.

Rivers of America

Inside the park, removal of trees continues along the portions of Rivers of America that will soon be rerouted

Views from the bridge into Critter Country…

A hazy look through the construction scrim on Hungry Bear Restaurant’s second level

Big Thunder Trail & Ranch

A look through the trees shows work underway along Big Thunder Trail and with removal of Big Thunder Ranch.

A vehicle and workers on the old pack mules trail over the tunnel.

Down the trail, Big Thunder Ranch fencing, structures, trees are being removed quickly. The Jamboree stage is still in place for now.

Looks like this old Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland rock work should survive. The fencing around it and the Big Thunder Ranch goat house are now gone.

Disneyland Railroad

At New Orleans Square station, the cut-away boiler is now on display. The handcar has been moved next to the engine.

The boiler is located at the old Frontierland station on the other side of the tracks and all the way back.

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.

Refurbishment Round-Up

In addition to the major Star Wars expansion, several other projects continue in both parks.

Ticket Booths

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.

These new digital ticket menus arrive as Disneyland is expected to soon announce its latest round of price increases.

20th Century Music

On Main Street, the 20th Century Music store has reopened after its recent refurbishment.

The recently-added Music – Pins – Sparkles window decal unfortunately remains. Sparkles? What does that even mean? Is this an Etsy shop?

Splash Mountain

In Critter Country, Splash Mountain reopened after its quick refurbishment.

Mickey’s Toontown

Meanwhile, Mickey’s Toontown is getting quite a bit of facade refurbishment work

Autopia

In Tomorrowland, the Autopia continues its refurbishment as it gears up to welcome its new sponsor, Honda.

Grizzly River Run

In Disney California Adventure, Grizzly River Run is closed for refurbishment.

Nearby, the deck that the Happy Camper usually performs on is behind walls for work.

Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters

In Cars Land, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is scheduled to be hosting dedicated Cast Member previews in early March after multiple delays.

A new banner is up

Beyond the Berm

The new tram fueling station next to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure is completed and appears to now be in use.

Over at the Disneyland Hotel, the E-Ticket Pool’s resurfacing project continues…

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.

The Harry Potter franchise allows for a wide variety of themed shops, merchandise and food items, which Universal has replicated extremely successfully here in Hogsmeade Village.

Step into Ollivander’s wand shop and meet with the wand keeper where you may be chosen for a wand pairing.

Not all merchandise in Hogsmeade is friendly.

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.

Authentic and unique desserts are available, including great sticky toffee pudding and the wonderful Butterbeer Potted Cream, pictured below.

Of course, Butterbeer flows freely here. The very sweet but incredibly addicting drink can be had in cold and frozen varieties, with a warm version available when the area officially opens in April.

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
For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
Closure and Refurbishment Schedule
Disneyland Park
  • Indiana Jones Adventure: Closed February 29-March 3 for refurbishment.
  • 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!
  • Jungle Cruise: Closed January 11-May 5 to remove holiday overlay and for extended refurbishment.
  • Autopia: Closed January 11-April 28 for refurbishment.
Disney California Adventure
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters: New attraction opens early 2016.
  • Grizzly River Run: Closed through March 13 for refurbishment.
  • Soarin’ Over California: Closed 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.
  • World of Color: Closed January 19-February 1 for refurbishment.
Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels
  • E-Ticket Pool, Disneyland Hotel: Closed for refurbishment.
Tomorrowplan Crowd Estimates for Disneyland Resort from Mouseaddict

February 22-28

Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun

  • Good Neighbor Hotel availability looks great in the first half of the week but next weekend looks very busy.
  • Activate Tomorrowplan today and get crowd projections all the way through Spring Break. Tap Tomorrowplan in the Mouseaddict app.

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.

Headline Roundup
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.
  • Disney California Adventure’s Mad T Party will close March 30 and Food and Wine Festival will return weekends this April. (Disney Parks Blog)
  • Disney will donate $5 to Make-A-Wish every time someone posts an “ear photo” on social media with the hashtag #ShowYourEars through March 14. (Disney Parks Blog)
  • Disneyland Resort gave nearly $19 million back to the local community in 2015. (Disney Parks Blog)
  • Opinion: Disney World is cutting costs at the worst possible time. (The Motley Fool)
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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