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Dateline Disneyland

Grand openings from under the sea to outer space: Little Mermaid, Star Tours, +MORE!

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by , 06-06-2011 at 04:56 AM
Last weekend was easily one of the Disneyland Resort's biggest summer kick-offs in decades with the grand opening of two major new attractions, a fantastic new parade, and a handful of new offerings at the Disneyland Hotel. At Disneyland, the newly revamped Star Tours ride is now open, thrilling crowds daily while a charming new parade delights crowds along Main Street, U.S.A. In Disney California Adventure, the park has hit its latest milestone in its multi-year expansion and remodel with the opening of its first real family-friendly Audio-Animatronics attraction, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure. And over at the Disneyland Hotel, the new Monorail water slide play area is now officially open alongside the fantastic new tiki-themed dining options.

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.

There's plenty to see this week, so let's jump right in...

Inside Dateline Disneyland

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Our partners at Touring Plans have some tips for you if you plan to visit the Disneyland Resort this summer along with their weekly crowd recap this week.

An influx of crowds began on Thursday and heavy crowd levels continued through the weekend for the grand openings of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure and Star Tours 2, plus the debut performance of Mickey's Soundsational Parade. With wait times on Friday at Star Tours peaking at 240 minutes on Friday, it should be no surprise that weekend guests encountered heavy crowd levels for these debuts. The Crowd Calendar rankings are based on wait times for all days on record. Because choosing the least crowded days to visit, but not having a good plan of attack for avoiding crowd concentrations is like ordering Diet Coke with three Big Macs, especially with the high Summer crowd levels anticipated, we highly recommend that you follow a Touring Plan. You can now access these Touring Plans on the go with our Lines Mobile Wait Times app!

Here’s how the observed wait time submissions of our Lines – Mobile Wait Times app users and our data team compared to what our professional statisticians predicted on the Crowd Calendar.

— Fred Hazelton Statistician,

Crowd Calendar Prediction
Actual Crowd Levels
Sun. May 29
Mon. May 30
Tue. May 31
Wed. June 1
Thu. June 2
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.

New banners promoting the Soundsational Summer offerings in Downtown Disney:

Disneyland launched its big Soundsational Summer over the weekend which included the official openings of the new Star Tours—The Adventures Continue and The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure attractions along with the new Mickey's Soundsational Parade and new dining and pool features at the Disneyland Hotel. The Resort was buzzing with folks from the media and Disney blogs and news sites over the weekend, which concluded with a "What's next?" presentation that gave another overview of the upcoming Cars Land and Buena Vista Street projects along with the new Disney Vacation Club property in Hawaii. Our sister blog, MiceChat's In the Parks has full coverage of the media event in their June 2nd update.

Star Tours officially opened its doors on Friday morning, June 3. The event was much smaller than the opening ceremony at Walt Disney World, which included George Lucas, Anthony Daniels and Disney CEO Bob Iger. The Disneyland event included Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and some special guests from the Star Wars universe.

Disney hosted a live video stream of the event and has since re-aired the video on their website. We've reposted the video below with YouTube for easy viewing.

On opening morning, the queue for the attraction stretched from the entrance of Tomorrowland, fill the central plaza and stretched down Main Street, U.S.A. Following the attraction's opening around noon, the line moved off Main Street, but still ranged between two to four hours throughout the day.

Below, a clever new commercial features Darth Vader spending a day at Disneyland and then opening the new Star Tours his own way. To the right is a re-cap of wait times highs-and-lows as reported by members.
Star Tours
Posted standby wait time highs and lows as reported during opening weekend by users.

Friday, June 3
LOW: 100 min. at 11:06pm PDT
HIGH: 240 min. at 1:14pm PDT

Saturday, June 4
LOW: 80 min. at 8:23am PDT
HIGH: 140 min. at 3:09pm PDT

Sunday, June 5
LOW: 20 min. at 8:13am PDT
HIGH: 225 min. at 4:37pm PDT

Below are a couple publicity photos of the new attraction, released by Disney. For more photos and a ride review, see our May 23rd update.

Our former pilot, Rex makes a cameo in the queue as a defective unit.

Some of the new destinations you may visit in the revamped attraction include Hoth (below):


and Naboo:

Or, you may be chased through an asteroid field by Boba Fett:

New R2-D2 popcorn buckets are available at select popcorn carts in the park for $15 each.

And a larger selection of new Star Tours merchandise has now hit the shelves in Tomorrowland's Star Trader.

Experience Disney's Soundsational Summer
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On Thursday, media was treated to performance of the fantastic new Mickey's Soundsational Parade, which is now delighting audiences daily on Main Street USA. We shared full video and photo coverage of the parade with you last week along with a full review. For your convenience, our video is posted again below.

Also on Thursday, Disney officially opened the new Little Mermaid attraction in California Adventure. The event included a live performance by the voice of Ariel herself, Jodi Benson along with Sherie Rene Scott who portrays Ursula in Broadway's "The Little Mermaid" show. Also in attendance was the original voice of Ursula, actress Pat Carroll.

Jodi Benson performs

Sherie Rene Scott sings "Poor Unfortunate Souls"

Confetti blasts mark the opening of the new ride

Pat Carrol (left, voice of Ursula) and Jodi Benson (right, voice of Ariel) in front of the new attraction

Benson and Carrol take a ride together under the sea

Below, a new commercial showcasing Disneyland's Summer Soundsational promo prominently features the new Little Mermaid attraction. To the right is a re-cap of wait times highs-and-lows as reported by members.
The Little Mermaid

Posted standby wait time highs and lows as reported during opening weekend by users.

Friday, June 3
LOW: 60 min. at 5:43pm PDT
HIGH: 180 min. at 10:23am PDT

Saturday, June 4
LOW: 15 min. at 8:29pm PDT
HIGH: 60 min. at 10:35am PDT

Sunday, June 5
LOW: 60 min. at 3:35pm PDT
HIGH: 120 min. at 9:58am PDT

Following Thursday's grand opening, the rush to experience the new attraction was felt Friday morning as eager guests filled a massive extended queue that wound its way throughout Paradise Park, along Grizzly Trail and into the park's entryway, Sunshine Plaza.

A view of the extended queue from Mickey's Fun Wheel:

...and from the Golden Zephyr:

Below are a few publicity photos of the new attraction from Disney:

We shared a full video ride-through of the new attraction with you last week. It's posted again below for your convenience.

The media also toured the newly revamped Disneyland Hotel grounds on Thursday, including the new Monorail water slide pool area, which is now open to the public as well as the fancy new premium guest suites.

Below is a video clip we shared with you last week of the color-changing water fall at the new Monorail pool

The new themed guest suites are also now available, including the newly revealed Adventureland Suite.

Frontierland and Fairytale Suites are also available:

Outside of the Frontier Tower, a new geyser and waterfall area has opened. The waterfalls are a nice nod to the former Horseshoe Falls that once marked the entrance to the Frontier Tower, but obviously pale in comparison. The geyser is a nice thematic touch, and a welcome homage to former Frontierland features inside Disneyland.

Over at the Adventure Tower, the lobby is still not finished but is open with new lobby furniture, matching the Adventureland theme.

Outside, the Never Land Pool area is now behind walls as it passes on to Yesterland. The pool will remain as-is but its surroundings will change.

Work continues on the remainder of California Adventure's $1 billion-dollar remodel and expansion...

The new main entrance turnstiles continue to progress nicely.

The new pump house takes shape behind construction walls


Walls came down around the new water tower entrance, FASTPASS distribution area and extended queue of Goofy's Sky School over the weekend. The re-themed attraction isn't set to officially open until July 1, but so far the re-theming seems to be moderately more aesthetically pleasing than the former Mullholland Madness, but just as thematically out-of-place as its predecessor. What we're working with now is a cartoon chicken farm-turned aviation school run by Goofy. It's definitely a strange theme for a turn-of-the-20th-century seaside pier, but on the bright side it's only a temporary fix until a proper attraction can move into this space in the future.

Cut-out cartoon chickens atop FASTPASS machines. Is this better than the tacky traffic signs from Mullholland Madness?

The cartoony brown farm fence surrounds planters in the large extended queue area

The new mural at the load area

The new Paradise Garden dining area continues to show progress and looks on-target to meet its July 1 grand opening.

A look at the new Bayside Brews beer stand

A look at Cars Land construction...

A look into Cars Land from Friday's media presentation, thanks to MiceChat's Fishbulb:

Over in the Pacific Wharf area, the Mission Tortilla Factory has closed.

Last week, Al Lutz explained the closure and what to expect in this space when chocolate company Ghirardelli moves in 2012
How Sweet it is...
Disney California Adventure is going through a metamorphosis that is unprecedented in the history of Disney theme parks, especially for a park that is barely 10 years old and has already enjoyed healthy expansion and investment over that first decade. Much has been made of the additional 1.2 Billion dollars being poured into the park during an accelerated timeframe, and executives right up to CEO Bob Iger have had to publicly admit it’s all an attempt to fix a park that never met expectations. While that 1.2 Billion dollar mega-project continues, smaller changes unassociated with the makeover itself continue to move through the pipeline for DCA, and the next change arrives on Tuesday, May 31st. That’s when the Mission Tortilla Factory quietly closes and passes into the DCA history books.

The Mission Tortilla Factory was one of DCA’s 2001 opening day offerings that was widely lampooned at first as an example of the cheap and mundane attractions in the park, but slowly gained a loyal following for its free half-tortilla samples and quirky exhibits, not to mention the Annual Passholders who returned year after year on their birthdays to receive a big bag of free tortillas from the CM’s running the tortilla machines. But the run of free tortillas ends on Tuesday, and the doors to the factory will be shut for good.

The excuse that managers are giving DCA Cast Members is that Mission failed to renew their latest sponsorship agreement and the location must now close to allow for construction to continue on the big entranceway into Cars Land that is behind the walls nearby. But that’s not the complete story behind this sudden and quiet closure. The rest of the story is that Disney is wrapping up the details on a new sponsorship deal with an iconic California company they had been chasing back in the late 1990’s for DCA, but who wisely took a pass after deciding they were unimpressed with the original park. But now the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company of San Francisco is planned to become DCA’s newest sponsor, and if the current timeline holds Ghirardelli will debut in 2012 in an expanded and remade building at the old Mission Tortilla Factory location.

Taking direct inspiration from Ghirardelli’s famous waterfront chocolate factory in San Francisco, Imagineering plans to keep the footprint of the current building, but give it an exterior that mimics the charming red brick and stone of Ghirardelli’s Larkin street building and clock tower, complete with a version of the lighted sign that has greeted arriving sailors in San Francisco Bay since 1923. They’ll also expand the current building to the south, taking over the adjoining backstage structure that houses DCA’s first aid and lost children complex, while a replacement facility is created near the front of the park. The remade Ghirardelli complex will offer enough space to provide for a small factory tour experience, as well as an attached chocolate shop and soda fountain. [ FULL STORY ]

Over at Disneyland, walls are down around the location of Frontierland's popcorn cart and the former lemonade stand.

With the frozen lemonade stand being incorporated into Frontierland's new multi-ODV stand, this space now offers churros and drinks.

We missed it last week, but an old perfume shop has reopened in New Orleans Square, but in name only. The shop doesn't offer the original create-your-own perfume service, but instead a variety of standard brand-name perfumes that you can find in just about any Macy's or perfume shop in your local mall. It's nice to see a classic shop name return to Disneyland, but this one isn't too much to get excited about unless some changes are made.

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Weekly Theme Park Hours
June 6 — 12, 2011

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

Expected Crowd Levels presented by
Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
LOW/MEDIUM 3.1—6.3 out of 10
LOW/MEDIUM 2.6—6.7 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

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Closed May 31—June 9 for refurbishment.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds: Closed the following periods for refurbishment: June 13—17, June 20—24, and July 11—September 1.

Disney California Adventure

  • 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

  • Never Land Pool: Area set for remodel. Dates to be announced.

Golden Horseshoe Revue legends pass away
Some sad news, two iconic Disneyland performers have passed away: Wally Boag and Betty Taylor — both known for their roles in Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue.
Wally Boag, a longtime leading man at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue and television and film actor, passed away today. He was 90 years old. Wally entertained Disneyland park guests five days a week, three times a day, for nearly 27 years. By the time he retired, in 1982, from his role as the outrageous Pecos Bill, Wally had performed in nearly 40,000 productions of the popular Revue.

"The world's stage has experienced a great loss in the passing of Disney Legend Wally Boag," George Kalogridis, president, Disneyland Resort, says. "Wally was instrumental in the development of live entertainment during the early years of both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World Resort. His characters will continue to live in the hearts of our guests, while his larger than life personality will forever make him the true "Clown Prince of Disneyland."

Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running stage production in show business history, Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue proved to be good steady work for the former vaudeville performer, who recalled, "My longest job before the Golden Horseshoe Revue was 54 weeks. And to think it all began with a two-week contract I signed with Walt Disney when the park opened [in 1955]."

"In many ways, Wally Boag was the heart of Disneyland in the early days," Disney Legend Marty Sklar remembers. "It was not only show business, it was the spirit and exuberance Wally brought to every performance, day in and day out. We all knew that Walt loved to watch Wally in the Golden Horseshoe Revue. As a member of the public relations staff, I never missed a chance to take media guests to see the show. I'm sure I saw Wally's wild and crazy "Pecos Bill" act at least 100 times — to this day, 50 years later, I can remember many his lines, and they are still funny because I can see Wally's hilarious antics and impeccable timing. No wonder Steve Martin talks about Wally as one of his comedy inspirations."

"Here [in The Golden Horseshoe] I had my first lessons in performing, although I was never on stage," Steve Martin said in his autobiography, Born Standing Up. "I absorbed Wally Boag's timing, saying his next line ("When they operated on father, they opened Mother's male"), and took the audience's response as though it were mine."

Disney legend Betty Taylor dies at 91
Betty Taylor, who played Slue Foot Sue in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue, died Saturday at the age of 91 – one day after her longtime performing partner in the show, Wally Boag, passed away.

Taylor began playing the role in 1956, one year after Boag started, and continued until the show ended nearly 31 years later.

During a run that lasted nearly 45,000 performances – a record for female performers as Boag’s was for males – Taylor played to nearly 10 million people.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a second Disney Legend in just two days – Betty Taylor,” said George Kalogridis, president of the Disneyland Resort in a statement. “Betty’s role as leading lady in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue helped turn it into the longest-running stage show in entertainment history. It is a tragic coincidence that her passing comes just one day after the death of longtime co-star Wally Boag.”

Taylor was born in Seattle, started taking dance lessons at the age of 3, and at the age of 12 was in her first professional stage production in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She had a few small roles in movies after World War II, but spent more time entertaining on stage and working with a variety of big-band leaders such as Les Brown. She also had a stint in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra.

In 1956, she heard about auditions for Walt Disney’s show at Disneyland, auditioned and got the part. She stayed in the role until she retired after the show ended.

Full stories: D23: Remembering Wally Boag
Around Disney: Disney legend Betty Taylor dies at 91

Okay, that wraps up this week's edition of Dateline Disneyland. Please check out our sponsors at and the Howard Johnson Anaheim!

Thanks again to Fishbulb for extra help with Cars Land photos this week.

...And thanks to you for reading. Spread the word and share Dateline Disneyland with your friends and family and be sure to join the discussion below!

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Don't forget that MiceChat has lots of new content throughout the week! 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. Emmanuel_4's Avatar
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    Great Update!
  2. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    Nice update!
  3. Hildy's Avatar
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    What is the new pump house in DCA? I have somehow missed the description of what this is going to be.

    Unbelievable lines. I hope when I come in September they are not that long.

    I do believe that Goofy's sky school is better than MM. It might be a little tacky and not really victorian, but at least it looks better than the other. The smaller kids will love it. Especially those who are not brave enough or not quite tall enough to ride Cal. Screamin.
  4. vnormth's Avatar
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    It's VERY disappointing to see the Downtown Disney banners read "Undersea Adventure RIDE".

    This strikes me as being ignorant of the very important Walt Disney idea that there are no RIDES in Disneyland (except for Mr. Toad's) but only ADVENTURES. How long before TDA calls all the attractions "RIDES"?
  5. tikibob24's Avatar
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    not a huge fan of the color scheme of the new paradise garden dining area. doesn't seem to match the aesthetic of the concept art. too bad because i really like the concept.

    awesome update as usual. the only thing i look forward to on mondays!
  6. jaxbistro's Avatar
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    Vader commercial is hilarious. Just as good as the VW Superbowl Vader!
  7. DubiousEndeavors's Avatar
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    WOW! Those suites look amazing! Maybe i'll win the lottery and stay in one!

    Great Update, as usual!
  8. Disneykin Kid's Avatar
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    Wally Boag and Betty Taylor - A class act.

    The one good thing about the Monorail water slide is that it'll be easy to take down after the ho-hum reaction from guests, but sadly it may stay a while.

    Here's an idea - open a 'Retro Disney' All Star Resort at WDW and move the Monorail water slide there. I'm not being facetious - actually you could have some old but fondly remembered attractions there.

    Actually, I like the idea that Monorail slide is retro, and I love the old Disneyland marquee, but it's just cheap looking, despite the attempt to dress it up with fancy lounge chairs - more fitting in the WDW budget resorts, NOT a world class, premium resort, the flagship hotel of the Disneyland Resort.

    The blue steel girders of the Monorail water slide echo the blue glass and steel towers of the hotel, and not in a good way. It kind of points up that the towers themselves are cheap. Actually, I'm ok with the blue glass towers, IF what was in the middle of them was awesome, the blue glass sort of serves as a backdrop for the pool area.

    They should really go all the way with the kitschy theme - just do a 'Disneyland Mountains' water slide, with Splash, Big Thunder, Matterhorn and Space Mtn, a slide coming from each. The slides don't have to be big (maybe the Matterhorn slide could be steep), just the theme would make it awesome!
    Updated 06-06-2011 at 09:00 PM by Disneykin Kid
  9. sir clinksalot's Avatar
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    I personally think the new theming for Goofy's Sky School looks great.
  10. toonaspie's Avatar
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    This is the first time I've seen the Fantasyland and Adventureland suites and my mind is completely blown! I could've sworn the original plan was "Princess" suites and "Pirates" Suites and the Frontierland suite was formerly called the Big Thunder Mountain Suite. I think this approach is much much better. I wish the lobbies of each of the towers were reflecting the suites by the detail instead of just having a few theme appropriate furniture pieces in the lobby.
  11. JADP's Avatar
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    In a battle of tortillas and chocolate, chocolate wins every time!
  12. RSZero1's Avatar
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    Star Tours grand opening was Friday June 3rd, not Saturday. Saturday was the 4th, and had significantly lower waiting times across the board.
  13. MasterGracey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy
    What is the new pump house in DCA? I have somehow missed the description of what this is going to be.
    The pump house will literally be the pump facility for the new fountain in front of the new Carthay Circle Theatre. It will be themed to match the area.

    Quote Originally Posted by RSZero1
    Star Tours grand opening was Friday June 3rd, not Saturday. Saturday was the 4th, and had significantly lower waiting times across the board.
    Thanks for the correction, it has been fixed.

    - Andy
    Dateline Disneyland
  14. iamdisneysgirl's Avatar
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    The pictures from today's TR are really nice! Every picture is so colorful and engaging to my eyes
  15. Seawolf's Avatar
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    Anyone else feel that the Jewel of Orleans artwork was better?
  16. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Nice update! I am going to miss the old neverland pool.

  17. RatherBeAtDLand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vnormth
    It's VERY disappointing to see the Downtown Disney banners read "Undersea Adventure RIDE".

    This strikes me as being ignorant of the very important Walt Disney idea that there are no RIDES in Disneyland (except for Mr. Toad's) but only ADVENTURES. How long before TDA calls all the attractions "RIDES"?
    I caught that too. It doesn't seem like anything really that big, but it is.

    Anyway, great update! I am amazed. Disneyland is looking good again. My favorite spot of this update was the new suites. They really are beautiful. And I'm actually kind of glad that they decided to go with the not ride suites. It looks better that way. I love them all.
  18. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Great update!
  19. Sulley86's Avatar
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    Great update, sad to hear about Wally Boag. Although I'm not old enough to have seen him in person, I have seen alot of his videos on Youtube. Really funny stuff. RIP.
  20. kirbilicious's Avatar
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    The Downtown Disney ads are really strange looking. Having half of C-3PO's hand or a small part of Ariel's hair on a banner just looks really od when there's a gap between the banners.
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