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Disneyland Hotel redo will make this resort far easier to get around, not so easy to forget

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Disneyland Hotel redo will make this resort far easier to get around, not so easy to forget

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This past Sunday, I spent an hour or two wandering around the Disneyland Hotel.

Photo by Jim Hill

Which was something of a challenge. Given all of the construction that's going on at that Resort right now.

Photo by Jim Hill

"So what's going on behind all of those construction fences?," you ask. Well, to be honest, there wasn't any construction going on this past weekend.

Photo by Jim Hill

But - looking down into that walled-off central courtyard area from the 11th floor of the Disneyland Hotel's Magic Tower - it's obvious that they're getting ready to remove this Resort's old "Dancing Waters" show ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... not to mention ripping out Horseshoe Falls (i.e. the man-made waterfalls that used to cascade down in front of the entrance of the Dreams Tower).

Photo by Jim Hill

And as for the Disneyland Hotel's Cove Pool, a bulldozer & backhoe have already cleared away the sandy beach, wading pool and hot tub / spa that used to be located in this part of the Resort.

Photo by Jim Hill

"Okay. So all of the stuff that used to be located in the southwest corner of the Disneyland Hotel's central courtyard is now being removed. So what's going to replace the Cove Pool area?," you query. Well, the Cove Pool area is being turned into a beautiful manicured lawn. Whereas the large lawn area that this Resort used to use for all of its outdoor events & receptions is now being turned into a Disneyland-themed pool and waterplay area.

Does it seem somewhat bizarre to you that this Resort is replacing a lawn with a pool and a pool with a lawn?  Not to John Mauro. As WDI's Development Manager for this multi-year renovation of the Disneyland Hotel, Mauro is using this redo as a way to finally address problems that have plagued this Resort for decades.

"You have to understand that the Disneyland Hotel was built in bits and pieces over the past 50 years. Which is why - while this Resort has some great individual elements - it doesn't have great flow-thru.  The Disneyland Hotel doesn't tell one cohesive story," Mauro explained. "That's why Imagineering is  abandoning the piecemeal approach that we typically took when dealing with the Disneyland Hotel and are now facing all of these issues head on."

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One of the biggest challenges that the Imagineers are dealing with on this redo are the Disneyland Hotel's long-standing line-of-sight issues. To explain: Thanks to the way that the Never Land Pool is currently situated (i.e. blocking the view of most Guests as they exit this Resort's registration area), many people get disoriented after they exit the lobby of the Magic Tower and then have real difficulty when it comes to finding their hotel room.

Well, this is one of the main reasons that WDI is doing that pool / lawn, lawn / pool swap. So that they can then radically improve the sightlines across the Disneyland Hotel's central courtyard. Not to mention - by adding a footbridge across the Resort's new pool - the Imagineers will make it that much easier for Guests to quickly cross this expanse and then get to their rooms.

And then - to make sure that there'll no longer be any confusion about which tower is the Dreams, the Magic or the Wonder - the Disneyland Hotel's trio of towers is being renamed. What's more, each of these towers (when this Resort's renovation is completed in 2012, that is) will feature oversized marquees which will be loaded with classic Disneyland artwork. So that Guests from 100 yards away will now be able to tell the Adventure tower with the Fantasy or Frontier tower.

Speaking of Disneyland ... Given that this Resort is located right next door to the Happiest Place on Earth (More importantly, that Disneyland visitors have been staying at this hotel for over 5 decades now) ... Well, the Imagineers are now looking to tap directly into those 55 years of fond memories.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We're definitely looking to update the overall look of this Resort, give it much more of a modern feel," John said. "But at the same time, this property is a very important part of our portfolio. The Disneyland Hotel started it all. With is why we're now looking to capitalize on people's nostalgia for this Resort and that theme park."

Which explains that replica of the iconic Disneyland sign which will towers over the entrance to this hotel's two waterslides. Which - appropriately enough - are themed around the Monorail.

Mind you, for every piece that celebrates Disneyland's past, there'll be something new. Like those six cabanas that are being built poolside. Which will provide Guests who are willing to pay a premium with a flat screen TV, a refrigerator, safe, phone, and ceiling fan.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

There'll even be elements of this redo that will celebrate Disneyland's past while -- at the same time - give modern-day visitors the sorts of dining experiences that they crave. Take - for example - that "smart, casual" dining area that's being built in the Hotel's central courtyard area. Which is using Disneyland's old Tahitian Terrace restaurant as the inspiration for its look and menu items.

"We'll be doing all this plus updating the Resort's amenities. Giving people places where they can plug in their cell phones & computers. Not to mention adding fun touches like light-up headboards that use fiber optics to recreate Disneyland's nightly fireworks," Mauro continued. "Our ultimate goal here is to turn this Resort into a place that's far easier to get around but not so easy to forget."

And the good news is ... Given that the Disneyland Hotel renovation actually got underway in August of 2009, this project are more than a third of the way done at this point. John anticipates that - if everything stays on schedule - the first Guests will then be able to slide down that Monorail-themed waterslide sometime in the late Spring / early Summer of 2012.

Photo by Jim Hill

"We're doing things in phases, redoing one tower at a time so that all of this construction doesn't then have too huge of an impact on the overall Guest experience for people staying at the Disneyland Hotel. But we're not doing things piecemeal," Mauro concluded. "This time, we're doing it all and we're doing it right."

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  • "Well, this is one of the main reasons that WDI is doing that pool / lawn, lawn / pool swap. So that they can then radically improve the sightlines across the Disneyland Hotel's central courtyard. Not to mention - by adding a footbridge across the Resort's new pool - the Imagineers will make it that much easier for Guests to quickly cross this expanse and then get to their rooms."

    There actually is NOT any pool swap. The current Neverland pool (north end) will remain, but without any Disney themeing. Those exiting the hotel's registration will still be confronted by a fence and landscaping that blocks the sight lines across the courtyard. South of that pool, they will be adding an additional smaller pool (of uncertain benefit) along with the new play area "pool" (probably only w few inches deep) with a simple, off-the-shelf waterslide structure.

    The addition of the footbridge across the center of the courtyard is a definite improvement, but otherwise, all they are doing is just making a bigger generic pool area with MINIMAL (for Disney) “themeing”.

  • Being a former die-hard Disneyland Hotel visitor every year (except since the latest construction started in '09), this is great news. I remember years back when the Wrather corporation had control, and I actually appreciated the layout and design (though lack of theming per se) prior to the way it looks today. Hopefully the details will be Disney-worthy, and it will become a spot for my family to want to stay at again.

    Until then... it's staying across Harbor Blvd. where the cost actually equals what you get in return.

  • Frank, I agree.  Disney will use this as a justification to raise rates.  But really, this does look like an off-the-shelf waterslide with two tunnels (oddly, I must admit) arranged as monorails.  I guess I'll wait until it's all done.  But generally, I sense higher prices with little additional value.

  • The only REAL way to fix the DL hotel would be to level it, but that won't happen because it would cost Disney too much money (to do it and in lost hotel revenue).

    Most importantly, is whatever they do, it can't be worse than it is right now.

  • I think it looks great, and I'm looking forward to staying there when it's complete!

  • I certainly will miss the falls there. Such a beautiful and relaxing area of the hotel. I'm also wondering why they're untheming the well-themed Neverland pool and leaving something generic in its place? I think Disney is talking out of its rear end here.

  • What will happen with the old Disneyland Mainstreet fiberglass Pirate ship parade float that Tony baxter reused in the Pirate themeing of the old swimming pool? Will it be reused, destroyed or sold?

  • I have a reservation there from Oct 11-15th. The conference booking site made no mention of construction. I'm glad I read your blog at times like these. The current room review are terrible unless you get into the dream tower and that costs $45 a night extra. I'm terribly disappointed with the booking site's failure to mention this, the conference organizers for choosing this hotel, and with Disney for waiting so long to renovate. When people are complaining about peeling paint and wallpaper and stains on the carpet, you know there's a problem.

    I've booked a backup hotel. Hopefully the Hyatt will be an improvement.

  • As a former neighbor, I am very sad to see the changes and the loss of the waterfalls. I have many happy memories there, although the water show seems silly in the age of Fantasmic and World of Color.

    This is obviously a very good thing for Disney and for hotel guests, but the saddest part is that I remember regularly visiting the Hotel for walks, casual shopping, restaurants, etc. as a kid. This continues the trend in the area of converting it into a resort space rather than part of the overall urban neighborhood.

    That's the saddest part.

  • This update on the renovations has been extremely helpful in our vacation planning. But is the end date a realistic one for the amount of work still to be done?

  • I find the negative reaction to the hotel renovations to be rather ridiculous. The renovations were long overdue. I could have said this more than 20 years ago when I was employed as a casual employee. The hotel was ugly. The grounds were stale. It was hardly a quality hotel than could command premium prices, although it easily did due to its proximity to the park and easy monorail access. Everything needed to be changed. I thought Disney should have just imploded the entire area and built it back in 3 years like they do regularly in Las Vegas (before the recession). Disney could have created something truly magical, but they are conservative and decided to create something in the middle range, below the Grand Californian and better than the Paradise Pier Hotel. That's a shame. Disneyland is by far superior than Walt Disney World and it deserved another 5 Star resort.

  • It is good to hear they are doing it right, (which Disney always does) but after staying there this past July we felt at times like we were in a maze with all the construction walls everywhere..  I guess there is some inconveniences needed to make such a special place.

    We love Disney so much we ended up purchasing a condo in Reunion Resort.  We got a 3 bed 2 bath on the Arnold Palmer golf course for $123,000..  That is right, hard to believe but it is true..  We were at Dinner at the Polynesian one night and met a Realtor who specializes in bank properties in the Disney area.  We couldn't believe the deals he showed us..  I told him I would promise to refer him if he got us that property..  You could find them at  www.ReunionFloridaRealty.com.

  • This appears to be a fantastic addition.  

    I've been going to the Disneyland Hotel for almost 40 years.  And while I've always loved it, recently the hotel just didn't seem properly put together.  The restaurants, bars and pools were fine, just not as great as they could be............and certainly not at the level of most other DLR or WDW resorts.  

    This was especially apparent since the incredible Grand Californian moved in across the street.  

    I'll personally miss the waterfalls, but I can't blame Disney for taking them out.  They were pretty much empty of people most of the time.

    I'm excited about the changes!  

    And I feel those complaining about minimal changes with higher prices are way off base.

    If the renovation improves demand, which I expect, of course they'll raise prices.  

    They'd be foolish if they didn't!

  • To Jack Mitchell's comment: if you are using a comment board to advertise Reunion Realty, at least refer to the right location.  Disneyland Hotel, where you claim to have stayed, is in Anaheim, California.  It's not at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with the nearby Reunion Resort.  I guess all those construction walls you saw were at a different hotel.

    My family and I stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in April and construction (or deconstruction, at the time) had apparently just started.  I can't wait to see the new rooms (they weren't too bad, but could've used an upgrade!).  We didn't use the pool area because it was too cold but hope the improvements are worth all the hassle!

  • I guess it’s inevitable, with the constant mediocre output from Disney in recent years, that so many would be “satisfied” or even “pleased” with the “enhancements" at the Disneyland Hotel.

    There’s NO QUESTION that the hotel needed an upgrade, and much of what they are doing are welcome improvements. HOWEVER, what they are doing to the courtyard is definitely NOT Disney level quality. Adding a small (questionable value) pool, a questionably themed water play structure (Six Flags level themeing) and expanding the concrete expanse around the whole pool area is not much of an improvement. Sure, the water slides will be a bit longer, but certainly not significant enough to consider worthwhile. The elimination of all of the former Neverland themeing for this bland concrete expanse is certainly a step backwards.

    So, the overall hotel “improvements” equate to a wash at best. Some improvements, some slippage. While staying in the rooms will be more pleasant, visiting the courtyard will no longer be an enjoyable experience unless you enjoy laying around a generic pool area like those that can be found in many other hotels.

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