Year 2009 in Review
A Yesterland Perspective
Yesterland

January 1, 2010

 

“Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
— Walt Disney

“Yesterland will never be completed as long as there are attractions left to close in Disneyland.”
— Werner Weiss

 

Happy New Year! Good bye to 2009. And good bye to several attractions, restaurants, and attractions at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

When I started the Yesterland website in May 1995, I never dreamed that the phrase “gone to Yesterland” would take on a life of its own among some Disney fans on the Internet.


“Back from Yesterland”

Disneyland attractions can also come “back from Yesterland.”

Three Disneyland attractions have been in the news for coming back from the dead, so to speak. One reopened in late 2008, and was thus still brand new at the beginning of 2009. Another reopened on December 18, 2009. And, on the same day, the official Disney Parks Blog confirmed that another attraction would return in February 2010.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough reopened on November 24, 2008.

The 1977 version of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through closed on October 7, 2001, “for refurbishment.” Years went by, but the attraction didn’t reopen. It seemed about as likely ever to return as Adventure Thru Inner Space.

Surprise! Not only did the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough return in late 2008, but it was better than ever. The Imagineers used the original 1957 version—not the 1977 version—as their starting point. The 1957 version used the art of Eyvind Earle, the Production Designer of Walt Disney’s 1959 feature Sleeping Beauty.

The newest version captures the style of movie, honors the original walk-through, and skillfully uses current technology. Truly a work of art!

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
In 2009, signs on the Opera House promised the return of Mr. Lincoln.

In 2005, a temporary movie replaced The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the Disneyland’s 50th anniversary (more about that movie later). When Mr. Lincoln didn’t return in 2006, 2007, or 2008, it seemed that the movie wasn’t so “temporary” after all.

I never added Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to Yesterland, choosing to believe that Lincoln would return to the Opera House. But I updated the The Walt Disney Story several times over the years. Also, I noted Mr. Lincoln’s absence from Disneyland in my article Lincolnland on February 12, 2009, the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

Just 13 days later, Disneyland announced that Mr. Lincoln would return later in the year. The new version would keep some elements of the temporary attraction. The new name would be The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln returned December 18, 2009.

Now Mr. Lincoln is back. The Imagineers didn’t simply bring back the version that closed. That version, introduced in 2001, had guests putting on headphones for a binaural (“3-D audio”) sound presentation (complete with the obligatory haircut) and Mr. Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address instead of the speech that Walt Disney’s Abraham Lincoln had delivered since his debut in the State of Illinois Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

As with Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, the Imagineers combined the best elements of the original version with new enhancements, including the latest technology. Lincoln’s speech once again uses the recordings that actor Royal Dano (1922-1994) made, but enhanced with today’s audio technology. And voice artist Paul Frees (1920-1986) is back as the dignified narrator.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
Captain EO played in the Magic Eye Theater from 1986 to 1997.

Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson, made it back to Disneyland briefly in September 2009, officially so that Jackson’s children could experience the attraction in private. But it was also an opportunity for Disney management to evaluate the possibility of bringing back the 3-D space fantasy in place of its aging replacement, the 3-D comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.

The public will get their turn beginning February 2010. Disneyland’s Magic Eye Theater will close at the end of Sunday, January 3, 2010, for the switchover to Captain EO.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, it will be “an exclusive, limited engagement at Disneyland.” Based on that wording, only Disneyland—and not Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland, or Disneyland Paris—will get Captain EO back. However, if Captain EO is a hit at Disneyland, it’s hard to imagine that it will remain exclusive to Disneyland. Also, it remains to be seen how long the “limited engagement” will be and if Honey, I Shrunk the Audience ever returns.

It will be interesting to see whether Disneyland brings back all the in-theater effects from the original run of Captain EO, and to what extent the motion base added for Honey, I Shrunk the Audience is used to enhance Captain EO.


Departures from the Disneyland Resort

I’ll admit that I’m stretching 2009 a bit with some of the attractions in this article. Some actually closed in 2008.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years ran from 2005 until 2009.

Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years was a 17-minute movie made for the Happiest Homecoming on Earth, the 18-month celebration—May 5, 2005, through September 30, 2006—of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. Hosted by Steve Martin and Donald Duck, the humorous Disneyland history movie ran in the large auditorium of the Opera House on Main Street, displacing Mr. Lincoln.

The movie opened at the start of the 18-month celebration. But when the 18 months were over, the movie remained in the Opera House. Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years finally closed March 15, 2009—a run of almost four years.

When Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln came “back from Yesterland” on December 18, 2009, Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years also came back—but in a much more modest form. Instead of being shown in the large auditorium, it’s now shown continuously on a screen in the lobby. Instead of an auditorium full of theater seats, just two benches (suitable for a total of eight adults) face the screen.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
it’s a small world reopened in February 2009 with Disney characters.

The original version of it’s a small world has “gone to Yesterland.”

After a lengthy refurbishment, it’s a small world reopened to guests in February 2009 with new boats, a new flume, improved audio, enhanced lighting, and the thorough restoration of the classic scenes that originally premiered at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.

So far, so good.

However, Disney’s management and Imagineers used the refurbishment as an opportunity to “seamlessly weave in references to Disney and Disney-Pixar characters.” It changed the ride experience; it became a game of “find the characters.”

Some guests were delighted. To them, the attraction was now even better—more fun and more “Disney” than before. The familiar characters fit in because they had been redesigned to reflect the style of the ride.

Some guests were appalled. To them, the characters were jarring and out-of-place; they destroyed the ride and its message of world peace. In addition, the new Spirit of America room had the wrong scale, a color palette that conflicted with the rest of the ride, and the most jarring characters of all: oversized dolls of Woody and Jessie from the Toy Story movies.

I finally had the opportunity go on the new it’s a small world in September 2009. My opinion is somewhere in the middle. The ride has not been ruined by the characters, but it hasn’t been enhanced by them either. The characters are unnecessary. The best ones, including Alice and Cinderella, really do blend in; they reflect the style and culture of the scene in which each appears. Others, including the Three Caballeros and Stitch, come across as Disney product placements; they don’t look like they belong in it’s a small world. There’s a difference between Disney creations and characters that actually came from the cultures in which they appear.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams opened in May 2005.

Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams premiered on May 5, 2005 as part of the 18-month Happiest Homecoming on Earth. As with Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, the Happiest Homecoming ended but the parade didn’t. It ran until November 11, 2008.

One of these days, Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams will get its own Yesterland article.

Year 2009 in Review at Yesterland
The Orange Stinger closed in July 2009.

The massive, $1.1 billion overhaul of Disney’s California Adventure is good in two ways:

  1. It’s making Disneyland’s disappointing neighbor into a much more appealing park.
     
  2. It’s giving me lots of material for Yesterland.

Golden Dreams closed to the public in September 2008, but the movie was shown to school groups into 2009. The theater was demolished in July 2009. The rotunda will be reused as part of the exterior of The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

The Sun Wheel closed in October 2008 and reopened as Mickey’s Fun Wheel in May 2009.

The Orange Stinger closed in July 2009 to become Silly Symphony Swings in 2010.

The Sunglass Shack closed in May 2009 for complete demolition.

Corn Dog Castle closed in June 2009. It now awaits a transformation into a new eatery that will reuse the existing infrastructure.

Souvenir 66 closed in June 2009. It will eventually reopen with a new theme and a new name.

I expect more opportunities to write about Disney’s California Adventure as Disney spends their $1.1 billion.


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© 2010 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Last updated March 11, 2010.

Publicity photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough: Copyright 2008 Disney.
Photo of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln announcment poster: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Publicity photo of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln stage: Copyright 2009 Disney.
Photo of Captain EO entrance: 1997 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Opera House with Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Publicity photo of Stitch in it’s a small world: Copyright 2009 Disney.
Photo of Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Orange Stinger: 2007 by Werner Weiss.