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Good morning! Today we're starting something new with the column, in response to your many notes and e-mails about both its length and its frequency.

As content permits, of course, we'll now be publishing shorter columns on a more frequent basis. While we still won't be able to promise specific run dates, you should be able to see us more than once a month on the site. There will also be more reviews and commentaries about new additions to the Park, as many of you have indicated you've missed these in the past.

So you got that orange juice squeezed, and the Danish microwaved? Let's get going shall we? - Al

it's a mall whirl

You knew it was a bad idea when you first heard about it, but it really takes a cruise through the newly reopened small world attraction to understand just how misguided the new changes are. Adding the Disney characters into the ride is something that only the marketing people could love, because it sure doesn't do any favors to the show itself.

Dolls will eat you.
The opening day

What once was a celebration of the children of the world has now turned into a game of spot the character, which of course is now for sale in plush at the exit in the gift shop. No time to enjoy the various dolls, costumes or scenery, or try to listen to the language the song is being sung in because it just might take you away from spotting Mickey, Donald or Woody.

Particularly jarring for me are the new poorly arranged and orchestrated musical counterpoints shoehorned into the soundtrack, which make absolutely sure you cannot miss the characters by grabbing your ears if not your eyes as you float by.

DVD drop box is to the left!
Where's Cher, Whoopi and Tim?

The Salute to America room, which replaced the rain forest section, brings the whole thing to a disastrous conclusion. None of the styles used in this section match anything else in the ride and look like a garish cross between Green Acres the TV show, Little Abner the movie musical and your local Hollywood video rental store. It's right up there with the long shuttered Superstar Limo attraction from DCA, in that it's such a pointless addition that it might actually decrease your IQ as you float through it. It's too bad riders aren't given sticks so they can beat the two pi˝atas that are trying to pass for Woody and Jesse dolls here as they drift by.

What's he made of? Jujubees?
Got your stick ready?

Which all these misfires it's hard to focus on the things they got right in this rehab, a tweaked loading system, the refreshed backdrops, a new sound system, a new lighting scheme for the finale room, not to mention a nighttime light show that dances across the fašade as the Disneyland Railroad crosses across the front of the action.

What would I have done differently? After all you can't complain without offering some solutions of your own, right? The first thing I would've done is made the character appearances seasonal, popping into the attraction only during the holidays. Instead of the America room I would have replaced it with a room full of children communicating to each other in various ways, including the Internet, exchanging messages of peace and welcome. It would be right way to acknowledge the latest technologies in a dated attraction.

I think it speaks to just how bad this makeover is that someone like myself, who has never been a big fan of this ride, nor of the art direction within it, can get so upset over how poorly this was done. To those that say the kids like it just fine, they should remember they are on this planet to broaden horizons. To those others who don't think it's a big deal just keep in mind that if the suits succeed here, they will find other things to screw up.

While Imagineers crammed the new Characters inside the ride and went crazy with glitter-glue and new paint, Cast Members from Disneyland's Scientific Systems department spent the five week winter rehab working on the software and mechanics that control the loading area. Specifically, more work and software tweaks were installed on the underwater track switch that controls which side of the station boats are sent to at the end of the ride.

Love, exciting and new...
The pre-rehab boats...

That switch has been causing problems for several years now, since allegedly more advanced software was installed on the 1960's mechanism prior to the 50th. That station track switch is the weak link in a famously high capacity attraction, and over the last holiday season it had been preventing the ride from reaching the people-eating rate of 2,500 riders per hour that it is capable of.

The attraction reopened for the Christmas season with high hopes that problems with the track switch had been solved, but it was still causing jammed boats and backups over the holidays. Those problems have at last hopefully been solved with the latest round of software edits, and while the Park hasn't been busy because of the rainy weather, the early results from this past weekend looked very promising.

They need sticks.
...the new boats.

With the new and more buoyant boats and slightly deeper flume that was installed last year, the once-constant problem of bottomed out boats has now been banished from the ride. The heavier riders of the 21st century can now load up on all the churros they want without fear of causing stuck boats and embarassing escorts out of the backed up ride. And with the extra attention paid to the station track switch, it looks like it's a small world has re-joined the ranks of the highest capacity E Tickets at the park and can once again pull in over 30,000 riders per day.

CD Box Set: Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair

Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger!
Walt Disney with a model of the World's Fair small world ride building.

Ironically, while the Walt Disney Company trashes one attraction from the 1964 world's fair, it honors it and three others in a new five CD box set. First assembled by the late Imagineer Bruce Gordon to be sold at Disneyland in its burn on demand CD kiosks, this set features more than three hours of recordings from those exhibits and shows along with a 24 page full-color booklet.

Below is a listing of what is on the five discs:

  • Progressland: Behind-the original World's Fair scenes recordings and original music from the Progressland Exhibit, featuring a never-before released production of Carousel of Progress.
  • Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln: Experience the sounds of the original Illinois Pavilion. As a special treat, you'll hear the original recording sessions of the man who gave Mr. Lincoln his voice (Royal Dano) and listen to the lavish original score by Disney legend Buddy Baker also presented as individual tracks.
  • "It's A Small World": Includes the original demo recording of the legendary song as well as isolated vocals and a grand master mix of the varied international interpretations of the famous tune directly from the attraction soundtrack. Also included is a tour of this charming "little boat ride" with Walt Disney as your guide.
  • Magic Skyway: Takes you on a time-traveling "road trip" with Walt Disney as he personally escorts you through the Age of Dinosaurs, the ascent of man, and to the distant future.
  • Bonus Disc: Carousel of Progress - Alternate Universe Version

While this compilation has long been available in many different unofficial and bootleg versions, this is the first time it has been properly mastered from the original full-length multi-track sources and annotated so lavishly. If you are a fan of the CD box set that was assembled for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, I'm sure you will find this new package just as exciting and as good a value.

So... um... brown!
Originally this set was solicited to retailers with Bruce Gordon's original title for it, Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair. The title was later changed to avoid confusing retailers and customers.

Originally scheduled to be released today, it has been pushed back to March 24th. The main reason I bring it up in this column is because I feel quantities will probably be limited, and it may be difficult to find after their initial release sells through.

Next time...

The story of the massive Team Disney Anaheim executive layoffs is still being fleshed out, as the resignations are understandably being played very close to the vest now. It should be noted however that this is primarily good news all around, and many long time TDA insiders are giddy with excitement over what this means for refocusing on the true mission of the Resort as a theme park and hotel operation.

We'll have more on these layoffs for you in the next update, but the thinning of TDA's clueless executive herd is already being heralded as a big step in the right direction.

Oh-kay - that should do it for today.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

Yet again we've hit some record numbers lately here on the site, and thanks to all of your kind donations to PayPal, we've been able to keep the bills paid. As I've said before, we're only here due to all of your efforts.

See you at Disneyland!

Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally.

ę 2009 Al Lutz

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