The Little Mermaid gets a makeover as new Main Street, U.S.A. construction begins at Disneyland

Written by Andy Castro. Posted in Dateline Disneyland, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features

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Published on May 12, 2014 at 5:05 am with 111 Comments

About Andy Castro

Andy is a Southern California native, raised with Disneyland and a life-long fan of Disney theme parks and animation. Andy writes the weekly Dateline Disneyland column, which can be found every Monday on MiceChat.

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  • FerretAfros

    Will the lockers return after the construction is complete? It seems odd that they wouldn’t have any lockers available anywhere in the park

    • ayalexander

      Well the lockers work on a complicated computer systems so setting up a “temporary” location is out of the question. But maybe when the corridors are finished, the new locker room may be much larger allowing for more available lockers.

    • http://datelinedisneyland.com Andy Castro

      The lockers closure will be temporary during construction.

      Thanks for reading!
      -Andy
      Dateline Disneyland

  • bkroz

    Space Mountain doesn’t go down until 5/27 now. A little extra time.

    • http://datelinedisneyland.com Andy Castro

      Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated today’s post to reflect the schedule change.

      -Andy
      Dateline Disneyland

  • DisneyLover66

    Enjoyed this! Great job. Thank you.

  • michael darling

    Land-specific merch!!!! That’s the ticket. Also, Mermaid looks way better. No one does blacklight like Disney. The before photos look like a store-front display comparatively.

    • BradyNBradleysMom

      I think I know why they do the two-parks style merchandise but no one is going to like this answer…it’s the truth though.

      Disney does this because 99% of people will either not care that they have both WDW and DLR stuff on a glass or plate or whatever and some of those people might even think that’s “cool!” to have both, to compare differences and things.

      I hate that and frankly I don’t buy stuff that is generic Disney parks but I showed these pictures and other pics of the merchandise with “One Disney” kind of branding to friends and none of them could see anything wrong. When I pointed out the problem they said I was being too critical and that they actually liked the two parks stuff.

      These are all people who might go to either WDW or DLR once or twice in their lives though. They are not superfans.

      Personally, I think Disney is stupid to mess with Disneyland merchandise. Don’t mostly locals go there? they would be smart to produce a new line of stuff every year to make the locals want to keep collecting. Only have Disneyland merchandise in DLR.

      For WDW, isn’t it more families making one trip or two trips maximum a lifetime going there. Harried parents with strollers and tight budgets aren’t as quality conscious as the people in Disneyland. Disney could shunt all the Disneyland stuff to Magic Kingdom and few would notice (sadly). They’d still have to make EPCOT and DHS and DAK stuff though.

      But they could save a few bucks on WDW. I think they lose more than they gain by upsetting Disneyland regulars though. The Los Angeles AP holders are also more well to do than the Florida APs too. Disney is losing money by shipping WDW merchandise west to people who don’t want that junk.

      • TheTNTRaider

        I kind of like the fact that we can get WDW merch here. Mostly because I’ve only ever been to WDW twice, due to airline costs. So just being able to buy merchandise form WDW without actually flying there is all right in my book.

  • rstar

    I love the temporary saftey rails for the workers who are installing the permanent saftey rails for Alice.

  • CaptainAction

    How long was Little Mermaid down?

    How long does it take to change light bulbs and wiggs?

    Just didn’t have the budget for a proper Ursula death scene so we still have the the 3 foot tall Ursula rocking back and forth. We do have enough budget for blacklights and two wiggs.

    • ayalexander

      Its not just changing light bulbs. Disney has to do a massive amount of re-painting, its not as easy as that. Even the painting takes a while because you can’t just give them flat colors, you have to give them shading and an almost 3 dimensional paint scheme which takes skill thanks to the fact the best way to paint with black light paint is in the dark. Plus, new fish were installed which meant sculpting them out of clay, then making molds, then layering the molds in fiberglass. Then installing them, painting the patchwork of the new bolting, then black light painting the new fish as well. You aren’t giving them enough credit, this work takes time, skill and lots of money because of the time and skill.

      • CaptainAction

        Ok ayalexander, I’ll go with you on the artistry and painting that took so long.

        I agree with imagineer97 though. Do you think most of us will really notice this compared to a big appropriate ending?

        Snow White has a better end of the witch.
        Mr. Toad has the train and hell effects.
        Pinocchio has a pretty good Monstro and Blue Fairy effects.
        These have all been around a long time.

        I think everyone would notice a good special effect where Eric puts the bow of a ship through the aorta of a giant screaming Ursula with electricity shooting all over the place? Don’t you?

      • ayalexander

        Yes but consider this, what if reworking the architecture of the finale section of the building costs more money than repainting the ‘under the sea’ scene? Its possible that this repainting was done in order to prove to TDA bean counters that guests are excited about this minor detail and are wanting a reworking of the finale. Sometimes you have to show a little leg to get up to the thigh.

      • CaptainAction

        When we rode Little Mermaid on opening day, my family joked that the imagineers suddenly realized they were out of track so they crammed the wedding, Ursula’s death, and the wrap up into the last 8 feet of track.
        Maybe we were closer to correct than we knew.

      • Cory Gross

        Compared to Snow White and Pinocchio, Little Mermaid has a fine ending. You can blink and miss Snow White’s ending, and Pincocchio’s actual ending is the Blue Fairy scene, not Monstro. The endings of Toad and Alice are much better. Peter Pan is just sort of there, but after flying over London and Neverland, you sort of gloss over the rest anyways. Given that the emphasis on the Little Mermaid ride is on Ariel, it’s no wonder that they gloss over Ursula’s death. Up to that point you’ve seen one scene of Ursula and three scenes of Ariel wanting to go to the surface and kiss Eric. The wedding scene is more appropriate narratively, as cool as Ursula’s death might be.

        The problem with Little Mermaid is much more fundamental, which it shares with Pinocchio, Splash Mountain, and Pirates 2.0. In each of these rides, you are rendered into a passive spectator sitting in a cart watching a story happen to someone else. You are not the protagonist in them. The really classic rides either cast you as the protagonist (i.e.: Snow White, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad) or made you the protagonist of your own adventure (i.e.: Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Tower of Terror, TDS 20,000 Leagues). It’s hard to get invested in Little Mermaid because you’re just watching a couple disjointed scenes from the movie. Nothing is happening TO you. You’re watching it all happen to someone else.

        An ideal Little Mermaid ride would have had something like Ariel showing you around her undersea kingdom, and then Ursula trying to steal your voice. Then you could slap the Ursula death scene on the end, because that makes more narrative sense. She is the main threat to you, so to resolve the ride you have to overcome her. As it is, if you’re just watching scenes from the movie of what happens to Ariel, it is totally reasonable to go from “Kiss the Girl” to the girl being kissed to the wedding, without giving much (if any) reference at all to Ursula.

      • danielz6

        Umm splash and pirates are arguably 2 of the best theme park rides ever. I don’t think it’s a problem at all to emulate them. And you can’t compare a brand new 5 minute omnimover ride to 60/30 year old 2 minute classic dark rides. I think rides 30-60 years newer should be significantly better, not just as good.

      • Cory Gross

        Pirates 1.0 is probably THE best theme park ride ever. Pirates 2.0 – after they vandalized the ride with Jack Sparrow and Cthulhu – is significantly worse. I could get into the many reasons, but I’ll refrain until asked.

        Splash Mountain is a narrative mess. It has that problem of being a string of vignettes from a movie with little-to-no coherent internal sense. A major contributing factor is that it’s using vignettes from a movie that nobody in North America is legally allowed to see. It has lots of wonderful animatronic characters and music and thrills, and I suspect it are those more than the insensible story that carry the ride.

        It would be nice for Little Mermaid to be better than the classic Fantasyland dark rides (though it’s hard to improve on that model except technologically). What I was pointing out was the unfair negative comparison to them that others had made. My point was that the ending to the Little Mermaid ride is totally consistent with the ride’s “narrative” and that the classic rides aren’t all they’re cracked up to be either if we get really critical about them.

      • ayalexander

        I agree with Cory Gross

    • imagineer97

      I agree, Captain. I thought that the Ursula was going to change! Honestly, I am not all that impressed with what they did here. Add a couple statues of fish, change the lighting, and give Ariel and Eric real hair…how noticeable will this even be? Ayalexander, I grant you, the work takes time, energy, and is very impressive, but the fact is, there is still a colossal plothole in this attraction! Ursula sings her song, then doesn’t show up again until she’s randomly electricuted, rocking back and forth. I give them all the credit in the world for what they did, but I just wish I could give them MORE credit.

      • DanO

        I went yesterday and did notice. Missing also from the picture are the two swirling schools of fish in the Under the Sea scene. There is no longer a big metal frame holding them and they do look like they’re floating. Yes, I would like to see a new ending, but what they did so far, does make a difference.

    • martinjbell1986

      Heading to Universal Orlando for the first time in January. With all your negative commenting on Disneyland, I hope Universal lives up to your hype. Otherwise I will definitely be letting you know after every comment you post :)

      • blondiemouse72

        Better get those typing fingers in training for 2015….you’ll be busy trying to go one on one with Captain Kool Aid

      • CaptainAction

        Hey martinjbell1986, I hope you have a great time. Are you able to stay on property?
        I have a couple of really great hints if you are.
        If you’re staying on property join the Loew’s First Club. It’s free and they will bring a free gift to your room like a fruit basket, plate of cookies and pitcher of milk, cd of the resort’s music, etc. After a few stays things really add up. We can upgrade our room to a 900 square foot suite with 2 full bathrooms for free. The room gifts get upgraded and you get a $100 credit for the resorts restaurants whenever you check in (after a few stays of course).
        Hope you have a great time.

      • martinjbell1986

        Won’t be staying on property with Disney or Universal. Got a $350 a week condo at the Sheraton Vistana. Too expensive to stay on property anywhere. Having a kitchen is nice too.

      • CaptainAction

        Good points martinjbell.

    • thebear

      Why is wigs spelled as “wiggs”? Am I missing something?

  • SpectroMan

    Another week of record heat coming and Grizzly is down. Just cracks me up. Poor tourists. I realize Disney can’t predict weather patterns but it’s a safe bet that the best time to rehab a water ride in SoCal is December or January, NOT May. Oye.

    • DanO

      May averages really aren’t that different from Dec and Jan. They’re only three degrees higher. Remember, we still would normally have June gloom to go through. While Jan would seem ideal, they had a pretty full schedule as it was. These hot temps in May aren’t normal.

  • eicarr

    The only issue I every had with Mermaid was the plastic toy look to all the fish. But the work they did fixed most of that. Better rehab than the first!!! One of my favorite DL rides. Wish they could now fix the miserable Midway Mania line experience.

    Glad they’re not wasting more money on that Main Street money pit. Cyclone fencing would be fine. While I’ll alway spend my least amount of time there, they’re always pouring money into compleatly fixing up everything every couple of years. Use that alley money in Tomorrowland or for Fantasyland dark ride upgrades.

    Sad I’m too clutzy for that cool breakable new DL merchandise

  • Larry Parker

    All the thousands of Grad nite teens will sure miss Space Mountain that night. Terrible refurb timing!

    • ayalexander

      eh its probably for the best IF it does impede with the Grad Nite schedule. Grads just overdose and puke on the ride anyway… can you imagine how much track, flooring, passengers, and walls, one simple up-heave can litter?

    • Marko50

      Really? I thought Grad Nights were now at DCA. If they’re missing Space Mt, it’s not because of the refurb.

      • ayalexander

        Dude, you’re totally right, I forgot. Grad Nights are at DCA. Oh but, grads are allowed to be in Disneyland for normal operating hours.

  • tooncity

    Thanks for the update. Just reinforces my reasons for giving up my AP many years ago. If Disney wants my business they’ll have to do better than this. But I am hopeful.

    At times it does seem as though the place is being run by the gang that can’t shoot straight. Which is the biggest disappointment.

  • Algernon

    In my view, the Club 33 opening day address will go like this:

    “To all who come to this extravagant place; welcome. Club 33 is your land. Here age relives fond memories of Hollywood parties gone by…and here youth, like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, may savor the promise of making future millions of dollars. Club 33 is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created places like Wall Street, Beverly Hills, and Dubai…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the spoiled, corrupt, rich elitists throughout the world.”

    • ayalexander

      For once, I actually have to commend you, for that comment.

    • Indy Fan 1

      Someone is an anti-elitist.

    • jcruise86

      Nice. But I’m dumping my 99% club membership, first chance I get.

  • judearmstrong

    MUST. HAVE. JUNGLE CRUISE. GLASSES AND PLATES!

  • Susan Hughes

    I’m currently confused as to how this back alley project on the east side of Main Street will actually work. There is so little room back there behind the buildings and the only place that seems logical is the vehicle traffic road. But that’s where the parade floats are setup. And of course…vehicle traffic!
    They’re going to have to make it “vision proof” too because guests will end up seeing Cast Members and characters in various stages of “undress” walking around. Mickey without his head, Cinderella wearing a robe, Alice toting a back pack.
    I’m putting my faith in the planners to know what they’re doing. But based on what I know, this could be a disaster. Not for guests but for Disney “integrity”.

    • ayalexander

      Just read the article better, they said they would be bulldozing some of the backstage buildings in order to make a STRAIGHT line between Town Square and the Plaza Inn. They also said it would be “themed fencing” so you don’t have to worry about seeing the backstage cast members and stuff. Disney would never allow you to see characters half dressed.

      • Susan Hughes

        It still leaves me confused. There are break rooms, lockers, computers for clocking in, a CM break room with a kitchen and vending machines, and a characters break room. There’s even an Anaheim PD substation back there. I don’t doubt what the article says about bulldozing the buildings. But I don’t see where anything they get rid of can be relocated. Unless they just don’t plan on relocating…just eliminating. Good for guests…bad for Cast Members.

      • ayalexander

        There’s plenty of room for relocating all the amenities there. If its the parade floats that are throwing you off, they don’t need that much space for floats, most of the floats are designed to turn on a dime so maneuvering them into a parking space next to space mountain or the old Admin building is not a problem. All that backstage stuff you see from Google Earth, its not needed where it is. It can all be moved and placed somewhere else.

      • Susan Hughes

        Well I’m backstage all the time. I use the facilities there for as part of my daily routine. I still don’t get how it’s going to work. Like I said, good for the guests…bad for the cast members.

      • http://datelinedisneyland.com Andy Castro

        The bulldozing and permanent relocation of amenities and infrastructure outlined in the quoted text from Al Lutz’s September 2012 article was used to compare those earlier plans with the new/current plans. The plans now appear to mostly be “themed fencing” to cover up backstage buildings and spaces that regular guests shouldn’t to see. I doubt we’ll see the East Guest Flow Corridor expanded to 20 feet with storerooms and backstage amenities bulldozed and permanently relocated, as Al Lutz’s two-year-old report suggested. I’m guessing the space will reopen mostly as it is now, just with new “themed fencing” to block certain things and to make the corridor in general look a little nicer.

        -Andy
        Dateline Disneyland

  • ayalexander

    Well I must say that I am glad that the construction of the corridors has begun. It’s definitely needed. The west side of Main Street won’t need too much work, which is good news. Building a simple fence to disguise the backstage area on the Jungle Cruise side of the passage will do most the work, and on the Main Street side of the west passage, they just have to do repainting of the buildings, add some themed awning to windows and doorways, some fancy wall lamps and you’re done. There’s too many doorways and access points for storage and work space to line both sides of the west passage with walls. HOWEVER on the east side of Main Street, that corridor will mean bulldozing a lot of cheap structures, which can be a good thing. Its too bad that they will simply just build themed fencing… the East side corridor could be given an amazing themed look and be open year round, and if it was covered, it would help during rainy days. But I suppose simple fencing is better than seeing the ugly buildings backstage.

    • Marko50

      Just think…once the alleys are open for business, they can go back to 20 nights of Candlelight Procession – or even expand! Thanksgiving has largely fallen by the Dis Calendar wayside anyway.

  • bingocimo

    As mentioned in earlier post, Disneyland website has Space Mountain refurb beginning on 5/27; Can you confirm which date is correct?

    • ShannonA

      I too am confused. It seemed confirmed that the closure had moved. The Disneyland web page says 5/27-7/3 I wish they would move it to August like they did the Matterhorn.

      • http://datelinedisneyland.com Andy Castro

        Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated today’s post to reflect the schedule change.

        -Andy
        Dateline Disneyland