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Dateline Disneyland

Star Tours soft opens, Little Mermaid unveiled, World of Pirates, DCA progress +MORE

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
by , 05-23-2011 at 03:45 AM
With this summer packing in so many new offerings at the Disneyland Resort, these weeks leading up to the June 3rd launch of the summer season continues to be extremely busy and very exciting. On Friday, Disneyland quietly opened the doors to the newly updated and remodeled Star Tours as Walt Disney World officially launched the new attraction in Florida. While George Lucas was there to cut the ribbon at the Florida attraction, the Disneyland version doesn't officially open until June 3rd, and until then we'll continue to see a mix of soft openings and Annual Passholder preview dates. Meanwhile, over at Disney California Adventure, the walls came down around Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure as it launched its official Cast Previews. The new attraction is now delighting Cast Members along with their friends and family, even if the ride time comes in a little short. A few steps away from the new Little Mermaid dark ride, Paradise Bay's World of Color show has been updated with an extended Pirates of the Caribbean sequence and construction continues nearby on the new Paradise Garden dining area and the re-themed Goofy's Sky School roller coaster.

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.

We've got another busy week, so let's start right away!


Inside Dateline Disneyland


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WELCOME TO DISNEYLAND!
Ready to blast off into a galaxy far, far away? You might want to try your luck catching a soft opening of the new Star Tours—The Adventures Continue at Disneyland. Or better yet, you might have a ticket to Annual Passholder previews this week. Our friends at Touring Plans have a recap of last week's crowd levels that may help you plan for your visit this week.

Wait times were slightly higher than predicted coming into the weekend, but otherwise predictions were extremely accurate. The forecast for the coming week looks similarly light for the weekdays, so take a trip to the parks during the week to hit the Star Tours—The Adventures Continue soft openings to beat the summer crowds! The TouringPlans.com Crowd Calendar rankings are based on wait times for all days on record. When a day is predicated as a 1 out of 10, it doesn’t mean that the parks are empty, just that when compared to other days these wait times are in the bottom 10%.

Thank you 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, TouringPlans.com

Crowd Calendar Prediction
Actual Crowd Levels
DISNEYLAND RESORT
DISNEYLAND PARK
CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
DISNEYLAND RESORT
DISNEYLAND PARK
CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Sun. May 15
6/10
4.5/10
6.1/10
7/10
4.8/10
7.1/10
Mon. May 16
3/10
1.7/10
4.7/10
3/10
2.3/10
4.7/10
Tue. May 17
3/10
1.7/10
4.8/10
3/10
1.3/10
4.6/10
Wed. May 18
3/10
2.1/10
4.9/10
3/10
2.1/10
4.9/10
Thu. May 19
3/10
2.1/10
4.1/10
4/10
3.6/10
3/10
Fri. May 20
5/10
4.2/10
6/10
6/10
45/10
6.6/10
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.
See Disneyland crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disneyland wait times on your iPhone, Android, or Smartphone.

Do more. Wait less.




FLIGHT TESTING
Disneyland soft opened its Star Tours on Friday, following the official opening of the new ride at Walt Disney World. George Lucas and Bob Iger may have cut the ribbon at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Friday, but lines at Disneyland hovered around the two hour mark. Saturday morning, extended queue was set up throughout Tomorrowland and around the Plaza Inn at the end of Main Street.







The indoor portion of the extended queue has been significantly remodeled. The old Star Tours travel posters are gone and the security checkpoint has been removed.





The main queue is similar to its original version. The Starspeeder is now the Starspeeder 1000 model and no longer has asteroid damage.












The droid room no longer features its maintenance room theme and is now a full-fledged security checkpoint.



The on-ride experience offers over 50 variations, so your ride should be different every time. The 3D is crisp and clear, adding depth to the visuals rather than being gimmicky and distracting.




The overall experience offers plenty of nice upgrades to a ride that was becoming a bit stale. The ride is now packed with loads of familiar Star Wars locales and characters that will surely delight fans of the franchise. It's an exciting experience, but certainly feels like Star Tours with ADD. It jumps from location to location at light speed (literally and figuratively), loosely tied together with different character cameos. But somehow, it combines for a great adventure, even if for only a few minutes. And for those wondering, our accidental new pilot C-3PO is a great substitute for Rex from the original attraction. Threepio's dynamic with R2-D2 is a lot of fun, and makes up for the much-beloved Rex.



Walls are also down around the former Buzz Lightyear FASTPASS distribution area, which is now home to Star Tours FASTPASS service.


FASTPASS hasn't been available so far during soft openings.





Brady MacDonald at the Los Angeles Times has a glowing review of the newly re-imagined ride:
Review: Disneyland's new Star Tours ride is light-years better than the original
The new Star Tours attraction that will soon debut at Disneyland adds several layers of 3-D realism to the 1980s-era simulator ride, making the experience less like watching a movie and more like being in the middle of the action.

I took a few preview rides Friday at Disneyland on the updated attraction, which offers 54 possible storylines, and I found myself wanting to jump back in line after each galactic journey.

Dubbed Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the "Star Wars" -inspired ride officially debuts June 3 at Disneyland in California and opened Friday at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.

With lifelike digital imagery and high-definition, 3-D characters that slam into the Starspeeder 1000 windshield, Star Tours 2.0 is light-years better than the 1987 original. I found myself repeatedly grasping for a handhold as our motion simulator fell down chasms, dodged laser fire and raced across the stars.

Spoiler alert: Star Tours 2.0 ride details below

The queue area features the same layout as the old ride with new layers of details and plenty of sight gags (including a few hidden Mickeys). C3PO, the accidental pilot of our Starspeeder, sets up the storyline of the Empire's search for a Rebel spy during the pre-show.

My favorite new character in the queue area is the thermal-scanner droid who doubles as an interstellar stand-up comic: "What did the droid say to the human? One zero one one zero one zero zero zero one one. What, you don't speak binary?"

The Starspeeder motion simulators, which to the untrained eye look almost identical to the 1987 originals, remain largely unchanged on the inside with some of the armrests still showing telltale signs of decades-old grime.

But that's where the similarities between the old and new rides end.

The new journey takes riders on a sightseeing tour of the "Star Wars" galaxy, with possible stops at Hoth, Kashyyyk, Tatooine, Coruscant, Naboo or the Death Star, depending on which of the random storylines your flight crew draws. [ FULL STORY ]


Disney has released the first commercial for the new ride. You can check it out here:




CALIFORNIA CONSTRUCTION
Work continues on California Adventure's $1 billion-dollar remodel and expansion...

BUENA VISTA STREET
Work continues on DCA's new main entrance turnstiles:








The seating area and Information booth in Sunshine Plaza are now completely gone.






Construction on the Carthay Circle Theater continues, but at a slow pace





BLUE SKY UPDATES
At the Blue Sky Cellar, Disney has unveiled three new attraction posters for the park.
















And the glass case that Imagineers post construction photos in got a few new things to look at










THE LITTLE MERMAID ~ ARIEL'S UNDERSEA ADVENTURE
Construction walls came down from the new Little Mermaid attraction last week in time for Cast Member previews.




A friend invited me to join them at Cast Previews this weekend to take a spin on the new ride. No photos or video were permitted, but I really think the new attraction is the dark ride California Adventure always needed. Think of it as a Fantasyland dark ride with state-of-the-art Audio Animatronics figures. The ride is quick and has a rather abrupt ending, but it offers some great moments. The Scuttle and Sebastian Audio-Animatronics were highlights for me, with the larger and heavily-promoted Ariel and Ursula figures being less-impressive than expected. There are a couple moments of projected CG animation, which feels dramatically out-of-place in the show. The choice to go with CG animation rather than hand-drawn is understandable since the attraction is a three-dimensional world and CG animation may seem more appropriate in that context. Yet, Ariel and friends have always been known as hand-drawn characters and the CG animation just feels wrong. It's a minor issue overall, but one that sticks out. The "Under the Sea" room is the highlight of the ride experience, but suffers from very bright lighting conditions. Hopefully the lighting issues can be fixed. Still, despite the ride's overall pacing issues that result in a very rushed finale, it's a great little dark ride. With the omnimover ride system, it may be easy to go in expecting an attraction on-par with Disneyland's classic Haunted Mansion, but be aware that Ariel's Undersea Adventure is not the next Haunted Mansion. Simply put, the attraction is a high-end Fantasyland-style dark ride, and there is nothing wrong with that. It's a great family ride and a much-needed addition for Disney California Adventure.


The building looks great without the blue construction walls and gives a nice backdrop to Paradise Park.







The floor is meant to resemble beach sand. Seashells are embedded in the floor.


Tile mosaic work surrounds the blue "puddles" found in the queue.









Little details in the queue.


Sea urchins top queue stanchions.







At night, the building looks pretty great.


The night lighting really makes a world of difference here. It looks fantastic.











Across from the entrance to the attraction, a new shop is in the works. Embarcadero Gifts will take up the remaining space in the San Francisco Street building and will be the primary location for Little Mermaid merchandise when it opens in June.


Windows are currently blacked out while work goes on inside.



On the other side of the Little Mermaid building, the remodeled Seaside Souvenirs merchandise location has opened. It sports a new paint scheme, its new name, and new popcorn lights.


The center section of the shop's counter has been completely removed and the space has been opened up, allowing you to actually walk into the space. It helps make this retail location feel more like a legitimate store instead of a cheap gift stand.


The themed displays are nice


World of Color and Little Mermaid character merchandise is available here







Steps away, Corn Dog Castle has reopened with new trees and a seating area for folks to enjoy their corn dogs. The location also received new billboard graphics.


New stone tile work in front of the building. Looks good.


Wrought iron fences around the planters


Finally, a place to sit when you eat here.


The area looks better at night as well.




It might be some minor changes, but they do help this area look nicer. Still, we hope it's not a permanent solution. This space is perfect for future redevelopment and we hope that something better will be here sooner rather than later.



GOOFY'S SKY SCHOOL
& PARADISE GARDEN DINING AREA

Work on the new Paradise Garden dining area and Goofy's Sky School continues...





























CARS LAND
Construction continues at Cars Land...


New brick facade on Radiator Springs Curios























WORLD OF PIRATES
World of Color debuted a slightly updated show over the weekend, removing the Chernabog sequence and expanding the Pirates of the Caribbean scene with material from the latest installment in the franchise, On Stranger Tides.

The main mermaid from the new film, seen here on World of Color's giant mist screens


Lots of lasers in the new Pirates segment...


Plenty of fire as well...


The famous Pirates skull made out of lasers ends the Pirates segment...


MiceChat's Dustysage has video of the new Pirates segment here:



Also new to the show— Tangled is now included in the princess/love segment.




THIS AND THAT
Back in Disneyland, the banner for the new Mary Blair exhibit at the Disney Gallery lights up at night and looks great.







The Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe refurbishment continues





Work is underway next to the Frontierland popcorn cart


Construction continues on the new structure next to the Mark Twain/Columbia dock





Fun (and free) new recipe cards are available at the juice bar at the Enchanted Tiki Room:










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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 HoJoAnaheim.com/MiceChat.

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WEEKLY NEWS AND INFORMATION ROUND-UP
Weekly Theme Park Hours
May 23 — 29, 2011

Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
Monday-Thursday: 9am - 9pm
Friday: 9am - 12 midnight
Saturday-Sunday: 8am - 12midnight
Monday-Wednesday: 10am - 9pm
Thursday: 10am - 8:30pm
Friday-Sunday: 10am - 10pm
For a complete listing of theme park hours, visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar

Expected Crowd Levels presented by TouringPlans.com
Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
MEDIUM/HIGH 1.9—8.5 out of 10
MEDIUM/HIGH 2.2—8.6 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

  • Stage Door Cafe: Closed for refurbishment through May 26
  • The Golden Horseshoe: Closed for refurbishment through May 26
  • Splash Mountain: Closed through May 26 for refurbishment.
  • Star Tours — The Adventures Continue: Opens June 3, 2011.

Disney California Adventure

  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure: Official Cast previews set for mid-May. Opens to public June 3, 2011.
  • Goofy's Sky School: Opens July 1
  • Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta: Opens July 1
  • Paradise Garden Grill: Opens July 1
  • Red Car Trolley: Attraction set to open spring 2012.

Downtown Disney & Hotels of the Disneyland Resort

  • Tangaroa Terrace – Casual Island Dining: New restaurant opens May 25.
  • Trader Sam's – Enchanted Tiki Bar: New bar opens May 25.
  • Monorail water play area: Opens May 25.



Apricot Lane Boutique opens up in Downtown Disney
From the OC Register's Around Disney blog:
Downtown Disney welcomes new store
Apricot Lane, a clothing and accessories store aimed at girls in their teens to women in their 50s, is opening its doors in Downtown Disney Friday morning.

Finishing touches were being put on the store Thursday afternoon. Apricot Lane spokeswoman Stacey Graham said the opening was almost put behind schedule when a Fed-Ex truck delivering merchandise was involved in an accident.

None of the inventory was damaged, but the delivery was delayed, Graham said. Workers still needed to clean the windows and the sign to be hung outside the store was expected to be delivered at about 2 a.m. Friday morning.

"The clothing is celebrity-inspired," Graham said. "If Avril Lavigne was featured in a video, we'll have the shirt she wore in the store a couple of days later."

Most clothes will be priced under $100, with denim jeans under $200, Graham said.
Full story: Around Disney: Downtown Disney welcomes new store


Attendance stays flat at Disney theme parks
Also from Around Disney:
Disney park visits stay flat, spending increases
About the same number of visitors headed to U.S. Disney parks early this year compared to the same time last year, but they spent more money on Mickey Mouse trinkets and hotel stays.

Walt Disney Co. reported last week that attendance was flat at its California and Florida parks from Jan. 2 to April 2 compared to the same quarter in 2010, mostly because the Easter holiday fell later this year, said Jay Rasulo, chief financial officer for the Walt Disney Co. Disney lost about $23 million because of the change in Easter, which was April 24.

If Easter had come earlier, attendance likely would have been up about 2 percent, Rasulo said during a conference call with investors on May 10. Read a full transcript of the Disney earnings call.

Disney no longer breaks out attendance figures for its Anaheim parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The company only reports domestic and international numbers.

Visitors on both coasts spent about 6 percent more money than they did last year, mostly because Disney is getting rid of many of its discounts and hiking its overall prices. Hotel visitors also spent more money — about 4 percent.
Full story: Around Disney: Disney park visits stay flat, spending increases



Alright! That wraps up another big edition of Dateline Disneyland! Visit our sponsors at TouringPlans.com!

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See you at the parks!
- Andy


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Updated 05-23-2011 at 01:57 PM by Dateline Disneyland (Fixed typos.)

Categories
Disneyland Resort , Disney's California Adventure Remodel/Expansion , Downtown Disney

Comments

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  1. jpg391's Avatar
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    The new version of Star Tours sounds great.
  2. Crazee4mm's Avatar
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    Look how much has changed since I was at the resort just 2 short weeks ago. I already feel like I'm light years behind the curve. Time to fake an illness and get my buns back to the resort. Oh, and less than a week until Disneyland FINALLY gets a parade of it's own again. Other than the Christmas Fantasy Parade, we've been waiting for YEARS for another parade to call Disneyland home. I think I am as excited over the parade as I am about any of the other offerings. This is going to be a great Disney summer.

    An absolutely stuning update Andy! These articles/updates really fuel the fire inside me to get out of the house and flee to Anaheim. It's successful about 50% of the time. Hmmm... The park's looking pretty tempting about now.
  3. wulfblat's Avatar
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    Thanks for another great update -- it provided a much needed virtual visit for those of us who can only make it to Disneyland every now and then. I especially appreciated the day time/night time photos of many of the locations.
  4. dmomof4's Avatar
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    Awesome..thanks! The line for Cast Member Previews of Star Tours was still pretty long for a private event. How was the line for CM Previews of Ariel?
  5. MrTour's Avatar
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    Too bad Goofy's Sky School wasn't placed in Toon Town. Seems like with the theming, it would have been a better fit there.
  6. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    NIce update!
  7. D.E.1955's Avatar
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    This update is beautiful!!! Everything looks great lit up at night!!!!!
  8. pinkertonfloyd's Avatar
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    Am I the only person who is going to miss the seating area in the Sunshine Plaza Area? It was a great place to sit and enjoy a sundae from Burrrrbank ice cream.
  9. Mac Daddy's Avatar
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    Great update, Andy! So exciting to see these projects reaching or nearing completion, and the new WOC segment is awesome. Nice job!
  10. InspiredByWalt's Avatar
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    Great update, as always - thanks!

    Anyone snag all the recipes from the Tiki Room and post them on MC?
  11. DisneyTrains's Avatar
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    Great update, and a good way to start off the morning!
    I highly look forward to both Star Tours, and Mermaid. Fantastic that World of Color was updated with new scenes! I need to get back to the parks ASAP.
    Little known fact, Star Tours 2, and Little Mermaid open on my birthday!
  12. rubalcava's Avatar
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    Great update! I will be there this coming Tuesday with the fam can't wait to ride the Star Tours!
  13. Mousecat's Avatar
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    Looking forward to my Wednesday trip! Thanks.

    Sam
    SamLand's Disney Adventures
  14. Disneykin Kid's Avatar
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    I saw some of the full ride videos of Star Tours, and I have to say it looks awesome! I criticized before about the Hoth sequence not being in the correct time, but, I'm going to say that's a small quibble. Riders expect to get the best of Star Wars, and that's what they get here. Star Wars has become fun again.

    The main complaint I had about the prequels was that they just weren't fun, like the original trilogy. But I see now Lucas has returned to his roots and has given us a lasting legacy to Star Wars. This is a fitting tribute.
    Spoiler
    The banter between C3PO and R2D2, the threat from Darth Vader, the reaction of the Scan Droid when it recognizes the 'Rebel Spy', they are all vintage SW and great fun.


    About it being ADD - well, that's how the pacing is in today's films, and it probably will get even worse, I don't have a problem with it.

    I haven't ridden Harry Potter, I've seen videos (I know it doesn't do it justice) but I can see this ST may be close, maybe not technology-wise (HP has the Kuka arms), but in overall experience. I just think Star Wars is the superior franchise.

    In SW, all the alien characters are kind of like the animated characters in Disney films - they are timeless, versus live action human characters, which eventually look out of date. Eventually the hair styles, among other things, will make HP look dated. I think it's less so in Star Wars, because it is an indistinguishable time period, whereas HP is like the 2000s time period. IF Disney built a whole land around ST in DHS, then you've really got a competitor to HP. I predict that HP will eventually be less popular, and SW will be timeless.

    Little Mermaid - You said it's short, is it more of a D Ticket? I would be disappointed because DCA really needs an E Ticket, at least on par to Small World. And abrupt ending, I hope they didn't repeat the mistake of the Snow White dark ride, where the witch dies and you just get a painted mural saying "Happily ever after".
    Updated 05-23-2011 at 09:27 AM by Disneykin Kid
  15. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Disneykin Kid

    Little Mermaid - You said it's short, is it more of a D Ticket? I would be disappointed because DCA really needs an E Ticket, at least on par to Small World. And abrupt ending, I hope they didn't repeat the mistake of the Snow White dark ride, where the witch dies and you just get a painted mural saying "Happily ever after".
    I really enjoyed Mermaid. Yes, it is short, but longer than most of the Fantasyland dark rides and MUCH more detailed and better technology. This is now the best of the kiddie dark rides at the resort, however, it is still just a kiddie dark ride. As long as folks go in with that expectation and not expecting an E Ticket, I think they'll be pleased.
  16. SpectroMan's Avatar
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    The author's description of Little Mermaid is spot-on. It is MUCH more a highly upgraded Fantasyland dark ride than it is another Haunted Mansion. The queue is uninspired, plain, and much of it will be in bright sun until the trees grow in. The animatronics are excellent, although I worry about their future maintenance as there's so many, just as with Splash Mountain. The entire thing feels a bit cheap - as if all parts were delivered to DCA ready to snap into place and be plugged in, whereas one gets the feeling that Pirates or Mansion were built on-site (does that make sense?) But overall, of course, it's AWESOME to have a Mermaid ride finally - and who knows? Maybe they're still doing little tweaks to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell the whole movie's story - it's more vignettes from the movie - but I guess that's the pattern that the original dark rides have always followed, and it works, so...we'll go with it
  17. socalkdg's Avatar
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    Sounds like Mermaid is a very nice, "D" ticket dark ride that lasts close to 6 minutes. Remember that Peter Pan only lasts 3 minutes.

    Haven't heard this mentioned, but how does the music sound on the ride? This is a ride based off a movie known for its music, and this should be one of the keys of the ride.
  18. niklj's Avatar
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    Awesome photos, as always, Andy.
  19. ReptarBrew88's Avatar
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    I was at the parks saturday for my Birthday and let me say first off that the Mermaid building is awesome. I tried to get on but failed horribly. I heard mixed reviews from the cast on the attraction. However I did get to go on Star Tours which was awesome! I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE the long waits for the attraction. Even if you are not a fan of Star Wars you will still enjoy the action filled ride. One last thing, along with the new update to WOC there is added projections on California Screamin now that look pretty cool. You really have to give it to the technical team at the parks for making minor changes that make a huge impact and make you want to see the show over and over.
  20. jcruise86's Avatar
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    Outstanding photos!
    Thank you!


    I particularly liked the corn dog stand that is probably at this moment the most attractive corn dog stand in the history of the world. Will I have to extend a pinkie to eat one?

    And the photo of Seaside Souvenirs at night refuted the caption that this stand should be improved. It looked like a Dan Witz painting--so beautiful, gaudy and lonely all at the same time--like an Edward Hopper gas station, but more colorful.

    Early consensus: the Little Mermaid is a great little ride. Cool. I hope the Cars ride is a great big ride--hopefully much longer than the fast part of Test Track.

    --Tom Sinsky
    Updated 05-23-2011 at 02:11 PM by jcruise86
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