The Disney Gallery on Main Street, U.S.A. has opened a new exhibit exploring the various “Realms of Fantasy” at Disney’s theme parks, including the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World in Florida. Meanwhile, construction continues on two projects in Disneyland’s own Fantasyland, including the new Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet area next to Sleeping Beauty Castle. In Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad enters its final weeks of operation before closing for much of 2013 for an extensive refurbishment.

Get a closer look at today’s update! Click on any photo in today’s column for a large, high-resolution version of the image.

Thanks to Guy Selga from TouringPlans.com for some additional help with a piece on a recent Walt Disney Imagineering playtest we discuss in today’s column.

Before we get started, I just wanted to say thank you to everybody who made Dateline Disneyland’s 5th Anniversary Celebration such a huge success. Over the last five weeks I was lucky enough to celebrate five years of writing this blog and give away 30 amazing prizes to those of you who read. Thank you to everybody who entered-to-win — there were over 1,200 contest entries and countless wonderful comments from all of you who read every week. I must also thank MiceChat‘s Dustysage for his help and support. And of course, a huge thank you to Dateline Disneyland’s incredible sponsors at the Howard Johnson Anaheim and TouringPlans.com for their unbelievable generosity over the last five weeks.

Welcome to Disneyland!

Our friends at Touring Plans have their weekly crowd forecast as crowd levels rise for the holidays.

Expect heavy crowds leading up to one of Disneyland Resort’s busiest weekends. If you need tips for visiting during the holidays, check out our Disney Holiday eBooks! TouringPlans.com can also help you navigate the parks with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines – Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now is a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

— Fred Hazelton, Statistician, TouringPlans.com

[center][/center] [center]Overall
Crowd Prediction
[/center]
[center]TouringPlans.com
Crowd Tips
[/center]
Tues., Dec. 18 [center]8 /10[/center] Here are some quick-hit notes that we hope you’ll find helpful as you prepare your visits for the week:

  • Thursday is the best day to visit DCA.
  • Partial Annual Pass blackouts on Friday, and full blackouts on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Crowd levels are a 10 on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Due to its incredibly low capacity, consider riding Luigi’s Flying Tires standby right after starting your day by grabbing a FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers.
Wed., Dec. 19 8 /10
Thu., Dec. 20 8 /10
Fri., Dec. 21 9 /10
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.See Disneyland crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disneyland wait times on your iPhone, Android, or Smartphone.Do more. Wait less.

Dateline Disneyland is sponsored by TouringPlans.com.

Candlelight’s final nights will take place this week, with a one-night performance with John Stamos on Thursday. It’ll be good to see the Candlelight set-up taken down for last two weeks of the holiday season.

The remaining nights of Candlelight have reserved seating for Annual Passholders, which were chosen by an online lottery. Below, the schedule of remaining performances and celebrity narrators for those nights.
Celebrity Narrators and Dates

  • December 17, 18, 19: Molly Ringwald
  • December 20: John Stamos

Flags are at half-staff across the Resort for the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.

Exploring the Realms of Fantasy

In Town Square, the Disney Gallery has opened a new exhibit. The new exhibit just kind of opened without much fanfare, despite exhibition openings in the past opening with some sort of online announcement and an artist merchandise signing event.

The new exhibit, “Realms of Fantasy,” expands on the Fantasyland theme of the previous exhibit, “Crowning Achievements.” While the previous exhibit focused on the Castles at the various Disney theme parks, the new exhibit explores Fantasylands and other lands with fairytale-themed attractions, such as Tokyo DisneySea’s Mermaid Lagoon.

The first room in the exhibit features various Fantasyland-themed art works recently released at a Disneyland merchandise event.

A couple great pieces by Jody Daily available for purchase.

The Gallery’s back room features a full exhibition of Imagineering concept art and retains the model of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant from Disneyland Paris that was part of the previous “Crowning Achievements” show.

The show features a fair amount of art from Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland project, which recently just opened.

The concept art is mostly divided up by film and the attractions based on each respective film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

Concept art from Walt Disney World’s upcoming Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train attraction

The Little Mermaid:

Alice in Wonderland:

Peter Pan:

Construction Kingdom

At the end of Main Street, the new Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet area continues to progress nicely.

In Fantasyland, work continues on the Fantasyland Theater as it prepares to host a new show in 2013.

Interesting…

Nearby, some good news for the old Fantasyland Ticket Booth that currently acts as a Kodak camera supply kiosk. The Orange County Register reported that the ticket booth is expected to stay in place and continue to sell disposable cameras, batteries and memory cards when Kodak leaves Disneyland early next year. The structure is a nice piece of Disneyland history and it’s a good thing that it’ll be retained even after Kodak leaves.

Last week Disneyland finally confirmed that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad would close for an extended refurbishment starting January 7, 2013.

Disney also confirmed a few bits of information regarding what the long refurbishment will entail, including track replacement, mountain repainting and new ride vehicles. What we’ll see here is a project similar to last year’s Matterhorn Bobsleds overhaul.

What Disney didn’t confirm, however, are rumors that the mining town that riders pass at the end of the attraction will be mostly removed during the refurbishment. The mining town are repurposed structures from the little town of Rainbow Ridge, a part of the old Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland attraction, which was replaced by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the late 1970s.

I hope the old Rainbow Ridge can be saved, but rumors continue to suggest it will become a permanent part of Yesterland when the attraction closes for refurbishment in January.

Below is a full ride-through of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from August when news first broke of its upcoming refurbishment project.


Last chance to give some Disney fun this year!
The holidays are here, but it isn’t too late to get a last-minute gift for the Disney fan on your list.

Below is a list of some of the best books, movies and video game releases for every Disney fan on your shopping list. Everything from this year’s spectacular books including Poster Art of the Disney Parks and It’s Kind of a Cute Story, to the year’s biggest Disney blockbusters including Marvel’s The Avengers, Brave and Wreck-It Ralph; we’ve got you covered.

So jump in and check off some names from your list with the Amazon links below! By buying through the Amazon links below you’ll also be helping support Dateline Disneyland so we can continue bringing Disneyland to you through 2013!

Happy Holidays!
– Andy
Dateline Disneyland

[center] [/center]

Welcome to California Adventure

Over at California Adventure, news is slow as the park continues to enjoy its first holiday season after its hugely successful relaunch.

A couple weeks ago Walt Disney Imagineering hosted a “playtest” of a new show they called “Imagine That!” in Hollywood Land’s Stage 17. The 30-minute show tested out a new concept where an audience of 300 determined the plot and characters of a story that live artists and improv actors brought to life on stage.

Our friend Guy Selga from TouringPlans.com shared his experience with the show:

After entering the theater everyone was split in to two groups. The show featured a host, a piano player, two artists, two improv actors, and a co-host. The host came on stage and explained that we were going to create a show using audience suggestions which would be illustrated by the artists.

The host took suggestions on a setting for our story by telling everyone to yell out the first thing that came to their minds. Our audience ended up creating a land called “Marshmallow Land.” After that the two audience groups were told that one would create the hero, and the other would create the villain. One of the hosts instructed us how to create our hero by selecting traits such as body type, look, attitude, secret power, name, etc. Our hero ended up being a marshmallow man who is on fire, named “Fuego.” An artist drew our creation as we are giving suggestions.

We were then lead into the next room which is where our story would be brought to life. The audience was seated in front of a stage where the two improv actors would assume the roles of the hero and villain of our created world. The artists created backgrounds for the show and they were projected on three large screens on stage. While the improv actors and host improvised the story on-stage, the co-host was in the audience where he’d occasionally stop the show to ask the audience what should happen next. For example, he asked the audience what the hero/villain should be fighting over. Someone yelled “Taking a bath in hot chocolate.” The hero eventually defeated the villain with the help of the audience.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to see the show during Imagineering’s playtests, from Guy’s account, it’s clearly another attempt to introduce more interactivity to the theme parks. Guy told me he didn’t love the show or hate it, but noted that it was surprisingly tight for the kind of show it is. What I find most interesting about the concept is that for all of Disney’s insistence about being “storytellers,” this show completely frees Disney of having to do any storytelling work of its own. Instead, the audience is essentially doing all the story work themselves.

From what I’ve been told, the show concept is being considered for wide-spread park use. If this show does make it past testing and into a park, we’ll enter a new era of Disney theme park experiences where Guests are paying upwards of $100 a day to essentially entertain themselves in shows that will cost Disney very little to operate. Never mind that people can already do this sort of thing at home with the help of an inexpensive board game or just their own basic imagination.

It’s certainly interesting territory for Disney to explore, even more interesting that Disney thinks that this sort of experience is what people what to spend premium prices to experience. If this does come to Disneyland, I have a feeling Anaheim’s local-heavy market won’t take favorably to it like they have do to classics like Pirates of the Caribbean or new rides like Radiator Springs Racers.

Country singer Brad Paisley performed for park guests last week as film crews filmed the performance for the upcoming Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.

New Year, New Merch

Stores in both parks, including Elias & Co. at Disney California Adventure, are now stocking the new 2013 logo merchandise as 2012 comes to a close.

It’s nice to see DCA represented by the Carthay Circle Theater

The theme for much of the merchandise is “Bel13ve in Magic”

While much of the merchandise features Disneyland-specific logos and icons, some of it does double-duty and features the Walt Disney World logo and that Resort’s park icons. It’s too bad as it just comes off as being lazy and cheap. Sleepwear pants:

This & That

In Downtown Disney, Earl of Sandwich got its new outdoor menu boards

And the Downtown Disney Holiday Village outside of Earl of Sandwich lost a lot of its strange and cheap-looking snow and European village decorations (street signs and lampposts) and some oversized ornaments and presents have replaced them.

While an improvement, it’s still pretty disappointing.

Oversized bows are now part of the decor

If this Holiday Village returns next year, hopefully Disney will drive down to Knott’s Berry Farm and take some notes from their great Christmas Crafts Village in Ghost Town. It’s excellent and makes Disney’s offering look even worse than it already does.


Dateline Disneyland is sponsored by our good friends at the

Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.

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MiceChat.com and Annual Passholder Discounts
Available Every Day!

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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
December 17 — 23, 2012
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]Disney California Adventure[/B]
Monday-Wednesday: 8 am – 11 pm
Thursday-Sunday: 8 am – 12 midnight
Monday-Thursday: 8 am – 10 pm
Friday-Sunday: 8 am – 11 pm
[CENTER]For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
[/CENTER]
[center]Expected Crowd Levels[/center] [center]presented by TouringPlans.com[/center]
[CENTER][B]Disneyland Park[/B][/CENTER] [CENTER][B]Disney California Adventure[/B][/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]HIGH[/B]
[B]7.8—9.9[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]MEDIUM—HIGH[/B]
[B]5.7—9.7[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER]Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10,
with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

[B]For crowd predictions for the next 365 days, visit
[/B]
[center]Closure and Refurbishment Schedule[/center]
[b][center]Disneyland Park[/center][/b]
  • [b]Mark Twain Riverboat:[/b] Closed January 7, 2013 through March 28.
  • [b]Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:[/b] Closed for extensive refurbishment January 7, 2013 through October 30.
  • [b]Haunted Mansion:[/b] Closed January 7-17, 2013 to remove Holiday overlay.
  • [b]Big Thunder Ranch:[/b] Closed January 7-17, 2013 to remove holiday overlay.
  • [b]Fantasmic!:[/b] Dark January 7, 2013 through February 14 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Alice in Wonderland:[/B] Expected to close early 2013 to install permanent safety railing on outdoor ride portion.
  • [B]Fantasy Faire:[/B] New princess-themed meet-and-greet area in former Carnation Plaza Gardens is under construction and expected to open in early 2013.
  • [B]Princess Fantasy Faire at the Fantasyland Theater:[/B] Fantasyland Theater closed August 12. Princesses have relocated to Small World Promenade allowing the Fantasyland Theater to close and prepare for a new show.
[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]
  • [B]Muppet*Vision 3D:[/B] Closed through January 6 for Prep & Landing overlay.
  • [B]Silly Symphony Swings:[/B] Closed January 7, 2013 through February 17 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Grizzly River Run:[/B] Closed January 7, 2013 through February 28 for refurbishment.
  • [B]World of Color:[/B] Closed January 28-31, 2013 and February 4-7 for refurbishment.
[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]
    None.
[center]Headline Roundup
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.[/center]
  • California Adventure expansion helps add 5,000 new jobs to Disneyland Resort, according to the OC Register.
  • The Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney Parks head Tom Staggs says Walt Disney World’s Avatarland is still in the works as well as a possible Cars Land copy.
Alright, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland. Please note that barring any breaking news, the next two weeks will feature our popular annual Year In Review. We’ll return to our regular format next year in our January 7, 2013 column!

Don’t forget to discuss this week’s column in the comments section below! Your comment could win you a prize in the final week of our 5th Anniversary Giveaway Celebration!

We’re only here because of your continued support. If you’ve enjoy Dateline Disneyland over the last five years, please consider helping us out by donating a buck or two so we can pay the bills and keep the updates coming! You can donate with a click of a button via PayPal — click here!

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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FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by TouringPlans.com | Do More. Wait Less. and the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.