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Dateline Disneyland

2009 The Year in Review: Disneyland celebrates, California changes

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by , 12-28-2009 at 12:17 AM
Welcome to the final Dateline Disneyland of 2009! It has been a busy year at the Disneyland Resort, from changing classics at Disneyland, to the constantly-evolving construction projects at California Adventure; the theme parks saw plenty of activity this year. However, work at the Resort didn't stop at the park gates — the opening of the Grand Californian Hotel's expansion marked the first Disney Vacation Club properties on the West Coast, and the classic Disneyland Hotel began a major multi-year remodel project.

It's been a busy year — there's lots to get to, so let's get started!

Inside Dateline Disneyland

New Year's Eve 2009 kicked off the new year with a foggy start. Dense fog blanketed the Resort, completely obscuring midnight fireworks from guests.

The 2009 "What Will You Celebrate?" marketing campaign brought to Disneyland a new line of decorations consisting of confetti, party hats, and Mickey balloons as the park "Celebrated Today!" all year.

The new Celebrate! A Street Party street show replaced the popular Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams. The parade was met with mixed reviews for its stripped-down float design, contemporary music choices, and interactive street show format, which some fans thought paled in comparison to the more traditional Parade of Dreams that had been running since Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in 2005.

Back in Frontierland, Disneyland re-opened Big Thunder Ranch as a dining location after several months of renovations to the area. The new all-you-care-to-enjoy Celebration Ranch and Barbecue sit-down character restaurant failed to draw in guests with its steep prices, eventually resulting in the removal of the stage show featuring popular Toy Story characters, a revised name, and a slight adjustment to the menu and price points.

"it's a character world"
As the year got underway, "it's a small world" reopened with the controversial new Disney characters and "Spirit of America" room.

As Disneyland celebrated, Disney's California Adventure pressed on in construction mode. The first big change was the removal of the sun face from the former Sun Wheel as it began its transformation into Mickey's Fun Wheel.

And the Mickey icon from California Screamin' began to be dismantled and replaced with a new illuminated Paradise Pier sign and painted sunburst.

Nearby, the Games of the Boardwalk were transformed into fun pay-per-play games featuring classic Disney and Pixar characters, housed in beautiful new Victorian-style facades. The new Games of the Boardwalk opened in April.

As the Games of the Boardwalk opened, Mickey made his mark on California Adventure's giant Ferris wheel.

Mickey's Fun Wheel officially opened in early May.

But as the Mickey's Fun Wheel and Games of the Boardwalk projects wrapped up and opened to summer crowds, the massive new Disney's World of Color show brought a tremendous amount of construction to the drained Paradise Bay.

Construction walls were decked out in advertisements for the new show

As construction on the massive new show platform pressed onward, work on the 9,000-guest viewing area got underway, along with Silly Symphony Swings construction, Cars Land groundbreaking, and demolition of the Golden Dreams Theater in July for construction on the new Little Mermaid.

In June, Dinosaur Jack's Sunglass Shack, a California Adventure opening-day feature was permanently removed.

And by late October, water was once again flowing into Paradise Bay as major construction on World of Color had completed.

The average guest wasn't left out of the loop on all the construction in Paradise Bay for World of Color — along with informative signage on the Paradise Pier bridge, guests could also get a sneak peek at the upcoming show in the Blue Sky Cellar, which debuted a new show focusing heavily on World of Color in July.

Summer marked the kick-off of Disneyland's new Summer Nightastic! promotion, which focused on the enhancements of key nighttime entertainment at the theme parks, from a new summer fireworks show ("Magical"), to new additions to Fantasmic! and Disney's Electrical Parade.

While the marketing focused heavily on a new dragon for Fantasmic!, the animatronic beast never managed to materialize during the summer promotion due to a series of technical issues that caused crews to work around the clock throughout the summer. Instead, crowds waited throughout the summer hoping the dragon would finally appear, but instead just got new Flotsam and Jetsam characters and a new Croc for the Peter Pan segment.

The new nightly fireworks show featured Dumbo flying over Sleeping Beauty Castle for the first time.

And over at California Adventure, Disney's Electrical Parade introduced the new Tinker Bell lead float along with a couple returning favorites and a reworked soundtrack.

Summer Nightastic! ended with mostly positive feedback except for that pesky Fantasmic! dragon, which eventually debuted three months later than originally planned, in early September.

In September, Disney hosted the inaugural D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, just steps away from the Disneyland Resort. The four-day event included a huge Disney theme park display with Imagineers on hand to answer questions for eager fans, along with several key announcements including Star Tours 2 and a major expansion for the Magic Kingdom park in Florida.

Expo attendees got a sneak peek at Star Tours 2 in 3D and renderings for Walt Disney World's expanded Fantasyland.

MiceChat's booth in the Collector's Forum had loads of prizes, a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride car photo-op, and appearances by MiceAge and MiceChat columnists.

Disney's Halloween Time returned at the end of September for another year of Halloween festivities with a couple new offerings. The new Halloween Screams fireworks show drew big crowds and got generally positive reviews from fans. The show included new projection effects along with Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas making an appearance in the skies above Sleeping Beauty Castle.

And Space Mountain launched guests into Ghost Galaxy, a new seasonal overlay involving close encounters with intergalactic ghosts.

Impressive, spooky new nighttime lighting was added for the overlay.

On October 2, the Disney Gallery returned to Disneyland in the former Bank of Main Street. The Bank, an opening day feature at Disneyland and most recently the Annual Passport Center closed in early July to begin construction on the new Gallery.

The Gallery retained the bank aesthetic while opening up space for both art exhibitions and retail.


Next door to the new Gallery, The Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln moved into the Main Street Opera House. The Disneyland Story is essentially a reworking of the great lobby exhibits from Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years and reopened at the same time as the new Disney Gallery.

The Disneyland Story features a small viewing area for a slightly edited version of the "First 50 Magical Years" film starring Steve Martin and Donald Duck, which originally debuted as part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration.

"Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" finally opened on December 18, after months of work bringing the new state-of-the-art Audio Animatronics figure to life.

In October, Disney announced the Disney Parks 2010 promotion: Give A Day, Get A Disney Day; aimed to promote community volunteerism with Disney theme parks tickets as incentive.

The Muppets star in these clever TV spots for the new marketing campaign.

Disneyland honored three Imagineers this year with windows on Main Street: Imagineers Don Edgren, Rolly Crump, and Marty Sklar.

The Disneyland Hotel kicked off its major multi-year remodel in August.

...And the new wing of the Grand Californian Hotel opened at the end of September, which included the first West Coast Disney's Vacation Club timeshare units.

In late October George Kalogridis took over as President of the Disneyland Resort following the retirement of Ed Grier.
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For a complete listing of theme park hours, please visit the Theme Park Calendar
Disneyland Park
Monday - Wednesday: 8 am - 12 midnight
Thursday/New Year's Eve: 8 am - 2 am
Friday - Sunday: 8 am - 12 midnight

Disney's California Adventure Park
Monday - Wednesday: 10 am - 10 pm
Thursday/New Year's Eve: 10 am - 1 am
Friday - Saturday: 10 am - 9 pm
Sunday: 10 am - 10 pm

At press time, no official New Year's Eve schedule had been made available. Please visit closer to December 31 for more information. [ LINK ]

Disneyland Park
  • Haunted Mansion: Closed January 4 - 14 to remove holiday overlay.
  • Big Thunder Ranch: Closed January 4 - 12 to remove holiday overlay.
  • Main Street Cinema: Closed January 4 through February 1 for refurbishment.
  • Starcade: Closed January 4 through February 1 for refurbishment.
  • Le Petit Chalet Gifts: Closed January 4 through February 10 for refurbishment.
  • Corn Dog Wagon: Closed January 4 through May 4 for refurbishment.
  • Tomorrowland Terrace: Closed January 4 through May 4 for refurbishment.
  • Rivers of America: Closed January 4 through May 6 for a major refurbishment. The closure of the river will result in the necessary closure of the following attractions:
    • Sailing Ship Columbia: Closed January 4 - May 6
    • Mark Twain Riverboat: Closed January 4 - May 6
    • Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes: Closed January 4 - May 6
    • Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island: Closed January 4 - May 14

  • "it's a small world": Closed January 18 - 28 for holiday overlay removal.

Disney's California Adventure Park
  • Grizzly River Run: Closed January 4 - 8 for refurbishment.
  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: Closed January 11 through February 19 for refurbishment.
  • It's Tough To Be A Bug!: Closed January 20 - 21.
  • Francis' Lady Bug Boogie: Closed January 25 through February 4.
  • Silly Symphony Swings: Under construction. Rethemed attraction opens Spring 2010
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure: Under construction. Opens 2011.
  • Souvenir 66 and Corn Dog Castle: Store and dining location closed for remodeling through May 2011.
  • Disney's World of Color Nighttime Spectacular: New show under construction in Paradise Bay. Debuts Spring 2010.
  • Paradise Park: The former Golden State Amphitheater is closed. The new, larger Paradise Park viewing area for Disney's World of Color viewing is under construction in the same location and is scheduled to open February 2010.

Okay — that's it for the final Dateline Disneyland of 2009. Thanks, as always, for reading and thanks again to the talented photographers (Fishbulb, 2DieFR, Mac Daddy, Abominable Snowman, Darkbeer, Photo Matt, Capt Phoebus, and all the others) who helped throughout the year.

Have a happy and safe new year!

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Don't forget that MiceAge and MiceChat has loads of new content weekly! If Dateline Disneyland isn't enough to satisfy your Disneyland itch, then don't miss David "Darkbeer" Michael's In the Parks column which runs here every Friday and is packed full of Southern California theme park news, photos, and gossip. And if you want even more Disney theme park goodness, don't miss MiceChat's Weekend Update, which takes a look at Disney theme parks and other international landmarks, curiosities, and oddities every Saturday!

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  1. Crazee4mm's Avatar
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    Wonderful recap of the year-that-was! In hindsight, there really have been some major changes and improvements that I had not given the proper recognition for. Thanks to all of those who work at The Happiest Place on Earth for all that they do to make my visits there special every time. And for all these changes to be taking place concurrently with the seemingly endless stampede of tens of thusands of guests every day is nothing short of a miracle. All that was missing from the article was the announcement that Captain Eo would be returning in February as the announcement was made in 2009 and is considered major news to those of us who are eagerly awaiting it's/his return. Thanks again Andy, it makes my day everytime I see a new column from you and thanks too to the photographers who bring us those magnificent photos!
  2. xalesa's Avatar
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    Great job on the highlights of 2009! Thank you for all the hard work and dedication that it takes to bring the Dateline every week to those of us that are so far away! May you have a wonderful 2010!!
  3. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    What a awsome recap! Great job!
  4. Big G's Avatar
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    This is a great recap. A big thank you to everyone involved with this.
  5. rgcook's Avatar
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    Thanks, Andy, for keeping us updated all year long. Great article! Happy New Year to you and everyone at MiceAge that work so hard to make these reports!
  6. sir clinksalot's Avatar
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    Great ReCap of 2009!!! It's hard to remember all that went on and that it was all actually happening this year. The problems with the dragon seem like 5 years ago now.
  7. cositaluvsmickey's Avatar
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    First of all Thank you Andy for always giving us informative reports, without these reports, none of us would be informed of the backstage going on's at the resort. I personally find these reports to be useful and to keep up to date at the resorts. Second, wow..time flew really quickly and just seeing these reports jog my memory and made me realize that it was a couple of months ago that I was seeing these reports.

    Once again, a huge Thanks to Andy!!
  8. ni_teach's Avatar
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    I also want to say thank you Andy for all the hard work that you have put into these reports this past year.

    Great report today with your look at the past year.
  9. Wendygirl's Avatar
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    Wonderful recap - it really helps to put everything in perspective and see how much happened this past year. One thing that happened but is not on very many people's radar was the reduction from 7 to 5 days a week of Billy Hill Shows thereby saying bye bye to the Billy Hill Green Team leaving the Blue and Gold teams. This year we will see the reduction of Billy Hill shows - going from 30 mins to 20 mins beginning Jan. 15.

    Thank you Andy for terrific updates all year long and all the hard work you put into this.
  10. hauntedtrail13's Avatar
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    That was a cool recap of 2009. Thanks. =D
  11. Disneykin Kid's Avatar
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    Well, I have to some one thing about the DL management, they've kept working to improve the parks! That's an impressive lineup of work being done. The only thing I'm disappointed about is the DL Hotel, I wish they rebuilt it to be like the Grand Floridian/Hotel Del Coronado like they originally planned - even though it has it's own history, the minor facelift doesn't cut it...Thank you for the nice recap.
  12. william's Avatar
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    Wow! that was great.
  13. miceagefan's Avatar
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    Thanks for a great year of info and especially photos. Love your pictures. They are on my screen saver and bring me disney happiness even when I can't visit the park. Thank you.
  14. mickdaddy's Avatar
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    been a big year for the park, can't wait for all of the changes in the next few years!
  15. old green eyes's Avatar
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    Outstanding work Andy! Thank you
  16. Rixter's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed the look back at 2009. I know that was a lot of work! Thanks.

    I wonder what the deal is with the reduction from 30 minutes to 20 minutes for the Billy Hill shows? Audiences with shorter attention spans? Do they pay the actors less money?
  17. Bobd20011's Avatar
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    Love it!!!
  18. kburford's Avatar
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    thanks for a year of GREAT updates!!

    i find it wierd that they are redcing billy hill. it gets packed in during showtimes sometimes and i've felt like the 30 mins went by quickly!

    also, i was looking at the event calendar and it lists dca nye event times, but still nothing listed for dl. so either they are just not listing it or maybe they aren't having as big of parties in dl in hopes of getting more people to go over to dca?!
  19. atticus12's Avatar
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    Thanks for the excellent update on Disneyland. Does anyone do a similar update for Walt Disney World?
  20. MickeyMousePal's Avatar
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    Good-bye Year of a Millionaire Dreams and hello What are you Celebrating. 2009 was a wonderful year...we had Halloween Screams, Magical, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and CASP. Hopefully they all will return in 2010!
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