Disneyland Update: Fall 2018
It’s been a while since our last all-around Disneyland update, and a lot has changed as the park preps for everyone in California, plus half the populations of Utah, Nevada, etc., to descend upon the park for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Summer 2019. In this post, we’ll cover some of that prep work, progress on Star Wars land, and other things that have changed over the past few months.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the motivation behind many of the changes happening around Disneyland Resort. From the new parking structure (which is going up at a brisk pace and seems likely to debut in time for next summer) and its pedestrian bridge to efforts to reduce pinch-points and ease crowd flow, much is happening at Disneyland with an eye towards next year.
A lot of this has already happened. Planters and benches have been removed in an effort to create more walking space, and while this makes walkways more conducive to smooth traffic flow, it also strips a tad of personality from Disneyland. I remain baffled at the decision to plunk a Star Wars land at the back of a theme park built in 1955, as even without Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland has buckled under heavy crowds, but that’s just me.
I guess we’ll see how things go come next summer. I’d hazard a guess that long shuffle to the back of the park will be frustrating, and one-way traffic will make the worst fireworks, parade, or Fantasmic crowd direction seem tame by comparison.
On the plus side, the rock-work is looking great:
I know not everyone is happening about these rock spires rising above the Rivers of America, but I love it and think it blends perfectly. Foliage obscures the Black Spire Outpost architecture, leaving just the cragged mountains.
Of course, they’re not your ‘traditional’ mountains, but they’re also not overtly Star Wars. They’re no more alien than something you might find in Utah, or even California’s own Yosemite National Park.
I’m still not a fan of Disney opting to plop a Star Wars land into Disneyland rather than having the IP anchor a third gate, but that ship has sailed. What Imagineering has done with the scenery back here to make it ‘work’ together is masterful.
It’ll be nice to have Critter Country no longer be a dead end. If there’s one saving grace of this project in terms of guest flow, that’s it.
Perhaps in the long (long) term, this will ease the congestion in New Orleans Square a bit. Then again, by the time the Star Wars crowds die down in a decade, Disneyland will probably be debuting something new (A Frozen mini-land? Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway?? A Chicken Little E-Ticket?!?) on the expansion pad between Galaxy’s Edge and Toontown, and we’ll see another surge in crowds.
Speaking of Critter Country, this new recycling station featuring Sammy from Country Bear Jamboree is about the greatest thing ever.
Okay, so perhaps the something even better would’ve been not replacing Country Bear Jamboree with a weak Winnie the Pooh attraction, but if we can’t have the Country Bears perform, at least there’s this.
I suppose I should also applaud these conservation efforts on more than just a ‘reference to obscure CBJ character’ level, but it feels like most of what Disney does on this front is motivated by saving money, with reducing the company’s environmental footprint being something of a happy accident. If this were truly a concerted effort towards sustainability, why move several restaurants from reusable plates and silverware to plastics?
Moving on to New Orleans Square, Pirates of the Caribbean has been open for a while since the controversial changes were completed this summer. I’ve already said everything I have to say about the rationale behind the change, so I’ll just refer back to that post for those curious.
As for the execution of the new scene…eh, it’s a mixed bag. I have nothing against the new dialogue, which I say in response to criticism of the “ten for a hen” and other lines in this scene. In fact, I think a lot of ‘iconic’ Disney parks quotes are cheesy; the difference between memorable and cheesy is often the passage of time.
All things considered, the scene is definitely less noteworthy now. It seems like this end product was chosen simply because it was the path of least resistance, requiring the least alterations while still changing the ‘message’ of the scene.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t leave an impact (or even make much sense) now. I could get behind changing the auction, but I would’ve preferred to see the scene more fully transformed.
Otherwise, Pirates of the Caribbean is looking and sounding great. It’s good to see aspects of the original attraction restored, and with the movie franchise, and more specifically, its lead star, falling out of favor, hopefully all of the movie-related additions are peeled back in the future.
The photo above is not the most life-like Audio Animatronics figure ever created–that’s the walk-around Redd meet & greet character in New Orleans Square.
There’s a bunch of new Haunted Mansion merchandise available in New Orleans Square.
I remember a time when there was a perplexing lack of Haunted Mansion collectibles. In the last several years, Disney has really rectified that, and done a good job with Haunted Mansion items. They are (almost) all tastefully-done, with a range of options. Whoever is in charge of Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise should take notes.
Moving to Fantasyland, the covered queue on Dumbo looks nice. It fits the attraction’s style and provides nice shelter from the sun.
Scrims up around the ‘it’s a small world’ toy shop.
Work continues on the Matterhorn, with only a reopening timeframe of “Fall 2018.” It’s expected that the queue will be redone and expanded, which would be very welcome.
Here’s the Halloween display from Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. This is obviously not in Disneyland park, but I always take photos of these and forget to post them since they don’t really fit elsewhere…so here it is.
That wraps it up for this overdue Disneyland update. As you can see, a lot is happening in preparation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, plus a scattering of changes unrelated to Star Wars. Oh, and we didn’t even cover Halloween, which is currently ongoing…for the time being. Despite this long absence, we’ll be back in just a few weeks with a report on the start of the best time of the year at Disneyland–Christmas!
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
What do you think of the pre-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge changes at Disneyland? Think the park is ready for the crowds? Thoughts on other topics from this Disneyland update? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
The most surprising thing to me is the covered Dumbo queue. I thought I was up to date on what was going on at DL and had no clue that happened… I’m glad though. That line can be KILLER in the sun.
I’m curious as to that they’re going to do with Downtown Disney now that the hotel project went down the drain. It’ll be an interesting few months that’s for sure.
Thanks, Tom. I’ve been awaiting a DL update and was happy to read this today.
Any interest in positing a guess as to when – more specifically than “summer 2018” – Galaxy’s Edge might open? Or when you think that info might be released? I’m trying to plan a summer visit and am hoping to get there before the opening instead of during or after. Thank you!
Based on the annual pass blockout calendars, the public opening of Galaxy’s Edge is expected on (or soon after) Friday June 21st. Deluxe passholders can enter Disneyland up until Thursday June 20th, and then can’t return until Monday August 19th.
I wouldn’t put complete reliance in the blockout calendars. That is absolutely Disneyland management’s target for the public opening, but they aren’t the ones building two very complex attractions. We’ve heard credible info that technical issues have work on SWGE at Disneyland behind schedule.
Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t get things back on track, but I would be very skeptical of any rumored opening, soft opening, or paid preview dates right now. It’s still too early to be certain.
All true, Tom. That said, SKC wants to visit *before* Galaxy’s Edge opens, so I stand by the suggestion to err on the side of pre-June 21.
Thanks, Tom and Andy. All is appreciated. Hopefully they pick a date and announce it soon.
Will you please provide a post that covers the holiday changes that covers the dates for haunted mansion and small world, etc…. Trying to find ruff ideas of when rides change, open and close.
Thanks a bunch
Not going to post links, but this info is readily available on other Disney blogs that provide Disneyland resort coverage on a more regular basis.
As to your question, Haunted Mansion Holiday has been open since September, and will remain until early January. Small World Holiday opens Wed November 7th, and will remain until mid/late January.
Is there any word or indication of when the new tropical hideaway dining is going to open?
I dislike the Star Wars land addition to DL but I am happy the rock work looks great to ease the intrusiveness of Stars Wars. I am excited about the CBJ reference even if its minor. I saw the new POC scene in Florida recently (it was rehab in DL when I was last there). I have mixed review of it — I like the audio animatronics but I miss the old scene and I am going to miss Paul Frees voice as the auctioneer. Although I love the ride and enjoy the POC movies, adding Jack Sparrow was more intrusive to POC ride than changing the red head scene. I will be happy if all the movie-related stuff is removed from the ride. I am happy more Haunted Mansion merchandise available. I wish Disney would use Haunted Mansion reference more during Halloween instead of Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus.
I remain baffled at the decision to plunk a Star Wars land at the back of a theme park built in 1955, as even without Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland has buckled under heavy crowds, but that’s just me.
It’s not just you, Tom. I am also baffled, both from that perspective, and the theme perspective. I know there are individual IP attractions in DL Park, but an entire land just doesn’t fit. None of it makes sense to me, and I also fear for the charm and atmosphere of that wonderful park. I was just looking at photos from Christmas 2012 with Billy Hill & the Holiday Hillbillies in the petting zoo area, and Santa in there, and all the great activities, and was reminded how much I miss that area. However, as you say, that ship has sailed, so…
We are excited to be visiting Disneyland for the first time in a few weeks. We live in the southeast and have been yearly visitors to WDW for many, many years. Thank you SO much for all of your posts. It is so fun to read while planning and incredibly valuable information. I have especially enjoyed the planning guide, hotel comparisons, and explanation of the maxpass and fast pass differences. (DEFINITELY getting the maxpass – can’t imagine totally returning to old WDW system.)
Thanks as always for the update Tom. My parents and I heading to Disneyland in December. It will be their first time seeing the xmas decorations and overlays so I am really looking forward to your xmas update. One thing still curious about is if woc holidays will be playing. I heard such great things about it but know it has been out of commission all of fall.
Last I heard, the tech issues for World of Color were very close to being fixed, but the status of the show for the holiday season is still up in the air. I’d say it’s about 50/50 at this point.
I have checked everyday till Dec 28th and no World of Color Dinners listed so i am thinking it will not be back until next year. recente pics showed lots of cable being set in place for wiring. I will be there first week of Dec and was so looking forward to seeing WOC Season of Light, but maybe next year.
As much as I love POTC in its current incarnation, I would totally be up for closing it for a year or so and making it the Shanghai Disney version. That is an E ticket for sure and I’m speaking as someone who is old enough to remember E tickets. 🙂
That’s a completely different ride.
Doing that would destroy Disney history.
But I’m all for that type of technology being used for another ride somewhere else at DLR.
Rip out pirates and replace it with a different pirates ride? Boo, terrible idea.
As Jeff already suggested, a better option would be to use that awesome ride system in Anaheim for a different, non-pirates ride.
Also, you don’t have to be *that* old to remember E-tickets, they lasted into the 80s :-).
We will be at Disneyland a few days after Thanksgiving. Hope to read your Christmas post before then.
I was on the Consumer Affairs website recently, and I was reading guest reviews of Disneyland, from most recent backwards. In 2018 and 2017, there were a lot of angry guests giving only one or two star reviews, claiming the cast members had grown rude and uncaring. Once I got back to around 2016, the positive reviews were more frequent. I have not been to Disneyland since 2012. Tom (or any reader who has been to Disneyland recently), have you experienced a slump in cast member quality recently?
I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of entitled and agitated guests recently, which is probably the best explanation of this ‘slump.’ In general, you get what you give; I wouldn’t be concerned so long as you’re polite and friendly to Cast Members.
I must agree with you about the guests attitudes/entitlement. We visited DL for 5 days in May (from Australia) and were very disappointed at times in the way some guests spoke to DL staff. We have nothing but praise for how nice we were treated at all times.
Tom is correct. I was there in the spring and the cast members were perfectly fine. Too bad they cannot scale back the entitled and agitated guests.
Tom, did you happen to see how the completed Dumbo queue looked from Storybook? When I was there in June it looked like total ass.
Yikes. No, I didn’t, but I’ll have to check that out.
I was there in September and went on Casey Junior and noticed that the back of the Dumbo coverage was uninspired. Just a plain wall blocking our view of things. I thought they should have decorated the back appropriately for the view of it from other rides! Disappointing.
Looking forward to my upcoming visit to DL in January. While a regular visitor to WDW, I haven’t been to the original since I went with my Dad when I was 10 years old (a visit I barely remember except that e-ticket attractions still required e-tickets). I’ve timed my visit specifically to be before Galaxy’s Edge opens; since it’s nothing to do with the “It’s Walt’s Park” identity of DL, I’m happy to see that at WDW a couple of years down the road, and avoid the crowds it’ll bring for what’s likely to be my only Disneyland visit.
We’re also really looking forward to spending a decent amount of time in Disneyland post-Christmas. I fear that’ll be the last time to savor the charm and atmosphere that made Disneyland so special to us in the first place.
Despite my nostalgia, I’m not skeptical of adding Star Wars. My first Anaheim visit was in August 1979, and there’s definitely something uniquely special about Walt’s park. I get it. That said, I have to concede that many of my favorite attractions are sophisticated & high tech rides installed several decades after Walt’s death: Radiator Springs, Star Tours, Midway Mania, Indiana Jones, Tower of Terror, Buzz LIghtyear, Space Mountain, etc.
That’s not to say that I don’t still love the original rides (Jungle Cruise, Mr Toad, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn are all masterpieces) but I’m not distressed by the addition of Star Wars. My only criteria is whether the ride is high quality.
“and with the movie franchise, and more specifically, its lead star, falling out of favor…” Orlando Bloom has fallen out of favor? (Oh wait, he was supposed to be the lead star, it just didn’t work out that way.)
We’ll be visiting DL shortly after Christmas while the decorations are still up. I look forward to reading your next installment!