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California Construction and Shanghai Surprises! Plus: Star signs, Seahorses, +MORE

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by , 04-10-2011 at 11:56 PM
Disney officially broke ground on the new Shanghai Disney Resort Friday, marking a major milestone in the project that has seen numerous hurdles and setbacks over the years. With the groundbreaking, Disney released three artist renderings of the new park, giving the public the first look at the new Resort. Still, despite the new art, details remain vague on what the Shanghai property will offer guests when it opens in 2015. Meanwhile in Anaheim, signage for the re-imagined Star Tours has been unveiled, and construction continues in Disney California Adventure revealing new architectural and thematic details in Cars Land and at the new Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure attraction. Also announced over the week was the world premiere for the fourth installment in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz will walk the black carpet down Main Street, U.S.A. at the May 7th event.

More information on the construction projects featured in today's column can be found in the MiceChat Project Tracker threads — just look for a Project Tracker watermark and click that photo for more information and to join the on-going discussion.

Big thanks to Fishbulb for extra help with a few Little Mermaid photos this week!

It's another busy week— Let's get going!

Inside Dateline Disneyland

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Main Street facades continue their refurbishment...

It was another busy week at the Disneyland Resort, with crowd levels exceeding the already-high levels predicted by our friends at Touring Plans. Fred over at Touring Plans has all of the numbers in our weekly crowd recap:

Wait times at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure came in higher than expected this week, pushing the crowd level to a 10 from Sunday through Thursday. It dipped back down to a level 9 on Friday and Saturday but we expect it to continue to remain high for the weeks to come.

Big thanks to our Disneyland Research team and our fabulous LINES users who reported wait times throughout the week. Here’s how their submissions compared to what our professional statisticians predicted on the Crowd Calendar.

— Fred Hazelton Statistician,

Crowd Calendar Prediction
Actual Crowd Levels
Sun. April 3
Mon. April 4
Tue. April 5
Wed. April 6
Thu. April 7
Fri. April 8
Sat. April 9
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.
See crowd predictions for the next 365 days and get wait time predictions on your Mobile Phone. Do More. Wait Less.

Thursday evening, Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs announced on the official Disney Parks Blog that he and Disney CEO Bob Iger were preparing to break ground in Shanghai, where it was already Friday. The big announcement included three pieces of concept art that gave the public the first look at what's to come at the new Shanghai Disney Resort.

Breaking Ground on Shanghai Disney Resort
I’m writing to you from Shanghai where Bob Iger and I are just about to take the stage for a very special ceremony. In just a few minutes we will officially break ground on the Shanghai Disney Resort.

This is truly a defining moment in our company’s history. We will now begin construction on this exciting new site and cause our creative concepts to leap from the drawing boards and become a wonderful new resort where friends and families can visit and play and create memories that they’ll never forget.

With Shanghai Disney Resort, we have the chance to introduce the Disney Parks experience to an entirely new group of guests. Scheduled to open in about five years, our new resort in Shanghai will include things that you know and love about a Disney theme park such as Disney characters, attractions and storytelling… but it will also feature all-new experiences and stories that were inspired by and created for the people of China. The best way to describe this new resort is authentically Disney, yet distinctly Chinese.

Shanghai Disneyland will be the name of the theme park itself, but the property will also have two themed hotels, a venue for retail, dining and entertainment, a wonderful sparkling lagoon and some outdoor recreation areas.

We look forward to sharing more details with you right here on the Disney Parks Blog. Until then, I would like to thank everyone from both Disney and the Shanghai Shendi Group who have worked so tirelessly to make the dream of building a Disney resort in Shanghai a reality. [ LINK ]

The announcement and groundbreaking ceremony didn't offer many details on what the park will offer when it opens in 2015, which has left plenty of fans wondering what, exactly, Shanghai Disneyland will include. Michael Crawford at the wonderful Progress City, U.S.A. blog discussed the announcement and concept art Thursday evening:

Surprisingly Unsurprising Shanghai Surprise
In Shanghai, tomorrow has already arrived and so Disney has finally and officially announced the Shanghai Disneyland project. Disney released the first renderings for the park on its blog, and Imagineer Bob Weis, who has been Tweeting pictures from the construction site, posted [a] brief video of the groundbreaking.

So what have we learned from the announcement and first official renderings? Well, aside from the fact that it looks like Thomas Kinkade has picked up some work moonlighting at WDI, not a whole lot. After years of whispers that the park would be something truly striking and new, the first thing that springs to eye is that, once more, Disney has decided to build an imitation of Florida’s Cinderella Castle. Unlike the direct clone in Tokyo, though, this is a beefy, plus-sized castle, which Disney says will be its largest yet. As this is the first new park of the interactive meet-and-greet focused era, we can no doubt expect Cinderella’s new double-wide to be full of restaurant space and meet-and-greet opportunities. Disney wants to make sure that billions of Chinese consumers get full princess exposure.

There are obvious departures in the park layout from the traditional model; as we had heard, there is no Main Street. Instead the area between the turnstiles and castle is filled with an 11 acre park which, according to Disney, will feature yet more meet-and-greets. According to these renderings, this area will also feature the traditional Carousel and Dumbo spinner.

The rest of the park is more mysterious. You can make out a smudgy, blurry Pirate mountain, originally designed for Hong Kong, in the digital rendering, but everything else is fairly indecipherable. Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that the park will be “authentically Disney but distinctly Chinese,” and according to the New York Times the Chinese government has insisted that the park be “sharply different” from Disneyland and that it heavily incorporate Chinese culture. It will be interesting to see how Disney intends to do this, especially when the castle and other elements seem surprisingly boilerplate.

As uninspiring as I find these images, this isn’t a cheap-out project like in Michael Eisner’s waning years. The large 225-acre park represents a $3.7 billion investment, while the entire resort will clock in at $4.4 billion. As long as all that cash doesn’t go into interactive character shenanigans and flat-screen TVs, WDI should be able to do something really impressive. Let’s just hope it’s not all franchise overload.

[ . . . ]

It’s hard to say when we’ll find out more about this project; Disney wants to keep other fly-by-night Chinese theme parks from cobbling together cheap rip-offs of its planned attractions, so it’s playing its cards close to the vest. We also don’t know how finalized the park’s design is, but with construction beginning and the 2015 looming (and the fact that they’ve had 20 years to plan this) one expects that things should be pretty far along. I would have chalked up the vague nature of these renderings to the typical and expected fluctuations in the design process, and I wonder how much of even these concepts has been settled on, but they don’t have a whole lot of time to spare messing about. Hong Kong Disneyland’s makeup changed considerably in the time following its announcement, but this project is the subject of much greater scrutiny. Hopefully they have a good idea of what’s coming, and hopefully we’ll find out more soon. [ FULL STORY ]

Mickey and friends with a Chinese children's choir at the groundbreaking ceremony:

Breaking ground:

In California, Disneyland continues to get ready to launch its re-imagined Star Tours attraction. Last week the shiny new chrome marquee was revealed.

Also, on Thursday, Al on MiceAge posted news on possible Star Tours 2 soft openings:
It's not announced yet, but official Cast Member Previews for Star Tours 2.0 are now scheduled for May 16th through the 19th. Soft openings for park visitors could begin immediately after that, while the CM Previews begin for Little Mermaid on the 20th. They've gone with the later timetable that was discussed in the last update, waiting for the park to recover from the Pirates Premiere before they begin previewing this summer's new rides. [ LINK ]

The other side of the entrance:

A few steps away, scaffolding has come down from the Star Trader facade revealing a brand new color scheme that is rather nice. Thankfully the delightful astronaut Mickey neon has survived and the new blue-and-purple color scheme looks great.

The Starcade-side of the building's facade is simpler, but still looks great with its new paint

Construction continues on major projects throughout Disney California Adventure...

At California Adventure, the new Pan-Pacific Auditorium-inspired entry gates continue to quickly come together.

Inside the park gates, the steel construction on the Carthay Circle Theatre continues to get bigger.

The view from Condor Flats:

Walking toward A Bug's Land...

Looking back at construction toward the park entrance.

View from the Monorail

In Cars Land, new architectural details are emerging at the building for Luigi's Flying Tires

Tires on the Luigi's facade:

Tow Mater's Junkyard Jamboree construction:


Last Monday, Disney released a video previewing the new Audio-Animatronics figures for Ariel, the Little Mermaid. We added the video to last week's column after the column was already live, so here it is again in case you missed it:
Walt Disney Imagineers Get Creative With Ariel’s Hair at Disney California Adventure Park
We are just a couple of months away from the official opening of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure park. Walt Disney Imagineers are working hard to make sure you feel transported into Ariel’s world through every detail – the water, the fish, the hair….yes, the hair! Ariel’s hair posed a particular challenge for Imagineers, one they hadn’t encountered before – how do you make hair that’s technically out of the water look like it’s floating underwater? Take a look at their progress. [ FULL STORY ]

New decorative support beams on the underside of the rotunda

The decorative seashells and wave patterns on the Little Mermaid facade have gotten detail coloring:

And new decorative seashell and seahorse toppers have been installed on the Mermaid rooftop

Decorative elements on the facade get a patina-style paint treatment

If you look closely, you can see large lighting fixtures and painted murals in the attraction's load area


Work continues on Goofy's Sky School. A new wall has sprung up along the side of the roller coaster, and new thematic elements can be seen if you look closely.

You can spot cartoon clouds and birds around section of the track:

Cloud shapes on the top of the coaster:

The new marquee water tower:

Paradise Garden seating area

The new Bayside Brews beer stand is coming together very quickly

A door in the Bayside Brews construction wall was open when passing through the area:

Outside the parks at the Disneyland Hotel, work continues on remodeling the rooms at the Magic Tower and construction at the new Tangaroa Terrace restaurant and bar facility and the new Monorail-themed water slide pool, set to open this summer.

The lobby of the Dreams Tower (soon to be re-named as Adventure Tower) is closed and its windows are blacked out. Is it time for re-theming here?

Work on the Magic Tower

The new BLINK denim store run by popular clothing chain Wet Seal has opened in the former Anne Geddes shop location. The concept store is set to be temporary, with no word yet on a permanent replacement for the location. But, for now, young women can talk with a "denim expert" and find their perfect pair of jeans.

The OC Register's Around Disney blog had details on the new store last week:
New store opens in Downtown Disney
A specialty denim store is set to open its doors Thursday (April 6) in Downtown Disney.

Blink, a clothing store run by Wet Seal Inc., is scheduled to begin business in a 2,700-square-foot space in the Anaheim entertainment-shopping district.

The temporary “pop-up” store will go in the former spot of the Anne Geddes store, which closed Feb. 28.

The new store is set to sell trendy denim items, tops and accessories aimed at customers ages 13 to 19 years old. “Denim experts” will be on hand to help customers find different brands and styles, according to Wet Seal.

On Wednesday, displays were set up inside the windows, including female mannequins clutching stacks of jeans.

The store is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Wet Seal began the Blink concept in June when it debuted its first standalone store, according to the OC Retail blog. [ FULL STORY ]

Disney released some larger views of previously-released concept art for the new Mickey's Soundsational Parade last week. The highly-anticipated new parade debuts at the end of May.

A new piece gives a sneak peek at a bayou dancer costume for the Princess and the Frog float

Splash Mountain is still closed for refurbishment through late May

In Frontierland, work continues on a new structure next to the Mark Twain/Columbia queue area

The Frontierland River Packet platform is closed during construction. When open, the area is a simple seating area offering views of the Rivers of America.

Dateline Disneyland is sponsored by our good friends at the
Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel - Anaheim Resort.
A short walk from the park, HoJo Anaheim is conveniently located next to Disneyland with nearby dining and freeway access. For more information on HoJo Anaheim, room rates, or to book your stay today, visit

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Weekly Theme Park Hours
APRIL 11 — 17, 2011

Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
Monday-Thursday: 9am - 12midnight
Friday-Sunday: 8am - 12midnight
Monday-Thursday: 10am - 10pm
Friday-Sunday: 9am - 10pm
For a complete listing of theme park hours, visit the Theme Park Calendar

Expected Crowd Levels presented by
Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
HIGH 7.2—9.1 out of 10
HIGH 8.8—9.6 out of 10
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10,
with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

For daily crowd predictions for the next 365 days, visit
Closures and Refurbishment Schedule
Disneyland Park

  • Star Trader: Closed for refurbishment through April 30
  • Stage Door Cafe: Closed for refurbishment May 2—26
  • The Golden Horseshoe: Closed for refurbishment May 9—26
  • Indiana Jones Adventure: Closed for refurbishment May 17—18
  • Splash Mountain: Closed through May 26 for refurbishment.
  • Star Tours: Closed for Star Tours 2 overhaul. Opens June 3, 2011.

Disney California Adventure

  • Mullholland Madness: Closed to be rethemed. Reopens summer 2011 as Goofy's Sky School.
  • Pizza Oom Mow Mow: Closed for retheme to Boardwalk Pasta and Pizza
  • Burger Invasion: Closed for retheme to Paradise Garden Grill. Reopens summer 2011.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure: Under construction. Opens June 3, 2011.
  • Souvenir 66 and Corn Dog Castle: Store and dining location closed for remodeling through May 2011.
  • Red Car Trolley: Attraction set to open spring 2012.

Downtown Disney & Hotels of the Disneyland Resort

  • Tangaroa Terrace Restaurant and Trader Sam's Bar: Replacing the former Hook's Pointe, Wine Cellar and Lost Bar, the new tiki-themed dining complex will open Spring 2011.

The ever-popular MiceChat Gumball Rally is almost here and tickets are going fast! Don't miss out on your chance to join in the fun! Less than 50 tickets remain!

Are You Ready To Roll? May 14, 2011 is our next world famous Gumball Rally!
When: May 14st, 2011
Where: Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
Cost: $25 per person
How Do I sign up? MiceChat Events Store

Our Gumball Rally just keeps getting bigger and better every year. This year, we are including a lite breakfast at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney and have nearly $2,000 in prizes and giveaways (Sponsored by the amazing folks at Fairy Godmother Travel) for our Award Party at HoJo (AND a special game show to help keep you entertained while we wait for the results).

Due to the limited availability of ESPN Zone and Howard Johnson, we will only be able to allow 500 participants in this year’s event and will not be able to offer the Half Rally (however, we’ll plan a special Half Rally for the Fall).
For more information on the event, CLICK HERE!

Last Tuesday Disney finally announced details on the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides World Premiere, which will be held May 7 at Disneyland. Disney also offered the chance for guests to buy tickets to the event, walk the red carpet and see the film with the likes of Johnny Depp for $1,000 per ticket—proceeds going to charity, of course. Not surprisingly, tickets have already sold out. Here's the original announcement from Disney:

Disneyland Park to Host World Premiere of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ May 7
Disneyland park will make history on May 7 when we host the first-ever 3D outdoor film premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of America. All of the film’s stars are expected to attend along with many more Hollywood celebrities.

The Walt Disney Company is hosting the gala event and funds raised from ticket sales will go directly to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of America is to enable all young people, especially those who need it most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
Individual tickets for the premiere event are priced at $1,000 and are now available for purchase at

While only invited guests with the proper credentials may attend the film premiere, a limited number of Disneyland park guests may be able to view the “Red Carpet Arrivals” (the carpet is actually going to be black this time!) on Main Street, U.S.A., although, again, viewing capacity will be very limited.

Disneyland Resort park hours have been adjusted on May 7 for this very special event. Disneyland park will open at 7 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. Disney California Adventure park will open at 10 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.
For the full story, visit: Disney Parks Blog: Disneyland Park to Host World Premiere of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ May 7

From the OC Register's Around Disney Blog:

Disneyland Resort generates $4.7 billion annually to economy
The Disneyland Resort generates about $4.7 billion to the Southern California economy each year, Disney announced Friday.

The figure includes taxes and tourist dollars.

George Kalogridis, president of the Disneyland Resort, revealed the numbers during a State of the Resort speech on Friday. They come from an independent report that the company commissioned last year.

The Disneyland Resort is Orange County’s largest private employer that includes two theme parks, three hotels and the Downtown Disney entertainment-shopping district in Anaheim. About 400 people, community leaders and other invited guests, attended the speech at the Grand Californian Hotel.
For the full story, visit: Around Disney: Disneyland Resort generates $4.7 billion annually to economy

A Tokyo update from the LA Times:

A new theme at Tokyo Disney: hardship
Reporting from Tokyo— Hiroshi Miura and a dozen other taxi drivers dressed in crisp blue shirts were shooting the breeze in front of the quiet Tokyo Bay Hotel at dusk Saturday. They had one thing on their minds: "X Day."

"That's the day Disney is going to reopen," said Miura, leaning against a buddy's black cab and lamenting how he has lost at least two-thirds of his fares since Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea shut down after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami. "They're going to post a notice five days before 'X Day' on their website announcing what day they are starting operations. We're all waiting."

It's not just taxi drivers who have been suffering without the 70,000 customers that the Disney resorts in Japan attract each day on average. Many nearby hotels, restaurants and shopping centers sustained only minor damage in the quake but have seen a major drop-off in business, vividly illustrating the economic ripple effects of the disaster. The two Tokyo Disney properties are among the most popular theme parks in the world, attracting more than 25.3 million visitors in the 12 months that ended March 31.

The quake crumbled some Disney parking lots, but otherwise the facilities escaped largely unscathed. Yet the resorts' operator is still facing multiple issues as it considers when to throw open the gates again, including ongoing power shortages linked to the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident and an expected decline in visitors from the disaster zone and overseas.

Attendance may also be curtailed by the phenomenon of "jishuku," or self-restraint, as some Japanese feel it's unseemly to overtly partake in leisure activities at this time of national crisis.

A gloomy outlook for Japan's overall economy after the quake, tsunami and nuclear accident may also make potential Disney visitors think twice about shelling out for tickets.

Oriental Land Co., which owns and operates the parks under license from Walt Disney Co., did not respond to a request for comment. Disney representatives declined to comment. But an analyst at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo who follows Oriental Land said in a recent report that the parks will probably reopen this month during the daytime only and will probably have to discount admission prices because of the shorter hours. Ticket prices were supposed to rise to 6,200 yen ($74) for an adult starting April 23.

Each day the parks are closed costs Oriental Land 500 million yen (about $5.9 million) in operating profit, Morgan Stanley's Naoshi Nema estimated, and the stock has lost about a quarter of its value since March 11.
For the full story, visit: Los Angeles Times: A new theme at Tokyo Disney: hardship

Okay, tha'ts it for another edition of Dateline Disneyland. Thanks again to our sponsors at Thanks again to Fishbulb for extra help with a few photos this week.

Many thanks to all of you for reading! What do you think about the new Shanghai Disneyland announcement or the new details at Star Tours and Little Mermaid attractions? Let us know by joining the discussion in the comments section below!

For even more photos from this week, visit the Dateline Disneyland Smugmug where all of the unedited photos we shot for this week's update can be found for your browsing pleasure.

We're only here because of your support. If you enjoy Dateline Disneyland every week please consider helping us out by donating a buck or two so we can pay the bills and keep the updates coming! You can donate with a click of a button via PayPal — click here!

Also, remember that MiceChat has tons of new content all week long! For even more Disneyland news, photos and information check out the In the Parks column on Fridays. And MiceChat's Weekend Update, tours the world of Disney theme parks and other worldly sights and landmarks!

See you at the parks!
- Andy

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  1. Disneyland95's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great update! I can't wait until i can visit DLR again next summer
  2. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    Great Update!
  3. DOMINGUESS's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update, its been 2 weeks since my last visit & it's updates like this that help relieve the pain of not being there! Thank you!!! FANTASTIC PICS TOO!!!!
  4. TifaOnACloud's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update. Shame it's yet another Cinderella Castle for Shanghai. At least they're changing the design a bit, but do we really need three of them?
  5. Hildy's Avatar
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    The Paradise Garden eating area is looking really nice. Is it on schedule? It seems like they still have lots to do. There is only a month and a half left until the opening. Will it be ready on time? I will be there in September and can't wait to see the attractions set to open this summer.

    So sad about Tokyo. It is a real hard call to make for those executives. On one hand I see that the idea of people enjoying themselves at an amusement park seems callous and disrespectful of those who have been lost and those who have suffered so much. On the other hand every day it sits closed is keeping cast members, taxi drivers, hotel operators/employees from earning income for their families. My heart goes out to the Japanese people. I hope the park will be open soon and that lots of tourists will come and flood their economy with cash.
  6. Fairy Godmother Travel's Avatar
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    Wow what fabulous photos! Love the details on the Mermaid building and cars land is coming along nicely!!
  7. GoBotDotCom's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update - I always look forward to Mondays because of it!
  8. a-mad's Avatar
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    Great update, as always!

    Question on the Paradise Garden eating area - will that enclosed seating area hug right up against the parade route? Those are going to be some popular places to eat... and I'm wondering if people will crowd that area around parade time and make it difficult to even use it for dining? Also - will there be seating inside the two buildings (Pizza and Pasta and the Grill) or will all seating be outside?

    Looking forward to when this area is finished - I think they've done a really nice job with it. I doubt it will be done with Mermaid, though (perhaps some of it will open). It still looks like there's much to do....
  9. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Excellent update!
  10. RodeToad's Avatar
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    Very enjoyable update!

    In the Shanghai castle drawing: I see Voldemort coming out of the clouds! (lol!)
  11. Crazy54's Avatar
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    Good update this week. Makes me sad I missed the parks this weekend.
  12. Concieved@DL's Avatar
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    Great Great Great, I am down to 39 days till DL for a week. I am hoping that there are some soft openings for StarTours 2.0, Little Mermaid, and Goofy's Skyschool. I am happy to see the off season referbs going so well. I am also planning to do Fantasmic preferred seating. Does anyone have any experiences with that ? Peace.
  13. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Star Tours in the Ocean and Little Mermaid in Space.

  14. cablubber's Avatar
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    A lot of nice progress with all the construction going on for well...everything Whew!! Good thing we never go to the parks during Spring Break - crowded! Thanks for the update! It was delectable
  15. airick75's Avatar
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    Two questions:

    1. Is the trim on the firehouse really that garishly yellow? (It's in the background of the second picture.

    2. I watched the video - great!! But Al, what do you mean by your comment? It seems kind of cryptic and I could guess - are you saying Disneyland had a low point in the 90's but came roaring back around 2004-05, but still has a long way to go to reach the extravagance of the 30th?

    Ok - I may have answered my own question...but feel free to comment.
  16. ALIASd's Avatar
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    Two of the new Mickey's Soundsational Parade floats were plainly visible thru the open gate as I exited towards Ball Rd. earlier this evening - they are BIG and just gorgeous! CANNOT wait to see them in action on Main Street!
  17. bfdf55's Avatar
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    The shanghai rendering:

    must be from some other concept because the current location for the park is nowhere near a body of water indicated. The actual property is completely landlocked and is around 6-10 miles from the nearest bodies of water.
  18. artastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bfdf55
    The shanghai rendering:

    must be from some other concept because the current location for the park is nowhere near a body of water indicated. The actual property is completely landlocked and is around 6-10 miles from the nearest bodies of water.
    uh, Disney will be constructing its own 'body of water' for the resort...
  19. crmwed's Avatar
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    I LOVE the detail they putting into the Little Mermaid facade. So much better than the stucco that most of the park was originally built with.