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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Disneyland 2012 Review - A Crown Jewel & Some Stubbed Toes

Cars Land at Night - Photo By Disney

It's been quite a year for the Disneyland Resort, a record breaking year in fact. And it all began with the Disneyland California Adventure relaunch back in June. The new and improved park now featured Cars Land, a place where Disney really did get it right. Cars Land isn't perfect but it is pretty darn close. Cars Land gave Disney imagineers the opportunity to build their best attraction probably in decades with Radiator Springs Racers and they came through in big way. So maybe it wasn't the best decision to try and build a fast pass distribution area next to the ride that already experiences wait times in the hours instead of minutes. That idea was eventually scrapped with the fast pass distribution now sitting just outside of the people packed "land". And maybe the slow moving and awkward Luigi's Flying Tires wasn't the best choice as a secondary ride but everything else in Cars Land seems to hit on all cylinders so to speak. Great job Disney.

Cars Land's Radiator Springs Racers - Photo by Disney

Remember the tacky Sunshine Plaza entrance for DCA? It's now just a bad memory as the absolutely lovely Buena Vista Street takes its rightful spot as a grand way to enter a premier Disney Park. Streetcars, entertainers, very nice retail establishments (including a Starbucks), a new Partners statue, and the iconic signature Carthay Circle restaurant all welcome guests into a full days worth of entertainment in Disney California Adventure park. Half day park? Not any more. Again, great job Disney with Buena Vista Street.



With the relaunch of Disney California Adventure, the people came, and came to the Disneyland Resort in 2012. The hotels filled the and problems with the economy, that still exist to a great extent, fell by the wayside. The new and improved Disneyland Resort left Disney executives smiling ear to ear as both parks seem to fairly equally split the large crowds coming to the resort, an occurrence that never happened in DCA's previous years of existence.

But as great a year as the Disneyland Resort had, let's not forget about a few missteps along the way.

People are still talking about One More Disney Day, an event that Disney promoted that turned Leap Day (February 29) into what was hoped to be an all night festive party. As One More Disney Day progressed from morning to nighttime seas of people swarmed Disneyland causing long lines, gridlocked areas, and increasingly unruly behavior by some of the guests. The understaffed cast members did their best to control the mobs but by many accounts OMDD was a decent into chaos. Now you will find people out there who say they had a great time at the event but Disney forums and discussion boards filled with comments of guests who had a completely different take on what transpired.



Disney California Adventure was a huge success and was hugely expensive at a price tag of over a billion dollars for the improvements. Disney needed to pay for the improvements and to capitalize on their new and improved park. So back in May, Disney announced its largest price increase ever in daily admission, park hopper multi-day tickets, and annual passes. Oh boy! Reaction and outcries  came swiftly causing a huge rift in the Disney community with those who could or would continue to pay the high prices versus those who felt they were being priced out of the park they loved so dearly. It's another gap between the haves and the have-nots, whether that gap is real or just a statement of principle. Nobody wants to pay higher prices of course and even with the high price tag to get in, there is no shortage of people who will pay for their Disney experience. It's just the way it is.

While the bulk of the attention was turned toward DCA in 2012 and its spectacular success, we can't forget about that 6 month refurbishment of the venerable Matterhorn in Disneyland. While the majestic mountain was getting a fresh coat of paint, fans were wondering about the changes going on inside. Turns out, there were none which many found disappointing. On top that, the beloved "cuddle seat" ride vehicles were replaced by a cramped space sled few find comfortable in any way. The mountain looks great, the ride took a turn for the worse.



Indiana Jones Adventure had 17 week refurbishment in the fall of 2012. Again, fans of the ride were wondering about changes when all that really happened was to fix existing scenes that weren't working as they should and the addition of some enhanced lighting features. Again, no big surprises from a lengthy closure of a popular attraction.

And I couldn't close off 2012 at Disneyland without some thoughts about the expanded Christmas Candlelight Processional. By all accounts, it was a fantastic event when all went well. But bad weather cancelling a few of the performances and the unsightliness of the staging area during the day in its prominent location of the Main St. train station kind of presented some issues for Disney. They want the expanded event to continue but need to have it set up in a location that that is more supporting of those who want to attend. The new (covered) Fantasyland Theater or the Hyperion Theater (indoors) at DCA have been rumored to be possible spots for a popular event. In either case, while it bucks with the tradition of the current event staging) both would solve a number of problems with the event as Disney tries to build on it.

2013 won't bring nearly the change that historic 2012 brought about. There's a 9 month refurbishment of Thunder Mountain Railroad coming very shortly. It is rumored that Innoventions will be demolished in the next few months to prepare space for the new Iron Man attraction. The D23 event in August 2013 should bring news of the next major building projects that will occur in Disneyland. But the one thing you can count on, like death and taxes, is sometime before summer, Disney will raise admission prices once again. They won't be raised to the jaw dropping levels of 2012, just enough to take a few more dollars out of your wallet and put it in Disney's bank account.













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