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The day after Halloween means a mad dash for the Disneyland decorators as they tear out all the the pumpkins and orange bunting and rush in with the Christmas garlands and wreaths. HalloweenTime 2011 was a record-setter for the Anaheim parks, with a marathon of corporate parties and sold-out special events padding the bottom line even further. October also meant the changeover to a new fiscal year for Disney, and the start of the momentous Fiscal Year 2012 when the Anaheim executives will be under intense pressure to re-launch DCA successfully so Bob Iger knows he got his money’s worth on expensive makeover he convinced the board to green light back in ’07.

In this update we’ll fill you in on who exactly the marketers will be going after for DCA’s re-launch, how the attendance demographics have been shifting of late, and what a day at DCA should look like next summer for all those new customers Anaheim’s marketing machine will be going after soon. We haven't forgotten Disneyland either - we have the details on the Pirates and Matterhorn rehabs too as well as even more passholder parties among other things. This is going to be a big update, so besides that breakfast nosh, you may also want to order in lunch too. (I'm slave labor, I get what's left on the coffee cart pastry tray every night.) Ready? Let's get going then! - Al

Tale as old as time...

The tale of Disney California Adventure during the first decade of the 21st century is a truly amazing one. It’s a story of huge expectations met immediately by outright failure and a long list of embarrassing experiments from a flailing executive team who were then shown the door, and then a slow yet steady rise from the ashes capped off by a huge budget from Burbank to go in and fix all of the park’s worst mistakes. It’s that extreme makeover, funded by an unprecedented 1.2 Billion funneled into Anaheim’s bank account by Disney’s board of directors back in ‘07 that is responsible for DCA’s stunning reversal of fortunes. There will likely never again be so much money spent on any one operating Disney theme park in such a short period of time, and from all recent evidence it at least shows that Burbank learned its lesson the hard way from some of the worst decisions made at the end of the Eisner, Pressler and Harriss era.

They probably knew.
Making a brand withdrawl...

With Anaheim heading into the winter home-stretch of this monumental makeover, just last week TDA hosted a rare company-wide conference with theme park executives from Orlando, Burbank, WDI’s Glendale campus, and the Anaheim locals. With the One Disney corporate strategy now several years old, there are Vice Presidents in Anaheim who have underlings reporting to them out in Orlando and vice-versa, and so the Orlando folks who have tenuous relationships with the Anaheim team were flown out to get a hands-on overview of the resort property and massive investment strategy. As always seems to be the case, the Orlando team spent several days in Anaheim and Glendale marveling at the perfect weather and noticeably superior upkeep of the attractions and facilities in both Anaheim parks. And yet the Orlando suits never quite seem to learn their lesson, and forget everything they learned in SoCal by the time their plane returns to Orlando.

The purpose of the conference was mainly to lay out the strategy for re-launching both the new DCA and the freshened Disneyland Resort as a whole. Walking tours of the parks and hotels, plus marketing and finance reviews, and a three hour long session in DCA’s Stage 17 building showcased everything from the new buildings, the coming attractions and rides, the new entertainment roster, the new uniforms to be worn by the Cast Members, and of course all the new merchandise and menus to be found in Buena Vista Street and Cars Land by next summer. (Speaking of menus, they’ve finally landed on a concept for the Carthay Circle Theater that will have the upstairs and very swanky dining room open to the public, along with one of the downstairs cocktail lounges. The second lounge downstairs will become a speakeasy-like private membership lounge the public won’t be allowed to see.)

Suits be thar...
Millionaire-less

The executive session held in Stage 17 and specifically about DCA kicked off with some very blunt assessments that are now all the rage in Anaheim - criticizing DCA’s original concept.  The clear and honest words of 2011 are in stark contrast to the politically correct psycho-babble of 10 years ago when DCA fell flat on its face but everyone in TDA tried to pretend it was all quite fabulous and wildly successful. For today’s executives, a Powerpoint show was given using the giant video screens hanging from the rafters in Stage 17, with actual customer quotes from 2001 from DCA visitors interviewed by Disney’s consumer research team back then.

The suits tittered and groaned as representative quotes from those interviews were read aloud, with shockers flashed on the video screens like “This park is great if you like staring at stagnant water” (an apparent reference to the lifeless pre-World of Color version of Paradise lagoon) or “We paid a lot of money to sit in movie theaters all day” or “It’s where you go only when Disneyland gets too crowded” or the tried and true “There’s nothing for my kids to do here”. It’s now fashionable amongst Disney executives to acknowledge how poorly executed and badly received DCA was with customers back in 2001, and the point of this presentation was to show just how desperately the park needed help and how far they have already come.


Magic: Kingdom? No.

In preparation for DCA’s rebirth, the top operations, food, and merchandise managers at DCA recently flew out to Orlando to do some benchmarking. But they didn’t head to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot dressed as tourists for their reconnaissance mission. Instead they went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and spent a day quietly observing the Harry Potter area there. While there were some misses they observed at the Universal park, like selling food to the maddening crowds from un-themed stainless steel catering shelves rolled out on to the sidewalks, there was much there in the design and execution of the Potter area that impressed them.

Their goal with both Cars Land and Buena Vista Street is to offer a similarly hyper-themed selection of merchandise and food to support the very strong stories told at the actual attractions and via the fantastic architecture and surroundings. The initial batch of Cars Land merchandise displayed for the executives last week was the most impressive of the bunch, with lots of Cars Land specific clothing and souvenirs, plus actual automotive accessories themed to a fictional “Radiator Springs Car Club”.

Let’s hope they stick to their guns this time and resist the temptation to start selling Pirates and Princess junk in Ramone’s House of Body Art by next Christmas. (We won't mention the heartbreakingly awful Cars 2 either; maybe Cars 3 can start with finding the Radiator Springs gang in a car wash insisting it was all just a dream.)


It's all in the mix...

As part of the DCA re-launch, Disney’s marketing machine will shift into overdrive this spring to roll out a campaign as big, or even bigger, than the 50th Anniversary campaign of ’05-‘06. The goal is to grow key customer demographics by high single digits in just the first year, even though those demographics have already been trending upward to Anaheim’s benefit ever since the 50th Anniversary. The ironic thing is that the demographic goals now pegged to 2012 and 2013 are some of the same goals they had for the place back in 2000 when they assumed DCA would be a huge and immediate hit.

Not that they haven't tried...
LA Times Ad

Back when DCA opened in 2001, as had been the case for much of the latter 20th century, the attendance mix at Disneyland was stuck at a roughly 70/30 split, with nearly 70% of the annual attendance coming from locals in Southern California, and 30% coming from tourists primarily from west of the Rockies and a mix of European and Asian tourists. It was hoped that by opening DCA and the newly expanded and freshened Disneyland Resort, the attendance mix would skew towards a 50/50 demographic split almost immediately by 2002 with an extra 7 Million visitors per year pouring into DCA, with most of that gain in attendance coming from domestic and international tourists. Of course, that didn’t happen and DCA could barely pull in 5 Million that first year even after offering free kids admission, deep discounts for everyone else, and bringing the Electrical Parade back from the dead in a panic. 2002 actually saw an attendance decline from ’01 at DCA, and the mix was heavily tilted towards locals showing up on heavily discounted tickets.

The Disneyland Resort’s traditional 20th century demographic split of 70/30 barely budged after DCA opened, and the 9/11 attacks obviously sent the tourist industry into crisis mode for everyone by the end of that year. Anaheim’s demographic mix stubbornly remained near its traditional 70/30 mark for the first few years of DCA’s existence. It wasn’t until the wild success of the 50th anniversary, and with a new executive team in place both in Anaheim and Burbank by ‘06, that the demographics finally began shifting towards that more lucrative tourist base they had assumed would come rushing to Anaheim back in ‘01. Even during the tough American economy of recent years, the weak dollar and some savvy marketing has kept the demographic momentum moving away from the locals and towards the tourists for Anaheim as attendance at both parks grows each year.

TDA wants to keep that recent demographic trend going, and hopes their marketing plan will fuel that growth. It helps to understand where exactly the Disneyland Resort currently stands in their demographic mix, and the just completed Fiscal Year 2011 numbers demonstrate it nicely. Disney’s fiscal year begins in early October, and while the theme park trade industry tracks attendance by calendar year (and those reports from the TEA trade group are remarkably accurate), Disney officially tracks attendance from October to October.


So many numbers...

When tracking attendance, Disney breaks its theme park customers into five main categories: Domestic Tourists, which are Americans living outside of Southern California. International Tourists, which are those living outside of the United States (except Mexicans in northern Baja California who are classified as locals). Locals, which are those living from Santa Barbara to Ensenada, Mexico who do not have an Annual Passport. Annual Passholders, currently standing at around 850,000 active passes, most of whom live in SoCal, except for about 100,000 of the passholders who live up in northern California or other states. And finally Complimentary Admissions, driven primarily by the many free tickets that most Disney employees receive, although the actual people entering the park with those complimentary tickets are a wide range of local, domestic, and international visitors and family members.

The combined breakdown of the two Anaheim parks for the just completed Fiscal 2011, with the decline or rise of each demographic versus Fiscal 2010 attendance;

  • Domestic Tourist Attendance:  6.5 Million, +4% over 2010
  • International Tourist Attendance: 2.1 Million, +10% over 2010
  • Local (Non-AP) Attendance: 3.4 Million, -5% under 2010
  • Annual Passport Attendance: 7.4 Million, flat from 2010
  • Complimentary Attendance: 2.1 Million, -4% under 2010

As you can see, in just the last few years the two Anaheim parks have finally broken free of the dreaded 70/30 split Disneyland worked with for decades. They are now closer to a 55/45 split with the attendance being made up of roughly 55% locals or annual passholders, and 45% domestic and international tourists (those complimentary admissions split roughly in half between locals and tourists, and even with the free tickets their in-park spending increases the further away they live). Since the international and domestic tourists spend far more per capita than the locals or AP demographic, it’s a very lucrative group of customers that Disney just loves to see show up at its parks every morning. No wonder the Cars Land project budget was allowed to swell over the $600 Million mark, as the numbers of big-spending tourists have been growing by healthy margins the last few years in Anaheim.

The 2012 attendance bump expected once Cars Land opens is expected to be modest, since they’ll really just have the summer season to pad the numbers. But it’s fiscal 2013 that begins next October, and just a few months after Cars Land opens, where TDA expects the biggest attendance gains to develop. The marketing push for Cars Land and all of DCA kicks off late next spring in America, but it will continue through 2013 in much the same way the 50th Anniversary was a two-year event that kicked off in May of ‘05, with the biggest attendance and spending gains arriving in the summer of ’06.


You are my destiny...

Through a marketing plan dubbed “Destination DLR”, the goal will be to accelerate the already solid gains from the domestic and international tourists with high single digit attendance increases, while keeping the local and AP visitation at nearly the same pace with stagnant or low single digit attendance increases. They plan to achieve this in 2012 and 2013 through a mix of hotel packages and ticketing offers (or lack thereof for the locals), expanded marketing overseas and in regions of the United States once considered to be Disney World’s territory, and some good old-fashioned advertising buzz as only a Disney marketing team flush with cash can do. This campaign will not just be a typical launch for Cars Land, or even the re-launch of DCA after a 1.2 Billion dollar makeover, but instead it’s being framed as an introduction of the updated Disneyland Resort concept as a whole to existing and new markets.

The Destination DLR campaign is broken down into three categories and goals; first to tout the overall experience of the entire Disneyland Resort, second to announce the re-launch of a dramatically remade DCA, and third to introduce everyone to the impressive wonders of Cars Land. Not every market will get all three of those advertising messages, with the local SoCal market primarily just getting the Cars Land message and a bit of the DCA message, but each market Disney goes after will get at least two of the three main messages. Using a budget for 2012 that is more than triple the usual amount of money spent on Disneyland Resort advertising annually, plus millions more of extra funding from Burbank’s creative marketing department dubbed Yellow Shoes, TDA’s marketing team will aggressively communicate the good news about DCA and the Disneyland Resort in general to both established and new territories.

One of the first things they’ll be doing in February is rolling out new DCA and DLR marketing in the most promising international markets for Anaheim, specifically Australia, New Zealand and the western provinces of Canada. By springtime, the Destination DLR marketing machine will roll out to the traditional western cities that always send a lot of tourists to Anaheim; the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake, Las Vegas and Phoenix. In addition to those current Disneyland strongholds near the Pacific Ocean, TDA is also planning on rolling out the Cars Land, DCA and DLR message to cities traditionally left to Walt Disney World’s sphere of influence. In 2012, for the first time Disneyland Resort advertising will be aimed specifically at families in cities west of the Rockies like Denver, Dallas, and San Antonio. The Texas and Rocky Mountain strategy had to receive Burbank’s blessing as those media markets have traditionally belonged solely to Disney World, and it’s quite a coup for TDA to blatantly go after them. But with Cars Land and a new DCA, they know they finally have the product worthy of the TV time.

The concepts behind these campaigns are still being dreamed up and developed this fall, but the mantra for the Destination DLR team is to “Take Gigantic Action!” and “Go Bigger Than Big In Everything You Do!”. While this all sounds exciting for ad men, one of the victims of this huge campaign and DCA’s new success will be the elimination of the traditional wintertime discount tickets for Southern Californians, in addition to increases in ticket and AP prices in the 5% to 8% range by the end of next summer. TDA plans on growing Anaheim’s attendance through 2013 by domestic and international tourists, while they allow the numbers of AP’s and local day-trippers to stay the same or even slightly decline. Barring major global economic turmoil next year, there will be no need to lure the locals in with discounts to either Anaheim park.


You've NOT got mail...

The 2012 AP strategy is also to stand pat and not aggressively go after an increase in AP numbers, now that they feel more comfortable since the AP numbers have slid down to the 850,000 level. The special AP parties targeted at those who rarely use their pass will continue, with the next party planned for November 14th. Of course, if they can’t get enough targeted passholders to respond to the email invite in time, they’ll throw open the party to the superfans who regularly troll the Disney Parks Blog and pad the events with the opposite demographic they were really looking for.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting the right AP’s there for the parties has been the fact that too many people declined to give Disney their email address when they bought the pass, or the email address they gave belongs to their kids or is one they don’t check regularly. All of the fishing for the specific AP demographic is conducted by Disney via email, and that’s proven to be the Achilles heel of this entire plan. The ticket sellers at the main entrance have had their scripts changed because of this, and they now try harder to pressure people buying AP’s into providing a valid email address from the beginning.

There are 17 more of these AP “niche market” parties planned through the rest of fiscal year 2012, including two slated for April that will go until 2AM and will be aimed at a college kids and young adults.


Just shows to go ya...

Once the marketing team has done their job and the crowds begin pouring in to DCA next summer, they’ll be visiting a park that is just as chock full of entertainment as Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom is next door. TDA’s Entertainment team will be very busy this winter and spring prepping all the new entertainment for the park while maintaining nearly everything that currently exists today. The one current offering slated to be phased out by next summer is the rather unfortunate Disney Channel Rocks! dance show in the World of Color amphitheater. But overall the consumer research on DCA’s current lineup of major and minor entertainment has been very positive, which is why it was easy for them to push back the return of the Pixar Play Parade from this holiday season to May, 2012 (and the construction team for the Carthay Circle Theater was thrilled with that news too).

What is not clear yet is what happens to the Electrical Parade. With the Mad T Party balancing out World of Color crowds each evening, and with both of those events taking over a big chunk of the DCA parade route every night, it’s now unlikely the Electrical Parade will return to DCA. TDA’s agreement when the parade was sent out to Orlando in early 2010 was that it would return in two years time as it was thought DCA couldn’t live without it, but the visitation patterns and consumer feedback already coming in for DCA shows the night parade is no longer needed. It might slot in for a nighttime run at Disneyland next summer, but the massive crowd control operation now required for Disneyland’s hub-centric fireworks shows won’t make that format easy. TDA’s Entertainment department is quietly mulling over what to do with the old parade; shoehorn it back into nightly runs at Disneyland, bring it back home and just put it in mothballs, or let WDW keep it indefinitely.

Missing home...
Out of place

The Electrical Parade could be a casualty of the consumer research on DCA throughout 2011 that has astounded the TDA planners, with the perceived value and enjoyment levels increasing by high single digits over their already healthy 2010 numbers. It was assumed that the perceived value of DCA would decline in 2011 as the final construction projects got underway while both of the parades were mothballed and the endless walls were at their worst. But to the credit of the Anaheim leadership and the front-line Cast Members working in DCA, the exact opposite has been happening and DCA continues to see strong customer feedback and a healthy intent to return, despite the construction mess and lack of traditional parades.

Assuming it makes its June construction deadline, something we still won’t know until after Christmas, Buena Vista Street will offer three main entertainment acts next June. Remember that originally the Buena Vista Street project was supposed to get started back in ’09 and would have already wrapped up and opened this past summer. But as the project budgets swelled and TDA got nervous about getting crowds in and out of the park during the World of Color and Little Mermaid premiere summers, Buena Vista Street got pushed back to the very end of the makeover calendar. With a frighteningly tight construction schedule and potential rainy days ahead, there are some folks in WDI and TDA who wish they wouldn’t have made that decision to stall the Buena Vista Street project.

Once it does all open sometime next summer with three main entertainment offerings, the new musical group Five and Dime will roll down the street in an old 1920’s jalopy and set up their five-piece jazz band along the street. The “dime” in the band’s name comes from the girl-singer who is being cast as a young Ella Fitzgerald type fresh off the train from Chicago who will perform all the standards of the 20’s and 30’s. The Friendly Sisters are a roaming girl group, with obvious references to The Andrews Sisters act of the 1930’s. And finally there’s the Buena Vista Street News Boys, that Newsies knockoff show that will use the Red Car Trolley as their main prop. The News Boys will be joined by an additional newsie in the form of News Boy Mickey Mouse, who will feature the new talking and blinking headpiece for both the musical act and the sidewalk meet n’ greets after the show. The talking Mickey Mouse is slowly being phased into all the American parks, but this should be the first appearance of talking Mickey in a close-up meet and greet situation. Minnie Mouse will appear around the corner in Condor Flats, in a new musical show called Minnie’s Fly Girls that plays up the new fad of retro stewardesses made popular by ABC’s Pan Am.

The jazzy uniforms worn by the Cast Members throughout Buena Vista Street will obviously be all-new, and some of them have been on display in the Blue Sky Cellar. Also being replaced are the contemporary looking uniforms worn by the CM’s in the Fly N’ Buy shop in nearby Condor Flats, and the adjacent Taste Pilots Grill restaurant. The costuming department was tasked with going in and strategically removing the last of the original DCA uniforms that look too contemporary, replacing them with fabrics, accessories and tailoring that are more period-specific and less hip n’ trendy circa 2000. Some of DCA’s contemporary opening day uniforms aged poorly within just a few years, but now over a decade later even some of the better-executed designs are looking stale and out of step.

Across areas of the park not being  directly affected by the extreme makeover, like Bug’s Land, Grizzly River Run, the Challenge Trail and Disney Animation, new and more unique uniforms are going to be rolled out over the next six months. A good example is at Grizzly River Run, where the original theme was based on hipster college kids into extreme sports who took over an old abandoned gold mine in the mountains. Instead of the mesh pockets and modern fabrics and ball caps, the new Grizzly River Run uniform uses vintage fabrics and plaid patterns that look like a late 1940’s rugged outdoorsman instead of a late 1990’s x-games slacker. Obviously everyone has been talking about the glamorous attractions to come, but TDA is also spending a lot of money on these new uniforms to help eradicate the un-Disneylike vibe DCA was criticized for in ‘01. Every little bit helps here.


Suits to a "T"

In the Hollywood Land area, elecTRONica will be quickly dismantled just as soon as the Easter Vacation crowds depart in April. But rising quickly in its place is the next version of the popular street party, the Mad T Party. Since we first broke the news to you about this replacement a few months ago, they’ve formally decided to spell the event with just a single “T”.

The Mad T Party will have all the elements of the street parties that have been so popular with Annual Passholders and tourists alike, but to break from tradition a bit the Mad T Party will feature more live bands on a semi-permanent stage instead of rotating DJ’s. The vibe of this event is also going to push the envelope a bit, with a very nightclub look and feel to the costumes and appearance of the performers. While the Entertainment team still bristles at the mention of the wildly popular Glow Fest, mainly because it was created by an outside firm and then dared to be a huge hit with customers, the Mad T Party will skew back to the colorful and eclectic Glow Fest feel rather than the more narrowly themed elecTRONica.


After-glow...

With the longer lead time to develop the Mad T Party, TDA has also been able to commission some Mad T Party merchandise for sale next summer and a more stylized food menu. Remember, they stumbled into this profitable and entertaining concept by accident; Glow Fest was created at the last minute as simply a place to wait for your World of Color Fastpass time, but now it’s a concept that DCA can’t do without. And TDA’s sharp pencil boys can’t do without the nightly take from all those glowing cocktails, either.

New uniforms coming to Hollywood Land will show up at most of the food locations and shops this spring, plus the popular Disney Animation attraction. The MuppetVision lab coat uniform that the ushers wear there will be one of the last opening day DCA uniforms left in 2012.


Seeing Red!

In Cars Land, they will be going light on the atmosphere entertainment at first because they just aren’t sure that the crowds that first summer will allow them to do much on the main pathways in the area. The current Mater and McQueen meet n’ greet will be moved to a more picturesque location near the Cozy Cone Motel, for starters.

Kenny G too.
DJ (left), Red (right)

But the biggest act in Cars Land will perform at the end of the street near the Courthouse. There, a life-size and driveable version of Red the fire truck will roll out during the day and begin interactive sets where Red enlists the kids help in watering the flowers or washing the streets of Radiator Springs. As with all good Disney shows, something will go terribly wrong and the fire hoses will be turned on the audience and Red’s helpers will be getting wet, and with a bit of luck also getting their parents wet. Also planned for Cars Land is the automotive boom box van named DJ that will roll through the town accompanied by a team of human dancers doing Motown and car tune dance routines from the early 1960’s.

The uniforms coming to Cars Land run the gamut, with a distinctly 1950’s roadside Americana look for the unique uniforms at Flo’s V8 Café, the Cozy Cone Motel, and the various shops up and down the street. Each of the three Cars Land attractions will also have unique uniforms; from casual junkyard workers with backwards caps at Mater’s, to the spit and polish of bow-tie clad service station attendants at Luigi’s, to the hot shot pit crew uniforms done in Lightning McQueen colors at Radiator Springs Racers.


Tired...

While the Entertainment team develops the new offerings and new Cast Member uniforms for 2012, the Imagineers are busy inside Cars Land as they ramp up the testing phase of all three attractions. The interior dark ride scenes at Radiator Springs Racers are nearly completed now, sporting everything from an actual and giant Mac truck, down to the workbench tools in Doc Hudson’s garage. By Christmastime it should be common to see actual cars out on the Racers track being put through their paces.

At Luigi’s Flying Tires, the Imagineers have been playing with the first batch of vehicles to go floating across the giant air table. Along for the ride during this testing in recent weeks has been John Lasseter, who is spending more and more time hanging out at Cars Land this fall to watch the whole thing come together.

Oh the spin...
Saucers, Tires...

What’s interesting about Luigi’s ride system is that each passenger is responsible for the direction and speed the vehicle travels via a system of levers, and it’s not something that is intuitive the first time you try it. John Lasseter and many Imagineers have gotten the knack of it now, but the average person visiting the ride for the first time will need a crash course in how to fly a tire. To help alleviate the confusion over how to operate the ride, and to hopefully speed the boarding process since it’s a unique seating arrangement requiring several steps down, a sample ride vehicle is now going to be placed in the Italian garden queue at Luigi’s for waiting riders to play with and inspect.

Not a giant ashtray
...and Prototypes.

The queues and attraction pre-shows overall at Cars Land take up large areas, with only Radiator Springs Racers offering Fastpass. But the whole NextGen interactive queue craze being worked out primarily at WDW will not show up in Cars Land next summer. While TDA now has a small group of senior managers who have been assigned to the NextGen project for the Anaheim parks, they are just mainly observing the WDW projects from afar. The Cars Land queues were built with lots of extra room however, as it is widely assumed by both WDI and TDA that the NextGen concept will arrive in Anaheim once the bugs are worked out in WDW.

Speaking of cars, the original and now unused Disneyland parking lot entrance off of Harbor Blvd. will have its 11 year old purple marquee torn out beginning next Monday. This will be a two-phase project with the removal of the marquee tackled first, and then in the spring additional trees and landscaping will be added to help close up most of the unused entry lanes.

Disneyland: Busiest pace on Earth...

In case you forgot after all the DCA news, there’s still Disneyland next door, and there are several major projects slated there this winter as well. Currently the big news is the three month rehab at Pirates of the Caribbean, wrapping up in a few weeks just in time for Thanksgiving. The latest Pirates rehab has multiple objectives, from a rather unglamorous but necessary expansion of the unload dock to accommodate more wheelchairs, to major cosmetic work on the original 1966 rockwork along the waterfalls and caverns in the first part of the ride.

With the very thorough rehab the Disneyland version of Pirates got in ’06 when every single light fixture and every single audio speaker was replaced with newer technology, the dividends of that expensive upgrading are still paying off and during this rehab they can focus on cosmetics instead of relamping old fixtures and fiddling with blown speakers. Plenty of set work down in the ride itself is underway, with the various cavern scenes being entirely stripped out and redecorated, massive repainting and redressing of all the sets from the Battle Scene’s pirate ship and fort to the fiery Arsenal Scene in the second show building. All of the major animatronics figures have been removed from the ride and sent for tune-ups at Imagineering facilities throughout Southern California.

In addition, they took the opportunity to repaint the queue and exterior façade of the attraction, and refurbish the old lighthouse in the cupola on top of the entrance. Pirates of the Caribbean re-opens in a couple weeks, and it will look fantastic when it celebrates its 45th Anniversary just a few months from now.

Before Harold moved in
Looks white to me

Also up this winter is the big Matterhorn refurbishment. Those new three-passenger bobsleds will debut with this rehab, satisfying the lawyers and state inspectors, but making it difficult for anyone over six feet tall to ever be comfortable on that ride again. Imagineers have also been planning the full repainting of the mountain, and they’ve been researching past paint schemes the mountain sported in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s to try and find the best paint technique to use on the iconic attraction. Having that large monument to 1959 Imagineering and a time when they were still developing their rockwork skills sit so close to the jaw-dropping rockwork of Cars Land is a bit of a problem. The Imagineers can do wonders with paint and surface treatments though, and the hope is that the exterior of the Matterhorn will emerge next June from its six month long rehab looking just as impressive as the nearby Cadillac Range in Cars Land.

Elsewhere in Fantasyland there are two big projects slated to get underway in 2012. The conversion of the Plaza Gardens into the Fantasy Faire princess area should get underway after Christmas, although the timing is still not set in stone. The Fantasy Faire project is tied in with the current plans to upgrade and improve the existing Fantasyland Theater so that the Walt Disney Creative Entertainment team can then produce a brand new stage show for that 2,000 seat theater. It’s thought that the arrival of both the new Fantasy Faire princess village and the debut of a big stage show in the upgraded Fantasyland Theater could and should be lumped together for 2013, if only to give a shot of adrenalin to the Destination DLR marketing push for the latter half of the campaign in ’13. We’ll fill you in on the details just as soon as the timing of both projects gels a bit more.


Oh-kay - that should do it for today. Remember your support is vital, your donations to PayPal help keep the bills paid. We’re only here due to all of your kind efforts.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. (People do change their minds you know.) Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

See you at Disneyland!


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Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Al Lutz did not receive any payments, free items, or free services from any of the parties discussed in this article. He pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2011 Al Lutz

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