Disneyland‘s classic Big Thunder Mountain Railroad emerged from its extended 14-month refurbishment project over the weekend with Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club previews that showed off the ride’s impressively smooth new track and explosive new finale. The highly-anticipated official reopening of the attraction is today and we have an in-depth look the the refreshed and updated roller coaster for you here. We also take a look at Downtown Disney‘s gorgeous new Starbucks Coffee shop, update you on new and on-going refurbishments in both theme parks and enter the gift shops for a look at some new Disney merchandise on the shelves now.

Don’t miss your weekly Disneyland Resort crowd forecast — provided by our friends at MouseAddict — in the Weekly News and Information Roundup at the end of today’s update!

Get a closer look at today’s update! Click on any photo in today’s blog to see a larger, high-resolution version.

We have a big update for you today, so let’s get started!


Welcome to Disneyland!

The first spring break crowds of the season have arrived at Disneyland. Add in the on-going So Cal resident ticket offer and warm temperatures and you’ve got some very busy theme parks in Anaheim.

The parks are always particularly gorgeous in the spring.

If Disneyland feels too busy to you, some time at Disney California Adventure might help. The park felt light on crowds Friday afternoon whereas parts of Disneyland were packed.

Carthay Circle Lounge was recently recognized as the “Best Cocktail Bar” by the Nightclub & Bar Media Group. Congrats to the team over there – it really is a great place to relax and enjoy some drinks and small plates.

Radiator Springs Racers continues to be the hot ticket at California Adventure…

But demand has seriously dropped off at Luigi’s Flying Tires…

The Wildest Reopening in the Wilderness

The big news is the long-awaited and highly anticipated reopening of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The attraction is returning from a 14-month refurbishment project that included track replacement, upgraded ride vehicles, mountain repainting and show enhancements including a complete overhaul to the show scene in the final lift hill.

On the backside of the mountain, along Big Thunder Trail, audio of mining activities now comes from this mine shaft. A nice, subtle addition.

The sign now names the town Rainbow Ridge (it was previously called Big Thunder), a nod to Disneyland’s classic Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland attraction where the town facades above the queue originated from.

Those classic Rainbow Ridge mining town facades have, more or less, all been completely rebuilt with some props, fixtures and doors retained from the originals. The whole little town looks fantastic and it looks like a lot of care went into making sure every last detail was faithfully recreated.

Rumors had originally circulated that Rainbow Ridge would be removed completely due to wood rot, without being replaced. Whether or not Disney had ever considered not rebuilding Rainbow Ridge, it’s great to see it lovingly restored here. It’s a great little piece of Disneyland history and it would have been a mistake to remove it completely.

Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members could preview the attraction with little wait over the weekend. The process was quick and I was able to ride six times over two days without waiting more than 25 minutes combined. The preview was a great opportunity for Passholders and a nice gesture from Disneyland.

On-ride, the experience is as great as ever. The newly-replaced track provides an insanely-smooth ride but the track layout is unchanged so the turns and dips retain the “wildest” part of the “Wildest Ride in the Wilderness”

New bat animatronics in near-pitch darkness have replaced the old flappy bats-on-fans in the first lift hill and they look great. Further up the lift, the Rainbow Caverns scene has been refreshed and bathed in intense blue and purple light.

Throughout the ride, all of the wildlife animatronics are still here and in working order.

Of course, what would Big Thunder be without this guy?

Big Thunder’s beloved goat is now a perfect segue to the newly re-imagined final lift hill. Gone are the shaking rocks in what used to be a mine shaft being rocked by an earthquake. In its place is a new projection-heavy scene in which a broken lamp has accidentally lit the fuse on explosives lining the tunnel.

The projections interact with fuses throughout the tunnel, and the lit fuses trigger loud blasts and smoke cannons throughout the tunnel that fill the mine shaft with smoke. Overall, the new special effects are surprisingly effective and when everything works, the effect is pretty spectacular.

Below, take a ride-through of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with the special effects in the last scene fully functional.

Unfortunately, Disney seems to be having a hard time keeping the fog effects reliable and too often does everything in the scene work except for the smoke. Below, the final blast without working smoke (you can spot the fog cannon).

Below, video of the ride running without the smoke effect.

On the way back to the station: a fun directional sign with references to different western-themed Disney mountains around the world.

Hats off to the Imagineers for doing a great job sprucing up a classic. The attraction looks fantastic, Rainbow Ridge is restored and looks great, the track is incredibly smooth and is pure joy to ride, and the re-imagining of the final lift hill is a great example of incorporating new projection effects into an existing space without them feeling forced or out-of-place. Hopefully the projection effects are well-maintained and the technical difficulties with the smoke effect are ironed out soon, as the fog cannons are really what sell the scene and without the fog the whole thing kind of falls flat. This isn’t like Radiator Springs Racers, where the frequently non-functional steam tunnel near the end of the ride is inconsequential to the overall experience — the new fog/smoke effect in Big Thunder Mountain’s final lift hill really makes or breaks what is perhaps now the ride’s most memorable scene. As for the rest of the ride, kudos to Disney for refreshing a classic — Disney’s goal was to give the ride the major maintenance needed but to “bring it back to exactly the way it was” and they certainly succeeded.

Refurbishmentland

Meanwhile, various refurbishment projects continue or prepare to get underway in both parks.

[center]Railroad Restrictions[/center]
The Disneyland Railroad has reopened following a brief refurbishment.

Unfortunately, the Disneyland Railroad reopened with new restrictions on the opulent Lilly Belle parlor car. Since being restored and returned to Disneyland in 2006, the Lilly Belle could be enjoyed by anyone who asked – as long as it was on the tracks and there was an available Disneyland Railroad conductor to chaperone guests while inside the Belle. Priority has always been given to special guests and Club 33 members but now that priority has changed to exclusivity. Now, only Club 33 members, special guests and special tour groups are now allowed to ride in the Lilly Belle. “Disneyland is your land”? Maybe, but increasingly more and more of it is only for Club 33 members.

Luckily, if you still want a more unique Disneyland Railroad experience, the caboose is still open to regular guests – just ask a conductor if it’s on the tracks and if you can ride inside. It’s not as fancy but still a lot of fun.

[center]Temple of the Forbidden Refurbishment[/center]
In Adventureland, the Indiana Jones Adventure is now closed for refurbishment through early May for some much-needed work.

[center]Alice in Blunderland[/center]
Over in Fantasyland, the Alice in Wonderland dark ride is now finally closed to get a permanent fix for its outdoor ride track that has been surrounded by temporary safety scaffolding since an incident in July 2010 when a Cal/OSHA inspector noted the track could be a potential safety hazard for maintenance workers.

The ride is now behind construction walls and is rumored to get a complete reworking that includes shortening the track and having it hug the side of the show building more closely.

Alice in Wonderland should reopen in early July.

[center]“it’s a Cal/OSHA world”[/center]
Meanwhile, “it’s a small world” is still closed while work to install new Cal/OSHA-approved safety railing continues.

[center]Out to Dry[/center]
And in Tomorrowland, the Submarine Lagoon remains dry, with the subs on blocks and surrounded by scaffolding while work continues on that ride’s refurbishment (and previously rumored shuttering) that will stretch into late September.

Nearby, Tomorrowland Terrace reopened after a brief closure.

No changes to the menu.

[center]Space Junk[/center]
The new ring on the top of Space Mountain is coming along. The addition is a new safety addition for maintenance workers but comes at the cost of altering the attraction’s iconic exterior. It’s nice to see Disney trying to blend in the safety addition but still frustrating. All of these additions are reportedly being done on a voluntary basis by Disney in an effort to cater to state officials at Cal/OSHA.

So, the effort to make it blend in is nice, but is that enough when none of this was necessary to begin with?

Nearby, new banners and signage have gone up at Innoventions to announce the addition of the new Captain America meet-and-greet.

[center]Refurbishment Wharf[/center]
In Disney California Adventure, the Boudin Bakery building is behind tarps for refurbishment. The Bakery Tour and Pacific Wharf Cafe remain open during refurbishment.

[center]The Little Refurbishment[/center]
A little further down the parade route, the Little Mermaid dark ride will close later this week for a refurbishment project that will run through early May. The closure is rumored to include notable enhancements in several show scenes, including a dramatic black-light re-working of the “Under the Sea” room as well as a proper conclusion for Ursula.

This video ride-through from May 2012 shows the ride more or less as you can experience it today. We’ll see how much it changes when it reopens in a couple months.

Merch Madness

Lots of new merchandise has recently hit store shelves, below is a sampling of some of it.

Nice new Disneyland Railroad t-shirt

Spring Break apparel

A fun new line of retro-style Disneyland merchandise

New line of California Adventure merchandise:

New Disney Side merchandise

New Captain America: The Winter Soldier toys and kids apparel

Tons of new Frozen merchandise, including new t-shirts for kids and adults

And finally, a couple Easter-themed items…

Starbucksland

In Downtown Disney, the new Starbucks Coffee store opened in what was previously a denim store by Wet Seal and before that, the flagship retail store for infant photographer Anne Geddes. The addition of Starbucks is long overdue for Downtown Disney, which hasn’t had a dedicated coffee bar since the closure of the Compass Books store and cafe in March 2012.

Starbucks and Disney teamed up for the store design in what Starbucks is describing as a “reflection of two iconic brands coming together.” The new coffeehouse is built to handle Downtown Disney-sized crowds and features Starbucks Reserve coffees brewed on Starbucks’ rare Clover brewing machines. The new location was built with sustainability in mind and meets LEED standards. It features a large outdoor patio designed around an existing tree, which includes a “living wall” of over 1,000 native plants.

A couple exterior night shots from Starbucks.

Inside, the coffee shop is big, has plenty of queue space, and features your standard Starbucks drink, food and merchandise selection.

Nice reference to Orange County’s citrus history

There’s a small waiting area with seats that includes interactive touch screen “chalk board” that’s popular with kids

Clover brewing system

Compare/contrast prices with your local Starbucks. (click for larger image)

Below, some interior photos from Starbucks

Overall, whether you like Starbucks or not, the new coffee shop is a very attractive addition to Downtown Disney. And if you are a Starbucks fan, you’ll be happy to know that as a corporate-run store, Starbucks in Downtown Disney is equipped with free WiFi and participates in the Gold card program (free coffee and tea refills!). Unfortunately, Annual Passholder discount doesn’t (yet) apply here.

This and That

Nearby the new Starbucks, the big poppy flower fountain in Downtown Disney is still behind walls for refurbishment.

In California Adventure, Muppet*Vision 3D’s queue and pre-show have been updated to promote the upcoming “Muppets Most Wanted” movie.

A theatrical movie poster in the outdoor portion of the queue

Inside, a couple of these WANTED posters are up. The pre-show movie has a new interruption by Constantine, the villainous Kermit look-a-like from the upcoming film. It’s a clever addition that doesn’t dramatically change the existing pre-show.

In candy shops, new Kermit candy apples are available.

While we’re talking candy, green dominated the candy counters in the parks for St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend. Easter candy should be on its way next.


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Weekly News & Information Round-Up
Weekly Theme Park Hours
March 17-23, 2014
[B]Disneyland Park[/B] [B]California Adventure[/B]
Mon.-Thur.: 9 am – 10 pm
Fri.-Sun.: 9 am – 12 am
Mon.-Thur.: 9 am – 9 pm
Fri.-Sun.: 9 am – 10 pm
[CENTER]For a complete listing of theme park hours,
visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar
[/CENTER]
[center]Closure and Refurbishment Schedule[/center]
[b][center]Disneyland Park[/center][/b]
  • [B]Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage:[/B] Closed through September 26, 2014 for major refurbishment.
  • [B]”it’s a small world”:[/B] Closed through April 24, 2014 for fall safety equipment installation.
  • [B]Alice in Wonderland:[/B] Closed through July 3, 2014 for enhancements and redesign of outdoor portion of ride track.
  • [B]Indiana Jones Adventure:[/B] Closed March 17 through May 8, 2014 for refurbishment.
  • [B]King Arthur Carousel:[/B] Closed April 28 through May 8, 2014 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Pirates of the Caribbean:[/B] Closed April 28 through May 22, 2014 for refurbishment.
  • [B]Space Mountain:[/B] Closed May 12 through June 26 for refurbishment.
[b][center]Disney California Adventure[/center][/b]
  • [B]The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure:[/B] Closed March 20-May 9, 2014 for refurbishment and rumored enhancements.
  • [B]Grizzly River Run:[/B] Closed April 21-June 19, 2014 for refurbishment.
  • [B]It’s Tough to be a Bug!:[/B] Closed April 21-May 8, 2014 for refurbishment.
[b][center]Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels[/center][/b]
    None.
[center]
A weekly look at projected crowd levels at the Disneyland Resort.[/center]

March 17-23, 2014

MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT
SUN

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Expect some pegged out Addictometers this coming weekend…

  • The annual United Spirit Association Spirit All Stars & College Nationals begin on Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center, running through Monday. Add to that the continuing Spring Break crowds, and we can see a perfect storm coming this weekend.
  • With the Sprit group and several other events, hotel rooms are scarce toward the end of the week.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is finally open again, and we think plenty of thrill-deprived Mouseaddicts will be hankerin’ to climb aboard the Wildest Ride in the Wildnerness again.
  • The Mouseaddict Crowd Map is your friend! Keep tabs on the most crowded areas and make wiser choices to maximize your park time.

Looking for the best replacement for Mobile Magic on your iPhone? Download the remarkable Mouseaddict app for iPhone and iPad with the Addictometer crowd map overlay: see exactly where crowds are gathering, right on the map! The free Mouseaddict app features more than five dozen categories of searchable resort information, weather forecasts, park and show schedules, and more. Download on the App Store or at mouseaddict.com.

[center]Headline Roundup
A quick look at noteworthy Disney theme park headlines from around the web.[/center]
  • Big Thunder Ranch will host a Springtime Roundup with meet-and-greets with the Easter Bunny and other Disney rabbits starting March 28. (Disney Parks Blog)
  • Special Space Mountain t-shirts are available for order online only through March 16. (Disney Parks Blog)
  • Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg could be next in line to replace Disney CEO Bob Iger in 2016 (LA Times)
  • Anaheim Convention Center will open a $180 million, 200,000 square foot expansion by fall 2016. (OC Register)
  • Disney Interactive recently laid off 700 employees as the division works toward “getting to profitability.” (Cartoon Brew)
That wraps up this week’s edition of Dateline Disneyland. Did you get a chance to preview Big Thunder Mountain Railroad over the weekend or are you lining up to ride it today? Let us know what you think of the newly-enhanced classic in the comments section below!

Dateline Disneyland is only here because of you. We’ve been able to bring Dateline Disneyland to you each week because of your generous donations. Consider helping us out by donating via PayPal, click here!

For more Disneyland news, be sure to read MiceChat’s weekly In the Parks blog. And be sure to check out our sister blog, Dateline Disney World – a fantastic weekly photo blog covering Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida!

Thanks for reading. See you at Disneyland!
[B]- Andy[/B]

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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.
  • eicarr

    Glad to see merchandise from more current Disney films like Captain America & Frozen. Hopefully they’ll have some Guardians of the Galaxy stuff out soon. The retro DL merch looks cool.

  • LoveStallion

    No shocker that Luigi has a short wait. I wouldn’t even wait 10 minutes for that thing. It’s a total bore. I give it five more years, tops, before they just rip it out and put in something better (or, as I would prefer, extend the track of Racers – not gonna happen).

    I love the updates, but sometimes I think that you could exercise a bit more editorial license and pare down what is posted, especially since the same story basically runs in three different columns each week. How many times to I need to see the same Small World story or see the fifth “update” on Big Thunder that is just the same thing as from a few days ago?

    For example, the news about the the Lilly Belle is important and useful, but as a reader, do I expect to see it beaten to death over the next few weeks? Yup. Or what of the subs. We all know they are closed through at least September. No amount of weekly coverage is going to change that.

    It’s great coverage and I know you have different people writing, but if you are worried about prominent stories staying prominent, WordPress allows posts to be “sticky” and remain at the top of a list, regardless of publication date. Otherwise, there’s no shame in skipping news that isn’t really news anymore.

    Thanks for all the great work, as always.

    • Larry Parker

      I disagree regarding rehashed stories-they contain new bits of info for us extreme Disney fans. So I say keep them coming!!

      • Figaroj

        Agree!!!

      • LoveStallion

        Really? Did this Big Thunder story tell you anything more than what has been posted for the past three weeks? If anything, it was devoid of extra content.

    • sixalex

      Not everyone tunes in every week or to every column. If I have seen a story before, it is fairly easy to scroll down. This is a site that delights in detail and comprehensive (dare I say, obsessive?) updates. In principle I agree that there are times when a story is seemingly “Beaten to death”, but I tend to read them anyway. If they don’t carry ongoing interest for me personally, why would I deprive anyone else from their fun?

      Page down.

      • LoveStallion

        First off, Page Down would be great, but each post is so incredibly long and photo-intensive that even with a great Mbps it takes some time to load.

        Besides, what of my point that WordPress allows a post to be pinned to the top? This site is built on WP. No reason a “big” story can’t be pinned so that anyone who shows up over time can see it.

        And this is less that a weekly update consists of the same stuff but more that there are so many different columns throughout a week that carry the same material. There are tons of great ones with all sorts of stuff, but I’ve easily seen three columns a week with the same Big Thunder story because different writers are working on different features that all talk about the same thing.

        Don’t get me wrong. I love the fine work of the people behind MiceChat and wish I were worthy to be among them as a writer, but the same news is the same news no matter how one packages it.

    • Laura P

      Adding on to the disagreements of this comment. I love seeing photos of Disney, give me as many as possible, I don’t care how long the post is or if it repeats a bit! (Also I love seeing the same story from different writers because every photographer seems to notice different little things and that’s just so cool) basically, keep it coming please!

    • Hello LoveStallion,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Dateline Disneyland and In The Parks are written by two different columnists here at MiceChat. As you’re aware, both columns cover Disneyland news, so there will always be overlap. We provide two Disneyland-based articles per week because of our site’s very Disneyland-focused readership and while there is overlap in readership between those two columns, there are also many folks who don’t read Dateline Disneyland but read In the Parks and vice versa.

      Hopefully you’ll keep reading, despite the overlap in coverage.

      Thanks!
      Andy

    • Internitty

      Some of us only have time to read one entry a week, so I read the most thorough one which is Andy’s. If Andy hadn’t written about Lilly Belle I wouldn’t have known a thing about it. Do you read every newspaper released every week?

    • Marko50

      I love Ligui’s tires. I know many people don’t. But to keep complaining about it is just like the “rehashing” of news (or “news”, if you prefer). It’s kinda like beating a tread horse.

  • MrOCT31

    Yep, rode Luigi’s Flying Tires just once ever and never wanted to again! Snoozefest to say the least. Even my kids have never wanted to go on it again, that should tell “them” all they need to know about that mistake!
    As far as the Lilly Belle goes, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Club 33 exclusive areas in the park and it worries me a bit.

    • jcruise86

      We love Luigi’s tires, and its honoring an old Disneyland attraction while being unlike other rides at other parks makes it even more wonderful to me.

      I too am worried that the creeping Club 33–which used to be so inconspicuous–will make Disneyland guests start to feel like coach passengers forced to pass through first class. Disneyland should note that some of the more popular American airlines have had one class and treated every passenger like their most important passenger.

      This catering to the wealthiest is one of the bad trends from the (overpaid) Disney executive era that began under Eisner whi (like Iger) served as both CEO and as the Chair of the Board that hires and compensates the CEO.

      See Andy Warhol’s excellent Coca-Cola quote which is applicable to Disneyland–though Disneyland always has been and always will be more expensive/exclusive than Coke.

      • jcruise86

        Here’s the outdated, unrealistic yet still kind-of-wonderful Warhol quote:

        “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can watch TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

        –Andy Warhol

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ Don’t let a more conspicuous Club 33 ruin FANTASYland.

        Disneyland should be an escape from a more realistic, often rotten real world. It should strive to not to reflect the more obnoxious parts of society. Provide the best possible experience to every kid who enters, or at least try to appear to. Exceptions: if a kid has cancer, or if a couple just got married, or if a Marine is back from serving her country, go ahead and put their families in the Lily Belle.

  • goofypirate

    Got my AP discount at the new Starbucks last week. 10% off.

  • BuckyRister

    We all loved Luigi’s Flying Tires…novel and unique and fun. Big, big smiles all around. The Mater, ride, however, flung us into each other and against the side of the seats. Our heads knocked together…not fun.

    • Figaroj

      Luigi’s Flying Tires was much better when they had the beach balls. I enjoy the ride now but had a completely different experience with the beach balls…way more fun! Wish they would bring them back!

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ Unless you were wearing glasses and some jerk through a ball at your face as hard as he could while you weren’t looking at him. (If the guy I hit is reading this, my bad!)

  • Katie1228

    Beautiful photos…especially those of the new Starbucks! I can’t wait to see it in person. Thanks for your great updates each week Andy!

  • Wreckless Abrandon

    I enjoy both Mater’s and Luigi’s attractions. Getting whipped around is a different experience than say the classic tea cups. And the Flying Tires? Just gotta learn how to “fly” them… it’s all about subtle leaning and not having instant response… when you get some speed on those things it’s a blast!

    Diggin the new Marvel and Frozen items in the stores. I may have to check those out this month!

    While I’m annoyed by the voluntary OSHA fixes, I think I’d rather have Disney be pro-active instead of just waiting for OSHA to say something. Considering people will sue for anything these days, I can see why Disney would wanna protect itself from possible injuries from contractors and CM’s alike.

    • DLFan1995

      While OSHA may want safety fixes, Disney’s approach appears to be “passive” (railings) in that they just install barriers to prevent CM’s from injuring themselves instead of the less obtrusive “active” restraints (harnesses) that depend on CM’s actually making the effort to secure themselves. It doesn’t appear that Disney has made any effort to use “active” restraints in any of the modifications.

      Barriers and railings are certainly good options in areas where CM’s aren’t visible to guests, but I would think they could use at least some “active” restraints in the visible areas.

    • jl925sanders

      Not to mention the annoying mandatory ride closures when Disney fails to comply with the safety orders in the time frame specified. Remember a year ago?

    • HollywoodF1

      The latest incorrect-yet-popular fan rumor is that that OSHA regs are voluntary. They couldn’t be any further from voluntary. They are mandatory, there is no “grandfathering”, and non-compliance is a criminal offense.

      As far as the harnesses vs guardrails argument is concerned, here are a few points:

      –The Disney standard “4-Keys” are Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency; in that order. Safety is first, and Show is third.

      –All things being equal, working in harnesses is not the safety-equivalent of preventing a fall with guardrails. Harnesses are far more dangerous, and considered to be a last-resort in safety equipment. Many people are seriously injured or killed while working in harnesses.

      Given these two parameters, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts has decided that its mandatory compliance will be executed with the safest system available in all situations.

      I emplore you to consider the lives and well being of the tens-of-thousands of Cast Members of Disney’s parks and resorts when you are asserting ideas on how the value of their lives should be weighed for your entertainment.

      • bfdf55

        Tens of thousands of Disney CM’s have been safe for decades with the existing safety measures. Generally, CM injuries have been due to CM negligence, not environmental issues. A CM could be injured or killed by tripping on a street curb or step (even with railing).

        The more people expect to have their environment protect them, the less they will be capable of taking care of themselves.

        Yes, there do need to be prudent safety measures applied. But they should be applied as necessary, not in an attempt to totally shield everyone from every potential hazard.

  • Algernon

    Don’t worry. Justin Beiber will still be able to go on the Lilly Belle railcar, even though you can’t. And why put in a new ride when they can expand Club 33, so that rich people like him can have more room to party? They might even add another bar, so the elites can stand on the balcony and laugh while you wait in line, maybe throw a few ice cubes. Go Justin, go! Disneyland is your land. You and Johnny Depp, Oprah Winfrey, and the like…

  • Skimbob

    It is unfortunate that Club 33 has so much power. I am fearful as well that they will take even more of the parks perks and special places away. It was never meant to be this big thing it has become. I am a Premier Passholder and a regular guest at The Grand Californian and pay a whole lot less than Club 33 members but I don’t expect to have a huge advantage over other passholders or even a day guest that pays less than I do. I don’t think it fair that a priveleged few who can afford it are getting everything.

    • Dizzey

      According to Wikipedia:

      “A 2011 study by the CBO found that the top earning 1 percent of households increased their income by about 275% after federal taxes and income transfers over a period between 1979 and 2007, compared to a gain of just under 40% for the 60 percent in the middle of America’s income distribution. Other sources find that the trend has continued since then.”

      Disney will likely continue to increase benefits to the 1% since this is where the high margin cash is. It’s capitalism, plain and simple. I wouldn’t expect it to change unless societal trends change. Besides, if they kept “everything for everybody” they’d certainly get labelled as “Socialist” by certain news media.

      In any case the parks are still crowded, so I guess they know what they are doing.

      • danielz6

        You just defined the single biggest problem with the US economy. I recommend watching the documentary “Park Avenue” as well on netflix.

      • Internitty

        Without wanting to get into some political debate it should be noted that when the 1% of capitalists went broke a few years back in the GFC and the US government bailed them out, they used to money to pay themselves huge bonuses for the great job they did destroying the US and World economies. By this definition all organised crime is the ultimate form of capitalism.

  • judearmstrong

    BTM LOOKS AMAZING!!!!! So happy with the refurb, cant wait to experience it in June!

  • airick75

    Thanks for the merchandise update!

  • Tinkbelle

    Phenomenal pictures as always, Andy.

    I’m soooo sad to hear about the Lilly Belle. I never got to ride in it and it was on my Disney Bucket List. During our last trip in September (our wedding anniversary), I began each morning at the train station waiting for it to open, and every morning the conductor came out and said it wouldn’t be out that day. Now this. Also on my bucket list was dinner at Club 33, but I couldn’t find a Micechatter willing to help with that, either. Sigh.

    • sixalex

      Same boat! I am less and less interested in Club 33. The elitism it now represents is not my cup of tea.

      The Court of Angels, now the Lilly Belle; what next? Only the elite can be in the hub for fireworks? Only the elite can walk through the castle gate? All others must enter Fantasyland by the side door? Special elite hours of operation for Pirates or Haunted Mansion or even for entry into New Orleans Square? I may be being extreme in my examples, but how many of us expected what is already happening?

      I can now envision a point in time where I no longer want to visit Disneyland.

      Jeez! Do I sound like an old man yelling “Get off my lawn.”? Now I’m just depressing myself. 😉

      • CaptainAction

        Let’s all be honest here. We waited 14 months for better flapping bats and some flashing lights which travel in a line and smoke which doesn’t even work on 3 of the 4 videos I’ve seen. 14 MONTHS. Wow.
        New track and town aren’t obvious to anyone.
        Disneyland, the whole park, was built in 18 months.
        Someone had to say this because many of us are thinking it.
        What’s next?
        I hope not the Magic Handcuffs.

      • Tinkbelle

        Oh, I agree. They all ready charge for fireworks (the Halloween party, and there was a rumor they would start doing it for Christmas fireworks too). Didn’t they already rope off the prime viewing spot in the hub for people who took a tour or something? It seems like I saw benches lined up there and roped off on our last visit. Of course there is also the viewing area for WoC for those who buy meals etc.
        They keep finding ways to give the general audience less while raising ticket prices.

      • Marko50

        Excuse me? The new track isn’t obvious to anyone? That is patently ridiculous. My…um, body…found it completely obvious. As obvious as the new Matterhorn track was when it was rebuilt, though in the opposite direction – bad instead of good. The town would have been obvious to everyone had it not been rebuilt, at least repeat customers. And you are wrong about the whole park being built in 18 months. Much of it wasn’t ready on opening day including almost all of Tomorrowland. Of course, that’s probably a valid statement for today, too, but it was certainly complete between these two times.

    • Internitty

      It seems to me that most people missed the part that says some tour groups can ride it, maybe those tour groups are the ones run by Disneyland like the In The Footsteps of Walt tour and so forth, so don’t give up hope until those tour groups are defined. Even though they are an additional cost the Disneyland tours are fun and worth doing at least once.

  • Tiny Mermaid

    Very disappointing news about the Lilly Belle. Not cool, Disneyland.

  • bayouguy

    Couldn’t go to Disneyland this past weekend due to illness. We were getting ready for Thunder Mountain. May do so this weekend.

  • michael darling

    Great pics of BTMR especially the one of the mine train entering the mountain. One of the best I’ve ever seen. And ‘Never Mine 79 mi.’. Classic.

  • stevek

    Rode Big Thunder 2X on Sunday morning and wow, have they really done an amazing job on the refurbishment. The ride was incredibly smooth and that last lift hill…really hit it out of the park. As others have commented on the boards, I’d suggest the best spot for viewing the new effects is about in cars 3-5. We were in the second row our first ride and row 10 the second ride and definitely saw alot more that second ride. Fantastic job by all involved, well worth the wait to get it perfect.

  • RX-24

    Fantastic report. The video of Big Thunder’s new scene was excellent and its nice to get to see the little changes between the long waits of when I can actually see the park. I do find it to be a terrible move by the park to make riding the Lilly Belle a Club 33 exclusive. dividing the park into classes based on membership and the associated fees is breaking an illusion I have held for years- that at Disneyland we were all equal, we all had to wait our turn and that if you used the tools given to you, you had just as much chance to visit The Court of Angels, Pilot the Mark Twain or ride the Lilly Belle. Now bit by bit everything is going to a pay per view and soon for many of us, we will be on the sidelines developing a bad case of class envy that should have been left at the gate. One of the finest times I ever had at Disneyland was a trip I made last year by myself ( http://micechat.com/forums/disneyland-resort/180750-rx-24s-one-day-solo-trip-4-5-13-report-long-time-lurker-needs-hand-pic-heavy.html ). One of the absolute high lights of the trip was a ride on the Lilly Belle. That day I felt like I was the king of the world as we went around the berm. I find it sad that I will never enjoy that pleasure again and nor will many, many others.

    • CaptainAction

      I would be completly embarassed to stand up there on the Lilly Belle and look down on all the poor kids, folks, and families who will not be allowed to ride.
      Can’t imagine being arrogant enough to stand there and enjoy seeing people who are not able to ride because they have no idea how to even get the resources to have a shot at club 33.
      How does that feel to the person riding the Lilly Belle?
      I get a little embarassed walking past guests at Universal Orlando when we have front of the line passes from staying at the resorts.

  • QPerth

    Terrific update, as usual!!

    Terrible decision on Disneyland’s part to make the Lilly Belle a rich person’s privilege. After learning of the history of the gorgeous interior on this cabin it had been my dream to one day see it. Same went for what is now destroyed and exclusive in New Orleans Square. Was so looking forward to seeing that perfect design one day. Those dreams are now dead. So thanks for that Disneyland.

    Some decent new Merch there, and some truly hideous shirts also. WTF with those patterned ones!?>!?!? The Retro items are pretty great though!

    The gardens are looking truly incredible, well done to the amazing Horticulturalists of Disneyland. They truly bring the Parks to life.

    The new DTD Starbucks looks INCREDIBLE! Great job capturing that for us, especially at night. How stunning!

    So glad the Muppets 3D got a small amount of attention. Such an underutilized property and area. Glad it hasn’t’ been completely forgotten. Now for an update or expansion there please!

  • jl925sanders

    Looking forward to checking out the new merchandise. Haven’t bought a t shirt since the 50th.

  • jcruise86

    P.S. I liked this excellent update, Andy! Thank you!

    I don’t mind at all if there is some overlap with another weekly update, and I find it comforting that there are others out there who love Disneyland as intensely as I do.

    We are fortunate to live near the most near the most wonderful park in the history of the world (despite the currently improvable Tomorrowland), with another great park across from its entrance.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ “near the most near the most” is what happens when I use Micechat to fight my insomnia at 2:32 a.m. 🙂

  • Freddie Freelance

    I’m actually excited by the Disney Rabbit meet & greet: White Rabbit, March Hare, Thumper, Roger Rabbit, Rabbit, and maybe possibly Oswald! I really, really want to meet Oswald!

  • SteveColorado

    Andy, I used to be a professional photographer a couple of decades ago and I find your photos of Starbucks (and many others) are simply breathtaking and awesome. Very well done and thanks for the update.

  • DisneyLover66

    Enjoyed reading the update and seeing the beautiful pictures, as usual! The new Starbuck’s looks really, really cool, and, yes, those menu prices are a bit more expensive than what I pay locally in Tucson. Can’t wait to see it in person in June. Thank you for the update.

  • mgronenthal

    Do you have any idea if the new merchandise is going to be online any time soon? The retro items are really cool, and I don’t think I’m going to be in the park anytime soon.

  • amarikimura

    The Lilly Belle now has a special place in my heart forever! This past weekend my boyfriend and I went to Disneyland, as annual pass holders. After taking a slow and enjoyable morning we went to get on the train. While waiting he left to refill our water bottle. Needless to say, he was gone a long time because of the construction in New Orleans Square. The train came and left with me waiting, but I didn’t mind. He came back and the next train arrived. We both noticed, excitedly that the Lilly Belle was at the end! He said he was going to ask if we could go on it. Now even though I consider myself a Disneyland fanatic, but admit I do not know a whole lot about how to get on the Lilly Belle, just that it was hard. Well, to my surprise the conductor said he would check, but they usually do not just let people on it. He came back seconds later and said there was ROOM!!! As we walked towards it I felt like this might be it, and as I opened the door my friends were sitting in the back. My boyfriend got down on one knee and proposed!!!! A very special and magical moment… the best of my life I think.  Now, after hearing what my friends had to go through to make this happen was unbelievable. The Lilly Belle is open now for ONLY Club 33 members and…. quietly “special occasions” and the cast members of the Disneyland Railroad made it a truly special occasion!!