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Big Thunder, take 3
For the third time in 10 months, Disneyland's popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster ride made news last week, when one train returning to the platform collided with another train that had loaded and was waiting to depart. The accident occurred around about 5:05 p.m. last Thursday. A family from Canada, consisting of 10-year-old boy, a 44-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man complained of back and neck pain, and were transported to Western Medical CenterAnaheim, where they were treated and released that night.
In addition, MousePlanet has learned that at least one other individual involved in the accident has sought medical treatment in the days following the accident.
An investigator looks at the spacing between the second and third passenger cars. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
The ride was closed immediately after the accident, and DOSH investigators arrived shortly after 7:00. Disney cast members and security guards formed a ring around the perimeter of the Big Thunder attraction area, telling visitors, The ride is closed. Keep moving. Disney also closed a portion of the seating area of the Rancho Del Zocalo restaurant in Frontierland, from which the accident site was visible.
This train bumped into another train as it headed into the right spur of the station. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
In an official statement, Disneyland spokesman Bob Tucker said, Late this afternoon two cars bumped into one another. In an abundance of caution, the attraction is closed. DOSH (the Division of Occupational Safety and Health) has been notified. Tucker said that Disney was working with DOSH to investigate the incident, and did not know when the ride would reopen.
A park visitor who claimed to be present at the attraction when the accident occurred and who read media reports of the accident, emphatically told MousePlanet that it was not a bump. A bump, my a**! It was a full-on slam," the visitor said.
Four investigators stand around the train. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
According to both this eyewitness account and a source familiar with the previous Big Thunder Mountain accidents, this latest incident occurred when one train (#2), directed to the right side of the loading platform, struck another train (#1) still in the station.
The eyewitness notes that immediately before train #2 left the platform, ride operators announced over the speakers at the attraction platform area that five trains were now running on the track. This would have taken the ride to its maximum train capacity. This appears to confirm another report that the number of trains in use had just changed.
When both sides of the loading platform are in use, the switch changes after each train, meaning that if five trains are in use, a train will return to the opposite side of the loading platform from which it departed. When four trains are in use, they would return to the same side.
According to the eyewitness, train #2 departed from the right side and returned to that same side. This may indicate that whatever process triggers the change from operating for four trains to five was not done properly. MousePlanet has been unable to learn what this process is, and whether it is automated or manual. However, a source tells us that preliminary internal accident reports cite human error as the cause of the accident.
This track switch sends trains either to the right or the left spur as they enter the station.
Big Thunder cast members responded immediately to the accident, maintaining order throughout the incident. Guests seated in the fully loaded train #1 did not appear to be injured, and were immediately evacuated out of the attraction, as were those in the queue. Guests in train #2 were told to remain in their seats, including one guest who noticed his car was off the tracks and initially tried to exit. All complied until they were escorted out of the train.
DOSH representative Dean Fryer told MousePlanet that the ride is expected remain closed for at least a few weeks while DOSH completes its investigation of the accident. The DOSH investigation is expected to include a mechanical inspection of the ride, a review of the training and proceedures in place at the attraction, and interviews with cast members and witnesses.
When the investigation is complete, DOSH will release a report of its findings, and list any corrective action Disney may need to take. Fryer said that DOSH will not authorize the ride to open until it is satisfied that the ride is safe to operate.
Last September, Marcelo Torres of Gardena was killed and 10 other riders injured when the front portion of the train derailed, causing the front passenger car to collide with the train's locomotive. DOSH cited improper installation of a guide wheel in that accident, and required Disney to retrain its cast members before the ride could reopen.
At Rancho Del Zocalo, the two rows of tables nearest Big Thunder were blocked off after the accident. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Less than a week after the ride reopened in March, two empty trains collided during a reset operation. There were no injuries, and the ride reopened the next day. According to the DOSH report, the collision was caused specifically by operator error.
One of the trains involved in the accident is clearly visible from the Rancho Del Zocalo restaurant in Frontierland. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
The most recent accident elicited various responses from our readers:
I am beginning to think Magic Mountain's coasters are safer than Big Thunder!
I mean sure, accidents happen but for Pete's sake, this is the third accident this particular ride has had in the past year.
Enough is enough!
Three accidents in so short of a time is just unexcusable; I don't think even Magic Mountain can boast that kind of dubious record for one of their rides.
An empty train sits on the left side of the Big Thunder station. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Other readers urged restraint until the DOSH report was completed:
It is sad that another accident has occured with this attraction. But I'd like to caution people not to overreact.
Let them sort out the who-what-where-when-why and how of what happened, and if they can come up with a way to solve it permanently before people start screaming for the ride to be closed permanently.
The ride's queue may be empty for quite a few weeks, pending the results of the DOSH investigation. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Regardless of the DOSH findings, several readers noted that the recurring publicity over this ride's troubles may cast a shadow over Disneyland's upcoming 50th anniversary celebration. At least three readers said that they were considering postponing or cancelling their trips to Disneyland in the aftermath of this latest accident.
At Disneyland on Saturday, response from park visitors to the closed attraction included confusion and hostility. A family vacationing from Arizona, who were not aware of the most recent accident, questioned the cast member station at the ride's entrance, asking, We thought this reopened months ago!
After the accident, cast members stand at the entrance and tell park guests that the ride is closed for the rest of the night. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Other visitors walked past the closed ride, saying, Oh yeah, someone else died there yesterday, and Look, this one's closed, too! A father and his son stood along a fence outside the ride, trying to determine exactly where the accident had occured.
One angry man confronted a Thunder Mountain cast member, shouting Two times in two yearsyou people better get your act together! Cast members stationed around the ride said that they had been yelled and cursed at. One ride operator looked towards the empty station, and said I'd rather be in there than out here.
[As news become available, MousePlanet will provide updates at our Big Thunder Mountain Accident page. This page also includes our full list of articles from the 2003 accident.]
Keep your thoughts and comments coming about the accident here.
Disney Legend Sam McKim dies
MousePlanet has learned that Disney Legend Sam McKim passed away late last week. Details were not immediately available. McKim, who retired in 1987, was named a Disney Legend in 1996. His story sketches included it's a small world, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, and Haunted Mansion. He may be best known for the many souvenir park maps that he created. MousePlanet will have more on this on Wednesday.
As we noted in last week's Disneyland Park Update, the Big Thunder Ranch Country Picnic is open for business. Although the new location has received rave reviews from cast members who were invited to sample the menu, the spot has not yet caught on with Disneyland visitors. Those who do stumble across the Country Picnic, located along the pathway between Frontierland and Fantasyland, seem surprised to find it there. Cast members outside the location are armed with spray bottles and pin lanyards, trying to attract attention and bring customers into the restaurant.
The ranch hands try to round up some customers. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
For review, the menu includes:
Country Fried Chicken Basket Three savory pieces of chilled Picnic-Style fried chicken (breast with wing and thigh), plus potato salad with dill and a corn muffin with butter. $9.99 plus tax.
Cast members tell us that the fried chicken comes from the Plaza Inn, where it is chilled and then sent to the Village Haus in Fantasyland to be packed into the picnic lunches.
Grilled & Chilled Vegetable Platter A balsamic glazed grilled medley of portobello mushrooms, caramelized carrots, whole scallions, sweet & hot roasted peppers, zucchini and sweet cherry tomatoes served chilled atop sweet lemon-basil rice. Includes corn muffin with butter. $9.99 plus tax.
Country Fried Chicken Drumstick (child's meal) Served Picnic-Style chilled in a Cook'd Up Comics Box with baby carrots or Ants on a Log (cream-cheese-stuffed celery sticks with raisins). Comes with juicy watermelon slice, plus milk or juice and color-changing fun straw. $5.99 plus tax.
PB&J (child's meal) Served in a Cook'd Up Comics Box with baby carrots or Ants on a Log (cream-cheese-stuffed celery sticks with raisins). Comes with juicy watermelon slice, plus milk or juice and color-changing fun straw. $5.99 plus tax.
The PB&J is a Smucker's Uncrustables sandwich, still in the original packaging.
Favorite Picnic Fixin's
- Country Caramel Apple Pie, $4.59 plus tax
- Granny's Pound Cake with Strawberries/Cream, $5.49 plus tax
- Walloping Watermelon Wedge, $3.49 plus tax
- Ugly Bug Krispie, $3.29 plus tax
- Assorted Bottled Soft Drinks, $2.59 plus tax
The first stop is the self-service soda cart. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
When you enter the location, you are directed up the trail a ways until you reach one of two ice-filled carts stocked with bottled soft drinks and watermelon slices. Place your selections onto one of the numbered pails stacked nearby, and take them to the cashier, who takes your food order. If you order a chicken dish, the cashier reminds you that this is chilled chicken, not hotone wonders how many complaints they have had.
Once you have placed your order, the cashier invites you to sit at one of the picnic benches, and places your pail in clear view. Your meal is served by one of the ranch hands, who carries the pre-packed meals in a wicker basket to your table.
It's a very nice presentation, and the country picnic theme is evident in everything from the picnic baskets and pails to the checked paper basket liners, printed with black ants.
Picnickers have four pre-packaged meals to choose from. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
A few regular visitors wandered past the location Saturday afternoon and expressed delight that the former Big Thunder Ranch BBQ location had reopened, although they unanimously wished that the old menu had returned as well. One couple decided to stop in for the Walloping Watermelon Wedge, and pronounced it, Sweet, but so overpriced! (One half of a two-inch thick cross-section sells for $3.49 plus tax.) The fried chicken received high marks, with one diner commenting on how tender it still was, despite being chilled. The strawberry pound cake dessert was large enough for one family to split.
Pocahontas and Meeko play follow the racoon with young picnic-goers. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Although the Big Thunder Ranch Country Picnic is not designated as a character meal location, visitors can frequently find Pocahontas and Meeko, playing games with the younger diners.
The location is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., through Monday, September 6.
Alice, new and improved
The Alice in Wonderland ride in Fantasyland has a new look following its recent refurbishment. Most noticeably, the ride's wheelchair-accessible entrance has been relocated. Riders now enter through the redesigned exit queue, located in the walkway between Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Tea Party rides.
Alice in Wonderland has a new wheelchair-accessible entrance. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Prior to this change the accessible entrance was along the east side of the ride, and was blocked during parades. The ride sports enhanced exterior lighting, and a bright new paint job.
Disney Princess Tea
To coincide with the release of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood is again the site for a post-film Princess Tea. After watching the movie at the El Cap theater, guests will be escorted across the street to the Hollywood & Highland Annex Ballroom for a Disney Princess Tea party featuring Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and Belle.
The El Capitan theater hosts the Disney Princess Tea. Promotional artwork copyright Disney, used with permission.
The menu is described as elegant tea cuisine, prepared by Wolfgang Puck and his award-winning pastry chef Sherry Yard. Activities including tea etiquette, crafts, electronic games and plenty of photo opportunities. Disney is encouraging guests to come dressed as their favorite Disney princess.
A display for the new film and tea stands in the esplanade between Disneyland and DCA. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-DISNEY6 (1-800-347-6396). Before you go, be sure to read MousePlanet's review of the first Princess Diaries tea event (link).
Platinum Edition Cinderella DVD
Although various release schedules show Cinderella as not being available until 2007, work seems to be well underway on the project. MousePlanet reader Ryan O. found himself staring at five potential DVD covers during a recent online Disney survey. Either Disney works on product covers three years in advance, or the DVD is being released sooner than 2007. Could it be possible that Disney has moved the release date forward by a bit so that the DVD could be released during Disneyland's 18-month 50th anniversary window?
One of these five different covers may eventually grace the cover of the Platinum Edition DVD. All images ©Disney.
Ears to the ground
Marie Osmond, entertainer and doll designer, will be at Disneyland on Saturday, July 24 to present the latest addition in her Pin Trader doll series, the Canoe Explorer Host. The doll is limited to an edition size of 1,000 and will be offered for $130, plus tax. More information is available at the Disney Gallery Web site (link).
Got any interesting news or rumors? Contact us here.
Note: Disneyland is progressively closing more and more attractions as the park readies for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2005.
- Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through closed indefinitely. (No longer listed on park maps or the Disneyland Web site)
- Space Mountain closed through 2005.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad closed indefinitely, pending results of the DOSH inspection.
Disney's California Adventure
- Superstar Limo closed indefinitely. (No longer listed on park maps or the Disneyland Web site)
- Sleeping Beauty Castle closes mid-July September 18.
- Aladdin's Oasis closes July 30 March 12, 2005.
- Plaza Pavilion closes July 30 March 12, 2005.
- Enchanted Tiki Room closes July 30 March 12, 2005.
- Snow White's Scary Adventures closes August 23 September 11.
- Star Tours reduces capacity, as each of the four cabins rotate through refurbishment September 722.
- Haunted Mansion closes September 7 October 1 for installation of Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. Closed January 1025, 2005 for removal of Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay.
- Maliboomer reduced capacity (2 of 3 towers operating) November 125, January 322, 31, 2005 March 12, 2005.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds closes September 13 November 24.
- Jumpin' Jellyfish reduces capacity January 21, 2005 March 5, 2005.
Disneyland Resort Hotels
- Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom closed July 216.
- Disneyland Hotel Convention Center lobby, upper level & lower level closed July 16 September 1.
Note: Refurbishment schedules are estimates only. All information is subject to change without notice. To get the most recent updates, call Disneyland at (714) 781-7290.
- Marie Osmond: Adora Beau Canoe Explorer Pin Trader Doll Product Release Saturday, July 24, 2004
- 2004 Haunted Mansion Holiday Event Thursday, September 30.
- CHOC Walk this fun-walk through Disneyland park is a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of Orange County (link). Sunday, October 3. [Note: MousePlanet staff invites all readers to walk this event as a group. Keep your eye here for details.]
- MousePlanet's MouseAdventure quest-and-adventure event a Sunday in October. [Read more about MouseAdventure here, and be reminded of it by sending e-mail here.]
- Disneyland closed on May 4, 2005 to put the finishing touches on the 50th Anniversary celebration. DCA open on May 4.
- Disneyland's 50th Anniversary celebration begins May 5.
Discounted park hopper tickets for Annual Passholders
Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders can purchase 2-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper tickets for a reduced rate of $79 ($59 for ages 3 to 9). The tickets are available for purchase through Thursday, September 30, 2004.
Please note that the tickets expire on October 13, 2004, or 13 days after first use, whichever comes first. The first use must occur on the date of purchase.
Some Annual Passholders have received a postcard about this special offer in the mail. Passholders can hand the postcard to friends and family, who can then use it to purchase up to 5 of the discounted tickets without the Passholder even being there.
McDonald's Tower of Terror early admission voucher
The Disneyland Resort and McDonald's have a cross-promotion based on the new Tower of Terror ride. McDonald's customers who order a Big Mac Extra Value Meal by July 18 receive a voucher for early admission to Disney's California Adventure (DCA) to ride the Tower of Terror one hour before the park opens.
Each voucher is good for one person, and valid DCA admission is required: you can't just pop in for the extra hour without buying a DCA ticket.
Vouchers are designated for July, or August, and distributed chronologically at participating McDonald's while supplies last. Each voucher may be redeemed only during the month appearing on the voucher.
Call (714) 781-7290 or Disneyland's promotion Web page (link) for more information.
Thanks to MousePlanet reader Forbin for alerting us to the promotion, and to reader Opus1guy for obtaining the information on this promotion from McDonalds.
50th Anniversary Package
If you book a three-night resort stay at any of the Disneyland Resort hotels during the 50th anniversary promotion, your package includes a four-day Park Hopper ticket, a special 50th anniversary commemorative clock and a Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour.
The 50th Celebration Package is available only for three-night stays, with arrival dates through December 31, 2005. The package can be booked through the Disneyland Web site (link), or by calling (714) 520-5060.
The Disney Treasures offer for APs
Annual Passholders can receive a copy of The Disney Treasures book, worth $60, when they apply for a Disney Visa card. The book will be mailed after the cardholder uses the new account. Apply by phone at 1-800-640-5306, and mention card code 26FF.
Car rental discounts
Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders save up to 20 percent on car rentals from Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental. Restrictions applyget full details and the necessary discount codes on the Annual Passholder Web site (link).
Anaheim Angels tickets
Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders can save 50 percent off the regular price of tickets for the following home games of the Anaheim Angels baseball team, which plays at nearby Angel Stadium of Anaheim (formerly Edison Field):
- Boston Red Sox: Thursday, July 15, 7:05 p.m.
- Seattle Mariners: Sunday, August 1, 1:05 p.m.
Prices are: Terrace Box, $12.50 (reg. $25); Lower View Box, $7.50 (reg. $15); and Upper View, $6 (reg. $12).
Although there is no limit to how many tickets a passholder can purchase, you must use mail or fax in the order form provided at the Annual Passholder Web site, and you cannot purchase these tickets online or obtain them at the ticket window on the day of the game. See the passholder Web site for details (link).
AAA-Disney's Resort Magic Packages
If you are a AAA member, you can take advantage of these packages that include hotel nights and theme park tickets, along with extra ammenities:
- Accommodations at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, the Disneyland Hotel, or Disney's Grand Californian Hotel
- Disneyland Resort Hotel self-parking and Fitness Center access
- Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Ticket valid for entry into Disneyland park and Disney's California Adventure park with full park-hopping privileges
- Free ESPN Zone Arena Game Card $10 value (one per person)
- Collect Fastpass tickets for multiple attractions at one time.
- Preferred seating at a choice of select shows in DCA
- An exclusive Walt Disney Travel Company collectible pin and lanyard (one per person)
- An exclusive Walt Disney Travel Company California Fun Book (one per package)
- An exclusive Disneyland Resort Magical Pocket Guide (one per package)
Sample prices include:
AAA Disney's Resort Magic: Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel for two nights from $269/adult, $127/ages 10-17, $97/ages 3-9
AAA Disneyland Resort Good Neighbor Magic: Jolly Roger Hotel for two nights from $193/adult, $127/ages 10-17, $97/ages 3-9
These packages require a minimum two-night hotel stay, and are good for travel from August 29 to November 21 and November 28 to December 23, 2004. You can book this package through your local AAA affiliate travel agent.
Disney's AAA Passport Plus Package 2004
If you don't need a hotel room, the Passport Plus Package offers AAA members a discount on Park Hopper tickets, and comes with extra benefits:
- Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Ticket
- $10 ESPN Zone Arena Game Card
- Preferred Seating at select shows in Disney's California Adventure Park
- California Diamond Fun Book (one per package)
- Free parking at Disneyland Resort Theme Parks
- 5-day: $129 (children: $99)
- 6-day: $159 (children: $129)
- 7-day: $184 (children: $149)
An additional handling fee of $10 is charged per mailing address. These tickets are available to AAA members only when purchased through AAA offices.
AAA ticket offers
For shorter stays, AAA offers 2- and 5-day tickets for the Disneyland Resort:
- 2-day adult Flex Passport $98 (children: $78)
- 5-day adult Flex Passport $129 (children: $99)
These tickets include free parking (the back of the passports note the free parking, so you will need the passport with you when you park your car).
The Southern California CityPass booklet includes admission to five separate entertainment options:
- 3-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Ticket
- 1-day ticket to Sea World Adventure park
- 1-day ticket to either the world-famous San Diego Zoo or San Diego Wild Animal Park
- 1-day ticket to Knott's Theme Park (includes a free Knott's Berry Farm T-shirt with each child's City Pass)
The CityPass is $172 ($129 for children).
You can purchase the Southern California CityPass with Walt Disney Travel Company packages. Instead of the Disneyland Resort Park Hopper ticket currently included in California packages from the Walt Disney Travel Company, guests can select a Southern California city for an additional charge of $47 per pass ($32 per pass for children 3 through 9).
Note: The Southern California CityPass does not include the $10 ESPN Zone Arena Game Card, or the California package's feature that allows guests to collect multiple Fastpass tickets at once for free in advance.
DCA: Disney's California Adventure
Annual Pass blockout dates:
- SL Southern California Select Annual Pass. Completely blocked.
- SC Southern California Annual Pass. Completely blocked.
- DX Deluxe Annual Pass.
Visit our Annual Passholders Blockout Dates 2004 page to see more dates.