Best Things That Happened at Disneyland in 2019
The Walt Disney Company experienced many highs and lows during calendar 2019. Over the next few days, MickeyBlog will discuss many of them. We’ll start today at the Happiest Place on Earth, which introduced a new themed land you may have heard about. Here are the best nine things that happened at Disneyland this year.
9) Soarin’ Over California Returns
The infamously disappointing opening of Disney California Adventure came with one silver lining. Imagineers constructed one of the greatest attractions ever, Soarin’ Over California. For many years, it remained the biggest fish in a murky pond.
Tragically, right as the park improved, Disney plussed Soarin’ by telling a more global story. Californians lamented the absence of their signature attraction, but then something magical transpired.
Park officials brought back Soarin’ Over California as a way to pull some anticipated traffic away from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Its multi-month return thrilled park loyalists.
8) Project Stardust Pays Dividends
Imagineer Kim Irvine’s bloodlines are among the best at the company. You’ve seen her mother every time you’ve ridden Haunted Mansion, as she’s the face of Leota Toombs. Disney’s been in Irvine’s blood since the beginning. So she became the ideal choice to helm a seminal Disneyland plussing, Project Stardust.
Irvine’s in charge of the modernization of the Happiest Place on Earth. In 2019, some of the improvements became noticeable. Disneyland re-introduced Sleeping Beauty Castle with its updated look.
Project Stardust also enlarged walking paths between the various themed lands and provided more sitting areas throughout the park. Best of all, Disneyland finally added some measure of order to the chaos of stroller parking.
Madame Leota would be so proud.
7) Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind Debuts
Flik’s Flyers died along with the rest of A Bug’s Land. When it left, Imagineers embarked on a plan to utilize some of the attraction in a new, better attraction. In an amusing twist of fate, Disney replaced one Pixar ride with another.
As part of the Pixar Pier reboot, the park introduced Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind. It’s a similar ride experience to Flik’s Flyers, only the Inside Out theming features gorgeous orb-shaped balloons.
They reflect memories that the rider must sort out during the journey. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s the greatest attraction ever. But Emotional Whirlwind will put a smile on the faces of fans of Inside Out.
6) Vegan Options Arrive
Everyone talks a big game about eating healthier, but few of us follow through on the plan. The reality is that restaurants have historically made it challenging to order foods that are better for you.
In the fall of 2019, Disney led by example. The company announced its intent to add hundreds of plant-based dishes at its theme park restaurants.
Even more impressively, the changes would occur within the week. Yes, all Disney eateries now have multiple meals equivalent to Beyond Meat. It’s a change that has only begun to impact the theme park industry.
5) Avengers Campus
I’ll have several of these best of/worst of articles over the next few days. In most instances, I only included things that have actually happened. However, I had to make an exception here.
In the summer of 2020, Disney will open Avengers Campus to the public. Park officials announced this at the 2019 D-23 Expo and then confirmed it again in late-December.
The entire situation feels like a shot off the port bow at Universal Orlando Resort, which already operates a Marvel themed land. But a Disney theme park implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could dwarf even Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in popularity.
4) Main Street Electrical Parade Returns
Back in the 1970s, Walt Disney World was supposed to imitate Disneyland, the older park. Thus, officials at the Happiest Place on Earth couldn’t believe it when the Electrical Water Pageant arrived. Its bright lights and eight-bit audio delighted guests in the Magic Kingdom area.
Disneyland’s management team quickly commissioned a new nighttime parade based on the same concept. The Main Street Electrical Parade became an integral part of the park for a quarter-century. It’s since made a pair of triumphant returns, the most recent of which occurred for two months in the summer of 2019.
The consensus opinion from Disneyland fans was that it perfected a park visitor in August and September. Fittingly, the presence of the Main Street Electrical Parade also caused feelings of jealousy from Walt Disney World fans. So, it took 40+ years, but Disneyland finally got its revenge for the Electrical Water Pageant.
3) World of Color Returns
Clearly, many of the best things about Disneyland in 2019 were retro. Arguably the most significant return of the year involved something that hadn’t been gone that long.
In April of 2018, World of Color closed suddenly, reportedly due to damage in the foundational underwater platform. Since it did most of the heavy lifting in the nighttime presentation, World of Color just couldn’t work.
After 10 months of repairs, World of Color finally came back in 2019. And the return went so well that Disney plussed it over the holidays.
The company brought back World of Color – Season of Light just in time for the release of Frozen 2. And that was significant since Season of Light displays Frozen characters at a certain point.
2) 50th Anniversary of Haunted Mansion
When Walt Disney strategized about his upcoming themed park, he planned a haunted house attraction. These discussions occurred in the early 1950s, yet the man who died in 1966 never got to experience it. Haunted Mansion required more than 15 years to finish, as Imagineers squabbled over its theming and tone.
Thankfully, the attraction was more than worth the wait. Haunted Mansion has stood the test of time as one of the most magnificent rides ever.
Both park officials and Disney fans know this, and so August 9, 2019, provided them all with a rare opportunity. On this date, the ride turned 50 years old.
Disney created exclusive merchandise and food items in commemoration of this event. The company even sponsored a special event on the 50th anniversary.
Disneyland hosted a 13th Hour Celebration along the Rivers of America. And guests participated in this Swinging Wake in such large numbers that it seemed like they were hanging from the rafters.
Here’s to 50 more great years, Haunted Mansion!
1) Galaxy’s Edge Opens without a Hitch
Oddly, the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will make the Best of and Worst of lists. You can guess the explanation on the latter, but let’s focus on the positives for now.
Simply stated, Galaxy’s Edge represents the culmination of decades of Disney Imagineering and theming. When guests enter this themed land, they honestly forget that they’re at the Happiest Place on Earth.
The rest of the park lurks just out of sight, a new level of immersion that flies in the face of Disney’s previous theming conventions. And it really, really works.
Despite the remarkable technological innovations driving Star Wars Land, Black Spire Outpost opened without a hitch. Clickbait writers giddily anticipated the negative headlines they could create about any and all snafus.
Those headlines never got written because Imagineers outdid themselves. They tested and re-tested, ensuring that all aspects of Batuu were ready for public consumption. Galaxy’s Edge has become the greatest themed land in Disneyland history, and it’ll only get better in future years.