Disneyland is 58 years old this week and we were there to help the gracefully aging park celebrate with an event held in Town Square on Wednesday.  We also stop by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to check on the progress of the multi-month refurbishment taking place on that much missed e-ticket attraction.  There are also some troubling issues in the esplanade that need addressing.  Are they cause for concern?  Finally we consider the dumbing down of the menu at the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure.  Good thing?  Bad thing?  You be the judge.

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Disneyland celebrated its 58th birthday on Wednesday with a small celebration in Town Square on Main Street. Crowds lined the streets, eager to see what would happen at the special moment.  Guests were encouraged to show up by 2:00pm to learn how they could take part in the 2:30pm event – by 1:30, there was already a large crowd waiting in the oppressive heat.  At 2, the Mayor of Main Street took to the podium in Town Square and introduced a perky Disney choreographer.  She welcomed the crowd and explained how they could all take part in the celebration.

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Don't cry for me Argentina!

 She ran the entire group of guests through basic arm choreography to the pop remix of, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”  After she ran us all through the moves, she did the whole number two more times just to be sure that we were all overheated and sweaty.  At this point, those around yours truly were beginning to grow weary of the hyper-processed, auto-tuned version of the song.

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I never thought I would see the mayor of Main Street doing this.
Spot the hidden Andy Castro. Go ahead, we'll wait.
Lots of people on the Train Station.

 

The ceremony began and the Mayor invited 58 of his best friends to come out and join the party.

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Suddenly the streets filled with characters who all took their positions and began the dance that we were all taught half an hour earlier.

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Low-level pyrotechnic effects were launched from the rooftops of the Emporium and Disney Showcase, Walt’s original opening-day speech played, then it was over.  It is a nice thing to see the park allow guests to celebrate a moment like this.  Especially considering the strong feelings of ownership that Disneylanders have for Walt’s original Magic Kingdom.

However, there were a few odd little details.  The gimmick of having 58 characters populate the street was a fun one. But teaching the guests banal upper body dance aerobics felt more like a stab at filling the space with non-paid performers.  But the curious thing that many were asking is, where was Michael Colglazier, the new President of the Disneyland Resort?  It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to connect with the die-hard fans and guests.  We would have loved to have seen him.

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Despite our minor quibbles, we have to commend Disneyland for acknowledging the importance of this moment in time and marking it with a celebration.

FRONT GATE

While crossing through the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure we noticed something that many folks may just ignore, but which has been increasingly bothering us.  You see, during the original planning of DCA, a more garden-like central plaza was considered for the area between the two parks.  Sadly, all that we ended up with was a brick paved area, funded mostly by fans who paid to have their names displayed on a brick, and the terrazzo compass in the center where a fountain should be.

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Well, the compass area has remained a headache for management since its installation. It continues to break and chip due to the direct weather conditions and heavy traffic that it contends with.

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Sadly, rather than patching with matching stone and grout, they are just using tinted concrete (and in some cases not even tinted).

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In this case, they aren’t even trying to camouflage the damage.

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While our first reaction was disappointment at this scene, we began to wonder what this level of disrepair really means. It could just be that there is a diminished level of concern for maintenance in the parks. But we hope that it really means that they aren’t bothering with the expensive repairs because the long rumored retheme of the area into a greener space with a fountain might be close at hand.  Not far away, Disney spared no expense in replacing the almost indiscernible issues with the terrazzo entry into the Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant.  But here, out in the esplanade area, a similar terrazzo has been left to the mercy of the elements.  Let’s hope that a bigger, better future is in store for this area soon.

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Speaking of the main entrance area, while waiting in line at Disneyland, we noticed that the entrance gates were in need of a little bit of attention as well. From a distance, all looks well. But as you get closer . . .

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Paint is cracking and peeling
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There’s a lot wrong in this photo, cracking paint all over and even a missing shingle.

Remember those premium prices the next time you cross the esplanade or spin the turnstiles.

BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD

This week saw the return of a few key effects on the Big Thunder Mountain attraction.  Not the least of which is the iconic, dynamite-eating goat at the top of the second lift hill.

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Remember the movie Westworld? We saw a little something fun that reminded us of that campy 1973 film while taking our photos this week. As the goat was being installed, you could see the inner workings of the figure as they fine tune his performance.  It’s something you almost never see in the parks and was really a really neat opportunity!

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Talk about a goat trick!

Along the side and front of the attraction, scaffolding continues to migrate around the outer surface of the rocks.  The painters are revitalizing the worn ochre tones with vibrant brick and orange hues.

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Rainbow Ridge seems to be nearly complete as the diorama’s buildings have been aged and look ready for final dressings.

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MORE TO EXPLORE

We have two fascinating podcasts for your today. The latest MiceChat Podcast is seeing record downloads for our show featuring Ursula the Sea Witch (Pat Carroll) and Bob Gurr. If you haven’t taken a moment to listen in, we invite you to do so today. And Pat has a message for you and your kids, so invite the family to listen along, it might just ignite their passion for greatness.

Direct Link iTunes Link

We also have a special treat from Disney Historians Jeff Kurtti and Keith Gluck, in which Jeff discusses his time in Disney Imagineering and the magazine he created for the department called the WDeye. It’s really fascinating stuff from the Coffee With Kurtti Podcast.

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Listen in as Jeff fills us in on who these AMAZING people on the cover of the magazine are. You’ll never forget this photo.

Direct Link |iTunes Link

 

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As we enter Disney California Adventure, we can’t help but appreciate the wonderful work the Imagineers did in setting the optimistic tone for the park from the moment you set foot in it.

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Our favorite citizen, Donna, was out again to great visitors to her lovely part of town.

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STARBUCKS MENU CHANGES

A regrettable change has occurred at the charming FF&P Starbucks location that has left a bad taste in our mouths.  No more cheesy roast beef or roasted vegetable sandwiches.  No more soup.  Those items that were unique have been removed in favor of items that have far less prep time.  The menu has been simplified and food options have been narrowed down to either cold sandwiches and salads, or the usual breakfast sandwiches you can order at any local Starbucks.

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Do you want a sandwich?  Serve yourself.  It’s still just as expensive though.

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The menu above now only features the usual Starbucks fare.

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The cooling case that used to display the nice variety of food options now simply shows off the very basic choices that can be found at any Disney bakery or local Starbucks.

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Mmmmmmm floppy breakfast sandwiches.
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This display case does little to tempt us with the boring breakfast sandwiches that we’ve all been buying for years from our neighborhood Starbucks. Where’s the creativity?!

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$5.00, Really?

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We understand that changes must sometimes be made in order to more efficiently serve the thousands of guests that visit a location.  But why such a drastic, unilateral, change in a menu that previously offered something different and quite appetizing?  This alteration is regrettable in that it is abundantly clear that neither guest satisfaction nor customer experience were seriously considered.

What do you think about the changes to the menu at the FF&P?  Were you there for the 58th Birthday celebration for Disneyland?  If so, did you enjoy it?  What would you like to see happen to the esplanade between the two parks?