As you might’ve guessed by yesterday’s Reimagined Sleeping Beauty Castle Photos & Commentary, we’re back at Disneyland! A lot has changed since we last brought you an update from California, so let’s take a look at the Project Stardust progress and all the other changes at Disneyland.
Obviously, the big thing is Star Wars Land. The shops, restaurants, and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run are all now done and ready to welcome guests. Cast member previews of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge began last week, with private events and media previews continuing this week. Then, the Happiest Place on Earth will publicly debut Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge this weekend. After years of waiting, it’s a bit surreal that this is about to be a real thing!
In the meantime, Disneyland races to complete a variety of Project Stardust and other projects. The opening of the 14-acre Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t just showcase that Star Wars Land, it reintroduces Disneyland to the public. That might seem like overstating the significance of this weekend, but Star Wars is a global cultural touchstone, and the eyes of the media will be on Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom in a way that hasn’t happened since (at least) the 50th Anniversary.
Suffice to say, the gala opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a huge event for the entire Disneyland Resort. We’ve suggested for a while that one of Disney’s goals is to transition these parks from being a playground for locals to a bona-fide tourist destination. (Most notably in our “End of Disneyland as a ‘Local’s Park’” post.)
This started nearly two decades ago with the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, but obviously that didn’t go so well. The reimagining of the park and debut of DCA 2.0 with Buena Vista Street and Cars Land proved a hit, and a step in that direction. Subsequently, the Diamond Celebration pushed attendance further north, and Star Wars Land could be the capstone. Suffice to say, a lot rides on this from Disney’s perspective…
As for the substance of this update itself, the big thing to cover is the fruits of Project Stardust.
Basically, this is a concerted and comprehensive plan to ease congestion around Disneyland by improving the flow of walkways, expand queues, create dedicated stroller parking, relocate obstructive seating, increase the park’s capacity, and refurbish and refresh various things around Disneyland.
That’s a long-winded description of infrastructure projects that might put all but the most dorky Disney fans to sleep.
Yet, Project Stardust is critically-necessary, and the type of place-making that, if done poorly, could sap Disneyland of some charm and personality. In other words, Project Stardust may not sound as significant as a new attraction, but its stakes are arguably much higher.
By and large, Project Stardust has been accomplished with a deft hand, balancing the needs for better crowd flow with Disneyland’s soul as “Walt’s park.”
Some modifications have removed charming seating areas and other things, but for the most part, Disneyland has exactly the same intimate vibe but with better ease of movement.
There are times in the recent past on days that were only moderately busy when gridlock would cause crowds in some areas of the park to move at a crawl.
Now, even post-fireworks and Fantasmic, we were able to move from New Orleans Square to the front of the park (or Tomorrowland) with ease. While Florida certainly has the “blessing of size”, Disneyland finally has the blessing of space.
To be sure, some things have been lost to Project Stardust that Disneyland fans will miss.
I always loved the Corner Cafe arch and frame around Refreshment Corner. It served no functional purpose, but was a quirky vestige of the past that I appreciated. Now, it’s likely gone forever–a casualty of Project Stardust.
Every Disneyland fan is likely to have some personal favorite “little details” like this, and I’d hazard a guess that we all lost something.
From my perspective, far less was lost than what we gained. Being able to navigate Disneyland with less frustration and physical discomfort is a huge win.
In general, Main Street is looking fantastic.
It’ll make for great ‘opening credits’ as first-timers and longtime fans alike descend upon Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Next up is Adventureland. After a month or so of a temporary sign, a new entrance archway has been installed over a widened path with the quirky, traffic-impeding alcoves removed.
The area is now more open, which should lead to less bottlenecking and better crowd-flow. In essence, Disneyland replaced the previous marquee with a nearly-identical archway that stretches across the entry pathway. Right now, this looks a bit barer, but I believe that it’s still a work in progress.
Also in Adventureland is Tropical Hideaway.
We ate here today and will have a review in the near future, so stay tuned!
Hungry Bear’s overflow seating area has reopened–it should soon have a canopy installed, too.
This is going to be a great area for people-watching as crowds enter and exit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Over in Tomorrowland, changes have been made to the once-temporary Alien Pizza Planet as it becomes permanent. Most notably, the Disneyland Moonliner Rocket, which traces its roots back to the opening of Disneyland in 1955, has received the Pizza Planet logo.
From 1955 through 1962, this was the TWA Moonliner. Adjoining the rocket was the Flight to the Moon attraction, which later became Mission To Mars. Subsequently, the rocket disappeared, before a new but scaled-down version of the park’s original Moonliner returned in 1998 as part of the New Tomorrowland. The attraction space was transformed into Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port (a downgrade no matter how you slice it) and then transformed into Alien Pizza Planet for last year’s Pixar Fest.
Alien Pizza Planet is now mostly finished with its refurbishment to make the Toy Story-themed overlay a permanent look. While Toy Story is not a fit for Tomorrowland, that ship sailed long ago.
Redd Rockett’s was terrible thematically and cuisine-wise, and Alien Pizza Planet proudly carries its torch. It’s disappointing that the refurbishment didn’t improve the restaurant in any appreciable sense.
Mickey’s Mix Magic will come to an end soon, with Disneyland Forever taking its place.
From Rivers of America, Mickey’s Mix Magic is a hoot. I feel like we’ll look back on this show in a decade or two and think, “what the heck?!“, but I have to admit that it’s a guilty pleasure for us right now.
Overall, Disneyland is looking great. A few lingering refurbishment walls remain up as some Project Stardust improvements race to meet their conclusion, but we’d expect those to be gone in the coming days. A lot has changed at Disneyland even since the Diamond Celebration a few years ago.
In some cases, this has meant the loss of charming and quaint details from the past. In other instances, we’ve seen marked improvements in terms of the guest experience. The opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge ushers in another new era at Disneyland–one we’re excited (and a bit nervous, to be honest) to experience!
What do you think about all of the Project Stardust changes at Disneyland? Which have been improvements? What about downgrades? Has Project Stardust been a net positive or negative in your view? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the changes? 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!