Annual Passholders were invited to preview Disneyland‘s new Fantasy Faire late last week, getting an early glimpse at the park’s rather intimate new princess meet-and-greet area. The new addition to Disneyland’s Fantasyland opens to the public this week, but will the small village be able to handle the impending spring break crowds? Still, not all Disney Princesses will call Fantasy Faire home. With the opening of the new area this week, several princesses will take up permanent residence in the Faire’s Royal Hall while others move to different locations throughout the park. Meanwhile, work continues on the new stage show at the Fantasyland Theater and at various refurbishments in both parks.

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 will continue until the end of the month.

Our friends at Touring Plans have their weekly crowd forecast below as Disneyland’s popular spring break season gets underway this week.

Disneyland enters the beginning of the busy Spring Break seaon. 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., Mar. 12 [center]7 /10[/center] Here are some quick-hit notes that we hope you’ll find helpful as you prepare your visits for the week:

  • Saturday is a 8 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., Mar. 13 7 /10
Thu., Mar. 14 6 /10
Fri., Mar. 15 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.

Rain thinned crowds at the park Friday

Exploring Fantasy Faire

Annual Passholder previews at week’s end provided the first major public audience for Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire area outside of Cast Members and the media.

The new storybook village has four main features: the Royal Hall princess meet-and-greet hall, the Royal Theater with two shows, a gift shop and an snack cart.

Fantasy Faire has an impressive five points of entry, but don’t be surprised if you find many of them turned into dead ends for stroller parking or overflow queue when the area opens to the public on Tuesday. Below, the main bridge to Fantasy Faire is prepared to be partially used for overflow queue for the Royal Hall meet-and-greet.

The view of Fantasy Faire from the Castle bridge.

From the pavement to the rooftops, the main village area of Fantasy Faire is gorgeous and richly detailed

Tangled Tower is nice but serves little purpose.

Keen eyes will spot embedded lights in Rapunzel’s hair for a special touch of magic at night.

The Royal Hall is where Cinderella, Aurora and Ariel have taken up permanent residence.

Some limited stroller parking is available in front of the Royal Hall during Passholder Previews, despite rumors that strollers would be banned from Fantasy Faire.

There’s plenty of queue space for the Royal Hall, so expect long lines here.

You’ll enter the Royal Hall via a door way and short corridor through what appears to be an extension of Sleeping Beauty Castle (a nice touch), before you emerge into a lovely hall of rich wood tones and festooned with royal banners.

The Royal Hall is actually a large room split in half, with each half divided into three individual meet-and-greet spaces. Guests will only experience one half of the Royal Hall and Disney hopes guests will be oblivious to the fact that there are duplicate princesses meeting with guests on the other side of the wall. The design with double princesses aims to ease wait times, but the partial dividing wall in the Royal Hall has been a point of concern. Early reports have come back saying it wasn’t uncommon to hear another Aurora talking with guests on the other side of the wall while you were getting your photo taken with Aurora on your side of the wall.

Reportedly, Disney’s solution to the problem was to increase the background music — and in my experience, the fix seemed to have worked. The background music didn’t seem too loud and while I could hear the murmur of other guests in the Royal Hall, I couldn’t hear specific words or conversations that might ruin the illusion.

Overall, the Royal Hall is a nice meet-and-greet environment. It accomplishes its goal well enough, providing a much-needed permanent home to three Disney princesses. The Hall is also flexible enough to allow different characters to utilize the space if need be.

Below, a video of the Royal Hall experience from our friends at the In the Parks blog here at MiceChat.

The Royal Hall exits into the corridor that connects the new area to Frontierland and spills into the new Fairytale Treatures gift shop.

It’s a small retail space filled with princess dresses and accessories. The size of this shop isn’t a big deal since all of these items can be found in other retail locations in both parks.

The shop itself is nicely designed and has some great prop work.

As you exit, you might spot a familiar feline from “Pinnocchio” perched on a window sill.

Figaro tries to get a nap in but his caged friend keeps waking him up. The animatronics here aren’t the most advanced, which is to be expected given their outdoor location. They add a lot of charm to the space, though, and it’s great to see this sort of thing still being added to new park experiences.

Below, a video of the new Figaro and bird animatronics:

Nearby, a tribute to the old Carnation Plaza Gardens area that Fantasy Faire replaced

The owl newel post

Great new lighting fixtures

Clopin’s Music Box, inspired by Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” film, is a great interactive element for the area. Hopefully it lasts and isn’t broken by the public.

Below, a video of the music box in action:

If you’re looking for Rapunzel or Belle, the Royal Theater offers two shows with the princesses.

Lead by Vaudeville-style hosts, the shows retell the stories from “Tangled” and “Beauty and the Beast” with help from the princesses. The resulting shows are fast-paced, don’t take themselves too seriously and pack in a lot of humor. It’s a refreshing change of pace from Disney — the shows are fun but don’t rely on Disney’s typical out-of-touch attempts at being hip and edgy to achieve the humor.

As of now, Disney has no plans to bring back the popular evening swing dancing back to the former Carnation Plaza Stage, despite Tom Staggs promising such a return at the 2011 D23 Expo. For now, the plan is to keep Fantasy Faire open into the evening, keeping the venue occupied when swing bands would typically be performing. Still, the old dance floor remains in place and the new stage is built with the ability to host bands if Disney wishes to do so in the future. For now, swing dancing will remain in Downtown Disney.

Below, a video from Disney with Show Director Christopher Utley.

Nearby, Maurice’s Treats snack cart serves up a selection of new snacks for Fantasy Faire.

The menu is small but unique to the new area.

The Cheddar Garlic Bagel Twist was a popular choice during Passholder previews. I tried it and enjoyed it for the first couple bites while it was still warm. Once the bagel twist cooled off it got pretty tough and wasn’t worth eating anymore. It might be worth trying once, but I probably wouldn’t get it again.

I didn’t try the pastry twists, which are a bit cheaper and come in chocolate and strawberry flavors. Our friend Guy Selga over at Touring Plans tried the strawberry twist and said it was just okay but would opt for one of Jolly Holiday Bakery’s better options just across the hub.

The cart also offers a new take on Disney’s trend of frozen apple juice drinks that we’ve seen in Cars Land and Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland. This time, instead of the toasted marshmallow flavor added to the apple juice slush, Disney has swirled in a “wild berry” flavoring and tops the drink with a passionfruit-mango foam. I tried the new Boysen Apple Freeze and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I’m not really a fan of the foams Disney has been topping its new specialty drinks with, so I tended to avoid it. The drink itself is surprisingly refreshing in a way that the similar Red’s Apple Freeze in Cars Land is not. I’d guess the tart berry flavor factored into that and I liked the flavor combination here more than I do the Cars Land drink. Even though I liked the Cars Land drink, I haven’t bought it again since Cars Land’s opening. Will I buy the Boysen Apple Freeze again? I definitely think so, especially during the summer months when it’s hot and humid in the park. The new Boysen Apple Freeze probably isn’t for everyone, though. If you’re not a fan of the Red’s Apple Freeze or other extremely sweet drinks, you might want to avoid this one.

Overall, the new area is exquisitely executed. It’s a very rich and charming environment to be in but that might change once big crowds descend on the area. Like much of Disneyland, Fantasy Faire is tight quarters and guests will certainly feel it on busy days. I’m not one to frequent meet-and-greets so Fantasy Faire already offers very little for me and the big crowds certain to hit the area will further lessen my desire to visit the new area.

When you’re in Fantasy Faire, the entire space feels right. It especially comes together when you stand in the middle of the village and look back toward the spires of Sleeping Beauty Castle. In that moment, all the pieces come together and it all seems to work. Fantasy Faire’s location isn’t exactly ideal, however, and it can certainly be a bit jarring to see this much of Fantasyland when you’re walking through Disneyland’s Central Plaza (the hub). Sleeping Beauty Castle is Fantasyland’s proper portal and Fantasy Faire is a very obvious part of the land outside its proper boundaries. It’s perhaps a minor qualm in the grand scheme of things but it’s certainly noticeable and can be distracting when you’re in the hub — an issue that’s similarly true for Tomorrowland’s rockwork and Astro Orbiter.

As strollers, we’ll see how stroller parking will be handled for the new area once it officially opens to the public on Tuesday. The original bridge for the Carnation Plaza Gardens was converted into stroller parking during Passholder previews, with space in front of the Royal Hall and along the path to Frontierland along the side of the Royal Theater was also used for strollers. Rumors detailing various purported plans for stroller parking have been a matter of discussion online for weeks now. Rumors shave suggested a full stroller ban in the area, forcing stroller parking to be located outside of Fantasy Faire in a variety of locations including the path along the Castle moat toward the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, an area near Frontierland’s entrance, and even turning the west half of the hub into stroller parking after the Main Street Vehicles conclude operation for the day. Whatever happens, strollers are likely to be an ongoing headache for Cast Members and Guests in the coming months.

It’s also a shame that the historical Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage has been reduced to a venue for princess storytelling. Over its 50+ year history, the stage played host to countless community performing arts groups and some of the most famous musical acts in American history including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. While nightly swing dancing is still available in Downtown Disney, the popular evening dancing at the Carnation Stage is now history and isn’t expected to return anytime soon.

While it’s a bummer that so much history can be wiped away so quickly, Disneyland does need keep up with the demands of its guests and princesses bring in big money. It was the right move to move the princesses out of the old Fantasyland Theater and open that venue back up for a proper stage show. Could a better location for Fantasy Faire have been carved out elsewhere? Maybe, but it wasn’t and what we got is quality, even if it isn’t necessarily ideal. Perhaps the only thing Disney could have done better with Fantasy Faire is their handling of the transition. A lot more grace and honesty could have gone a long way in terms of goodwill with park fans. Instead, Disney promised the return of swing bands without the intention of following through and then tried to justify the new project by saying the project was in line with what Walt Disney had always wanted. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to explain the demand and need for the new area and offered a proper send-off to the swing bands? Was offering false hope and concocting false Walt Disney history really necessary? Nevertheless, Fantasy Faire is a charming and quality new addition to the park, giving the extremely popular princesses a much-needed permanent home in the park. The Imagineers, led by Tony Baxter on this project, did a top-notch job with the space they were given.

Want more Fantasy Faire? If you’re an Annual Passholder, Disney is offering a free panel discussion on the “making of” Fantasy Faire this Thursday. Details below:
[center]Fantasy Faire: “Making of” Presentation & Panel Discussion
March 14, 2013[/center]

    Get a special peek behind the magic as Show Director Christopher Utley and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Director Michel den Dulk share a fascinating “making of” Presentation and Panel Discussion on the highly anticipated Fantasy Faire in Disneyland Park. After the discussion there will be a Q&A where Annual Passholders can ask questions about the making of Fantasy Faire.
    Date

    • Thursday, March 14, 2013
    Location:

    • Main Street Opera House in Disneyland Park
    Time

    • 6:00 p.m.
    Event Registration and Wristband Distribution

    • Passholders may begin registration at 11:30 a.m. at the Main Street, U.S.A. Opera House in Disneyland Park.
    • All participating Guests (ages 3 and older) must be valid Annual Passholders on the day of the event.
    • Registration must be completed in person at the Main Street, U.S.A. Opera House on the day of the event only; no phone reservations or other registration will be accepted.
    • It is recommended that all members of your party register together to help ensure that everyone receives an event wristband.
    • All participating Annual Passholders must present their active Annual Passport to the event Cast Member, who will check event availability. Photo ID may be required.
Princess Relocation Program

You may have noticed that Fantasy Faire doesn’t offer a permanent home to all of Disney’s princesses. The temporary Princess Royal Walk along Small World Promenade will close and the rest of Disney’s royalty will be relocated to different areas throughout the park. The Royal Walk continued to draw big lines over the weekend:

In Fantasyland, Merida from Pixar’s “Brave” is set to move from her location across from “it’s a small world” to the location in Fantasyland that had been home to Rapunzel until now.

Merida’s camp will leave Small World Mall and move in next to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey.

Snow White will continue to make appearances at her wishing well next to Sleeping Beauty Castle.

In Adventureland, Princess Jasmine will continue to make appearances with Aladdin at Aladdin’s Oasis.

And back in New Orleans Square, Princess Tiana will now make regular appearances in the beautiful Court des Anges. Tiana calls the courtyard home during Disneyland’s annual New Orleans Bayou Bash, but will now appear here throughout the rest of the year with the closure of the Princess Royal Walk in Fantasyland.

The bunting and extra plants that were added for the Mardi Gras meet-and-greets remain in place for Tiana when she begins regularly appearing here.

Refurbishment Round-Up

Meanwhile, refurbishments continue in Disneyland as the park prepares to open Fantasy Faire and enter the busy Spring Break season. In Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain’s major overhaul progresses…

You can spot new Rainbow Ridge facades starting to go up…

The Mark Twain Riverboat’s refurbishment continues as its completion later this month.

In Fantasyland, lighting towers continue to get repainted along Small World Mall

And work continues on the new “Mickey and the Magical Map” show coming to the Fantasyland Theater

On Main Street, the archway is being reinstalled at Refreshment Corner.

The Gumball Rally Strikes Back!
MAY 4, 2013

Can you conquer every attraction at Disneyland in a single day? MiceChat’s famous Gumball Rally returns this spring to put you to the test — Tickets on sale now!

  • When: May 4th, 2013.
  • Where: Disneyland Resort (both parks) in Anaheim, California.
  • Cost: Approx. $27.50 per person. 10% discount available through February 28 with promo code: early. MiceChat Gold Memebers can get a 15% discount.
  • How Do I Sign Up?: Eventzilla Gumball Rally Registration Page
  • How Does the Rally Work?: Details on the Rally Information Page.
Welcome to California Adventure

In Disney California Adventure, just a couple refurbishment projects continue as the park gets ready for the start of spring break.

Over in Cars Land, the second half of Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree has emerged from under tents while it was resurfaced.

Ride vehicles were installed on Friday but this side of the attraction wasn’t yet in operation.

Over on Paradise Pier, the Silly Symphony Swings are being put back together and should be ready to reopen by the end of the week.

Limited Time Magic

Limited Time Magic continues this week with its on-going Oz-related offering below:

[center]Oz: The Great and Powerful Sneak Peek
at Disney California Adventure
Through March 31, 2013
[/center]
Continuing this week is the eight-minute sneak preview of Disney’s new movie, “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” “Oz” is in theaters now. The preview at California Adventure will run through March 31.

[center][/center]

Award Wieners is also offering a couple special menu items in conjunction with the Oz: The Great and Powerful sneak preview.

This and That

Back in Disneyland, the south-west block of Main Street got new directional signs, effectively labeling the entire block as the Main Street Emporium.

The signs may help guests find what they need in the shops but unfortunately they ignore the differentiation between retail spaces including the Crystal Arcade, Fortuosity Shop and Jewelry Shop. Instead all of these separate but connected spaces are labeled as part of the Emporium. It might be a minor issue, but it further points toward the mall-ification of Main Street and it’s sad to see Disney dumbing down the experience.


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MiceChat.com and Annual Passholder Discounts
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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
March 11 — 17, 2013
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]Disney California Adventure[/B]
Monday-Thursday: 9 am – 10 pm
Friday: 8 am – 12 midnight
Saturday: 9 am – 11 pm
Sunday: 8 am – 11 pm
Monday-Thursday: 9 am – 10 pm
Friday 8 am – 11 pm
Saturday: 9 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]MEDIUM-HIGH[/B]
[B]5.2—9.2[/B] out of 10[/CENTER]
[CENTER][B]MEDIUM[/B]
[B]7.1—8.0[/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 through March 28.
  • [b]Disneyland Railroad — Main Street Station:[/b] Closed through March 28.
  • [b]Autopia:[/b] Closed for refurbishment February 26-28.
  • [b]Disneyland Monorail:[/b] Closed for refurbishment February 26-28.
  • [b]Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:[/b] Closed for extensive refurbishment through October 30.
  • [b]”it’s a small world”:[/b] Closed January 22, 2013 through February 28 to remove holiday overlay.
  • [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]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] Show on haitus while “Oz: The Great and Powerful” sneak peek plays in theatre through March 31.
  • [B]Silly Symphony Swings:[/B] Closed through March 14 for refurbishment.
[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]
  • [B]Fossil:[/B] Store closed for remodel. Reopens spring 2013.
  • [B]Downtown Disney Stage:[/B] Closed for enhancements. Temporary stage available for performances and events during main stage construction.
[center]Headline Roundup
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.[/center]
  • Our friends at MouseInfo reported that Ariel’s Grotto at DCA will once again offer World of Color dinner packages resulting in the loss of princess meet-and-greets at dinner.
  • The LA Times reported on a Hollywood woman recently arrested for attempting to sell fake Disneyland tickets to undercover police.
  • From the OC Register: Disney announced they would hire an additional 1,000 U.S. Veterans as part of their “Heroes Work Here” initiative.
Alright, that wraps up this week’s Dateline Disneyland. What do you think of Disneyland’s new Fantasy Faire? Did you attend an Annual Passholder preview or do you plan to visit once it opens this week? Let us know your thoughts on the new area in the comments section below!

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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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