Resort Updates – March 2015

Spring has sprung in Disneyland, and with just two months left before the big Diamond Jubilee celebration, the refurbishments are starting to wind down. Both Disneyland and California Adventure are finishing touch-ups and upgrades in each land, so that the park looks it’s best for its 60th birthday. Aside from the ongoing enhancements, Disneyland is its usual springtime self, with flowers in full bloom and extended park hours to prepare for the oncoming busier season.

Dapper Day

This month Disneyland hosted its first Dapper Day of the year. Dapper Day is a special event where guests are encouraged to dress their best for their visit to the park, and most participants wear Disney-themed, vintage-inspired dress. All of the impeccably dressed guests meet up in front of the castle to chat and get to know one another, and then take a massive group photo!

March20151 Source

Despite the rain, the Dapper Day turnout was huge. I unfortunately couldn’t attend, but all of the outfits I saw on Twitter and Instagram looked fantastic. The next Dapper Day is scheduled for September 18th. For more information about Dapper Day, to see photos, or find inspiration for your own outfits, check out the official website here.

Refurb-ing Away

The 60th anniversary celebration is rapidly approaching, and many of the park’s refurbishments are nearing completion. The castle is back, along with the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. Over the next few months, the castle will receive a diamond overlay to commemorate the park’s 60th. This close-up from Mice Chat shows the beginning stages of the overlay already visible from Main Street USA:

March20152 Source

Critter Country’s three-month refurbishment is finally coming to an end, with the land reopening at the start of April. No major changes to any attractions or restaurants have been implemented, so guests will feel right at home in this quiet country land. When the land reopens, all of its attractions will resume full operation, and the Hungry Bear Restaurant will once again offer its dessert package for Fantasmic!.

Over in California Adventure, the “re-imagining” of Condor Flats is still in full swing, but the former Taste Pilot’s Grill has now reopened as Smokejumper’s Grill. The menu is exactly the same, but the restaurant’s new theme and décor provide a glimpse of the upcoming Grizzly Peak Air Field.

March20153 Source

Other Updates

On March 31st, Innoventions will close its doors for good. Disney has yet to announce it’s replacement, but rumors include Marvel’s SHIELD headquarters, something Star Wars related, or a 60th anniversary showcase.

Due to the show’s consistently high crowd volume, cast members now strongly encourage Frozen Fun guests to obtain a fast pass for the Sing-A-Long show. Stand-by guests usually do not get seated, and some fast-pass guests even have trouble on weekends or particularly crowded days. If you want to see the show, have a fast pass and return to the theater as soon as you reach your time window.

And last but not least, I was surprised to find that Disneyland didn’t really have any Mardi Gras celebration this year. New Orleans Square maintained its purple, gold, and green color scheme and masked displays, but there was no special event or souvenir to commemorate the festivities.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

FindingNemoSubmarineVoyage1

June 2007 – present

LOCATION

Tomorrowland – If you enter Tomorrowland through the entrance off Main Street USA, turn left when you reach Tomorrowland Terrace. You’ll see the Submarine Voyage straight ahead, adjacent to the Monorail ramp. If you are coming from Fantasyland, keep left along the waterfront as you pass the Matterhorn, and you’ll see the entrance on your left, before Autopia.

BACKGROUND

The lagoon’s previous submarine attraction, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, closed in 1998. Imagineers promised a new submarine ride would take its place, but the lagoon remained quiet through 2003. Fans worried about the future of the lagoon, since this area had held a submarine attraction since 1959. During its closure, the lagoon became a hotbed of speculation and intrigue from Disney fans, and rumors of new themes included Treasure Planet and Atlantis. Imagineers created concept designs for an Atlantis voyage, but scrapped those plans when the film performed poorly at the box office. Finally, right before Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, Disney announced the official new theme of the Submarine Voyage would be Finding Nemo, to debut two years later in 2007.

When the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage finally opened, lines exceed 3-4 hours. The ride quickly became a fan favorite, particularly among nostalgic guests who missed the original submarine attraction. Today, the Submarine Voyage is a consistently busy attraction in Tomorrowland, and is one of the most popular park attractions for younger children.

EXPERIENCE

Guests begin their voyage in the Institute of Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation (NEMO). Institute researchers are searching for an underwater volcano, and enlist guests to join their submarine voyage in the hopes of finding the elusive peak.

When the submarines depart, guests are immediately immersed in an underwater world of coral reefs, fish, and divers. The submarine stumbles across the ruins of an ancient civilization, currently being investigated by notorious diver P. Sherman. As the submarines travel through a waterfall and enter a series of caverns, the captain informs his passengers that due to new technology, guests will be able to hear fish talking to one another during their journey.

Suddenly, Marlin and Dory appear, and guests learn that Nemo has disappeared again. Marlin and Dory enlist the help of Mr. Ray and Nemo’s classmates, and the group searches the reef and caverns for Nemo. The submarine passes through the East Australian Current (EAC), where guests can see Nemo, Crush, and Squirt, along with the other sea turtles riding the current.

Next, the submarine crosses through a graveyard of sunken ships, where sharks Bruce and Chum are exploring the abandoned ship decks. Unfortunately, the submarine accidentally hits a mine, causing a temporary loss of power. In the darkness, guests see Marlin and Dory, as they continue their search for Nemo. Marlin and Dory narrowly escape the terrifying anglerfish, and race through a pack of jellyfish as power returns to the submarine.

With restored power, the submarine reaches its final destination: the underwater volcano. Marlin and Dory find Nemo at the volcano, and the whole cast of characters chant as lava begins to flow. As the submarine escapes the erupting volcano a pod of humpback whales arrive, swallowing the submarine and its passengers whole. Dory attempts to talk to the whale, and the whale shoots everyone out its blowhole. The relieved captain returns the submarine back to the institute, thanking guests for accompanying the research team on their journey through the ocean.

FindingNemoSubmarineVoyage2

MY RATING: ★★★☆☆

The Submarine Voyage is a unique Tomorrowland attraction, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. There are tons of references to Finding Nemo scattered throughout, and seeing characters interacting in a real underwater environment is very cool. However, the submarines themselves are probably the most unpleasant ride vehicles in the park. I am not a claustrophobic person at all, but the submarines make me very uncomfortable and nervous. The seating area is small, the seats are uncomfortable, and I can’t help but feel trapped throughout the ride. If the submarine doesn’t bother you, you will love this ride. But if you’re nervous about being in the sub, you’ll probably be a little spooked during your voyage.

VISITING TIPS

The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is a very popular attraction, and unfortunately does not offer fast pass. If you want to visit, try to ride before lunchtime. Afternoon waits can be really lengthy, and most of the waiting area is in the sun. If you can’t get on the Submarine Voyage before noon, try to ride after dark; the lines are the worst between noon and dinnertime.

TRIVIA

The first diver you see is Darla, the niece who antagonizes the Finding Nemo gang from the dentist’s office.

All of the scenes with Nemo and friends take place in a hidden show building.

The lagoon holds 6.3 million gallons of water.

The Submarine Voyage has the longest ride time of any Tomorrowland attraction, with a run time of approximately fifteen minutes.

In 2014, the Submarine Voyage closed for a six-month refurbishment. During the closure, the lagoon was completely drained, and Imagineers repainted every piece of coral and refreshed a number of the scenes.

All 8 of the submarines used in the attraction are recycled versions of the submarines from the original ride.

FindingNemoSubmarineVoyage3

Monorail

Monorail1

June 1959 – present

LOCATION

Tomorrowland – To board the Monorail from inside the park, head toward the rear of Tomorrowland, near the lagoon. You’ll find the Monorail sign and a ramp to the platform on the left, between the Finding Nemo Submaring Voyage and Autopia.

Downtown Disney – To board from Downtown Disney, head toward the ESPN Zone. You’ll find the loading platform on your right, next to the Rainforest Café.

BACKGROUND

Originally, the Monorail fit in perfectly with Tomorrowland’s emphasis on future technology; Walt believed monorail systems would become a common method of public transportation in the near future. However, with the rise in popularity of major highways, the Monorail instead became a symbol associated with Disney parks.

When the Monorail first opened in 1959, it had no transportation function at all; it was a sightseeing attraction that completed a small loop around Tomorrowland. But in 1961, Disney opened the Disneyland Hotel station (now the Downtown Disney station), officially marking the Monorail as a transportation vehicle for resort guests.

As the resort has expanded, including the opening of a new park and two new hotels, the Monorail’s track has remain largely unchanged. Instead, the resort built around the Monorail, and guests now get a tour right through the heart of the resort.

EXPERIENCE

Guests can board the Monorail in Tomorrowland or in Downtown Disney. From either stop, guests embark on a 10-minute tour of the Disneyland Resort, including views of Downtown Disney, the Grand Californian Hotel, Grizzly Peak, Buena Vista Street, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. The narrated tour provides a glimpse of park history, shares resort trivia, and points out park landmarks visible from the track. When the Monorail comes to a stop, guests can choose to disembark or complete the full circuit around the resort (Note: you can only stay on if you’re in Downtown Disney; all Tomorrowland riders must disembark. On crowded days, you may be required to disembark at both stops).

Monorail2

MY RATING: ★★★★☆

The Monorail is fun to ride, and offers some really unique views of the park. The narration is interesting, and taking the Monorail from one end of the resort to another gives your feet a much-needed break. However, the Monorail doesn’t stop in California Adventure, even though the track leads right through two of its lands. If the Monorail stopped in California Adventure, I would up this rating to five stars.

VISITING TIPS

As the day goes on, lines for the Monorail steadily increase, with peak lines around dinnertime. However, the Monorail accommodates over 100 passengers per trip, and makes return trips fairly quickly. So long as the park isn’t extraordinarily crowded, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting on. If the park is extremely crowded and you want to take a trip on the Monorail, try riding at lunchtime or in the late morning.

TRIVIA

At the Monorail’s opening ceremony, the massive ceremonial scissors couldn’t cut the ribbon, so Walt tore it with his hands.

The Monorail has had several generations of vehicles: Mark I (1959-1961), Mark II (1961-1968), Mark III (1968-1985), Mark V (1985-2007), Mark VII (2007-present). Mark IV and Mark VI models operated in Walt Disney World, but never serviced passengers on the west coast.

When the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened in 2002, the Monorail sported yellow and blue paint to match the submarines. And when Cars Land opened in 2012, the Monorails received temporary decals giving each vehicle eyes and a mouth.

Monorail3

Mint Julep Bar

MintJulepBar1

LOCATION

New Orleans Square – Head toward the Haunted Mansion, and turn left when you reach the end of the French Market Restaurant patio. You’ll see the Mint Julep Bar on your left, across from the New Orleans Square railroad station.

EXPERIENCE

Service Type – quick service

Seating – outdoor enclosed patio

Reservations – no

Entertainment – periodic live music

Menu

CONCEPT

The Mint Julep Bar is a tucked away little haven that is a fan-favorite among New Orleans Square visitors. Try Disneyland’s famous mint julep drink, and enjoy the sights and sounds of New Orleans Square at the waterfront patio.

MY RATING – ★★★★☆

The mint julep is really good, although it is VERY minty. Remember that Disneyland is a dry park, so the mint juleps are non-alcoholic. Whether you want a sweet snack, coffee, or a mint julep, you’ll find something to enjoy at the Mint Julep Bar. The bar shares a patio with the French Market Restaurant, so you’ll also get to enjoy the view of the Rivers of America and the live jazz music!

MY FAVORITES

  • Mint Julep
  • Mickey-shaped Beignets (3 pack)

TRIVIA

The Mint Julep Bar has been in operation since New Orleans Square debuted in 1966.

The bar shares a building with the French Market Restaurant, though the two quick-service spots are considered two separate dining options.

Jedi Training Academy

JediTrainingAcademy1

October 2006 – present

LOCATION

Tomorrowland – If you take the main path from Main Street USA, you’ll find the Academy on your left, in front of the Tomorrowland Terrace. If you are coming from Fantasyland or if you take the Main Street USA path toward the Matterhorn, you’ll find the Academy on your right, across from the Submarine Voyage.

BACKGROUND

After the success of Star Wars Weekends in Walt Disney World, Disneyland wanted to increase Star Wars’ presence in Tomorrowland. The previous show at Tomorrowland Terrace, Club Buzz, closed in 2006, making room for a Star Wars show. Just like in Walt Disney World, the Jedi Training Academy became the first audience participation show in Tomorrowland specifically targeted at young children.

Since 2006, the Jedi Training Academy has captivated younger audiences, giving little ones to interact directly with the villains of the Star Wars universe. With its location in the center of Tomorrowland, the Academy draws huge crowds, making this show one of the most consistently popular in Disneyland.

EXPERIENCE

When the show begins, a Jedi master randomly selects little ones from the crowd, naming them official Jedi trainees (padawans). The padawans learn how to use lightsabers, channel the force, and think like Jedi. Once they have completed their training, the padawans test their skills in a battle against stormtroopers, before an ultimate showdown with Darth Vader himself! Finally, the padawans graduate from the Academy, and head back into Tomorrowland as newly minted Jedi.

JediTrainingAcademy2

MY RATING: ★★★★☆

The Training Academy is entertaining for the whole family – over-the-top exciting for kids and really adorable to watch for adults. The padawans usually take their training very seriously, and what could possibly beat a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader?

My one complaint about the Jedi Training Academy is the complete lack of a viewing area. Unless you’re in the front row or are lucky enough to score an awesome table at the Tomorrowland Terrace, you really can’t see much of the action. But even so, the Jedi Training Academy is a heart-warming and entertaining live show.

VISITING TIPS

If your child wants to participate in the show, get to the show area roughly 20-30 minutes before the scheduled show time so that you are at the front of the crowd. Selection is random, and up to the discretion of the cast members, so there is no guaranteed method to be chosen. But if you’re at the front and your child is very enthusiastic, you’ll have a decent chance of being picked.

TRIVIA

Darth Maul occasionally appears alongside Darth Vader to fight the padawans.

Don’t forget to take your child’s certificate home; it recognizes their official status as a padawan and Academy graduate.

JediTrainingAcademy3