We had the incredible opportunity to join in on the Return of the Classics event at Disneyland, heralding the homecoming of the Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, and the Rivers of America. The incredible event was filled with surprises and magical moments. Here are some of our favorites:
1. We Went on the First Cruise of the Mark Twain Riverboat Through the New Rivers of America.
The day opened in the most delightful way, with a re-dedication ceremony for the Mark Twain Riverboat, presented by the ship’s captain and Disneyland President Michael Colglazier. After the ceremony, fireworks set off from the ship and we boarded! At the front of the ship was an incredible Dixieland band playing favorite songs (including a rollicking rendition of “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah”).
After we were “All aboooooard!” we set sail through the new and improved river. We sailed past Tom Sawyer Island (now open, once again!) and the impressive Sailing Ship Columbia.
Once we turned the corner of the river, we were treated to a truly breathtaking sight: Mountains! Waterfalls! Beavers! Moose! (Meese?) The improvements are vast, the visuals are outstanding. This return of Rivers of America to Disneyland is a truly can’t-miss experience.
2. John Lasseter Arrived on Ollie Johnston’s Train, Pulling Ward Kimball’s Train.
Just when we thought we would continue sailing down the river, we heard the familiar “choo-choo” of the Disneyland Railroad. Much to our surprise, none other than John Lasseter was aboard the engine, gleefully waving to us from afar!
If this weren’t enough, Lasseter was driving the Marie E., a train belonging to animator Ollie Johnston, one of Walt Disney’s famed Nine Old Men. The surprises continued, as we saw the Marie E. was pulling the Chloe, a train belonging to animator Ward Kimball, another of the Nine Old Men.
While celebrating the future of Disneyland, John Lasseter reminded us of the incredible history of Disney and trains.
3. There Were So Many Disney Characters There and It Was Amazing.
After Lasseter and his historical trains passed, we again heard the Disneyland Railroad. This time, the train passed by under a blast of fireworks, carrying dozens of our favorite Disney characters!
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck filled the front cars, with Chip ‘n’ Dale, Daisy Duck, and the Seven Dwarfs following close behind. After them, classic, fan-favorite characters rode along, including Clarabelle Cow, Clarice the chipmunk, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, and Pocahontas!
Seeing all of these characters at once—while they were riding the Disneyland Railroad—was an amazing experience.
4. We interviewed Disneyland Resort Art Director Kim Irvine on a River Raft.
After our fun on the riverboat, we had the opportunity to chat with Irvine. (She has quite the family pedigree in Imagineering—her mother and her father-in-law were both Imagineers.) We talked to Irvine on a raft near the river, in the middle of the beautiful wooded surroundings, with the train track just behind us. During our conversation, we were part of a truly wonderful moment.
When we asked what her favorite part of the new river expansion was, Irvine began, “It’s hard to choose a favorite…” Before she could finish we heard the sound of the train. Kim lit up with pride. “Listen to how gorgeous that sounds. With the new geography it echoes through the canyon even more than it used to.”
We could really tell how passionate Irvine is about this project and how much these classic attractions mean to her.
5. We Jumped All Aboard the Disneyland Railroad!
We finished our spectacular day in the finest fashion: Riding the Disneyland Railroad. As we departed New Orleans Square station, John Lasseter waved us off on our journey from the platform. We coasted through the new overlook onto the Rivers of America, past Critter Country (including a look down into Splash Mountain’s big finish), and all the way to Mickey’s Toontown station.
After leaving Toontown, we continued on towards Tomorrowland, passing through the highlight of the ride: DINOSAURS!!! The animatronics have been updated and new video screens have been added behind them with upgraded graphics. It was super cool, to say the least. After a quick stop in Tomorrowland, we rode to Main Street, U.S.A station, where we could see out into the entrance courtyard where Cinderella and Snow White were meeting guests—a magical sight.
From there, we finished our leisurely ride around Disneyland back to New Orleans Square station, hearts filled with nostalgia.
Make sure you head to Disneyland soon to experience the return of these classic attractions!