What do the Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, and the Disneyland Railroad have to do with life in a galaxy far, far away? Well, they're all set on a frontier, I suppose, but the practical reason that these attractions have been closed since January 2016 was that Disney needed to dig new channel for the Rivers of America in order to create more space north of the river to fit its new Star Wars land.
Tom Sawyer Island (okay, fine, Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer Island) reopened last month, and the new version of Fantasmic debuted earlier this month, meaning that these were the final reopenings of attractions affected by the Star Wars land construction.
In addition to rerouting the Rivers of America to the south on its north end — slightly shortening the route, Disney redressed that section of the river, adding a trestle for the Disneyland Railroad (which also cleared more space for Star Wars land behind it).
The trestle brings train riders closer to the river than ever before. Keep a lookout for the shaman on the ledge overlooking the river. It's a far more impressive and expressive animatronic that Disney's ever had on the river before. It's placed to play at eye level for passengers on the upper decks of the Mark Twain and Columbia, but should impress anyone on the train and canoes, too.
Let's take a Grand Circle Tour on the new Disneyland Railroad route, which also includes some subtle new projection effects in the Grand Canyon diorama:
Want to see the rivers up close? There's no closer vantage point that from the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes:
The shorter river route is creating traffic jams, as the Twain, Columbia, and canoes all vie for space on the water. That's leading to a lot of hold time approaching the Twain dock, as watercraft inevitably have to wait for traffic to clear, including the cycling Tom Sawyer Island rafts. Is this the result of a rush of visitors on opening weekend, or the new normal for the river? We'll find out as the summer continues. But it's nice to be able to take a spin around the river again. And there are few more amazing sites in theme parks than a full Rivers of America, with its stunning variety of watercraft and vistas.
As the sun sets and evening approaches, the rivers transform into the stage for the new version of Fantasmic!
The new water screen projections look far more impressive than their predecessors, and refreshing the show with some of Disney's more modern hits provides this quarter-century-old warhorse with new energy. Fantasmic! 2.0, if you will, reclaims the production's title as Disney's best nighttime show. I's the perfect end to a day in one of the theme park industry's most perfect places — Disneyland's Rivers of America.
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