A series of new official photos released by Disneyland Paris offer a first look at the refurbished Big Thunder Mountain, with rare up-close angles on the painstakingly refreshed scenery and props guests will only normally hurtle past at high speed. Read More…
With attractions such as Autopia and Captain EO recently closed midweek in low season, a lengthy closure for Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing this winter might have looked like more cost saving — or we should say, “demand-based” operation. In fact, it’s a renovation of the landing pier itself to cause for these two months of downtime (confirmed so far) from 1st January to 29th February. The exposed wooden deck has been completely taken up, likely to be replaced with fresh materials as has happened to wooden elements across the park, following some years of neglect.
After the complete rebuild of the Molly Brown last year, this famous riverboat landing will look fresher still — perhaps time to refocus efforts on the river itself? Even the most beautiful boat can’t distract from broken geysers or those poorly-hidden escape rafts moored at the back of the river.
Despite the 2011 refurbishments programme being announced almost a year ago, Disneyland Paris continues to work harder than ever before on the renewal and restoration of its original attractions. A quick look at the Closures & Refurbishments schedule shows a packed list ranging from Moteurs… Action! and RC Racer to Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain, all scheduled over the next three months. Some visitors have parodied the resort’s current booking promotions by branding it “Three Irresistible Months… of closures”. Nevertheless it will be safe to say that, by the time the 20th Anniversary rolls around, barely a single corner of the parks will have been left untouched in the past year. A grand new beginning for the grandest Magic Kingdom of them all.
This really is a year when “any dream can come true”… Once again, guests can wind their way through the thick forests and jagged ochre rocks to Smuggler’s Cove, where either the Coyote or Raccoon keelboat will be waiting to take them for a pleasant, slow-paced tour of the Rivers of the Far West.
Controlled entirely by the Cast Member skippers, these keelboats follow a course that takes them far closer to Big Thunder Mountain and Wilderness Island, giving those on-board a unique close-up of the Western landscape and its wild animal population. As the boat rounds the farthest end of Big Thunder, you’ll even get to sail right through the giant Rainbow Arch.
Along the way, you’ll be kept in the Frontier mood with special area music on-board the boat and your “river pirate” skipper will entertain the decks by pointing out key features of the landscape, not to mention knocking out a few Jungle Cruise-style jokes! (though not quite as bad, apparently!)
Sounds pretty fun, doesn’t it? The two keelboats – directly inspired by the 1956 Disney film ‘Davy Crockett and the River Pirates‘ – are quite a unique feature for the park themselves. We’ve not been able to see inside them for 7-8 years, so the unusual seating either on top of the boat or down almost below the water level might come as a surprise to some.
The boats are scheduled to run at least until the end of the Summer season (26th August 2007), but no word yet if they’ll continue to ply the rivers beyond that date. We can certainly hope to see them as a permanent Summer fixture each year from now on.
For over five years, Critter Corral has sat empty with a sign stating, “We’ll be back next season!” – only to remain empty the following year.
In their photo roundup dated 14th July 2007, the Photos Magiques team noted a few construction fences around one of the buildings at the entrance to the former children’s farm. This weekend, more strange things have happened – the entire area has been surrounded with fences, from the railroad to the old Woodcarver’s Workshop, even entirely obscuring the view of the area from the railroad line, all carrying the 15th Anniversary “we’re preparing something new” signs…
So, preparing for the return of animals to the Cottonwood Creek Ranch farm, or preparing for an entirely different future development? With such an abundance of fences and the permanent return of live animals seeming very unlikely, the days of the old Critter Corral appear to be numbered.
But before any inevitable rumours start – no, this won’t be for a Splash Mountain!
Exactly one month ago, 17th June 2007, we reported a very different story indeed – the first sighting of the two keelboats circling Big Thunder Mountain! Their long-awaited return! Life returns to the rivers, Frontierland is the “fabulous” Far West once again!
Today, 17th July 2007, as the Summer season rumbles on, hope is fading for the grand return we’ve been awaiting. Cast Members at the newly-refurbished entrance, completed recently with a wait time indicator, tell guests that the River Rogue Keelboats will not be re-opening this week.
Member Jollyroger gives the reason as an unscheduled set of maintenance for at least one of the boats, damaged in some form during the extensive weeks of Cast Member training. Kinoo backs this up, whilst member Piel again adds that problems have been caused as boats brush past the Western scenery, and even suggests that a couple of the keelboat pilots have left the team, causing further delays. An attraction with such low capacity and through-put will need to be firing on all cylinders at all times, with both boats constantly operational and a large Cast available.
The perseverance and effort of the people overseeing this re-opening should be admired, even if they’re becoming unlucky again. They’re certainly using a lot of time and a lot of money to get a relatively minor attraction back up and running. If this was happening in the Jay Rasulo days, they’d have probably been left to rot without question. (Oh wait, they were!)
The date for re-opening now stands at next weekend, the 21st July 2007, but even this has been mentioned with hesitation. Don’t be surprised to see this saga turn into a trilogy then, maybe with the 28th July 2007 as its ending? Or the 4th August 2007? Or, at this rate, 2008…
The return was first confirmed by La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza forum just last Wednesday, and before fans of Keelboats even had time to pick their jaws up off of the floor, the Keelboats were sighted plying the rivers of Frontierland in preparation for the grand re-opening:
A full refurbishment of the two boats, the Coyote and the Raccoon, and their well-themed loading dock was actually completed over one year ago, with Karl Holz and the operations teams hoping the boats would return for Summer 2006… but they never did. According to La Rouquine, it wasn’t a budget issue as many would have guessed, but infact an issue with training Cast Members to French boating standards in time for the Summer season.
Since the Cast Members running the boats entirely control their route, they must now have a full boating licence, which would have meant training off-site for a considerable time. La Rouquine reports that for the first time the go-ahead has now been given for the Cast Members to train on-site, but with an experienced, external instructor.
The boats originally ceased general service at the end of the 90s, with several brief days of opening in 2000 and 2001 before a full closure from the start of 2002. With only two boats in operation and a large team of Cast Members required, the boats don’t offer the kind of guest-munching, low-cost service operations teams usually enjoy, but in terms of giving life back to the Rivers of the Far West, their effect is unparalled.
Around fifteen Cast Members will join the attraction’s operations team, with an opening currently aimed at late June or early July. It seems likely the operations schedules currently call for a Summer season operation only, but should the return be a success, who knows what this fan-pleasing operations team will decide for the future…
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