New things Under the Sea in Disney California Adventure and Resort Update

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Disneyland Resort, In the Parks

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Published on May 16, 2014 at 2:00 am with 42 Comments

This was an interesting week at the Disneyland Resort. While many projects continued along on their refurbishment path inside Disneyland Park, a highly anticipated refurbishment wrapped up. Yes, the long-rumored retooling of the Little Mermaid attraction at,Disney California Adventure, made its debut to pleased guests and pundits alike. But guests can still be overheard grumbling about the amount of attractions that are currently closed. But keep your eye on the prize dear readers, all these rolling refurbs will hopefully lead up to a stellar 60th anniversary celebration.

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Another unseasonal round of Santa Ana winds hit the resort this week.  Nothing as strong as the winds we reported about a couple of weeks ago. But they did bring with them some high heat which had guests sweltering. But the show must go on . . .  Disneyland Band was out each day.

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Plaza Inn

The Plaza Inn continues along with a refurbishment to the popular eatery.

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Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

The Finding Nermo Submarine Voyage is finally getting some actual refurbishment.  It is common now to hear workers clanging on the shells of the large steel submersibles or catch them carefully walking on the CAL/OSHA approved catwalks over the track. If all goes as planned, the ride will be back up and running by September 26th.

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As we mentioned last week, some of the vegetation on top of the show building has been killed off as the irrigation to this area has been cut off during the closure of the ride.

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Alice in Wonderland

We can see more progress on the exterior of the Alice in Wonderland attraction.  The track path outside the show building is being reinforced and widened, while the cartoonish foliage received bright new paint. The attraction is set to return July 4th, 2014.

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You can just make out the wide walkways which are being added to the side of the track, which will likely include standard height safety railings.

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Toontown Beautification

The Toontown Beautification was still underway when we took our photos this week. The project is expected to wind down this week with the opening of Gadget’s Go Coaster this morning. Construction walls should follow shortly.

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Despite all of the work on the land, it’s awful to see that the peeling hills of Toontown remain untouched. Let’s hope they quickly sand and repaint these hills.

Club 33

The refurbishment of the elite Club 33 trudges on with work becoming too apparent to cover up.

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Inside the shops along Angels Court, the doorways are now walled off.

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Coinciding with the Pirates of the Caribbean refurbishment, which is scheduled to last until May 22nd, the exit tunnel into New Orleans Square is fully exposed now.

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MICECHAT PODCAST

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Disney California Adventure

As mentioned previously, the Santa Ana winds kicked up again.  The wind whipping through the cages adds a rather thrilling component to the already hair-raising swinging gondolas on the Fun Wheel.

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Palm fronds are battered by gusty winds below as the swinging gondolas go to and fro.

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Good Ol’ Golden Zephyr was closed off and on this week due to the winds as well.

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Grizzly River Run

Grizzly is returning from refurbishment in roughly one month.  June 20th is when the rapids are scheduled to be flowing once more. And with all the high heat we’ve been having lately, the reopening can’t come soon enough.

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The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

This seems to be a dark ride that many folks love to hate. However, we actually like this attraction for what it is.  No, it is not perfect.  Yes, it is an attraction that was built entirely too short and lacking in early show scenes. But, it’s a musical, air conditioned, and people-eating omnimover which does the job it was intended to do.

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Fortunately, the imagineers understand that this attraction could be vastly improved with minor changes.  During this most recent refurbishment, the creative team brought the attraction more in line with its Fantasyland dark ride roots, using more blacklight effects to fix the Under The Sea scene.  The end result is simple, yet effective.

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The budget wasn’t spent on painting the faded shells on the conveyer belt.

 

The attraction starts off with the same lighting it has always had.

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But diving “under the sea”, things become more fluorescent.  A glowing, blue hue seems to cover everything.  Along the way, more neon-colored fish greet you as you descend into the depths of the ocean.

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At the first video screen, above the ride path, fish are staring back at you. It is a far more engaging introduction that smooths over the aloof beginnings of the ride.

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These static figures are all new.

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However, the most notable alterations are in the massive Under the Sea sequence at the middle of the ride.

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King Trident’s castle has been painted on the wall in the hallway leading to the Under The Sea room. It’s a small, but nice, touch.

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The Under The Sea room has a delightfully cartoonish hand painted quality to it which is accented in vibrant tones due to the new high power backlights.  Your focus remains low, and on the items immediately in front of you since the lighting mostly illuminates figures near your eye level.  In fact, now, you can’t see the rudimentary catwalks and lighting rigs high above the track that were once so visible.

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Now the spinning fish mobiles in the ceiling actually create the illusion of swimming fish.  While, in other areas, fish seem to hover above passers by since their supports are hidden in the dark.  It makes the room feel limitless and really opens things up.

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However, they continue to use incandescent lighting to punctuate certain things, most notably Ariel.

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The music and lighting are still choreographed with spotlights hitting certain figures here and there.  While we can understand the idea behind this lighting design choice, it somehow doesn’t feel right to mix the black lights with the incandescent.  Would there be another way to highlight certain characters while not breaking the convention of black light coloring?

This technique, however, does and always has worked, in the Ursula scene.  Here, magic is being conjured and eerie colors are at home.

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The other big change is the hair on the figures that appear above water, on land.  To this columnist the idea makes perfect sense as that is how the hair would look and behave if it were dry.

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Sadly, Ursula’s newly expanded death scene  was cut as time and money didn’t allow it for this go around.

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Again, dry hair.

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Now please enjoy this ride through taken this past Tuesday.  We get extra time in the Under the Sea room as the ride was halted temporarily.

 

Boudin Bakery

The wonderful paint job and place-making at the Boudin Bakery is winding down.  Take a look at this great work folks.

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Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company.  Thanks for reading this week’s In the Parks.

About Norman Gidney

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

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42 Comments

Comments for New things Under the Sea in Disney California Adventure and Resort Update are now closed.

  1. Great report! Me and my family are planning to head out there at the end of May 2015. Let’s hope all the Fantasyland dark rides are up and running with their new upgrades! May I also just say, that I hate when people use flash on rides!

  2. Wonderful report. I guess I’m a grump, but I don’t think there’s much of anything that can be done to salvage The Little Mermaid. It certainly looks better, but for me, its flaws are too egregious to fully enjoy the ride.

    Maybe it’s the aquatic nature of the movie, but having the ride in traditional dark ride format just makes everything feel cramped (and I know they only had the Golden Dreams footprint to work with in the first place).

    Funny how I get so much more thrill out of riding Mr. Toad in all its simplicity than I do our of Ariel.

    • I don’t mind the ride, but I’ll be honest: It’s the horrifying Ariel animatronics that I can’t get past. They very sincerely look like Chucky. They certainly didn’t translate her into three dimensions well at all.

      Take a look at that first animatronic on the ride. She doesn’t look a day over 13. Not to sound gross, but give the girl the bust she had in the movie; give her some lipstick; redraw her eyebrows (right now she looks like she’s in stunned shock); reprogram her so her eyes stop opening to such odd, doll-like levels.

      I don’t know exactly how they missed the mark, but each and every animatronic of her is just scary.

      • Ha! The Chucky comparison is spot-on.

        We live in a weird era where Disney is attempting to imbue their animatronics with more motion and realism, but sometimes this is at the cost of them simply looking right. This is the uncanny valley of animated films.

        In ruminating over my original comment, I realize a reason why the ride makes me irascible – the exterior facade is massive. This ride makes a statement on the outside with a very, very prominent building and location, but the inside is so cramped and hardly bowls anyone over. The exterior grandeur is never matched.

        Granted, the only thing that would make sense is something Pirates-esque, but since Ariel is an omnimover, they could have still gotten away with some more depth of field a la Haunted Mansion. Sort of ironic that a ride based inside a southern plantation house feels humongous while one that takes place in open ocean feels claustrophobic.

      • The people that built the animatronics for the Little Mermaid attraction was a company called Garner Holt. An animatronic like the first Ariel you see costs approximately $50,000 whereas a macaw like the enchanted tiki room would cost $10,000. Now imagine all the animatronics on the ride costing many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Disney gave Garner Holt Productions a vast number of animated references to the characters and Garner Holt Productions tried to replicate them in 3-dimensions as best as possible. I think they did a terrific job, but you disagree, don’t blame Disney. Blame Garner Holt Productions since altering an animatronic that displeases you, will cost more money. I believe Imagineering only built one animatronic in that attraction, and I believe it was either Ursula or the dancing Ariel. That’s it. One animatronic. And forget about Radiator Springs Racers, all animatronics there were built by Garner Holt Productions, while Walt Disney Imagineering dissolved and got rid of their animatronics department and handed all rights and privileges to Garner Holt.

      • Agreed, ariel looks way too young and not like the cartoon. Oddly though, in the kiss the girl scene she has always looked way better to me.

  3. Our family would always choose Alice, Snow White, Peter Pan, Mr Toad, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, Storybook Canal Boats, Casey Jr, over Mermaid. I know those aren’t all dark rides but how can the newest one be the worst of the “kid” rides?
    They needed to fix Ursula’s death before anything else.
    There just isn’t a good story being told here.
    I don’t know that the Mermaid looks scary to me. I think she looks like she just sat on a snorkle dorf and isn’t yet sure what she just sat on.
    The wigs really make the attraction. How many $’s and days were budgeted for the wigs? Outstanding choice to improve the ride.
    The budget must have been around $20 for the wigs.

  4. It has become the new ride to prove how superior to the average guest your DISNEY taste is by criticizing it. It has animatronics VASTLY superior to any FL dark ride and a few really great scenes. What it lacks, is the one thing DLR fanatics value most; nostalgia.
    The other factor is that I think most people were expecting more before the attraction first opened. People were thinking this was going to be DCA’s HM or PotC. It didn’t help that we kept being told that many other projects were being cancelled in order to sink more money into Little Mermaid, which was obviously not true. Projects were cancelled to save money.

    • THANK YOU!
      When my family and I visited DLR for the first time in 2012, we did not have any nostalgia for its attractions. Thus, we ended up loving Mermaid with its whimsical feeling. On the other hand, Alice and Pinnocchio felt dated and just not up to the Disney standard. We liked all of it, but the hate Mermaid gets is undeserved.

    • “What it lacks, is the one thing DLR fanatics value most; nostalgia.”

      yes, only if you ignore that time keeps moving. the boomers are dying. the gen-xers are the new middle age. carter babies are having kids and millennials are the new adults. the little mermaid film is EXTREMELY nostalgic for any child (especially the girls) who was born in the late 70s to early 80s. the ride is VERY effective at evoking these strong emotions for most folks in their early to mid 30s. i see women this age singing along to the thing all the time.

      what’s “too new” now will be a cherished part of the Museum of Disneyland before you know it. twenty years from now there will be a massive campaign to save the “classic, beloved attraction” known as the little mermaid from the next generation’s wrecking ball.

      • Well said, daveyjones! I feel the same way. Disney is no longer catering to the nostalgia of the older generations, they are presenting new attractions like Mermaid and Radiator Springs Racers so a new generation of children will grow up with the nostalgia the older guests have. Many years ago, most of Disneyland was a brand new idea to people. Things like the Mark Twain Riverboat, Adventure Thru Inner Space, America Sings, (old) Pirates of the Caribbean, and “it’s a small world” were well accepted because back then, Disney wasn’t as big as it is today, it was a slightly smaller company. Back then, when people heard the name “Disney” they thought of Walt and his uncanny ability to present a new show or experience, today when people think “Disney” they think of the movies and characters and consequently: Disneyland. The newer generations haven’t been introduced to Walt, so they rely on the characters to bring them a good show. That’s why most new attractions are always themed to movies, because that is who kids connect with.

      • Hmmm. I don’t disagree necessarily; however, I don’t believe Disney has EVER catered to us old fogies nostalgia-wise.

  5. I really enjoy the Little Mermaid ride, and so does my young daughter. Of course this movie came out when I was young, so I have an attachment to it. BUT, I think the ride is well done. It has major scenes, and wonderful music. If you want to get nit-picky with the Dark Rides they all have their problems. None of them show the entire movie, it just isn’t possible. Everyone says this ride is short, but it’s longer than Snow White, etc. And the line moves so quickly. I’ve always seen people in line for the ride, but except our first ride (right after opening) we’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes and usually practically walk on.

    • “Of course this movie came out when I was young, so I have an attachment to it.”
      exactly my point.

      • I know daveyjones. :) I made first my post at 8am, but I like your comment as it was what I meant too.

  6. For those people grumbling about all the ride closures, never fear–Club 33 will soon be open.

    Oh–sorry–you can’t go there.

    And if Justin Beiber, Oprah or Warren Buffet decides they want to venture out of paradise and go on a ride, guess who won’t be waiting in line?

  7. My fiance and I visit Disneyland and California Adventure about once a month, and we’re really split on Little Mermaid. I like it, she doesn’t. But somehow we end up riding it every time we visit.

    It’s not a terrible ride. The story is a little incomplete, the corridor segments are a bit sparse, and the main room is way too bright. It sounds like Disney worked on fixing two of those problems.

    At the end of the day, it’s a nice – cool – dark ride with almost no line whatsoever. If the line was 30 minutes long, or heck, even 15 minutes long, I could understand all the hate. But besides the grand opening, lines are never that long. And that’s because it does it’s job – it’s a high-capacity ride that moves people in and out.

    I think people need to take a step back and remember the types of rides we were getting when CA first opened. Little Mermaid is miles above Superstar Limo, and I’d argue better than Monsters Inc.

  8. You know what I noticed? The foam rubber skin they use for the animatronics in Pirates, Indy, and Mermaid seem to get shiny as they age. Like look at pirates, the skin appears glassy or shiny or extremely wet. I think there is some kind of oil that secretes from the skin. Normally all they have to do to keep the skin from being shiny is apply a powdered make-up of the same skin tone to prevent shininess. But in the last few years, Disney attraction preservation teams haven’t been applying that make-up so now all the skins have been getting increasingly reflective. When Mermaid first opened, everything was fine, but Ursula’s skin has been getting gradually shinier. And look at Jack Sparrow, he was realistic looking at first, but now all three figures, have shiny skin, and the last Jack that you see, his lips are stuck on his teeth so he looks like a rabid dog. Hopefully when pirates re-opens they fix his lips and apply that powdered make-up to all the skins in the ride.

    • OOOOO!!! SHINY!!!

      Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Next comment.

  9. Some of the Little Mermaid ride is impressive. The way it was when it opened might have disappointed all who rode it, just as Soarin’ may have been even more exhilarating than anyone had expected. It’s like making movies–sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.

    I hope Disney keeps tweaking the large “Under the Sea” scene with lots more state of the art special effects till it’s really astonishing and entertaining, even till it surpasses the timelessly great ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion. In ten years there might be colorful, hilarious, holographic movie fish swirling all around us.

    Till then, Disney recently finished a Haunted Mansion / Pirates of the Caribbean quality attraction (which is to say one of the best rides in the history of Earth) nearby called Radiator Springs Racers. Enjoy that, and–if it’s a hot day–the Little Mermaid can be a diverting, once a year dose of air conditioning like “It’s Tough to be a Bug.”

  10. My main complaint about Little Mermaid is how the exterior/entrance doesn’t match the theme of the ride. While the rotunda is beautiful on its own, what does that have to do with the story of Mermaid? Nothing. It was just there so they kept it so it matched the section of the park. Now in Florida – Little Mermaid gets a proper attraction entrance that is actually better than the ride.

    I actually enjoy both Little Mermaids, but if I had to choose between it and the vintage Mr. Toad – I’d go to Toad Hall every time.

    • The ride entrance is designed to match the theme of Paradise Pier, not the LM film. The theme of the building is a early 1900s aquarium, which places it well into the theme of Paradise Pier. If they had designed it like Magic Kingdom, it would have been totally out of place within the land it resides.

      • *early 1900s victorian aquarium

      • danielz6 is right. The look of the exterior of the building is very fitting as a segue to the attraction (which if you think about it, is really clever, given the fact that the ride vehicles are 15 feet away from Paradise Pier). Besides, if you really think about it, what does Pirates of the Caribbean have to do with New Orleans? You ride through the Spanish Main, not the canals of the crescent city… but somehow, the ride entrance is VERY fitting, and the fact that the blue bayou is a segue from New Orleans Square helps it along.

  11. how do we know that the sound of clanking hammers isn’t just being piped in near the lagoon? Just kidding of course, great photos and article as always!

    • Haha, at first, I thought you were serious until you said “just kidding”.

  12. Ayalexander, The genius of Walt’s final attractions for disneyland is that the narrative is left to the interpretation of every guest. I’ve always loved the bayou intro to POTC and the old man sitting on the porch, and interpreted it as maybe the entire ride is based on memories that this old man has when he was a pirate. And now he lives a quiet life on the bayou. As the boat plunges into the pirates lair perhaps we are plunging into that man’s memories of his adventurous days as a pirate. Of course just my interpretation but pretty cool.

    • You really made me think more about what POTC could be interpreted as. I guess I never really thought about that. Walt once described the waterfalls as if they were “magical” because they were time travel waterfalls. Your idea that we are “plunging into that man’s memories of his adventurous days as a pirate” is the best interpretation i could imagine. We all know the waterfalls were a necessity, but we don’t question their ability to take us back in time, which is funny. Ever since I was a child, I knew the up-ramp at the end was us returning to modern time. It was funny because in the Disneyland’s 10th anniversary episode of Wonderful World of Color, Walt Disney is asked by Julie Reems “how can [the guests] get out then?” and he simply answers “well now, you got into this mess by going down a waterfall, now how would you suppose we get them out of there?” and of course she answers: “by going up the waterfall?” and Walt ends the conversation with: “That’s right, anything’s possible at Disneyland.” I guess because of that episode, since I first saw it, I always thought of the waterfalls as magical waters that take you in and out of time.

      Now the Haunted Mansion…woah! I love the premise of the Haunted Mansion. Most people think its just a really well done version of your classic “haunted house” idea. But the Mansion isn’t your run of the mill haunted house. There is a reason its haunted by so many happy haunts. What most people don’t know is that the Haunted Mansion is a retirement home for tired spirits. Disneyland maintains and takes care of the outside of the Mansion, but its the spooky occupants that maintain the inside, Walt said, “we’re inviting ghosts from all over the world to come and live here in the mansion…” and “we guarantee ‘em creaky doors and creaky floors” I love the idea that the Haunted Mansion is a premature tour of the retirement home for potential… future clients. haha

    • That’s a very interesting interpretation. My only thing is that it would seem to undermine the original theme of the ride. The brilliance of it was that from the beginning you see all these skeleton pirates and hear about how they were doomed by a cursed treasure, and then you move into the city and see all these pirates undoing themselves with their drunkenness, greed ,and lust. At the end, when they blow themselves up and with the addition of the skeletons that stabbed each other, you get the message that it wasn’t a cursed treasure, but treasure ITSELF that is cursed. They managed to get away with the escapism of a ride about rollicking pirates by wrapping it in a poetic, conscience-assuaging morality tale. Brilliant.

      DLP still has elements of that, though it is reordered. You see your first skeleton pirates in the queue, and don’t get the costs of piracy until the end when you get to the same cavern scenes. That is the closest thing that remains to the original ride. The vandalized version in every other park is just a mess. There are skeleton pirates for no reason, and a squid monster for no reason, and it’s all about seeing Jack Sparrow get the treasure, and he does so I guess piracy is okay now? (I don’t think that would hold up in court when Disney catches you downloading their movies).

      Anyways, I like the idea of you descending into the memories of that old man, except part of the original ride was that being a pirate doomed you.

      • That’s a good point too. Back when Pirates of the Caribbean had that pirate voice saying “Perhaps ye knows too much, you’ve seen the cursed treasure…” -I was too young to remember that. But as a amateur Disney historian, I forgot all about that narration explaining the cursed treasure!

      • All good points guys.
        “part of the original ride was that being a pirate doomed you”

        Exactly that’s the moral of the story and why the ride ends in flames and destruction everywhere. Then they added Jack sparrow and basically said but if you’re really lucky you can make it out rich and happy haha.

  13. I don’t know why everyone is so critical of Mermaid. It isn’t better than POTC or Mansion, but it is by far better than anything they have at Fantasyland. I’m really glad they are finally updating the animatronic ones in Fantasyland. Mermaid is a great family ride, and the fact that the Imagineers are addressing the issues should please you guys. Look what Mermaid replaced! Do we really need bash and condemn Mermaid because of the ending? An Ursula death scene would scare my little girl into not riding it anymore. We need to focus on who the target audience is. We all have seen the end of Little Mermaid, we know how it ends. I personally don’t want to see some character get impaled by a ship on a child’s ride.

    • Depends on what you mean by “better”. I would argue that an attraction that lets YOU be the star might be a better story – Peter Pan, Snow White (moreso originally) and Mr Toad.

  14. Mermaid is the ride people love to hate? Maybe for a few over-obsessed fans, but there are literally thousands of guests on a daily basis who ride the attraction that would disagree.

    • Exactly. As crazy fans, we see faults that could only bother us because we see it more often than the average guest. But the guests are perfectly happy with that attraction. However… I do have to say, Disney knows it has not only a loyal fan base (well maybe when I say loyal, I’m not speaking of us here at Micechat since we all rip at each other like rabid dogs when someone compliments an attraction like freakin’ little Mermaid) -but Disney knows that a GREAT deal of guests return on a regular basis, and they also have to tailor the attractions for the people that pay attention.

  15. I kind of agree about the attraction building, but still feel in could have used a little whimsy or something. From a distance it’s not much better than a Macys or Dillard’s mall exterior. Looks remarkably similar in fact.
    It’s amusing how Anaheim constantly has lesser queue’s and attraction buildings than WDW and the excuse is ALWAYS that it is just fits the theme better to not have an ornate building or queue.
    They are so lucky to always be able to get by going the cheap route because it is more theme appropriate for DLR.

    • Well its not always like that… WDW has the room to build elaborate queues. Disneyland Resort is very limited on its space and can’t afford to take up valuable real estate like that.