Upheaval at the Opera House

by David Koenig, contributing writer

It’s official. Nostalgia is erasing authenticity.

It was formally announced during last Monday’s “Mickey’s Roll Call” (a fancy term for the daily meeting for managers) that the Bank of Main Street and a portion of the Opera House lobby will become the new Disney Gallery.

The bank’s 1955 interior, complete with hardwood teller windows, has been used primarily for Annual Passholder processing over the last 15 years. It all will be torn out, along with at least half of the Opera House’s lobby. Most of the artifacts from the lobby, including Walt’s offices, are planned to be moved to Disney’s California Adventure, as its entrance corridor and Hollywood area are gradually transformed to recreate the Southern California of Walt’s early days.

For the last six months, the Gallery has been operating in temporary quarters in the Opera House exit. But fans have been pushing for a permanent home ever since it was evicted from its second-story spot in New Orleans Square to make room for the Dream Suite.

After the move, the Opera House exit will revert back to its original, non-commercial self. The AP processing center will be relocated to the Plaza Pavilion, which was another, even-higher-visibility location considered for the new Disney Gallery. The former restaurant facility is receiving new kitchens in the back to serve the New Orleans Square restaurants when their own kitchens go down for rehab. After that, the Plaza Pavilion kitchens will serve as back-ups and for special events.

What hasn’t been approved for the Opera House is bringing back Mr. Lincoln. Several plans are being bandied about, but management is convinced it can’t return Abe as was, with the gimmicky stereophonic “haircut” soundtrack. Hopefully Disney can act quick. It will never again have such perfect marketing tie-ins, with the fast approaching Lincoln bicentennial, President Obama’s continual references to Lincoln, and Steven Spielberg preparing a new Lincoln movie starring Liam Neeson.

However, management might envision its pulling all the Disney stuff out of the lobby and leaving only enough square footage to accommodate the giant model of the Capitol and a few other Lincoln-related exhibits as the first step in bringing back the animatronic emancipator.

Tut, Tut, It Looks Like Rain—Inside the Castle

Imagineering’s Sleeping Beauty Diorama team performed plenty of restoration work to make the castle inhabitable again, after seven years of neglect and trashing by Disneyland’s Entertainment Division to install show props and holiday lighting.

Contractors thought they’d salvaged the space beautifully—until heavy rains hit last month. The castle had to be temporarily closed due to leaks, and quickly patched and the flow of water contained. Unfortunately, the rain stopped before they could confirm that the castle was completely watertight. Next time you visit Disneyland on a rainy day, you might want to use your umbrella inside the attraction.

Farewell, Mk V

Monorail Purple, the last Mk V to run through Disneyland, was removed from service a few weeks ago. The vehicle is now in the Roundhouse, being cannibalized for parts for Orange Mk VII, just as Orange was picked apart for Red VII and Blue VII.

No ceremony was held when old Purple was taken offline for the last time. According to one Roundhouse worker, “WDI was in a rush to get her off and take her apart for spare parts.”   

The major problem with the new Mk VII monorails has been overheating cabins due to poor ventilation. New slide-down windows will be installed later this month, but prototypes were tested last week on Red.

One cast member attributed the temporary windows to last week’s unexpected heat wave.  “The windows were put in as a desperate measure to keep Red running,” he explained. “They were just prototypes that will not be used in the final design.”

But if temperatures reach 80 degrees again, before the monorails can be permanently retrofitted, expect to hike to the Disneyland Hotel.

Next Time: “The Land of the Lost”

Next time, we’ll hunt through Disneyland for reminders of “lost” attractions.