Welcome to the 2013 Disneyland Year in Review.
Nearly each week we bring you a Disneyland Photo Report filled with photography and news from events and changes within the Disneyland Resort. At the end of each year we take the most newsworthy stories and photography, combine them together in a series of articles, and present them over the course of a week.
Surprisingly, 2013 saw a lot of changes and news from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The year-long closure of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the opening of the Fantasy Faire, the re-construction of the Main Street Market House and the first ever in-park Disneyland Starbucks, Limited Time Magic cultural and annual passholder events, Marvel breathing new life into Tomorrowland, Disneyland's 58th Birthday, Changes to Indiana Jones Adventure, the D23 Expo, the dedication of windows on Main Street USA to some very influential people, the closure of part of New Orleans Square to regular guests, major changes to the Guest Assistance Pass and the Holiday Seasons.
Join us now over the course of this next week, as we take a photographic and newsworthy look back in the 2013 Disneyland Year in Review.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Closes for a Major Refurbishment
In January 2013, one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland closed for a major refurbishment. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad closed for what was planed to be a 10 month refurbishment. The work would include all new track and ride vehicles, new paint, landscaping, facade work on Rainbow Ridge and enchantments to the special effects.
Rumors began to circulate in late summer that the attraction was far behind schedule and could face a significant set back from its planned - and announced - October 2013 re-opening. By early Fall, Disney announced the extension of the refurbishment, pushing the re-opening back to a vague "winter of 2014". Disney did however clarify that "winter" referred to early 2014 and not later in the coming year.
Shortly after the closure of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a massive crane was built on site to help remove and install the new track pieces. The large yellow crane was visible from nearly every corner of the park, including Main Street, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and all of Frontierland. It was a necessary eye sore which, thankfully, disappeared by Spring.
During the spring months and some summer weekdays, the Big Thunder Trail, the path that leads around the back side of Frontierland and connects to Fantasyland, would be closed off. Signs warning guests that "Big Thunder Trail was Washed Out" would be placed on each side. The intermittent closure of this convenient short cut, and the ongoing construction of the Fantasy Faire, meant that guests were forced to connect through the hub and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Disney did however halt work and open Big Thunder Trail on weekends and busier days in an effort to alleviate congestion through these areas.
Below you'll find a video ride through on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which was captured just a few days before its January 2013 closure.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad didn't reopen in 2013, but by year's end, trains could be seen slowly making their way around the new tracks. The current goal is to re-open the popular Frontierland attraction within the first few months of 2014.
A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue
In 2013, Disney launched the Limited Time Magic promotion for the US based Disney parks. Each week, the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort would launch a new event, show, presentation or merchandise promotion for a "Limited Time". In January the Disneyland Resort kicked off Limited Time Magic with one of the best ideas we have seen from local management in a long time.
A Tribute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue became and instant hit with Disneyland fans and Annual Passholders. The show, which pays tribute to the long running Golden Horseshoe Revue, only ran for a short time, after all the magic was "limited", but the response was huge. The Golden Horseshoe stage came alive with music, clapping, dancing, can-can girls and cheers, the saloon was electrified with excitement.
In today's "politically correct" climate it was refreshing to see Disney bring back elements of the classic show which basically featured a brothel of gals and Mrs. Lilly, their leading lady.
Below you'll find a video of the Can-Can segment.
New Orleans Bayou Bash
Also as part of Limited Time Magic, Disneyland brought back the "New Orleans Bayou Bash". Unlike the Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue, the Mardi Gras inspired New Orleans Bayou Bash wasn't exclusive to Limited Time Magic. Disney held the same event in 2012 and will most likely do so again in 2014.
The Rivers of America played backdrop to a small parade, the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band, the Jambalaya Jazz Band and the Princess and the Frog Mardi Gras Celebration. Special foods were available throughout New Orleans Square and Mickey and Minnie greeted guests in the Court of Angels.
The food may have been the best part of the New Orleans Bayou Bash. Guests could dine on shrimp cocktail with jicama-mango slaw or Louisiana-style lobster roll on buttered brioche. For dessert, shrimp corn fritters, cupcakes, hot apple fritters and Bananas Foster beignets.
Café Orleans and the Blue Bayou also got in on the action with Bayou Bouillabaisse with lobster, shrimp and red snapper, mussels and clams and "Fat City" Bass with cauliflower potato cake. I ate my way through New Orleans Square in January!
Walt Disney Imagineering Presents: Fantasy Faire at the Blue Sky Cellar
The Blue Sky Cellar, located inside Disney California Adventure, was created to help Walt Disney Imagineering showcase the massive park upgrades and remodels. But following the 2012 re-launch of California Adventure, the Blue Sky Cellar was continuously upgraded to show off the upcoming work around the Resort.
In January of 2013 this included the then nearly completed, Fantasy Faire at Disneyland.
Guests could look through Imagineering artwork, drawings, models and videos. this gave us the first glimpse behind the fences and into the designs that were being created by some of the most talented people at Disney.
For the first time we learned that the area would feature an animatronic Figaro and bird, an interactive music box and a level of detail that extends from Fantasyland.
In the middle of the room sat an impressive Walt Disney Imagineering study model. This model gave us a 360 degree look at just how much the Imagineers were squeezing into the tight space that was the Carnation Plaza Gardens.
Also in January 2013 ...
Happy Lunar New Year - Limited Time Magic
Similar to how the New Orleans Bayou Bash was a returning event that was adapted for Limited Time Magic, Lunar New Year made a return in 2013.
The previous year, Lunar New Year was celebrated at Disneyland and was also on a much smaller scale. In 2013 the celebration was moved to Disney California Adventure and was significantly enlarged.
The Lunar New Year celebration included cultural experiences such as dancing, music, martial artists and special foods. Mulan, Mushu as well as Mickey and Minnie were also available for special meet and greets.
The 2013 Lunar New Year celebration was held between February 8th and 13th, and was immediately extended an additional two days due to high demand.
True Love Week - Limited Time Magic
True Love Week was a week-long Limited Time Magic celebration for Valentine Day. Held between February 11th and 17th, True Love Week included special banners, photo spots, lighting on Sleeping Beauty Castle, meet and greets with Disney Characters and Princesses, desserts, romantic dinners, and chance encounters with Princesses and their Prince.
Splash Mountain Reopens from a Refurbishment
Splash Mountain opened in mid February from a three week refurbishment in which the attraction saw a much needed refurbishment of inoperable animatronics and a thorough cleaning and lighting repair.
When Splash Mountian reopened in February of 2013 guests were able to see all of the animatronics operating for the first time in a long time. Sadly, less than a year from this refurbishment and the attraction's figures are failing once again.
Also in February 2013
In February, the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, which serves as the Monorail bridge over Disney California Adventure’s Buena Vista Street, received a series of strange paint jobs.
The bridge is fashioned after a real bridge of the same name and a Los Angeles landmark. Walt Disney Imagineering had created the bridge by using inspiration from the actual Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, but for some strange reason, less than one year after opening, the bridge received three separate paint schemes all within a matter of a few weeks.
When the re-painting was compete we were left with a scheme nearly identical to the original and a lot of questions surrounding just what was going on. Of course the year prior, Buena Vista Street’s beautiful window displays had been tinkered with relentlessly as well.
Following decades of on going sponsorships throughout Disneyland and the Disneyland Resort, Kodak was finally pulled from the park maps and from the photo shop locations at both parks. The move came after Kodak filed for bankruptcy the year prior.
The park maps were stripped of their Kodak sponsorship logos.
The Disneyland Resort held a series of events to help promote the then upcoming theatrical release of OZ The Great and Powerful.
Photo opportunities, special foods, a “4-D” sneak peek of the film and a visit from a hot-air balloon were all part of the promotion.
For the first time since the program started over a decade prior, the Disneyland Resort began to enforce the FASTPASS return times in late February. Signs began to appear on top of each of the FASTPASS distribution machines warning guests of the enforcement.
It had always been the “policy” of the Disneyland Resort to enforce the return times, however it was actual practice to only enforce the return time. Guests now have to plan accordingly or risk loosing their “saved” spot in line.
Springtime & "Spring Fling" - Limited Time Magic
Also as part of Limited Time Magic, Disneyland celebrated spring and the Easter holiday with “Spring Fling”. At Disneyland, guests could take part in a special Easter Bunny meet and greet, take photos in Town Square and on Main Street and participate in a very special “bunny hop” which included the extremely rare opportunity to meet Roger Rabbit!
At Disney California Adventure guests could take part in the Wilderness Explorer Egg Hunt in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and around the rest of the park.
While not appearing exactly the same as the long removed Tomorrowland Starcade, in March Disneyland reintroduced classic arcade games into the lower portion of the space. In 2012 Disneyland expanded the Startrader, a nearby retail space to take up the lower half of the defunct arcade, however with the release and success of Wreck it Ralph and the popularity of the arcade games near the meet and greet in the same location, Disney saw the opportunity to bring some games back. Most of the classic arcade games were from the very popular Flynn’s Arcade at Disney California Adventure’s TRON: Legacy promotion, ElecTRONica.
Disney quietly, without announcement or fanfare, placed 26 vintage arcade games, two pinball machines and an air hockey table in the back space of the store. Although not vintage, few Fix-It-Felix games were also kept from the Wreck it Ralph meet and greet.
As of the end of 2013 the games remained in the Startrader.
The Fantasy Faire, an expansion of Disneyland’s Fantasyland into the former Carnation Plaza Gardens area, opened to guests in March. Annual Passholders were given the opportunity to preview the space between March 7th and 9th, before the area officially opened on March 12, 2013.
Imagineering did a phenomenal job placing the Fantasy Faire into what is a relatively small space. The amazing Fantasyland Alpine village theme was also carried over to the space. Disney Legend and Walt Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter helped to oversee the project, before announcing his retirement and his intention to take on an advisory role.
The Fantasy Faire contains three main spaces, the Royal Theatre, the Royal Hall and Fairy Tale Treasures. There is also a small quick service food location, Maurice's Treats, and a whole lot of charm!
The Royal Theatre is used for two stage shows, one which tells the story of Beauty and the Beast and a second based on Tangled. The Royal Hall is a princess meet and greet location. Guests who tackle the line have the opportunity to meet up to three princesses inside. Fairy Tale Treasures is a retail space containing mostly costumes. A look above the shelves provides a treasure of props and items that subtly connect to various Disney features.
The Fantasy Faire also contains a few amazing details that either come alive, or provide interactively with guests. In the center of the square sits a sandstone maypole fashioned after the Tangled Tower. At night a small music box rendition of “I See the Light” plays as hidden lights illuminate Rapunzel’s hair. A small animatronic Figaro wakes up to play with a bird in a nearby cage and a hand crank music box comes alive.
The 2011 D23 Expo announcement of the Fantasy Faire was met with mixed feelings by most, mainly because it meant the closure of the Carnation Plaza Gardens and the uncertainty of the popular “Jump, Jive, and Boogie Swing Dance” party. But by the end of 2013, Disney had finally kept their word and returned swing dancing to the location ...
but more on that in June!
Also in March 2013
The Main Street U.S.A. Train Station reopened following a major refurbishment. The train station received much needed TLC, including new paint and woodworking. The train station never looked better!
Limited Time Magic brought some great panel discussions and presentations over 2013, but one of my personal favorites was the “Making of the Fantasy Faire”. Walt Disney Imagineering show director Christopher Utley and creative director Michel Den Dulk were announced for the discussion, however the crowd was treated to surprise visit by Tony Baxter!
Following the show, Tony Baxter visited Fantasy Faire and graciouly meet with guests answering questions, taking photographs and signing autographs.
Long Lost Friends Week
In April, and again in August, Disneyland held a Limited Time Magic event called “Long Lost Friends Week”. The official Disney Parks Blog ran a survey allowing guests to vote for their favorite “long lost” or rarely seen, if ever, Disney characters. The characters with the most votes were selected to appear in the Big Thunder Ranch area for a single week
Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries
When is the last time that you’ve seen a line at Innoventions? Or better yet, have you ever seen a line at Innoventions? I doubt it has ever happened, but in April it happened, several times.
Disneyland opened the Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries exhibit inside Innoventions in mid-April. The simple installation was created to help promote the then theatrical release of Iron Man 3. Upstairs, guests found the Tony Stark Hall of Armor. Guests could also virtually “suit up” in a interactive video experience.
Above all else, the installation of a simple Iron Man exhibit inside Innoventions created demand for the sleepy attraction, even if only for a few weeks. By the end of the year another popular Marvel character would join Tony Stark at Innoventions.
Disneyana and the Market House Close, Starbucks Construction Begins
In April, Disney collectables shop Disneyana and the turn-of-the-century general store themed coffee shop, the Market House, closed to facilitate construction of the first in-park Disneyland Starbucks location. The first location opened this past summer on Buena Vista Street in the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Café.
Disneyana was moved up Main Street to the then Disney Gallery inside the Bank of Main Street building, while the Market House was expanded into the space.
The inclusion of a Starbucks at Walt’s original park was met with sharp criticism, and it continued to receive mixed feelings throughout the year - especially after the grand opening in September. Disney assured guests that the Market House would retain the turn-of-the-century general store theme, however most felt that it lost its charm.
Not much progress could be seen from the exterior, although the facades eventually did receive paint and a few renamed signs.
Also in April 2013
Harrison “Buzz” Price, best known for his role in researching the locations for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, received the highest honor with a window dedicated to him and his contributions at Disneyland.
In late April, the Disney Company was cited by DOSH for numerous safety and workplace violations relating to maintenance working conditions for the Space Mountain attraction. In response, Disney voluntarily closed the Matterhorn and Soarin’ Over California to review the policies which governed those attractions as well.
The Matterhorn Bobsleds reopened a day later, but Soarin’ Over California and Space Mountian remained closed. Space Mountain remained closed for a few weeks as Disney addressed the issues and made changes to the attraction’s maintenance safety policies.
This situation was sparked by a injury the year prior when a maintenance worker slid down the surface of Space Mountain. The safety concerns had nothing to do with the operation of the ride or guests. However, this incident kicked an effort to increase worker safety - at seemly any cost - at any attraction Disneyland management deemed to have safety issues. The idea was to preempt any more fines and sudden shut downs from DOSH (Division of Occupational Safety and Health).
Disneyland was never able to create a safe enough working environment for maintenance workers to clean the sloped exterior of Space Mountain, and by year’s end the exterior of the white building was filthy and nearly black in some areas.
The Mark Twain reopened from a multi-month refurbishment. Once again guests could cruise the Rivers of American on the famous sternwheeler.