Resort Updates – August 2015

August marks the fourth month of the Diamond Jubilee, and the party shows no signs of slowing down. The castle is still covered in its sparkly diamond overlay, which looks especially beautiful at night (but it’s hard to fully capture in a picture!).

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Though there was little in the way of refurbishments in August, the month was anything but quiet. The Anaheim Convention Center hosted D23, the annual Disney expo, and with it came tons of announcements about upcoming movies, Adventures by Disney travel choices, and of course, big changes to Disney Parks.

D23 EXPO ANNOUNCEMENTS

This year’s D23, which ran from August 14th – 16th, brought major announcements about Disneyland’s future. After much speculation, Disney confirmed plans for expansion and released a few details about what attractions are heading to the park in the next few years. The following is a breakdown of the Disneyland-related announcements from D23:

  • Star Wars Land – The biggest change to Disneyland will be the addition of Star Wars Land, which will be a 14-acre land in the rear of the park. Big Thunder Ranch will be leaving Frontierland, and this space will likely serve as the entrance to the new land. Disney recently purchased land on the other side of Harbor Blvd, which will be used as office space, so that the backstage area behind Big Thunder Ranch can now be incorporated into Star Wars Land. The land will have two attractions: a Millennium Falcon ride and some sort of battle attraction, though no specific details have been released just yet. Here is some Star Wars Land concept art released at D23:

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  • Star Wars Launch Bay – Starting in late 2015, Tomorrowland visitors will have access to a behind-the-scenes tour of the newest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. This exhibit will include artifacts from the film, digital displays of filming, and opportunities for character meet and greets. The Launch Bay will be located in the former Innoventions building.

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  • Season of the Force – Spring 2016 will be a special season for Disneyland, and it will be known as the Season of the Force! Like Halloween time at the park, a number of attractions will have special overlays, and Disneyland will host exclusive entertainment and merchandise. The only specific detail announced for Season of the Force is “Hyperspace Mountain”, an overlay for Space Mountain that will take riders into an X-Wing battle.
  • Super Hero HQ – When Innoventions closed in March, Disney did not announce its replacement. Fan speculation ran wild for almost six months, until we learned Tomorrowland’s largest building would soon house Super Hero HQ, the Marvel epicenter of Disneyland. Super Hero HQ will be home to the Avengers, including Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, and have a number of interactive exhibits and character meet and greet opportunities.

OTHER UPDATES

The Golden Horseshoe now has new entertainment: The Silver Dollar Six! This street performing band plays periodically from the second story balcony, so Frontierland travelers now have live music as they navigate the Wild West.

California Adventure now has another special Diamond Picture Spot, in A Bug’s Land. This Picture Spot uses an optical illusion to make some guests look tiny, while others are much bigger, all in the same photo!

And finally, Luigi finally seems to be on his way back to Cars Land. Though the walls are still up around his tire shop, Disney has at least given a rough time table of when Luigi will be back home: spring 2016.

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Disney Brothers Initials

If you’ve ever taken the time to wander the streets of New Orleans Square, you know this land is filled to the brim with beautiful architecture and ornamental details. But did you know that one of these details is a nod to Walt Disney and his brother, Roy?

To find this hidden gem, stand just to the right of the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean, in front of the Royal Street Veranda. Look up at the overhead balcony, and you’ll see a gold W and R embedded in the balcony’s design.

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These initials stand for Roy and Walt, the two Disney brothers and masterminds behind Disneyland. The balcony that holds the initials is part of the Dream Suite, a private apartment that was at different times office space and a gallery. Since 1966, the Disney Brothers Initials have looked out onto the Rivers of America, and today they represent Walt and Roy’s lasting influence over the park.

Circarama/Circle-Vision 360

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July 1955 – September 1997

LOCATION

Tomorrowland – Circarama/Circle-Vision 360 was located right at the edge of the land, overlooking Main Street USA. Guests arriving through the main entrance to Tomorrowland found the theater on the left, across from the Monsanto Hall of Chemistry. The theater building is now part of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

BACKGROUND

While most of early Tomorrowland celebrated technology and space exploration, one attraction used state-of-the-art technology to showcase present life in America, the birthplace of much of that innovation. Circarama was a show with a giant in-the-round theater, displaying massive images that put viewers right in the middle of scenes. The theater’s first, short-lived show was A Tour of the West, which highlighted scenes of the American west in the present and recent past.

The show went dark in 1960, to make room for Circarama’s most famous show: America the Beautiful. This patriotic film took audiences on a journey across different American landscapes. America the Beautiful was an incredible success, and quickly became one of Tomorrowland’s most popular attractions.

In 1967, Disney upgraded its in-the-round theater, and the bigger and better theater became known as Circle-Vision 360. With the new theater came an upgraded version of America the Beautiful, which remained in Tomorrowland until the attraction’s closure in 1997.

EXPERIENCE

Guests arrived in the theater to find 11 massive screens above them. The show displayed a panoramic film across all the screens, providing guests with a completely immersive experience. The America the Beautiful show covered many famous regions of the United States, including: Williamsburg, New York Harbor, Times Square, the Vermont woods, Detriot automobile manufacturing, Pittsburg steel mills, Oklahoma cowboys, Montana wheat farming, Utah copper mines, Hoover Dam, Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, UCLA, San Francisco, theGolden Gate Bridge, and later, Cape Canaveral. The show used all of the screens to provide incredible detail for each scene, so guests could visit over and over and see something new each time.

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CLOSURE

Circarama/Circle-Vision 360 met the same fate as virtually every other early Tomorrowland attraction. With constant innovation and newer and more exciting thrill rides in the land, older shows and walkthroughs just couldn’t keep up. Attendance steadily declined over the years, until the theater was no longer a highlight in Tomorrowland. So in 1997, Circle-Vision 360 finally closed its doors. Parts of the theater would be incorporated into the Rocket Rods preshow, and the entire building would later evolve into the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters attraction.

TRIVIA

Circarama is a reference to Cinerama, a three-projector system in some theaters that displayed ultra-large films.

The America the Beautiful show actually made its debut at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.

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Disney Junior – Live On Stage!

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April 2003 – present

LOCATION

Hollywood Land – If you follow the main path from Buena Vista Street, you’ll find the Disney Junior theater on your right, across from Award Wieners. If you cut through A Bug’s Land to reach Hollywood Land, turn at the corner and follow the main street. You’ll see the theater on your left, after the “Off the Page” shop.

BACKGROUND

When Hollywood Land opened as the Hollywood Pictures Backlot in 2001, this land was all about glitz and glamour – and the chance for guests to encounter their favorite Disney celebrities. So in 2003, the Backlot opened a theater for the tiniest guests to meet their own celebrity heroes. Playhouse Disney Live was a show that gave kids the chance to see their favorite TV characters in the real world, all with a touch of Disney magic.

Playhouse Disney became Disney Junior in 2010, so the show went dark for a few months to revamp the theater. In March 2011, the theater reopened as Disney Junior – Live on Stage!, but the show’s original premise remained the same. Today, Disney Junior Live is the epicenter of the Disney Junior world, and characters conduct meet and greets outside the theater throughout the day.

EXPERIENCE

Single Rider Line – no

Fast Pass – no

Height Requirement – N/A

Duration – 20:00

Once the lights dim, guests find themselves right in Walt Disney’s famous Mickey Mouse Club House. The show’s host greets his new friends, and invites them to join him/her on a journey into the worlds of Disney Junior. Along the way, guests encounter characters from Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Each cast of characters show off their own mini special effects, and the audience helps the characters bring magic to life. Finally, guests return to the Club House, where the host thanks the audience for joining him/her on their journey through Disney Junior.

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MY RATING: ★★☆☆☆

I’ve only watched Disney Junior once or twice, so I know nothing about the characters or storylines in that realm. But some Disney shows are still very entertaining even without background knowledge of the stories, so I went into the show optimistic.

This show is not a “fun for the whole family event”. If you have little ones that are big Disney Junior fans, they will absolutely love it; they’ll get to see their favorite characters, and the show’s host encourages audience participation. But the show really has nothing to offer grownups. As a visitor without a little one, I thought Disney Junior Live was really boring. Each set of characters comes on stage, chats for a bit, and then leaves. The show is effectively a long string of cameos rather than a play with some kind of story. If you’ve got kids with you that love the Disney Junior characters, the show is definitely worth seeing. Otherwise, skip this attraction.

VISITING TIPS

Show times differ by day, so ask a cast member for the theater’s schedule on the day of your visit. Be sure to get in line 30-45 minutes before the show starts, and you shouldn’t have trouble getting into the theater.

Note: the waiting area for the theater is in the direct sun. If you’re visiting the park on a hot day or during the summer, consider attending a morning or evening show to avoid the heat as much as possible.

TRIVIA

Disney Junior Live changes its lineup every few years to stay up-to-date with the channel’s most popular shows. Previous Disney Junior shows featured in the Disney Junior Live performance include: Rolie Polie Olie, Stanley, JoJo’s Circus, Bear in the Big Blue House, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, and Winnie the Pooh.

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For The First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration

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May 2015 – present

LOCATION

Hollywood Land – To reach the Sing-Along Celebration, follow the main path from Buena Vista Street, toward the Hyperion Theater. When you reach the fork in the road, keep left. You’ll see the Crown Jewel Theater on your left, behind the seating area for Award Wieners.

BACKGROUND

For The First Time In Forever: A Sing-Along Celebration was originally one part of Frozen Fun, a temporary overlay in the rear section of Hollywood Land. Frozen Fun had a number of different shows and mini-attractions, all of which were originally slated to end in May 2015. During it’s springtime run, the Sing-Along show became massively popular, so much so that it survived the transition from Frozen Fun back to the Mad T Party setup. Today, the Sing-Along show is the only Frozen-themed attraction at the Disneyland Resort, and the Crown Jewel Theater is California Adventure’s gateway to the magical kingdom of Arendelle.

EXPERIENCE

Single Rider Line – no

Fast Pass – yes

Height Requirement – N/A

Duration – 25:00

The grand tour of the Crown Jewel Theater begins in its foyer, complete with large murals, stained glass, and floral decals. Inside the theater, guests meet the royal historians, who are there to retell the history of their beloved kingdom. The retelling is interrupted a few times, by sing-along song breaks, Princess Anna and Kristoff scheming to surprise each other, and the newer historian’s overwhelming nerves. In the end, Anna, Kristoff, Elsa, and the historians come together on stage to sing Let It Go, and Elsa uses her magical powers to conjure a magical snowfall inside the theater.

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MY RATING: ★★☆☆☆

I am a HUGE Frozen fan, so I couldn’t wait to see the Sing-Along show when it opened in California Adventure. The whole buildup to the show is awesome; the lobby is decorated exactly like the castle, and you feel like you’ve stepped directly into Arendelle. Like in the It’s Tough To Be A Bug! theater, the Sing-Along lobby has movie posters with Frozen-related puns to entertain you while you wait.

The show itself is a huge disappointment. The “retelling” is effectively a slideshow of moments from the movie, and you barely see Anna, Kristoff, or Elsa. Going in, I expected the characters to sing their own songs, but they don’t. The Sing-A-Long is literally video from the movie with the lyrics on the screen so you can join in, as the historians stand on the side of the stage and encourage the audience to sing. There are definitely cool moments in the show, like when Elsa uses her powers to start a snowfall and blast ice onto the stage, or Anna and Kristoff’s cute banter. Even so, the show is pretty boring, and you will definitely be disappointed by how little time the characters spend on stage. There is so much potential for an awesome Frozen show in the parks, but the Sing-Along flops in comparison to the nearby Aladdin show.

VISITING TIPS

Unless you’re visiting the park on a very quiet day, you’ll want to use fast pass to see this show. And even with your fast pass, make sure you arrive the second your time window is available. The theater does allow standby guests into the theater, but typically only a few are lucky enough to find seats after all the fast pass guests enter the theater. If you plan ahead and get a fast pass, you should be good to go.

TRIVIA

The Sing-Along Celebration replaced Muppet Vision 3D, which had occupied the theater since California Adventure’s Opening Day in 2001.

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