Disneyland officially announced the grand opening date of its newest attraction last week. The new Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet village next to Sleeping Beauty Castle is scheduled to open its gates March 12, just in time for big spring break crowds. The new princess area will give a permanent home to princess meet-and-greets and also offer live entertainment, a souvenir shop and special snacks and treats. Meanwhile, Disney theme park fans were saddened by the news that long-time Imagineer Tony Baxter announced his full-time retirement from Disney and transition to part-time advisor, effective this month. The news hit fans hard as Baxter is well-known for his work on numerous modern classic theme park experiences including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, the original Journey Into Imagination at EPCOT Center, and Disneyland Paris.

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.

Welcome to Disneyland!

Main Street Station’s refurbishment continues to greet off-season guests at Disneyland’s main entrance.

Our friends from Touring Plans have their weekly crowd forecast below:

With so many major attractions down for refurbishemt a good plan is more important than ever. TouringPlans.com can 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 more than ever, it’s 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., Feb. 5 [center]2 /10[/center] Here are some quick-hit notes that we hope you’ll find helpful as you prepare your visits for the week:

  • Saturday and Sunday are a 9 out of 10.
  • There are no Annual Pass blackouts in effect this Monday through Friday.
  • Thursday is the best day to visit Disneyland.
  • Fastpass tickets for Radiator Springs Racers usually “sell out” within the first hour of DCA’s regular park hours.
Wed., Feb. 6 2 /10
Thu., Feb. 7 2 /10
Fri., Feb. 8 5 /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.

Great spring color is starting to show up throughout the park…

Fantasy Faire officially set to open March 12

Disney officially announced last week that its new Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet village will open on March 12. The opening timeline makes sense so that Disney can have the new area open just in time for peak spring break crowds. Expect this area to be very popular when it opens this spring!

The new Royal Theatre’s bright pink and purple marquee is quite noticeable from the Central Plaza.

An artists rendering of the new Royal Theater stage area

A press release announcing the opening date gave a few new details on the area, including the Royal Theater and its two new shows:

Beginning March 12, 2013, Disney Princesses will await these guests at the new Fantasy Faire, a storybook world that extends Fantasyland and brings its timeless tales to life in fun and surprising ways.

Fantasy Faire creates an enchanting, immersive environment for guests who treasure magical fairy tales. Designed in the charming, old world style familiar to lovers of Fantasyland, this regal village fair is located on the west side of the “Hub” or Central Plaza, expanding Fantasyland beyond its current boundaries and into a location (the former Carnation Plaza Gardens) near the forecourt of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Visitors will walk a beautiful pathway leading into the corridors of the Royal Hall, where Princesses await them. Along the way, they will encounter whimsical design touches, including Geppetto’s cat Figaro dozing (and occasionally waking) on a window sill, and “Clopin’s Music Box,” a fascinating, interactive mechanical toy representing the Feast of Fools from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Guests may also explore a charming village square highlighted by Tangled Tower, a magical sculpture inspired by the story of Rapunzel. After dark, Rapunzel’s hair, twisting around the tower sculpture, comes to life with twinkling lights.

A highlight of the Fantasy Faire experience is the Royal Theatre, where guests will be treated to two different shows: the tales of Rapunzel (“Tangled”) and Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”) as presented by Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones, a pair of vaudeville-style Renaissance storytellers. The princess heroine, Rapunzel or Belle, will join in the fun and remain with the audience to greet guests following the conclusion of the story.

Fairytale Treasures, a shop found inside Fantasy Faire, offers all kinds of Princess dresses, accessories and gifts. For guest refreshment, Maurice, Belle’s inventor father, has transformed an old gypsy wagon into a colorful food cart, Maurice’s Treats, serving bread twists – cheddar cheese garlic and strawberry almond cream flavors – along with a signature beverage, the Boysen Apple Freeze. [ FULL STORY ]

A look at Cinderella posing at a new Fantasy Faire meet-and-greet location:

Paint and lighting fixtures going up

The “CPG” crest, a nod to the Carnation Plaza Gardens, will go here

The new Figaro the cat animatronic will be perched on this ledge.

Another new lighting fixture

The new Maurice’s Treats outdoor vending cart is now in place at the Faire

Disney announced a few more details on its upcoming “Mickey and the Magical Map” show coming to the Fantasyland Theater this summer:

“Mickey and the Magical Map” presents Mickey Mouse in his timeless role as the sorcerer’s apprentice. Sorcerer Yen Sid sets his Mapmakers to work and this ensemble cast of male and female performers paints a wondrous map – capable of taking dreamers to any place imaginable and so large it spans the entire stage of Fantasyland Theatre.

Apprentice Mickey lets his curiosity get the better of him and stumbles upon the map’s magical powers. Mickey’s youthful mischief takes him, along with the audience, on a fantastic journey of imagination in the company of the Mapmakers, who help bring his adventures to life.

The journey, presented through amazing theatrical wizardry, colorful visuals and wonderful music, includes encounters with such classic Disney characters as Pocahontas, Mulan, King Louie from “The Jungle Book,” Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” and others. “Mickey and the Magical Map” is designed for Disneyland guests of all ages and represents Disney storytelling at its most thrilling. [ FULL STORY ]

An opening date for the show has yet to be set, although Disney has posted auditions for characters and dancers for the show on its DisneyAuditions.com website.

Tony Baxter steps down
at Walt Disney Imagineering

In other news, word spread quickly online Thursday afternoon when former Imagineer Eddie Sotto Tweeted that long-time Imagineer Tony Baxter had announced his retirement from Walt Disney Imagineering. The news was soon rebuffed by others, saying that Tony’s formal announcement on Friday would detail his new role at Imagineering. Both sides were right, and the following afternoon Baxter officially announced his resignation from his role as Senior Vice President, Creative Development and his transition to “part-time advisor” at Walt Disney Imagineering. The announcement came in the form of a lengthy letter from Baxter to his colleagues that was soon leaked online, appearing first at MousePlanet.com. Baxter’s letter detailed his career, his strong beliefs in the power of mentoring young artists, and five of “Disney’s keystone philosophies” that he learned from his mentors and that he has passed down to those he has mentored. Below, an excerpt from the letter, which can be found in full here.


Tony Baxter with a model from the re-imagined Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-through that opened in 2008 at Disneyland.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW IMAGINEERS

Decades ago, Imagineering had the bold notion to start the 21st century 18 years early by unveiling the “future” at Epcot in 1982. This positive look at tomorrow had a numbing effect on the bleak vistas depicted in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. As a kid beginning my career at Disneyland in the mid 1960s, both of these “futures” were far off from a universe where Disneyland was the only Disney park, Mr. Lincoln was a state of the art attraction, and everything operated under Walt Disney’s guidance.

Today, while there is a new set of “futures” to explore, the time has come for me to evolve my role at Walt Disney Imagineering. Beginning this February, I will be transitioning to a position as a part time advisor. While I will not be here on a regular basis, I will continue to be available to any and all of you as needs arise. Though my time will be limited, my passion for the magic WDI creates will be just as strong.

Since early last year, I have been thinking about what I would say to all of you when this time arrived. It has been a wondrous 47 years spanning the opening of Walt Disney World to Big Thunder and Star Tours … from Epcot’s original Journey into Imagination to Disneyland Paris and Indiana Jones. The Imagineers I have known and shared these times with have provided invaluable experiences not to be found anywhere else on earth.

As one of the lucky second-generation Imagineers, I had the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the core philosophies of our company. I was fortunate enough to work with Claude Coats, Marc Davis, John Hench and the many others who built this industry alongside Walt Disney. I was able to soak up their wisdom and partner with them on creative projects. I have passed forward many of their key philosophies, and as our culture and scope have evolved, I have tried to balance my support of these foundations, with the business of charting “what’s next.” Now the 21st century brings a new reality … for the first time, the younger generation is master of the key technologies driving the future. While upcoming generations deal with tech tools that are evolving almost daily, many of Disney’s keystone philosophies remain stable and relevant.

[ . . . ]

Going Forward – No company is perfect, and like any other corporation Disney has its own politics and challenges. We are artists, engineers, managers, filmmakers and musicians. But our company is unique; there is no place like it on earth. We are lucky. At the end of the day, it is my hope that this letter will add to the special culture that I have been privileged to grow in. I see the probability for that happening in my interactions with younger Imagineers like Michel, Josh, Zach, Dylan, Laura, Manuel, Vanessa and Brandon, which are beyond rewarding to me. At a time when “unlearning” is as critical as “learning,” it’s important to listen to the way these people think and enjoy the things they do. Creativity I have mined from their game-changing perspectives, now effectively influences my own design process. I hope that when their careers peak some decades from now, they will look back on our time together as I value the time I was able to spend with Claude Coats.

And now it comes down to the point at hand. I am not suggesting that I could be a mentor to you all, but that said, you should all have someone you can turn to in this manner. I do hope to be available to help support your ideas, give advice or even join a team whenever appropriate. My role will be one of supporting your visions in the best way I can, and encouraging you to maintain and build upon this already special place. I will have availability, and if you would like my assistance in any way, please e-mail Bruce Vaughn’s office to request my time.

This is not a goodbye, but hopefully a letter of introduction to the many of you that I have not yet had the chance to meet personally …

Tony Baxter

Feb. 1, 2013


One of Baxter’s crowning achievements: Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure.

Whatever comes of Baxter’s new role, it is indisputable that he has left an indelible mark on Disney’s theme parks across the world. From Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, to Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure, many of his projects have become iconic elements of the Disneyland experience, not to mention his work at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. Sources say that Baxter had largely been marginalized within the halls of Imagineering for the last 15 years following the opening of Disneyland’s new Tomorrowland in 1998. Save for the re-imagining of the Submarine Voyage in 2007, Baxter’s projects have been rather small, such as the the new Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, the return of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the new Fantasy Faire project under construction now at Disneyland. While Baxter hasn’t spoken publicly about these internal corporate politics at WDI, the recent projects he’s been associated with certainly support the claims. It’s a shame that Baxter’s skills have been squandered in petty corporate in-fighting, but unfortunately it appears that this sort of toxic culture is commonplace at WDI these days and Burbank continues to turn a blind eye to the broken system in Glendale.

Hopefully there are some folks in Imagineering that take Tony up on his offer for guidance and mentoring. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with someone who has left such a lasting and important mark on the theme park industry. Only time will tell what Baxter’s departure means for Imagineering, but hopefully the future remains bright even without him.

Congratulations to Tony on a truly spectacular career and here’s hoping his new role will allow him and those he works with opportunities in the future to dazzle us again.


Imagineer Josh Shipley and Tony Baxter discuss the latest version of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” at the 2009 D23 Expo.

Refurbishment Round-Up

Big Thunder Mountain’s refurbishment continues

Last week, Disney announced that the mining town of Rainbow Ridge would be “refurbished” during the Big Thunder Mountain overhaul. The announcement on the Disney Parks Blog shied away from calling it a complete rebuild, but did note that the “refurbishment” would use new materials along with some original props and building features including doors, windows and signs. The Disney Archives will be taking what’s left of the original Rainbow Ridge.

Meanwhile, as Disneyland refurbishes its Big Thunder Mountain and Walt Disney World installs an interactive NextGen queue at theirs, IGN reports that ABC Television has ordered a pilot for a new drama series based on the iconic theme park ride.

…As does the Mark Twain Riverboat and Fantasmic’s…

In Fantasyland, the Mad Tea Party is now closed for refurbishment

And the post-holiday “it’s a small world” refurbishment continues as well…

Limited Time Magic
New Orleans Bayou Bash!,
Lunar New Year Celebration,
and True Love Week

Disneyland’s New Orleans Bayou Bash will continue to bring its fun Mardi Gras offerings to New Orleans Square through Mardi Gras, which falls on next Tuesday, February 12.

New Orleans Bayou Bash!
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
February 8-12

This weekend, Disneyland’s Lunar New Year celebration will return and move to Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure. The celebration will feature colorful performances from dancers, musicians, and martial artists, special menu items at Pacific Wharf restaurants, and appearances from Mulan, Mushu, Mickey and Minnie.

Happy Lunar New Year Celebration
at Disney California Adventure
10 am — 5 pm, February 8 — 11

Next week, Disney’s Limited Time Magic promotion continues with True Love week in honor of Valentine’s Day. Disneyland released information with information on special food items and events that will be ongoing as part of the celebration.

This is the first year that Disney’s offered significant in-park Valentine’s Day entertainment and dining options. In recent years, Valentine’s Day has typically amounted to a smattering of merchandise offerings and some small decorations in Town Square (seen above). It’ll be interesting to see how a big Valentine’s Day offering will play out, seeing as its the last real commercial holiday that Disney has yet to find a way to monetize.

True Love Week
February 11-17, 2013

  • Romantic Setting:
    Guests will feel the romance at every turn, as heart-shaped signage and sweetheart-themed décor adorn Disneyland Park, making it an ideal place to celebrate Valentine’s week.
  • Blushing Castle:
    At dusk, hues of red and pink will bathe Sleeping Beauty Castle, with projections of flowers and hearts.
  • Floral Heart:
    A giant floral heart makes a sweet setting for a Valentine photo, in Town Square, Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland.
  • Valentine Wishes:
    Flowers, garlands and decorative doves will create a second ideal location around Snow White Wishing Well near Sleeping Beauty Castle. At night, magical lighting adds a romantic touch to the wishing well and Snow White Grotto.
  • Disneyland Sweethearts:
    Also near Town Square, guests will find a photo location with resident Disneyland sweethearts – Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck.
  • Dinners for Two:
    Romantic dinners for two with prix fixe menus will be offered at select restaurants during the most romantic week of the year. Specially-created menus at Blue Bayou and Café Orleans in Disneyland, Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure Park, Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel or Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel make them ideal choices for a romantic evening. To book call 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463).
  • Cupcake Lovers:
    Chefs have prepared a specially themed Valentine’s dessert: a chocolate cupcake with raspberry mousse filling and dark chocolate mousse frosting. It will be available at Jolly Holiday Bakery Café in Disneyland, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café and Pacific Wharf Café in Disney California Adventure, and Disneyland Hotel Coffee House.
  • Valentine’s-themed Takeaways:
    Limited-edition pins, plush, newly-designed apparel and Vinylmations will be available at select merchandise locations.
  • Ears for your Sweetheart:
    The classic Disneyland ear hat gets a total glitz makeover just in time for the most romantic time of the year. It will dazzle your Valentine and become the most sophisticated pair of ears in your collection.
  • Royal Romance:
    Guests will enjoy a rare opportunity to get photos of Disney Princes as they escort their Princesses along The Royal Walk in Fantasyland. In New Orleans Square, guests will find another pair of sweethearts, Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.
  • In Search of True Love:
    Guests may also encounter the Wandering Wallflowers, in search of “true love.”
Welcome to California Adventure

Muppet*Vision 3D is now closed to install a 3D preview for the upcoming “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” set to open later this month.

A friendly reminded that Annual Passholders can enjoy California Adventure for up to two hours after regular park closing on Thursday nights in February, starting this week.

Below, some information on the special extended hours for Passholders. For complete information, click here.

Annual Passholder Extended Hours
Dates:
February 7, February 14, February 21 and February 28, 2013

Time
For 2 hours after regular park closing

Check-In and Wristbands
Check-in begins at 12:00 noon on the day of the event only, and must be completed in person.
Wristbands are required for access to attractions during Annual Passholder Extended Hours.
Wristbands are valid only for that day’s event and are subject to availability.
Passholders with wristbands may enter the event until thirty (30) minutes prior to the end of the event.

Grizzly River Run’s refurbishment continues…

New logs


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MiceChat.com and Annual Passholder Discounts
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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
February 4 — 10, 2013
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]Disney California Adventure[/B]
Monday-Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
Friday: 9 am – 11 pm
Saturday: 8 am – 11 pm
Sunday: 8 am – 11 pm
Monday-Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
Friday: 9 am – 10 pm
Saturday: 8 am – 10 pm
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]LOW—MEDIUM[/B]
[B]1.9—7.4[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]MEDIUM—HIGH[/B]
[B]3.3—8.1[/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]Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island:[/b] Closed through February 7 due to Fantasmic! refurbishment.
  • [b]Fantasmic!:[/b] Dark through February 14 for refurbishment.
  • [b]Mark Twain Riverboat:[/b] Closed through March 28.
  • [b]Disneyland Railroad — Main Street Station:[/b] Closed through March 28.
  • [b]Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:[/b] Closed for extensive refurbishment through October 30.
  • [b]Splash Mountain:[/b] Closed January 22 through February 14 for refurbishment.
  • [b]”it’s a small world”:[/b] Closed January 22, 2013 through February 28 to remove holiday overlay.
  • [b]Mad Tea Party:[/b] Closed January 28 through February 14 for refurbishment.
  • [b]Goofy’s Playhouse:[/b] Closed February 25 – March 7 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Alice in Wonderland:[/B] Expected to close in 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 March 12, 2013.
  • [B]Fantasyland Theater presenting Mickey and the Magical Map:[/B] Fantasyland Theater closed August 12, 2012. Princesses have relocated to Small World Promenade allowing the Fantasyland Theater to close and prepare for the new “Mickey and the Magical Map” show scheduled to open Summer 2013.
[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]
  • [B]Grizzly River Run:[/B] Closed through February 28 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Disney Junior — Live on Stage!:[/B] Closed through March 21 to install new show.
  • [B]Muppet*Vision 3D:[/B] Closed through February 15.
  • [B]Silly Symphony Swings:[/B] Closed February 4 through March 31 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]
  • From Deadline, Disney CEO Bob Iger lashed out at U.S. Congressman Ed Markey over his concerns over Disney’s use of RFID technology in its new MyMagic+ program at Walt Disney World.
  • Disney has announced that its secretive “1952” film starring George Clooney is now officially titled “Tomorrowland”.
  • InsideTheMagic reported on a new smartphone-based in-park quest game called “Disney Kudos” that Disneyland is developing.
  • The OC Register shared news of two new hotels coming to the Disneyland Resort-area, each featuring a drugstore along with dining options.
  • Disney California Adventure’s annual “Celebrate Gospel” is set to return February 16.
Alright, that wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland! Thank you for reading and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below — How do you feel about Tony Baxter leaving Imagineering? Are you looking forward to the opening of Fantasy Faire? Let us know!

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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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