MiceAge Update: Grey Skies Clearing for Disneyland’s 60th

Written by MiceAge. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features, MiceAge Update

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Published on March 04, 2014 at 4:00 am with 60 Comments

After a short winter off-season, Disneyland Resort is gearing up for a busy spring and summer ahead. While Burbank bosses hash out long-term expansion and financial strategies that have been complicated by the troubled MyMagic+ rollout in Walt Disney World, the Anaheim team has been scrambling to put their own budgets back together for the 60th Anniversary in 2015 and the inevitable remake of Tomorrowland after the anniversary. In this update we’ll fill you in on what they’ve done with Big Thunder, what they’ll be doing with the Little Mermaid ride, and what other work around the Resort has been postponed or is still on track.

Now, enjoy that bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and English Breakfast Tea as we fill you in on what’s going on at the Disneyland Resort.

Refurbs, Refurbs Refurbs for Disneyland 60th

The huge slate of refurbishments around the Resort this year primarily fall into two categories; work to retrofit older structures to comply with upgraded fall protection standards, and work to plus up or improve aging showmanship at existing attractions. It’s a small world has fallen into the former category, with the interior of the attraction getting a full backstage safety redesign on the sets and infrastructure that still mostly dates from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Small World will reopen briefly in April so that the Good Morning America show can broadcast for several days from in front of the ride, playing up the ride’s 50th anniversary from its initial debut at the World’s Fair. Then Small World will close again until later in May for the last bit of safety upgrades. The Small World façade needs desperate freshening and lots of paint before Good Morning America’s HD television cameras arrive next month, but we’ll leave that detail up to the TDA planners who are trying to work out the logistics on that piece of the puzzle.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain also just reopened from a refurbishment that rebuilt the walkways and catwalks throughout that attraction, which now allows maintenance crews to more safely get in and service the huge cast of Animatronic performers in that attraction. And the upcoming refurbishments at Pirates and Indy will also tackle fall protection issues inside those rides, while continuing with some of the technical upgrades from previous annual refurbishments there. It’s worth mentioning that all of these fall protection improvements only seem to apply to the Anaheim rides at the moment; as the nearly identical facilities with the same fall protection issues at the Florida parks have yet to receive these same upgrades.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

The most noticeable rehab at Disneyland has been Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which closed 14 months ago for what was supposed to be a 10 month rehab. But the fall protection issue erupted in the middle of that rehab and the designers had to go back to the drawing board to redesign walkways and access paths inside that attraction before it could reopen, which tacked on five extra months to the project. Cast Members have been riding the attraction as test riders for several weeks now, but WDI has purposely turned off all the new digital effects inside the ride during this testing.

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While new flying bats and LED lighting inhabit the first cavern show scene the trains pass through, and new lighting and audio has been installed throughout the ride, it’s the final lift hill that received the most thorough work from WDI. Gone is the old earthquake scene with shaking rockwork and swinging lanterns, and in its place is a new plotline entirely. That final lift hill is now the scene of a mine explosion and fireball that uses digital mapping technology to project realistic looking flames onto roiling clouds of high pressure fog (think the spray can effect from It’s Tough To Be A Bug). Add in an all new booming audio system and some mechanical props that help set up the explosion, and that final lift hill is rumored to be quite noticeably more intense for riders than the old earthquake scene.

Cast Member testing continues through March 8th, with a tentative opening date to park guests now pegged for March 17th. However soft openings with the new show effects turned on could begin as soon as next Monday. With so many other attractions closed for refurbishment, Disneyland desperately needs the ride capacity of over 2,000 riders per hour that Big Thunder can pull in. They can’t get this ride back up and running soon enough.

Interestingly, 2014 was originally supposed to be the year that many attractions at Disneyland and DCA closed to refurbish their queues and preshow areas for the addition of enhancements once planned as part of MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ programs, otherwise known as the “NextGen Experience” or NGE program. But all work on Fastpass+ for Anaheim has been put on indefinite hold while they try and get the headaches at WDW sorted out and get the system pulling in some profits instead of just being a massive money drain. The rest of the NGE concepts, like using MagicBands for park entry and charging purposes, are also on hold in Anaheim. From the operational stories leaking out of Orlando, none of the Anaheim CM’s with knowledge of the NGE program are sad to see it put on hold for Disneyland.

Hi-Def DCA

Meanwhile, over in DCA, Soarin’ Over California was supposed to have been closed by now for a two month long refurbishment to transition to the new HD digital projection format to replace the original film projectors. Instead, the ride just finished a staggered refurbishment where each theater was closed for a week at a time for basic mechanical work on the flying carriages. The real Soarin’ project is purely a technical show upgrade, and it’s largely budgeted by the Shanghai Disneyland project and the twin-theater Soarin’ attraction being built in that park currently. But in January the long Soarin’ refurbishment at DCA was abruptly cancelled due to problems WDI has been having with the cutting-edge 4K HD projectors slated for this project in both Anaheim and Shanghai. It seems the new 4K projectors are just too cutting-edge for 2014, but could realistically arrive by 2015.

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There is a very unfortunate tale behind the scenes here involving the company supplying the 4K projectors and miscommunication between WDI and the contractors. Tempers are flaring all over the place on this one. Because it’s so messy and lawyers on both sides are now involved, we won’t get into the details here. But just know that the project is still moving forward for both parks, although the timeline for Anaheim to get the HD upgrade now looks like it’s going to align with the installation of the projectors in the Shanghai facility in 2015. While the theater upgrades are delayed now, the flyover of the Anaheim parks next week is still on as helicopters are set to buzz both parks with HD cameras on March 12th. We’d told you of that March 12th date last year as WDI had to get permits and clearances settled far in advance, and the problems with the attraction projectors itself won’t slow that down. Don’t bother waving to the camera however, as Disneyland’s Security team is going to ensure that the late night flight path over the parks is clear of looky-loos.

Under The Sea

While the Soarin’ upgrade is on hold, TDA pulled together the money from Burbank to move forward with another major show refurbishment for one of DCA’s signature attractions. The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure will be closing later this month for its second big refurbishment since opening in May, 2011. This time the ride will be closed for seven weeks and they’ll be going back in to fix the laundry list of issues that many fans found wrong with the ride as soon as it opened. Lighting and projections throughout the attraction will again be upgraded and tweaked, but the most noticeable changes will take place in two main areas.

ariel

The big Under The Sea musical production number in the middle of the ride will receive a hand painted black light treatment on all of the set pieces and animatronics, while new lighting rigs and projectors will be installed in the catwalks above. This traditional black light effect will make this scene darker and more dramatic, and hide many of the ceiling fixtures found in the much brighter room now.

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In addition to an artistic rethink on the Under The Sea scene, the last two scenes of the ride will be rearranged and changed. Ursula will finally get her big death scene here, instead of the little plywood cutout at the back of the underwhelming kissing scene, and the big wedding finale’ will be cut down and condensed a bit to accommodate Ursula. It’s hoped these changes will tighten up the ride’s plotline overall and leave riders more impressed with its showmanship. The Little Mermaid ride is DCA’s only Omnimover, and it was designed to be that park’s Small World; a fun ride for the whole family that conveniently gobbles several thousand riders per hour. DCA has improved dramatically in the last four years when it comes to overall customer satisfaction ratings, but TDA really wants to put that Omnimover’s high capacity to good use and leave Mermaid riders more impressed than they are currently. TDA’s leadership should be commended for scratching together the funds so that WDI could go back in and fix the weakest links here.

Purple Reign

Speaking of black light, the traditional Fantasyland dark rides are still tentatively planned to undergo major upgrades and improvements over the next year. The Alice In Wonderland refurbishment, which has been delayed and pushed back so many times we’ve lost count, will mercifully begin next week. The new digitally projected and animatronic upgrades are prepped and approved for Alice, along with a safer and streamlined outdoor portion of track. Following Alice, similarly impressive tech and animatronic upgrades are still being prepped for Peter Pan and Mr. Toad next fall and winter, with the Pinocchio and Snow White rides also planned for more modest upgrades before the 60th kicks off a year from now.

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Disneyland has the most traditional dark rides of any Disney theme park anywhere, with five of them clustered together in Fantasyland proper, plus two more when you add in Winnie The Pooh in Critter Country and Roger Rabbit in Toontown. Add in the clever Monsters Inc. dark ride next door in DCA, and Anaheim is the traditional dark ride capital of the Disney empire. Compared to Disney’s other castle parks who only have one or two traditional dark rides left, Disneyland’s five dark rides grouped together in Fantasyland have a combined hourly capacity that exceeds the 2,800 riders per hour of Pirates of the Caribbean. When you combine the numbers like that, TDA was wise to take WDI up on their offer to upgrade and freshen them all for the 21st century.

The dark ride upgrades will be used in the nostalgia-heavy promotion now being pulled together for the 60th Anniversary. Without a major new ride to push, and with the Tomorrowland rethink in creative limbo after Iger demanded the new characters from the next trilogy be included in anything added to the parks, TDA has continued to flesh out the nostalgia concept we’d told you about earlier.

I’ll Be Back

What’s still up in the air is what to do for a parade; the plan now is to either borrow the Electrical Parade from WDW again (groan), or the wild card is to borrow the new Paint The Night parade from Hong Kong Disneyland for just the spring and summer season of 2015. Hong Kong’s new night parade debuts this September and would play there through the winter, but by April in Hong Kong the heavy summer rains set in and parades are very difficult to pull off in Hong Kong and often end up being cancelled day after day. TDA could borrow Paint The Night for summer ‘15, if only to beef up the rather thin 60th Anniversary entertainment roster. That decision hasn’t been made yet, but at least TDA is thinking outside the box, and across the ocean.

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The focus of the 60th will really be Disneyland Park, as the continuing customer research from both parks has shown that Disneyland’s satisfaction ratings have slipped as DCA’s ratings and attendance rose in 2012 and 2013.

Fiscal Year 2013 that ended last October was the true test of DCA’s new success, as the first full year of Cars Land and the re-launched DCA. Attendance for both parks combined edged up by a few hundred thousand, but the change in traffic flow between the two parks was dramatic. DCA got 9.9 Million visitors in Fiscal ’13, up from 7.7 Million in Fiscal ’12, and dramatically higher than the 5 to 6 Million it was getting a decade ago. While Disneyland’s annual attendance edged down to 13.3 Million in ‘13 from the 15 Million it got in Fiscal ’12. You have to consider however that the same amount of people visited Disneyland each year, since Disney only tracks the “first click” of a park turnstile each day. So almost all of those people pouring into DCA each morning for Racers Fastpasses still ended up inside Disneyland at some point later in the day, or later in their vacation.

But with DCA now pulling in and retaining a much larger share of the attendance pie, the customer feedback for Disneyland has remained flat or declined by 3 to 6 points in most categories, while the same customers now rate DCA higher by 5 to 8 points than they did two years ago. Categories like Cast Member Courtesy, Cleanliness, Entertainment and Ride Satisfaction all rose by healthy margins for DCA specifically in 2013, while they declined by solid single digits at Disneyland. DCA already had very high levels of Cast Member Courtesy and Ride Satisfaction, but the park re-launch of 2012 really seems to have juiced the Cast morale of that park and the visitors have responded in kind. Luckily the average visitor rates the overall Resort very high, but when you now compare the two parks the visitors are preferring DCA’s daily experience over the Disneyland experience by increasing margins. Much of that speaks to the fresher park facilities and wider walkways at DCA, and the upbeat demeanor of the DCA Cast Members.

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The most important statistic is the aggregate of all those factors, and is known as the “Intent To Return”; basically the willingness of a park visitor at the end of the day to consider coming back again. It’s those numbers that really tell the story, with Disneyland Park’s Intent To Return statistic declining by 3% in 2013 while DCA’s Intent To Return rose by 3%. TDA needs to reverse those slipping numbers for Disneyland quickly. The current spate of refurbishments won’t help the numbers any, as overall ride capacity weighs heavily into a visitor’s satisfaction level. But TDA has work to do to freshen the Disneyland Park experience for 21st century audiences and beef up the park capacity while eliminating the horrifically overcrowded walkways and long lines that most TDA and Burbank executives never dare experience themselves.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

And those overcrowded walkways won’t be getting any relief this spring, with some very busy days heading to Anaheim. This Sunday the attendance is pegged so high for both parks that Cast Members will once again be forced to park at Angel Stadium and be bussed in for the day.

These busy days are almost always on Sunday’s when the local Annual Passholders descend en masse. The parking problem becomes critical because AP’ers tend to arrive with just one or two people per vehicle, unlike the tourists who arrive in a car packed with the whole family. And so, on busy Sunday’s the AP’s get parked in the big Katella Cast Member lot, and the Cast Members get pushed out to the stadium. To add insult to injury, TDA plasters the Resort with warning flyers and directions to the Angel Stadium entrance, and on each flyer they offer the following reminder:

“As a reminder, driving to work and parking in a Cast lot is not expected or required and is just one commuting option available to Cast. Other commute alternatives available to Cast Members include carpooling, riding the bus or train, vanpooling, bicycling or walking.”

If you consider that these stadium parking days are exclusively held on Sundays, it helps to dissect that snotty little reminder a bit. While carpooling is always an option, the carpool vehicle would still be directed to the stadium and the carpool occupants would still have to wait in line for a bus to take them the last mile to the resort, before they walk across the park to their actual work location. Riding the bus or train is an option for TDA 8-to-5’ers when OCTA runs a full bus schedule and Metrolink runs dozens of trains per weekday on a convenient rush hour schedule to the Anaheim station, with a special shuttle meeting each train to take them straight to TDA. But on a Sunday there are only 4 Metrolink trains per day on the Orange County line that call at Anaheim, with the first not arriving until 9:25 A.M., far too late for an 8:00 A.M. park opening time. The last of the four Metrolink trains on the skeleton Sunday OC schedule leaves Anaheim at 5:25 P.M., which isn’t much use for most people working at a theme park that’s open until Midnight.

Vanpooling is also a nice option for TDA folks who can commit to a set Monday-Friday schedule, but the vast majority of park Cast Members are hourly shift workers with varying daily schedules and signing up for a vanpool isn’t an option, even if there was one available on a Sunday morning (there isn’t). Biking or walking is also a nice option for those who live that close to the park, but if they do live that close there would be no need to bike out to Angel Stadium to take a bus back down Katella to the park.

That reminder on commuting “options” is on every flyer, and smacks Cast Members the wrong way. But for TDA’s Cast Communications department who are paid to communicate to the front line Cast Members and will be nowhere near Anaheim on Sunday, a snarky line basically reminding them that they could avoid the hassle of Angel Stadium parking by getting a desk job in TDA is par for the course. Too many of the decision makers in TDA just don’t get it. If you do visit the park this Sunday, please be kind to the Cast Members who will have put up with extra hassle and commute time and a dollop of disrespect from TDA.

A Spoonful of Sherman

Dusty Sage recently sat down with Robbie Sherman at the Disneyana Show and Sale to discuss his legendary father (Robert Sherman of the Sherman Brothers).  There is a lot to learn here about family, creativity and brilliance.

Direct Link  |  iTunes Link

Moose: Chapters From My Life

Oh Kay!  That should do it for this mostly good news update.  We will work to keep you updated on the continued evolution of various projects around the Disneyland resort as details emerge.

About MiceAge

The MiceAge crew was started by Al Lutz in 2003, and is committed to bringing you the inside Disney story that you just can't get anywhere else. As much as we'd all like to see more frequent rumor updates on the site, we only publish when reliable news and rumors are available to share. The MiceAge news Editor can be reached at: [email protected]

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  • eicarr

    Feeling much better after this great update. Good long term decisions are being made.

    Do I have to pay $50 per day parking for them to be able afford to build a new parking structure? Where is all my parking money going? If I was a castmember I’d be looking for a new job after that insulting letter. Public transportation in LA? Walk/Bike to work to get tired/stinky before a full day shift?

    • disneyfreeek

      Right? Yet another example of how higher ups just really do not get it. This angers me so. How much worse is it going to get for the CM’s before they just get fed up and strike?

    • ayalexander

      I agree entirely! I used to be a Cast Member until about a year ago and let me tell you, getting to work was HELL. Even the shuttle drivers were taking the brunt of Cast Member anger when 60% of Cast Members would clock in a few minutes late and receive negative points on their work record… all for something that was out of their control.

      I hope the guests are nice to the Cast Members on Sunday because at least when the guests park and take a shuttle, the parking Cast is friendly, polite, informative and courteous and an overall pleasant group of people to meet when you start your day in the parks, but Cast Members sometimes have to wake up before the crack of dawn to drive down here from LA or Riverside or sometimes even THOUSAND OAKS just to get shoveled a few miles away at the Angels Stadium, park their car and hope they remember where they parked it, after dealing with the confusing means of entering the parking lot and the Cast Parking zone they set up.

      Then there’s the Cast Shuttle drivers whom for the most part, didn’t make the cut for “pleasantness” like the toy story lot shuttle drivers, and they only grunt when a friendly cast member says hello to them. Such negative shuttle drivers! Then they arrive at Harbor Pointe (shuttle stop and cast entrance area) LATE and have to rush through the security checkpoint and either take another shuttle to DCA which never seems to arrive soon enough, or they have to book it through Disneyland Park to get from (behind Space Mountain) all the way to Critter Country… LIKE I DID. And there’s no tram that goes to Critter Country or New Orleans Square, only a TDA tram that takes you close to Toon Town, Fantayland and Northern Frontierland. Imagine having to hoof it through a bustling park, past all the guests, no secret cast tunnels or walkways to get you to clock in sooner at your location… nuuuuuuu by the time you get to Critter Country, you are late, you got points and are getting a talking-to from your Managers whom know the situation but are pressured to scold you anyway. So please, be nice to Cast Members, sometimes they are only unpleasant because their favorite Park treats them like crap.

      • Princess Jennifer

        I agree with you. I used to be a cast member also. Everything you said is so true. Especially the part, “their favorite park treats them like crap” I love Disney and always will, But I really feel the cast members should be treated a little better.

    • Will G

      I don’t know that the note about carpooling being “snarky”
      I tend to find that we read things in the tone of voice we most often use ourselves. Many written comments are interpreted far worse than they are intended.

      But I think the note is intended to focus on what the employee “can do” as opposed to pointing out that no employer is required to provide parking for its employees.

      Those who have pointed out how long the commute is for some employees are correct. The 1hr commute from Northridge sometimes has me skipping a trip to the park.
      And then you add in the frustrations of parking a mile or two from your job site, taking a shuttle (that can add to the time) and a long walk to the job location. It can be bad.

      But none of these things are any employer’s responsibility to compensate for.
      However, it is every employee’s responsibility to be ready to work on time.

      I don’t mean to be cruel at all. These are things that an employee needs to consider when they take a job.
      And they don’t get paid much.
      But then, they don’t have to work for Disneyland either.

      An employer might consider transportation, parking and employee experience. But Disney is in a buyer’s market when it comes to the workforce. Plenty of people are ready to step in and take those low paying jobs if anyone has had enough and wants out.

      As long as that’s the situation, I don’t see a company that has to return greater profits to stock holders every year is going to change.

      So, I say a hearty “amen” to the call for guests to be kind, patient, and thankful to the cast members. I have seen some shockingly stupid and myopic behavior from guest towards cast.

      They don’t make much, please don’t take the fun out of their job when they finally get to the job.

      Will G

      • Baloo

        A great response from a level headed person. Sometimes I just don’t understand the response of people on some of these fan sites. It’s like they forget that Disney is just another corporation providing jobs to those that choose to take them and that many of the same issues that arises with them is present with many corporations.

        I live 60 miles away from work and have a multi hour commute and still have to arrive and hope to find a decent parking space or pay up pay high monthly rates for parking.

        It’s my choice to do so and I new it when I took the job several years ago

      • angle

        I think you’re overestimating the amount of “choice” that most of these employees have in their work situations. I’m fairly confident that very few of them actually turned down multiple offers for higher-paying jobs in order to work at the park. In the present economy, many people consider themselves lucky to have a regular job at all… and, in all fairness, that’s not Disney’s fault.

        Also, it’s a fair point to say that it’s not Disney’s obligation to solve the transportation conundrum that has been building over the last several decades.

        However, speaking as someone who has not owned a car for 20+ years, it is often the upper-management-level “solution” to the problem to advise workers to use public transportation… when they have secured parking spaces and would never dream of actually setting foot on a bus or train, much less bike or walk.

        If Disney wants to genuinely encourage multi-modal commuting, there are a lot of ways to do that, but they all require planning and effort, not just a leaflet telling “other people” what they should do. Really, it would be in their long term interest to do so, because at some point in the future, it’s going to be a major advantage in drawing customers to the park if there are viable ways to get there aside from driving in an automobile.

  • FerretAfros

    I wonder when DL will finally have something new and exciting to advertise, rather than rely on nostalgia for all of its events. It was great for the 50th, but it seems like that’s all they’ve done for promotions, events, and merchandise for the last decade

    And I haven’t seen any of the parking flyers in person, so I’m not sure exactly how it comes off, but that disclaimer sounds like a typical CYA clause. It’s there to cut down on CMs trying to get leeway with the extended commute, which is a valid complaint, but not one that can realistically be given for ~30,000 people. If it were me, I’d much prefer something bland and legal-sounding that the typical “have a magical day” statements

    • Golden

      Yeah, I mean I get how it ‘comes off’ but the reality is it is fairly much a standard set of words which exists in today’s Western corporate world. It’s probably mostly intended to be a documentable piece of evidence about Disney’s commitment to the environment.

  • Dan Heaton

    Whew. Some positive news! Beyond the refurbs and upgrades, the most interesting part is the delay (hopefully for a long time) of any FP+ or MyMagic+ use in DLR. If we think things are bad at Disney World (they are), I can’t imagine how those would go in California. They’d be wise to wait until it’s a fully functioning system with few glitches before trying that at DLR, if ever.

    • Golden

      I’ll go with ‘if ever’, at least as it relates to FP+.

  • M69

    Thanks for this update, enjoyed the read, especially the statistics.
    The refurbishments make me unsurprised by the lower satisfaction ratings or intent to return surveys. As for Tomorrowland, I am fine (I think) with OSHA update to Space Mountain outside, though I am shocked a spray-wash has not gone into effect to handle the dirt in the mean time. That is clearly wishful thinking on my part. Look forward to a very new and improved Tomorrow come 2015 or so. Glad Splash got internal modifications during downtime. Cannot be more excited to ride BTMRR. 🙂 The Hong Kong parade looks good so while not a parade guy, I get that nostalgia cannot score the numbers something NEW might. As a dark ride fan, I am all for the upgrade TLC, personally. Over in DCA: I am thrilled to know that Under the Sea will go darker!!! I found the ceiling and rigging to be shockingly bad; I look forward to seeing how they PLUS this ride. Now for an additional E-Ticket ride sooner than not.
    Finally, glad I am not planning to attend Sunday. Those crowds? I feel for the Cast Members parking at the stadium!
    Thanks again – just what I needed this morning. Made my day.

  • dizneydomenic

    What’s causing the big crowds this Sunday? How will Monday and Tuesday be?

  • Werner Weiss

    It’s always a pleasure to read MiceAge Updates. It’s great that the tradition that Al Lutz started in 2003 as MiceAge Updates (and earlier under other names) is still going strong. I’m especially pleased when I read about upcoming improvements to show quality.

  • airick75

    Some good news here – lots of interesting bits. I am very sympathetic to the castmember parking situation. I am guessing a large number of cast members leave home anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour an half (possibly more?) to get to work and it takes as long to get home. The don’t get PAID for that time! It would be one thing if they clocked in once they got to Angels stadium, but it’s probably another 20 minutes, at least, until they get to work. I’ve noticed traffic around there and though how difficult it must be to work there or at downtown Disney b/c you would always have to accommodate traffic into your commute. Would an hour commute on each end make $8 an hour worth it? Or maybe I’ll just work at my local mall, eh? Or maybe Knotts has a better situation. If Disney wants to get the most out of the best people, they need to treat them right. I cannot comprehend why they fail to realize this.

    • Nemo123

      they actually do pay you for the ride home. You clock out 20 or 30 min for your shift actually ends and they pay you for that 20-30 min it takes you to get to your car. But non for the way there. and I lived 3 miles for the park when I worked there and had to leave at least an hour early or I’d be late. 10 min driving. 10 min finding a spot, parking walking to shuttle. another 5 min waiting for shuttle. 10 minute ride to the park. 10 min to walk to your attractions plus all the guests that ask you questions on the way there

  • Disneykin Kid

    I always thought that the Little Mermaid ride lacked the Ursula death scene, but I thought maybe they left it out because it would be too scary. I hope they put in a huge Ursula animatronic though, and don’t cheap out with a digital projection or something.

    It looks like Big Thunder is borrowing from Knott’s with it’s explosion finale. I wonder what Knott’s will do with the revamp of Calico Mine Train.

  • phruby

    What’s the news behind the subs? It looks like a normal refreb to me.

  • scarymouse

    Great update…Happy to hear that the dark ride upgrade is on and is expected to ready for the 60th.It would have been nice if WDI had planned ahead to offer a new ride for it, but upgrades are a plus.Still haven’t decided if it will be enough to get us to go or not, the family still wants something new like Uni ‘s Potterland. I on the other hand find the upgrades intriguing enough to stir my interests, That parade does sound like a winner so we shall see. But this close to the 60th, really what can they pull off that will draw us in…..With the record profits they are pulling in I would have expected more….so far too little… too late. To some of us these anniversary dates have more meaning than they do at Disneyland itself so it seems and this saddens me. Come on Disney surprise us with something great to pay homage to this wonderful place .

  • Lakerfan3224

    Is there anything else being planned for more frozen at disneyland

  • DisneylandMaster

    My hopes for the future of Disneyland are feeling much better now. Unlike DCA where we KNEW what was taking place behind the work walls, these past few months have been full of skepticism and optimism with rumors abound. I am really hoping that MM+ doesn’t find its way into Anaheim any time soon. Knowing that Disney is putting work into some of its smaller attractions is going much better. Sure, we might have to wait on Soarin’ and the 60th announcements, but I’m holding out for what could be a great sigh of relief for DL after the DCA hype.

    • Golden

      Me too. Big projects on hold, so perhaps this is how they have found some money to address some of these things. It is a really great use of money.

      I’ve always kept the faith in the Anaheim management, I know some have felt pessimism because of things such as the Court of Angels but I have felt that they are constantly trying to improve, which is all you can really ask.

      I really hope that after the 60th anniversary we will get big announcements about Tomorrowland and a Frontierland expansion.

  • Quitterdan

    Great update, thanks! Although i’m seriously bummed out to hear that Pirates may be closed for the Gumball Rally 🙁

  • danielz6

    I’m really excited about the BTMR and mermaid enhancements! I’m shocked that Disney actually responded to fan criticism of Mermaid. Hopefully WDW gets the same upgrades. The fireball effect sounds a lot like the same effect in Tokyo Disney Seas Indiana Jones ride. That’s one of the funnest practical effects I’ve ever experienced.
    It is a shame that yet another 10 year anniversary will pass without a major new attraction in Walt’s magic kingdom, but I’m very excited about the upgrades, including the classic rides and soarin.

  • Rick Wright

    Good observation that many mass transit options skew heavily toward the Monday through Friday nine-to-fivers. This isn’t Disney’s fault really, but their snarky message does indicate that they are out of touch.

    Great job on the MiceChat Podcast. The interview with Robbie Sherman was fascinating.

  • Brisk

    Tell me again, when was your first projected date for big thunder? March 31st at the earliest? Now it’s the 17th? What happened? A project that was slowed down due to fall protection is now sped up a whole two weeks? That doesn’t sound very safe to me. What’s the story there?

  • baloo73

    I thought CM Previews of BTM go till the 11th? How are they going to have soft openings on that Monday if CM’s are still having previews?

    • ayalexander

      The Cast previews are scheduled, they aren’t like a first-come first-served basis. They schedule each cast members time slot, so easily, a few hours of the morning will be geared to the last few cast members, then the rest of the day is open for guest use.

      • baloo73

        I know they are schedule. I’m going on the 11th.

  • Cyette

    Thanks for this update, I truly enjoyed it.

    Regarding “TDA needs to reverse those slipping numbers for Disneyland” and the quest to “freshen the Disneyland Park experience for 21st century audiences…..that most TDA and Burbank executives never dare experience themselves” :

    I am a former annual passholder and non-resident of California. We are in-the-bone in love with Disneyland and DCA, just like everyone who reads Mice Chat.

    Growing up, it was a rare privilege to come to Disneyland. It seemed like everyone in attendance felt the same way.

    Now…..it feels like a cattle call. I am bewildered by the constant crowding of seemingly-jaded people.

    I am preaching to the Disneyland choir here, but I feel the Disneyland Resort has been hijacked by some people who just don’t *~believe~*……. The expense, the unmet magical expectations (we’re still kids, let’s face it), and the behavior of many guests have left us worried about ever visiting again.

    I am beyond depressed.

  • MikeK

    I am happy there is no mention of Star Wars when the inevitable TL revision was mentioned. It gives me hope.

    • Brisk

      MikeK – that’s because what’s been mentioned, isn’t really happening like that….

  • StrikeYerColors

    When are they going to take my advice about offering APs free parking when they have a minimum amount of people in their car? Guess they can’t beat to let go of the money even though they have to pay to rent alternative parking locations so often!

  • ayalexander

    So here’s an update on my thoughts for “New Additions” to Disneyland that I personally would like to see:
    Tomorrowland: Keep tomorrowland as a tomorrowland and simply make Star Wars a “district” of tomorrowland encompassing The old Peoplemover track, Star Tours building, Starcade and Star Trader building, and finally taking over the Magic Eye theater. It would be great if the peoplemover track was turned into the speeder-bike race the rumors announced and they could simply make it as a roller coaster track attached to the people mover track (so as to use the same route) and use linear synchronus motors to supply the constant speeds of a speederbike racing through tomorrowland.

    Then, turn the Starcade into a two-storey, WELL-THEMED star wars meet and greet with the most popular characters of the series. And finally, use the Magic Eye theater for either a new Star-Wars themed show, or for a more “official” space for the Jedi Training Academy, maybe themed (inside) as the Jedi Temple.

    Next, Keep the subs with Nemo, but build an additional sub, and train the Cast for new loading and unloading procedures to quicken the pace and therefore bring the capacity of the attraction up by at least 10%.

    Then turn the Innoventions building into a place maybe called “MARVELous Heroes” or “Convention of Heroes” where the bottom floor is a rotating theater show based off of a Marvel show or story, while the upper floor is a large meet and greet area themed to a type of superhero headquarters of sorts.

    New Orleans Square:
    With backstage space between Pirates and Mansion being utilized only by a maintenance shed and a water chiller (for air conditioning), I was hoping Disney might bring over a California version of the Ratatouille ride from the Paris Disney parks. I think it would be wonderful! and the entrance to the attraction can be made to start either near (or at) the Haunted Mansion Fastpass or near the French Market building and take guests underneath the railroad tracks and to a show building beyond the berm. I understand that digging yet another tunnel under the tracks and moving the air chiller and such would cost a lot, but hey, if it was popular enough, TDA would think its worth it.

    Fantasyland:
    I know there are a LOT of fans out there that like the Fantasyland Theatre, however what if they utilized the space (and backstage lot behind it) for a new restaraunt like Gaston’s tavern in New Fantasyland WDW… or perhaps a Beauty and the Beast themed ride? I’m actually surprised they never used this space to build the Princess Fantasy Fair Village.

    Mickey’s Toontown:
    I really like the heart and thought behind this land, but it needs a MAJOR overhaul to make the land more popular and relevant to today’s kids. I think the best way to make it like-able by all ages is re-style it with a more circa 1940-50’s style featuring less 80’s characters like Roger Rabbit (whom I do love) and Rescue Ranger’s Gadget, and instead install more classic characters or make the focus of toontown be more about the Fab Five… i dare say maybe re-style the Car-toon Spin into a different character attraction that fits more in with today.

    Tarzan’s Treehouse:
    Either give it some Animatronics to interact with guests or re-theme it to (I know I will get hate comments for this) Hometree from Avatar with the base of the tree being a wheelchair accessible alternate experience like the ones provided for Nemo or the castle walk-thru. The attraction of course I also recommend Animatronics -maybe not of the Na’vi people but rather of Pandora’s animal kingdom (flying creatures like the Banshees or maybe one of those hyena creatures climbed up onto a tree limb or something!)

    And alternate walkways leading to town square:
    The Cast Member backstage path between Jungle Cruise and Main Street would be nice to utilize once in a while and have it well-themed to the Victorian style of Main Street but I really think a better alternative would be to build an indoor corridor straddling the buildings on the east end of Main Street due to the fact that necessary jobs and functions must be done constantly behind the west end of Main Street. Going from the Egg house all the way up to the Nurse’s station and maybe a “t” junction leading to the outdoor hallway between Space Mountain exit and the Starcade. With a little re-arranging, Disney can still store the parade floats and the mobile modular buildings back there are a piece of cake to move.

    Well those are all my ideas… I hope they were interesting!

  • EC82

    Almost everything in this update just makes me sad.

  • SpectroMan

    There’s no denying Sundays, and really any days this year, have been miserably crowded. It’s just not fun at the moment. That 2fer deal coming back really seems to have sparked interest and the whole scanning/taking pics at the front gate is causing a ridiculous bottleneck. They really need to have separate lines for APs who just breeze right through. As much as I don’t think FP+ and Magic Bands are for Anaheim, I have to say it’s great going to any WDW park when it’s 3x as crowded as our parks are and getting in within seconds.

  • bayouguy

    Getting ready for the reopening of Thunder Mountain. My daughter is ready too. I also would be ready for the interior upgrade for small world. I’m crossing my fingers and hope it’s a homerun.

  • Baloo

    One way they can really improve guest rating is too help with the congestion and long lines.

    Why is Burbank and TDA holding back on funding a pedestrian walkway behind main street to help traffic flow.

    Another logical pedestrian walkway that would help guest flow would be to connect the walkway between the fantasyland station area and the back of thunder ranch.
    There is a backstage access road that crosses the area but they could easily use gates like they already do behind thunder mountain and like other areas in DCA

  • tigga please

    MUST. RIDE. BTMR. NOW!

  • disfa10

    I smell something Fishy about this Article.and seems quite odd about he’s talking about all the upgrades have been cancelled due to NGE or MM+ and what a fiasćo it has made of.
    But then again I could be wrong.

  • disfa10

    I smell something Fishy about this Article.and seems quite odd about he’s talking about all the upgrades have been cancelled due to NGE or MM+ and what a fiasćo it has made of.
    But then again I could be wrong.

  • Christine Newman

    Did you comment on the refurb of Small World?

  • ND Disney Daddy

    Thanks for the update! I appreciate the work you do to provide us with the latest information. Keep up the good work!

  • dougeebear

    Point of order:
    “Sundays” is plural, as in “a month of Sundays.”
    “Sunday’s” is possessive, as in “Sunday’s event line-up is a doozy!”

  • EC82

    Instead of throwing good money after bad to make some enhancements to a ride that STILL will be a minor C-ticket attraction at best (Little Mermaid), here’s what I think Disney needs to do to get those satisfaction figures up at Disneyland:

    * Staff the turnstiles with happy people. Make the first point of contact a GOOD one at Disneyland. The last few times I’ve been, the first-contact cast members have been stressed, unhappy and borderline rude.

    * Get rid of about 60% of the outdoor vending kiosks. Walking around Disneyland feels like going to a carnival, with wallet-opening opportunities every 10 feet. Reduce this number and open up those pathways, making people feel like they are in a theme park, not a carnival midway.

    * Greet guests properly at attractions. I know it is not easy to be a guest-facing cast member. There are angry, unhappy, insistent, belittling people everywhere. I am sure I’m no piece of cake when I am in the parks. But these coveted positions are supposed to be the cream of the crop. Cast members need to be “in character,” eager to help guests, and always happy and smiling. That is not a short order, by any means. But how many times have you been to the park only to have a sunglass-wearing, bored-looking cast member just wave their fingers at you to keep moving or get into the ride vehicle?

    * Clean up the place. Remember when even Disney’s own “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” attraction made fun of the fact that Disney “sweepers” were everywhere? The place isn’t exactly junky, but queue areas are particularly unpleasant-looking. My mind goes immediately to Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain, in particular. Have some pride in the way Disneyland looks.

    * Don’t give a lazy show. Ever been to a live theater performance and seen the actors just sitting back and reciting their lines as if the audience weren’t there? No? That’s because they are always on stage. On-stage cast members need to stop acting like kids who work in the mall and more like professionals who are excited to be at Disneyland.

    * Figure out the stroller situation. Really, this can’t be TOO difficult. Set aside specific stroller parking areas that are in tucked-away locations like Aladdin’s Oasis or the lower deck of the Hungry Bear, and get the strollers out of the way of guests. The guest flow has become so restricted, it’s unpleasant just to walk around Disneyland. Study how things work at Tokyo Disneyland, in particular. And if guests don’t follow the rules, make sure cast members are on hand to point them in the right direction.

    * Clean up the PeopleMover tracks. OK, fine, if you’re not going to use them because of the decades of politics swirling around the replacement, at LEAST get crews out to maintain the tracks and remove all the leaves and debris that fall out from the Monorail. Every day, thousands of guests see these tracks looking awful and decrepit — that impression matters.

    * Mix up the merchandise. Every store sells the SAME items. I get that shelf space is limited and you want to maximize the revenue potential, but can’t you put SOME cool, unique, non-logo/character items back into the park to make shopping a fun experience? Every Christmas season I go to Disneyland hoping there will be something fun to buy for presents, and every year I come away empty-handed because everything is THE SAME.

    * Bring back the “Disneyland” name. “Disney Parks” on shopping bags and merchandise may keep costs lower, but the generic name really deadens the impact of being AT Disneyland. Quit making everything between DCA and DL, not to mention DL and WDW, not to mention DL/WDW and DLP, completely interchangeable.

    * Reduce costs by having fireworks and nighttime parades only during the summer season. This will perhaps deter some guests from attending, but it worked for decades, and it will work again. We live in a world where every child needs to be seen as “special” and everyone wants to be treated as a VIP, but if you go back to making summer and holiday nights truly special, then not only will operating costs be reduced, but you can get rid of the “telephone lines” behind the castle AND give guests a reason to come back at other times throughout the year, plus Fantasyland and Toontown attractions can stay open longer more of the year, helping absorb guests.

    * Say no to “synergizing.” The whole place is a massive billboard for stuff that’s not even relevant to Disneyland — ABC shows, ESPN, etc. Go back to what makes the GUEST EXPERIENCE special, and don’t be afraid to sacrifice a tiny bit of revenue to do it. You’ll make up for it.

    * Get rid of the surveyors! It is not only irritating but completely inappropriate to have dozens of people trolling the grounds near the exits asking people to take surveys. Disneyland is not simply a marketing exercise for Disney, and your paying guests are not guinea pigs. If you really can’t figure out what people like to eat, what they like to ride, and what they think of the place simply by observing them, you really need to do your job better. “Big data” doesn’t have a place at Disneyland.

    * Remind your salaried cast members that when they are in the park, they are on stage. They are not there to make sure the whole world knows they are “important.” I’ve seen so many cast members with name tags and street clothes walking around, often in pairs, talking on their phone, holding walk-and-talk business meetings IN THE PARK that it’s frankly obnoxious. These people need to be circumspect. If they are in the park wearing badges, they need to be willing to help out guests. They are not the kings and queens of Disneyland, and they should be invisible rather than stand out.

    Every bit of “show” matters to the guest. Every single bit, whether they consciously realize it or not. Go to more theatrical events, which is the origin of the “cast member” concept, and think about how it would be if scrims were hanging down around scenery, if cast members talked to each other in between their lines, if the producers and technicians were walking throughout the scene pointing out things that needed to be fixed, if every fifth line of dialogue contained an advertisement. People pay REAL MONEY to go to Disneyland. Give them what they pay for.

    • danielz6

      Eh I disagree. You can’t treat your workers like crap and then expect them to have a smile on their face doing the same redundant job for 5-8 hours strait. Every where I go when I get that tired lazy attitude from workers I smile and tell them thank you very much, because I’ve been there and I know exactly how they’re feeling. I don’t need them to make me happy. I understand they’re just people, and they don’t ruin my Disney experience at all.
      And the whole, well they don’t have to work there if they don’t like it response I find detestable. Id wager easily 50% of people do work that they don’t enjoy. Would we prefer all these people quit because they don’t like their jobs. Do we want that many people on social welfare? I think not.

      • ayalexander

        I agree with you entirely danielz6, I used to be a Cast Member and the BIGGEST Disney fan, anyone whom knew me didn’t know a bigger fan. Anyway, I loved the park, probably one of the 50% of the cast who actually wanted to be there everyday. Its true that Disney is not required to hold responsibility for traffic, parking and overall experience for Cast Members, however Walt Disney knew the Cast must be treated like family so that they can portray genuine happiness to the guests. He created Cast Parties like the long-time tradition of Cast Holiday Party (no longer existent) and made offerings to Disneyland Cast. The Disney company is uniting as a “one Disney” thought process which is ruining the Cast morale of even the oldest Cast Members whom should be awarded for their loyalty and dedication but instead are being sacked for their age, and are openly considered “dated laborers”.

        The Disneyland Resort is expanding and while it does that, it creates traffic for the city and parking problems for its Cast. The city doesn’t have the money to re-grid the Resort District and has asked Disney to consider the increasing traffic issues with every ‘plus’ of the parks. Disney has every right and obligation to ease the parking experience for guests by booting out the cast parking lot and making it a temporary guest parking… but for the sake of happy Cast Members and ease of Anaheim traffic, they need to consider long-term answers to the parking issues for both guests and cast.

    • ayalexander

      You have a lot of misunderstandings about the park, and I don’t blame you, being an everyday guest you don’t get the opportunity to see the backstage efforts to improve the park. I used to be a long time Cast Member and I’ve seen it all (when it comes to issues in the parks).

      With stroller parking, Disney is HIGHLY restricted by fire marshal as to where to put strollers, for instance you idea of using Aladdin’s Oasis as stroller parking is actually illegal according to fire code because there is only one easy-access way out and filling the theater area with strollers (even if they are well placed) is not allowed, storing even one stroller is not allowed, however the grey line says if a guest is ‘attending’ to their stroller, they are allowed to bring it in. Plus, guests NEVER park their strollers in good places so Cast must move them to designated spots which enrages guests who return from a ride or restaraunt thinking it was stolen or rude for it to be moved, even if it means for safety purposes. -Long story short, Disney is only allowed to store strollers in open walkways, by instruction of Anaheim and California Fire-marshal.

      I know its annoying to have lots of vending carts around, but Disney had to double the fleet because of the high demand, and when there isn’t enough, the guests get more angered than if there was too much. Disney tried solving the problem recently by building “permanent” snack stands like the one by the Mark Twain dock, in order to decrease the number of vending carts, and maximize efficiency, however demand is only growing bigger and the carts were brought back anyway.

      I understand that the Disney research team can be annoying when they ask you questions, but you have NO idea how IMPORTANT their job is. Disney has tried observing guests, but they don’t mention what is on their mind because they don’t like to ‘critique’ the park openly, like the way most people have a sense of decency to not critique your appearing (lol mostly). So Disney has needed to send surveyors out and it increased accuracy by 100%. Now Disney is aware of exactly what guests want, and has become the most valuable means to getting feedback. Plus the experience is not all bad, they ask a few questions to categorize which type of visitor you are (off-duty Cast, overseas leisure, business or local guest) and ask if you would be willing to take a survey online (not in the park) that can be emailed to them. The procedure takes up to 45 seconds (that is what the cast is trained for) So it can’t be all that bad, you get the rest of the day to your party.

      And finally, ALL cast whom is wearing business casual while wearing their badge are required to answer questions for guests, so feel free to test-try their courtesy. They are allowed to be on the phone, but if you want to really test their knowledge of “on-stage manners” you can check if their blue-ID tag is hanging out of their pocket. Disney rules state that in NO WAY or at NO TIME and under NO circumstances are ANY Cast or Employees allowed to show their blue Cast ID, it must be out of view at ALL times. So I used to like to remind the big-shots of that! 😉

    • Jspider

      lol so you think Fireworks need to be reduced to summers again because everyone wants to feel “special”?

      I’d kinda figured the out of season guests were already penalized with no fantasmic, reduced hours and many attractions being down for refurbishment?

      Ticket costs are still identical and I’d assume Disney has metrics on weather guests would be happier with later Fantasyland rides or fireworks and made the appropriate decision for the appropriate day. But I like that you’d like to blame peoples entitlements. I also agree that people deserve less for their money based purely on when they decide to make their expensive vacation. Maybe your idea will make more sense in a few years when they introduce variable ticket pricing.

      If I’m not mistaken Disneyland originally didn’t open at all in months like January for refurbishment and economics later changed that decision.

      I will give you this, I’m pretty tired of the blandness of Disney stores and the Disneyparks branding in general. With each successive visit I find it harder to find merchandise I like even though I love the parks. Universal’s been improving their merchandise but for whatever reason Disney can’t seem to find stuff that will appeal to me anymore (as their merchandise has grown more bland and things that fit more into my likes has diminished).

      • 9oldmen

        Jspider, the park used to close on Mondays and Tuesdays during the off season, up until around 1985. (although they were open every day during 1980, the year of the 25th Anniversary). I don’t think they’ve ever been closed for more than two consecutive days ever in their history. Certainly not for an entire month.

      • danielz6

        Agreed. I went to DLR for 2 days in December with my girl. My sole mission was to buy a nice Disneyland jacket for her. I literally WANTED to give Disney 100-200 of my hard earned dollars for a nice jacket. I found nothing. No jackets at all! I couldn’t believe in the middle of winter Disneyland wasn’t selling any stylish jackets. I remember in the recent past Disney always had beautiful jackets in the winter time. All I found was the same cheap looking generic sweaters in DL, DCA and the World of Disney store. Sad!
        I also despise more than anything calling Disneyland “Disneyland Park” which is on all the merch these days. First of all, it’s redundant to describe a place with 2 nouns. It’s already called “land” so why is it also given an additional noun “park”? That’s like calling the USA the United States of America Country. Well we’re already defined as states so we don’t need to be called country too. So call it Disneyland or Disneypark but Disneyland park is so stupid! Hey lets get really cute and call it Disneyland Theme Park!
        Of course I know the stupid logic, they want to differentiate the name from the greater Disneyland resort. But wait, if that’s already referred to as the “resort” then why is any further differentiation needed? If we’re going to be redundant with extra nouns, then lets call DCA Disney California Adventure Journey.

  • Cyette

    EC82, I thank you for the best comment on this subject I’ve ever seen. Comprehensive and well-thought out, by someone who obviously loves the place. Excellent suggestions!!!

  • ThemeParkFan1990

    Glad to see they are making many necessary improvements. I have to say that my biggest grievance about Disneyland when I went last summer were the size of the paths. They were so clogged with people most of the time that it felt overwhelming just getting around. The entrance to Adventureland with a huge line for Dole Whips in an already narrow area comes especially to mind. California Adventure was much better in this regard with much wider pathways. I don’t really know how to fix this since they’re pretty pressed for space as it is, but if they can find a way to do it, I would be really happy.

    And while it’s great that Disneyland has so many dark rides, let’s not sell the other parks short. They don’t all “just” have one or two- Disneyland Paris has 3 and Tokyo Disneyland 4 (and depending on how you see their Pooh or Monsters rides, they could have up to 6, and they put Disneyland’s versions of the rides to shame whether you count them or not). Not every other Disney resort is Disney World.

    • danielz6

      Pooh definitely puts every other to shame. Monsters, not so much. I found it to be almost identicle to DCAs version, except with the interactive shooter element, which I actually found distracting. I enjoy sitting back and enjoying the show in DCAs version much more.

  • tiggerbackpack

    I’m excited to go on BTM Sunday before the lines become too crazy during the reopening. I do hope the older attractions do get some TLC before the 60th because some of the smaller details of rides have been malfunctioning for quite some time now.

  • Asa

    There is no way Disneyland is going to pinch Hong Kong Disneyland’s new night parade!!! That’s robbery!!!

  • thjbriggs

    Really glad to hear Disneyland and DCA are moving forward with these refurbishments. While I can’t wait to ride Thunder Mountain, and am genuinely excited about the modernization of the Fantasyland dark rides, I’m ESPECIALLY excited about the changes to The Little Mermaid.

    The Little Mermaid has sooo much potential, but it’s always felt short changed. The end of the ride has never made sense, and an Ursula death scene is EXACTLY what it needs. Awesome to hear!

  • Jspider

    I’m still on a wait and see approach to Disney’s construction or anything but I’d be pretty excited to see upgrades to Big Thunder and Mermaid. If the Fantasyland rides really do get these rumored upgrades it’ll also be excellent. I’d really like to see more of what Disney’s next big thing is but I’ll accept these for now.

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  • Ortizmo2000

    TDA = Totally Disconnected A#!*%@$

    Unbelievable.

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