It was a busy week at Disneyland! In the parks, the holidays moved in quickly as Halloween Time vanished. Garland, lights, and snow are now up in both parks, with even more on the way before the holiday season officially kicks off later this week. Meanwhile, Marvel’s latest heroes have taken up residence at Disney California Adventure while construction and refurbishment projects continued in both theme parks. And, a bit of tension has been released… Disneyland’s contentious union negotiations seem to have avoided disaster as the company reaches agreement with the Unions in the nick of time. But Disney’s overworked and underpaid Cast Members still need to vote on the agreement, so the parks aren’t completely out of the woods just yet.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover this week, so let’s get started!
Welcome to Disneyland!
The holiday season officially begins this Friday at Disneyland and both parks are in a state of transition. Lots of garland, lights, and decorations are going up everywhere.
Main Street’s Christmas tree had yet to arrive over the weekend but was installed over night last night. So those of you with a park reservation today will see Disneyland’s glorious tree. But here’s what I saw over the weekend…
There were no garlands strung up across Main Street yet. Hopefully soon!
The hub’s gardens also still featured their fall plantings. Christmas tree-like shrubs and poinsettias will likely be planted soon if they haven’t already.
Sleeping Beauty Castle’s winter overlay is almost complete and ready to dazzle guests with its shimmering lights at the end of this week.
Meanwhile, Christmas is in full swing in New Orleans Square and Toon Town, as other lands still await their decorations…
Over in Disney California Adventure, the park’s popular Festival of Holidays celebration will return.
Buena Vista Street is decked out and ready for the season, complete with its Christmas tree already serving up holiday cheer.
The charming animated window displays have returned to Elias and Co. and Big Top Toys.
Buena Vista Street’s spectacular Christmas tree appeared over the weekend and it of course looks lovely.
It was a treat to see it all lit up again.
Over in Grizzly Peak, the bears are all dressed up for the winter…
In Hollywood Land, the vintage-style Los Angeles city street holiday decorations weren’t back over the weekend. Instead of the vintage metal lamppost decorations, the street was simply lined with Festival of Holidays banners. Hopefully some of those great Hollywood Land decorations get installed this week.
Hopefully Santa and his sleigh return at the end of Hollywood Blvd as well.
Along the parade route and in Paradise Park, Festival of the Holidays has moved in with the marketplace food booths, banners, and entertainment stages.
The booths almost always make an early return, so look for at least the food service to start a day or two early for Festival of the Holidays.
The stage is up in Paradise Park.
Banners and another stage are up in Pacific Wharf…
The holidays at the Disneyland Resort, including the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure, kick off this Friday, November 12!
Outside of the parks, Downtown Disney was still largely in Halloween Time mode but some Christmas was beginning to appear. At the former ESPN Zone, a new mural is up celebrating some of the Resorts favorite holiday offerings.
And Disneyland’s annual Toys for Tots drive is underway, with gift drop-off bins in front of Star Wars Trading Post and World of Disney.
Seasonal window displays are up at World of Disney
Our merchandise maven, Natalie Kipper, has rounded up all the Holiday merchandise currently on the shelves, it was just TOO MUCH for us to include in today’s Dateline. Natalie’s got you covered here:
UPDATED! Disneyland Holiday Merchandise Guide 2021
Disneyland and Unions come to agreement
As Disneyland geared up for a cozy holiday season for guests, it also had to navigate contentious negotiations with Cast Member unions as tensions reached a fever pitch last week. But, on Friday Disney announced a tentative agreement with the unions which will still need to be voted on by employees.
“The Disneyland Resort is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with Master Services Council for collective bargaining agreements at the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, which has the full support of the unions that are part of the Council.
Voting will occur on November 17, 2021.
Disney is committed to investing in its cast members to provide a comprehensive, holistic employee experience through multiple touch points including healthcare coverage options as low as $7 / week for full-time cast members as well as providing eligible hourly cast with access to childcare support and Disney Aspire, an educational program offering free tuition.”
The contract negotiations bordered on the brink of a strike for Disneyland’s union Cast Members for a moment last week. Discussions had fallen apart between Disney and its employee unions on October 29, with unions notifying their workers that things were headed toward a town hall and potentially a strike. Some union Cast Members had planned to organize a “Call Out” protest on the first day of the holiday season. Luckily, no such action was needed and an agreement was reached. Voting to ratify will take place November 17.
The news that an agreement was reached came after an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled that Disney would not be required to comply with Anaheim’s Measure L, a living-wage ordinance that requires all hospitality companies with 25 or more employees to pay $18/hr by January 2022. Disney was exempted from the law because the pay increases are subsidized by the city and Anaheim does not provide Disney with subsidies.
We have complete coverage of the union negotiations in the article linked below:
UPDATED: Disneyland Reaches Agreement With Unions
Eternals land at Disney California Adventure
In Disney California Adventure, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is making its mark in both Hollywood Land and Avengers Campus. In Hollywood Land, you can catch an extended clip from the film in the Sunset Showcase Theater (generally the home of Mickey’s Philharmagic).
The theater queue is lined with film posters…
Costumes from the film are on display in the theater lobby.
Ikaris and Makkari’s costumes
Thena and Gilgamesh’s costumes
Over in Avengers Campus, you can meet Sersi, Kingo, or Phastos in the Ancient Sanctum.
They’re hard to catch, however, with limited appearances ending by mid-afternoon.
A sign up near the Ancient Sanctum invites Avengers Campus guests to learn more about the Eternals by scanning a code with their phones.
Magic Key Regrets and Reservations
Disneyland’s Magic Key annual pass program trudges on with little park availability for Keyholders as the parks head into the wildly popular holiday season. In Tomorrowland, the Magic Key Lounge in the Starcade is now closed, already cutting one of the perks of the new Magic Key program.
The Lounge seemed to be pretty popular with Magic Keyholders, even with its very limited amenities. Seems like Disney could have better utilized the space with more couches, fewer photo-ops, and more Magic Key-exclusive retail and snack offerings.
For better or worse for Disney, any complaints from Keyholders over the quick death of an early perk will be overshadowed by the fact that the reservation system for Keyholders continues to be a massive issue. Last week, Disney released additional reservations for many days in November but they went quickly and they’re back at where they started the month: with almost no available reservations for Magic Keyholders. Only two days, including the day of this publication are available for November, with no availability at all for December 2021, and most weekend days in January 2022 already sold out.
Disney’s inaction to properly address the issues with the Magic Key system seems to be hurting any remaining goodwill they have with their passholder audience. Disney’s insistence on keeping a reservation system in place for both day guests and pass holders, while all other theme parks in California have dropped theirs, is frustrating. Reservations seem to be unpopular with nearly all guests — day guests and passholders — and difficult to navigate just to be able to go to Disneyland. Below, we ran a series of polls on Twitter regarding Keyholders satisfaction.
— Dateline Disneyland (@DatelineDisney) November 5, 2021
With reservations required for all tickets and passes, you may think that attendance would be better managed in the parks, or at the very least, staffing increased on days where reservation numbers are high. That’s obviously not the case, however, with the parks often feeling like they did pre-pandemic these days. Not to mention, the Resort continues to operate with reduced staffing. Reservations are seemingly for Disney’s behind-the-scenes benefit only, allowing for better data collection and resource planning over guest experience.
— Dateline Disneyland (@DatelineDisney) November 6, 2021
So what’s the solution? Well, the easy one would be just to retire the reservation system altogether. Another option would be to sell only as many Magic Keys as the park can reasonably accommodate. It appears that this new program was quickly oversold. But whatever the solution, it can’t come soon enough. Disney seems to be pretty quickly burning bridges with many of its most loyal customers.
— Dateline Disneyland (@DatelineDisney) November 6, 2021
Signs of Genie begin to materialize
Disneyland continues to get ready for the west coast debut of Disney Parks’ new Genie service. The new system will add even more reservation-making to the Disneyland experience, with the paid version of the service requiring you to book reservations for rides on your mobile device. That paid version of the now-defunct FASTPASS service will be called “Lightning Lane.” Signage for Lightning Lane is replacing FASTPASS signs at attractions now.
As attractions get switched over you’ll likely see a lot of instances where some signage says FASTPASS while others say Lightning Lane, even at the same attractions. It’s going to take time for Disneyland’s sign shop to get everything made and swapped out. But whether you like it or not, Lightning Lane is coming soon.
Lightning Lane signage is now up at Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.
Over at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which just reopened from refurbishment over the weekend, Lightning Lane signage is up and ready for the west coast debut of Genie+.
But unlike Walt Disney World, which just slapped cheap stickers over existing signs, Disneyland does seem to be making more of an attempt to craft signs which fit.
Some FASTPASS remnants remain, however.
The process to bring Lightning Lane is of course underway at Disney California Adventure as well. Grizzly River Run’s signage is in transition.
FASTPASS… er, Lightning Lane, entrance here…
Over in Avengers Campus, WEBSLINGERS – A Spider-Man Adventure no longer offers a virtual queue as it prepares to be one of the resort’s extra cost Lightning Lane a la carte attractions. As an a la carte offering, the Spider-Man ride will only be accessible through the standard stand-by queue or, for an additional fee that fluctuates by day, you can pay to ride it without the usual 75-90 minute wait. It will not be accessible as part of the regular Genie+ included Lightning Lane rides (which will give you access to the rest of the old FastPass attractions).
Disney wasn’t using the backstage overflow space they used over the summer when Avengers Campus first opened. Instead, the queue stretched through the Avengers Campus entry corridor, butting up against the Spider-Man meet-and-greet area. When the Spider-Man stunt show happens, the crowds from the show and the extended attraction queue can create a bit of a bottleneck. Expect similar crowding and overflow queues for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland as well.
Disney+ Day Comes to the Parks
If you have a Disneyland reservation for this Friday, you’re in luck. The parks will be celebrating the first annual Disney+ day with extended hours, a blue carpet, photo opportunities and more. Here’s everything you need to know:
UPDATED: Disney+ Day Offers Early Theme Park Entry and Other Surprises
Various refurbishment and construction projects continue in both parks. Let’s take a look.
Fixing up Fantasyland
In Fantasyland, the Christmas shop has closed now that Main Street’s new Plaza Point shop has opened. There’s been no word from Disney yet as to what will eventually go into this spot.
Nearby, the small Enchanted Chamber shop in the Castle has yet to come back since the park reopened.
Meanwhile it’s a small world’s queue and gift shop are getting some fresh paint while the attraction is closed to install its holiday overlay.
Holiday overlay decorations can be seen just inside the ride…
Nearby, the walkway repaving project in front of Toon Town continues.
But it appears to be just about done.
And the Fantasyland Theater’s marquee is still under scaffolding for its refurbishment. Hopefully we’ll see the theater reopen soon — the parks are desperately in need of more large-scale entertainment to help keep guests occupied when the rides are busy.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway construction
In Mickey’s Toon Town, construction continues on the massive new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction. Framework continues to take shape for the attraction’s new facade and the Toon Town hills which will hide the giant show building.
You can see flooring being laid inside the entrance to the attraction’s queue.
Pelican’s Landing in New Orleans Square
In New Orleans Square, the new outdoor seating area called Pelican’s Landing continues to come together. Views of construction were hard to get over the weekend with the top deck of the Mark Twain Riverboat closed, apparently due to “unsafe” conditions according to a cast member working the attraction.
We could still spot some views of new boardwalk going in.
We’re looking forward to seeing this space eventually open up. With so much seating removed prior to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it’ll be nice to see some of it reclaimed.
The main Fantasmic! lighting pit was open over the weekend for work. Disney still has yet to announce any reopening timeline for the popular nighttime show. Hopefully with work underway on the show infrastructure as well as on the Sailing Ship Columbia, the show will be able to return soon.
As I mentioned above, the Mark Twain Riverboat’s top deck was closed over the weekend. We’re still curious why cast would tell guests that it was “unsafe,” and what that condition really was.
In Adventureland, Tarzan’s Treehouse continues its refurbishment.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
In Tomorrowland, repainting and other refurbishment work continue in the Submarine Lagoon…
It currently looks like an archeological dig site.
When the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was under construction, it was touted that the lagoon had been painted with recycled, crushed colored glass. The technique was intended to be good for the environment and expected to retain its vibrancy for longer. Disney hasn’t said if they’re once again painting the lagoon with glass or if they’re using more traditional painting techniques this time around.
Kingswell Camera Shop
Over in Disney California Adventure, the Kingswell Camera Shop is closed as it likely gets converted into more retail space for the adjacent Julius Katz shop. The shop’s original purpose as a Photopass location is no longer needed with Photopass being consolidated and moved to Disneyland’s esplanade-facing portion of the Newsstand. Below, the signage on the streetlamp that once directed guests to Kingswell Camera is gone.
Kingswell Camera Shop was once the first retail space on the right, just inside the Elysian Arcade.
Construction walls are up inside the Elysian Arcade while work is underway on the old Kingswell Shop.
World of Color
Over in the bay, the massive World of Color platform continues to get much-needed TLC after sitting dormant and unmaintained during the 2020 closure. There’s no official timeline yet on when the show will return but we don’t expect to see it back until sometime after the New Year.
But with the lagoon drained, you do get a sense of the scale of this show. That’s a lot of equipment and fountains.