Disneyland Ups and Downs

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features

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Published on July 26, 2013 at 4:00 am with 77 Comments

We have a mixed report for you this week from the Disneyland Resort.  While the park is stunningly beautiful in some areas, there are a few spots that could use a little bit of help.  We look at some abandoned projects around the resort and wonder why they have not been attended to.  We also take a return trip to Splash Mountain to see if the problem with the broken animatronics has been addressed.  But, in all fairness, there are other matters that management is grappling with at the moment.  The Big Thunder Mountain refurbishment is the biggest visible project in the resort at the moment and we scan the copper-colored peaks for any new developments.


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Disneyland is rolling along through the busy Summer season as if on auto-pilot. The park has been entertaining guests in a mostly uneventful season. Though it seems like the crowds have been a little lighter, they are really just better spread around the entire resort, making things feel more manageable than what we have come to expect from the summer season. We can thank Cars Land for that.

 TOWN SQUARE AND MAIN STREET

The characters set the right tone in Town Square, greeting guests at the beginning of the day and interacting with as many as they can.

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New flowers were planted in the tip of Town Square.

Still no visible progress at Starbucks.  But you can be sure that things are moving at a frantic pace inside.

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JOLLY TROLLY RETURNS TO TOONTOWN

After a brief hiatus, the Jolly Trolly has returned to Toontown.  While still stationary, it is now gleaming and sparkling with fresh paint and surface treatments.  WONDERFUL, now, get it moving again!

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BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN REFURBISHMENT

There was a brief closure of Thunder Mountain Trail this week as part of the Big Thunder Mountain refurbishment.  We also noticed that they are attempting to cover up the dynamite-eating goat when it is not being worked on.  Here are pics from the project site.

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From Fantasyland, heading towards Big Thunder Ranch.

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What’s that?

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Goat under bag with a hole in his side.

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Construction crews climb the outside.

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Approaching the trail from Frontierland we see this sign advising you to walk all the way around, via Fantasyland, to get to the back side of Frontierland.




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It appears that the facade work on Rainbow Ridge is nearly complete.  It looks great from here.

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SPLASH DIMINISHED?

Two weeks ago we covered the questionable state of Disneyland’s Splash Mountain attraction.  While many animatronics along the rides path were not fully functional none were as noticeably frozen as the figures on the large steamboat at the finale of the ride. You can’t expect things to be fixed over night these days, so we allowed a couple weeks for maintenance to be performed.

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Two weeks later, the same figures are still non-functioning.  What is really bad, however, is that many readers pointed out that the same figures have been frozen since as early as May.  What is the real issue here and why has it not been fixed?  There has to be more to the situation than fall protection as the entire steamship is surrounded by water which normally negates the need for fall protection in most cases. And  ropes can be attached to a safety harness for compliance as well. There has been more than enough time for maintenance routines to be created for each and every animatronic on this attraction.

Splash Mountain is a key attraction in the resort. Leaving it in this diminished condition is a real shame and far below the standard we expect from a Disney attraction. It can and should be fixed. A consultation with their OSHA overlords is advisable.

TEMPORARY LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Disney theme parks are notorious for allowing a temporary situation to become a permanent fixture. Remember when America Sings closed on April 10th, 1988?  A promising sign hung outside for literally years that read, “Sorry, We’re closed to imagineer a brand new attraction.”

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The building was not used again for an attraction until the infamous Tomorrowland 1998 redo that brought Innoventions and left many asking the question, “10 years for that?”  That same year, after being part of the debut of new Tomorrowland, the Submarine Voyage was closed in September with the promise of a new attraction by 2003.  Again, nothing.  Then, finally in 2007 the Subs returned, after nine long years, with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but a wonderful return by the original ride system.

Along with the tomorrowland redo of 1998, came the ill-fated Rocket-Rods.  We all know what happened.  With the redo of the land the PeopleMover was removed in favor of what was hoped to be the new flagship attraction in the land.  Not only was it met with mixed reviews, but it was highly problematic.  Rocket Rods closed on September 25 of 2000, just two short years after opening.  Promises of refurbishment were broken when in April of 2001 it was announced that the ride would not be returning.

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So, here we are, 13 years later with no replacement for what was supposed to be a temporary solution, still looming over Tomorrowland. Rocket Rods appears to be the record holder for this ignominious distinction.  But really this begs the question, “Why is this acceptable?”

Yes we have seen the complete rebuild of Space Mountain, which was worth the wait.  No question.  Yes the replacement of the Rocket Rods queue with an interactivel new dark ride, Buzz Lightyear Astro-Blasters, was a success.  Yes we have also enjoyed the overhaul of Star Tours and it is truly a brilliant ride redo that breathed new life into an aging experience.

But, when guests are faced with a 33% price increase over the past 5 years, why is something like a rusting track deteriorating in the skies above Tomorrowland something that is acceptable? It might as well be a billboard advertising that the future is broken. Hopefully the rumors of a new attraction utilizing part of the PeopleMover track will prove true and come sooner rather than later.

We are also going on three years now with the temporary CalOSHA fixes for Alice in Wonderland.  It was reported that we could be seeing a total overhaul of this classic that would address the issues by the 60th anniversary of Disneyland. But why is this taking so long?

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When Disneyland is commanding around $92 a pop for one day one park tickets, is it reasonable to expect a little more than this in a little less time?  What do you think?

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Thankfully Disney California Adventure is still looking wonderful and things are still, for the most part, looking and running just fine.

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New pop-up vending has appeared near Disney Junior Live that capitalizes on the properties from the show.

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The Tower of Terror looms behind the Redcar.


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Tony Baxter Interview

The MicePod’s Season Pass Podcast has an AMAZING two part interview with beloved retired Imagineer, Tony Baxter.

Part One

Part Two


That about wraps things up with news and information from the Disneyland Resort.  We love the resort and want it to be the very best that it can be.  Sure there are little bumps along the way, but Disneyland is still a magical place that creates memories that last a lifetime. We just hope that the powers that be will take it upon themselves to address the few glaring issues in time for the big 60th anniversary in just 2 years.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! We’ll see you again soon. . . In The Parks!

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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77 Comments

Comments for Disneyland Ups and Downs are now closed.

  1. Tomorrowland is an embarrassment Disney should be ashamed of. There is no excuse with all their IP they now have that they didn’t when the park opened (Star Wars, Marvel,WALL-E and TRON).

    • Disneyland has been coasting since well before the 50th anniversary 8 years ago. Overall, Disneyland looks good. That’s why it’s so easy for the company to overlook it. But Tomorrowland is a horrible mess and there hasn’t been an infusion of excitement in the park since the redo of Star Tours. First it was DCA which was stealing the budget and sucking the resort dry, now it’s Walt Disney World. Either way, Disneyland is left to languish. Time for some MAJOR investment in Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom.

  2. “It might as well be a billboard advertising that the future is broken.” Couldn’t be said any better.

  3. Thanks, as always, for the great reporting. Especially for shining the spotlight on the things that need to be fixed as well as the good. I agree completely, if Disney is going to continue to raise prices and charge hyper-premium prices, then they need to provide a product that delivers the quality that matches the price paid by visitors.

    Does anyone know what happened with the Small World Celebrations? They had the Greek one a couple of months ago, but there haven’t been any announcements about further ones. I was really looking forward to additional celebrations of other cultures. I was hoping they would celebrate India and bring the fantabulous Bollywood dancers from Glow Fest back again, in particular.

    • It’s a really good question. The Small World Celebrations were announced while George Kalogridis was still head of the resort and before the Limited Time Magic campaign. My guess is that the idea has been pushed aside for now. At least until the end of Limited Time Magic.

      • I was there for one of the days of the Greek Festival. I noticed that when performances of Mickey and the Magical Map let out while one of the Greek Festival performance groups was performing in the middle of Small World Mall, it was a bit of a crowd control nightmare. It was very difficult to negotiate through Small World Mall. Perhaps that influenced them to rethink these events.

  4. I think its time to take out Innoventions and replace it with Mission to Mars, or some other type ride. I’d almost take anything right now. As for the Poeple Mover track, I know there will be some people that wont like this but why not make a Wall-E based ride, you know something along the lines of going from earth to the Axiom, could be interesting. I think the largest obsticle for anything in Tomorrowland now is the available space, there isn’t a lot of room and by potentially bringing back a People Mover type rider or enhancing Inno, where are all the people going to go. Of coarse, lines die down and become more tolerable so thats not a huge concern but Tomorrowland needs an update as well as finally doing something with the rotting track and the awful Innoventions. Face it, you only go into Inno for the air conditioning or to get out of the rain

  5. “We allowed” ?? Pretentious much? We don’t allow anything. We pay, and we go to the parks. That’s it. We don’t give Disney ultimatums.

    There is a very real chance that there is a scheduled maintenance period for Splash and these things will be taken care of then, or possibly they are waiting on something else that we, not being privy to their schedules and ops/maint knowledge, are unaware of. Let’s try not to presume we have any clue here. The same goes for other rides/areas.

    There is a master plan for the resort that details construction time lines and ride upgrades, etc. Often times rides don’t get the maintenance they deserve simply because they are so immensely popular (Indy) and shutting them down puts a lot of people into the walkways looking for other rides. Sometimes because it is the height of the summer and one of the busiest times of year for the resort and shutting down rides for anything but critical work isn’t really a smart idea. If it can’t be done overnight, they hold off until the few weeks between summer and Halloween. If there is already a plan in place to close the rest of the Fantasyland rides for upgrades, then they may be holding off on Alice until then and adding it to the list of rides to get upgrades as well as putting the railings on it. Given the millions of people who visit the resort yearly, I doubt City Hall is blowing up with complaints over this, and in juggling ride availability numbers and crowds some things become less important. Again, we are not aware of their reasons, schedules, budgets, etc. We know pretty much nothing. Patience is a virtue people.

    This has nothing to do with President Colglazier. When you come the Disneyland Resort you are coming into an incredibly well established machine. The President, without huge fights that you would have heard of, can’t just up and change things like that. Redoing menus and such, sure, but suddenly halting maintenance schedules and all, not really, not quietly at all.

    I found this whole article massively arrogant in its assumptions that we have any clue what is going on and in its wording. Sorry if that offends anyone, but we are merely park guests, not its overlords, directors, or any such thing. We can debate and file complaints when things are amiss, but to assume we know the whys and why-nots, to assume that we can “allow” them to do things is just wrong and misses the entire point of a fandom so completely.

    • I semi agree with you, but for someone who doesn’t work in the corporate world you would never guess how things actually work because it is so insane and counter intuitive to all logic and reason (partly due to crazy laws and regulation, and partly due to demands of shareholders who don’t care about anything other then the stock price going up or down, and yes, partly due to greed that makes you penny-wise and pound-foolish). So take the article for what it is — a fan’s view of what they see at the parks and what they perceive needs to be done to fix it. Maybe the writer knows something about the way that corporate structure works and maybe they don’t. Part of what the president of Disneyland gets paid for is to take the blame for things that are completely outside of his control, just like the visible face of any other corporation, or even sports teams.

    • I think it’s a real shame when people try to defend poor show in the parks. If there’s a “Master plan” as Mycroft says and it doesn’t include the regular maintenance and repair of things like Splash Mountain or the removal or update of a dead attraction (like Rocket Rods) within a decade, then there’s something REALLY wrong with that plan. Does that make us “massively arrogant.” If so, we are more than happy to report on what we see and be the targets for a few fan boys who can’t handle the truth. Because at the sky high prices that Disney charges these days, guests deserve a near perfect show. That’s really our Mission here at MiceAge/MiceChat and I think most of our readers understand that. If you read the update, you can clearly see that we LOVE the parks and take great pleasure in sharing the many beautiful details. But there are also some negative things to share right now which we hope will be noticed by those who run the parks. Disneyland is nearly 60 years old, and unless they start working on things now, the park won’t be in its best condition when the big day comes.

    • In a recent article on Shanghai Disneyland, Bob Iger repeatedly referred to Disney as a luxury brand. He must understand that to be a luxury brand, you can’t just brand yourself as luxury and charge luxury prices, you have to deliver a luxury product. All the malfunctions at Disneyland are not acceptable in a luxury product.

      If Mr. Iger were to get into his luxury car—and you know he drives one—and everything worked great except that the GPS was broken and the AC couldn’t get the air temperature lower than 78, do you think he would just shrug his shoulders and say to himself, “Well, the car is pretty complicated, I guess I can’t expect everything to work.” Or “There’s a scheduled maintenance in two months, I guess I can put up with the malfunctions until then.”?

      You bet he wouldn’t. Why does he expect us to?

      • I actually work in the luxury travel market, and I can tell you that overall Disney does an extremely poor job of catering to the luxury clientele. They don’t understand the amount of personalized service that a luxury client expects, not to mention NEVER being told “no” for anything. While some of their hotels are nice (Aulani, Grand Californian, Grand Floridian, Boardwalk), the staff at the hotels are not good enough compared to someone who works at a Four Seasons or even Lowe’s down the street at Universal Orlando. Disney Cruise Line is better, although it still has limited appeal and it still does not have the level of personalized service that those clients expect. Adventures by Disney is probably the only product that they get right for that market.

  6. Let’s get rid of those enourmous rock formations at the entrance to Tomorrowland, also! Those are some of the few remnants remaining from TL’98. And move the astro orbitor out of that entrance area, too!

  7. Mycroft, there is , NO acceptable excuse for Bad Show, and someone needs to be held accountable. And things don’t just automatically take care of themself, someone has to be aware of the situation, AND take action to correct the issue. These issues haven’t been resolvedso we need to continue to voice our concerns until those issues are taken care of

  8. You know, it’s really depressing when you sit down and think about everything that needs to be updated or fixed at DL. I still love it, but if you make a list of everything that they need to do to make the park as good as it should be / used to be, it’s pretty long.

    1. New Tomorrowland (this is pretty much # 1 on the list every year, and has been since probably 1990 or so) – I’d love to see them update it and make it futuristic again every 10 years or so, but if that’s just not realistic, then maybe go the Paris route and make it more of an idealized vision of the future from the 1800′s that never happened)

    2. Update Fantasyland – let’s face it, rides like The Little Mermaid and Winnie the Pooh visually are so much better then the 2-D world of the Fantasyland dark rides that it is bordering on embarrassing.

    3. Tom Sawyer’s Island – I don’t know what is hot or trendy in the world of elementary school kids, but it seems to me like the pirates craze is over (now it seems to be zombies). Make it a giant play area for kids to run and jump and explore like it was meant to be. If you have to make the whole darn island rubber to appease the lawyers then so be it.

    4. Not one but TWO new E-tickets – remember when we got Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, a (crappy) new Tomorrowland, and (an even crappier) a new nighttime parade all in the same decade? We need that again (only good rides and shows this time).

    5. Continue to improve the food – Disneyland has really made tremendous strides over the past few years in dramatically improving their restaurants, from the burgers at Tomorrowland Terrace (for the longest time I really thought that Disney was just utterly incapable of making a good burger), to the Village Haus, to the Carnation Cafe, to the Jolly Holiday Bakery, and even back to the Plaza Inn remake in 98, Disney has made some really significant improvements in their restaurant offerings. However, Rancho del Zocalo and Pizza Port are still pretty sub par restaurants, and Tahitian Terrace / Aladdin’s Oasis still sits empty. Don’t rest on your laurels, keep improving and upgrading the food and especially offering better sit-down restaurants. Make the restaurants so good that AP’s will come to the park just to have dinner there and not even go on any rides.

    6. Toontown – I prefer to pretend that Toontown doesn’t exist and just stay away from that corner of DL, but obviously kids love it (or want to love it) so please maintain it properly, upgrade the 2-D facades, add tons of shade (and maybe a lot of those themed misters too like the one in front of Soarin), and add some new play areas. It doesn’t necessarily need new rides since they’d probably be pretty small anyway, but just like Tom Sawyer’s Island, kids need things to climb on and crawl through and jump into. I love the parks that have the water guns that allow you to drop a quarter in and then just drench random people who are stuck on a ride and can’t run away (Ripsaw Falls at Islands of Adventure comes to mind), so maybe something like that. You can even promote it as Disney is trying to help fight childhood obesity just like the NFL does with their Play60 campaign.

    7. Merchandise – I get that Disney is a business and has shareholders to answer to, and I realize that this is probably never going to change, but could we please have land-appropriate merchandise in the stores?

    8. New Nighttime Parade – I know Disney is capable of getting this right. Yes, there hasn’t been a really good one since ELP (SpectroMagic is really the same idea so that doesn’t count). Look at how amazing Fantasmic is. It still gets standing ovations every night and it is 21 years old. Disney can come up with an awesome new night parade that people want to see over and over again and buy the soundtrack to and buy merchandise for. The Light Magic floats themselves had potential. They really did look amazing with all of the fiber optic lights synchronized to music. It was just two very bad ideas (rolling show instead of a parade, and riverdance theme with scary pixies instead of normal Disney music with classic and modern Disney characters).

    So sadly, as much as I love DL, until there are some dramatic improvements (I’d probably be happy with three of these things), and considering the dramatic price increases in tickets and AP’s, I am going to let my AP expire in September and not renew it for probably many years. It is really sad because DL has been a part of my life practically since I was born, but even though (and maybe because) I still love it, I think it is getting to the point where this is turning into a bit of a toxic relationship. :(

    • Big D, I agree. It seems if it is a cost issue maybe do some of the changes Piecmeal. IN Tommorowland start with moving the Rockets back on top of the PM, and the next year put in something new in the PM. Every year doing something a little new. MM does it every year.

  9. It’s not just Tomorrowland… Toontown is another one that needs some serious work! There is scratched paint, everywhere, particularly inside Mickey and Minnie’s homes. It’s so disapoointing.

  10. I dont think Mr. Colglazier is completely to blame for the shape of Animal Kingdom attractions. The thing is there are so few rides there, that if they shut even one down, particulary Everest it would really hurt park attendance. I have a feeling after avatar opens (still rather had beastly kingdom) Everest will finally be fixed. Hope that Splash gets fixed at Disneyland, but from what it looks like overall Disney World needs better management and the Imagineers more.

  11. Loved the article! I agree if we are to pay more we should expect more. I love what they did with DCA, but I also believe it caused a large drain on money and resources causing Disneyland to be some what neglected.
    I THINK THE PARK IS SOMEWHAT TAKEN FOR GRANTED IN THAT PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS GO THERE!
    I was ok with innovations. I like walk troughs, but hope they have something new in there by the 60th. I think sadly the park will continue to be neglected as the company puts more money into DCA and other parks across the globe.
    To me it seems somewhat disrespectful to Walt and those in the past that gave us this amazing park.
    Any thoughts?

  12. This is how facility aka engineering department works at Disney for both coast. The front line cm sees something is broken they call maintenance base, where a work order is submitted that work order is dispatched to the appropriate crew. If the work is in or near the ride path the w.is turned over to second or third shift based on operating hours. If the required work is going take more than a few hours the work is turned over to the planner who has to plan the work out and get all the required supplies that will be needed. Then you have to wait for it to be approved and scheduled for the work to be done.

  13. Great constructive criticism. THANKYOU!!!

  14. Articles like this make me feel like its just as well I’ve not scheduled a visit anytime soon.

    And if you leave the bag on the goat long enough, he’ll probably eat it. Goats do things like that, and a goat that eats dynamite will eat anything.

  15. I would put the “lush new park” they promised on the list of things that are seemingly temporary placeholders but have been half realized. Probably the last park that comes to mind as being lush and green would be the one on Paradise Pier.

    • That “Park” has been bothering me for a long time. I’m sure that it was just too expensive (or there were structural issues) which prevented them from removing the old Maliboomer platform. But what’s there now is just a big unused space with a fence around it.

      This would be the PERFECT spot for a character meet and greet. They could build a nice pergola on the platform and use the old Maliboomer queue (which is still there) as a spot for guests to wait for Mickey, Duffy or whomever else they want to put up there.