Welcome to Dateline Disneyland’s final edition of 2013! This week we take a break from our regular format for our annual year in review. Today we’ll look back at the new additions and changes that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure saw over the last year – from the on-going Big Thunder Mountain Railroad refurbishment, to the opening of Fantasy Faire and Starbucks in the Market House, to this year’s various Limited Time Magic offerings – we have a full recap of this year’s most noteworthy goings-on at the Happiest Place on Earth! And at the end of today’s update is the schedule for New Year’s Eve at Disneyland and our weekly crowd forecast from our friends at Mouseaddict to help you plan your New Year visit!
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.
Ready to say good-bye to 2013? Let’s get started!
Planning for New Year’s Eve? We have a full schedule of Disneyland’s New Year’s Eve goings-on at the end of today’s update. CLICK HERE
|Limited Time Magic|
For their 2012 promotion, Disneyland and Walt Disney World offered Limited Time Magic, which was a series of offerings that only lasted for a short time. The promotion was a strange way to market the parks since there was no master list of offerings released for guests to plan their trips or vacations around. Instead, the offerings were generally announced just days before they happened via Disney’s Limited Time Magic web site or on the Disney Parks Blog. Ultimately the promotion just came off feeling half-baked and many of the offerings seemed like they were thrown together last-minute, week-by-week. Below we’ll recap some of the better offerings from the year, saving you (and us) from the tedium of reliving every special ice cream sundae or special merchandise item that Disney used as filler far too often for this year’s promotion.
Limited Time Magic didn’t kick off with anything special for 2013. Instead, it was a return of the great Dia de Reyes (Three Kings Day) cultural celebration in Disneyland’s Frontierland. What was new for Dia de Reyes was moving it to and expanding it significantly in Frontierland’s Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. This was a great move and we look forward to seeing this cultural offering return at the start of 2014!
A look at the Dia de Reyes live entertainment
Perhaps the best Limited Time Magic offering of the year happened at the start of the new year. The Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue set expectations high for the rest of the year but the show was such a treat and highlighted just how underused the Golden Horseshoe facility has become in recent years that it was hard for anything else to top it.
Below, a bit of video from the show:
Like Dia de Reyes, the annual return of the New Orleans Bayou Bash was sold as a Limited Time Magic offering in 2013. Despite this, the Mardi Gras-themed celebration continued to be a great offering filled with great food, characters and entertainment and it’ll be great to see this return again in the coming weeks.
In February, Disneyland’s Lunar New Year Celebration moved to Disney California Adventure, offering special live entertainment, character meet-and-greets, food, arts and crafts and more. The Lunar New Year festivities are another great cultural celebration and it was great to see them return and expand in 2013.
Some of the live entertainment from the Lunar New Year Celebration:
Disneyland celebrated Valentine’s Day with True Love Week that featured decorations in the park, character meet-and-greets and a nightly lighting show on Sleeping Beauty Castle.
In one of the more cringe-worthy Limited Time Magic offerings all year, Disney had the classic Dapper Dans of Disneyland sing a medley of boy band songs for a week (and then had them do it again in July).
Dapper Dans singing boy band songs was one of the more unfortunate offerings from the Limited Time Magic promotion, but thank goodness we don’t have to ever endure it again (hopefully).
For Easter, Disney California Adventure celebrated with a weird Vinylmation-themed Easter Egg hunt around the park. Guests could participate for $5 and get a set of Vinylmation keychains upon completion.
The week after California Adventure’s Egg hunt, Disneyland hosted Spring Fling, featuring Easter Bunny meet-and-greets and a special street party with various Disney bunnies including a popular Roger Rabbit appearance.
In April, Limited Time Magic brought Long Lost Friends Week to Disneyland. The rare characters proved to be quite popular with guests and Disney recycled the offering again later in the year with different characters.
In July, Limited Time Magic celebrated Independence Day Week with special meet-and-greets with patriotic Mickey in Town Square, special treats and Fourth of July fireworks nightly at Disneyland.
Following Independence Week, Limited Time Magic brought the return of live music to the Matterhorn. A brief, but very welcome return of a great tradition.
The end of summer brought a small, but pretty fun party on Paradise Pier with live sideshow acts and character meet-and-greets.
To kick off the annual Halloween Time season, Disneyland hosted a special Friday the 13th event, keeping the park open until 1 am and featuring special food, entertainment and character meet and greets. The event proved to be hugely popular and an unprepared Disney sold out of just about every special food item for the event and overcrowded walkways and dance party zones.
In September, Disneyland celebrated Pirates Week with special meet-and-greets with Jack Sparrow and live entertainment on Tom Sawyer Island.
At the start of the New Year, Disneyland cracked down on ticket scams by implementing a new system at the theme park entrances. Before passing through the entrance turnstiles, guests arriving to the parks had to get their tickets pre-scanned before reaching the turnstiles. Guests with multi-day Parkhopper tickets had to get their photo taken, which would be linked to their park ticket and appear on the Cast Member’s screen when entering the park.
The new system added an extra step into getting into the park and noticeably impacted wait times to get into the parks early on as kinks were worked out. For the most part, Cast now has the system down and it doesn’t really impact the experience in getting into the park.
In January, Kodak’s sponsorship with Disney ended and the camera sponsor slowly disappeared from the parks, with park maps losing their sponsorship and logos right away
The Kodak picture spots stuck around for a while until they too were finally removed. In November, Nikon and Disney announced a new partnership that will make Nikon the official camera sponsor of domestic Disney theme parks, which will include the return of in-park picture spots, but with the Nikon branding instead.
The Kodak kiosk in the old Fantasyland ticket booth near “it’s a small world” has been vacated. No word on if Nikon will take over this space but as of this writing, the kiosk remains empty as it slips into disrepair. It would be unfortunate to lose this bit of Disneyland history and hopefully Disney can find something to utilize this small space soon.
|Brown Bridge and Broken Windows|
Early in 2013, Disney California Adventure’s Glendale-Hyperion Bridge on Buena Vista Street underwent a series of inexplicable repaints over the course of several weeks before ultimately settling on a color scheme that was pretty much the same as its original color.
Back to normal by March
In February, Disneyland began enforcing FASTPASS return times, ending the long tradition of honoring FASTPASS tickets anytime after their return time. Walt Disney World had begun enforcing return times nearly a full year earlier than Disneyland did, as that Resort was preparing for the phased roll-out of their MyMagic+ next gen experience.
The expectation is that Disneyland is also preparing for an eventual introduction of some variation on the MyMagic+ system, prompting the enforcement of FASTPASS. However, with multi-month delays and rumors that MyMagic+ is proving to be a bit of a burden for Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s vastly different visitor demographics, it’s now unclear if Disneyland will ever implement the system.
|Oz floats in|
In mid-February, Disneyland hosted the hot air balloon touring the U.S. in promotion of Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful.
Video of the balloon in the main entrance plaza.
|A Faire Addition|
Disneyland’s only major new attraction addition this year was the new Fantasy Faire princess meet-and-greet village next to Sleeping Beauty Castle. The new Fantasy Faire area, which carries the distinction of being Tony Baxter’s final project for Disneyland, replaced the historic Carnation Plaza Garden area and brought more of Fantasyland into Disneyland’s Central Plaza.
In January, Disney offered an in-depth preview of the new Fantasyland addition over at California Adventure’s Blue Sky Cellar.
Ultimately, the new storybook village area opened in March and proved to be a charming and richly-detailed environment with entertainment and details for all fans, even those that aren’t particularly interested in meeting the princesses.
In June, Disney made good on its word and brought back swing dancing to the former Carnation Plaza Gardens. Weekends through summer, swing bands brought live music and dancing to the Royal Theater stage once again and fans turned out to continue the tradition.
|Starbucks Street, U.S.A.|
Disneyland’s Market House closed in April to begin its conversion into the park’s new Starbucks location.
The Starbucks project ultimately meant the loss of the unique Swift Birthday Cake Room.
By late June, the Disney Gallery became the new Disneyana and the gallery moved into a corner of the Main Street Opera House lobby.
Unfortunately, the Disney Gallery grew even smaller when it moved to its new location in the Main Street Opera House lobby and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gallery is eventually phased out completely.
|Big Blunder Mountain|
In Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad closed at the start of the New Year for what was originally expected to be a 10-month refurbishment project that included a complete track replacement and train upgrade. The project hit a major delay when Disney decided to install Cal/OSHA-compliant safety railing throughout and by late September, Disney had to finally announce that the project would stretch into early 2014.
A complete ride-through of Big Thunder Mountain from August 2011, before it closed in January for refurbishment.
By late October, the first of the Big Thunder trains returned to the tracks and now trains can be heard testing frequently as the attraction gets closer to its reopening.
|Baxter Bows Out|
In February, Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter announced his retirement from Walt Disney Imagineering and stepped down from his position as Senior Vice President, Creative Development. Baxter’s unexpected retirement sent ripples through the fan community and lent credibility to long-time rumors that Imagineering’s internal politics have created a hostile and toxic work environment in Imagineering’s Glendale headquarters. What was most important, however, was perhaps realizing just what kind of legacy Baxter left upon his retirement – he is responsible for some of the most iconic Disney attractions including the Indiana Jones Adventure, Big Thunder Mountain and Star Tours. Baxter has been a long-time champion for the preservation and respect of Disneyland’s rich history while continuing to bring groundbreaking new attractions to the park. Beyond Disneyland, Baxter is credited with work at EPCOT Center and leading the Euro Disney (Disneyland Paris) project.
Below, excerpts from his retirement letter.
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 …
Feb. 1, 2013
|A Great Big Marvelous Tomorrow|
The Iron Man Tech exhibit was originally set to run through September but was later announced that it had been extended. Iron Man Tech is still open in Innoventions and it’s unlikely it’ll go away anytime soon.
Around the same time Iron Man landed in Tomorrowland, Disneyland suddenly closed several attractions in both parks. The closures were the result of a citation from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health in which Disney was fined $234,850 for a November 2011 incident in which a contractor fell from Space Mountain while cleaning it. The fines were reduced upon Disney correcting the issues, but the initial fines meant significant changes in the park throughout the rest of the year.
The Cal/OSHA citation resulted in Disney going back through the parks and retrofitting buildings and attractions with preventative safety railing. Ropes and flags popped up along rooftops and new railings began being installed along Main Street, in Frontierland, and throughout Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
By the end of September the new Fantasyland safety additions began to emerge from construction…
Meanwhile, Space Mountain continued to build a layer of filth all year. Without a safety railing system in place no workers could access the mountain for cleaning.
|Happiest Place, Higher Prices|
Disneyland’s annual price hike came at the start of June this year, just in time for the busy summer season. The price changes saw increases across the board, including significant increases for Disneyland Resort Annual Passports. How high will tickets and passes go in 2014?
Below is the breakdown of the price increases from summer 2013.
|Disneyland Resort Theme Park Ticket Price Increases
Effective June 2, 2013
Age 10+ / Age 3-9
Age 10+ / Age 3-9
Age 10+ / Age 3-9
|$300 / $279||$290 / $270||+ $10 / + $9|
1-Park Per Day
|$265 / $244||$260 / $240||+ $5 / + $4|
|$285 / $265||$275 / $255||+ $10 / + $10|
1-Park Per Day
|$250 / $230||$245 / $225||+ $5 / + $5|
|$260 / $244||$250 / $235||+ $10 / + $9|
1-Park Per Day
|$225 / $209||$220 / $205||+ $5 / + $4|
|$210 / $197||$200 / $188||+ $10 / + $9|
1-Park Per Day
|$175 / $162||$170 / $158||+ $5 / + $4|
|$137 / $131||$125 / $119||+ $12 / + $12|
|$92 / $86||$87 / $81||+ $5 / + $5|
Deluxe and Southern California passes saw the biggest increase for Disneyland-only passes. The bi-coastal Premier Annual Passport that allows guests to visit Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World saw the largest price jump – a whopping $130 spike, raising that pass’ price to just under $1,000.
|Disneyland Resort Annual Passport Price Increases
Effective June 2, 2013
|Annual Passport||New Price||Old Price||Price Increase|
(Disneyland & Disney World)
|Southern California||$359||$329||+ $30|
|Southern California Select||$279||$269||+ $10|
|Block-Out Day Ticket||$84||$70||+ $14|
|Monstrous Summer All-Nighter|
The 24-hour event drew big crowds, with guests camping out the night before so they could be the first in for the event.
Fireworks kicked off the event.
The new show blended a giant new multi-tiered screen with live actors, characters and music with some mixed results. With a weak premise and some overused songs and characters, the show isn’t Disney’s best but it is nice to have a show back in the theater after it had been underutilized for years as the Princess Fantasy Faire.
Disney California Adventure hosted the world premiere of The Lone Ranger in June, rolling out the red carpet for celebrities including the film’s stars, Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
|50 Years of Enchantment|
The anniversary was celebrated with an exhibit in the Disney Gallery and a lot of great Tiki Room collectibles released in Disneyana.
|58 Years of Magic|
In July, Disneyland celebrated its 58th anniversary with a rededication ceremony and flashmob in Town Sqaure.
In August, the idol Mara in the Indiana Jones Adventure got a major upgrade and makeover. New projected effects, lighting and a new voice track meant major changes for Mara and for the most part, the update was well-recieved — except for Mara’s new voice. The new voice was met with huge backlash from the fan community with some fans even signing an online petition to restore Mara’s voice to the original.
Video of the updated Mara effect.
In late August, news hit the fan community that Club 33 would be expanding, resulting in major changes for the private club that would also impact regular park guests. While the Club itself would see notable changes, including the loss of its original entrance and its Trophy Room, regular guests would lose access to the beautiful Court of Angels.
The closure of the courtyard hit a nerve with many in the fan community, sparking a heated discussion on message boards and social media about a space that some regarded as “just stairs” and others thought it was an important part of Disneyland’s history and legacy.
On October 7, the Court of Angels closed for good. It will remain largely intact but will receive a new elevator as part of its conversion into the new Club 33 lobby.
|Disability Access Service|
On October 9, Disney launched its new Disability Access Service for disabled and handicapped guests. The service replaced the Guest Assistance Card program which had become so widely abused by guests it had become a major headline on local and national news programs and online news outlets.
By now, the new system has worked out its bugs and seems to be operating fine on a day-to-day basis, which is good news from Disney who endured quite a bit of negative press for the problems with the old system as well as issues with the new system.
|A California Christmas|
In Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise became the Jingle Cruise for the first time ever – bringing a new holiday-themed spiel to the Jungle Skippers and some subtle holiday decorations throughout the queue and on the ride.
Below, a full ride-through of the Jingle Cruise:
In Big Thunder Ranch, the popular Billy Hill and the Hillbillies began their final season performing at Disneyland.
In Fantasyland, the new Frozen meet-and-greet proved popular with guests wanting to meet Anna and Elsa from the hit new animated film.
The holiday season really shined in California Adventure with two impressive, major new additions. The new World of Color Winter Dreams show delivered a fantastic holiday spectacle, introducing new lighting and special effects to the World of Color infrastructure.
The real star of the holiday season, however, was the wonderful new Viva Navidad cultural celebration in Paradise Garden. The new offering brought a special menu, fantastic live entertainment and the truly excellent Viva Navidad Street Party.
In December, Disney unveiled a new flower market on East Center Street, off of Main Street, USA. The flower market pays homage to a similar flower market from Disneyland’s past. The addition was unexpected and was quietly installed overnight — a pleasant surprise.
|Ringing in 2014|
Disneyland will ring in 2014 with a variety of live music, dance parties, fireworks and more throughout both theme parks. We have a full entertainment schedule, tips and survival guide for New Year’s Eve below! Happy New Year!
|Guide to New Year’s Eve 2014|
Park Hours: 8 am – 2 am
Extra Magic Hour: 7 am
|Disney California Adventure
Park Hours: 8 am – 1 am
Extra Magic Hour: None
New Year’s Eve Countdown Central|
at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle
9 p.m. – 12:30 am
Live music and countdown featuring Tomasina
New Year’s Eve
Swingin’ New Year’s Eve Party
Swingin’ down the Rivers of America
French Market New Year
“it’s a small world”
Tomorrowland Terrace Dance Party
World of Color Countdown to Midnight
at Paradise Park
Watch Paradise Bay come to life with a spectacular countdown to 2014 with fountains and fireworks followed by a special showing of World of Color Winter Dreams
Mad T Party Countdown to 2014
New Year’s Eve in Carthay Circle
A Route 66 New Year’s Eve
Wine Country Washboard Jazz Concert
|New Year’s Eve Weather at Disneyland
High 73° F
Mostly sunny with a few passing clouds
Chance of rain 0%
Low 46° F
Clear skies. Winds light and variable.
Chance of rain 0%
Complimentary New Year’s Eve party hats and horns will be available beginning at 6:00 p.m. at designated distribution areas in each theme park:
Disneyland Park: Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree, Frontierland
Disney California Adventure: Near the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Hollywood Land and near Silly Symphony Swings, Paradise Pier.
New Year’s Eve Dining
Below, our friends at Mouseaddict have their weekly crowd forecasts to help you plan your New Year visit to the parks! Be sure to check out the Mouseaddict app for iPhone when visiting the parks this week. With Disney discontinuing their Mobile Magic app, Mouseaddict is a great option for finding crowd information, wait times, and touring information while in the park.
|Weekly News & Information Round-Up|
|Weekly Theme Park Hours
December 30, 2013 – January 5, 2014
|Disneyland Park||California Adventure|
8 am – 12 midnight
Tues. / New Year’s Eve:
8 am – 2 am
8 am – 11 pm
Tues. / New Year’s Eve:
8 am – 1 am
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.
|Alright, that wraps up our final edition of Dateline Disneyland for 2013! We hope you all have a very happy and safe New Year and we’ll see you in 2014!
Before we end the year, I’d like to give a big thanks to all of you for reading throughout the year. Dateline Disneyland celebrated its sixth anniversary last month and I wouldn’t still be here doing this every week if it weren’t for all of you. So – thanks! Also, a big thank you to those who contributed this year to the blog in any way – by contributing photos, clicking ads, donating via Paypal, or buying something through an Amazon link — thank you so much! Here’s to 2014!
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|FTC-Mandated Disclosure: Promotional consideration for this edition of Dateline Disneyland was provided by the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel & Water Playground.|