With the last few days of the spring off-season slipping away before the summer crowds arrive, the Disneyland Resort is rushing to finalize details for the upcoming 24-hour party to try and prevent the night from devolving into utter chaos and gridlock like the last overnight party did. While summer is about to get started, TDA also has their eye on this winter and beyond as several major entertainment and attraction additions are headed to the two Anaheim parks. In this update we’ll fill you in on what will be under the Christmas tree at DCA this year, what may or may not be announced at D23 Expo in August, and provide you with a full run-down on the logistics and timing for the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter for the 24th and 25th to help you decide if you want to join the fun.
There’s a lot to get to today, so poach that egg and slap it on some whole grain Irish buttered toast and let’s get to it!
While we’ve detailed in previous updates how the rebirth of Disney California Adventure last June radically transformed the business model and visitation patterns for the entire Anaheim property, it bears repeating that the re-launched DCA is a full-blown runaway success that has exceeded the most optimistic projections for the re-launch. The fallout from that stunning transformation in 2012 is that Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) and WDI have been spending most of 2013 deciding how to better utilize slower areas of the park. The crowds still aren’t letting up there and tourists in particular are spending entire 10 hour days at DCA without leaving for Disneyland. Both spending and length-of-stay patterns are way up in DCA, and Burbank is thrilled with the results.
The quickest and easiest way to add capacity to succesful theme parks is to add new entertainment. Believe it or not World of Color turns three years old in a few weeks, most locals and many tourists have already seen it at least once, and TDA is finally ready to offer an alternative to the original show from 2010. So, in November an all-new holiday themed World of Color will debut for the Christmas season to reinvigorate the evening hours at DCA. The Christmas version of World of Color will be a full 23 minute rework using all new Christmas material and songs, while still featuring a few familiar themes like Princesses and the popular Pixar characters. Full scale testing of the new show will begin late this summer, and this new World of Color is tentatively planned to debut around November 8th.
The broader goals for the Christmas World of Color fall into three main categories; to keep tourists staying later into the evening and feeling like they got their money’s worth, and to bring the locals back to the park and keep them renewing their Annual Passes, many of which are conveniently purchased that time of year as family Christmas gifts. The third reason behind the new World of Color show is to soften the blow when the inevitable private parties begin at Disneyland during the Christmas season. We’ve explained in previous updates how the full-service Christmas offerings at Disneyland were in the crosshairs of the One Disney team based out of Orlando who want Disneyland to move to a private-party concept like that used at Disney World. Disneyland’s parties will force the Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe In Holiday Magic fireworks and snow shows to move to an extra-cost ticketed event, much like the HalloweenTime parties in October are now the only way to see the Halloween Screams fireworks and the Halloween parade.
The plan would be to offer the Soundsational Parade during the day before the parties along with the usual Remember fireworks on non-party nights, and then roll out the major Christmas entertainment only during the parties in the evenings. The good news is that much like Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy running in October, the Holiday versions of Small World and Haunted Mansion would still be available to park visitors daily without purchasing an additional ticket to an evening Christmas party. And while Disneyland closes early in December to host Christmas parties, the crowds can move over to DCA where the new Christmas World of Color show will soften the blow of being kicked out of Disneyland. Or at least that’s the hope, and if the new show is good enough that plan might actually work. Steve Davison and his WDI Creative Entertainment team will be hard at work on the show in the next few months, trying to summon up the frosty Christmas spirit during the hot Southern California summer.
While adding new entertainment to a theme park is the easiest and fastest route to increasing park capacity, the more complicated (and more expensive) route is to add new attractions. And rest assured that DCA is still on the front burner in both TDA and Burbank’s opinion with another big chunk of money slated to be released by Burbank later this year. The plan to turn the sleepy northern half of DCA’s Hollywood Land into Monstropolis with a thrill-ride Door Coaster as the featured E Ticket attraction is still moving ahead quickly. At the same time, the other new thrill ride using the ride system once planned for a Tron-themed Lightcycle coaster on the PeopleMover track is also finishing up design work. It’s no longer “if” on these two new E Ticket attractions, it’s “when”.
The Tomorrowland project is the most problematic, as reworking the old PeopleMover route and its loading station in the center of the land will require several years of ugly construction. The similarity between Tomorrowland in its current state and DCA of five years ago is quite apt, since DCA had several popular attractions that were located in a lackluster environment that weren’t aesthetically pleasing or particularly inviting. Space Mountain and Star Tours are two of the most popular thrill rides in Anaheim, while Buzz Lightyear, Autopia and the Submarines offer solid attractions that offer important capacity to children or those looking for non-thrill excitement. But Tomorrowland’s aesthetic appearance is disjointed and aging poorly, and it comes up repeatedly in visitor surveys as a place that people don’t particularly enjoy.
Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is tired and worn out, and WDI and TDA acknowledge that. The goal of the Tomorrowland redo isn’t just to add a ride back to the PeopleMover track and move the Rocket Jets back up to their rightful place above the loading station, the project is also designed to reskin the existing Tomorrowland structures and create a cohesive and relevant “futuristic” environment for the 21st century.
And that’s going to take a lot of construction and hassle, right as Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary party kicks off in 2015. The discussions in TDA now center on getting the timing right for both projects, and likely beginning the work on Monstropolis first before 2015 since that will take up a quiet back corner of the park. Compared to the massive construction DCA underwent in recent years from the front of the park for Buena Vista Street and all the way along the central spine of the DCA parade route for Little Mermaid, Cars Land and the Pier remodel, the Monstropolis construction in the corner will be a cakewalk for the experienced DCA teams.
Preliminary work on Tomorrowland could begin before the 60th Anniversary is over, but the bulk of that construction wouldn’t begin until 2016 while the Monstropolis project finishes up and debuts. But either of these two projects are far enough along that they could be announced at the Parks & Resorts keynote address at D23 Expo in August, with a few key artist renderings and models on display in the Imagineering Pavilion on the exhibit hall floor. The announcement of either Monstropolis or Tomorrowland will offer more information and more artwork to display than the last big attraction announcement at D23 Expo in 2011, when Bob Iger bizarrely announced that Avatarland was coming to Animal Kingdom, but without offering any artwork or content to discuss even several years later.
But before TDA can gloat over its success at D23 Expo, they’ve got to get through this weekend and the monster headache created by the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter. This idea was not born in Anaheim, where it would have been shot down immediately if anyone had dared to suggest they repeat the disaster of the One More Disney Day event from 2012. Instead, the All-Nighter was dreamed up by the notoriously out of touch Disney Parks & Resorts marketing team holed up in a generic office park in Celebration, Florida. And now it’s up to the Anaheim teams to figure out how to manage it and prevent another night of gridlocked streets, backed up freeways, and near-riots at the main entrance turnstiles.
The first overnight party for Leap Year Day in February, 2012 started out mellow enough that morning. But after 5:00 P.M., when all the executives and senior managers had gone home, things began to unravel quickly. By 7:00 P.M. the Santa Ana Freeway was backed up several miles to the LA County line, and the surface streets around Disneyland had gridlocked. The Parking team hadn’t made arrangements to staff or use overflow parking at the Anaheim Convention Center or GardenWalk, and the 20,000 Disney-owned parking spaces usually at their disposal were already full. DCA closed at 8:00 P.M., while Disneyland began to fill quickly way beyond capacity. Shuttle buses carrying Cast Members in from employee parking lots were stuck in the gridlock. Several buses were literally stuck in traffic for several hours just a few blocks from Disneyland while the CM’s sat helplessly inside and plotted mutinies against the bus drivers who refused to open the doors in the middle of frozen traffic. When the turnstiles were closed just before Midnight, the crowds in the Esplanade grew restless and ornery and there were thousands of people still trying to purchase tickets and get into the park in the early morning hours. When it was all over the next morning, 105,000 people had attended the overnight party in Anaheim even though the original estimate for the day was barely 50,000.
This time, they are planning for 125,000 people to attend and DCA will be added to the mix to help soak up crowds. But the parking and transportation logistics are already stretched way beyond their limit, and there’s a frank understanding that they won’t be able to handle 125,000 people, most of whom will arrive by car. The fallout is that every parking space in Anaheim has been commandeered, and Cast Members will be parking that day at Angel Stadium and bussed in. What happens in the evening when the CM shuttle buses get stuck on a gridlocked Katella or Harbor isn’t really known, although this time the bus drivers are going to have the authority to open their doors and let the CM’s out if the bus is stuck in gridlock for more than one hour. The Anaheim Police Department and California Highway Patrol will be on alert that evening, to help assist with surface streets and monitor off-ramps.
Knowing that access to Disneyland and parking will be an extreme challenge after work lets out on Friday, if you are still planning on attending it should be noted that not much extra will be on offer in either park. Some entertainment times may change, and a few Monsters U merchandise offerings will be for sale, otherwise it’s just a long drawn out day for the Anaheim parks.
In addition, that night was already pre-sold as a DCA Grad Nite for 10,000 students before the marketing team in Florida pulled the trigger on this event without checking in with the operations teams in Anaheim. That means that Cars Land, Paradise Pier and Tower of Terror will all be closed to regular visitors at 11:00 P.M. and only wrist-banded Grads will be allowed to remain in those popular areas of DCA, pushing the overnight party envelope into just the Mad T Party, Buena Vista Street and Condor Flats sections of DCA.
Still think you want to go? Here’s the timeline of major elements of the 24 hour event from start to finish.
Thursday, May 23rd
6:00 PM – Harbor Blvd. Drop-Off Lot closed to all vehicle traffic for the remainder of the event.
7:00 PM – Fantasyland closes for Media Party for Mickey & The Magical Lamp debut.
8:00 PM – Entry Queue and Media Riser setup begins in Esplanade between both parks.
9:00 PM – Disneyland closes for the day (with Media Party in Fantasyland).
9:30 PM – Mickey & Friends Parking Structure, Toy Story Parking Lot and Downtown Disney Parking Lots closed to all traffic, with all arriving vehicles directed to park in Pumbaa Parking Lot on Disney Way. No shuttle service will be offered in Pumbaa until 8:00 AM on Friday morning.
10:00 PM – Early arrivals will be queued in Harbor Blvd. Drop-Off Lot, before being moved to roped queues in the Esplanade. Monsters University “Eye” glasses given out to first few thousand people in Esplanade. Monstrous Summer buttons to be given out at turnstiles for first few thousand people through the gates in the morning.
11:00 PM – Grad Nite begins in DCA, until 3:00 AM.
Friday, May 24th
5:00 AM – Mickey & Friends Parking Structure and Toy Story Parking Lot open with tram and bus service.
5:55 AM – Small kickoff ceremony and media event in Esplanade as both parks open for the day.
6:00 AM – Both parks open for the day, with Cars Land, Tower of Terror and some Paradise Pier attractions not open yet due to delayed overnight maintenance from Grad Nite the night before.
5:00 PM – Pixar Play Parade, from Tower of Terror.
6:30 PM – Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, from It’s A Small World.
7:00 PM – Pixar Play Parade, from Paradise Pier.
9:00 PM – World of Color at DCA, Fantasmic! at Disneyland.
9:00 PM – First of four special Monsters Inc. screenings of full movie begin at MuppetVision Theater.
9:00 PM – Mad T Party opens, no alcohol served due to Grad Nite guests in attendance.
9:30 PM – Magical Fireworks Spectacular at Disneyland.
10:15 PM – World of Color at DCA.
10:30 PM – Fantasmic! at Disneyland.
10:45 PM – Cars Land, Paradise Pier & Tower of Terror closed for Grad Nite; only Grads with wristbands allowed in these areas until 3:00 AM (Radiator Springs Racers will close for the night at 2:00 AM and not reopen).
12:00 Midnight – Character Pajama Party in Toontown, dancing and Disney cartoons screened at outdoor theater, cocoa & cookies served.
12:30 AM – Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, from Town Square.
2:00 AM – Monsters U light show at Castle, Disneyland.
3:00 AM – Cars Land & Paradise Pier reopen after Grad Nite. Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin’ and Tower of Terror all will remain closed for overnight maintenance.
5:30 AM – Mad T Party and Toontown Pajama Party closes.
5:55 AM – Farewell Announcement played in parks, set to the tune of “Now it’s time to say goodbye” song from Mickey Mouse Club.
6:00 AM – DCA and Disneyland close.
9:00 AM – DCA and Disneyland reopen for normal Saturday operation, with several major attractions delayed in opening due to overnight maintenance.
After the 24 hour party, both Disneyland and DCA kick off their first “Small World Celebration” weekend on Saturday, celebrating the culture and cuisine of Greece. It goes without saying that this new offering will likely be completely lost in the frenzy of the overnight party and media events for Mickey & The Magical Lamp. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, as this is just the first of many planned Small World Celebration weekends that will feature different countries. But the Small World Celebration is a concept cooked up by TDA’s own in-house marketing team and designed to attract locals and engage Annual Passholders. The Monstrous Summer All-Nighter is a concept from Florida and it simply steamrolled over any plans TDA had already approved and funded for Memorial Day Weekend.
The Small World Celebration idea is a good one though, and the most interesting offerings will be held far from It’s A Small World. DCA’s Paradise Gardens will offer Greek celebrity chef Argiro Barbarigou and Greek winemakers hosting live cooking demonstrations, along with authentic Greek music, dances, dress and culture on display. The Greek exhibit at Disneyland in the Small World Mall will feature the Disneyfied version of Greece, with a rare Hercules meet n’ greet as the main attraction. But those interested in genuine Greek culture will want to stop by Paradise Gardens in DCA this weekend, as sort of a small-scale Food & Wine festival. Hopefully the next Small World Celebration in Anaheim can be held on a weekend when the marketing team in Florida is on vacation.
Well, that’s what we’ve got for you today. New attractions on the way, Christmas going behind lock and key and 24 hours of insanity. We are very curious to know if you’ve been tempted by the 24 hour party and its expected crowds of 125,000. And, if you are going, what time do you plan to arrive to assure your spot in what is very likely to be Disneyland’s busiest day ever?
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