For Disneyland's 55th anniversary. it now looks like an old classic attraction will return in a lavish new facility. The animatronic everyone claims to love, but few actually bother to visit, Mr. Lincoln is now planned to return to the Disneyland Opera House in time for the 55th. But the plan isn't to just dust off the old figure and start passing out 3-D headphones again. If Imagineer Tony Baxter gets his way the Disneyland Opera House would literally be flipped around, and Mr. Lincoln would have some new friends join him on the stage.
The proposal now that is quickly gaining traction from Team Disney Anaheim's (TDA) sharp pencil boys would have arriving visitors to the Mr. Lincoln show heading in through what is now the exit (via the green doorway, to the left in the above photo). Visitors would wait in a small lobby area adjacent to the hat shop (shown below) before heading in to a smaller theater with fewer seats.
Even though this new Lincoln presentation will be shorter and more compelling, even Tony Baxter knows that the hundreds of seats installed in 1965 are a bit of overkill regardless of how good the Imagineers make the robotic president. So the show would be presented as a history of Disneyland technology and the importance Walt placed on patriotism and pride in the country for his little park. The curtain would rise on the familiar Abraham Lincoln figure, who would give a stirring speech before introducing the nation's first president, George Washington who would also say a few words.
Piggybacking on the work now going on to eventually revamp Walt Disney World's (WDW) impressive Hall of Presidents animatronic attraction, WDI now wants to create a condensed version of that new show for Disneyland. But instead of going through the entire parade of silent nodding rubber presidents like WDW does, George Washington would then cut to the chase and introduce the current president, which would be Barack Obama when the attraction opens prior to the 55th anniversary. President-elect Obama's animatronic would say a few well-scripted words, and the show would end with the requisite stirring music and gushing patriotic pride.
The Opera House audience would then gather their personal belongings and exit to their left, instead of their right, and enter into a newly expanded Disneyland history exhibit. Much of the displayed items and models from the 50th anniversary show would remain, in addition to some reworked displays on the life of Walt Disney himself, but the old lobby would be reworked a bit physically and would be expanded out to the south.
The current location of the Bank of Main Street (shown below) would be transformed into a new version of the Disney Gallery, which would be accessible from both the Opera House post-show area as well as the sidewalk off of the Town Square.
The new Gallery space would be much larger than it was when it was in New Orleans Square, and the current plan has the shop using both the lower and upper levels of the bank building. The space above the Opera House and Bank of Main Street is currently offices for park management as well as the location of the Disneyland operators who staff the park's private telephone exchange. These offices and facilities would need to be moved, since the proposal for this big new attraction depends on plenty of floor space to sell the expensive collectibles and artwork that well-heeled Disneyland fans crave.
Much like the Japanese "office ladies" who snap up whatever cutesy souvenir the park offers to keep the cash registers humming at Tokyo Disneyland day in and day out, the affluent California collectors have done much to pad the bottom line for Disneyland in the last few years. It's a customer demographic that other established parks like Paris and Orlando lust after, but that really only exists in solid numbers here in Southern California. Those profitable sales are what are giving Tony Baxter's Opera House makeover plan plenty of lift, so thank a collector the next time you see them.
After two years of changing plans for a new Disney Gallery, from the Plaza Pavilion to Downtown Disney, the Disneyland merchandise folks are just happy to have a big new space custom designed for them. The current Annual Passholder (AP) services offered at the bank would be moved semi-permanently to the newly refurbished Plaza Pavilion (shown above).
If this Opera House/Disney Gallery plan gets the final green light (and it was looking very positive earlier this month) it would be a real bonus for Disneyland fans in particular and those who miss Walt Disney's unabashed patriotism. We'll keep you posted.