Disneyland Update – Electric Entertainment, Magic Key Blues & Rumors Too18 min read
What a week for Disneyland. Big nighttime entertainment has returned, sparking renewed energy in the parks. Along with the thousands of twinkling lights, character meet and greets are back as well, helping pack the parks. But there’s lots more going on behind the scenes. Everyone wants to know if the Magic Key program is DOA come renewal time this August, and there may be more (or should we say less) to Adventureland’s Treehouse. We have a lot to show you and talk about today. You’ll want to read all the way through to the bottom as we discuss rumors and float some new ones… then please join us for discussion below.
Disneyland Reignites The Night
Friday was a special day. While nighttime entertainment is nothing new to the parks, it was the first time since the parks reopened that Disneyland had both a nighttime parade and fireworks, and DCA had World of Color. And with all that added entertainment capacity, Disneyland could allow a few more guests into the parks via the reservation system (which was booked solid all weekend).
With all those people in the parks, ride waits were long, but not as wild as you might think… mostly because so many guests were busy buying special merchandise or waiting on curbs for the big show.
Waits got longer toward the middle part of the day on Friday and then dropped rapidly as showtime approached.
For the most part, the shows went off without a hitch and cast did their best to control understandably excited crowds. Many of those cast had never worked these shows before and had to wing it with minimal training. So, there were some moments of confusion nearing show time when guests who had been waiting for hours were suddenly moved, or a family was suddenly placed in front of guests who had been waiting for the same spot. But overall, things went pretty smooth and guests seemed thrilled to see old favorite shows return.
And while World of Color and Disneyland Forever Fireworks are just as you remember them, the Main Street Electrical Parade offered new surprises that are getting a mixed reaction.
The parade starts with new drum signage noting the 50th anniversary of Disneyland’s perennial parade.
Then the parade continues for a while mostly as you remember it…
And then a big change wakes you up. A brand new grand finale segment has replaced the To Celebrate America section. The look and feel of the finale is a combination of “it’s a small world” and popular Disney characters in Mary Blair doll style. It’s a visual departure from the rest of the parade, but one that may grow on those who don’t quite get it at first. There’s also a new musical score for the section as well as projections on the buildings of Main Street (and on the facade of “it’s a small world.”).
I’ve heard a lot of people complain about changing a classic parade, but this parade has been in a constant state of change since its debut in 1972 – with units coming and going, music and floats rearranged, and even alternate versions for other Disney Parks. So, it’s not really shocking to see a new unit end the parade for me. If anything, Disney hasn’t done enough to keep this old parade up to date if they intend to keep brining it back year after year.
Unfortunately, unlike the To Celebrate America unit, which employed high-stepping performers, there are no performers in conjunction with the new finale… none. A little extra flair and movement would enhance this segment, perhaps with favorite characters joyfully dancing beside and behind the unit.
But this parade is still comfort food for the soul. It’s a sparkly friend with that infectious Baroque Hoedown meets Disney score. Now… if we could just get Paint the Night back at Disney California Adventure…
Here’s our amazing video of the opening night of the Main Street Electrical Parade’s big return. Take a look and then vote in the poll below to let us know what you think:
Disneyland Forever Fireworks
If you find a good spot on Main Street or it’s a small world mall for the first showing of the Electrical Parade, simply step out into the street after the parade for good viewing of Disneyland Forever fireworks. If you don’t have a good spot already secured, New Orleans Square along the Rivers of America offers some pretty good alternate viewing locations.
I don’t really have much to add about this show because it isn’t new and it’s not my favorite… that spot is reserved for Remember: Dreams Come True from Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. But it is a solid show which checks off a lot of gee wiz effects (projections, lasers, fake snow, inflatables on the rooftops of Main Street, and some fun fireworks shells and shapes).
Here’s my live video of the Disneyland Forever fireworks here:
BE AWARE: fireworks will only be offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for now, with Mickey’s Mix Magic projections (without fireworks) playing the rest of the week. But we do expect fireworks to expand to every night this summer.
World of Color
Another spectacular returned to Disney California Adventure, which will now be showing World of Color seven nights per week. The show has limited viewing space, so it’s important to secure a spot via virtual queue (in your Disneyland app) at noon on the day of your visit (you must already be in one of the two parks with a valid ticket to successfully make a reservation). But the easier way to see the show is to buy a dining package or dessert party spot. Expensive, but a sure thing.
Speaking of the dessert party, it has proven so popular that it sells out instantly when spots become available. We hear that the park is planning to double the available spots for the party by duplicating the current setup on the opposite side of the amphitheater. That should make it a little easier to obtain a reservation… but it does mean fewer spots for guests who aren’t paying extra.
Here’s our video of opening night:
As you can see, the show is just as you remember it. They haven’t added any new scenes or edited out the bits which lag. It remains a beautiful show with a neat technology, but a bit too long and lacking the heart of a classic show like Fantasmic. We’d love to see a completely updated version in the not too distant future. The technology certainly lends itself to reprogramming (and there have been many shows for holidays and special events here over the years, so we know it can be done).
We had heard that there were a few little elements still being worked on which might not make the opening night, but it all looked the same to us, except for that big fire jet (and smoke ring) at the end of the Pirates 4 segment. But we’ve been able to confirm that everything is planned to come back exactly as it was before.
I sure wouldn’t mind if this entire scene were replaced with something new or cut entirely. This spot in the show was originally themed to Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia 2000 and Hellfire from Hunchback, which would be much preferred if nothing new can be created.
For more about the three spectaculars, how to obtain dining packages, dessert parties, what merchandise is available and more, please visit our comprehensive article:
Disneyland Spectaculars Have Returned – Everything You Need To Know!
The new merchandise, popcorn buckets, and sippers have proven to be VERY popular, with the entire collection selling faster than you can say “electro-synthe-magnetic musical sound.”
There were hours-long lines everywhere this past weekend with guests waiting to buy popcorn buckets, snapping items off of shelves in stores, and queuing up for festive treats. It was the sort of mania that only intense nostalgia can conjure. So, when you wonder to yourself why Disney keeps bringing back the Electrical Parade… this is proof of its popularity and staying power.
By Sunday, many items were completely out of stock at the resort. But our contacts tell us not to worry, more merchandise is on the way and many items (such as the Loungefly bags and spirit jerseys) still haven’t made their way to the resort at all and are expected a little later in the season.
There is an option to avoid these lines… many guests flow into the park in the morning and then instantly head to the popcorn cart in Town Square. That’s a mistake that will cost them hours of waiting. Instead, try mobile order.
If you check locations in the mobile order section of your Disneyland App, you may be able to reserve a time to pick up your sipper or popcorn bucket at various locations without much of a wait at all. That’s what we did on Friday.
While the Elliot Dragon popcorn bucket and Turtle Sipper were out of stock for most of yesterday, a new sipper became available… a lightbulb. $16.29 is a lot of money for a non-refillable plastic sipper.
Also, popcorn carts and other outdoor vending locations don’t offer Magic Key discounts, but Plaza Inn and some other dining locations do honor your Magic Key discount on Popcorn Bucket and Sippers.
Just about everywhere that offered the buckets and sippers had very long lines… but not as long as in Town Square.
Magic Key Questions
Rumors spread fast on the internet. The problem is that once everyone starts sharing the same rumor, it’s hard to know what’s true any more. A lot of Dream and Believe Keyholders are concerned that they won’t be able to renew due to a wave of rumors last week.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so stick with me. When the Magic Key program was rolled out last August of 2021, it was almost like the old Passholder program, but with one big difference. Unlike Annual Passes, Magic Keys require park reservations. And that’s the rub. The Dream Key promised 365 days a year of availability, but also required reservations which were not guaranteed. In fact, during the busy Halloween and Christmas season, there was a 3 month period where it was VERY hard to make a park reservation unless you booked weeks or months in advance, all for a $1399 product which promised a whole year of fun. Upset passholders started talking about lawsuits and then Disney did something we haven’t seen them do since California Adventure opened, they “Sold Out” the Dream and Believe Keys. Disney World did the same to some of their top passes as well.
The earliest a Key can be renewed is 45 days before expiration. So we still don’t know what Disneyland will do (though there are a few folks with special circumstances who have renewal dates now and are not being allowed to renew yet). And folks we have spoken to who are close to the program have said that it’s just too soon to know what the calculus will be on park capacity, number of passes, and how many of each type is the right number until the bulk of the renewals gets a little closer. So, no renewals for now, but there may be by the time the August renewals come due. However, there’s more to this…
Disney doesn’t comment on litigation, but those upset keyholders did indeed file suit. And that’s around the time Disney decided to “Sell out” their top tier Keys. At the same time they began giving greater availability to passes/keys and a bit less to day tickets so keyholders would have an easier time making reservations. We don’t think that’s a coincidence. But it would make sense that Disney wants to resolve any legal liability before proceeding with the Magic Key program (the top tiers in particular).
So, what is the legal status of the Magic Keys? We’re not lawyers, and this is a very complicated case, but here’s the simple version. The case continues to make its way through the California and federal court systems.
In the US District Court (Central District of California), a judge recently responded to a Disney’s motion to dismiss the case. The judge did approved dismissing parts of the case, but not others. That means that the case will continue, at least on some of the claims.
The portions of the original Complaint that will continue are the allegations of Breach of Contract, and the demands for legal remedies pursuant to the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act (which provides consumers with protection against false advertising, fraud, and other unfair business practices).
We found it very interesting that the judge said the following in regards to the Breach of Contract claim: “The Court finds that Plaintiff has adequately pled facts supporting how a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the Advertisement, which states ‘no blockout dates.’”
Unless this case is settled or resolved soon, that could result in Disney rethinking the entire Magic Key program and likely changing the rules, language, and benefits of any passport style system going forward. Disney also has the benefit of knowing how the parks ran, and the revenue per guests, before and after the Magic Key program was launched. So this might be an opportunity for Disney to fix some issues.
We don’t yet know what will happen with the Magic Key program, neither does Disney. The parks are packed, there is pending litigation, and there are simply too many factors in play to guess at this point what will happen in August. Suffice it to say that we will know what the options are for that late August renewal wave sometime in mid July at the latest.
What do you think should happen with Magic Keys:
Character Meet & Greets Return
Another important element to the Disney park experience has returned, character meet and greets. Of course, that comes with long waits. Those quick character encounters you’ve become accustomed to over the last year as characters stayed safely behind ropes and barricades have given way to one-on-one experiences where each guest wants to say hello, get a hug, take a photo, and perhaps even get an autograph. That can take a minute or more for each guest, so lines have ballooned.
If you are looking for the big cheese, there was a Mickey Mouse meet and greet area set up at the Fantasyland Theater, on Friday.
This was probably the shortest line in the park, to see a character since it was so well hidden in an uncrowded corner of the park.
But not all characters are trapped at the end of long lines, some are simply roaming about the various lands, briefly stopping to say hello to guests and then moving on.
In a 10 minute span that I was standing at Christmas Tree Point in Town Square, I saw several characters wander by. I love that. That’s my preferred way to see a character… out and about instead of hidden away at the end of a queue.
One of our favorite moments this week was finding Ant-Man and the Wasp showing off showing off a miniature Bugs Land model, complete with working ride vehicles and a moving Chew Chew train. I want to buy one of these!
And, as we reported last week, Fantasy Faire’s princess meet and greet at Royal Hall has reopened. But beware the line. At times, the line to see the princesses stretched from Royal Hall all the way to Frontierland, where it switchbacked. One guest said that she and her daughter had already waited well over an hour and they had yet to reach the switchback inside Royal Hall.
That has left the Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire unused (that’s where the princesses were doing their distanced meets with guests for the last year.). A piano now sits in the theater, which we have seen moved around a few times this week. And we understand that rehearsals are already underway for a return of the princess storytelling shows in the not too distant future.
Over in Batuu, Multiple Characters were walking about, greeting guests and trying to recruit for “their side”. While we were eating at Docking Bay 7, Chewbacca was hiding from Kylo Ren and some Storm Troopers. While hiding, kids couldn’t resist running up to greet the popular Wookie.
Kylo Ren was working hard to recruit youngsters to the dark side.
Treehouse Blowing in the Winds of Change
We told you last week that parts of the Tarzan Treehouse would soon be removed and that the Tarzan theme would be dropped as well. Disney has since confirmed with cast members and the media that Tarzan is indeed leaving the treehouse and that the tree stump entry and rope bridge will be removed.
We then speculated on what might take the place of Tarzan, with about half of you choosing Encanto:
Unfortunately, it is looking increasingly likely that nothing will immediately take over the treehouse and that it might just remain as a decorative element with an expanded Adventureland walkway at its base.
Of course, that leaves open the possibility for a future return, but accessibility concerns and a need for easier guest flow in the area likely mean the end of the attraction.
New Orleans Square Revised
Another area being enhanced for traffic flow is the riverbanks of New Orleans Square. The entire area has been a maze of walls for weeks, but the first of those walls have now come down, revealing the new look. While the large elevated viewing platforms have been removed, smaller elevated gardens have replaced them with a much more open area for guests to walk.
Work has moved fast on this project.
The new design is elegant and offers more seating space for guests who don’t mind sitting on the new brickwork.
Work is well under way in other parts of New Orleans Square and shouldn’t take too much longer to complete.
Some of the work in the area is related to the refurbishment of Fantasmic lighting towers.
Pirates and Blue Bayou
The Pirates of the Caribbean queue is completely dug out and the diseased trees have been removed. You can see that they have dug much deeper in the area than necessary for repaving and the planting of trees. But the side ramps up to the entry have been wrapped and protected. So we aren’t quite sure what that deep pit in the center of the queue is for. It looks like an archeological dig site at the moment.
With Pirates under refurbishment, The Blue Bayou has now closed for a refurbishment as well. It was odd that it was left open while construction walls were up inside, blocking the view of the bayou.
With both Pirates of the Caribbean and Blue Bayou closed, it’s a great time to visit the shops in the area without the normal crowd crush.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
The tents covering the tracks in the Submarine lagoon have been removed and more kelp and other plants have been added since our look last week. It does appear that they are nearing completion.
There is still a bit of scaffolding around some parts of the lagoon, but you can see the freshly painted tracks.
From the looks of the lagoon, Disney didn’t do a halfway job on this attraction. It appears they are preparing it for many more years of enjoyment.
In the Submarine dry dock area, we find Crush waiting to be reinstalled. He looks great with his fresh cleaned up paint job.
Downtown Disney AMC Complex
We captured an excellent view of what use to be the AMC movie theater in Downtown Disney. It is now just a few piles of rocks and rebar. Heavy equipment operators work at busting up the large pieces of concrete to make it easier to move.
Looking back gives us a great view of the big picture for this project.There is still a long way to go, but much progress has been made.
And here’s the concept art for the marketplace project headed to the area:
Disneyland Hotel DVC Construction
The new tower at the Disneyland Hotel is now rising. After over a year of moving dirt around, this project is about to spring up. But along with it will come increased noise and ugly views for hotel guests.
Survey Question About Wait Times
Disney sends a lot of surveys which they use to keep a pulse on guest satisfaction, future projects, and what was most memorable for guests. But every once in a while, there’s a question that catches our attention. This week one of our readers sent us the following survey question we thought we’d share with all of you. Choose up to three of the following:
Tale of the Lion King Enhanced
Right now, the Fantasyland Theater is sitting empty… but not for long! Earlier this year, Disney announced that the Tale of the Lion King show would be making a swap from DCA over to Disneyland. When we were at the preview for the Main Street Electrical Parade (April 20) we ran into Disneyland President Ken Potrock who told us that he was really looking forward to the Tale of the Lion King show, which is being expanded and enhanced for its new venue.
While we don’t have a timeframe for the show just yet, the set is finally being built. It’s likely that the show could be returning closer to summer (which is just a couple months away). The fully shaded theater will be a blessing for families looking for a spot to sit and rest while being entertained.
Hyperspace Mountain Returns This Week
As part of a limited-time run, the Hyperspace Mountain overlay will return to Space Mountain from April 29 until an unknown date. If Star Wars isn’t your thing, you should get your Space Mountain trip in soon. The last time Hyperspace Mountain took over, it ran for over 8 months before reverting back to the normal version.
Star Wars Nite Menus Appearing
Speaking of Star Wars, we’ve been noticing that some of the after-hours Star Wars Nite menus have started popping up on the Disneyland app. Here’s a look at the menu that’s available at Cafe Orleans during the special event:
Food & Wine Festival Ends this Week
A reminder for those of you with unused tabs on your Food and Wine Festival lanyards, the festival ends this Tuesday, April 26.
Take a Walk With Dusty
I went live at Disneyland on Friday to show you all the changes to New Orleans Square, discuss the launch of the spectaculars, look at some crazy lines, and spy on some construction. Join me, won’t you…
Visit Walt Disney’s Hollywood Mansion This Saturday
A VERY limited number of tours have just opened at Walt Disney’s Storybook Mansion in the Hollywood Hills for April 30th, 2022. These fully guided one hour tours by Dusty Sage will take you inside the stunning Disney residence that looks as though Walt Disney himself just stepped out the moment before you arrived. TICKETS HERE
Discount Theme Park Tickets and Travel
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Let’s Hear From You
We covered a lot of ground in today’s update! The return of nighttime entertainment and character meet and greets (with hugs), Magic Key questions, construction, the closure of a classic attraction and more. Let’s hear your thoughts folks.
And as a little extra bonus, we have a photos for you that just didn’t quite fit in elsewhere, but we thought you’d enjoy:
The Mickey Floral Garden is improving, but the flowers in the ears have not filled in yet and the flowers in the tongue look completely dead from the ground level.
We are still trying to figure out what is up on that top level of the building below? The ugly curtain is hiding something. But what was supposed to have been there?