The EAST Side of Disneyland - Part 1
Ah yes! For my fellow Armchair Imagineers, this is probably one of our favorite pastimes now. Debates about what to do with the dated and congested Tomorrowland are raging online with a dizzying array of rumors within rumors. So why not add my own ideas to the madness. As is obvious by the title, this will be a two-parter. So before we dive into my specific ideas, let's take a brief spin around the park in this installment to set the table for Part 2.
breaking down disneyland
I'm going to break down Disneyland into three parts, the West-side, Central and East-side. We will be looking at each of these sections as it relates to the potential for future significant changes. As Walt Disney himself once said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." Well given the land-locked nature of Disneyland, instead of "grow" it really means "remade".
The west-side won't take long. Adventureland, which I believe is the smallest of the lands, really has no room room for any significant changes unless they someday retire or do a major upgrade to Indiana Jones. Same is basically true of New Orleans Square and Critter Country. And with the entire reworking of the Rivers of America to make room for Star Wars Land, aka Galaxy's Edge, that pretty much means the the entire West side of Disneyland won't see any major changes for at least 10-20 years.
The center strip of the park would basically include Main Street, USA, Fantastyland and ToonTown. Main Street, USA, with the exception of minor food and retail modifications, is looking like a very static space for the foreseeable future. The rumor that came out last year on MiceChat was that Disney seems pretty set on turning their attention to modernizing Fantasyland after Galaxy's Edge opens up. Some of these changes will effect just improving overall crowd flow, like they are already doing with the realignment of the Dumbo queue. Others changes will mean a) renovating or 'plussing up' existing attractions like they did with Peter Pan a few years back or b) replacing old attractions with new ones. As far as retiring and replacing, I fear Mr Toad's days are numbered. Personally I wish they would target Snow White's Scary Adventures which has the oddest ending of any Disney ride, like they just ran out of room and slapped up "and they lived happily ever after" at the end. They could trim the four dark rides in the castle courtyard down to two (Peter Pan and Pinocchio) and increase ride capacity and move the queues indoor (where Snow White's Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad resided) to relieve congestion. They might even have enough room for ride-themed gift shops, which would make the bean-counters happy.
The biggest Fantasyland rumors have to do with tearing down the outdoor theater, presently home to Mickey's Magical Map, to make room for 1-2 more attractions. At one point it sounded like Anna and Elsa were moving in but I think Frozen has thawed enough and other Disney live action reboots have pulled in enough big bucks to make Disney rethink that move. My own ideas? Close and replace the Snow White dark ride and on the footprint of the theater plug in a version of Disney World's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train along with anything Beauty and the Beast. The Disney execs would probably love a top-grade sit-down restaurant option in FantasyLand, so inserting Disney World's Be Our Guest makes sense to me along with the Enchanted Tales with Belle meet-and-greet.
Above that in Toon-Town, there is rumor that a ride that is in the works for Disney World, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, might be brought to the western side of that land. That would mean retirement for Gadget's Go Coaster, Chip 'n Dale's Tree-house and possibly the Mickey and Minnie's meet-and-greet homes, though I am hoping they save those and integrate them into the ride queue. Side note, I also think it would be cool to create an eventual tunnel entrance into Galaxy's Edge from ToonTown.
All of that leads to the East side of Disneyland, which is mostly made up of Tomorrowland with the exceptions of the Matterhorn and It's a Small World which are considered part of Fantasyland. Which brings me to my first observation: those two attractions don't really fit in my mind into the realm of fantasy. Yea, I get that the Yeti is a mythological creature terrifying passengers on those cramped bobsleds, but beyond that it doesn't come close to the genre of fairy-tail. And a meandering boat cruise visiting all the parts of the world seems pretty grounded to me.
Meanwhile, Tomorrowland has been tweaked here and there but still feels like a mess. The last really successful addition was Star Tours in 1987 followed by a fairly popular Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in 2005 and a Pixar re-theming of the Submarines in 2007. But even with those three attractions and the classic Space Mountain, there just seems to be no continuity. It doesn't feel tomorrow-ish and as was already mentioned the traffic flow is bad thanks to the rotting remains of the old PeopleMover track and the poorly placed Astro Orbiter. Then there are, whether we like it or not, financial considerations. Nemo's Submarines are apparently a major maintenance expense and has a low hourly ride capacity. More ride capacity means = more people = more money for Disney. And while Autopia has huge capacity, it takes up a massive amount of real estate that could fit 3-4 attractions.
Weaving around the north-east corner of the park is the Monorail which runs through Fantasyland, again something that breaks up the whole concept of unique lands and, again, takes up a huge amount of space.
OK, so enough complaining, how could this be fixed so that you have truly Disney-standard immersive environments that lead to great guest experiences and more profits for the park? Well, like Snow White's Scary Adventure, I'm going to leave that unresolved until Part 2.