It was another big week for Disneyland with the reopening of a beloved attraction with major updates, details on plans for Halloween parties and festivities, the launch of discounted park tickets, and the return of more entertainment. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine in paradise…
Jungle Cruise Reopened
Our top story this week is the surprise early reopening of the Jungle Cruise. The ride was set to return on July 16th, but it soft opened early on Friday the 9th. We were there to take the very first boat off the dock with Imagineer Kim Irvine.
During the park closures, we learned that the Jungle Cruise would undergo major updates to add a new storyline about a lost party of explorers and adventurers, but those new scenes would replace ALL of the pre-existing scenes featuring natives. The Jungle Cruise now focuses more on the animals (mostly monkeys), with one altered scene of a party of explorers run up a pole by a rhino:
Imagineers have created an elaborate backstory for the revised attraction and the new proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company, Ms. Alberta Falls. Clues about the new adventurers and Alberta can be found throughout the updated queue. It all looks the same at first glance, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that new elements and information have been added among the artifacts which were there previously. It’s fairly well integrated. You can read more about the characters in our Jungle Cruise coverage HERE.
Among the most prominent of the new queue details is this corner representing the artist adventurer, Rosa Soto Dominguez:
You can easily miss Alberta’s apartment (in the upstairs portion of the queue just before you arrive in the bug room). Let a couple parties of guests pass you by and look for little details.
You’ll find changes small and large throughout the ride, from new statues and landscaping, to major show scene alterations. But, if you weren’t reading this article, you might not catch on to the changes at first. It all looks and feels mostly the same through the first half of the ride.
Much of the foliage has been pruned back and/or replanted, and there are some new little things here and there. But it does look nearly the same as your memory…
And then there are the things that make you wonder if they were there before or new. Like this snake statue (with a glowing orb) just before you see the Tiger. A monkey idol was here previously.
That’s no house cat over there. Bengal Tigers can jump over 25 feet. But don’t worry folks, at this distance, he’ll jump right over us.
There was always an elephant statue, but this one is new. Previously, the statue was of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha.
The ride then progresses as it was before for a while.
And then we get to the Hippo pool where it looks like they’ve finally been successful in sinking a boat after 66 years of trying.
Love it. This really made me chuckle.
And then the ride REALLY changes. Just about everything from this point on has been altered in some way. All of the scenes with natives have been removed and you’ll find new show scenes and gags. It seems that Disney has spent millions buying new monkey animatronics because they do all the heavy lifting on the comedy from this point forward.
Across the way, where the spear-throwing natives were once located, are some more chimps. These fellows have managed to open some bottles of insects. Our skipper made flea jokes. You’ll find butterflies here as well. Interesting note: The chimps at Disneyland are playing with the butterflies, but in the Walt Disney World version (which will officially open later this year) they’ll be eating them!
Then a short stretch of things you remember: the back side of water, the piranhas, the boa and water buffalo.
Careful now, these fish are looking for a hand out.
And then the new finale of the ride. Trader Sam now owns a Lost and Found “Gift Shop” filled with things left by unfortunate safaris. A sign in the shop indicates that he’s on break. But more monkeys have moved in to have a little fun. There is so much going on here that it might seem like a blur. But on one of my several ride-throughs on Friday, our boat was stuck here for a while as guests ahead were slowly unloading. There was so much to see in this scene that delays are no problem.
One of the monkeys is having fun taking photos of Jungle Cruise visitors as they float by. You’ll see the flashbulb going off from time to time. A shame that they don’t actually take real PhotoPass shots here as I think many folks would want that photo.
There were still a few little touches being added to the attraction and many of the skippers had JUST returned to work and are in the process of learning the new scripts, back-story, and jokes. But this version of the Jungle Cruise felt very much like it always has. Our skippers didn’t overload us with new jokes (if anything, we could have used a bit more setup as we left the dock). The new scenes are well built and many are elaborate. They also have much more motion than the old static and one motion figures. So it was an expensive update.
Take a ride with me. We’re the very first boat off the dock. Hope we make it back in one piece…
Well? What do you think about the changes? Do they fit well enough? Are they better than what was there before?
Unfortunately, D23 has been selling tickets to be “among the first to ride” Jungle Cruise on July 16th, but they sold out just a day before the attraction actually soft opened on the 9th. For $75, D23 Gold members can watch a panel discussion with skippers and Imagineers and then ride the attraction before park opening. But the event does not include regular park admission and guests will be escorted out of the park before it opens to guests at 8am. This one is for early birds as the event begins promptly at 5:30 a.m. and will wrap up by 7:30 a.m.
There may be some upset D23 members out there, but the event is still SOLD OUT!
Holidays ARE Happening
Readers of this column have known that the holidays were returning for quite some time now. We just didn’t have all the spooky details until this past week. We are very happy to report that instead of a watered-down version like Walt Disney World is getting, Disneyland fans will have ‘almost’ everything you’ve come to expect. Both parks and Downtown Disney will celebrate the season this year with decorations, treats, and some ride overlays. The Oogie Boogie after-hours Halloween Party will also return. But there are a few changes.
Disneyland’s offerings will be the same as in years past. Expect the “Pumpkin Festival” on Main Street USA and the popular Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay as well.
But, what we are most excited about are the Halloween Screams fireworks on weekend nights.
During the week, Halloween Screams will be the (inferior) projection-only version.
The bulk of the Halloween activities will be at Disney California Adventure again this year. You can expect to find:
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
- Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween
- Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree
- Costumed Cars in Cars Land
- Plaza de la Familia (Coco themed entertainment runs until November 2nd for the Day of the Dead)
- Plus spooky decor and Halloween treats in the stores.
Guardians of the Galaxy gets a new storyline at Halloween (so why couldn’t they have done something new for Avengers Campus as well?).
The Coco show is adorable.
While we hoped for a return of the Oogie Boogie Bash, it was not a certainty after WDW announced a scaled-back event at the Magic Kingdom. Thankfully, the spooky and kooky Oogie Boogie event will be haunting California Adventure on 25 nights between September 9th and Halloween.
Due to the maintenance issues that we’ve shown you on the Paradise lagoon, “World of Color Villainous” will NOT be performed this Halloween. But it is expected to return in 2022. So, in general, don’t expect a return of World of Color any time soon. We also found construction/repair permits that Disney filed with the city for repair and replacement of structures in the World of Color amphitheater.
But you’ll still be able to dance and party with the characters, enjoy the amazing Villains Grove in the Redwood Creek area, watch the delightful Frightfully Fun Parade, and go trick-or-treating in the character-enhanced treat trails. Additionally, during the party hours, most attractions will be available to ride— including the brand new Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. Event-goers can enter Disney California Adventure 3 hours before the party begins.
One more Halloween item pertains to today. For this week only, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Haunted Mansion Holiday, fans can get their hands on a Jack Skellington sipper at French Market and Harbour Gallery in Disneyland Park through July 18.
But it’s not just Halloween we have to look forward to, we’re halfway to Christmas Time as well. Disneyland isn’t on the record yet, but expect decorations, parade, and fireworks to celebrate the season, along with lots of festive food and merchandise.
California Resident Disneyland Ticket Offer
If you live in California, you’re eligible for a new Disneyland special ticket offer! This 3-day ticket (available as a Park Hopper or a 1-Park per Day ticket) works a bit differently than a regular multi-day ticket. Instead of having to use all 3 days within 13 days of your first visit, you have until the end of September. That’s a lot more flexible. Here are the details of the California Resident Ticket Offer:
- California Residents save up to $66 on each 3-Day Disneyland Ticket (either Park Hopper and 1-Park per Day)
- Theme park reservations are required
- No tiers or blackout dates apply
- Tickets do NOT have to be used consecutively and can be used any day through September 30, 2021 (subject to availability)
- Reservations for all three days must be made at the same time, but can be changed at any time (subject to availability and must be used by September 30, 2021)
- Same price for adults (ages 10+) and children (ages 3-9)
- All guests must be California residents. A California billing address will be required for purchase and guests may be asked to show proof of residency at the gates.
For more about the California Resident Ticket, take a look at the article below.
Disneyland Announces Discounted Ticket Offer For California Residents!
Expect a very busy final two weeks of September as everyone uses up the remaining days on their tickets.
In the Parks
I walked both parks for you on Friday to bring you the latest, plus lots of tidbits of news from our crew. We even have a few aerial images for you.
It was really hot by California standards this past week, with temps bumping up to 90° some days (or feeling like it). As a result, there were many calls for assistance with overheated and passed out guests. We witnessed several in a short period of time on Friday afternoon.
Since most of the days coming up are forecast to be in the mid to upper 80º range, we’d like to advise you to be careful. Staying hydrated and out of the sun as much as possible is key to staying comfortable and well. Before becoming overheated, try to find shaded or air-conditioned spots to relax and recover. You might consider investing in a cooling towel. They really work!
Keep in mind that character appearances and other entertainment might be cut short or canceled due to high heat. You should also understand that there are large areas of both parks without adequate shade and cooling on these super hot days. Water rides are extra busy when it’s hot, but you can easily overheat waiting for them (so they aren’t always as great a choice as you might think). The new Avengers Campus is particularly hot with little shade. Try to avoid it during the heat of the day. Sometimes it’s better to alter your plans to just stay out of the sun as much as possible in the middle part of the day (a great time for dining indoors or going back to the hotel for a nap or dip in the pool).
For much of the day, Splash Mountain had the longest wait at Disneyland (in the 60 – 75 minute range).
When the standby line for Grizzly overflows into the walkway outside the attraction, you know it’s busy.
Not as busy as you think. It really does appear that Disneyland is busier. But not very much so. Waits on Friday were still quite enjoyable all day, at least at Disneyland. Disney California Adventure continues to prove that parks with too few rides suffer longer waits.
These were Disneyland’s waits at 11am. By mid-afternoon, waits for Splash Mountain got much longer and most other rides dropped. Haunted Mansion was an hour wait in the morning but just 30 minutes at 1:30pm. So keep your eye on the Disneyland App for ride time opportunities.
Even at a relatively short wait of 40 minutes earlier in the day, the Pirates of the Caribbean queue overflowed into New Orleans Square.
But had these folks waited until later, the line got shorter.
Peter Pan seems to stay popular all day.
Hungry Bear has reopened and the line stretched all the way to the walkway. In fact, the lines for the Snackin’ Place cart and Hungry Bear Restaurant met.
BUT, the park really wasn’t otherwise overcrowded. There are certain things that will get packed, but there are also vast areas with very few guests at times.
Example. Tomorrowland entry area by Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was nuts.
As was the Small World queue for a short time.
And New Orleans Square needs no excuse to back up.
But Main Street was mostly empty.
As was the Hub.
And the Castle.
Buena Vista Street was easy.
And Avengers Campus is MUCH easier these days.
I’m happy to report even more entertainment returning to the park. I waited twice for the Pearly Band. You can find their show times in the Disneyland App. But the app doesn’t say where they will be. And cast were reluctant to tell me where to find them. What’s the point of publishing show times, but not locations? It was toooo hot for hide and seek. Both sets were impacted by guests having medical emergencies. Crazy.
You should be able to find them on the parade viewing platform at Small World Mall.
Here’s a bit of video from this delightful Mary Poppins themed band:
And the Green Army Men are also set to return to DCA (they may have already started performing over the weekend). But we hear that there are more Pixar characters that may be joining them.
And more and more parade staff seem to be returning to work. That’s very good news. We hope to hear something concrete about that situation VERY soon.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Construction
Everyone wants to know what’s happening behind the old Five and Dime in ToonTown. A new facade and entry to the attraction is being constructed now.
Some of the ToonTown storefronts have been removed to make way for the new entry.
The big white building with the plastic tarps is the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway show building.
And our spy in the sky sent a couple of interesting new shots today. That big building below is for Runaway Railway. It’s the entire length of ToonTown!
Sailing Ship Columbia Sets Sail
The Rivers of America is a bit more lively as of this week. The Sailing Ship Columbia has returned to service after an extended refurbishment. You can see her sail throughout the day and even climb aboard for a cruise. Though, we’d recommend choosing the shade of a lower deck on the Mark Twain over the unshaded Columbia. We’re personally hoping that the refurbishment means that Fantasmic! is headed back to Disneyland in the near future.
The Matterhorn has returned and is pulling in big crowds.
I find myself taking more photos of the Matterhorn than just about anything else.
You can see it from so many different places. This is Pixie Hollow.
Waits hovered in the 45-60 range for most of the day.
But long unshaded lines just weren’t in the cards for me on Friday.
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail Reopened
The smell of fresh paint pulled me into the Challenge Trail.
It looks as though everything in the area got a fresh coat of paint.
The nets on the rope bridge also appear to have been replaced.
We’ll be seeing more of this area this Halloween when it transforms into the Villain’s Grove.
Staffing & Cutbacks
Disneyland is operating with higher prices and lower expenses than at any time in our memory. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been cutbacks recently. As we discussed last week, Steakhouse 55 and its elegant lounge have been closed permanently. That means that guests of the nearly $400/night Disneyland Hotel no longer have a fine dining establishment. Worse, the Paradise Pier Hotel, which books for just 30 bucks cheaper than the Disneyland Hotel on average, has NO food or beverage service at all! We are honestly SHOCKED that anyone would stay at the Paradise Pier right now when you can stay at the brand new 4 star (GORGEOUS) Westin Anaheim just a few steps away for hundreds less. And the Westin has 3 operating restaurants right now and a variety of bars (including a rooftop bar with fabulous fireworks views).
While some of the cutbacks are due to staffing issues (that we’ll get to in just a moment), many of these cuts are mandated by upper management to reduce costs while at the same time raising prices. Sadly, the Disneyland and Paradise Pier Hotels are in the crossfire of management wanting to diminish the services guests can expect while not decreasing prices to match the new lower level of service. Unless this is all temporary, both hotels should have their star ratings dropped to match the dismal level of service they currently offer.
A good friend stayed at the Disneyland Hotel on Saturday and while her newly refurbished room was lovely (see photos below), valet is no longer available at the hotel. So she had to pay the $25 for self parking and lug her bags from the somewhat distant parking lot to the hotel. And she had to deal with the long lines at the elevators where guests can end up waiting 10 to 15 minutes during the day and over half an hour near theme park closing time. Her stay was less than magical compared to years past, but at a much higher price for the privilege.
The newly refurbished Disneyland Hotel rooms are quite nice. We love the firework carpet and elegant design. Yes, they kept the firework headboards.
We hear from union connections that Disney is planning to replace some of their union hotel staff with outside contractions to save a buck or two. Unfortunately, every time Disney has tried to do this with customer-facing roles in the past it has bitten them in the ass. Guests paying this much for a hotel room want the Disney-level of service.
Unless you can pop for the uber-expensive Grand Californian Hotel (which is firing on all cylinders right now), we suggest skipping the Disney-owned hotels and staying at one of the off-site properties in the area. You’d be surprised how much things have changed in the last couple of years. There are some very fancy new offerings that blow Disney’s hotels out of the water at a fraction of the price. Perhaps when guests stop blindly booking an inferior Disney product, management will realize that they need to restore the expected service level (or lower the price to match the current service).
Sucks to be a Paradise Pier hotel guest. You either need to have food mobile ordered to the front desk, or you have to leave the hotel to forage. Fine if you are staying at a Motel 6, but not what you’d expect for hundreds of dollars a night at Disney. It’s poor show, pure and simple. If Disney wasn’t ready to reopen this hotel, they shouldn’t have (there are lots of hotels in the area that need the business). But, if this is a permanent cost savings as has been described to us by hotel staff, it’s just unacceptable. Disney hotels shouldn’t be ghost towns of empty establishments from days gone by.
Meanwhile, the recall of staff to Disneyland Park has also been going slowly as many cast have declined to return, and many who have returned are already quitting. Foods will have called through their entire list of laid off employees by the end of August and is already preparing to begin hiring from outside the company. Retail is accepting transfers from the Disney Stores (since they are all closing), which has created some seniority complaints. Attractions is understaffed, as are many departments. Of course, that’s not just a Disney problem, almost every service business is in the same boat.
The custodial department is suffering from serious morale issues right now, as traditional time/equipment-intensive processes (like the deep cleaning of kitchens, stores, and restrooms) are being pushed from the more expensive 3rd shift to daytime cast in order to save a very small amount of money. The union updated custodial cast over the weekend about Disney’s resistance to make the necessary changes to restore the 3rd shift.
The rumor among some cast is that Disney may be setting Custodial up to fail so they can replace them with 3rd party contractors. But even Walt Disney himself replaced a 3rd party company with his own workers so he could better ensure quality and show conditions in the park. We hope those rumors do not pan out. That would be a huge setback for guest service at the resort.
And then there is the Disneyland Dining phone line. Remember when you didn’t have to wake up at 6am to try to book dining 60 days in advance? Yes! You could simply call the friendly cast members on the Disney Dining line and they’d advise you and book your resort dining for you. Well, back in December, Disneyland laid them all off. But even though the parks and most of the restaurants are now reopened, the Disneyland Dining line has not returned.
As one cast member who worked the line explained: “Our department was usually the first point of human contact (on the phone) with the Resort. We dealt with guests who saved up their whole lives for this one magical vacation, and had no idea where to begin. We would help them plan from A – Z, planning where to be with their dining in between the parades or fireworks, or the best place to go and stand, etc. So many little things that made a big difference! We helped make magical memories happen with birthdays, anniversaries, holiday celebrations, Make-A-Wish, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and so much more. The guests got so much from our knowledge and advice that they just won’t be able to get from the App.”
We’re keeping a very close eye on these related issues as they unfold. But we are starting to feel like it’s time for guests, unions, and cast to all push back on decisions that impact guest experience, show, and job satisfaction. If your Disneyland experience doesn’t live up to your expectations or the price you paid (hotels, restaurants, or theme parks), please speak up. Disney has a terrible habit of thinking their guests are willing to pay whatever price and put up with whatever hoops and conditions… until they are met with overwhelming negative feedback. If something important to your Disney experience has gone missing, now is the time to speak up before it becomes standard operating procedure and never returns.
Let’s not get too tangled in the weeds here. Disneyland is still a magical experience, but there are certainly some concerning issues which are impacting guests, with more just on the horizon.
Last week we shared information on Disneyland Paris and their plans for paid “Premier Access” to individual attractions. During the reopening of Disney’s parks around the world, Fastpass was discontinued. Disney quickly realized that lines move quicker and more efficiently with standby (and single-rider) but without Fastpass slowing things down. But if a smaller number of guests were willing to pay $15-$20 to ride an attraction, that is every accountant’s (and Disney CEO’s) dream.
We’ve now heard from friends and contacts at both Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World who either love or hate the new program depending on their role, but believe that the US parks will be getting the new program (or a version of it) soon. We aren’t entirely against the idea of paid FastPass, but we do hope that it will be tightly limited. If they allow an endless line of paid visitors to enter an attraction while regular guests paying $150+ a day wait forever in standby, it could absolutely destroy the Disney experience for many guests.
Making more money per guest is top priority right now, so we don’t think there’s any stopping this freight train.
Disneyland 66th Anniversary
It’s almost time to wish the Happiest Place on Earth another Happy Birthday! This upcoming Saturday, July 17, Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom is turning 66 years old. While there hasn’t been anything officially announced for the park’s anniversary, we’re hoping that there’s a little something to commemorate the occasion. Last year, Disneyland turned 65 while the theme parks were closed. But there was a whole slew of 65th-anniversary merchandise that was still created and sold. Although we don’t expect the celebrations to be over-the-top this year (we’re expecting something really great for the 70th in just 4 years!), we hope that Disney is able to do something to remember the special day.
While we haven’t heard of anything for Disneyland guests, there is a lot going on for Cast Members this week! With events ranging from special photos ops backstage, Cast Member-exclusive ride opportunities, and even a rubber duck race around “it’s a small world” there’s a lot for them to do.
Walt Disney’s Storybook Mansion in the Hollywood Hills
We have another way to celebrate Disneyland’s anniversary. The stunning 1930’s estate of Walt Disney will be hosting two exclusive private tours for MiceChat readers for $66 in honor of Disneyland’s birthday. The tours will be held this Sunday the 18th. Tours are limited to about 10 people each. The home, set high on a hilltop in Los Feliz, Ca, is a stunning example of Hollywood in its golden age. If you are interested, please write to [email protected] and let us know how many spots you’d like. Both tours will be in the early afternoon.
This will be the first time the house has been opened to guests since 2019!
Disneyland Resort Attraction Refurbishments
In order to keep everything running smoothly around Disneyland, refurbishments are a necessity. Here’s the current refurbishment calendar for around the parks.
Currently Under Refurbishment:
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic: (July 6th-16th)
In case you missed it, PhilharMagic is getting a new Coco scene added to the show. The updated show will return on July 17. For more information about the changes, take a look at the article below.
Mickey’s Philharmagic Adding New Coco Scene Starting July 17
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: (July 5th-22nd)
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: (July 26th-August 6th) – In an odd turn of events, the newly reopened Challenge Trail will be closing again at the end of July for another short refurbishment. We believe it’s to install items for the upcoming Villains Grove.
- Haunted Mansion Holiday Install: (August 16th-September 2nd)
Attractions Which Aren’t Under Refurbishment But Still Left Closed:
- Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse
- Disneyland Monorail
- Donald’s Boat
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Goofy’s Playhouse
- Mickey’s House
- Minnie’s House
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- The Bakery Tour
- Red Car Trolley
- Blue Sky Cellar
This & That
There’s still more! Now that we covered the big news around the resort, here are a few of the other stories from this week.
Return of Coke Corner
Disneyland is adding more eating options back into the park. The latest to return to operation was the Refreshment Corner (better known as Coke Corner) on Main Street. Here, you can find hot dogs, plus chili, and mac & cheese.
The specialty dog is an Esquite Hot Dog, which is a Foot-long Hot Dog, Crushed Corn Chips and Corn Esquite Mix topped with Cotija Cheese, Chili-Cayenne Powder and Grilled Green Onion garnish. If you like corn, then this will be right up your alley!
The Campus is Open!
When Avengers Campus opened last month, the wait to get into the new land was frequently 6 hours or longer! Fast forward to today, and Avengers Campus is wide open at all times. There’s no longer any standby queue to enter the land, and there are multiple points of entry (along the parade route, from the back of Cars Land, and from Hollywood Land).
But with so little to do in the area, beyond a little shopping and grabbing food and drink, there’s no real reason to stick around the complex. As a result, do you think that Virtual Queue should be removed from Web Slingers? It would help alleviate crowds from around the park and give people a reason to hang out in Avengers Campus.
Single Rider Returns!
One of the casualties of Disneyland’s reopening was the lack of Single Rider options for attractions. However, over the last few weeks, the Single Rider lines have quietly been returning. On our trip this week, we noticed that Single Rider lines had returned to most attractions that previously had them. If you’re looking for an easy way to get onto a popular attraction, this is a great option if you’re willing to split up your group or if you’re visiting the parks by yourself.
Legacy Passholder Merchandise
Although the days of passholders clogging up the park over a new popcorn bucket are over, there are still ways to lure Legacy Passholders back to make a purchase in the park. This week, there are two new Legacy Passholder-exclusive merchandise offerings: a popcorn bucket similar to the opening day popcorn box and a special Christmas sipper.