Hello Dateline Disneylanders! Thanks for joining us with this special Friday edition of Dateline Disneyland. We'll be taking a different approach today as we cover the announcement of the new AVATAR-themed expansion at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park and the opening of Aulani, Disney's new timeshare property in Hawaii. Also in today's column, we'll take a look at our ever-popular Project Trackers here on MiceChat where we track the progress on various projects underway at the Disneyland Resort, including the $1 billion Disney California Adventure expansion.
We'll return to our regular format on Monday, but for now join us as we take a look at the latest news at Disney's parks and resorts!
Disneyland officially opened its new Disney Vacation Club timeshare property in Hawaii yesterday with a splashy press event and ribbon cutting ceremony. Our intrepid Fishbulb is on site now covering the opening weekend events and has sent us a few early shots from the resort. He'll soon have a full report here on MiceAge/MiceChat. In the meantime, Disney has released a slew of fantastic publicity photos to whet your appetite and give you a sneak peek at their lavish new resort.
MiceChat's Fishbulb had the following to say about Thursday evening's grand opening ceremony:
Disney held a grand opening celebration for their brand new Aulani Hotel in Oahu, Hawaii last night. It was a beautiful production on the beach in Ko Olina with the new Hotel as the backdrop. Bob Iger (Disney CEO) and Tom Staggs (President of Disney Parks and Resorts) dedicated the hotel while a cast of talented singers and dancers paid tribute to Disney's newest venture.
The Hotel itself is a work of Hawaiian art with a touch of Disney magic baked right in. From the rooms and restaurants to the pools, beach and spa, this is a high class resort which we place at the top of the list of Disney's hotel roster.
Join us this Sunday as we bring you the first in a series of articles about Aulani from the people and places which make this hotel unique in the Disney universe.
Mickey and Bob Iger
The Los Angeles Times' theme park columnist Brady MacDonald has been covering the new Aulani resort over the last week and shares some good insight on the property in his reviews on the hotel's offerings.
Hawaii: Disney's new Aulani hotel emphasizes culture
Reporting from Ko Olina, Hawaii - The new Aulani hotel on Oahu sets out to replace the clichés of tiki torches, totem poles, bamboo furniture and tacky luaus with a resort that celebrates Hawaii's history, traditions and cultures sprinkled with just a small dose of Disney's trademark pixie dust.
Although this premise seems more than just a bit ironic for a company that has built its brand on fairytale fantasy, Disney manages to pull it off with style, grace and beauty, resulting in a modern Hawaiian resort that delivers on its promise and its considerable marquee name.
A modern take on a Hawaiian resort that puts a premium on tradition, the $800-million Aulani in Ko Olina on leeward Oahu opened in late August with 359 hotel rooms, 460 time-share units, two restaurants, two bars, a spa and a conference center. An official grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 22.
The 21-acre resort, about 30 minutes from Waikiki, is worlds apart in look, feel and spirit from that tourist mecca of high-rise cement monoliths.
I’ve been staying at the Aulani the last few days with my wife, Nancy, and our 11-year-old daughter, Hannah. The resort is still in the soft opening test-and-adjust phase, but we found the resort and the staff to be operating at full speed despite the paucity of crowds.
As we approached the Aulani, the rock and timber porte-cochere extended from the tallest of three A-framed thatch huts that serve as the hotel lobby.
Above, a pair of towers rose like modern interpretations of a Hawaiian fishing village – if fishermen could build a 15-story hotel.
Just inside, telephone pole-sized timbers supported the cathedral-like vaulted ceiling that arches to a point. Geometric-patterned mats filled in the gaps between the spines to maintain the thatched roof feel. Lights dangled from above in clusters of fishing nets like luminescent jellyfish. A verdant ribbon mural depicting island life wrapped the perimeter.
[ . . . ] Outside the lobby, a balcony overlooked the lush grounds with the water park-like pool and the Pacific just beyond. Twin towers, laid out in the now familiar Las Vegas three-wing design, flanked either side. [ FULL STORY ]
Brady also discuseed Aulani's limited and pricey dining options in another column.
The $800-million Aulani in Ko Olina on leeward-side Oahu had a soft opening in late August with an official grand opening scheduled for Sept. 22.
I've been staying at the Aulani the last few days with my wife, Nancy, and our 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, where we spent a small fortune on food on top of room rates starting at $399 a night.
We did much more than eat at the Aulani, but I wanted to give you an overview of the meals we had at the resort during our recent visit.
On our first night, we made reservations at 'Ama 'Ama, Aulani's signature fine-dining beachside restaurant, which takes its name from the local mullet fish and its inspiration from 12th century Hawaiian fishing settlements.
The restaurant, designed to look like a fisherman's waterfront home from the 1890s, features an international menu set amid a thatched-roof hut sprinkled with fishing gear.
For an appetizer, we shared the delicious Kalua pig with cheese croquettes and Serrano ham in a romesco sauce ($16).
For dinner, I ordered the goat cheese ravioli ($31) and asked for the recommended Sauvignon Blanc (although the wine never arrived). Nancy got the Chinatown duck breast ($40) and Hannah, who will never be a cheap date, went with the New York Strip ($41), which I cut up for her tableside.
The highlight of the meal was the soufflé potatoes side dish ($8), which looked and tasted like potato chips filled with air.
For dessert, we shared a meringue mousse and a pineapple tart.
After dinner, I watched the sun set behind the low lying clouds in what would turn out to be one of the most memorable moments of our vacation.
We all agreed the food at 'Ama 'Ama was good but not great. Pretty much standard high-end hotel food.
Dinner for three with cocktails came to $200 before tip. Not outrageous for a special dinner, but there was no way our wallet or waistline could afford to eat like that at every meal, even on vacation. But as we’d soon find out, the Aulani’s dining options were limited after the 'Ama 'Ama.
The next day we headed over to the Off the Hook poolside bar for lunch, where the menu was filled with $17-$19 sandwiches and a $21 Angus burger (all served with chips and cake).
I'd come to expect $10 tropical cocktails in Hawaii. I had my share of agave nectar margaritas rimmed with red sea salt while Nancy preferred the passion fruit mojitos. But $21 for a burger? Come on.
[ . . . ] After passing on Off the Hook we ventured back to 'Ama 'Ama for lunch, where the prices were more affordable than the night before, with sandwiches and salads from $12 to $24.
The Lomi Lomi salad with corn chowder ($9) was easily our favorite dish of our visit. We could have licked the plate clean.
I wanted the crab and lobster roll, but I couldn't stomach paying $24 for a sandwich. I went for the Kalua pulled pork sliders on rice buns ($14), which represented the exact type of fun and accessible Hawaiian food generally missing throughout the resort.
Nancy went with the well-prepared opah fish tacos ($19). We got out of there at a more manageable $55 (before tip). Nancy, who writes about food for a living, found the lunch at 'Ama 'Ama a better value than dinner.
That night we had reservations for dinner at the Makahiki buffet, which turned out to be most in keeping with the Hawaiian theme of the resort and our favorite meal at the Aulani.
The Makahiki, named for an annual Hawaiian harvest festival, featured a dining room-length mural using paints that change from vibrant purple-reds to cool, ocean blues with the aid of special lighting.
[ . . . ] At $43, the Makahiki was more expensive than any buffet we've ever had in Las Vegas. And Hannah paid the full adult rate, since the $21 kids price was only for children 9 and younger.
[ . . . ] At lunchtime, Hannah was heading to Aunty's Beach House kids club so I grabbed her a quick bite at the One Paddle, Two Paddle takeout stand hidden from sight behind the 'Ama 'Ama.
Hannah went for the reasonably priced ($6.75) kids meal box lunch that came with two cheeseburger sliders, chips and a drink, while Nancy and I headed off-property for lunch after exhausting all of our choices at the Aulani after only three meals (two at the same restaurant).
[ . . . ] Overall, we found the food options lacking at the Aulani. It may come with the price of admission at a $400-a-night hotel, but we quickly grew weary of dinner tabs for three in $200 range. What the Aulani lacked most was a fast, casual sit-down restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I hope that's on an upcoming menu. [ FULL STORY ]
What Disney isn't mentioning in its grand opening media blitz is the recent financial issues it had with Aulani that resulted in the termination of three Disney executives, including the president of Disney Vacation Club. The issue centered on underpriced annual dues for Vacation Club members buying into the Resort and the problem forced Disney to halt sales on the property. Sales are now resuming, but with a 33% increase in annual due costs for new timeshare sales. The Orlando Sentinel has details:
Error leads to 33% fee increase for Disney's Aulani time shares
The Walt Disney Co. has been given permission to raise its fees by 33 percent for those who buy time shares at its new, $850 million resort in Hawaii, as the company attempts to fix a financial error that cost three Central Florida executives their jobs.
The approval, granted Thursday by Hawaiian state regulators, clears the way for Disney to resume time-share sales at Aulani, a massive hotel and time share that opened Aug. 29 west of Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
"We have resumed closing sales for Aulani in Hawaii and hope to follow suit in our other sales locations shortly," said Rena Langley, a spokeswoman for Disney Vacation Club, the company's Celebration-based time-share arm.
Disney must now submit updated consumer-disclosure materials to regulators and other states. The company will begin with Florida, California, New York and Illinois, its most-important sales markets.
Disney suspended Aulani time-share sales on July 9 after an internal investigation found that executives had underestimated the annual dues it needed to charge time-share buyers to cover the resort's operating expenses. The discovery sparked concerns within Disney that Aulani would eventually face an operating loss or would have to jack up its dues in later years, potentially alienating customers.
Disney said the error was the result of an unintentional miscalculation. Still, the company fired three people over the mistake: Jim Lewis, the former president of Disney Vacation Club, and two finance executives who had previously worked in the time-share unit.
Documents approved Thursday by Hawaii revealed for the first time the magnitude of the error. Disney initially set dues at $4.31 for every time-share "point" purchased by a customer. (Disney Vacation Club sells points that can be redeemed at various times of the year and at different destinations, rather than specific units and time intervals.)
Now, however, Disney will charge $5.73 per point — a 33 percent increase.
The increase works out to about $180 more per year for someone who buys just enough points to spend a week in a studio unit at Aulani during the slowest time of the year. It would add almost $850 more a year for someone who buys enough points for a week in a two-bedroom, ocean-view room during the busiest parts of the year.
Disney won't say how many buyers have already purchased points in Aulani, which first went on sale in July 2010. The company says those buyers will get an annual credit towards their dues to account for the new price discrepancy. The resort will have 481 time-share villas and 359 hotel rooms. [ FULL STORY ]
DISNEY'S AVATAR KINGDOM
On Tuesday, Disney made a very surprising announcement that they were teaming up with James Cameron to create an AVATAR-themed expansion to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks
We have great news to share today. At a press conference happening right now at Walt Disney Imagineering, Bob Iger and Tom Staggs just announced a long-term creative partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the fantasy world of AVATAR to life at Disney Parks. And it’ll all begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve as creative consultants on the project and will work side-by-side with our Walt Disney Imagineers as we dream up experiences that will take our guests deep into worlds of AVATAR like never before. There are also two sequels to the record setting first film in the works, which will offer more fascinating stories, characters and locations to explore in the AVATAR universe. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort is planned as the site of the first AVATAR-themed land with construction expected to begin by 2013.
We believe Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great fit for this project because it was created to give guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR. [ FULL STORY ]
The news surprised the unsuspecting fan community and was met with disbelief and often negativity from fans. The questions hit the message boards and Twitter quickly: Why AVATAR? Why not something original? Why not something Disney? And not soon after, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs took to the Disney Parks Blog to answer reader questions.
Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks
I’d like to thank all of the Disney Parks Blog followers who left comments or sent in questions regarding our AVATAR announcement today. We got a lot of great questions and while I won’t be able to answer all of them, I’ll do my best to get to as many as possible.
We got quite a few questions about the timing of our first AVATAR experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including this one from Adam, “Any idea when the experience will be open to guests?”
We’ve just begun the design phase on our Animal Kingdom project and we expect to begin construction in 2013. From start to finish, a project of this size and scope takes about 5 years to design and build. We can’t give you an exact date but we know that when it’s complete, it’s going to be a truly unforgettable experience.
IS THIS A PARK EXPANSION OR WILL “LAND” REPLACE SOMETHING?
Several of you asked a similar question, including Doug from Utah – “Will it replace any existing attractions in Animal Kingdom, or will it be built in a new parcel of land within the park’s boundaries?”
Well, Doug, we’re just beginning the Blue Sky process so I don’t have much to share about how we are going to execute our vision for our first AVATAR land but we’re focused on this being an important addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I look forward to sharing more details as our plans progress.
Many of you, including Justin from Orlando, want to know, “How does AVATAR fit in with the Disney theme?” and more specifically, how does it fit in with the Animal Kingdom?
As I mentioned in a previous answer, AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. With its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty, it’s a great fit for the Disney brand and our parks.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the perfect place for our first AVATAR land because at its core, the park gives guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in whole new ways. With AVATAR, we’ve found the perfect opportunity to let our guests explore one of the most compelling mythical worlds ever conceived. Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.
WHY BUY SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA INSTEAD OF LETTING WDI COME UP WITH SOMETHING?
Some of you asked why we would choose to collaborate with an outside partner rather than use our own Disney characters and stories to expand the parks. We are as committed as ever to creating attractions and entertainment around favorite Disney characters and stories – with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park and our expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park being two great examples. At the same time, we like to look beyond our own walls at non-Disney properties, like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, creating some of our most popular attractions. At the end of the day, we are focused on creating a great experience for our guests and I truly believe that this unique partnership with James Cameron and AVATAR gives us an entire world of imaginative creatures, fascinating locations and intriguing characters with which to do that. [ FULL STORY ]
The choice of AVATAR is interesting. Obviously Disney sees great potential for the property in its parks from a financial standpoint. After all, Disney wouldn't be investing so heavily in this property if they didn't expect it to be a success. Still, as part of the movie-going public it does seem risky. I saw AVATAR in theaters and enjoyed it, but it wasn't a film I'd see again. At the time of the announcement, I couldn't remember the name of the alien planet that the film takes place in (it's Pandora), nor could I remember a single character's name. I may have enjoyed the film, but my failure to remember key names and plot points reminded me of the public's main criticisms of the film: it's lack of a strong story. For a company that continuously claims that everything it does is about story, the irony here is glaring. On the other hand, this puts significant pressure on Disney to recreate what was memorable about the film: the immersive environments. AVATAR land will need to be hyper-themed, much like the rest of Disney's Animal Kingdom is, in order to be successful. This need for rich theming, paired with the the involvement of James Cameron has me confident that the new land will be a great addition, even if AVATAR as source material is less than ideal. Cameron is already promising that the land will "go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling," and that's something to get excited for. Finally, Disney is being forced to push itself to create the the next big thing in themed entertainment.
From the Los Angeles Times' Hero Complex blog:
Cameron: Disney’s ‘Avatar’ land to look, feel, smell like Pandora
When James Cameron’s “Avatar” hit theaters in 2009, many moviegoers were so dazzled by the lush, 3-D world of the alien moon Pandora that they wanted to step right inside. Now the Walt Disney Co. is aiming to offer that kind of experience to its theme park patrons.
Disney’s Imagineers are working with Cameron, his producing partner Jon Landau and studio 20th Century Fox to bring the fantasy world from “Avatar” to its theme parks, beginning with a multi-attraction themed land at the Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Fla.
Though the attraction is still in its earliest development stages, Cameron has clear ideas about what he’d like any Pandoran land to include, which he shared in an interview on Tuesday.
“I definitely want to do a flight attraction of some kind,” the director said, citing the “Soarin’ Over California” flying ride at Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim as a personal favorite. “Flying is a big part of the movie. One of the things people liked the most at test screenings was going up into the floating mountains in the flying sequences. We may have banshees, Leonopteryxes, maybe some other flying creatures that don’t make their appearance until the second and third films.”
Disney’s Imagineers will also be tasked with bringing Na’vi culture and the natural world of Pandora to life, along with creating “a general sense of the future,” Cameron said.
“It all needs to be one fabric,” he said. “As long as it’s thematically consistent, as long as it looks and feels and smells the way you imagine it, then we’ve succeeded.”
The hugely successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, which depicts the universe created in J.K. Rowling’s books and Warner Bros.’ films right down to the mugs of butter beer for sale at concessions, provides something of a template for a theme park attraction that is faithful to its source material.
As Rowling was with the Potter theme park, “Avatar’s” creators say they will be hands-on in developing the attraction.
Groundbreaking for the “Avatar” land at Animal Kingdom is planned for 2013, but the attraction isn’t scheduled to open until 2016, after the premieres of the “Avatar” sequels in 2014 and 2015. [ FULL STORY ]
Our Project Trackers on MiceChat continue to be some of our most popular discussion threads. The Disneyland Resort Project Tracker keeps track of current and rumored projects planned for Disneyland, Downtown Disney and the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort. Currently, some points of interest in the Disneyland Resort Project Tracker include the new Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street and the Fantasy Faire project that is replacing the Carnation Plaza Gardens. Meanwhile, the huge $1 billion Disney California Adventure expansion and remodel has its own Project Tracker. Here, our project trackers discuss every detail of the park's unprecedented reinvention and expansion from Buena Vista Street to Cars Land.
CARNATION PLAZA GARDENS / FANTASY FAIRE
Details: A new "Fantasy Faire" will replace the Carnation Plaza Gardens area in the Central Plaza of Disneyland, effectively expanding Fantasyland onto Main Street. The new area will include princess meet-and-greets and a small stage for performances in a "fantasy village" setting. Project Status:Officially announced August 19, 2011 at D23 Expo. Construction to begin September 2011. Open Date: 2012.
The Carnation Plaza Gardens at Disneyland continue through its final days before it closes to be re-themed as the new Princess Faire meet-and-greet area. It's important to note the historical significance of the Plaza Gardens; in addition hosting numerous school groups over the years, the stage was also graced by legendary acts such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The closure of the Plaza Gardens for a princess meet-and-greet is another loss of one of Disneyland's more historical features, and one that Walt Disney was personally involved in creating.
In fact, Disney's own Disney Youth Groups website has a feature article promoting the stage as "The Stage That Walt Built." It's an interesting read that underscores the historical significance of this corner of the park.
Stan Freese calls the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage his "home away from home." That's not too much of a stretch.
Freese has been helping put on shows at the historic Disneyland venue since 1974. Today, he books the professional swing bands that fill the stage every Saturday night. The job never gets old, thanks in large part to Freese's appreciation of the star-studded history of the stage, which opened in 1956.
"This is the longest-running big band stage in the world," he says, rattling off a list of the stars who have graced the venue over the years. The roster includes Cab Calloway, Bob Crosby, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Lionel Hampton, Les Brown, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Eartha Kitt, and Benny Goodman--whose orchestra was the first big-name group to perform on the stage, back in 1961.
Freese, now 66, enthusiastically hops around the large stage, recreating how things looked when big bands performed there seven nights a week. "Right here is where Louis Armstrong sang 'Hello, Dolly!'" he says. Stepping to his left, he continues: "Over here is where Count Basie and Duke Ellington played the piano. Right on this stage, looking out at the castle."
The "castle," of course, is the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle--the ultimate symbol of Disneyland fun and fantasy--and located "just a stone's throw" from Carnation Plaza Gardens, as Freese puts it. The stage itself is about 20 feet wide and can accommodate 35 to 40 musicians; larger groups spread out onto the terrazzo dance floor. They perform for audiences of up to 150 people under a canopy of gold and burgundy, which adds to the festive atmosphere.
The history and the surroundings only enrich the experience for the student bands, orchestras and choruses that perform on the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage. "They are walking on hallowed ground, playing in this hallowed venue," says Freese. "They should all know when they come here how exciting this stage really is."
Jim Hahn, director of instrumental music at Tuffree Middle School in Placentia, Calif., has been bringing bands to Disneyland for more than 20 years and understands the importance of sharing the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage legacy. "Every time we go," says Hahn, "I explain the history of that stage to the kids."
Hahn, a saxophone and clarinet player, performed on the stage himself in 1981 with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. It was the first visit ever to Disneyland for the Philadelphia native. "I was in awe, knowing all the bands that had played that stage," he says. "It was mind-blowing."
Every spring Hahn brings two jazz ensembles to play at Carnation Plaza Gardens; in the fall, he brings a marching band to perform in the Disneyland parade. It's more than history and fond memories that keep him coming back. In Hahn's opinion, everything about the experience is top-notch. "It's nothing short of the Disney standard," he declares.
Hahn has particular praise for the sound quality and the location of the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage in the bustling heart of Disneyland. "It's a loud stage," says Hahn. "It attracts a lot of people."
The effect never wears off on Hahn. "As many times as I've taken the kids there, it's still--as corny as it sounds—it's still a thrill."
Wendy Shepherd, choral director at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash., says the experience of playing Disneyland can be "life-changing" for students. She has been bringing her Scintillation Show Choir to perform on the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage for 10 years. "As a child, to dream of the magic of Disneyland, and then as a young adult to achieve the goal of performing there and working with the Disney choreographers, is immeasurable," Shepherd says. "I have students who are in their late 20s who Facebook me now, and to this day, recall their experiences, the joy, the achievement of their dream, the way it moved their lives positively."
The thrill has never worn off for Stan Freese, either. Born and raised in Minneapolis, he made his first trip to Disneyland at age 12, when he marched in the parade with his school band. "It was just great," he recalls. "I had no clue I was going to work there." A tuba player, he performed as a soloist in the Soviet Union in 1969. That led to his Disney job interview and his role as leader of the original Disneyland Band, starting in 1971.
In Freese's early days at Disneyland, the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage was still bringing in national talent for its night-time big-band series. There also was a period in the 1970s and '80s when pop acts like the Osmonds, the 5th Dimension and the Pointer Sisters played there. These days, the evening shows are performed mostly by swing bands that Freese books from Los Angeles, Orange County and as far away as San Francisco.
Whether the performers are professionals or students, they enjoy first-class treatment. Buses come straight off the Santa Ana Freeway into the Disneyland back lot, where students and gear are unloaded. On the back lot, the students can avail themselves of the dressing and rehearsal facilities as they prepare for their big moment on the Carnation Plaza Gardens Stage.
"The whole thing is magic," Freese concludes. "Now it's just up to the kids to have fun and make great music to become part of that heritage." [ LINK ]
Carnation Plaza Gardens is set to be transformed into Fantasy Faire, an interactive princess meet-and-greet area. Construction is set to begin by the end of this month.
JOLLY HOLIDAY BAKERY CAFÉ
Main Street dining expansion Details: Several Disneyland dining and food retail locations will undergo expansion and retheming beginning with the addition of the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café in the former Plaza Pavilion starting August 2011. Project Status: In progress. Open Date: The multi-facility project will include multiple openings, with the final opening in summer 2012.
Jolly Holiday Bakery Café Details: Utilizing the recently vacated Plaza Pavilion, this new Mary Poppins-themed bakery and café will bring foodservice back to the Plaza Pavilion facility. The bakery was officially announced on August 16, 2011 with construction scheduled to begin August 17. Project Status: In progress. Open Date: January 2012. Blue Ribbon Bakery closure and Carnation Café expansion Details: When the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café opens in January 2012, the Blue Ribbon Bakery will close permanently on Main Street. The space will once again become dining space for the Carnation Café, decades after the Café gave up its indoor dining space for the Bakery. The expanded Carnation Café with its new expanded indoor dining area will open summer 2012. Project Status: Begins January 2012. Open Date: Summer 2012. Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Kitchen enhancements and remodeling Details: The popular Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor will close in January 2012 to be reconfigured for better crowd flow and and improved guest experience. At the same time, the nearby Candy Palace will also close and its popular on-stage display kitchen will be expanded. Project Status: Begins January 2012. Open Date: Spring 2012.
Also on Main Street, the new Mary Poppins-themed bakery-café is under construction in the location of the former Plaza Pavilion. The new Jolly Holiday Bakery Café is set to open in January. With the new, larger bakery open, the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street is set to close and become indoor dining space for the Carnation Café.
Disneyland Hotel Renovation
Details: Long-anticipated renovation of the Disneyland Hotel includes a tower-by-tower, multi-phase renovation in which each hotel tower will be completely gutted and remodeled. New rooms feature fiber-optic Sleeping Beauty Castle headboards, wireless internet, flatscreen TVs, and multiple energy-efficient upgrades. For more information on the hotel room remodeling, click here. Disney has also announced plans for a complete redesign of the Neverland Pool area which included the addition of a new water play area that opened summer 2011 with Monorail-themed water slides. The pool area expansion included the removal of the classic waterfalls and koi ponds. Project Status: In progress. Remodeling began on the Dreams tower August 24, 2009. As of August 2011, the Adventure Tower and Frontier Towers are complete, with remodel work continuing at the former Never Land Pool, Fantasy Tower and Convention Center.
New Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam's Bar opened spring 2011 in conjunction with a new Monorail water slide pool. Completion Date: November 2012.
Construction continues at the Disneyland Hotel as it nears its November deadline. The former Neverland Pool is one of the final projects still seeing continuous construction. The pool and surrounding area has lost its Peter Pan theme and will be renamed the E-Ticket Pool. No major thematic elements will be present here, but the pool and surrounding amenities and landscaping will be updated and refreshed.
Meanwhile, the Fantasy Tower continues to have its lobby re-themed and the towers offer guests brand new rooms with updated amenities and all-new decor and furniture.
BUENA VISTA STREET
Carthay Circle Theatre
Details: The Carthay Circle Theatre will be built, but without the Walt Disney Story attraction. With the Walt Disney Story attraction canceled, and other rumored plans including an expanded Resort Preview Center not happening, the current plans for the space include a Club 33-style club on the top level and a signature dining location and a bar/lounge for park guests on the ground level. Project Status: As of January 2011, the removal of the Sunshine Fountain plaza was completed and work to clear the area is underway. Construction on the theater is currently on-going. Open Date: Summer 2012
Red Car Trolley transportation system
Details: Reviving the gone-but-not-forgotten Pacific Electric Railway, the new Red Car Trolley system will offer trolley transportation from the entrance of California Adventure, through Carthay Circle Plaza and down Hollywood Boulevard, ending at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Project Status: Track construction completed in Hollywoodland. Track installation has yet to begin on Buena Vista Street. Trolley cars are reportedly under construction off-property. Open Date: May 2012
Buena Vista Street shops and dining
Details: A new Main Street-esque street will house new shops and dining, replacing the tile murals, restrooms, lockers, and Guest Services buildings. The new shop facades will feature nods to Walt Disney's rich life history on shop windows, including "Elias & Co. Dept. Store" and "Oswald’s Gas & Oil." For more information, see this post. Project Status: The shops and dining on the west side of Sunshine Plaza (Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream, Baker's Field Bakery and Engine Ears Toys) will be the first to be closed and re-themed starting July 31, 2011. It is still unclear when the east side shops will close. Open Date: Summer 2012
West side shops and dining Mortimer's Market
Details: Ads on Buena Vista Street construction walls note Mortimer's Market as having the "freshest fruit in town," implying that the location will be a snack location serving fresh fruits and other healthy snacks. Open Date: Summer 2012
Julius Katz & Sons Appliances and More
Details: A new retail location. Open Date: Summer 2012
Julius Katz Shoe and Watch Repair
Details: A new retail shop, located next to Julius Katz's appliance store. Open Date: Summer 2012
Big Top Toys
Details: The entrance to this new toy shop will be immediately under the Monorail bridge. This retail location was previously called Carolwood Trains, Craft and Hobby, as reported by the LA Times Funland blog in November 2007. Open Date: Summer 2012
Clarabelle's Ice Cream Parlor
Details: A likely re-naming and re-theming of the Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream shop. Open Date: Summer 2012
Fiddler Fifer and Practical Cafe
Details: Advertised as having the "most comfortable booths in town!" on Buena Vista Street construction walls. Open Date: Summer 2012
Horace's Pawn Shop
Details: This shop is not featured on Buena Vista Street construction wall ads, but was previously reported as the name of a shop by the LA Times Funland Blog in November 2007. Open Date: Summer 2012
East side shops and dining Oswald's Filling Station
Details: A new shop and thematic addition themed as a 1920s gas station, Oswald's Filling Station is named after Walt Disney's first cartoon star - Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The Filling Station will be located on your left hand side immediately after entering Disney California Adventure. Open Date: Summer 2012
Los Feliz Five and Dime
Details: A new retail location which will occupy a portion of the Greetings from California store's northern space, the Five and Dime was previously illustrated as Sewards Five and Dime in concept art. Open Date: Summer 2012
Elias and Company Department Store
Details: A complete re-theming of the Greetings from California store, this will likely be the primary souvenir shop of Buena Vista Street, on-par with Disneyland's Emporium. Open Date: Summer 2012
Kingswell Camera Shop
Details: Ads for the camera shop say its located in the Elysian Arcade, suggesting the camera shop (a PhotoPass location) will stay in its current location inside Greetings from California, but the space will be carved out to appear more as a separate shop within the larger Elias and Company Department Store. Open Date: Summer 2012
Atwater Ink and Paint Art Supply
Details: It isn't noted as being located in the Elysian Arcade, but a small specialty store like this may be located within the space. Open Date: Summer 2012
Details: Trolley Treats will offer "mountains of candy" and "rivers of fudge," among other sweet treats, according to its ad on Buena Vista Street construction wall. This shop will likely be a re-theming of the current candy shop located between Elias and Company Department Store and the entrance to Hollywoodland. Open Date: Summer 2012
Doc Sherwood Apothecary
Details: This shop is not featured on Buena Vista Street construction wall ads, but was previously reported as the name of a shop by the LA Times Funland Blog in November 2007. Open Date: Summer 2012
At Disney California Adventure, the Buena Vista Street project is now on the front burner as the space gets re-themed as a 1920s Los Angeles cityscape. The unprecedented complete overhaul of the park's main entrance has forced major retail and dining space to close as well as the park's main entrance guest thoroughfare. The result is a rerouted entrance that sends guests through a backstage corridor lined with concept art and attraction posters of what's new and what's next for the park. Behind construction walls, Buena Vista Street's new Carthay Circle Theater was recently crowed with its cupola.
From the Orange County Register:
Cupola installation marked in Disney park
The Carthay Circle Theatre, the centerpiece of the new entrance of Disney California Adventure, is not scheduled to open until 2012 with the rest of the newly-themed Buena Vista Street.
Walt Disney Imagineers recently marked a point of completion by adding a cupola – or belfry – to top the replica of the landmark Los Angeles theater that hosted the premieres of Walt Disney’s “Silly Symphony” cartoons in 1929 and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937.
Erin Glover, a Disney spokeswoman, said the cupola was installed recently after hours. The cupola was lifted into place by a crane.
Disney Imagineer Coulter Winn said the cupola is about 17 feet tall and weighs approximately 5,000 pounds.
The original Carthay Circle Theatre was built in 1926 and considered comparable to Grauman’s Chinese Theater in terms of grand movie complexes. Winn said the replica in California Adventure is 89 feet, 6-inches tall – about 3/4 the size of the original.
When completed, the replica in California Adventure will be a restaurant and a lounge.
It will serve as the hub of Buena Vista Street – meant to reflect 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles when Walt Disney first came to California as an illustrator seeking his fortune. [ FULL STORY ]
Buena Vista Street is set to open Summer 2012.
Radiator Springs Racers
Details: A brand new E-Ticket attraction, utilizing Epcot's Test Track ride system technology in conjunction with state-of-the-art Audio Animatronics and special effects, Radiator Springs Racers will bring the story of Cars to life in a new an exciting way. The attraction will conclude with a high-speed race through Radiator Springs. Project Status: In progress. Heavy construction continues on the attraction, from the ride experience to the themed mountain peaks. Open Date: 2012
Details: The Radiator Springs court house, located at the end of the land's main street, will act as the entrance of the Radiator Springs Racers attraction. Open Date: Will open 2012 as part of Radiator Springs Racers attraction
Ramone's House of Body Art
Details: This merchandise location will serve as the exit gift shop for the Radiator Springs Racers attraction. Open Date: Will open 2012 as part of Radiator Springs Racers attraction
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
Details: The Bountiful Valley Farm area of A Bug's Land was closed September 7, 2010. The area will become home to the main entrance of Cars Land as well as one of the land's new rides, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. Project Status: As of January 2011, the land has been cleared awaiting construction. Open Date: 2012
Luigi's Roamin' Tires
Details: Utilizing a new version of Disneyland's old Flying Saucers ride system, Luigi's Roamin' Tires will offer a unique ride on floating bumper cars themed as giant tires. Project Status: In progress. Open Date: 2012
Details: Located in a geodesic dome near the entrance to Cars Land, Fillmore's Taste-In will be a snack bar themed to the hippy VW minibus from the Cars film. The Taste-In will serve fruit themed smoothies and healthy snacks. Project Status: Construction not yet underway. Open Date: 2012
Cozy Cone Motel
Details: A faithful recreation of the five-cone motel from the film, the Cozy Cone Motel will serve as a food court serving snacks, light meals and drinks. Food offerings will playfully include the word "cone" in their name, such as "Chili Cone Carne," "Popcone," or "Cone on the Cob" Project Status: In progress. Open Date: 2012
Flo's V8 Cafe
Details: Flo's V8 Cafe will be Cars Land's largest and most prominent foodservice location and will serve traditional American fast-food fare including hamburgers, milkshakes and root beer floats. Service will be counter-service, much like Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace and dining space will be on a sprawling outdoor patio. The dining location may also include a stage for live music. Project Status: In progress. Open Date: 2012
Radiator Springs Curios
Details: Serving as the primary merchandise location in Cars Land, Radiator Springs Curios is expected to offer unique merchandise items themed to roadside Americana and the Cars films. Project Status: In progress. Open Date: 2012
California Adventure's other major project is the 12-acre Cars Land project, based on the Disney/Pixar film, Cars.
Opening today, the latest exhibit at the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar will feature exhibits previewing Cars Land. We'll take an in-depth look at the Blue Sky Cellar's new exhibit in Monday's edition of Dateline Disneyland. For now, OC Register's Around Disney blog has information on the updated exhibit:
Exhibit to show off updated look at Cars Land
A mock architect’s studio at Disney California Adventure offering previews of upcoming attractions is scheduled to re-open Friday with new images of the centerpiece of the theme park’s $1-billion expansion: Cars Land.
Disney spokeswoman Erin Glover said Blue Sky Cellar will get updates on the construction of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street and other parts of the park’s expansion.
Blue Sky Cellar debuted in 2008 and has given previews of coming attraction updates such as World of Color, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Goofy’s Sky School.
The area is set up like an architect’s studio and features drawings, models and construction videos. Glover said Blue Sky Cellar closed Monday so the additions can be made.
Cars Land is a re-creation of the fictional town of Radiator Springs from the 2006 Pixar animated film “Cars.” The land is scheduled to feature three rides, as well eateries and shops based on the movie’s theme of a town along iconic Route 66.
The highlight of the the land will be the Radiator Springs Racers ride, which will take up roughly half the acreage of the new land.
Additionally, Blue Sky Cellar will feature an update on Buena Vista Street, the under-construction entrance corridor of California Adventure. [ FULL STORY ]
Cars Land is set to open alongside Buena Vista Street, summer 2012.
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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Closures and Refurbishment Schedule
Disneyland Monorail: Running on a shortened schedule due to Buena Vista Street construction. Monorail opens late at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Monorail operates normally Saturday and Sunday.
Mark Twain Riverboat: Closed September 26 — 28 for refurbishment.
"it's a small world": Closed October 24 — November 10 to install holiday overlay.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Blue Bayou Restaurant: Closed through November 23 for refurbishment.
Disney California Adventure
Redwood Challenge Creek Trail: Closed October 3 — 28 for refurbishment.
California Screamin': Closed through October 14 for refurbishment and loop replacement.
It's Tough to be a Bug! Closed October 24 — November 11 for refurbishment.
Sunshine Plaza: Main entrance plaza and related dining, retail and guest services are closed. Space will reopen as Buena Vista Street in 2012.
Red Car Trolley: Attraction set to open spring 2012.
Downtown Disney & Hotels of the Disneyland Resort
Fantasyland Tower lobby areas, Never Land Pool, Adventure Tower-area walkways: Areas closed for remodel and re-theming. Hotel remodel set to be completed in November 2011.
Alrighty, that wraps up this special edition of Dateline Disneyland. Be sure to check back Sunday for full coverage of Aulani here on MiceChat!
What do you think of Disney's new Aulani resort? Do you think AVATAR is a good fit for Disney's theme parks? Join in on the discussion below and tell us what you think!
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