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8/27/21 - My return to the Disneyland Resort after 540 days away.
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8/27/21 - My return to the Disneyland Resort after 540 days away.

Hello Everyone!

Magic Key Passes, the replacement to the Disneyland Annual Pass system went on sale Wednesday and I promptly purchased one and made a reservation for Friday to visit the Disneyland Resort. This marked my first visit since March 5, 2020, 540 days. The longest I have been away from Disneyland since moving to California in 1985. I did venture out to Walt Disney World in January so at least it was not a full Disney hiatus for that long. The crowds were very mild to light most of the day but come sunset they picked up as people finished work and school for the day and arrived to use their new Magic Keys.

Thoughts and Observations:

  • I purchased my Magic Key on Wednesday, the first day of sales. As with any new Disney offering the system had hiccups and delays in purchasing, I waited and purchased mine in the evening without any problems. Thursday I purchased additional passes for other family members and there was no wait at all. The new system is much like the old one in terms of there being various types passes with block out dates, discounts, and parking varying depending on which one you purchase. I went with the Dream Key because of the number of days I visit the parks. The biggest change with the new system is all passes require you to make reservations to visit and these are limited by the pass you purchase. I found no problem making my initial reservations but I am sure that will change over time as the system grows and Disney tinkers with the reservation pools. The other major change with this pass is there will be no physical card. You purchase online or via the app and have to use the app for parking, park admission and discounts.
  • I had a good drive to the Disneyland Resort and arrived a few minutes earlier than planned even thanks to favorable traffic. When I exited the I-5 the Ball Road overpass was not open yet. It was about 6:45am, only 15 minutes prior to parking opening. So I had to sit at the light. I was surprised to see very few cars in line when I arrived. I choose a lane to make sure the parking attendant was on the drivers side so it would be easier to show my phone to get in. The cast members had hand scanners that they brought to you so they do not have to touch/take your phone. The process worked ok, but I still prefer the old cards vs having to deal with my phone.
  • While waiting to park I was able to secure a boarding group for WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure and lucked out with a low number even. The process works the same as Rise of the Resistance. You have to visit the virtual queue page at a distribution time (currently 7am and noon) and you can join a group. For the 7am distribution time you can be anywhere. For the noon time you have to have entered one of the parks already. You are only allowed one boarding group per attraction per day. But if your group has been called you can try for the other attraction at noon.
  • Parking was not a problem, I was directed through Mickey and Friends and over to the Pixar Pals garage and parked in the first half dozen spots on the Cars level near the escalators. The entry process has changed due to the pandemic. The trams are not running. The tram route has become a walkway and the tram stop on the first floor of the structure is now the security area as well as stroller/ECV rental space. Security is still using the traditional metal detectors not the ones that Walt Disney World uses that can scan most people and bags contactlessly. So bags are still hand searched. It felt a bit odd to walk through the area backwards from usual. After security the center area of the tram stop is blocked off and is a walking path to the tram way so you can hike to the parks. Along the walkway are benches, trash cans, and hand sanitizer. The walk took about 15 minutes from security to World of Disney. It was a little over a mile from my car until Downtown Disney. The walk to the parks in the cool morning air was nice. But mid day would make for an unpleasant arrival experience. Total time from when the toll booths opened until I was walking through Downtown Disney was 30 minutes.
  • Since I had half an hour until the park opened I took a walk through Downtown Disney to see what was going on. The area was quiet with only a couple locations open this morning. Summer plantings and decorations are still up, Halloween arrives soon though. There were some minor renovation projects going on but overall not a lot of activity. The ESPN building has become a giant advertisement for Disney+. The Star Wars Trading Post took over the Rain Forest Cafe location last year, so this was my first time seeing that exterior. It has some minor props and signage and is definitely nicer than the food truck parked out front or empty building it used to be.
  • My first park today was Disney California Adventure because I wanted to visit Avengers Campus. I arrived a few minutes before opening and explored Buena Vista Street while waiting for the rope drop. There were three crowds of guests, one on Hollywood Blvd, one on the parade route, and one in Grizzly Peak area. I avoided them all and hung out in Carthay Circle. I noticed Soarin did not open until official opening time today.
  • Avengers Campus was my first destination this morning. I entered through the walkway off the performance corridor/parade route so WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure was on my left and Maters Junkyard Jamboree on my right. There are some plants and a wall between the two areas. The background sound/music for Avengers Campus is played a higher volume than other areas it seemed and it was fairly good at drowning out Maters only a few feet away.
    • My boarding group for WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure was called a few minutes after the park opened so I made my way there first. There was no real wait, except for a slight delay because the attraction was not running yet. A team was just finishing up on on something as I arrived in the loading area. The boarding group process worked smoothly for me, but later in the day I saw the queue was full and you had to wait substantially longer to board. I do not understand this with boarding groups, why not call less groups to keep the wait minimal outside.
    • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure can best be described as an experience similar to Toy Story Midway Mania. You board a vehicle and are taken from screen to screen where you shoot at targets. The difference is this time you are using your hands to trigger the device to shoot vs a pull string. The attraction has a much higher game like feel to it and the scoring system seemed a little more complex and video game like. The experience is a bit louder and more of a video game feel to them too. I thought it was an OK experience, I am not a big video game person so I think that weighed on my first impression. With so much happening and so little time a first time rider is at a disadvantage. I think the boarding group system is a handicap for the attraction as it limits each guest to one ride per day. For an attraction that is designed to be re-ridden that makes for an incomplete experience. After a single ride I think I prefer Midway Mania but I really need to experience it a few more times to see how it feels then.
    • Throughout the day I passed through Avengers Campus and spent time there checking out the various entertainment offerings, character encounters, and buildings. I really enjoyed exploring the campus in the quiet morning hours but come dusk when the crowd grew it was not as pleasant of an experience. The campus encompasses the former Bugs Land space, so the plot of land is relatively small and L shaped more or less. The overall feel of the Campus I am neutral on. I think they achieved what they set out for but I am just not a huge fan of it. I thought the number of character encounters and entertainment offerings was great and really shows what Galaxy's Edge is lacking. The background sound was on the loud side for me and did not add to the experience, it was more of a distraction bordering on annoyance at times.
    • Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milaje - This show features a Dora Milaje walking out and hosting a training session in the center of Avengers Campus. I caught the first show of the morning and only one warrior was present. It was a fairly typical guest interaction type show with an arrival and introduction then selection of guests to join the training session. The Dora Milaje walks in and then up to an elevated stage area. All guests are on level ground though and there is no shade close by. The crowd gathers quickly and the area felt crowded fast.
    • The Amazing Spider-Man! - This show features Spider-Man testing some of his suit and doing some tumbling stunts above the walkway of Avengers Campus on the WEB Slingers building. The highlight of this show is the finale where a stunt robot flies through the air. Spider-Man also descends from the roof top and then comes out for pictures with guests. The concept of the show is great. The dialog left something to be desired to me, especially if you watch it multiple times, it is the same. The stunttronic used for the finale is extremely impressive and many seemed to believe it was a person flying through the air.
    • Avengers Assemble - This stunt show takes place on the Avengers Headquarters building. The Taskmaster is trying to steal something and its up to Black Widow with an assist from the Black Panther to stop him and his sidekicks. The show features several fighting scenes as well as some students including repelling down the building, climbing up the building and a performer being pulled through the air when hit at one point. I thought it was great to add some life to the area and engage people in the story.
    • I visited the campus again around sunset with he goal of seeing the Dr. Strange and Guardians shows that start later in the day. Neither one was going on, they were cancelled for some reason, so next visit I will have to try to catch them again.
  • Transitioning from Avengers Campus to Cars Land was not as awkward as I thought it would be. There is enough distance on Cross Street to make it feel smooth. The new backstage building behind Luigis was completed since my last visit. The park facing side has a facade that works as a nice backdrop for the attraction. Speaking of the attraction about half the cars were not on the dance floor/in service on Friday. I counted 11 in use only, which meant for a very slow moving queue for those who wanted to ride. The residents have started to decorate for Halloween and so far it looks status quo with nothing new jumping out to me. I went for a spin on Radiator Springs Racers since the single rider queue was available. Turned out to have no wait which was great. Interesting to note they were only using the first two load stations. During my ride only one tractor tipped, Frank did not work nor did the whitewall effect on Luigis.
  • As I passed by Toy Story Midway Mania there was no one in line. It looked to be a walk on so I went for a ride. I was able to walk right up and almost had a complete set of game trams to myself. I say almost because the group that was just about to dispatch as I arrived was held. One party of guests did not have masks on and somehow did not have ones with them. So cast members had to open up and distribute paper masks for them. This process meant a few others joined me on my ride. With the signs and reminders I am not sure how you get to an attraction and not know you need a mask on.
  • Mickey's Philharmagic added a new Coco sequence in July. The new sequence fits into the show ok. The animation style and detail is a bit more complex and different than the other sequences and going from it to Peter Pan was fairly abrupt. Donald's integration into the scene was no more awkward than the other sequences. Overall I thought it was great to see a plus to the attraction and even better they did not cut anything to fit it in.
  • The Hollywood Backlot area of Disney California Adventure has become a series of Marvel photo ops. There are several Disney+ ones ranging from Miss Minutes to Wandavision to Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The stage hosts Disney characters dressed in Marvel gear.. guess you can call it Marvel Bounding more or less. I saw Mickey as Captain America, Chip as Thor and Dale as Loki during my time there. I thought the characters were great to see and with no crowds it was a very positive experience. The rest of the area with all the random photo ops was a bit awkward. Especially with the Monsters Inc attraction in the middle and Mickey's Philharmagic bordering one side. Stage 17 has become the Premiere Shop and features an assortment of Avengers Campus and Marvel merchandise and more photo opportunities. When I stopped by it was nearly empty and great to walk around.
  • Throughout the day Carthay Circle hosts an assortment of characters and entertainment. I was able to see Five and Dime perform, meet some Buena Vista Street Citizens and visit with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White, Dopey and Oswald on my various passes through the area. Further down Buena Vista Street Clarabell and Hoarse were out. I thought these were all great experiences and I really liked the character interaction opportunities over the old meet and greets/autograph sessions. Even with the distancing these felt more natural and engaging. One of my favorite encounters happened just after lunch. I was walking the trail through Grizzly Recreation Area and Big Al was out. He was playing around and on his gate were several things he could use as drums to entertain guests.
  • The Disneyland Resort has moved aggressively toward mobile ordering throughout the park. Almost all dining locations now accept mobile order with some being exclusive to mobile now. Many cash registers and windows have been removed and the space turned into mobile pickup locations. I had no problem with my lunch or dinner mobile order. The Magic Key discount is automatically applied, just like the AP one before. Both times there was no wait and the food was ready within a couple minutes of ordering. The cash register queues were a longer wait with only one open in most locations. One interesting observation. I was walking by the Cozy Cone taking some pictures and there were no lines. I saw four different parties walk up in the short time I was there and want to order and the cast members informed them it was mobile only. One of the groups moved off to the side and pulled out a phone. The other three turned around and walked away. It does seem awkward to have to pull out your phone to order popcorn or a churro when there is no wait.
  • While eating lunch the noon boarding group distribution time came up. I decided to try foro Rise of the Resistance and was able to secure one for the early afternoon. The process was really smooth and I was pleased to have lucked out and gotten what I wanted today with both attractions.
  • Another big change to the current operation of the parks is park hopping. If your ticket and reservation allows for park hopping you cannot until 1:00pm. Disney is really working to manage the crowds and this is one of their current measures. I enjoy the freedom of moving between the parks in Anaheim so this is a bit of an annoyance to me, but today there was plenty I wanted to see at DCA so it was not a challenge at all.
  • It was great to step back into Disneyland after the long time away. Disneyland just feels so comfortable for me and when you step onto Main Street it is relaxing for me. I started off spending some time wandering around Main Street checking out the changes that occurred since my last visit ranging from new posters to hub renovation projects that wrapped up. It seems odd they did not make any progress on the Tomorrowland entrance with the one side still featuring renovation walls. The hub has received new light posts that feature Tinker Bell on top. I did not make it back there after dark to see them in action.
  • The Jungle Cruise opened last month with several new scenes and some tweaks to it. The quality of the new scenes is good. The script had some minor tweaks but the overall experience is still great. The attraction has quite a few new apes so if you are into apes and monkeys you will be pleased as about half the scenes now include some. The spiel did not really seem to add a lot of story to it. There are new jokes for the new scenes but nothing to really drive home an overall new story line. Also interesting the elephant that pops up to almost squirt you was not referenced/used either cruise I went on. The elephant did come up once but the boat did not stop and no water was sprayed.
  • The Disneyland Band performs several sets on Main Street USA and a couple in Tomorrowland. I managed to catch three performances on Friday including the Nightly Flag Retreat. I really enjoyed hearing the band and being able to sit and enjoy a performance. The set in Tomorrowland the band lines the Launch Bay walkway and the sound echoes through the area. The Flag Retreat had decent attendance. Guests are not permitted around the flag pole during the ceremony now and must stay on the edges of Town Square. This makes for better viewing angles but a slightly different experience.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventure has become Snow White's Enchanted Wish in Fantasyland. The classic dark ride's renovation was completed during the closure. The exterior has been brightened up a bit. The ride itself is slightly longer now as they slowed it down. The scary forest scene has been shortened and the ending sequence revised. There are also some projection effects now. It is very well done and in the same style as the Alice in Wonderland renovation several years ago.
  • One of the final section of the old slurry walkways is finally being replaced. The pathway from Fantasyland to Toontown is receiving pavers. The first half is nearly complete. The project means the pathway to get into and out of Toontown is really narrow though. In Toontown there is a lot closed. No dining options, the gift shop, and all the character houses. The two attractions are still operating. Characters are out in front of their houses interacting with guests. I saw Minnie water flowers, Mickey sending Minnie a letter and Chip n Dale were out with Clarice at Donald's boat. The big news in Toontown is the construction of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. This clone of the WDW attraction dominates the skyline right now. The show building looks complete and is awaiting its facade. They are also working on the queue/entry building and new facade for the Five and Dime.
  • My Rise of the Resistance experience was pretty smooth. Once my group was called I walked the queue and was not stopped until over halfway through the complex. It was less than 15 minutes from entering the queue until reaching the briefing room. They seemed to be really trying to keep guests moving today once you reached the Star Destroyer. Not sure if this was because of capacity and they needed a constant flow of guests to fill transports or a new way of doing things. But I felt very rushed through the hanger and then there was only a pause to be directed to an interrogation cell. We were not lined up in the hallway at all, so you really did not have time to soak in the scene.
  • As the sun set the crowds picked up at both parks. Around 8:30 when I ark hopped back to Disneyland the entry for Disney California Adventure and Disneyland were backed up. The lines were moving smoothly with it taking less than 10 minutes to get in but it was busy. At Disneyland Main Street felt almost normal as guests were waiting for Mickey's Mix Magic and cast members were asking everyone to step into the street and move forward to fill in the available space.
  • It was great to be back on Main Street for fireworks. Even if it was Mickey's Mix Magic which is not one of my favorite shows. The crowd was really into it and the energy level was high which was great to see.
  • As I was leaving the park the characters at the Train Station had banners up saying good night in several languages. This was a nice touch to conclude the day.
  • The walk back to the garage felt long as expected. After 13 hours roaming the parks the mile hike back to my car was not the most enjoyable, but on the plus side there was no long tram line or crowd to fight through.
  • Exiting the parking structure was not a problem, but I do not like being directed out to Magic Way. The lights seem to take forever and really back up quickly. I lucked out and it was not that bad of an experience but I like the option to exit to the overpass. It would be great to see a project changing the traffic flow through this area someday to make the entry and exit traffic flow smoother. Disney has proposals to change some of the streets in the area so maybe there is a long term plan.

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