Hello Dateline Disneylanders! Thanks for joining us with this special Friday edition of Dateline Disneyland. We'll be taking a different approach today as we cover the announcement of the new AVATAR-themed expansion at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park and the opening of Aulani, Disney's new timeshare property in Hawaii. Also in today's column, we'll take a look at our ever-popular Project Trackers here on MiceChat where we track the progress on various projects underway at the Disneyland Resort, including the $1 billion Disney California Adventure expansion.

We'll return to our regular format on Monday, but for now join us as we take a look at the latest news at Disney's parks and resorts!

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  • <a href="#DD1">Aloha Aulani!</a>
    Disney's new Hawaiian timeshare officially opens
  • <a href="#DD2">Disney's Avatar Kingdom</a>
    Disney announces a partnership with James Cameron to bring the world of AVATAR to Walt Disney World
  • <a href="#DD3">Project Tracking</a>
    A look at projects underway at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure
    • <a href="#DD3-1">Carnation Plaza Gardens</a>
    • <a href="#DD3-2">Jolly Holiday Bakery</a>
    • <a href="#DD3-3">Disneyland Hotel</a>
    • <a href="#DD3-4">Buena Vista Street</a>
    • <a href="#DD3-5">Cars Land</a>
  • <a href="#DDNEWS">Weekly News and Information Round-Up</a>
    Weekly theme park hours, closures and refurbishments.
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<a name="DD1"></a>ALOHA, AULANI!
Disneyland officially opened its new Disney Vacation Club timeshare property in Hawaii yesterday with a splashy press event and ribbon cutting ceremony. Our intrepid Fishbulb is on site now covering the opening weekend events and has sent us a few early shots from the resort. He'll soon have a full report here on MiceAge/MiceChat. In the meantime, Disney has released a slew of fantastic publicity photos to whet your appetite and give you a sneak peek at their lavish new resort.






MiceChat's Fishbulb had the following to say about Thursday evening's grand opening ceremony:
<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Disney held a grand opening celebration for their brand new Aulani Hotel in Oahu, Hawaii last night. It was a beautiful production on the beach in Ko Olina with the new Hotel as the backdrop. Bob Iger (Disney CEO) and Tom Staggs (President of Disney Parks and Resorts) dedicated the hotel while a cast of talented singers and dancers paid tribute to Disney's newest venture.

The Hotel itself is a work of Hawaiian art with a touch of Disney magic baked right in. From the rooms and restaurants to the pools, beach and spa, this is a high class resort which we place at the top of the list of Disney's hotel roster.

Join us this Sunday as we bring you the first in a series of articles about Aulani from the people and places which make this hotel unique in the Disney universe.
</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>



Mickey and Bob Iger




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The Los Angeles Times' theme park columnist Brady MacDonald has been covering the new Aulani resort over the last week and shares some good insight on the property in his reviews on the hotel's offerings.

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Hawaii: Disney's new Aulani hotel emphasizes culture[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>















Brady also discuseed Aulani's limited and pricey dining options in another column.
<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Hawaii: Disney's new Aulani hotel dining options are few and pricey[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>










What Disney isn't mentioning in its grand opening media blitz is the recent financial issues it had with Aulani that resulted in the termination of three Disney executives, including the president of Disney Vacation Club. The issue centered on underpriced annual dues for Vacation Club members buying into the Resort and the problem forced Disney to halt sales on the property. Sales are now resuming, but with a 33% increase in annual due costs for new timeshare sales. The Orlando Sentinel has details:

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Error leads to 33% fee increase for Disney's Aulani time shares[ FULL STORY ] </blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>












<a name="DD2"></a>DISNEY'S AVATAR KINGDOM
On Tuesday, Disney made a very surprising announcement that they were teaming up with James Cameron to create an AVATAR-themed expansion to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>




The news surprised the unsuspecting fan community and was met with disbelief and often negativity from fans. The questions hit the message boards and Twitter quickly: Why AVATAR? Why not something original? Why not something Disney? And not soon after, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs took to the Disney Parks Blog to answer reader questions.


<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney ParksTIMINGATTRACTION THEMING[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>




The choice of AVATAR is interesting. Obviously Disney sees great potential for the property in its parks from a financial standpoint. After all, Disney wouldn't be investing so heavily in this property if they didn't expect it to be a success. Still, as part of the movie-going public it does seem risky. I saw AVATAR in theaters and enjoyed it, but it wasn't a film I'd see again. At the time of the announcement, I couldn't remember the name of the alien planet that the film takes place in (it's Pandora), nor could I remember a single character's name. I may have enjoyed the film, but my failure to remember key names and plot points reminded me of the public's main criticisms of the film: it's lack of a strong story. For a company that continuously claims that everything it does is about story, the irony here is glaring. On the other hand, this puts significant pressure on Disney to recreate what was memorable about the film: the immersive environments. AVATAR land will need to be hyper-themed, much like the rest of Disney's Animal Kingdom is, in order to be successful. This need for rich theming, paired with the the involvement of James Cameron has me confident that the new land will be a great addition, even if AVATAR as source material is less than ideal. Cameron is already promising that the land will "go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling," and that's something to get excited for. Finally, Disney is being forced to push itself to create the the next big thing in themed entertainment.

From the Los Angeles Times' Hero Complex blog:

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>


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<a name="DD4"></a>PROJECT TRACKING
Our Project Trackers on MiceChat continue to be some of our most popular discussion threads. The Disneyland Resort Project Tracker keeps track of current and rumored projects planned for Disneyland, Downtown Disney and the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort. Currently, some points of interest in the Disneyland Resort Project Tracker include the new Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street and the Fantasy Faire project that is replacing the Carnation Plaza Gardens. Meanwhile, the huge $1 billion Disney California Adventure expansion and remodel has its own Project Tracker. Here, our project trackers discuss every detail of the park's unprecedented reinvention and expansion from Buena Vista Street to Cars Land.


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<a name="DD3-1"></a>CARNATION PLAZA GARDENS / FANTASY FAIRE

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<blockquote>Fantasy Faire
Details: A new "Fantasy Faire" will replace the Carnation Plaza Gardens area in the Central Plaza of Disneyland, effectively expanding Fantasyland onto Main Street. The new area will include princess meet-and-greets and a small stage for performances in a "fantasy village" setting.
Project Status: Officially announced August 19, 2011 at D23 Expo. Construction to begin September 2011.
Open Date: 2012.
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The Carnation Plaza Gardens at Disneyland continue through its final days before it closes to be re-themed as the new Princess Faire meet-and-greet area. It's important to note the historical significance of the Plaza Gardens; in addition hosting numerous school groups over the years, the stage was also graced by legendary acts such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The closure of the Plaza Gardens for a princess meet-and-greet is another loss of one of Disneyland's more historical features, and one that Walt Disney was personally involved in creating.



In fact, Disney's own Disney Youth Groups website has a feature article promoting the stage as "The Stage That Walt Built." It's an interesting read that underscores the historical significance of this corner of the park.

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>The Stage that Walt Built
At Disneyland's Carnation Plaza Gardens, performers can stand in the footsteps of giants.[ LINK ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>

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Carnation Plaza Gardens is set to be transformed into Fantasy Faire, an interactive princess meet-and-greet area. Construction is set to begin by the end of this month.






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<blockquote>Main Street dining expansion
DetailsProject Status: In progress.
Open Date: The multi-facility project will include multiple openings, with the final opening in summer 2012.

Detailsofficially announced on August 16, 2011 with construction scheduled to begin August 17.
Project Status: In progress.
Open Date: January 2012.

DetailsProject Status: Begins January 2012.
Open Date: Summer 2012.
Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Kitchen enhancements and remodeling
Details: The popular Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor will close in January 2012 to be reconfigured for better crowd flow and and improved guest experience. At the same time, the nearby Candy Palace will also close and its popular on-stage display kitchen will be expanded.
Project Status: Begins January 2012.
Open Date: Spring 2012.
</blockquote>





<a name="DD3-3"></a>DISNEYLAND HOTEL

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<blockquote>Disneyland Hotel Renovation
Details: Long-anticipated renovation of the Disneyland Hotel includes a tower-by-tower, multi-phase renovation in which each hotel tower will be completely gutted and remodeled. New rooms feature fiber-optic Sleeping Beauty Castle headboards, wireless internet, flatscreen TVs, and multiple energy-efficient upgrades. For more information on the hotel room remodeling, click here. Disney has also announced plans for a complete redesign of the Neverland Pool area which included the addition of a new water play area that opened summer 2011 with Monorail-themed water slides. The pool area expansion included the removal of the classic waterfalls and koi ponds.
Project Status: In progress. Remodeling began on the Dreams tower August 24, 2009. As of August 2011, the Adventure Tower and Frontier Towers are complete, with remodel work continuing at the former Never Land Pool, Fantasy Tower and Convention Center.
New Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam's Bar opened spring 2011 in conjunction with a new Monorail water slide pool.
Completion Date: November 2012.
</blockquote>
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Construction continues at the Disneyland Hotel as it nears its November deadline. The former Neverland Pool is one of the final projects still seeing continuous construction. The pool and surrounding area has lost its Peter Pan theme and will be renamed the E-Ticket Pool. No major thematic elements will be present here, but the pool and surrounding amenities and landscaping will be updated and refreshed.


Meanwhile, the Fantasy Tower continues to have its lobby re-themed and the towers offer guests brand new rooms with updated amenities and all-new decor and furniture.




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<a name="DD3-4"></a>BUENA VISTA STREET

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<blockquote>Carthay Circle Theatre
Details: The Carthay Circle Theatre will be built, but without the Walt Disney Story attraction. With the Walt Disney Story attraction canceled, and other rumored plans including an expanded Resort Preview Center not happening, the current plans for the space include a Club 33-style club on the top level and a signature dining location and a bar/lounge for park guests on the ground level.
Project Status: As of January 2011, the removal of the Sunshine Fountain plaza was completed and work to clear the area is underway. Construction on the theater is currently on-going.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Red Car Trolley transportation system
Details: Reviving the gone-but-not-forgotten Pacific Electric Railway, the new Red Car Trolley system will offer trolley transportation from the entrance of California Adventure, through Carthay Circle Plaza and down Hollywood Boulevard, ending at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Project Status: Track construction completed in Hollywoodland. Track installation has yet to begin on Buena Vista Street. Trolley cars are reportedly under construction off-property.
Open Date: May 2012
Buena Vista Street shops and dining
Detailssee this post.
Project Status: The shops and dining on the west side of Sunshine Plaza (Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream, Baker's Field Bakery and Engine Ears Toys) will be the first to be closed and re-themed starting July 31, 2011. It is still unclear when the east side shops will close.
Open Date: Summer 2012

West side shops and dining

Mortimer's Market
Details: Ads on Buena Vista Street construction walls note Mortimer's Market as having the "freshest fruit in town," implying that the location will be a snack location serving fresh fruits and other healthy snacks.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Julius Katz & Sons Appliances and More
Details: A new retail location.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Julius Katz Shoe and Watch Repair
Details: A new retail shop, located next to Julius Katz's appliance store.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Big Top Toys
Details: The entrance to this new toy shop will be immediately under the Monorail bridge. This retail location was previously called Carolwood Trains, Craft and Hobby, as reported by the LA Times Funland blog in November 2007.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Clarabelle's Ice Cream Parlor
Details: A likely re-naming and re-theming of the Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream shop.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Fiddler Fifer and Practical Cafe
Details: Advertised as having the "most comfortable booths in town!" on Buena Vista Street construction walls.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Horace's Pawn Shop
Details: This shop is not featured on Buena Vista Street construction wall ads, but was previously reported as the name of a shop by the LA Times Funland Blog in November 2007.
Open Date: Summer 2012

East side shops and dining

Oswald's Filling Station
Details: A new shop and thematic addition themed as a 1920s gas station, Oswald's Filling Station is named after Walt Disney's first cartoon star - Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The Filling Station will be located on your left hand side immediately after entering Disney California Adventure.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Los Feliz Five and Dime
Details: A new retail location which will occupy a portion of the Greetings from California store's northern space, the Five and Dime was previously illustrated as Sewards Five and Dime in concept art.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Elias and Company Department Store
Details: A complete re-theming of the Greetings from California store, this will likely be the primary souvenir shop of Buena Vista Street, on-par with Disneyland's Emporium.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Kingswell Camera Shop
Details: Ads for the camera shop say its located in the Elysian Arcade, suggesting the camera shop (a PhotoPass location) will stay in its current location inside Greetings from California, but the space will be carved out to appear more as a separate shop within the larger Elias and Company Department Store.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Atwater Ink and Paint Art Supply
Details: It isn't noted as being located in the Elysian Arcade, but a small specialty store like this may be located within the space.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Trolley Treats
Details: Trolley Treats will offer "mountains of candy" and "rivers of fudge," among other sweet treats, according to its ad on Buena Vista Street construction wall. This shop will likely be a re-theming of the current candy shop located between Elias and Company Department Store and the entrance to Hollywoodland.
Open Date: Summer 2012
Doc Sherwood Apothecary
Details: This shop is not featured on Buena Vista Street construction wall ads, but was previously reported as the name of a shop by the LA Times Funland Blog in November 2007.
Open Date: Summer 2012
</blockquote>
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At Disney California Adventure, the Buena Vista Street project is now on the front burner as the space gets re-themed as a 1920s Los Angeles cityscape. The unprecedented complete overhaul of the park's main entrance has forced major retail and dining space to close as well as the park's main entrance guest thoroughfare. The result is a rerouted entrance that sends guests through a backstage corridor lined with concept art and attraction posters of what's new and what's next for the park. Behind construction walls, Buena Vista Street's new Carthay Circle Theater was recently crowed with its cupola.



From the Orange County Register:

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Cupola installation marked in Disney park[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>

Buena Vista Street is set to open Summer 2012.




<a name="DD3-5"></a>CARS LAND

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<blockquote>Radiator Springs Racers
Details: A brand new E-Ticket attraction, utilizing Epcot's Test Track ride system technology in conjunction with state-of-the-art Audio Animatronics and special effects, Radiator Springs Racers will bring the story of Cars to life in a new an exciting way. The attraction will conclude with a high-speed race through Radiator Springs.
Project Status: In progress. Heavy construction continues on the attraction, from the ride experience to the themed mountain peaks.
Open Date: 2012
The Courthouse
Details: The Radiator Springs court house, located at the end of the land's main street, will act as the entrance of the Radiator Springs Racers attraction.
Open Date: Will open 2012 as part of Radiator Springs Racers attraction
Ramone's House of Body Art
Details: This merchandise location will serve as the exit gift shop for the Radiator Springs Racers attraction.
Open Date: Will open 2012 as part of Radiator Springs Racers attraction
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
Details: The Bountiful Valley Farm area of A Bug's Land was closed September 7, 2010. The area will become home to the main entrance of Cars Land as well as one of the land's new rides, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.
Project Status: As of January 2011, the land has been cleared awaiting construction.
Open Date: 2012

Luigi's Roamin' Tires
Details: Utilizing a new version of Disneyland's old Flying Saucers ride system, Luigi's Roamin' Tires will offer a unique ride on floating bumper cars themed as giant tires.
Project Status: In progress.
Open Date: 2012
Fillmore's Taste-In
Details: Located in a geodesic dome near the entrance to Cars Land, Fillmore's Taste-In will be a snack bar themed to the hippy VW minibus from the Cars film. The Taste-In will serve fruit themed smoothies and healthy snacks.
Project Status: Construction not yet underway.
Open Date: 2012
Cozy Cone Motel
Details: A faithful recreation of the five-cone motel from the film, the Cozy Cone Motel will serve as a food court serving snacks, light meals and drinks. Food offerings will playfully include the word "cone" in their name, such as "Chili Cone Carne," "Popcone," or "Cone on the Cob"
Project Status: In progress.
Open Date: 2012
Flo's V8 Cafe
Details: Flo's V8 Cafe will be Cars Land's largest and most prominent foodservice location and will serve traditional American fast-food fare including hamburgers, milkshakes and root beer floats. Service will be counter-service, much like Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace and dining space will be on a sprawling outdoor patio. The dining location may also include a stage for live music.
Project Status: In progress.
Open Date: 2012
Radiator Springs Curios
Details: Serving as the primary merchandise location in Cars Land, Radiator Springs Curios is expected to offer unique merchandise items themed to roadside Americana and the Cars films.
Project Status: In progress.
Open Date: 2012
</blockquote>
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California Adventure's other major project is the 12-acre Cars Land project, based on the Disney/Pixar film, Cars.



Opening today, the latest exhibit at the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar will feature exhibits previewing Cars Land. We'll take an in-depth look at the Blue Sky Cellar's new exhibit in Monday's edition of Dateline Disneyland. For now, OC Register's Around Disney blog has information on the updated exhibit:

<blockquote><blockquote><blockquote>Exhibit to show off updated look at Cars Land[ FULL STORY ]</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>



Cars Land is set to open alongside Buena Vista Street, summer 2012.






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WEEKLY NEWS AND INFORMATION ROUND-UP
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Weekend Theme Park Hours
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Disneyland Park
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Disney California Adventure
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Friday-Sunday: 8 am - 12 midnight
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Friday-Sunday: 10 am - 10 pm
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For a complete listing of theme park hours, visit the Disneyland.com Theme Park Calendar

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Expected Weekend Crowd Levels presented by TouringPlans.com
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Disneyland Park
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Disney California Adventure
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MEDIUM/HIGH out of 10
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MEDIUM out of 10
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Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10,
with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

For daily crowd predictions for the next 365 days, visit
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Closures and Refurbishment Schedule
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Disneyland Park
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  • Disneyland Monorail: Running on a shortened schedule due to Buena Vista Street construction. Monorail opens late at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Monorail operates normally Saturday and Sunday.
  • Mark Twain Riverboat:"it's a small world":Pirates of the Caribbean and Blue Bayou Restaurant: Closed through November 23 for refurbishment.
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Disney California Adventure
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  • Redwood Challenge Creek Trail:California Screamin': Closed through October 14 for refurbishment and loop replacement.
  • It's Tough to be a Bug!Sunshine Plaza: Main entrance plaza and related dining, retail and guest services are closed. Space will reopen as Buena Vista Street in 2012.
  • Red Car Trolley: Attraction set to open spring 2012.
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Downtown Disney & Hotels of the Disneyland Resort
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  • Fantasyland Tower lobby areas, Never Land Pool, Adventure Tower-area walkways: Areas closed for remodel and re-theming. Hotel remodel set to be completed in November 2011.
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<table style="border: medium none;" border="0" cellpadding="5"><tbody><tr><td style="border: medium none;" valign="top" align="left"><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=3874837"><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v647/dustysage/FridayVisions/supportsmalltop.gif" width="100" align="left"></a>Alrighty, that wraps up this special edition of Dateline Disneyland. Be sure to check back Sunday for full coverage of Aulani here on MiceChat!

What do you think of Disney's new Aulani resort? Do you think AVATAR is a good fit for Disney's theme parks? Join in on the discussion below and tell us what you think!

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Don't forget that MiceChat has lots of new content throughout the week! For even more Disneyland news, photos and information check out the In the Parks column on Fridays. And MiceChat's Weekend Update, tours the world of Disney theme parks and other worldly sights and landmarks!

See you at Disneyland!
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