Hello, folks! Welcome aboard the Disneyland Railroad! We’re now embarking on a grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom, with stops at New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, and Tomorrowland—followed by a visit to the Grand Canyon and Primeval World. We got a lot of travelin’ ahead of us, so remember: for a safe trip, you need to stay seated, keeping your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the train. And please, watch your children. – Disneyland Railroad Script Circa 2015

Walt Disney was a famous train enthusiast who had an elaborate layout in the backyard of his Holmby Hills estate. But that wasn’t his most extravagant train set . . . Disneyland was. If it weren’t for Walt’s love of trains, Disneyland might never have been built. For the past year and a half, we’ve been deprived of this most classic of attractions and the river boats along with it. As of this past weekend, our long wait has ended. In today’s update we’ll share our comprehensive gallery of photos and video with you as well as some thoughts on the remarkable changes which have been unveiled at long last.

Today’s update was a group effort with photos and video from PhotoMatt, Scott Attula, Dsny Debbie, Brian Pinsky, and Dusty Sage.

Media Previews/Soft Openings

Though the River attractions were announced to open on Saturday July 29th, They actually soft opened a day early for media previews, private events and eventually to the public as well on Friday. As a result, guests lucky enough to be in the parks this past Friday the 28th were able to ride the canoes, the river boats, and the railroad. Tom Sawyer island opened to guests earlier in the month. Disneyland’s epic river project is now mostly complete.

The train was already at the station on the morning of the 28th.
A wonderful sight to see again.
Film crews were scattered throughout the park to record the media previews.
Signs informed guests that the attractions were closed for the day, but we knew the soft openings were just hours away.

Mylar balloons decorated the river boat landing as well as all four train stations.

Bunting, balloons, and banners!

Walt Disney wasn’t alone in his love of trains. He was inspired by two of his legendary animators, Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston. Both of these men had trains and Walt wanted to play along. Ward had an engine called the Chloe (named after his daughter) and Ollie had the Marie E (which is now owned by Pixar head John Lasseter). In honor of the reopening of the Disneyland Railroad, John Lasseter paid tribute to Ollie and Ward by running the two engines (the Marie E pulling the Chloe and an excursion car) around the new layout of Disneyland’s railroad. It was a heartwarming moment and a fitting tribute to Walt, Ollie, Ward, and to John Lasseter himself who carries on Walt’s affinity for trains (the Marie E now calls John’s vineyard in Napa Valley home, but that’s a story for another day).

The Chloe was previously owned by Disney animator Ward Kimball.
John Lasseter discusses the railroad prior to a Club 33 preview.
John Lasseter and his wife Nancy now own the Marie E and run it on two miles of track through the Lasseter vineyards!!!
John Lasseter at the controls of the Marie E. Click on the image for a better view.

Then, in a complete surprise, a train load of Disney characters came roaring down the track.

We have photos and video of the new scenery you can see from the train below, keep on reading. But first, a voyage on the riverboats. . .

A Voyage Around the New Rivers of America

Our first journey around the new river was aboard the beautiful Mark Twain.

Pocahontas wishes us a Bon Voyage as we embark on our journey.

The first part of your voyage is just as you remember it.

But once you get to the Canoes and Hungry Bear Restaurant, you’ll start seeing the changes.

The Canoe dock is now more ADA accessible with the installation of a new wheelchair lift.

At Hungry Bear you’ll note that a new walkway passes between the restaurant and the river. It will one of three paths into the new Star Wars land.

Legendary Imagineer Kim Irvine was the head of the river project and told us that all the important animatronics and scenes were reworked and restaged to fit into the reimagined river-scape.

At least five new waterfalls have been built along the back of the river along with the new rock wall and train trestle, which also acts as a berm between Star Wars land and the rest of Disneyland.

The Indian on horseback and the two scouts have been relocated and have prominent placement.

The Settler’s cabin, now referred to as Mike Fink’s cabin, has been rebuilt and uses a smoke effect in the chimney

The detail work on the bridges, rockwork and waterfalls is stunning and extremely detailed.

Full grown trees have been planted along the river and simulate the 4 regions the river represents: the Mississippi, the Columbia, the Missouri and the Rio Grande. The new Columbia Gorge section is particularly spectacular with 5 new waterfalls.

A particularly great gag (reminiscent of something Marc Davis might have designed) is the murder beaver (as we like to call him). This little fellow has been busy at work chewing away at the supports of the new train trestle. The unsuspecting passengers of the train don’t know what peril they are in, but the folks on the riverboats can be extra glad they chose the slower river journey.

The Bald Eagle flaps her wings as her chicks bob up and down in the nest.

The Lakota Indian Storyteller has been moved to a prominent location high on the rockwork. He is one of the most advanced animatronics in the park. He’s telling the story about how the woodpecker brought the flute to the Lakota people.

Dusty’s favorite scene returns in a new location as well. . . the little Indian boy and his dog. He’s been fishing on this river for decades and hasn’t aged a bit. . . just like Dusty himself (runs for cover).

Some nice new smoke effects have been added.

 

Dusty takes us Facebook LIVE for a trip around the river:

 

Views from the Disneyland Railroad

Each of the stations were decorated with Mylar balloons.

On Friday and Saturday they attempted to run the railroad as they always have, letting guests embark or disembark from any station. However, lines grew longer and longer as technical problems plagued some of the trains, causing closures and long down time.  By mid day on Sunday they opted to have all guests queue up at the New Orleans Square station for a single trip around the park. That’s a great solution for this short period of time where the trains have accelerated demand.

The new bridges and tunnels are very well built.
One quibble we have is that many of the new animal figures look fake. They don’t have fur and are just painted. This makes them appear as though they are concrete and not real.

Lots of new details punctuate the ride along the back of the river

Easter Egg alert!

 


The new Fox family are adorable. But they look like they come from the garden center of a Home Depot. A little fur would have gone a long way toward making this more believable.

Another surprise on the train is the Grand Canyon and Primeval World. While the figures all look the same, some great new projections have been added to the backgrounds which add depth and really enhance these scenes.

There are new projections all over both dioramas
Not concrete. This is how the animals around the river should look.
The lightning effects include traditional and digital effects that create a significant improvement.
Also, clouds and rainbows are all projections
Some of the dinos have been enhanced with new paint jobs which pop in the blacklight.
These fellows have never looked better. You can just make out more pterodactyl flying around in the background. The effect is fantastic.

 

The new volcano effects in the back are pretty spectacular!

This big cat has been added to the stretch between Main Street and New Orleans Square. Sadly, it also looks like a concrete statue. Not convincing at all.

Overall the changes to the river have been well executed. It was a difficult project. Perhaps unnecessary that the river was shortened at all. Star Wars Land could have been pushed back even farther back stage in order to save the river. It could also have been placed in ToonTown or in Tomorrowland, both of which were at one time considered. However, the decision was made that the river must be shortened and that’s what the team led by Imagineer Kim Irvine set out to do.

They really thought the project out and they had a huge budget. They used this opportunity not just to move animatronics around but to enhance the storytelling of the river. With this update they were able to add topography to the landscape. The rocks of the Columbia River Gorge are stunning. As are the waterfalls. The train itself feels right here.  And the new vegetation is spot on, though it could use some time to grow in.

The biggest surprise was perhaps the addition of projections to the Grand Canyon and Primeval World. It adds new depth to an old classic. Much in the same way that the revised river experience adds to stories and details.  It was a pure enhancement and really does improve the experience.

Our main issues with the redo are the inconsistency in figure design. Some figures look lifelike and are textured appropriately. Others look like painted concrete statues and don’t look at all like a real animal.  Also, not all will like the new narrations. The old deep resonance of the train narration has been replaced with a less weighty tone. But that’s merely a quibble. The script itself hearkens back to one of Walt’s True Life Adventures. There’s edutainment there. It feels very “Disney.”

While the “True back woods” are gone, the new highly produced waterfalls, train trestles, tunnels, set pieces, and landscaping are impeccably produced. We can argue about individual decisions, but the totality of the experience is overwhelmingly positive. This was a massive project produced in a very short amount of time by Disney standards.  But it offers a lot of eye candy and brings new life to a 62 year old river. We are very curious to hear your thoughts below.

Hungry Bear Uncovered

The iconic Hungry Bear restaurant has also reopened. It offers beautiful views of the back of the river. In fact, the river begins to make its new right hand turn just past the Hungry Bear.

Friendly beavers direct you to the entrance of Hungry Bear
Is this the murder beaver? His wild eyes might give him away.
No one can deny that Imagineers have a sense of humor.

If you stop by the Hungry Bear for a snack, the Milk and Hunny Funnel Cake and Teddi Barra Lavender Sparkler are delicious. The funnel cake can be quite sweet, though, while the sparkler is not too sweet but has a very strong flavor.

 

Star Wars Land Entrances

Hungry Bear/Critter Country Entrance

Just North of the Hungry Bear is the new train trestle you will walk under to get to the new Star Wars land. Of course, you’ll just have to keep dreaming, because it’s closed until some time in 2019.

This picture is from under the bridge, looking back.

Frontierland Entrance

The detail work at each entry is very interesting. This is a transition area between two worlds, the world of yesterday and the world of a long, long, time ago. You’ll see vague references to the Star Wars universe here, especially in materials. The metal piping with rope is not the regular Frontierland treatment. Generally, they use all wood on the Frontier fencing. This particular fence near the entry to Star Wars land has both rope AND leather straps anchoring the wooden rails to the posts. It’s fascinating to really think about.

In the above picture you will see at gate at the top right. If you stand in front of that gate, this is the view.

Fantasyland/Big Thunder Entrance

That “W” looks like a certain well-known “K”

The new construction brings so many new views.

Fantasmic! FASTPASS Information

There are now two Fantasmic! FASTPASS viewing areas. The first is called the Mark Twain viewing area, and F! distribution takes place next to the Mark Twain. The other area is called Harbor Galley, and F! distribution takes place there (although I did not see this for myself). Color sections have gone to Yesterland (at least for now).

FASTPASSES are for the areas closest to the river’s edge. The areas farther away, not part of VIP, accessible, or dining packages, are now stand-by. As a general rule, if it’s near the water you need a FASTPASS or a dining package reservation. If it’s farther away and limited view, it’s now stand-by. This information is current as of July 27, 2017 but constantly in flux.

You can find these carts next to the Mark Twain. The carts glow away once all passes are distributed for the day.

MaxPass Information

The following images show the flow to reserve a MaxPass. I tried it Friday night and it was quick, easy, and it worked perfectly.

The steps are easy.

  • Add members to your FASTPASS party.
  • Choose a park.
  • Choose an attraction.

  • Touch the time listed in blue.
  • Confirm your selection

Your selection will now appear under My Plans, and when it’s time to use the FASTPASS the app will show the barcode and attraction.

Now that MaxPass is here, how long will it be until we see Magic Bands in the parks? It’s clear that the FASTPASS/MaxPass readers have design similarities with the FASTPASS+ readers at Walt Disney World.

Just missing the Mickey Head logo from WDW.  The Magic Band below is just a prop, we can’t use it here, though it would be nice if it was an option.

Thanks, Marty

We lost a legend last week. The great Marty Sklar passed away unexpectedly. It came as a shock to his friends, family and life-long coworkers. He had just been at the D23 Expo and looked and sounded fine on the panels and many signings he was part of.  Marty was one of the few who began his career with Walt before Disneyland’s opening who were still around to share stories. He went on to head Imagineering for decades. His influence and guiding principals for Imagineering are still in use today. As one of his close friends said “He was one person who could get away with saying the phrase ‘Walt would have liked'”.

His window on Main Street is most appropriate. He had been in charge of creating windows for many of his colleagues over the years. During that time, he had never allowed anyone’s window to be placed in this location at City Hall. That spot he had saved for himself. And, indeed, that’s where he ended up.

Marty had become very close to the MiceChat community over the last decade as we frequently had him as a guest at our many events. He was always popular with our guests as he was sharp witted and most generous with his time and the information he shared.

Shelly Valladolid penned a lovely tribute to Marty on MiceChat HERE.

 

MICECHAT KNOTT’S SCARY FARM SPOOKTACULAR

 


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2017

Tickets at: http://scaryfarm2017.eventzilla.net/

This is the 12th anniversary of our ultra-popular Halloween event and we are working with the great folks at Knott’s Berry Farm to make this our best haunt ever! Leave the real world behind and enter a dreamland of spooky fun with fellow Micechat readers.

This is a VIP experience. You’ll get exclusive access to the haunt designers, special tours, front of line access, and an amazing Mrs. Knott’s buffet dinner before the scares begin. This is the ultimate way to experience Knott’s Scary Farm and the best package for the event.

Event includes:

  • Admission into Knott’s Scary Farm
  • Meet and greet with maze designers
  • Backstage tour of a new maze before the event
  • All you can eat Private Pre-scare Boo-fet dinner
  • Early entry into Haunt
  • Unlimited front of the line access to all mazes!
  • Fastlane front of the line for rides!
  • Priority Seating for Ghoultime Theater show.
  • For one simple price you’ll get an entire night of food, entertainment, friends, frights, fun and EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES!!!

Micechat Knott’s Haunt VIP event ticket – $139.99* – This is the early registration rate (the same price as last year). On August first, this price goes up to $145. REGISTER NOW! This year’s event is limited to just 150 tickets. Get yours while they are still available and discounted! For questions, please contact [email protected]

Tickets at: http://scaryfarm2017.eventzilla.net/

Are you a photographer? Do you love the parks? Would you like to contribute to this one or other MiceChat columns? Contact Dusty Sage: [email protected]

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