Disneyland Park Updateby Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
Update for January 17-23, 2006
Go directly to: News & Views | Current Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Park Events | Discounts/Promotions | Park Schedule/Blockout Dates
A slow news week at Disneyland as things finally start to settle down into something resembling an off-season.
River Belle expansion
In July 2003 (link) we first reported the rumor that River Belle Terrace in Disneyland might be getting complete makeover (warning, going to that old old Park Update will cause flashbacks of the X-Games at DCA). Then last August (link) we put out the word that the project appeared to be approved for late 2006.
The complete reconstruction of River Belle Terrace into a larger two-story restaurant with improved views for Rivers of American and Fantasmic is still on course to begin after the 2006 summer season, as early as September but possibly as late as the end of October. Recent word indicates that this project will be the death of Bengal BBQ as the reconstruction will eat up that space to give more room to the redesigned restaurant. It may also cut into the space occupied, or completely close, the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost store.
It turns out that River Belle Terrace is a place with quite and appetite for barbeque. Back in 1961, the restaurant was known as Aunt Jemima Pancake House when a project began to expand it to the current size. As part of that expansion, it consumed the space occupied since 1957 by Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue. So this will be the second time River Belle Terrace has eaten up a neighboring BBQ stand. For more information on the under-remembered Silver Banjo, see Werner Weiss's page at Yesterland.com (link).
Being only 15 years old, Bengal BBQ probably isn't deserving of protection as a historic landmark at Disneyland (perhaps as a sign of its relative value, neither Bengal BBQ nor the previous occupant, "Sunkist, I Presume," are listed in Dave Smith's nearly encyclopedic Disney A-Z), but the menu of meat skewers has a strong following, and not only because the food is good but because Bengal BBQ offers one of the few truly unique choices in the park. Hopefully a place can be found elsewhere in the park for them.
From the point of view of Adventureland, this will be a bit of a hit as the already small area is further marginalized with the Tiki Juice Bar and a fruit stand becoming the only food options in the land. No doubt, this will increase calls for management to revive Aladdin's Oasis into the restaurant it once was. On the plus side, it isn't hard to imagine that removal of the Bengal BBQ queues and diners will help greatly with foot traffic through Adventureland. Currently, the Adventureland/Frontierland/New Orleans Square intersection can become uncomfortably congested, even on moderately attended days.
Lilly Belle on track (literally)
The refurbishment of the Disneyland Railroad's Lilly Belle Presidential car is pretty much complete and as of January 11 could be seen riding the rails at Disneyland. She is attached to Holiday 5 and is being pulled by engine 5, the Ward Kimball. Currently she is running empty, and even VIPs (such as Club 33 members) can't even get a ride. After running for a few weeks she will return to duty as a VIP car. General guests will not be able to get a ride except under special circumstances. The easiest route to a ride will be to take the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour since a trip will be added to that tour.
Purists point out that Walt Disney never rode the Lilly Belle since it was converted into a private car in 1976, after Disney's death. The car had been part of the rolling stock for the Disneyland Railroad since 1955. For a complete history of private cars and Disneyland's Lilly Belle see the wonderful history written for MousePlanet by Steve DeGaetano (link).
The Lilly Belle private car can now be seen pulled behind the Ward Kimball, Engine #5. Photo by Matthew Bassett.
Rod Miller retiring
Ever since Rod Miller first disappeared from his piano bench early last February, people have been asking where he is and when he'll return. He's been through several surgeries hoping to relieve pain from a pinched nerve in his leg. Recuperation was not quick and when the answer to "when will he be back" never got closer than "a few weeks or a couple months," the thought that he might not return at all began to creep in.
Apparently he has made the decision to retire and once his accrued vacation time is up he will officially be in retirement without a return farewell gig at Disneyland's Refreshment Corner.
If this is accurate then it means that an era at Disneyland has ended. Miller had been playing his ragtime at Coke Corner since 1970 and a whole generation grew up spending a quiet evening listening to him only to share that with their own children. Miller, who never learned how to read music and taught himself piano at 19, reportedly knows more than 600 songs from memory and learns new tunes by listening to slowed-down recordings until he has it figured out.
Another shoe drops on Big Thunder
A Telluride, Colorado, family has filed suit against the Walt Disney Company for damages resulting from a July 8, 2004, accident on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction. The Cope family's claim is that following the accident Gerald Cope, the father of the family, suffered back injuries requiring surgery and eventually sale of his jewelry business. Allegedly his wife and two children also suffered soft-tissue injuries and emotional distress. No compensation amount was specified in the suit.
Disneyland spokesman Rob Doughty released this statement: "We have repeatedly asked Mr. Cope for background information so we can evaluate his claimand we have yet to receive it."
The accident in which the Cope family was the third collision incident on the ride in nine months. In September 2003, one train separated and then collided with itself, killing Marcelo Torres and severaly injuring a friend. Only weeks after the ride finally reopened, there was a minor collision between two trains in April 2003; the trains were unoccupied and nobody was injured. In the July 8 incident, involving the Cope family, a train returning to the loading platform incorrectly entered on the side still occupied by a just-loaded train, causing a collision that sent three people to the hospital (it is unknown whether Mr. Cope is the 42-year-old male reported at the time to have required hospitalization). The ultimate report from the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health pinned the cause on operator and software errors.
No reasoning has been offered for waiting more than 18 months before filing a lawsuit but it seems likely that part of it was to wait for resolution of the lawsuits resulting from the September 2003 incident. The Cope family is represented by Christopher R. Aitken, an attorney with the Beverly Hills lawfirm of Aitken, Aitken & Cohn (the firm was founded by Wylie Aitken, apparently Christopher's father). Christopher Aitken and his firm are well experienced in litigation involving Disney, not only did they represent the family of Marcelo Torres in their wrongful death suit (recently settled out of court with Disney admitting responsibility) but also represented Lieu Thuy Vuong after she and her husband, Luan Phi Dawson, were both struck by a cleat torn loose from the Sailing Ship Columbia. Dawson was killed in the incident and Vuong severaly injured. The resulting lawsuit was settled for an estimated $25,000,000.
Disneyland Alumni DVD
The Disneyland Alumni Association has asked for our help in getting the word out about a DVD from their 50th Anniversary banquet. We're only too glad to help.
As noted in the last Disneyland Alumni Club newsletter, the response to our 50th Anniversary Banquet has been tremendous. With the help of all who worked on this event and then the response from those who attended has led to the creation of the "50th Anniversary Reunion Celebration 2-DVD Set." The support in this project for the club starts at the top with the participation and filming of Roy Disney for the new feature to be included "The Making of a Disneyland Alumni Reunion" to the interview of Matt Ouiment, President, Disneyland Resort, and much, much more!
At this time members of the alumni club should have received via mail an order form for this once-in-a-life-time experience captured on film. This very special keepsake DVD set is only being offered for a short time. There will be only a one-time limited edition production of the DVD set based on orders received (no limit on orders).
If you did not receive an order form, use the jpg order form that is attached to this announcement. It contains more details about the content, out-of-state ordering information, etc.
Also note: we need all orders to be placed February 1 or sooner.
Click here and print the order form and then mail to the address indicated. While the DVDs are meant for the alumni, there are no restrictions on who can order a copy of the DVD.
Garden Grove land grab
This is likely only of interest to the true locals, but the Los Sanchez Mexican restaurant at 12151 Harbor Blvd. (just on the other side of the Crowne Plaza Hotel) will be closing on January 24. The City of Garden Grove used an eminent domain seizure to claim the land for redevelopment according their development plan for that stretch of Harbor Boulevard. The 27-year-old restaurant will close to make room for the construction of a new Sheraton Hotel.
The owners and the city have worked to find a suitable replacement location (though the owners aren't happy with the new off-Harbor address) and despite construction delays (that some are blaming on the city) preventing completion of a new building before closing, the city has given the January 24 deadline and on that day the restaurant will close even though the new location will not nearly be ready to open for business.
This and that...
...The National Association of Music Merchants convention begins this week at the Anaheim Convention Center and will likely cause increased traffic congestion in the area. Be prepared if you'll be travelling around Disneyland on surface streets.
...Names Unravelled, the store next to Village Haus, where you could get the meaning of your name as well as having it put on various souvenirs has closed, and there is no expectation that it will be returning.
...Drawn to Magic, musical show in Disney's California Adventure park that has been performed for the last 18 months or so in front of the Animation Building in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area has been moved. The show will now be performed, six times daily, on the Hollywood Pictures Backlot stage.
"Drawn to Magic" is now showing on the Hollywood Pictures Backlot stage rather than in front of the Animation Building. Photo by David Michael.
...In addition to Blue Bayou closing with Pirates of the Caribbean in March, we're hearing that Cafe Orleans may go down then as well. We had a single-source rumor in a Park Update last November saying that the restaurant would be converted to a full-service location. This appears to be the case (if the slightly better sourced rumor is true) and Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans would both reopen in June.
...Big Thunder Ranch will reopen later this month according to signage now in front of the area. In an update, we wondered back after Thansgiving whether the presidentially pardoned turkeys, Marshmallow and Yam, would stay with Disney after the holiday season. It appears that they will indeed, as they can still be seen in their pens. The lifespan of a turkey in captivity is 10 to 12 years, so if they do stay at Disneyland, remind us in September 2015 that we need to write a 10th birthday article for the birds.
...Rancho del Zocalo snuck in a completely new menu (we're not sure if it is really recent or just went unnoticed for a few weeks). The main entrees are: citrus-fired grilled chicken ($9.99), red enchilada platter ($8.99), carne asada and enchilada platter ($10.99), burrito sonora (chicken or beef, $9.99), and tacos monterrey (chicken or beef, $8.99). All are served with rice and beans. A tostada salad ($9.99) and chicken caesar salad ($10.99) are available as well. The dessert selection appears to be pretty much the same.
Rancho del Zocalo's new menu dispenses with the separate food stations with different menus. The replaced menu was only 14 months old. Photo by David Michael.
...For those who like to keep track of Disneyland's restrooms, the "Prince" and "Princess" restrooms in Fantasyland near Alice in Wonderland are closed and getting a complete rebuild (that is, they've been thoroughly gutted down to the 2x4s. Worry not, though, for Disneyland will not be without facilities for royalty as the bathrooms at the Fantasyland Theater have been relabelled (presumably this is a permanent change and not just a sign that someone in management was worried the a princess wouldn't know where to pee).
The Fantasyland restrooms near Alice in Wonderland have been completely gutted. Photo by David Michael.
...Downtown Disney's Hoypoloi, a store that sold art works with a focus on glass, has closed. No replacement has been announced but rumors are suggesting something Disney-operated, perhaps a clothing store. We do not know if the Downtown Disney store at Walt Disney World faces a similar fate (Hoypoloi operated three stores: one at Disneyland, one at Walt Disney World, and one in Chicago).
Hoypoloi is now a memory of the past. Rumors suggest a new Disney clothing store may take its place. Photo by David Michael.
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email us here.
- Snow White, An Enchanted Musical closed. On hiatus during off season; expected to return for final season in summer 2006.
- Goofy's Bounce House. Closed permanently as of January 8, 2005. Will be replaced with outdoor toddler playground.
The interior of Goofy's Bounce House has been torn out and the entire queue and garden area is under construction. Photo by David Michael.
- it's a small world closed January 4 18, 2006, to remove holiday overlay.
- Big Thunder Runch/Little Patch of Heaven closed January 4 18, 2006, to remove holiday overlay.
- Haunted Mansion closes January 18 March 9 for removal of the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay and more extensive refurbishments.
- Pirates of the Caribbean closed March 6 June 16, 2006 for major refurbishment and show updates. Must reopen in time for Pirates of the Caribben: Dead Man's Chest in late June (movies opens nationally July 7).
- Blue Bayou Restaurant closed March 6 June 16, 2006 for the duration of the Pirates of the Caribbean closure.
- Cafe Orleans Restaurant rumored to close March 6 June 16, 2006, for redesign into full service restaurant.
- Disneyland Monorail goes into shuttle mode (one way trips only) January 2006. Complete closure for station redesign will not happen until later in 2006.
- River Belle Terrace unofficially to close in September or October 2006 for complete redesign into larger two-story restaurant.
- Bengal BBQ rumored to close permanently in September or October 2006 to provide room for expansion of River Belle Terrace.
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is currently under construction and will open sometime in 2007.
Disney's California Adventure
- Department of Untapped Hilarity (D.U.H.) on hiatus. Might return for the 2006 summer season.
- Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue is currently in soft opening and will officially open January 22.
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail closed January 3 February 28, 2006, for major refurbishment.
- Grizzly River Rapids closed January 30 February 2, 2006 for minor refurbishment.
Note: Refurbishment schedules are estimates only. All information is subject to change without notice. To get the most recent updates, call Disneyland at (714) 7817290.
If you know of any events, official or unofficial, that should be listed here, let us know.
- Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue.: Dedication and grand opening. No word yet on what ceremony may be happening, but it will happen on January 22 and/or 23.
- Lady and the Tramp at the El Capitan. From February 2 - 14. On opening night (February 2) the 7:00 p.m. show will include a panel discussion about the movie though no list has been released of panel members. Tickets can be ordered here.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest premiere: Details unknown but the world premiere is again expected to be held in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. The movie opens July 7 and the premiere will be up to two weeks prior to that.
- Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. September 15-17. For more information and registration see the official Web site (link, warning: horribly annoying embedded music)
DCA: Disney's California Adventure
Annual Pass blockout dates:
- SL Southern California Select Annual Pass
- SC Southern California Annual Pass
- DX Deluxe Annual Pass
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Visit our Annual Passholders Blockout Dates 2005 page to see more dates. You can see future calendar schedules at Disneyland.
Entertainment schedule: Go directly to the Disneyland Resort schedule for this week at Disneyland.com here.