A different look at Disney...

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its a larger world after all (continued)

As for the rest of the attraction, it will get a thorough cleaning and sprucing up during the long closure. The sets, most still the original plywood flats from the World's Fair, will be carefully dismantled and prepared for painting. The dolls will all be removed and sent for a tune-up. The Imagineers assigned to the project know they are dealing with a classic here, so they are paying strict attention to original color palettes and materials. The exterior façade will also be repaired and repainted, keeping the original white color scheme. A new entrance marquee will be created and the surrounding topiary gardens will be tended to, but the outdoor loading area will largely stay the same.

Hello goodbye said John, Paul, George and Ringo
Entering the Hello Room.

The most noticeable change will come at the beginning and end of the ride however. The simple narrow hallways that travel under the clock and railroad tracks, known as the Hello Room and the Goodbye Room, will be heavily reworked and upgraded. Those spaces have never been fancy, and for the first 30 years at Disneyland they were basically used to shill either Bank of America or Mattel as the ride's corporate sponsor. WDI is planning on dressing them up quite a bit however.

And for all of those folks on MiceChat who were questioning whether this long rehab would create the "flooded" look of the other small world's, the answer is no. In the Imagineering community Disneyland's original version is now thought to be the superior version artistically by the Imagineers currently in power. The flooded building versions are now seen as being too dark and dreary, and the Imagineers like the art direction and lighting options the simpler Disneyland version provides them. This rehab will give them a chance to go in and address some of the sightline issues with the flume walls that have been there since the World's Fair however. But the original Disneyland flume concept is de rigueur amongst current Imagineering circles, and it's also being transferred over to the Hong Kong Disneyland version of the ride that opens next year.

It's a small world may be the attraction everyone loves to make fun of, but its popularity has endured for almost 45 years. The bigger passengers of the 21st century may be giving the fleet of boats and the old flume a workout, but the brilliant simplicity of that original ride system allows for up to 2,500 riders per hour to cycle through the 15 minute long attraction with rarely more than a 10 minute line. And the popularity of the Holiday version keeps people coming back for more year after year.

Can they put it all back together?

Teenagers may cringe at the thought of riding it's a small world, but on an average Saturday the old ride can easily see 35,000 or more people float through in one day. Those kind of numbers attest to the simple Walt Disney charm the ride delighted people with at the New York World's Fair, and that still attract tens of thousands of riders per day decades later. It's a small world remains one of the most popular rides at Disneyland, and it should get a new lease on life with this massive 10 month refurbishment.

Dream Fatigue

At about the time it's a small world is closing, over on the other side of the park the newest addition to Disneyland should be opening. The Disneyland Dreams Suite located in the old Disney Gallery is scheduled to open by late January, 2008. Just in time to kick off Jay Rasulo's Second Year of A Million Dream, assuming Jay is still working for Disney by then. There have been more rumors on Jay's resignation in the past 12 months than people can count, but the recent departure of his marketing guru Michael Mendenhall only hastened another round of Rasulo rumors.

Whenever he does leave, there will still be one more year of the Dreams campaign, much to the chagrin of most CM's. Even a year into the current campaign, the Dream Squad CM's are still encountering many people who just won a big prize who wave the Cast Member away and insist they aren't buying whatever it is Disney must be trying to sell them. TDA had to launch and re-launch this campaign twice last year to try to get the rank and file excited about it, and everyone in Anaheim is hoping they don't have to go through the same thing again this year for the 12 month extension.

New to the '08 version of the Dreams campaign will be the Dreams Suite in the old Disney Gallery. This three bedroom suite will of course be lavish, with the best and brightest from WDI assigned to bring the vision to life. Each fancy room will be themed to an area of Disneyland, and the amenities and service for the lucky winners staying overnight will all be top-shelf. The budget here for this apartment makeover has edged just over 5 Million, and since the Disney Gallery already had great bones to work with you can imagine how nice it will all be.

What if they get frisky on the balcony?
Look up and see someone in a bathrobe.

Some Disneyland Annual Passholders (APs) may not have to imagine however, as the Annual Passholder department is trying to nail down the details on a lottery where up to 700 winning passholders will get a chance to take a tour of the new suite. You won't get to stay overnight, but you'll at least get a guided tour and a little tchotcky to take home. Unlike the Submarine Voyage preview they organized via a lottery system, only to have the ride break down and leave a few hundred angry AP's fuming, this special preview shouldn't have many problems associated with it. And the lottery preview would likely get enough pictures and YouTube videos out on the web to satisfy everyone's curiosity about what the suite looks like.

Once they do start awarding nights in the Dreams Suite, the fun begins just below the windows of the suite. As most CM's and Disney fans know, the real magic of Disneyland happens after the park closes. That's when an army of workers descend on the park to clean it all up and get it all ready for the next day. Entire fleets of 18 wheeler trucks rumble through bringing supplies and equipment to an endless list of stores, restaurants and attractions. Pre-sorted merchandise is driven through the park to the smaller stores via long trains of rattling cargo containers just like the ones the airlines use to bring your luggage up to the side of the plane. Dump trucks and forklifts and delivery trucks zig and zag all over the park all night long, with the usual loud banter between the men and women who drive those trucks and work those shifts.

No steroids for this pole vaulter.
The river's walkways are busy day and night.

This frenzy of overnight activity takes place all over the park, but the area surrounding the Dreams Suite is particularly busy. The broad riverbank area from Frontierland to Critter Country below the suite is a main thoroughfare for all of these trucks and equipment. The stores and restaurants below the suite all need restocking every night. In addition, a loud pressurized fuel truck is used nightly along the river to refuel the Tom Sawyer Island rafts and the adjacent Sailing Ship Columbia. And as the sun begins to rise, in come the roaring Zamboni-like scrubbers that clean and brush the pavement there that had seen busy truck traffic all night long. Not to mention that on many nights the Park will be open late and the area PA system will be blaring banjo music, the automated screeches and howls of the Jungle Cruise and the Treehouse are right next door, and the streets below will be filled with groups of loud people enjoying their vacation until well after Midnight. Then there are the weeks and weeks during the year when they stage overnight Fantasmic! dress rehearsals on the river in front of the suite, or Grad Nites and private parties, that will simply mean the suite has to stay empty for the night.

The concept of all of this overnight noise was news to the folks from marketing however when they were recently asked how they were going to mitigate these unavoidable noisy operations. TDA's marketing department may want to watch a few episodes about Disney theme parks that play every so often on the Travel Channel, since they seem to be very unfamiliar with how the park actually operates. Nevermind the fact that Jay Rasulo is so unfamiliar with Disneyland and visits so rarely, and then only during major press events, that he didn't even know where the Disney Gallery was when he bought off on the plan. But if you do win a night in the Disneyland Dreams Suite, be sure to pack some earplugs or one of those Sharper Image white noise generators.

Vampire bats? Yes. Vampire Mice? Errrr...
The first of a few Halloween shots - Even the parking structure gets themed.

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© 2007 Al Lutz

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