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Disneyland Article
Maybe Disneyland Should Have A Land Called Constructionland

Orange County Register
Robert Niles
October 27, 2016
November 10, 2016
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Let's talk about the biggest new thing at the Disneyland Resort this year - construction.

It's all over the place at the resort, from the 14-acre dirt field that greets visitors as they drive across the Ball Road flyover from I-5, to the scaffolding that has consumed the resort's tallest icon - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

While Disney has done a relatively good job of keeping the "Star Wars" land construction at Disneyland out of the view of guests inside the park, it's that Tower of Terror construction at Disney California Adventure that has Disney fans talking.

I love the description from one follower on Twitter, "It's like Universal's The Simpsons Ride come to life. You now actually can go on a ride as it's being demolished."

Disney is converting the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to a Marvel-themed ride to be called "Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout!" Park officials have announced that the current version will close on Jan. 2, but the company's gotten a head start on the conversion, removing exterior decoration before closing the ride inside.

Which was the better call for Disney and its fans: To close the ride before doing any construction work and preserve the total experience, or to leave the ride open until the last possible moment, allowing more fans to ride, even if in a scaffold-covered tower?

The only clear answer is that someone would have complained either way. After all, the only decision that some Disney fans would accept is not to change the tower at all.

Fans' reactions to construction walls can tell you a lot about the state of a theme park. A few years ago, I loved seeing all the construction walls around Disney California Adventure. And more than a decade ago, the sight of the scaffolding-covered tower rising above the park's Hollywood Land thrilled Disney fans.

Disney California Adventure back then was dismissed by many as a failure - a billion-dollar shopping mall that lacked the charm and excitement of Disneyland and the company's other theme parks around the world. At that point, any change was a good change, so construction walls probably meant better times ahead for the park.

These days, following another billion dollars in additions and refurbishments, Disney California Adventure is a hit - the seventh most-visited theme park in America and 11th in the world, according to the most recent industry estimate. It draws two million more fans each year than any other theme park in Southern California outside its big brother, Disneyland.

All that construction yielded the original Tower of Terror ride, followed most recently by Cars Land and Buena Vista Street - all widely beloved additions to the park. But when a company boards up a beloved attraction to replace it ... well, then, at that point the construction walls aren't so welcomed, though the new version could be just as, or more exciting to the younger crowd.

I drove up to Six Flags Magic Mountain last weekend to activate my annual pass. Walking around the park, I noticed the construction fence around a large section of the old Movie District - in my opinion, the dreariest section in the park. Yet seeing all that fencing (lined in theme parks' traditional "Go Away" green) made me happy because I know that's going to be the site of the park's new Justice League Battle for Metropolis ride; it will be a 3D interactive dark ride that's exactly what Magic Mountain needs to enliven that section of the park, which lags both the local Disney parks, Universal, Knott's and SeaWorld in annual attendance.

But when I later drove down to Anaheim to visit Disneyland, I joined the crowd in rolling my eyes when I got to the construction wall blocking the old Big Thunder Trail in Frontierland. As much as I'm looking forward to "Star Wars" land, having to walk back through the ever-crowded hub every time to get from Frontierland to Fantasyland is growing ever more annoying. I am looking forward to those walls coming down, I hope, next year.

So let's consider construction walls a conveniently ironic way to gauge the health of a theme park. If the sight of them instantly makes fans happy, the park's probably not been doing so well. But when some fans complain, that just shows how much they appreciate what they once had.
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