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Disneyland Updates, DCA Construction, Transformers and Harry Potter news at Uni

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by , 12-01-2011 at 10:46 PM

It's Official, Universal plans to bring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Hollywood, we also have a sneak peek of what the interior of the new Transformers ride may look like! Disney California Adventure's Cars Land is rapidly coming along and a variety of new, interesting details have emerged. We would also like to remind all of our readers that it is Candlelight weekend at Disneyland, so beware of the evening crowds (especially on Main Street). A beloved Disney artist laments a piece of Disneyland history which has recently been lost. Lastly, Snow World has opened at SeaWorld and we offer an idea for some inexpensive Christmas fun, all right here in today's In the Parks.

Here we are at the happiest place on earth during the merriest time of the year. And it really is quite lovely.

If you are planning on going to the Disneyland resort this weekend, you would be wise to avoid the park in the evenings. The annual holiday tradition of the Candlelight Processional returns Saturday and Sunday night for two performances each evening at 5:30pm and 8pm. The performances take place in Main Street U.S.A.'s Town Square and utilize the train station as well. Because of the location at the front of the park where the only entrance and exit is, this causes the occasional traffic nightmare for regular park visitors - before, during and after the procession.

Our advice is to simply avoid the park in the evening this Saturday and Sunday and perhaps visit DCA instead. However, if this is simply not an option for you, bring your patience and love for mankind (and steel-toed shoes ) and just go with the flow - no matter how slow. Additionally, if you'll be inside Disneyland during Candlelight but not attending the actual performance, make your way toward the back of the park between 4:30pm − 9:00pm. Perhaps see Fantasmic! and watch the evening fireworks from Small World mall. If you plan to see the parade, they have rescheduled the performances of "A Christmas Fantasy Parade" to 1:15pm and 3:15pm. You can also exit the park using the Monorail during the performances of Candlelight - but service has been spotty lately.

The stage is being set.

The train station is dressed.

Seating will fill up town square.

2011 Disneyland Candy Cane Dates
Candy Cane making dates are currently scheduled for:
  • Wednesday, November 30th (9:00 park opening)
  • Friday, December 2nd (8:00am park opening)
  • Tuesday, December 6th (9:00am park opening, BUT Magic Morning hours at 8:00am)
  • Friday, December 9th (8:00am park opening)
  • Monday, December 12th (8:00am park opening)
  • Friday, December 16th (8:00am park opening)
  • Wednesday, December 21st (8:00am park opening)
  • Saturday, December 24th (8:00am park opening, BUT Magic Morning hours at 7:00am)

Big Thunder Mountain went down for an unscheduled bit of maintenance this week. On Tuesday, welders were spotted along the track just after the second lift hill near the infamous goat. According to Disney's website, the ride is now operational again.

Disney's mobile app claimed the ride had a 25 minute wait during the closure - where do they get their data?

Welders welding (you can almost see them through the trees).

In a brief bit of news, ToonTown finally got its missing "O" back and is no longer T ONTOWN. Sadly, however, the truly terribly Christmas decorations remain untouched.

Welcome back O, you were missed

Yep, still cheap and ugly looking. BRING BACK THE OLD TOONTOWN TREES!

Artist and long-time Disney designer, Kevin Kidney, has been following the renovations of the Plaza Pavilion restaurant as it is transformed into the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street. To his horror, a beloved piece of original Disneyland art that resided there has been destroyed. He writes...

"Painted against a blazing metallic gold 'foil' background, the mural depicts a tree with its branches carrying an exotic array of foods from different regions of America and Europe. There are teapots and soup tureens, strings of sausages, Danish coffee cakes and a wedge of gooseberry pie. There are frog legs and crawfish, strange cheeses, aspics, and seafood in green gelatin, frothy steins of German hefeweizen, a coffee mug with a sour cream doughnut, and a silver dish of ice cream with a peach-half and a green candied cherry. Behind the food, in evocative dark brown silhouette, are cast-iron stoves and beer kegs, a slaughtered wild turkey and a flintlock blunderbuss, the disembodied head of a steer, a wooden ice cream churn and other archaic culinary implements and imagery that I can't even identify…"

A lovely description of a nice piece of art. But, the story does not have a happy ending...

"...The demolition crew on the project were told to remove a wall, and remove it they did. In the process, they uncovered the mural, but not having received any official instructions on what to do with it, totally destroyed it. Something about a concern for asbestos in the walls required all pieces to be deposited into biohazard bags and discarded.
Kevin eloquently laments the loss of this piece of Disneyland history and ends with an open plea. Does anyone else have a photo of it? Do yourself a favor and read his blog - let him know if you remember this piece or have photo or video of it!

Occasionally, while picking up shots for the update, we do end up with a few nice shots which aren't really newsy but are still worth sharing. Here are a few of them.

Do you recognize this fellows behind the curtain?

Here we are at Disney California Adventure! Time for construction and Christmas!

Disney California Adventure continues to give the Holidays the old college try while it undergoes major refurbishment. We think they are doing an admirable job of balancing entertainment with the functional necessities of massive construction.

The Christmas tree in Paradise Pier. Is there even a tree under all those ornaments?

Wreaths in Paradise Pier.

Santa wants to know what you want for Christmas.

A few festive touches were added to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta

and holiday desserts as well.

As Dusty first reported nearly a year ago, Disney finally officially announced that a GHIRARDELLI Chocolate shop and soda fountain will be replacing the long shuttered Mission Tortilla Factory in the Pacific Wharf section of DCA.

Not much is known about the new location other than it will be similar to the location that Ghirardelli already has in Downtown Disney in Florida. The location will include a soda fountain and ice cream shop to satisfy all chocoholics in the park. And, yes, there will be free samples.

Here we are at Buena Vista Street. The Carthay Circle Theater remains shrouded in green tarp and the circle out in front is still behind walls. It will be quite a while before we notice anything resembling shops here but they have until June to meet their official target (though we hear it is starting to slip by the day).

Construction greets guests at the entry.

Welders are working away.

Inside what used to be Greetings from California.

The structures have reached full height.

Looking at the gate from inside the park from our hot air balloon.

Looking towards the Cathay Circle theater.

The theater is really starting to look like something promising

The exterior surfacing is well along on the theater.

Radiator Springs and Cars Land look much farther along than Buena Vista Street. Today, we look at some of the locations and what has been done thus far.

Sarge's in the foreground, Flo's in the background.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree:
Mater's ride at the front of the new land will greet guests as they enter.

The facade has been in the process of getting an awning for a couple of weeks.

Mater's shack is nearly complete.

Cozy Cone Cafe:
The cones are still getting an exterior surface.

Curio Shop:

Metal framing on the roof has been readied for signage.

The entrance to Luigis Flying Tires. You can see they are nearly ready to install the neon on the facade.

Half way down that stack of tires, you'll see an open spot - is that for lighting?

The Courthouse:
It seems the courthouse sprang up overnight. This was the last building to be worked on as they build their way through the site.

But look how far it's come!

Brick walls have been laid on the exterior. Looks fantastic, doesn't it?!

The Fillmore location at the front right of the entrance is also finally coming together. this past weekend a new windmill was erected.

This is somewhat of a transitional area between Cars Land and the Pacific Wharf.

Radiator Springs Racers:
We now spy out the progress on Radiator Springs Racers.

Rock work continues on the wall facing Paradise Pier. For all our worries, it really does look pretty good.

Vehicle testing continues on a nightly basis now.

The gate leading backstage from Paradise Pier got a new paint job. Simple and brightly painted.

Harry Potter is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood! Yes, the worldwide successful Harry Potter franchise, that single-handedly revived Universal's Orlando parks, will also be making a new home at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The first question is when. It won't be anytime soon. In fact, we are likely not going to be seeing anything until at least 2015. The next major question is where. Where would a major expansion like the massive Wizarding World of Harry Potter go in an already cramped theme park and movie studio? We think it would be safe to say that existing structures will have to be torn down to make room. The most likely scenario has them removing the Gibson amphitheater and WaterWorld show. Sight lines are important in a working movie studio, so it isn't likely to end up where it can be seen from the backlot sets. However, anything is possible and we've heard that everything is on the table and no attraction is more important than making room for Harry. Wisely so.

We'd like to hear your thoughts below on where you'd like to see them build the Wizarding World and how likely you are to increase your attendance at the park once the new land opens. Butterbeer anyone?!

This year, CityWalk, will be celebrating Christmas with a brand new light and music show from now until December 31st, at 5 Towers plaza, including the opportunity to take your picture with Rockin' Santa.

Light and music show (every 20 minutes 6-9:40pm)
Sunday Nov 27
Friday Dec 2
Saturday Dec 3
Sunday Dec 4
Friday Dec 9
Saturday Dec 10
Sunday Dec 11
Friday Dec 16
Saturday Dec 17
Sunday Dec 18
Monday Dec 19
Wednesday Dec 21
Thursday Dec 22
Friday Dec 23
Saturday Dec 24
Sunday Dec 25

Photos with Rockin' Santa (hourly 1-9pm)
Sunday Nov 27
Friday Dec 2
Saturday Dec 3
Sunday Dec 4
Friday Dec 9
Sunday Dec 11
Friday Dec 16
Saturday Dec 17
Sunday Dec 18
Monday Dec 19
Wednesday Dec 21
Thursday Dec 22
Saturday Dec 24
Sunday Dec 25

The tree at 5 Towers in now fully decorated and flocked with fake snow. Also, CityWalk is playing a mix of Holiday and non-Holiday songs to break up the monotony.

When classic Holiday songs are played the giant video screen turns into a roaring fire.

Santa Kong is back

Starbucks is closed for refurbishment. Signs out front suggests to guests looking for a caffeine high to visit the neighboring Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.


New York Street has been decorated. Lucy's looking for a cab.

New York Street also features a lone Menorah.

Along the roof line of the New York Street facades are several snow machines.

Looks like it snowed in Paris

The holidays still aren't complete at Universal (they start late here)

The Lorax, from the upcoming film by the same name, is now out for M&G in front of Cartooniversal

The Grinch's Winter Playground (the location for the snow play area and nightly celebrity tree lightings) has expanded dramatically from last year. This year's set up now includes a center grandstand replacing floor seating. The grandstand extends well into Western Street and makes the walkways pretty narrow.

Dates for Grinchmas are December 10-11 and daily December 17-January 1

The facade is being worked on. Looks like painting.

There's lots of transformation goin on down on the lower lot

The Revenge of the Mummy gift shop, Tomb Treasures, has made way for a new retail location that will now include photos. The former photo location near the Transformers building will become the new Transformers gift shop.

The side of the building.

The former photo shop that will be re-purposed as the Transformers' gift shop

Another Lower Lot shuffle is the closing of the Arcade. Not sure what they are replacing it with yet.

The Ben & Jerry's location next to the former arcade has also closed. All signage has been removed.

As you can see, Transformers is transforming much of the lower lot.

Transformers is certainly shaping up to give Disney a run for its money, with as much high-tech whizz bang fun as possible. While the project out here in Holywood won't be open until Spring, the version of the ride in Singapore previewed to pass holders this week.

We are told from sources involved with the attraction, that while the exteriors are different, the two rides are nearly identical inside. MiceChat Correspondent Disneyland95 was in Singapore to take one of the first public rides on the attraction and to give us an idea of what we can expect when the ride opens here.

Again, these pics are from Universal Singapore, but should give us a good idea of what to expect here.

Dusty spoke with a senior theme park designer who had the privledge of riding the attraction this week as well. The attraction has taken the Spiderman ride system and perfected it. We were told that it is a solid step up from Spiderman in terms of 3D image rendering and ride effects. While there are no animatronics in the attraction, the ride doesn't suffer from them not being there.

The only potential negative to the ride is a complicated storyline. However, we were assured that guests will come off the attraction wanting to get right back in line, whether they understood what was going on or not. When we asked if it will be the best themed attraction in the world, we were told that it will come very close to that mark.

Here's a video from Universal Creative about the new attraction:

And this one shows off the Transformer ride vehicle - an Autobot named EVAC:

We hear that Universal Hollywood is quite far along on the project and could begin some cast previews early next year. Are you excited about this new attraction?

The ST entrance is now guarded by two giant nutcrackers.

The queue has also sprung a flurry of decorations

Despite ending an entire month ago, Halloween Horror Night props (mostly bodies) still liter the War of the Worlds set

Cabot Cove/Amity Island is getting some TLC. This usually means something will be filming in the area soon.

Something wicked is coming to the neighborhood for Christmas. Next weekend, the popular Sinister Pointe haunted house will be reopening for Christmas and decorated for a scary Christmas. YOu can stop by on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. But the tickets are very limited and will go quick.

Get your tickets here.

Christmas at Sea World San Diego continues to dazzle. Much thanks to Joseph Pakizegi, we've got some photos to share. Let's see what happened this week.

The ticket booths have become giant presents

Holiday dolphin on a stick

The stunning tree
The strands of lights behind it are from the Skytower


We had a chance to experience Snow World and, we have to admit, it was pretty fun. After all, it's SNOW!

The pavilion is filled with real snow - and a lot of people too

Aside from the snow, there are also snack shacks in the back of the arena area

We also took time to enjoy the holiday seal show. Yes, it's basically the same tricks with a new costume, but it's still a lot of fun.

If you haven't visited SeaWorld for the holidays, it's really worth your time. The park has an extra bit of magic at the moment.

Not everything that glitters comes with an extra fee. Here's a neat place to take the family that's free.

Every year the MIssion inn in Riverside California puts on their annual Christmas display of lights and animated figures. We invite you to take a look with us.

The whole hotel is covered in millions of lights.

While the general visitor is not allowed up into the hotel, tours are offered. But don't let that stop you, as most of the lights are on the exterior of the building and in the main lobby. Stroll around the block and through the lobby of the hotel, then enjoy the nightly festival held in the Mall adjacent to the hotel.

Ice skating is $10.00 per hour session.

Freshly baked gingerbread

The new Dodge reindeer hybrid. Santa's going to get good mileage out of this one.

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Today's update was edited by Fishbulb and brought to you by the following members of our fantastic and talented crew of photographers and news contributors: Joseph Pakizegi, Daniel K. Lew, F!an, and Dustysage. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact Dusty today.)

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Updated 12-02-2011 at 12:12 AM by In the Parks



  1. Emmanuel_4's Avatar
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    Great Update!!
  2. GoBotDotCom's Avatar
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    Heading to the park this afternoon for an overnighter to use our APs one last time ... ... won't be renewing for at least six months ...
  3. nunz's Avatar
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    Looking forward to Harry at Universal. Havben't been in a super long time, but that would make it worth a return trip.
  4. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    Awesome update! See you guy at Sinister Pointe next weekend!
  5. BC_DisneyGeek's Avatar
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    I only occasionally visit Universal when I'm in Anaheim, unless there's something new or special to see.

    With Harry Potter, I can see it becoming a must-do on every trip. Wizarding World is one of, if not the greatest theme park experience ever created.

    I hope they find enough space to recreate it from Florida, and they'll also need room for future expansion. Maybe they can fix some of the problems as well (Olivander's wand shop really needs to have multiple show scenes within the facade, due to its' low capacity).
  6. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Great update!
  7. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    The design for the new Ghirardelli location looks rather, plain, (I was kind of expecting the clock tower from Ghirardelli Square to appear there.) But, since the new tenant is literary right next door to Carsland, it makes sense to downplay it. But I wish it looked different.
    Still a great update!

  8. Emily Baker's Avatar
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    I've lived in LA for 3-4 years now and have honestly never been to Universal Studios. CityWalk, yes, but never paid to go inside the park, despite being an avid annual passholder for Disneyland.

    I can say that Harry Potter coming to Universal Hollywood will do EXACTLY what they want it--it'll get me into the park for the first time ever. I don't know about many return trips, but I will be more likely to go there with people coming to visit me than I have in past.
  9. fravitmonk's Avatar
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    Man oh man, lots of exciting news in this update!

    Call me crazy, but I think the news I'm most excited about is Transformers. As much as I loved Wizarding World, I have to say I think I still like Spiderman a tad bit more than Forbidden Journey, and I'm excited we're getting a new and improved Spiderman type ride here very soon.

    I will agree Timekeeper, the new Ghirardelli location looks a little plain, but I'm okay with that seeing as I LOVE Ghirardelli shops. I live near San Diego and I always go to the one downtown in the Gaslamp whenever I can. This is going to be an awesome addition to DCA.
  10. Mac Daddy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great update! Great news about HP and Ghirardelli. I've also been meaning to head out to the Mission in for a while now, so thanks for the extra incentive!
  11. DizMiiLand's Avatar
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    It will really be nice when the Carthey area is opened up so guests don't feel so squeezed in that whole area. Even with Buena Vista construction continuing until next fall (IMHO), this would help.

    Awesome update.
  12. Quentin's Avatar
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    I just hope they keep the Water World show, i have only been to USH once but that was the highlight of my trip! It is so cool!
  13. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about the lost 1962 Disneyland Stouffer's art work on the wall in the Plaza Pavilion. It would have been great to have the tree remain, if ever Main Street was claimed a Historical Landmark, as a point of historical interest. PD
    Updated 12-02-2011 at 02:06 PM by DisWedWay
  14. mttk2724's Avatar
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    The Mission Inn is awesome for everyone!! I should know, I live in Riverside and have been to it so many times!!
  15. Disneylandfan85's Avatar
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    I really do hope that Big Thunder is operational again.
  16. DisneyResort's Avatar
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    Unlike the chaos and frenzy over at WDW to try and play catch up when Harry Potter opened at Universal, the same won't happen at Disneyland. Universal Studios has never been able to come close to competing with Disneyland in attendance. They even offer "buy on ticket, get in the rest of the year free" promotions for locals and it barely makes a dent in Disneyland's attendance (and crowds).
    So I say, go for it Universal. Build your Harry Potter World. Unlike Orlando, theme park attendance in Southern California is driven by the locals. And if you can keep more of the L.A. crowd up there, the better for the rest of us.
  17. DL4DJ&JULES's Avatar
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    You rode in a Hot Air Balloon over DCA?
  18. sir clinksalot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyResort
    Unlike the chaos and frenzy over at WDW to try and play catch up when Harry Potter opened at Universal, the same won't happen at Disneyland. Universal Studios has never been able to come close to competing with Disneyland in attendance. They even offer "buy on ticket, get in the rest of the year free" promotions for locals and it barely makes a dent in Disneyland's attendance (and crowds).
    So I say, go for it Universal. Build your Harry Potter World. Unlike Orlando, theme park attendance in Southern California is driven by the locals. And if you can keep more of the L.A. crowd up there, the better for the rest of us.
    Here's the thing though ... Universal is adding Transformers this year. Harry Potter in 2015. That's at least two new "E-Ticket" style rides in the next 3/4 years. And it's quite possible HP could have more than one new ride. Not to even mention that if they don't use the T2 side of the park, that attraction is probably due for an update in the very near future.

    Disneyland/DCA has one planned and that's Radiator Springs Racers. Yes, they are re-doing DCA, but in the grand scheme of things, that's not going to be what brings people to the park. That is just fixing what was broken when DCA opened.

    I think the point is, for the first time in FOREVER, Universal is in position to siphon people from Disney. They've done it in FL, they can do it in CA.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but once again, one has to realize that the last time "Disneyland" added a NEW E-Ticket ride was Indy. That was 16 years ago.

    Once CarsLand is done, it's time for them to put some focus back on the original park and do something BIG without removing something else, updating a ride that needs it (Star Tours) or re-imagining a former attraction (Nemo).
  19. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    News from California about Ghiradelli and Harry Potter? The news doesn't get any better!
  20. Attagirl's Avatar
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    So excited about the Harry Potter park!