Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA
Folks, we are half a month away from the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Two weeks till Disneyland Park is changed forever. Fourteen days until things get even more crowded.
At this point, everything of “Star Wars” Land that can been seen from the outside world has been built, so after three years of covering demolition and construction, we’re calling this our last official construction update of the upcoming Galaxy far far away. Of course, we have some other news too, from progress on the Pixar Pals parking structure to more Project Stardust work and a few glimpses of the refurbishing Sleeping Beauty Castle. But Star Wars is our leading story today. So for one last time until it opens…
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Once upon a time, we could hardly keep up with the visible progress of Galaxy’s Edge. But over the past year, outward progress has been measured by one rock spire at a time, and most of Batuu’s development has been out of the angle of public view.
From our typical perch at the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, the intrigue has been how much of the framework would be covered to maintain some semblance of an illusion. Unfortunately for Disney purists or perfectionists, the answer is not a lot. Some steel has been covered by rockwork plaster and rock-colored screens, but by and large, it’s a patchwork job. Some of this is understandable—spend money on what the in-park guests sees. But given the prominent angle of the parking structure, where the vast majority of Disneyland guests will be arriving, I can’t help but wish that the designers had done a more 360 enveloping of the spires. Instead, we have something similar to the backside of Expedition Everest at Disney Animal Kingdom, where the illusion of the mountain is completely abandoned.
That’s a big deal to some and not important to others, but I’ve also noticed that, despite their very, very best efforts, there are also a few angles from inside the park where the structural steel supporting those petrified tree spires of Batuu are visible as well. They’re not prominent—one needs to be on the back corner of the Rivers of America, aboard the Mark Twain (at least the top level) or Columbia to see it. Or zoom in on a view from across the way of Tarzan’s Treehouse. But for a land that promises to be part of Disney’s most immersive experience ever (I’m holding it to Tokyo Disney Sea expectations), it’s just a liiiiiittle bit disappointing that they couldn’t quite catch all the angles.
That bit of arguably frivolous complaining aside, the place is looking amazing, and I still can’t wait to see inside. Galaxy’s Edge has been testing to employee and VIP previews the past couple of weeks, with Millennium Force: Smugglers Run operating as well. And with the exception of some operations questions (natural as they work through these kinks), the place seems to be utterly spectacular.
Pixar Pals Parking Structure
While the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu is getting its finishing touches, work is racing at the Pixar Pals Parking Structure to wrap up construction and open—hopefully in time for when Galaxy’s Edge goes off reservations-only status.
Current work is focused on the architectural elements; the fixtures and accessories related to lighting, technology, and systems; the security screening and tram queueing area; landscape and ground pavement; and prep work for that bridge that will span over Magic Way, allowing a direct walking route into Downtown Disney. In addition, over the past several weeks, Disney has been quietly adding parking sensors to the Mickey and Friends structure, to hopefully facilitate faster parking search after the time in which cast members no longer point automobiles to their parking stall. They’re a zone type that will identify an open spot in the vicinity (within a few stalls), not the ones that point to an exact open spot, but they’ll hopefully help the traffic flow as guests hunt for parking.
As work has progressed, the new loading scheme has become apparently. Permanent back check and metal detector lines are being built—an enormous line of them at least a couple dozen rows wide—at the ground floor of the Pixar Pals structure, with queueing starting at the big, canted overhang that stretches out toward the central escalator promenade between the old and new parking garages. It seems likely that, once open, the Pixar Pals structure will become the main and primary structure that is filled first before cars start parking in Mickey and Friends. The extra wide stairs we’ve seen installed are meant to funnel guests down to the promenade en mass, where they can congregate at the security area. Tram loading will happen inside the structure. The elevator tower located on the Mickey and Friends side appears to be cut off from the security zone, which suggests it might be used more for people leaving and returning to their cars and going up, rather than stroller and wheelchair users going down.
July is the official opening date. We’ll see if the construction crew can beat it! But things are looking pretty nice and exciting—at least to infrastructure nerds like myself.
The Disneyland Resort adopted new smoking policies, stroller restrictions, and other rules at the beginning of this month. Guests have been receiving fliers at the parking ticket booths, while stroller footprint sizes have appeared at every exterior security checkpoint. The rules signs have also been updated to reflect the new policies, which are aimed at reducing congestion and improving guest experiences.
The Hub & Project Stardust
Project Stardust’s goal of eliminating barriers to wheeled carriages continues around The Hub, with an emphasis on Frontierland and Adventureland. As our intern noted last time, the results of some of this have already started getting unveiled. In addition, the famed Adventureland sign is still snapped out of existence. Don’t worry, it will be back. They’re just rebuilding it to eliminate the extra post support structure on the right side that created a bit of a bottleneck.
Sleeping Beauty Castle Makeover
The castle has been peeking out, little by little, over the past couple of weeks. We’re starting to see a bit of how it will look when the whole thing reopens on May 28th. In fact, half of the front tarp came down yesterday, showcasing the facade and the turrets, which look very, very blue and have a starry pixie dust motif on some of them. The fresh paint is very vibrant and looks great (although maybe almost a little “too” new), and the roofing repairs for the castle are long overdue. The new look will be the first redo since the 60th anniversary.
Over in Frontierland, the Frontier Landing structure has also finished its TLC. New paint and some seating on the right side have added a nice, fresh touch to the station, giving guests waiting for the Mark Twain or S.S. Columbia some relaxation.
Return of a Mother’s Day Tradition
This past Sunday, Disneyland was also handing out complimentary carnations to moms going to the parks with their kids. This is actually an tradition that they revived, and it was a pretty neat sight and gesture.
That wraps up today’s update. It’s actually kind of a half-update, because I also have a bunch of photos from California Adventure and Downtown Disney that would have pushed this update to nearly twice its average number of photos (which, I know, is already a lot).
Before we sign off, I want to just express some thoughts about upcoming crowds at the Disneyland Resort. The expectation is that the parks will be exceptionally busy this summer and possibly into the fall and beyond, due to the excitement over “Star Wars” Land. Now, it’s quite possible that the hype might be exaggerated, and Resort congestion won’t be as bad as expected. After all, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Hollywood a few years ago, the park attendance actually ended up less than expected that summer. Perhaps so many people decided to stay away in fear of the expected crowds that they actually cancelled out the fans who were all too excited to go.
But if things pan out as expected, I really hope that the Resort can make sure to fully staff in full anticipation that every day will be a peak day—especially those days with the least number of Annual Passholder blockouts. Peak times should be extended. And things like parking and security check shouldn’t be pared down. Things I hope to see:
Synchronize the traffic lights on Ball Road between Cast Place and Disneyland Drive. For years, the westbound route has backed up because when the light is green at Cast Place, it’s often red at Disneyland Drive, and vice versa, and the left turn lane to Disneyland Drive is backed up. I’ve noticed that recently, they’ve started implemented a second series of left turn green each cycle, but it’s not consistent.
Don’t skimp on the number of open parking booths. There will be a lot of people coming throughout the day, and especially on afternoons for local passholders. Open more gates so the line doesn’t back out onto Disneyland Drive.
One metal detector per bag check line. This is probably my biggest pet peeve. It used to be the lack of a bagless security line, but ever since metal detectors were installed, the clear bottleneck has become the merge point between two bag check lines funneling into the metal detector. It’s even worse if the detector goes off, and a security guard has to hand wand a guest. Give every bag check its own metal detector and be done with it. I’m hoping the Pixar Pals entry point is doing this (it kind of looks that way), but the other Resort entry points at Downtown Disney, the Disneyland Hotel, and the Esplanade East / Toy Story Lot should implement this as well.
No bag line. Really, this should be a regular thing by now, not just something provided when crowds are at their busiest.
No doubt there will be learning curves and struggles with the crowds no matter how well preparations are. But the above items have been issues I’ve observed at the Resort for years, even on moderately crowded days. I’m hoping that with Galaxy’s Edge opening, Disney goes above and beyond to make sure the guest experience isn’t ruined before it even starts.
In the meantime, may the Force be with us all. Always.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.