The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
Disneyland just wrapped up another hugely successful holiday season with record crowds despite the rainy weather for much of the season. The week after new years when the Annual Passes aren't blocked out was so busy that on Wednesday January 4th, both Disneyland and CA Adventure were closed at one point due to reaching capacity! Disneyland will occasionally reach capacity and have to close during the busiest times of the year, but very rarely will CA Adventure have to. The fact that both parks reached capacity should tell Disney that things are going well and that they better start planning the third Anaheim Park that they've been contemplating, sooner rather than later.
The idea of a "third gate" (to go along with Disneyland and CA Adventure) has been in circulation for quite sometime among the brass at Disneyland. In fact I'm sure at some point before it was decided to add Star Wars Land to Disneyland and Marvel to CA Adventure, it was heavily debated as to whether or not Disney should open a third park based around these two intellectual properties (IP's). But ultimately with Universal opening it's Harry Potter area, Disney decided it couldn't wait 8 years to respond - they had to do something sooner (not to mention adding the IP's to their current parks would save them a bunch of money over having to develop a whole new park). But with attendance numbers creating a gridlock inside Disneyland Park most peak days and with it now even starting to carry over into CA Adventure, more serious consideration needs to be given to opening a third Anaheim park. (Imagine what the opening of Star Wars Land will do to even further increase attendance and congestion!)
Star Wars Land
Star Wars Land continues to take shape despite the rainy weather. A lot of rock work at the entrance of the land has been completed and is somewhat visible from portions of Disneyland despite Disney's best efforts to keep it as hidden as possible. What can be seen looks fantastic! The excavation of the Stormtrooper Battle Escape attraction has been completed and most of the work now seems to be focused on the areas around the Rivers of America that will house the new backstage area for Fantasmic!. And since the Rivers of America are supposed to open this summer, that's probably not a bad idea. The opening of Star Wars Land has been pushed back from it's original Christmas 2018 planned opening to Spring 2019.
|This is a view from Critter Country looking at the new train tracks and the rock work behind the tracks. This is the area where a waterfall will come down behind the train and flow into the Rivers of America.|
During my most recent visit to Disneyland, I took the time to check out the New Orleans Square train station. Although the railroad is not operating, Disneyland has opened the New Orleans Square train station for guests to explore. You are actually able to cross the railroad tracks to view the buildings and scenery on the other side - something you can't do when the railroad is operational. Disney also provides extremely knowledgeable cast members to tell you about the handcart and the train that is on display. For example, I was told that there are 5 trains in operation at Disneyland. Trains 1 and 2 were the original trains that were here when Disneyland opened - in fact, engine 2 was the actual train Walt Disney himself rode in on, on opening day. Trains 3 and 5 spent time on separate sugar plantations in Louisiana before coming to Disneyland and Train 4 spent time in a sand and rock port in New Jersey.
The most fascinating thing he told me, however, was about the future of the Disneyland Railroad. He mentioned that the New Disneyland Railroad will reopen on July 17th and the opening will be commemorated with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The new track will be 1100 feet LONGER than the old route, despite the river being shortened. This is due to the new winding the track does as it makes its way into the ToonTown station. The Disneyland Railroad ride will also be just over 5 minutes longer than it was previously, turning what used to be about a 24 minute ride around Disneyland into a 30 minute ride around the Park. I was also told that the old tunnel that the Railroad went through just before ToonTown is no more and that a new tunnel will be built. At this point I could tell that the cast member got even more excited and a little cautious as he told me the following: He said that it was believed that inside the new tunnel would be a throwback to the old Mine Train Through Natures Wonderland attraction that existed up until the late 1970's and was replaced by Thunder Mountain Railroad. He said that, although not confirmed by Disney, many cast members believe that there will be bubbling paint pots that existed in the old ride as well as new rock work similar to what existed back then.
Earlier this week DisneyParks Blog announced that Disney will be adding the Fast Pass option to two more attractions - The Matterhorn and Toy Story Mania as well as adding a new program later in the year called MaxPass.
MaxPass is a service that will be available for an "introductory price" of $10 per day that allows the user to book a fast pass from anywhere within Disneyland or California Adventure. It also provides guests with unlimited downloads of their PhotoPass images. The announcement of MaxPass was met with overwhelmingly negative comments posted by readers on the blog. "Why is Disneyland charging for a service that is not only free but is the only way to obtain Fastpass at Disney World (in Florida)?" was the response of one of the readers. Many more responses weren't quite so diplomatic or kind. There are a couple of things that worry me about this new program. First is the way the cost was described using the words, "Introductory Price." Those words indicate a price increase once it isn't an "introductory program" any more. Second, for large families such as mine, the program isn't affordable. It is $10 per ticket, per day. So lets say my family of 8 makes the trip to Disneyland and we buy 4-day park hopper tickets. At $10 per person ($10x8 = $80) per day ($80x4 = $320) I'm paying an extra $320 for MaxPass in addition to the 4-day park hopper ticket price.
As for the addition to the other two fast pass attractions, I've got mixed feelings. I love using the fast pass system and use it regularly every time I go to Disneyland or CA Adventure for Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin',Star Tours, and Splash Mountain. It works well for rides that would otherwise have insanely long wait times.
My family rode the Matterhorn on a busy day this past July at a time when the queue wrapped half way around the Matterhorn and had a slight switchback at the end. We only waited 25 minutes to get on. In my opinion, a 25 minute wait for a ride that was busy at the time isn't an unacceptable wait. But what happens when you add Fast Pass to it? The wait time will increase for the standby line because now they have to wait for the people that have Fast Passes. So I'm not sure that increasing the wait time of a ride who's queue isn't too long to begin with in order to get people on faster is very effective.
As for Toy Story Mania in CA Adventure, for whatever reason that area of the Park doesn't interest me at all and I've never actually been on Toy Story Mania in the first place - partially due to lack of interest and partially due to long wait times. So having the Fast Pass here might actually entice me to try this attraction out.
Either way, Disneyland risks pricing some people out of their programs and, even worse, exudes the appearance of charging unnecessary fees for programs that should be included for free.
For far too long the North-East corner of Hollywood Land has been allowed to sit vacant or, at the least, vastly underutilized. Currently out of the 4 buildings there, only one (Monsters Inc) has something going on in it. The other three (Sunset Showcase Theater, Stage 12, and Stage 17) sit vacant. That's up to three potential attractions that could help alleviate the overcrowding problem at Disneyland!
To make things worse, instead of starting a re-theming of CA Adventure with these un/under utilized buildings, Disney decided to start with one of their most beloved attractions in CA Adventure - The Tower of Terror. The Tower of Terror is now officially closed as of January 2nd and is scheduled to re-open on Memorial Day weekend as Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!. The new ride will basically be the same in practice as the Tower of Terror with the feeling of weightlessness as you drop quite a few stories, just with a different theme to it. Micechat.com is also reporting that a new Marvel themed roller coaster is scheduled to open in 2020 behind the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.
While I hate to see the Tower of Terror go, I don't mind the decision to make the change. The Tower of Terror will still be available at Walt Disney World in Florida and I like the idea of having a different variety of rides in the different parks. In addition, Disney wants to give the Marvel Franchise, a franchise which Disney paid $4 Billion for, more of a presence in it's parks. So, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Disney is creating a Marvel sub-land in Hollywood Land. With that said, the issue I have is why would Disney start introducing the new Marvel theme by taking out one of it's most popular attractions instead of starting by adding attractions in the unused buildings around Monsters Inc? By adding attractions there instead of redoing one already in existence, they would be helping draw people into CA Adventure. Instead, CA Adventure now has one less attraction for half a year and will be back to the it's same status after that. The crowd issues will remain the same once Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout opens.
|RIP Tower of Terror (2004-2017)|
I'm not sure how to start this portion of my blog other than to say that I'm very surprised and incredibly disappointed by the following Disney decision and subsequent reactions.
I noticed a few days ago on the DisneyParks Blog Facebook page that Disney has invited "The View" co-hosts to broadcast from Disney's Animal Kingdom in March. I am of the opinion that shows that are hosted by controversial and divisive people from either end of the political spectrum should be kept clear of the Disney Parks. Furthermore, if Disney was a bit more forward thinking they would try to remain a bit more politically neutral or they risk alienating many many current and potential future guests.
As I visited the Facebook page I noticed that I wasn't the only person with this opinion. In fact, many people had posted their disgust with Disney for inviting this program to film on their property. I decided that I would visit DisneyParksBlog.com to voice my opposition to their decision, thinking that maybe it would be more effective to post it there. When I got to their page, their were 5 comments below the story, all favorable to "The View." I thought this to be strange and posted the following: "Careful Disney - You risk alienating AT LEAST half of your customer base." I felt that this was an effective and respectful way to voice my concern at the direction Disney seems to be heading.
When I went back the next day to see if any other comments had been posted, I noticed that my comment had been deleted. That upset me because I felt that I had a right to post my opposition to their decision in a respectful way. I guess Disney, a supposed champion of free thought and free speech, decided that they wanted to censor a certain point of view.
I decided to go back to the DisneyParks Blog Facebook page to post there what Disney had done. Once again I respectfully posted what had happened - that Disney had deleted my opposition to their idea of filming "The View" at Animal Kingdom. Guess what happened? Disney deleted that post as well. Apparently they don't want people to know that they censor opposing ideas.
I realize that Disney has every right to delete what ever comments they want - after all, these are their social media pages that they run. The issue I have is that both of my posts were respectful, just presenting my point of view that happened to differ from theirs. There was no reason to delete them unless Disney didn't want others to think that there are people out there who dislike "The View." For a company who is currently headlining the fact that they hosted a "panel discussion" with social activists, you would think that they would be in favor of free thought and speech. Unfortunately, I have just learned that seems not to be the case with Disney.
Although I will still vacation with my family at Disney Parks for the time being, this sequence of events has me second guessing my devotion to and fandom of Disneyland. Note to Disney: Stay neutral on politics and social issues!