December 2007 Update
(posted 12/12/2007, updated 12/15)
I visited the Disneyland Resort between Thursday, December 6th and Tuesday, December 11th. I had not visited since December 2005.
Two years and $50 later...
It's been years since I've posted any kind of trip report, though I did some audio trip reports on my Park Hopping Podcast in December 2005. After two years gone, I knew there would be changes at the resort. The biggest was the end of the 50th Anniversary celebration. Although Mr. Lincoln was still MIA on Main Street, the 50th movie with Steve Martin and Donald was still there. Most of the exhibits were gone, including Walt's Office! What's up with that? One of his two offices was shipped off to Walt Disney World for the 50th celebrations, but the other remained "home" at Disneyland. Both areas were walled displays now.
Above the main street entrance were signs promoting the continued year of a million dreams. During our trip, we "won" again -- this time special cloud colored silver mouse ears. (Previously we won a lanyard with pins while at Disney World.)
Alice in Wonderland has a few new video effects. A former simply rotating crescent moon used to slide down and become the Cheshire Cat's smile in one scene, and now it's replaced by an animated projection that does the same effect, but with animated eyes, etc. Nice. The smoke from the pooka pipe at the mushroom also looks like it was updated, and the hedgehog (or whatever it is) that the Queen of Hearts hits with her club is now an animated projection instead of the old 60s/70s era moving still slide.
At Star Tours, I noticed how the panel behind C3PO really stood out. Is it updated? In the Starspeeder itself the control panels behind Rex were very bright. I could check old photos, but they are definitely updated from the ones at Disney/MGM Studios.
Pirate's Lair at Tom Sawyer's Island is fantastic. The fort is rebuilt and has restrooms but you can't go inside, and the rumor is you never will. Pity. That was always fun. The updates to the island itself were great, though. The old mill is now a sword shop belonging to "W. Turner" and it's decorated accordingly. In front of the island a new pirate stunt show featuring Jack Sparrow is held throughout the day. The crew of about five actors (and a sound guy) sword fight and make comedy, after their opening act (a 3 piece pirate singing band) plays. It was nice and good use of the Fantasmic! stage, including a treasure chest that actors would come out of (Jack) or end up in (using the trap door below it). A cannon is fired, slapstick fights are held, and the story line is a good one building on the legend of the Jack Sparrow Character.
At the end of the island, a new meet and greet for Captain Jack was held. Two Jack's were around that day -- one who rode the raft over with us performed in the show, then he'd slip away and an alternate Jack would be around for the meet and greet. Both were good at the characters.
The front most cave is now Dead Man's Grotto and it has some very cool special effect scenes. One place you look has jewels everywhere, but when you reach for them, either a skeleton head pops up, or a skeletal hand holding an eye pops down and looks around. The voices of the two bumbling pirates from the movies are heard commenting back and forth. Very nice.
Another window has a treasure chest that is full, and once you reach in it fades away (Pepper's Ghost effect) and your hand finds an empty chest.
Another area has the beating heart of Davy Jones in a chest, and touching it causes sounds to play. The voice appears to be Bill Nighy from the movie.
Another window features a chained up pirate, and he moves very realistically and they use a rear projection face (like Buzz Lightyear) and it gives a fantastically realistic face on a smooth animatronic. Moonlight pours in and he turns to a skeletal face (including lighting up skeleton images on his legs, etc. This was awesome. Very real.
At the end of the island was a ship embedded in the caverns, as if crashed there. Sounds were heard inside as you walked through -- very well themed.
There were more things -- like pumps you could work to drain a sunken boat to find skeletons at the bottom, or a rotating wench that would pull up a rope with a chest attached....and a skeletal pirate holding on to it. Very nice, as well.
Other aspects of the island remained the same -- from the TSI rehab years ago, alot of the lookout points remained but all the signs had been removed that explained what you were supposed to be looking for. Bummer. Overall, though, great job.
The Castle with white lights all over it would do a small light show at 5:30 then 7:30 then before the fireworks. This was not listed in the schedule, and even our holiday tour guide didn't know (it wasn't in his schedule) so he had to ask around to find out. Basically, music plays and sheets of light fade in and out to simulate snow. It's not much of an effect but it was pleasant enough, and the castle looked very nice all lit up.
Fireworks made use of many lights installed for the 50th, and some other items in the show, most likely, were holdovers from upgrades done for 2005.
Pirates of the Caribbean was new to me, since the addition of Jack hadn't been done the last time I rode it in 2005. Very nice. All the details were covered to death elsewhere, but I'll say a few things: First, this is still way better than that FLorida update, but I think Florida got more new animatronics. The Disneyland version has always seen updates over the years, whereas Florida's just kinda rotted away. That made seeing updates in Florida much more noticeable. In Disneyland, it's clear some of the figures were updated, but I think many more were replaced in Florida. Anyone know?
The dog at the singing pirates was gone all week. The key was missing from the dog at the end of the ride one day, and replaced with a key on a plastic hoop the final days. I guess that means they at least notice and fix things.
The waterfall Davy Jones effect is in the tunnel before the battle scene, and it's placement is odd. The projection is much higher than the "comes way too soon" one in Florida, and it doesn't go all the way down. In Florida, people reach up to the face of Davy as they pass through, but here it's too high. Also, it's far away from the waterfalls so the "oh, it's a waterfall!" reaction isn't as clear.
Before that, I should mention that the skeleton scenes are updated! Chess playing pirates are now in the bar scene -- I wonder if they have the board in the same layout as the ones in the Florida queue? Ah, Disney details! A skeletal pirate parrot is near the harpsichord, and tons more things were moved or added. Treasure room has a note with hash marks on the left as if counting out booty. Also, the harpsichord now seems to play in sync with the other music -- something it most certainly never did on the trips I have on video previously.
The day before my visit, the awnings at Carnation Cafe on Main Street were updated to a new read and white color scheme. According to a cast member there, the colors are now similar to what carnation used ten or so years ago. (He's been with the company about 33 years.)
The walls around River Belle Terrace went down, and a peek inside shows a completely different serving area that is closer to the scramble counters from all the other places in the park. I guess it was only a matter of time. A manager who was around said they will retain the classic Mickey pancakes.
Once again, the Jungle Cruise chess board has differernt pieces!
Did you notice the zillions of Haunted Mansion ginger bread men hidden throughout the attraction this year?
More to come...