December 30, 2015

Fixing Disneyland: My End of Year Wish List

The end is near. 2015 that is, and it's been a banner year for our favorite theme park, Disneyland. The 60th Anniversary brought us a new parade, new fireworks, and all kinds of additions from enhancements to Peter Pan's Flight to new Emporium windows. MiceAge / MiceChat has the best year round up I've read, but that's not what this post is about.

The old gal looks pretty good after all this time, but she still needs some help. "How to Fix Disneyland?" A good question with some darned good answers from this writer. Are you ready? Here's my land by land tour of additions and enhancements while the big construction starts.

Main Street U.S.A.: Since the Disneyland Railroad will be closed for quite awhile, place the most beautiful of the trains at the station, using the entire area as a meet and greet for Mickey himself. The rest of the land seems to be in the most complete state possible, so let's move on.

If Moana hits it big, tiki culture can have a greater presence in the park.

Adventureland: Let's begin by dumping all the plastic figures found in Tarzan's Treehouse. Build a new queue on the lowest level and incorporate a character meet and greet inside the kitchen. Guests can check out a face character Tarzan from above while they tour the loft home. Women get a little beefcake, and the crowds in the narrow passageway between two lands thin out just a bit.

Add a new scene for the world famous Jungle Cruise. Keep the folks queuing up. It's a Disneyland classic that does not get the respect it deserves.

For foodies, it's time for something new and crowd pleasing. The Magic Kingdom in Florida gets the Skipper's Canteen. Good for them. It's long overdue- Time to return the much loved Tahitian Terrace to Adventureland. Bringing instant night time rhythm to a fairly dark and exotic piece of the park, it ties in greatly with the Enchanted Tiki Room. In one bold step, it rids the land of the thematically ugly monstrosity of the Middle East desert next to a lush Polynesian paradise. Retro vibe, vintage Disneyland, and more  table service dining. Appeases long time fans and brings in new ones.

Tune up the opening day effects now missing from Indiana Jones Adventure. The culminate effect of so much lost is not quite the Disco Yeti of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest, but it is a strong statement of lack of care poured out on the park's last "E Ticket" attraction. Last up for Adventureland: Bring in some musical entertainment. The second story balconies can hold a small band, and it would liven up the area.

A scaled back River is coming.

Frontierland: January begins the end of the Rivers of America as we know it. In preparation for the misplaced Star Wars Land, the river is being circumcised so to speak to accommodate a brand new land being carved out of the backwoods, and once you do it, it cannot be reversed. (Yeah, I'm in a feisty mood, aren't I?) The Disneyland Railroad is being rerouted as well. Watercraft plying the course will come to a halt for at least a year as all the work is done. (A special note: Wouldn't it be nice if the Imagineers were planning the train track to route through a re-worked slice of Rainbow Caverns and even past an outdoor geyser or two?)

The question will be how to bring life into Frontierland beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Let's begin by an encore performance of the original show for the Golden Horseshoe and offer a sit down restaurant experience in the evening, compete with a western style menu. Bring back the can can and the comedian with a fast-paced production that honors the past by its highlights while bringing in some new talent. 

Outside, add in some street characters. At opening, Disneyland featured a pair of gunslingers, sheriff and outlaw. The show climaxed with the pair duking it out on the second level of the Horseshoe. It was a crowd pleaser and a great photo opportunity for guests young and old. Imagineering could even use some "misfires" to create some special effects that go off during the show, making it a living Shootin' Gallery of sorts.

With the current acreage, there's really not any room for a bigger  attraction, but a small museum type exhibit could be put into the arcade area. It's the small touches that make and keep Disneyland charming. 

Walt had a good head for what pleased Disneyland guests.

New Orleans Square: A bit of sacrilege here. Close Pirates of the Caribbean now a few days midweek to install some additions and enhancements for its 50th Anniversary in 2017. You know that both the money hungry suits and the creatively inspired Imagineers are thinking about doing something to honor its achievement  It is the premier granddaddy attraction of the park, and its' time to bring it back to top form all the while surprising guests with something new to celebrate. Just make sure its some unused concepts by Marc Davis and not something from the movies.

Remember that old unused courtyard that's got that awful teal and purple scheme? Turn it into a character meet and greet with Tiana and friends. 

Critter Country: Even though some amount of construction will be needed to connect the land to the new Star Wars Land, the rest of the land should stay relatively open to guests. There's more than just Pooh here, so make the most of it. Fill the place with forest characters as well as the Country Bears. A little hillbilly music would be good, too.

Fantasyland: Unlike the younger parks, there's no dining options in Sleeping Beauty Castle. Make the most of it. Put some work in behind the scenes, and use the old Skyway building as an entrance to a beautiful and remote fondue restaurant that overlooks the graceful gardens of the Storybookland Canal Boats. Instant win as it reuses a very important piece of the park's history and provides a tranquil setting for a meal far from the crowds. There's enough dedicated old timers that would enjoy the opportunity. Throw in a clock shop or even a cooking store to please the retail crowd, and it's a clear win-win for everyone.

Is it just me or is Disney missing a prime opportunity to use the old Motor Boat Cruise area for a temporary Frozen mini land? Bring over everything from California Adventure and place it under the shadows of the mighty Matterhorn. Sure, Arendelle is not in Switzerland, but it works much better here than in any other place. 
It's only temporary anyway. 

Mickey's Toontown: Until this is replaced by Frozen, let's fill the place with characters that are not tied to a single location. Fix that Jolly Trolley. Add a mini hedge maze. Give guests a gag-filled Toontown quick service location so that the nearby Fantasyland eateries are not entirely swamped at lunch. 

... but it's a sleeper at Disneyland.

Tomorrowland: Let's be honest, Season of the Force is a mixed bag. And that is being very gracious. Re-Imagine the carousel theater museum, and make the experience what it was advertised to be. 

Outside those walls, let's bring some real energy to the futuristic area, starting with an astronaut with a working jet pack- or even the Rocketeer- if you have to tie in a Disney film. Place the Rocket Jets/Astro Orbitor/whatever its become back to the top of the launchpad. Bring in Wall-E to greet guests, perhaps even Baymax, this family's favorite robot by a long shot.

Tomorrowland is Disneyland's embarrassment compared to what it was in decades past. It is time for a full remodel, but I'm not sure anyone can really figure out what to do with it. Maybe Star Tours will move with the new land, and the entire entrance can be reworked. It's certainly the toughest problem to tackle. Disney has proven they can do fantasy well but can no longer take us to a real, science based future. Just look at Future World at Epcot.

There you have it. My ideas for fixing Disneyland. What are yours?

(Images copyright The Walt Disney Company/Lucas Films.)

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