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Dead & Alive, II (continued)

Just last Saturday the 7pm to 8pm hour for Grizzly River Run saw its ridership trickle below 500 riders, while Splash Mountain continued to pull in 1,300 riders per hour until after 11pm. Things get even worse for Grizzly in the winter. When both of the parks are packed to the gills at Christmas and Splash Mountain has a 90 minute wait, if it's seasonably cool in December the daytime lines for Grizzly are short, and when the sun sets at 5pm Grizzly sends out empty rafts for the last four hours of the DCA operating day. As such, Grizzly River Run is a huge facility sitting smack dab in the middle of DCA with a limited appeal that prevents a lot of paying customers from ever setting foot on the thing.

You want to stick that theater where?
Oh the agony.

The plan to add a scenic railway and an animatronic bear show to the area was going to be able to add enough carrying capacity to justify spending millions on additional animatronic show scenes and eye candy. That way, Grizzly River Run may still be unpopular in winter and in the evenings, but at least there would be several other attractions that people could enjoy utilizing the shared infrastructure of the area. But after looking at the mountain structure's design and trying to figure out a way to shoehorn these additional attractions into the facility, it just wasn't going to be feasible. And so for now the plans to plus up the Grizzly River Run mountain area with animatronics and additional family attractions has been pushed to the back burner.

It's not the end of the story quite yet, but the attention of the WDI teams working on the DCA makeover have turned to Paradise Pier and Hollywood before they try to really tackle the underutilized and poorly planned Grizzly River Run area. Stop by and say hello to the nice CM's operating that raft ride this winter anyway, as they get lonely down there on the turntable when the weather turns cool.

Start Your Engines

While the makeover teams tackle the DCA main entrance, Paradise Pier and Hollywood, in that order, another WDI team will be pushing the boundary of the park southward with the construction of the sprawling Carsland section of the park. Carsland is another of the big secrets for DCA that anyone with an Internet connection already knows about. And while a formal announcement should come later this fall, the green light has been given to proceed with planning and final design work on this big E Ticket.

Past the tortillas is the Piston Cup.
Zoom zoom soon back there!

Unlike Midway Mania however, Carsland is an attraction designed specifically for DCA that WDW won't be getting. Using a third generation of the Test Track ride system and timed to open with Pixar's sequel to Cars, the WDI team is hoping that DCA's extreme makeover is mostly completed by the time this new E Ticket opens during DCA's 10th anniversary year.

By the time DCA turns 10 the WDI makeover team would like to have completed the construction of five new attractions, the permanent removal of Maliboomer and Golden Dreams, and the total makeover of five existing attractions, plus all of the new eye candy and rebuilt architecture surrounding them. Now if they could just hurry up with that DCA Preview Center coming to the San Francisco buildings!

its a larger world after all

Meanwhile, this winter at Disneyland will see another season of major refurbishments descend on the park. The juiciest rehab rumors surround the nearly 10 month closure of it's a small world in 2008. When the ride closes in January after its eleventh season of the popular Holiday version of the ride, it will remain closed until it reopens again next November as it's a small world holiday for the Christmas, 2008 season. Once it closes for the holiday makeover on October 21st, you won't be able to ride the original version until the winter of 2009. But when the ride does reopen over a year from now, fans of the classic it's a small world won't be disappointed.

So '60s.
A closer look shows the wear and tear.

While the 41 year old structure and facility could certainly use some new paint and TLC, the main reasons behind this refurbishment aren't the addition of more glitter to the sets and false eyelashes to the can-can girls. The real reason the ride will be closed for so long is because after 43 years of near continual use, the original flume and fleet of boats used at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair have finally neared the end of their long, useful life. As hard as it may be to believe, those fiberglass boats and the trough they travel through are the originals from the World's Fair, with only a few minor modifications made over the decades. The project will require major demolition to take place inside the sprawling warehouse that houses the ride, and it will actually require a race to the finish to complete the huge project in the 10 months of allotted time.

And for the Cast Members operating the ride, those new boats and the new flume can't come soon enough because the new flume will be one inch deeper, and the new boats will be lighter and more buoyant. Many people who have ridden it's a small world in the past few years may have encountered a situation where their boat comes to a stop as all the boats back up for some unknown reason. The reason for the frequent breakdowns on the ride isn't unknown however, and it isn't very flattering to the modern American psyche.

The boats and flume of Disneyland's it's a small world were originally designed in 1963 and installed for use at the New York World's Fair in 1964 and '65. The Americans riding in those pastel boats almost 45 years ago were much slimmer than those boarding the same boats now. While the CM's operating the ride try their very best to eyeball the girth and size of the riders coming down the line and purposely leave a row or two empty on many boats nowadays to hopefully keep them floating, even those discreet tactics don't always work with today's riders.

Churros, popcorn, ice cream and more are just steps away.

Quite simply, the boats weren't designed to handle multiple adults weighing more than 200 pounds, and they now routinely bottom out in the shallow flume and get stuck. The Imagineers who designed the unique flume ride system for the World's Fair assumed that adult men would average 175 pounds, and adult women would average 135 pounds. Needless to say, those 1960's statistics are hopelessly out of date in today's world. This same issue creates similar problems on the drops at Pirates of the Caribbean, or even on the older dark rides like Pinocchio or Alice In Wonderland as the more heavily loaded cars try to keep up their pace throughout the ride. But at it's a small world, the weight related problems happen more frequently.

There are a few notorious bends and curves inside the ride where the heavier boats usually stop at (the Mountie representing Canada is one), and most of the time the offending boat doesn't get much further than the S curve through the Scandinavian room before they come to a stop and create a traffic jam behind them. Believe it or not, there are absolutely no cameras or detection systems inside it's a small world, which is just another throwback to its 1960's roots. The Cast Members operating the attraction have absolutely no way of knowing what is going on inside the attraction once they dispatch your boat out of the station and you disappear inside the building.

The only sign the Cast Members have that a boat has "bottomed out" inside the ride is when they all start backing up past the entrance portal just under the train tracks. Even worse is when the heavy boat makes it much farther into the ride before coming to a stop, and the only way the CM's know anything is wrong is when boats finally stop exiting the ride entirely. That's the worst situation to deal with for the CM's, as they would have been dispatching dozens and dozens of boats for up to 10 minutes before they know anything might be wrong inside the ride. Meanwhile, there is a long line of boats stuck inside the ride whose riders having nothing to do but learn the lyrics to that catchy little earworm of a theme song.

Snickerdoodles did this.
Uneven loads.

Eventually a Cast Member runs in to the rescue and tries to graciously help a row or two of riders to exit the boat at the nearest emergency platform. Once a few extra adults step out of the boat, it pops up an additional inch or two in the water and off it goes. Sometimes the heavy riders involved take it all in stride and can laugh about it, but many times the riders involved turn nasty and yell at the Cast Members coming to rescue them. Those Cast Members, it should be noted, weren't even born in 1964 let alone designing rides for the World's Fair. Nonetheless, they take the brunt of some rather horrific tirades from embarrassed people being escorted out of it's a small world. And when the line of people waiting to get on the ride watch the Cast Members sending in boats with empty rows, the Cast Members can also be yelled at for "being lazy" and not filling all the rows. These types of ugly scenarios play out the most frequently during the Christmas season when the park is busiest and the lines for the popular holiday version of the ride are the longest. It's not easy to work at Disneyland folks, even on happy little rides like small world.

Since the waistlines of America won't be getting smaller anytime soon, and the stuck boats at it's a small world are becoming more and more frequent, TDA planners finally decided they had to do something. This rehab has actually been in the works for several years now while the engineers hashed out the details of the new boats and the huge logistics of replacing the old flume. The new flume will follow the exact same path as the original, and it will travel past sets that are in the exact same locations. But the extra depth of the new flume and the added buoyancy of the new boats should allow for several hundred extra pounds of churro-loving park visitors to pile into the new boats before they bottom out and bring the ride to a stop. Cameras still won't be installed inside the building during this rehab, but a detection system running alongside the flume will be, which will alert the Cast Members operating the ride if someone gets out of their boat for some reason.

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2007 Al Lutz

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