2011 was a very busy year at the Disneyland Resort.  We saw the launch of a new promotion, “Let the Memories Begin”, another huge Pirates of the Caribbean movie premiere, the opening of two major attractions, a hotel renovation and special annual passholder events.  And if that’s not enough, we are witnessing one of the largest park construction projects that Disney has ever performed.  Cars Land & Buena Vista Street will open in mid 2012, but we will also take a look at the massive construction of each area.

The Weekly Photo & News Reports which made this year in review possible are sponsored by:

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Let the Memories Begin

With the start of 2011, Disneyland and Walt Disney World launched the “Let the Memories Begin” campaign which was centered around your memories.  Nightly, on the facade of “it’s a small world” a collection of the photos that were taken by Disney Photopass Photographers that day, or uploaded by guests on Disney’s website, would be displayed to music and amazing projections.

Below preview video of the show at Disneyland.

Let the Memories Begin Esplanade Sign

Family Fun Weekends

In January, February and March, Disneyland held “Family Fun Weekends“, in an attempt to bring annual passholders into the parks during the slower part of the year.  The weekends were centered around five major themes; Fiesta Disneyland, Disney’s Kickin’ Country, Character Fan Days, Lunar New Year Festival and Mardi Gras

Disneyland Family Fun Weekends

Disneyland Family Fun Weekends - Lunar New Year

Disneyland Family Fun Weekends - Mardi Gras

Disneyland Family Fun Weekends - Mardi Gras

Pirates Take Over

Pirates once again took over Disneyland, when Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides premiered at the park.  Borrowing on the success that ElecTRONica had with the “sneak peek” of the movie TRON: Legacy, Disney offered a similar experience with the new Pirates movie.  Although it was much larger, filled with special effects and a mini stunt show.

Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Sneak Peek

A few months later, the Rivers of America was transformed into the largest outdoor theater in the world when Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides became the first 3D movie to ever premiere outside!  The setup was truly massive and no photo or video can do it justice.  Disneyland hosted a “black carpet” premiere down Main Street USA and some very patient guests were able to get themselves a spot to watch the celebrities and VIPs show up.

Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Premiere

Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Premiere

Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Premiere

Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Premiere - Johnny Depp

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade – Soundsational Summer

Disneyland left the Summer Nightastic promotion behind this summer, instead calling it a “Soundsational Summer”  and boy were they right!

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade launched in late May.  The high energy, fast tempo parade features a drum line, the talking Mickey Mouse actually playing drums and many floats with characters that we haven’t seen in a long time.  The parade is a true hit and many Disneyland fans were sad to see it go dark during the Holiday season; don’t worry, it will be back in January!

Mickey's Soundsational Parade

Mickey's Soundsational Parade

Mickey's Soundsational Parade

Mickey's Soundsational Parade - Princess & Frog Dancer

Mickey's Soundsational Parade - Mary Poppins

Mickey's Soundsational Parade - Tinker Bell

Soundsational Annual Passholder Event

The Disney Parks Blog put together a after hours Annual Passholder Event at Disneyland Park on October 12th and 17th.  The event was a “thank you” to annual passholders and gave the attendees special access to the park, selected attractions, the first night performance of Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, an up close look at the floats and a special discussion panel made up of the parade’s creative team!

The photos and video below were taken during the October 12th event.  That night, the discussion panel was made up of Soundsational Parade Art Directors Jody Daily and Kevin Kidney as well as Senior Show Director John Addis.

Art Directors Jody Daily, Kevin Kidney and Show Director John Addis

John Addis, Senior Show Director for Mickey's Soundsational Parade

Mickey's Soundsational Parade at Night

Mickey's Soundsational Parade Annual Passholder Night

Mickey's Soundsational Parade - Jody Daily and Kevin Kidney

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

One of the most anticipated events of the summer, and part of the Soundsational Summer promotion, Disneyland re-launched Star Tours.  The new version of the attraction uses the same type of simulator technology as the previous version, however now guests are presented with a 3D HD version of the film, randomized into 52 different combinations!

Star Tours Sign

Star Tours Sign at Night

Star Tours Early Departure Preview

Disneyland, Star Tours - The Adventures Continue

Star Tours Early Departure Preview

Even though the attraction had soft opened a few times prior, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue official launched on June 3rd to a massive crowd!  The initial wait time was over four hours.

Star Tours Line at 4 hours long

This is not a crowd, this is the line for Star Tours.

Star Tours Line

The line took up the entire queue, portions of Tomorrowland and half of the hub as it switched back and forth and then stretched down part of Main Street USA.  But by the end of the day, the wait time dropped significantly, and remained in the 60 to 80 minute mark most of the summer.

Star Tours Line

Star Tours Early Departure

The Disney Parks Blog put together quite a few “met ups” and special events this year, and we thank them for that!  One of the events was on the very early morning hours of May 20th.  Winners were allowed to bring a few guests along.  Twitter user VashSky was one of the lucky winners and he brought along a few of his favorite Disney bloggers…Me included!

The event gave us one of the first rides on the new Star Tours, even before the annual pass previews and soft openings!

Star Tours Early Departure Preview

Along with Star Tours, the neighboring Star Trader retail store (which also serves as the attraction exit) got a major refurbishment as well.

Star Trader

Star Trader X-Wing

Disney Gallery

The Disney Gallery, in it’s new home on Main Street, went through a few different exhibits this year.  The first was the “Magic on the Water, the Happiest Fleet on Earth”.  The exhibit showcased different Disney boats, in theme parks as well as the cruise lines.  The center of attention was the construction and upcoming launch of the Disney Dream, the newest Disney cruise ship.

Disneyland Disney Gallery - Magic on Water Exhibit

Disneyland Disney Gallery - Magic on Water Exhibit

In mid year, the exhibit was replaced with the “Art of Marry Blair”

Disney Gallery Mary Blair Exhibit

Disney Gallery Mary Blair Exhibit

Disney Gallery Mary Blair Exhibit

And most recently, the elaborate, “Trains of Disney”.

All Aboard The Trains of Disney Exhibit at the Disney Gallery

All Aboard The Trains of Disney Exhibit at the Disney Gallery

All Aboard The Trains of Disney Exhibit at the Disney Gallery

Main Street Changes

In mid year Disneyland’s Main Street began to see the most significant change in years.  Although most of these changes will happen in 2012, the Plaza Pavilion’s transformation into the Jolly Holiday Bakery was nearly complete by the end of 2011.

Plaza Pavilion to become Jolly Holiday Bakery, Disneyland

Plaza Pavillion

The Jolly Holiday Bakery is only a fraction of the changes we’ll see in 2012.  The Blue Ribbon Bakery will be closing and the Carnation Cafe will move into that space.
Jolly Holiday Bakery Sign, Disneyland

Jolly Holiday Bakery Weathervane

Although no actual construction or closure took place in 2011, it was announced at the D23 Expo that the popular Carnation Plaza Gardens would close to make way for the Fantasy Faire, mostly a princess meet and greet area.

Disneyland, Carnation Plaza Gardens

Carnation Plaza Gardens

Swing Dancing at Carnation Plaza Gardens