Reviving Sleeping Beauty

by David Koenig, contributing writer
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Late last week, a construction wall appeared around the long-locked exit to the diorama inside Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Imagineers and construction workers were spotted entering and exiting the space, which was closed nearly seven years ago due to post-9/11 terrorist fears.

While the on-site Imagineers remained mum, some construction workers revealed that the work is to restore the Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough.

The challenge, as was encountered in bringing back the subs, lies in affordably restoring what was basically left to rot for the better part of a decade. The damage evidently was more than neglect. Entertainment Show Services reportedly abused the castle interior and demolished entire sections of the walkthrough so that elements for the “Remember” fireworks show could be installed.

No completion date has been announced, but considering the amount of work that needs to be done, don’t expect anything till the latter part of the year. Perhaps in time for the movie’s 50th anniversary on January 29?

Red-Hot Monorail

Back in 1957, the marvel of Tomorrowland’s House of the Future was a microwave oven that could bake a potato in three minutes. Today’s Tomorrowland, with a brand-new “House of the Future” at Innoventions, is unveiling a similar futuristic marvel: a Monorail that can bake a guest in three minutes.

Disneyland has two brand-new Mk VII Monorails running around the track, Red during park hours and Blue after hours, furiously trying to work out the final kinks. Alas, the fixes have been endless:

  • A chassis so bulky that it crashed into the beamway.
  • A steering system with a flawed design.
  • Windows that began falling out due to glue failure, requiring a bolted redesign.
  • Problematic safety sensors.
  • And, most uncomfortably, poor air circulation, thanks to not-fully-opening windows and air-conditioning-less cabins.

“Despite what people have said, there is no A/C except in the nose and tailcone,” confirmed one cast member. “There are ventilation fans in each of the passenger cabins. However, the fans are not strong enough to keep the cabins at a comfortable temperature for humans—unless you are visiting from the planet Venus. The windows of the Mk VIIs open from the bottom and swing out... unlike past monorails where the windows slid down like an automobile’s. But the windows of the Mk VIIs do not swing out enough to allow for adequate ventilation. Add this all together, and you get an oven on a sunny day.

“The idea of adding A/C to the cabins has been ruled out,” he continued. “It would add weight to an already overweight train. And the electrical load put on the track will be too high to accommodate three monorails.”

How the designers wound up with semi-closed cars is confusing, considering the park’s near-50 years of operating experience. The original 1959 Mk I had full-open windows, to which were added winter closing windows and safety bars. The Mk III introduced roll-down windows, similar to the Mk V.

And many old-timers who designed, built and operated the Monorail’s earlier incarnations are a phone call away. None, of course, was consulted on any facet of the Mk VIIs’ design or construction. Sure, several notables have been given cursory tours of the shiny new vehicles and invitations to the big grand opening ceremony, originally planned for February. Those invitations still don’t have a date on them.

Indiana Jones & The Big Squeeze

The most congested acreage in all of Disneyland is probably the several hundred square feet between the Jungle Cruise and the Adventureland Bazaar, that leads to Tarzan’s Treehouse and the Indiana Jones Adventure. Interestingly, this is the exact spot Entertainment selected to stage its “Random Acts of Indy” mini-stunt-shows. Certainly the action bits are brief and blend perfectly with the Adventureland backdrop.

Yet, observed one cast member, “guests stopping in the middle of the paths to watch the chase completely halt all traffic in the area. That and the guests looking around Adventureland with their Indy Treasure Maps. So far, it has not affected the traffic flow too much, but it has been fairly slow. Ask any cast member, and they will tell you that Entertainment Planning is out of touch in what goes on in the park.”

Cast members are concerned, however, what will happen when huge crowds begin arriving this summer. Management, however, is more concerned if huge crowds will arrive this summer...

Pixie Bust

Cast members at The Star Trader in Tomorrowland now have a new weapon to fight shoplifters: magic wands. Each store entrance is equipped with sensors that trigger a “beep, beep” alarm if they detect any merchandise that has not been scanned.

Instead of having to frisk guests who set off the alarms, cast members have been armed with wands they can pass over shopping bags and bodies to track down unscanned items.

They just have to remember to not display tagged merchandise too close to the doorways.

The Year of a Million Dreams, Minus One

Overheard by a cast member trying to assauge a verbally abusive guest: “Dreams do come true here. But don’t expect miracles!”