Theme Park Insider

Disneyland Releases New Rivers of America Concept Art

January 11, 2016, 10:05 AM · Disney this morning released new concept art from Walt Disney Imagineering, depicting what the Rivers of America will look like when it reopens at Disneyland next year.

Disney concept art for the new Rivers of America
Click for the full image

Like so much of Disney's theme park concept art, the image is gorgeous, showing the Disneyland Railroad on a trestle above waterfalls and the Mark Twain riverboat steaming around the bend. However, also like much of Disney's concept art, it is as vague as it is alluring. There's no depiction of anything near the rivers that we know will be remaining constant, which keeps the image from providing any context. Without that context, we can't deduce the position within the park of anything shown in the concept art, nor can we, from that, infer the relative size of the refurbished river.

But we can see the Indian village, the settler's cabin, and the abandoned keelboat, as well as the railroad, the Twain, and Tom Sawyer Island raft, which suggests that many of the river's visual elements will survive the changes.

Disneyland closed the Rivers of America attractions yesterday, as the park will be claiming some of their space for the new Star Wars Land, which we are guessing will open sometime in 2019 or 2020.

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Replies (15)

January 11, 2016 at 11:07 AM · The good news is Disney is still releasing art work that appears to indicate the Mark Twain is moving! I'm still terrified it is going to be permanently docked after everything is done.

I realize this is all concept stuff, but I'm concerned about the position of the Tom Sawyer raft.

At first I thought the flat land on the left of the image was the Hungry Bear restaurant. But there is a dock in the image. What if that is the current canoe loading area and Rivers of America just becomes a circle with Hungry Bear on the other side of the railroad? And the indian village is on the piece of land just west of BTMR. I can't imagine the modification is going to be that severe, but is there room behind Hungry Bear to convert the old railroad track to a pathway that will lead to a new loading area beyond Hungry Bear restaurant? I think that area is all elevated.

January 11, 2016 at 11:10 AM · It's a gorgeous photo. Everyone should click on the image for the full panoramic graphic. It has two pluses. First, the design allows the train to be part of the river rather than just hugging around the river bed, thus it is a better use of space than the current layout. Second, the train tracks running over some new rock formations and the bridge gives the Mark Twain a smoother curve to navigate, which isn't the abrupt loop that some people feared. Disney can choose to get more out of this journey by slowing the ride so guests can enjoy the backwaters section at a leisurely pace. This is thumbs up.

The negatives are it is still a shorter ride and we don't know exactly how short and if it matters.

January 11, 2016 at 11:41 AM · If you do a CSI-style enhancement on the Rivers of America concept art, you almost can see the upcharge dessert party on Mark Twain. ;^)

Seriously, though, I hope that Disney takes this opportunity to rebuild the Fort, so that there are no closed elements on the island or the river anymore. And that Disney pays for that upkeep with some of the money that SWL surely will generate.

January 11, 2016 at 2:16 PM · Fort Wilderness really ought to be demolished and rebuilt.. Back in 2007 when it was closed to guests (due to wood rot, I believe), it was partially taken down and rebuilt in such a way that it looks a lot less believable. To put it bluntly, the fort as it stands today looks like it was made from Home Depot supplies instead of fallen trees by early American settlers on the frontier. Fantasmic will likely have to rearrange many of its storage areas for barges and other things as part of this renovation of the river. Is it too much to hope that they can take advantage of this 18-ish month rehab to find a new cast break room area and re-open the fort to guest exploration?

And what is to become of that little treehouse on the hill on the south end of the island that's been walled off for a few years, a victim of safety concerns?

January 11, 2016 at 2:27 PM · Am I correct that Disney no longer builds anything that is not ADA compliant? If that is true, then they would not rebuild Fort Wilderness or anything else as a place where kids can climb because wheelchairs can't get through there. If they rebuild the Fort, wouldn't they just make it something to look at and not for guests to go in? Disney seems to be in the "SAFETY!" mindset and is concerned with lawsuits, not the best guest experience.
January 11, 2016 at 2:31 PM · Mark Twain and the Columbia are going no where. Why are you fueling rumors that have no truth? Mark Twain is also not going to be an upcharge dessert party.

Have you all forgotten that Fantasmic is returning and both of these boats play an important role in that show?

January 11, 2016 at 3:31 PM · This definitely looks like it has a lot of potential. I know the real thing won't match the concept art 100%, but if it is somewhat representative of the new Rivers of America I'd definitely take a shorter route with this scenery over the old longer version.

It's difficult to say with any certainty, but I've got a hunch this section of the river will be just beyond the Hungry Bear Restaurant, with Tom Sawyer's Island being cut off just north of the fort (which, like others say, I hope Disney will rebuild and reopen). If it links up with the current route around where the outcropping is across from BTMR, they'll really only be shaving off about 3 minutes of ride time (off a 15 minute ride), so it really is not as drastic of a change as fans are making it out to be elsewhere.

January 11, 2016 at 5:42 PM · Not sure why everyone is getting so excited about concept art that reveals little to nothing about the fate of the ROA. Honestly, I'm glad that they're finally renovating the ROA, but I do fear that it will come at a great cost. From the numerous rumors that I've heard, it seems like the length of the ROA will be shortened by as much as 35%. And unfortunately this concept art does not ease any worries because it doesn't show where the ROA will specifically end. All it shows is an enhanced ROA with a few waterfalls and probably an updated Indian village with working animatronics. Although the renovations are happily welcomed, I still cannot get over the fact that they're shortening the river. I'm pretty sure that TDA purposely left out the part of the picture that shows where the ROA ends because they know that if they reveal it now people will explode. However if they release a really nicely detailed concept that shows major enhancements to the river, than most people will be happy with the change until they finally tell the GP about how the river is SUBSTANTIALLY shorter. By the time they tell the GP, it will already be too late. By that time the damage will be done and there will be no going back. And TDA knows that the anger that DLR fans feel will only last a few months until they announce the specific details of SWL, which will easily ease the tension/anger forever.
January 11, 2016 at 6:58 PM · A shorter distance around the river should make for some new record times in the cast member canoe races when it re-opens!
January 11, 2016 at 8:55 PM · Honestly, I could not care less that DL is getting a shorter Rivers of America, because it looks like both the riverboat and train rides are just going to get better. We'll have to wait and see. Plus its all for a good cause - a huge new, immersive Land.
January 11, 2016 at 9:20 PM · Based on the concept art, won't it be a problem for railroad riders to see the waterfalls since the seats face to the right side (inward)?
January 11, 2016 at 11:47 PM · Here is a good gif of what the RoA is probably going to turn into.

http://cdn1.sciencefiction.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/disneyland.gif

It seems about right because the railroad is going to have to turn inward right after the Country Bear and end up on the other side just north of Big Thunder, where it'll turn because it needs to stay on the west and north of the Fantasyland Theater. My only issue with the gif is that bend on the eastern side. I'm thinking a riverboat wouldn't be able to make those turns, so I'd expect to see a little of that land next to Big Thunder turning into River. If they do that I can totally see widening the island and moving the Pirates stuff south.

Personally, I think this has long been necessary. The RoA has been more for locals than the occasional tourist, so it'll be nice to give tourists a reason to actually climb aboard the riverboats. Even better, the park will finally get rid of its two dead ends (assuming there will be entrances to SW in Critter Country and Toon Town)! Traffic will flow better. Unfortunately the new scenery won't benefit the rail-riders, but those mountains and waterfalls aren't there for scenery as much as they are a necessity to hide the weirdness that will be built behind them. Shortening the RoA is NOTHING compared to what will happen if people can see a Star Wars building elsewhere in the park!

January 12, 2016 at 9:42 AM · Love the artwork! Rocks and trees, kids! Rocks and trees! Beauty!
January 12, 2016 at 10:33 AM · The backwoods part of the river was relaxing but could easily be shortened, there was truthfully not much to see along that long stretch. But what happened to the rumored walkway between the Hungry Bear and Star Wars Land? Here's an idea - make a Mine Train through Rainbow Caverns - it can be a shuttle system that goes back and forth. It would be inside the mountains, and serve primarily as transportation between the two points along the river. Either that or a walkway through Rainbow Caverns.
January 13, 2016 at 5:08 PM · Star Wars will share a boundary with Critter Country so I'm 90% sure there WILL be a walkway between the two. Otherwise they're going to end up with a dead-end that's basically the entire width of the park.

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