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In the Parks

Vintage DCA, Matterhorn Update, Knott's Wonderful New Nightmares, Uni and More

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
by , 07-28-2011 at 10:43 PM

Welcome back to In the Parks, your weekly stop for Disney and theme park related news and updates from the Southern California area. We have lots to share again this week as we visit Disneyland to check in on the massive Disney California Adventure expansion and see how that big bottleneck at the front of the park is shaping up. We also share an extensive interview with Empty Grave creator, Mike Talorico, about this year's haunt near Disneyland. We'll take you for a surprise sneak peek INSIDE Knott's Scary Farm newest maze, Delerium. Not to worry, there's also a Universal Studios Hollywood update AND another contest! It's a hearty helping of theme park goodness.

At Knott's we receive great news on Windseeker and get a surprise progress report on one of the brand new mazes
for Haunt this year! It was an amazing visit to Knott's.

One of the new mazes for this year's Halloween Haunt is a little piece of craziness designed by veteran haunt master Daniel Miller (Fallout Shelter, Lockdown, The Asylum) and follows a nightmarish narrative of scenes that stem from our darkest dreams.

The maze is being built in the backstage warehouse that housed last year's Club Blood. Normally, we wouldn't be able to show you anything from the back stage mazes, but, as fate would have it, we were captured, blindfolded, and dragged backstage to take a sneak peek at Knott's terrifying and highly anticipated new maze.

First, the new maze bears no similarities whatsoever with Club Blood. This is entirely new. Taking off our blindfolds, we find ourselves at a tumor-like fleshy entrance of eyes, mouths and teeth and wander into a maze of madness. Entertainment Design Manager, Todd Faux, guided us through the construction site and explained what all of the painted flats of wood and construction would soon become.

Part of the fleshy entrance.

What will soon be the hall of eyes.

The Maggot Room. Yes, maggots.

The nursery room will disorient you, but we won't give away the secret (even though it is killing us)

Todd Faux introduces us to the Night Gallery section.

The hospital room

A big scare will be coming here

With a touch of Lovecraft, Stephen King, some Clive Barker and a few homages to the nightmarez maze from a few years ago, Delerium promises to be something wildly imaginative and disturbing. As the maze progresses we hope to speak with its designer, Daniel Miller, to bring you more insight on this impressive fear machine.

We'd like to thank our captors, whom we've grown to love, for dragging us into the depths of our darkest nightmares. We look forward to many more screams from this developing Haunt dream.


The walls recently came down around Windseeker and MiceChat was invited to take a hard-hat tour of the site. Racing against the clock, Knott's hopes to begin testing the new thrill ride this week!

What we found fascinating about the construction of the skyscrapping thrill ride is the variety of obstacles the construction team was faced with. Windseeker was riginally planned to take the place of the old parachute drop tower near Xcelerator. But teams from the parent company, Cedar Fair, surveyed several sites and found that building a new tower in an open patch of land snug between Jaguar and Silver Bullet would better serve the project and preserve the historic Knott's sky tower.

In order to do this, they had to remove the beer garden area that was previously in the location. But that was just the beginning. . .

Knott's next had to alter one of the supports for the inverted coaster, Silver Bullet, becuase it reached a little to far into the path of Windseeker's planned flight pattern.

One of these beams was redirected to take a bit sharper turn to the ground, freeing up space for Windseeker.

It was also discussed that Knott's version of Windseeker would have a uniqe ride pattern. The ride carousel is planned to rise about 40 feet off of the ground before beginning to rotate and fan out on it's way up the tower. However, in the interest of keeping things uniform and easily being able to update all versions of Windseeker in other Cedar Fair parks, the Knott's ride profile has became the standard by which all versions of the ride will now perform.

Working inside the tower.

The brains of the ride.

The panel where the music will be generated from.

The surrounding area is actually very nicely done an blends in well with the existing Fiesta Village theme. Thank Goodness!

The area behind the attraction

The queue.

No over-the-shoulder restraints

Windseeker should be open very soon. We will keep you posted with up-to-the-minute info


Last Sunday, MiceChat's own SirClinksalot donated a day and rode Jaguar for 10 hours to raise money for the charity Give Kids the World. The charity runs a 70-acre resort in central Florida that caters exclusively to children facing life threatening illnesse. Complete with over 140 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs, the foundation has welcomed over 100,000 families from all 50 states and 70 countries.

While the event ended last Sunday we would still like to offer this link below if you would like to donate to this worthwhile
charity. You can still donate to Give Kids the World using this link until Oct 24th.

Here are a few shots from Sir Clinksalot's day on Jaguar...

One train was for guests and one for the Give Kids the World event

Our heartfelt thanks to Sir Clinksalot (in yellow), and the folks who supported him, for helping to make a difference in the lives of the children who need it most. 10 hours in the sun on any ride is an extreme challenge to the human body. You are a good man Mr. Clinks, we are so proud of you!


Welcome to Disneyland. The dog-days of summer are here and although there isn't much new in the park to talk about, we are still going to take you on a little tour through the park in pictures. Yes the Matterhorn is being worked on, and the Emporium is still closed but that's pretty much it as far as the news goes.

Still magical.

Let's take a look at the wait times.

Pretty average for the summer, mid-week.

Should you cool off on Splash Mountain? Use the single rider line to cut your wait.

One of our favorite spots of the ride. It's just so cute

Don't throw me in that Briar Patch!

A bird stops in Magnolia Park, next to the Haunted Mansion, for a drink from the fountain.

The balconies above New Orleans Square.

Ahh, poor Monstro's skin is still chipping, cracking and flaking. He needs a better moisturizer.


Who set off the fireworks in ToonTown? . . . We did!

Lovely Black-Eyed Susans

From this view Space looks surrounded in trees. Who can guess where we took this photo from?


Here's a quick update on the Matterhorn. The control booth has been given a refresher and is all prettied up again. However, the real work is going on up in the mountain where heavy track work is being conducted.

The sound of jack hammers can now be heard echoing from the mountain.

Yodel - Ay - EEE - Oooo

Our MiceTube starlet, Sarah Snitch, brings us another charming edition of MiceChatter:

You can find video notes and subscribe to the MiceTube Channel HERE

While not much may be going on at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure is a buzz with action. The park lost another one of the opening day icons this week
, a new route is being prepared for entry into DCA and Cars Land's rock berm gets closer to the finish line.

Here at the front of the park, the new front entrance gates opened and the ubiquitous Golden Gate Bridge just beyond has now been removed. The Golden gate shell that hid the Monorail beam is history and a less obtrusive, Santa Monica Bridge style facade will be built around it. This will better fit the new 1920's Los Angeles angle coming to the entrance of the park. Some mourn the loss of the red metal spires at the front of the park, but here at In the Parks we are pleased to see a more open, inviting entrance taking shape.

You can see how the Carthay Circle building in the background will be the new weenie for the entry area.

Looking back at the entrance.

Guests can still walk under the beam at the moment.

But construction walls are creeping in and will soon block entry into the park entirely.

New lighting rigs have been installed along the temporary entry path that will be used to get into the park. The temporary entry will take you from the front gate, behind Sorin' and exit you into the path between Sorin' and Grizzly River Rapids.

The current state of things during the day at Grizzly. One of the two main arteries to the back of the park. The crowding will only get worse before it gets better folks. Consider it growing pains.

Well, the Condor Flats sign came out from behind the tarps after a refurbishment. Bummer. We had hoped for something which would aid the transition from Buena Vista street into Condor Flats. Instead, there will be this one out of place intrusion in the otherwise carefully planned Buena Vista Street area.


That cute little Mermaid is a people eating monster! Similar to the capacity and waits at Haunted Mansion, queue time averages about 20 mins on this new attraction. Even if the queue wraps around to the side of the building, you'll find that the line keeps moving quickly.


Things have really ramped up at Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.

Maters' Junkyard Jamboree.

The platforms and under ground ride mechanism have been installed.

notice the amazing amount of detail just along the track

There have been so many changes to DCA in the past few years that you might not fully recognize the park as it was originally designed. Our good friend on YouTube, infaMOUSEproject shares this video with us today of vintage DCA

Thank you infaMouse, you rock!

As many of you know, MiceChat enjoys Halloween time and is a big fan of haunts great and small. With planning for the upcoming haunt season beginning to ramp up, we have been speaking with some of our favorite designers to ask them how things are coming along. One of the more famous annual Haunts is The Empty Grave at Garden Walk (near Disneyland). Founded By Mike Talarico, The Empty grave began as an at-home haunt and has grown, from those humble beginnings, into an annual tradition in Southern California.

How did it all begin? What's coming this year? We sat down with Mike to ask him a few questions about how he got started and where he is headed.

MiceChat: You have become one of the most well know independent Haunts. But how did you get your start?
Mike: Well basically there was this house in my neighborhood when I was growing up that did a little homemade haunted house every year. These two guys that worked at Universal Studios had a place and they just built a little haunted house in their front yard with some black tarps and white pvc pipes for the frame and it was just the most fun thing. We would go visit them every year. We couldn't wait for Halloween every year because we wanted to see what these guys would come up with.
MC: We all wait for Halloween. (Everyone laughs)
Mike: Even before I did the haunt I'm my own yard, when I was about 12 or 13, I would go see what people were doing online and learn about lighting and set building and building figures and that's how I got hooked. I began volunteering and helping out at other haunted houses to learn things. That's when I met up with Jeff Schiefelbein, who now runs Sinister Pointe, and I was with him at his first location in Anaheim Hills. I think I was 12 or 13

MC: Wow you started young.
Mike: Yeah, so one year though it was late September and, back at that house in my neighborhood, the pvc pipe wasn't going up in the front yard. We found out that they were moving. So my buddies and I got all ambitious and decided we would make our own haunt in my parent's backyard.

I think I was 14. We had NO IDEA what we were doing. We didn't know we could go to Home Depot and buy black tarp. We literally went and bought hefty trash bags and taped them together. It was the most rag-tag haunt you could ever imagine, it was terrible. But we thought, ok we did this in 5 days. We will do better next year. So, through the year, we would go to Party City and collect props and save them and just plan.
MC: What year was that?
Mike: I think it was 1997 or 98.
MC: You guys had the music from Titanic playing in the maze didn't you?
Mike: Yeah and a frozen Leonardo DeCaprio. (Laughter) But we slowly evolved from there. I got onto the internet and started going to different forums and learning how to do the lighting and the effects and learning how to build my own props and figures.
MC: You taught yourself how to build your own animatronics?

Early prop building

Mike: Oh yeah! For the first couple of years our mazes would only have my own, hand-built, animatronics.
MC: How many people came to your first haunted House in your yard.
Mike: Half a dozen probably. (Laughs) It could not have been more than 20 or 30 people.
MC: Yeah but that's so awesome! You had heart!

A set built in the family garage. Look to the left and
you will notice family storage

Mike: We had a good time, we had nothing but good intentions. But we learned as we went along. Then we actually started getting good at scaring people and it got way too big for my parents house. First it was in the back yard, then it was the side yard, the garage, the driveway. And before you knew it the whole back yard was storage during the rest of the year. Finally my mom said, "I love ya, but it's time to go to the next level. You're driving me nuts."
MC: When did you branch out and get your own location?
Mike: Our first official location was about 7 years ago at the Block at Orange.
MC: The Haunted Cellar?

Mike: Yeah the haunted Cellar. That was still very much a learning process. The first year I did NOT know what I was doing. I was still a kid.

Come on in!

A young MiceChatter, Kritter, got his start at Haunted Cellar

As you can see to the right, the dressing room for the Haunted Cellar also doubled as the stock room for the neighboring clothing store.

Mike: (Cont.) I worked at Disneyland in outdoor vending the entire summer to save up the money to do it. I sold churros, I sold popcorn, I sold pretzels, I sold the glow merchandise. But all of it was a big learning experience that first year in talking to the city and getting permits and getting g all of the things you have to consider. It was a whole new ball game. But even now we are still learning. We are always trying to improve ourselves.

Mike and his wife Adrienne at the Empty Grave Haunted
attraction at Garden Walk last year.

MC: And now here you are at year 7 with the Empty grave. Have you secured your location at Gardenwalk again this year?
Mike: We have. We just got the green light to begin building and getting the permits.
MC: You have dates yet?
Mike: Probably the same as last year. Opening on the last weekend of September, Sept 23rd and going weekends through to Halloween.
MC: Where do you pull your creativity from? What inspires you?
Mike: I get it from everything. Movies, music, everything. Part of what I love about scaring is the practical joke nature of it. It's all about having a good time. It's not malicious it's all in fun. But you can find inspiration from everyday things like sneaking up behind people or whatever.
MC: You mentioned how you learned to deal with the city and getting permits and meeting codes and such. What unique hurdles do you face as an independent haunt builder?
Mike: The biggest thing every year is getting the proper permits and approvals. I think that haunted houses carry a certain stigma, they seem to get a bad rap as being a liability and something that a city might not want to deal with. It's a fire hazard, it's temporary, all that. So I get the idea that haunted house builders have to work extra hard to make sure they meet the standards.

Every year you have to have an action plan. I was lucky to have had a lot of friends in the industry, like Jeff and my friends from the Haunted vineyard and they would help me out. That's one thing I think the Southern California Haunts are great about - it's like a big family. We all help each other and we know each other. They would tell me things like, "okay here are the flame retardants you will need to use, when you are building you have to keep such and such in mind and stuff like that." I also joined I.A.H.A (International Association of Haunted Attractions) and they help you to know how to build to regulation and what your particular cities are going to look for. Those are the harder part.

It's a big process. You have to let the city know that you are serious, that you want to build an attraction that is going to be safe, that will make the city a little money and one that will be a limited liability at the end of the day for the city. You've got to meet with the fire department, the building department, you have to submit your plans to any departments that may want to inspect your plans, you have to register for your business license and your tax license and there are a slew of things you have to do just for the door to even open.then, even after it's all built, the city will send out a general inspector to take a look at everything, and he has to sign off on it all.

It's a scary thing every year because you are always worried about whether or not you have dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's.
MC: How long does the process take from design to opening?
Mike: We start coming up with the plans and ideas on November 1st, once we finish for the previous year. The design process can take any amount of time. But once that is done the process is relatively straightforward and takes about a month to get plans submitted and approved.

But really, there is so much more to it than just designing it and building it. It's all in the details, like how you are going to manage it and who's going to work it, how do you find them how do you train them, you know?
MC: That's one of the things that really sets you guys apart, the amazing talent that you find. They have such a raw enthusiasm for the scare. How do you get that?

Mike: That is something we are most proud of and they are the biggest reason we return every year. It's a family. most of the kids we have here have been with us 3, 4, 5 years. The creativity and passion that goes on in that building for Halloween is insane. We're not here to make a billion dollars, we just love what we do.

MC: Do you give them any training or do they just come ready to go?

Mike: It's a little bit of both actually. A lot of them contact us and we just give them a place to scare. They face all kinds of challenges. Despite lack of money to lack of room and they just make it happen.

What do you think the right mix for a maze is - some are scary, some are gory, some are funny. What makes a good maze?

Mike: Timing. It's all in the timing. You could have any of that but if your timing is off none of it works. There's no right or wrong component otherwise. You have to let people get scared, hit them a few times and then let them relax, then come up and get them again. You can't let them know when you are coming to get them. With good timing you can make anything work.
MC: Who's your target audience
Mike: Mainly the youth of Orange county but we want everyone to come. This should be a place where both the parents and the kids can come. There's no set age limit.
MC: What do you have planned for this year?
Mike: his year is going to be double the size of last year and we try do do something new that we hadn't done before. There will be one big open scene in a grave yard, and we are introducing people to the home of "The Killer" in our backstory.

The flow will also be a little different. Most mazes flow in a counter-clockwise path. This year ours will flow clockwise and we are hoping that this kind of throws your anticipation off a little. We have redesigned all the rooms we had last year. We are doing all new sound, all new lighting, new facade out front, MiceChatter Jon Autopsy's is working on the soundtrack this year.
MC: That guy is everywhere!
Mike: He's awesome. We are even going to have a small introductory scene where there is a chamber you walk into which sets up the story and then you'll be led into the maze.
MC: What are your long-term goals?
Mike: We just want to keep it going. We want to improve every year, develop a following and have fun. We don't have the fan base that Knott's or Universal has, but we DO have a following. We want to show people what we are made of. It's so much fun to be living in an epicenter of Haunt fun every year. I mean, you've got so many great places to go in Southern California and everybody is doing something different.
MC: What gets under your skin? What scares you?
Mike: You are gonna laugh because the answer is EVERYTHING. I am the ultimate wuss. I remember when I was helping Jeff build a haunt one year and, he can tell you, I was scared to death to be left alone in there. I need someone to lock up with me at night when I'm finishing up. I can't be left alone. It's weird because I LOVE haunt. I love getting scared, but it's different.
MC: Yeah it's a controlled environment. You know you aren't really in danger.
Mike: I love the supernatural stuff, the zombie stuff, the ghost stuff. Last year when I was going in one night to build at Garden Walk, something happened. It was like 2 or 3am. I had planned to meet up with my dad there. My father is my right hand man during construction. Along with my beautiful wife and good buddy Jeremy.

Any way, so I am there in the middle of the night, stacking things and getting things ready and I hear something, something in the far far back of the building, that sounded like somebody moving things around. I thought, 'Oh it's my dad, he came in and he's moving things around.'. I started tailing to him and there was no answer. I went back to where the noise had come from and there was no one there and nothing out of place. Then my dad showed up 15 minutes later ready to work.

MC: There wasn't another way into the building?
Mike: No! And here's the crazy thing. This one psychic lady came by to look at things and, unprovoked she says, "You know, the place is pretty quiet. But in that back corner, there is something. It's not mad but it's not happy." and she specifically pointed to the area where I heard the noise. So now I am even more edgy when locking up for the night.
MC: That's wild. Well, Mike I really appreciate your time and talking to us about what it is to build a haunt from the ground up and what you will be giving us this year.
Mike: No problem! Let everyone know that there's more coming and MiceChat members will be getting a special rate at the Empty Grave.
MC: WOW Thanks Mike! We look forward to sharing more from the Empty Grave soon!

We'll have more information for you about the Empty Grave at Garden Walk and how you can get discount tickets as Haunt approaches.

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F!an, the intrepid reporter from Universal Hollywood, brings us the latest update on what's happening in the park.

Francesca's Collections is out from behind construction walls, fully stocked and should open any day now.

Progress of construction adjacent to the Studio Tour loading area.

A commercial code named "Biscuit" was filming in the Metro sets and at the Chicken Ranch.

The Fast and the Furious: Extreme Close Up motion control demonstration was closed.

The items on display at The Universal Experience have been rotated again. New things on display include costumes from the latest Fast and the Furious movie, models from Cowboys & Aliens and props from House and The Sixth Sense.

Walls have been pushed forward and now come right up to The Universal Experience and completely taking over the photo shop.

Steel work has been extended from the show building.

This year's second maze has been announced and will be based on the Hostel movies and located in the Mummy extended queue.

Eli Roth's Hostel: Hunting Season. Location: Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride extended queue Code Name: 3DN
Eli Roth, the multi-talented director, writer, producer and actor, will adapt his enormously successful "Hostel" film franchise to create "Eli Roth's Hostel: Hunting Season," a twisted new "Halloween Horror Nights® maze at Universal Studios Hollywood(SM). The event begins on September 23 and continues on select nights through October 31.

"Hostel: Hunting Season," for which Universal will build elaborate sets re-creating locations in Slovakia, will mark the horror auteur and star's first effort at transforming his screen work into a live theme park experience. The maze will re-imagine the film's dehumanizing torture chambers and send guests on a spiraling journey through the corrupt halls of Elite Hunting's torture factory. Elite Hunting, a secret society that tortures and kills American youth for sport in exchange for large sums of money, will prowl the factory and prey on its many maze visitors.

Unnamed maze in the Jurassic Park extended queue:

Unnamed maze in the Terminator extended queue:

Giveaway!!! We have a Green Lantern light-up Yo-Yo to give away to one random poster who correctly answers this Magic Mountain trivia question. The winner will be contacted via Private Message on MiceChat.

We have four prizes to give away and will be giving one away each week for the next three weeks.

Question: What was the previous name for the themed area currently known at "Cyclone Bay"?

Just type your answer in the comments section below for your chance to win.

Before we finish today's update, we'd like to remind you to sign up for the MiceChat monthly newsletter and events email so you are always in the loop on what's new and exciting in the Disney and theme park world:

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Today's update was brought to you by the following members of our fantastic and talented crew of photographers and news contributors: DisneyDaniel, Capt Phoebus, F!an, Sir Clinksalot, Fishbulb, and Dustysage.

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Updated 07-29-2011 at 10:33 AM by In the Parks



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  1. napamaninsocal's Avatar
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    Great Update Answer to the question Spillikin Corners
  2. DisneylandMaster's Avatar
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    Nice update, as an answer to the picture of Space Mountain, it's from Splash Mountain as you make the U-turn towards the first drop
  3. Emmanuel_4's Avatar
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    Great Update!
  4. reverendscoot's Avatar
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    The Cyclone Bay area used to be named Spillikin Corners
  5. reverendscoot's Avatar
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    Great update, loved the varied topics. Can't wait for Halloween and then Christmastime!
  6. LFTWNG9's Avatar
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    Cyclone Bay was once called Spillikin Corners.
  7. aashee's Avatar
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    OMG. I am officially so excited about the Halloween Haunt! Maggot room and Night Gallery? Holy smokes!!

    For those of you who don't join in on the MiceChat hount night, you are really missing out. Thanks Fishbulb, always something amazing every week in "In the Parks"!!
  8. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Fantastic update today. Really looking forward to all the Haunt events and MiceChat Nights of Horror!

    The infaMOUSEproject video of vintage DCA was fascinating. You really don't realize how much has changed until you see what the park looked like on opening day.
  9. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Great update!
  10. Jerm's Avatar
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    Spillikin Corners is one of those places I will never forget! I miss it!
  11. simaand's Avatar
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    Spillikin Corners.. Awesome Update Norm!
  12. OriginalMousekteer's Avatar
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    Spillikin Corners and I worked there opening season-1977 in the glass shop. That's where I first met Ron Schneider, who would later become the original Dreamfinder at EPCOT. Back then he was a streatmosphere performer named Professor Spillikin. I also saw him star in an L.A. production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

    Spillikin Corners was the brainchild of MM VP of Merchandise, Frank Kennedy. He was known in the industry as "five-percent Frank" for his expectation of money under the table from vendors. He was fired by MM after the 1981 summer season. He and his son Gary were convicted of fraud for the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans.

    Spillikin was patterned after the crafts program at the Silver Dollar City parks (one of which is now Dollywood). The cast costumes were created by renowned costume designer Eloise Jensen (and carried her label in the waist or collar). There was a near-mutiny by the craftspeople partway through the first summer over issues of control and off-season employment. Management was too accustomed to dealing with 18-year-olds, not older, experienced, independent-minded craftspeople.

    It was a fun summer, but ultimately doomed to fail. The merchandising demographics couldn't support the labor-intensive overhead.
  13. fireball's Avatar
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    Awesome update; I am so excited for the new DCA to finally be fully completed. The plaza is already like a million times better than what was there before; the new entry gates are such a perfect compliment to Disneyland! You have the world that Walt knew, and then, across the way, his greatest accomplishment, which is of course Disneyland.

    And call me immature, but I seriously laughed at that weenie photo.
  14. Kritter's Avatar
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    Thanks for that embarrassing picture of me! hahaha
  15. snowsbeau's Avatar
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    It was, Spillikin Corners. The dried apple dolls at the store there were creepy. Miss the Magic Pagoda too!
  16. ooolarge disneyfan's Avatar
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    Answer to question-----Spillikin Corners
  17. andvintru's Avatar
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    Spillikin Corners
  18. Big D's Avatar
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    I think the Space Mountain picture is from the top of Tarzan's Treehouse. I think the buildings you can see through the trees are the River Belle Terrace and the Adventureland Bazzar.
  19. Director_Guy's Avatar
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    RE: That DCA video

    I knew I remembered seeing waves in splashing against Paradise Pier! Why did they get rid of that? I loved that effect!
  20. jpg391's Avatar
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    Thanks for the inside look on the construction of the new maze for Knotts Halloween Haunt. It should be real scary.

    Disneyland Park and DCA look great.
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