Summer, Halloween, Christmas and Spring Break: these are among the traditional busy seasons for Disneyland. Of course, MiceChat readers know that any day can be busy at any time of the year these days. Still, Disney treats these special times of year as different. Staffing is at a maximum, extra entertainment is added, and it’s rare to see an attraction down for refurbishment. But things are different right now. With Star Wars construction shutting down the river, train, and access to Big Thunder Trail, Disneyland feels different this year.

We have a lot to share this week, Autopia has a new theme, construction updates from Rivers of America, Pirates has a brighter look on life, and lots of little changes everywhere. Let’s take a look . . .

Honk If You Love Robots

Something new showed up at Autopia this week. Honda’s trusty robot, ASIMO, and his bird friend (simply named “Bird”) have invaded the attraction as they “embark on the ultimate road trip.” All powered by Honda, of course.

As the sun set on Friday night, I headed to Autopia to catch as many photos as I could before I lost the light.


Disney claims that Bird is the “first character created especially for this attraction.” But those who have been on this ride in the past know that there were lots of car characters created for the previous version when it was sponsored by Chevron. Dusty, Sparky and Suzy (the three car characters created for the Chevron version of the attraction) would beg to differ with Disney Marketing.

The line looked long, but now that FastPass is gone from this attraction, it moved very quickly.


The giant video screen has been updated with ASIMO and Bird images.


All the cars have been repainted and now sport Honda emblems on the hood. The engines and tires have apparently been updated with Honda gear as well, though it still smelled like a fleet of lawnmowers to me.

Gone are the “car park” and the other world of living cars show scenes, which stopped being relevant once Disney built an entire Cars Land in California Adventure anyway. In their place are scenes of ASIMO and Bird camping, taking to the air and parking their stark white futuristic vehicles all over the place. While it’s all a bit disjointed, it does feel a bit more appropriate to a land of “Tomorrow.” Let us know what you think.

Unfortunately, none of the characters had any animation to them. They are all posed as though they are in mid action. But because they have no motion, they feel a bit like they are broken.

Please take a look at this great video from Scott Attula. Are the changes cute enough for you?

Does the new version of the Disneyland Autopia toot your horn?Click To Tweet

Welcome to Disneyland

Time was tight this week and I really wanted to make sure you’d have a Disneyland Update on Monday morning. So I set out to the park on Friday evening with just a couple of hours of daylight remaining. That made for a mad dash through the park to get the key shots for you. But it also meant that a few of the photos have that really dramatic lighting that only comes at “Magic Hour,” that moment just before sunset when the light is at just the right angle.

Here’s a moment of #Disneyland zen. #dapperdans #happyday

A post shared by Dusty Sage (@micechat) on

River Construction

Some may not think that the loss of the small River’s of America attractions means much to the overall operation of Disneyland. But you need only visit during busy seasons like this to see that those attractions where like a sponge, soaking up guests who would otherwise pack area walkways.

Thankfully, in another three months or so, this impact will lessen as attractions begin to return to the Disneyland lineup. But there’s a lot of work left to do. . .

All sorts of new crates, boxes, boats and other items have started showing up around the Fantasmic stage. Many of these items conceal equipment which lights the show at night.

You can clearly see the new back of the river from New Orleans Square. See all that rock work wire frame going in just above the screen at mid-photo? That’s where the river makes a sharp new right hand turn. While the length of the river has been reduced, the boats will be slowed down so the ride time remains the same.
The sailing ship Columbia continues her transformation in preparation for her role in the revised Fantasmic.

There are workmen on the ship nearly all the time.

The pace of the construction is clear. In just over a year, the river has been rerouted. The riverbed is being cemented. New rock work has been created to support an elaborate train trestle and waterfall, a walkway is nearly completed to connect Critter Country to Star Wars Land, and a complicated backstage dock has been created for Fantasmic float storage and maintenance. That was a lot of work in a very short span of time (especially for Disney).

This is the new bridge/walkway that will take you from Hungry Bear, along the riverbank and then into Star Wars Land!


Because I’d climb the highest mountain for you folks, I did the next best thing . . . I traversed the stairs of Tarzan’s Treehouse to see if we could spy some of the river construction. (Now I need a nap.)

You can see pretty far from a seven-story tall tree.

Such an interesting view of Big Thunder with the Toontown hills behind it on the right.


Including the new rocks and waterfalls at the back of the river!

You can also see the Battle Escape show building in Star Wars land poking up behind the trees.
Did you know that there’s a little Beauty and the Beast tribute at the bottom of the stairs in Tarzan’s Treehouse?


FastPass/MaxPass Expansion

Are you confused by Disney’s MaxPass announcement and how it differs from FastPass? Don’t stress the details. It’s just a way to get your FastPasses on your phone.  However, Disney does want to change extra for it. Thankfully, regular paper FastPasses will remain available at NO additional charge. I really think we need to get the fans to NOT use the paid MaxPass. If Disney wants us using it, they should remove the fee. Resist the up-charge folks!
Back in Critter Country, Splash Mountain is preparing for MaxPass with an expanded queue entry. The former FastPass/smoking area near the exit to Haunted Mansion, is now the switchback entry for Splash.

Meanwhile, in Tomorrowland, the new FastPass entry to Star Tours has opened.

Just about all the new FastPass scanners have been installed. We think the system will start testing soon. Matterhorn comes back from refurbishment on April 28th with its new FastPass machines and that should be the last piece of the puzzle for this first stage of FastPass expansion.

Haunted Mansion was down for a bit on Friday, which reminded us how much we enjoy the little Magnolia Gardens area between Mansion and the train station.  Unfortunately, once the ride reopened, this area became an extended queue again, largely because FastPass just slows down the standby line too much and causes it to back up.

We like the idea of the bloodthirsty bride in the attic. But the projection effect they use for her just doesn’t look right. They’ve had lots of time to come up with a better solution for this.
The Hatbox Ghost on the other hand remains an amazing addition and a highlight of the entire ride.

Popular Pirates

At 50 years old, Pirates of the Caribbean remains one of the most popular Disney attractions of all time.  So popular in fact that the line queues up throughout the river area of New Orleans and a sea of strollers need to be parked at water’s edge.

The attraction itself has been skillfully re-lit, which allows us to grab a few hard-to-get shots for you. (Our thanks to Scott again!).

I’m so grateful for the tiny littlest light they put on the skeleton helmsman, as he was hard to see before and impossible to take photos of.

The Davy Jones’ projection is just a little sharper and brighter now.

Don’t be chiiiicken!
If you want an example of how much better the lighting is, here’s a start.

How’s about a nice juicy bone

Looks like Sparrow had some makeup redone.


Elsewhere in New Orleans Square, Pirates themed treats and menu items remain very popular, including the golden churro.

At the Harbour Galley, Calypso’s Caribbean Chicken Stew is a Pirates 50th specialty. I tried a sample and it was definitely a unique flavor with plenty of cajun spice. It was interesting, but not for me.

Wasn’t too impressed with this one. It didn’t taste bad as much as it just wasn’t anything that special. The slaw was nice, and the yucca tasted like smooth potatoes, but the dish is very plain for $14


As the sun sets on our Disneyland adventure, here are a few more shots . . .

Have you seen Rapunzel’s hair light up at her tower in Princess Fantasy Faire?


Join us again tomorrow for part two of our Disneyland Resort update. We’ll look at the latest reveal from Guardians of the Galaxy tower and see what’s happening at the Food and Wine Festival.

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