Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
Cheers, folks! After the dark and spooky tone of last week's updates from Midsummer Scream, we return to connotations of bright and happy and cheery and magical with a trip back to Disneyland for a look at what's happening at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. This update meant to happen last week, to keep up to date on the returns of the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America attractions, but I didn't make it over last week. Thus, you get it this week instead. Good? Great. Lightspeed ahead!
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Work continues to focus on the Millennium Falcon and First Order attraction buildings and their connected structures along the Disneyland Drive side of the future "Star Wars" Land. The build out on the Millennium Falcon building finally seems to be making its way over the ride footprint to touch the First order show building, while concrete-framed non-actual-attraction-parts continue to grow.
For the first time since we started doing these "Star Wars" Land updates, we do not have our sweeping panorama from the southeast corner of the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure. Instead, we get an overview from the northeast side.
Facade refurbishments continue on the Mickey and Friends structure, so the stairs at my usual overview spot were blocked off when I visited.
But as you can see from this view, the steel construction at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge keeps chugging along!
The Millennium Falcon building has made some good progress since a couple of weeks ago.
The steel framing for those future mountains has grown. Should be fun to see how far along this eventually stretches.
On the right half of the picture, you can see more columns and beams have gone up since last time. This should cover those two circular footprints of the Mission: Space-esque Millennium Falcon ride.
Over at the massive First Order building, metal stud framing continues along. Slowly.
Lets pan right.
Roof decking has gone up at the double height component of the structure.
The roof is starting to get a little packed too.
Peeking inside a bit, you can see how the former "pit" area now sits in relation to the whole building.
More secondary bracing for a massive double height set. As Westcoaster reader, Adam M. pointed out, this could be an Imperial hangar bay. Or something else?
Moving outside the ride portion of the building, those concrete walls keep going up.
Things are starting to get roofs / enclosures overhead!
Some pads have been placed on the roof here, with what kind of look like bolt extensions for column plates or some type of tall fixture. But kind of hard to tell at this distance exactly.
Meanwhile, back to that main roof...
A lot of ducts waiting to be installed, and big, heavy air conditioning equipment to keep this massive ride cool.
How soon before we see actual cladding to start sealing up the building envelope on this side?
They seem to be setting up more framing down the line.
The framing for the mountains looks pretty darn cool. And later on, you'll see how it looks from inside the park too.
For those of you who have forgotten or have never seen the Cars Land Cadillac Range steel framing, this will eventually look similar, as the mountains of Galaxy's Edge form.
Over on the Hungry Bear side, a bit of quiet after the preparation to get the Disneyland Railroad perimeter looking neat and trim.
The work walls have been moved to the line where they'll stay until "Star Wars" Land opens. You'll see the other side of that wooden work wall further down.
Downtown Disney Construction
Over at Downtown Disney, crews are working around the clock at Splitsville to make up for the late start of construction. I've seen them working at nighttime, so it seems like they're definitely pushing hard to meet the original late 2017 schedule. Also, I noticed a bit of exterior refurbishment at the Grand Californian Hotel.
Construction tarp is up around the structure to minimize dust on this side.
Still open facing Tortilla Jo's, though.
You'd think that the people dining on this balcony deserve more dust mitigation than the pedestrians already shielded by a work wall.
At least it allows for a look in still. And really, it's likely that this side just isn't quite framed out enough to allow for scaffolding and tarps quite yet.
The second floor deck has welded wire fresh ready for concrete to be poured over it (and form a stronger deck that uses concrete and steel to each's advantages).
Starting to get a sense of the interior space here. I'm guessing the central part of the second floor will contain the actual lanes.
The first floor already has walls and counters being framed that would get in the way of a wide bowling alley area.
As of this weekend, Build-A-Bear, Chapel Hats, and Ridemakerz were still open. But for how much longer? A few weeks ago, Disney announced their impending replacement by more dining establishments.
Also, the Grand Californian was getting a bit of refurb work to keep things looking pretty.
Around the Hungry Bear Restaurant
With the return of the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America attractions, the work walls along the Hungry Bear Restaurant have been completely removed, revealing an absolutely lovely, rustic riverside walkway toward a new half half of Hungry Bear dining that connects down to the pathway to prevent a dead end. The Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge work walls have been pushed back to right under the railroad track, providing a much cleaner looking separation between the existing park and its future expansion. As you'll see further down, this is now the same case at the future Frontierland entrances into Galaxy's Edge.
As the pathway from Critter Country was being formed toward Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, some people noted that this would open the Rivers of America up to a new riverwalk area that could be pretty pleasant.
That has proven to be the case, as now, pedestrians can enjoy the water (at the expense of the Hungry Bear diners, who formerly had the waterfront view.
The pathway between the Hungry Bear Restaurant and Rivers of America now leads all the way to the Disneyland Railroad overcrossing, stopping at work walls that separate "Star Wars" Land from the rest of the park.
The new bridge looks nifty. Quite rustic.
The work walls showcase the new waterfalls that are part of the Disneyland Railroad passage along the Rivers of America.
There's also a connection to the upstairs dining terrace of the Hungry Bear.
It's nice, since that prevents this from being a complete dead end.
Yes, this whole corridor is completely changed from just a year and a half ago no, but it's very pretty.
Here's a view from the end of the upper level of the Hungry Bear dining.
And a quick gander from aboard the train, but we'll get back to that later.
The Rivers of America is fully open, though those construction cranes and the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge building prevent a perfect, finished shot from being taken.
But the way background presents itself just around the riverbend is very beautiful.
Those little waterfalls are a very nice touch.
You can see one penthouse of the First Order ride building and the framing for the eventual mountains rise up.
It's great, because with the forced perspective, the peaks of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will end up looking like another background layer of western geology from the Rivers of America side!
And it's so nice to have the Disneyland railroad chugging along the park again!
Along the Galaxy's Edge
What was once behind work walls has now become part of Frontierland again, as the pathways to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge now lead up to the underside of the Disneyland Railroad. This area looks quite nice and presents a new chapter in the ever-evolving history of Frontierland. The little Old West touches are charming and provide a lovely touch to the ambiance. The railroad bridging is pretty iconic too, providing some scenic moments for Disneyland Railroad photography fans.
Lets head over to the former Big Thunder Ranch trail.
You've seen this view before from our update when the trail reopened, but the work walls that previously were located on the right edge of this photo have been pushed back.
This is the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge entrance closest to Fantasyland.
For now, it's a curving dead end.
But it's got some nice frontier touches to make blend in with the rest of Frontierland!
We also get angle back toward Big Thunder Mountain that used to be obscured from the Ranch.
Lets head over toward the other "Star Wars" Land entrance, closer to the Rivers of America side.
Once upon a time, we could spy an Old West post office over the work walls. Now, it's been unveiled!
On the opposite side of the pathway branching off the main trail is this service lane toward the Rivers of America.
Remember that arched bridge from older construction photos? It's actually rather sizable!
This archway will lead into a Star Wars planet never seen before. If the Pacific Wharf entry into Cars Land was spectacular, just imagine how this will frame out!
With the borders of the park now directly touching the perimeter of Galaxy's Edge, that 2019 opening is starting to feel a lot more real!
Looking back at the arched bridge... it's taller than I expected!
See? Humans for scale.
Train for scale too.
A nice little "Big Thunder Ranch" callback and detail. But onto the trains you've been waiting for...
Return of the Disneyland Railroad
Finally, we come upon the return of a classic--the attraction that is arguably the earliest inspiration and inception for a "Disney Land." Last last Saturday, July 30, the Disneyland Railroad reopened after a year and a half of refurbishment and changes to accommodate the footprint of the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. In addition to the first-ever left turn for the attraction, it gained some new and splendid waterfalls along its route, new angles of the relocated Native American village along the Rivers of America, new views of the river in general, and even a refurbished Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World! The turnout for this beloved ride has been pretty significant, with lines at Main Street and New Orleans Square stations in the 40-60 minute range since it opened. Pro Tip: The other two stations are less crowded, for those who want to wait less. Although with the unfortunate Friday breakdown of one of the four engines that were running when the railroad reopened (per a Cast Member), lines may creep up here too, since the Railroad is now already down to only three trains running (the fifth engine is not yet back from refurbishment).
Guests who want to board the Disneyland Railroad on Main Street should expect lengthy waits. On Saturday, the queue was at least 30-45 minutes long here. And remember, during the summer, because of Annual Passholder blockouts, Saturdays are generally quieter than Fridays and Sundays!
New Orleans Square is worse, with the line spilling out to the walkway and waits in excess of 45 minutes, because less people disembark here.
After all, this is the stop right before the Rivers of America updates, if people aren't getting on at Main Street, they're definitely doing so here!
For a shorter wait, however, try the Tomorrowland Station. Because it's tucked away over past the Autopia, less people wander over there. Plus, it's the "last" stop before returning to Main Street, which is less desirable for guests looking for a round circle trip.
But compared to the longer waits at Main Street or New Orleans Square, my wait in Tomorrowland was only 15-20 minutes. It would have been faster if the Railroad was running four engines.
Now aboard the train, guests can apparently see a sight that had previously been gone before the railroad was refurbished.
Once upon a time, this jaguar was a common sight behind the Jungle Cruise, along the railroad. But in recent years, it had been removed. So it was a nifty surprise to see it back!
The view riding over the bridge next to the Hungry Bear.
We get our first signs of wildlife along the Rivers of America.
The new course allows us to get our closest look ever at the Indian Chief greeting riverboat cruisers along the Rivers.
Looking across the water, we see an old keel boat tied up along Tom Sawyer Island.
The old flaming cabin is still there too, though it hasn't been on fire in decades and will never burn again.
The view along the railroad is pretty splendid. The waterfalls and rock formations are lovely!
This railway trestle certainly adds some great character along this part of the park!
Up ahead, we see a glimpse of the relocated Native American village.
And past the rocky outcropping, we get a glimpse of the village from an angle never seen before by the public!
That's kind of cool.
Now we come over the bridge arching over the Frontierland entrance to Galaxy's Edge that is farther away from Fantasyland than the other.
We get a nice view of the buttes of Big Thunder Mountain.
The backside of some mining winches and pulleys doubles as an evacuation area for the train.
Moving over toward the terraced land created for the first Frontierland entrance into "Star Wars" Land that we looked at earlier.
How cute! A little fox and a baby inside a fallen and hollowed out tree trunk!
Skipping past the relatively uneventful Fantasyland-to-Tomorrowland leg of the Disneyland Railroad, we pass Tomorrowland Station and enter the Grand Canyon Diorama!
The diorama has been subtly enhanced by video mapping projections that cast birds flying in the background, weather changes, and slight scenic elements.
The stuffed wildlife is still present and looks great following refurbishment!
It's an adorable look at the wildlife of the Grand Canyon in the romantic feel of Disney's True Life Adventures series.
Things take a turn for the more ominous as the weather changes, though.
Lightening bristles in the background as we pass through a storm.
And a [Pepper's Ghost] lightning bolt even strikes almost too close to comfort!
But soon, the stormclouds part, and a double rainbow appears.
As you can see, the enhancements have been very artfully done.
One wouldn't even notice that anything had changed if one was not familiar with the attraction before.
That was the Grand Canyon as we know it today, but next, we pass into Primeval World, which represents the same lands millions and millions of years ago.
This thrilling display has been a favorite of guests for generations.
Who doesn't like seeing dinosaurs??
I know Tom Bricker certainly approves.
Alas, as history tells us, things do end well for those thunder lizards.
The climactic battle between a Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaur marks the end of Primeval World and the end of the round circle trip before the Disneyland Railroad pulls back into the station!
And if you'd like to take a video ride-through past the Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World, you're in luck! Here's some video I shot this past weekend.
I wasn't able to make it to the park in time to ride the Rivers of America boats to get shots from there, so those will be incorporated into the next Disneyland update. In the meantime, this might be a quieter week after last week's Midsummer Scream flurry. Or maybe not. We'll see. In the meantime, be good to each other.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.