Disneyland Resort Update: Post-Star Wars Catch-Up Edition

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA

Happy birthday, Disneyland! Today, Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom turns 2^6, and we celebrate by checking back in at the Disneyland Resort for the first time in a little while. We haven’t done an actual update post since before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened, so we’ve got a lot of things to catch up on. Multiple attractions and amenities have opened since our last update, so lets run back and check out what’s happened since we got lost out in Batuu!

Pixar Pals Parking Structure Opens

A few weeks ago, the Pixar Pals parking structure finally opened, unlocking another 6500 parking stalls or so for the anticipated horde of people who are expected to flood the Resort to check out Galaxy’s Edge. That flood… hasn’t actually happened yet, for reasons we’ll get into at the end of the update. But the added parking has been a help, because even without a new themed land, the Disneyland Resort was already struggling with parking and often filling up to capacity.

The Pixar Pals structure is a beauty, though. Stylish, elegant, and with some pretty fantastic nighttime lighting, it has helped streamline and increase capacity of security, tram loading, and parking. Though not everything is complete, what’s there is already a breath of fresh air. Expanded security and tram loading is greatly welcome. Parking sensors will be a big help when they’re fully functional and tied to signage indicating the locations of open stalls. The bridge across Magic Way has been installed, and work is progressing on a pathway along Disneyland Drive that will take pedestrians from the parking structure directly to Downtown Disney without having to cross vehicular traffic. That will be a terrific enhancement in safety and efficiency.

Lets check out what the Pixar Pals have brought!

Downtown Disney Displays

Over in Downtown Disney, the summer has brought some new and pretty adorable floral centerpiece displays in the planters throughout the shopping District. They’re perspective illusions that come together only from certain angles, revealing abstracted Disney characters in various poses. These are fun to explore and look for, and if you’re not sure where exactly to stand to get the correct angle, look for the Mickey Mouse shoe prints on the ground to provide the correct viewing perspective.

Marvel Land Construction

Work on the Spiderman attraction of next year’s Marvel Land continues. The structural steel has been topped off, and crews are moving onto light gauge framing to build out the exterior walls and envelope. As a result, the building is now behind tarp and scaffold, though during the day, it’s fairly easy to see through the fabric and monitor progress.

Work is moving more slowly in the back area of Marvel Land, where Flik’s Fun Fair used to reside. There’s still a lot of dirt, with more land clearing occurring.

Tale of the Lion King

For the summer season, Disney California Adventure has debuted a new outdoor, live theatrical stage show that retells the story of the Lion King. Clearly done to help promote the “live action” (I mean, it’s 100% CGI, so I’m not really sure this can be called live action—photorealistic if anything, but there isn’t even one actual live character) movie that opens tomorrow, it’s an energetic and fun-looking show that takes place at the stage in Paradise Park.

Unfortunately, last Friday was the in the throes of our first heat wave of the summer, so the show was actually cancelled “due to inclemental weather” when I stopped by. Not closed was a merch booth directly in front of the Little Mermaid ride. After all, Disney will never miss a chance to hawk merchandise.

Inside Out: Emotional Whirlwind Opens

While “Star Wars Land” was garnering all the attention last month, another attraction also finally opened across the Esplanade. Inside Out: Emotional Whirlwind debut as the final piece of Pixar Pier. Yes, more than one year after it officially opened, Pixar Pier is now officially complete.

The attraction is a retheming/reskinning of Flik’s Fun Flyers. Guests ride one of several giant memory orbs and spin around as Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger process their reactions to this centrifugal attraction. It’s cute for the relatively simple ride that it is, and is colorful and charming in and of itself. It just doesn’t match the rest of Pixar Pier at all, and it’s fairly obvious that the designers were hamstrung by budget in terms of what they could do with the ride. On the other hand, it does bring back another family-friendly attraction in a park that is largely limited on them—especially after Flik’s Fun Fair’s removal took out four of them.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Opening… Not Even That Soon

Last week, the opening date of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was also finally announced. It is… Friday, January 17, 2020. Yeah… next year. Walt Disney World will actually debut theirs before us—on Thursday, December 5th of this year (and also Walt Disney’s birthday). So in a way Galaxy’s Edge will have a bit of Pixar Pier syndrome in that it won’t be fully complete for a significant amount of time after it’s official open.

Of course, Galaxy’s Edge is much more beautiful, detailed, immersive, cohesive, and immersive than Pixar Pier. But still, it’s a little disappointing to know that the marquee attraction of Disneyland’s largest expansion ever won’t actually be available to the public until seven and a half months after its land opened.

Patriotic Park Vibes

In other news, the red white and blue motifs were still up at Buena Vista Street and Main Street, left there since Memorial Day and carried through Independence Day. The ambiances look great with these patriotic decorations!

About Those Crowds…

There was a lot of fuss and consternation over the unusually low crowds that settled upon the Disneyland Resort parks last month. Initially, it was thought that the reservations-only management of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge had resulted in an unforeseen side effect of all non-reservation holders staying away from the parks, for fear of crowds. And yet, after Galaxy’s Edge opened to all guests on June 24th, the crowds and wait times continued to remain low—historically low, even! Could this mean that Galaxy’s Edge was a failure????

Well, if you subscribe to Disney tabloid theory, yes. But of course, that’s sensationalism and dramatization, motivated by the desire to increase clicks and views and thus revenue. In truth, the low crowds have been due to a combination of circumstances creating a bit of a perfect storm:

  • The vast majority of annual passholders are blocked out until the end of August. Right now, only Signature and Signature Plus (and Premiere) passholders can visit the parks. Deluxe and below are blocked out Disneyland. While they can go to California Adventure (which has seen longer average lines than Disneyland), many are likely waiting to be unblocked from Disneyland to visit.

  • A much hyped, brand new expansion has also created a backlash of people staying away from the parks in fear of crowds that are turning out not to materialize. Remember the first Carmageddon a few years ago? Officials warned people to stay off the freeway when the I-405 was being closed for a weekend for the demolition of the Mulholland Drive bridge, and they repeated the ad campaign so much that even people who were not planning on driving anywhere near the site ended up staying home just to be safe. For out-of-town visitors and non-passholders who cannot just show up at the parks on a whim, this has meant that trips that they might have planned for the summer have been pushed back.

  • Disney has also managed the opening of the new land very efficiently, and its lone attraction is an extremely high capacity ride. People were referencing the initial 20-30 minute waits for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run as evidence that the ride wasn’t as successful as hoped, but in reality, Disney cut back heavily on the number of people allowed into Galaxy’s Edge during the reservation-only period, in order to ease beginning operations. The ride’s high capacity was able to process those guests who were allowed pretty quickly. And even after the land was open to everyone, the decrease in general attendance due to the aforementioned factors meant that even increases in Smugglers Run wait times weren’t really that large.

  • Some guests may be waiting until Rise of the Resistance opens before visiting, so that they can get the full experience without having to come back in less than a year. Obviously, not the Passholders, but for the rest of the public that visits Disneyland only once a year or two or three or five or even in a lifetime, it makes more sense to just wait.

With word getting out about less-than-expected crowds, Disney relaxing cast member sign-in’s, and the park’s introduction of an “Annual Passholders can bring a friend to one park for one day for only $99” promotion (running through the end of August), plus the full summer break upon Southern California, the crowds have actually picked back up over the past few weeks. Although one can find sporadic below-average waits still, there are certainly plenty of rides with queues that are as long as people are used to.

The real test of whether Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is as much of a draw as Disney hopes will come at the end of next month, when Deluxe, SoCal, and SoCal Select passholders are allowed to visit. If crowds remain light, then we can start to talk about Disney’s investment.

That wraps up our update for today! As the Resort wraps up a large number of its projects, we’ll ease up on our construction update frequency.

There are still some works to monitor, though. Marvel Land will continue until next year, and there are still some Project Stardust items to work on at The Hub. There are still the incomplete elements of the parking structure promenade and bridge. At some point, construction for Mickey’s Runaway Railway should start in Mickey’s Toontown (though that might be largely hidden from public view, due to where the attraction site will be). Next month’s D23 Convention should reveal more projects for the next few years too. After all, as Walt said, Disneyland will never be completed.

Which is good, since it gives us content to continue to publish.


Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.