A long time ago, in a theme park far, far away...

In the Parks lands this week with news and information for having fun in Southern California's top attractions. Star Wars is everywhere these days - LEGOLAND has added Star Wars to Miniland, Disneyland has updated Star Tours and the Discovery Science Center has a traveling exhibit called Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. To help them get the word out about this geek-a-rific exhibit, we are giving away tickets (more information about that below). We also stop by Disneyland to say goodbye to the legendary music man, Robert Sherman (half of the Sherman Brothers team who brought many of your favorite Disney songs to life). We take a ride on "it's a small world" to pay our respects. Of course, we'll also show you the progress at Disney California Adventure and Cars Land while we are there. We then stop by Knott's to report on the Ghost Town playlist for the week, see what's happening at Universal Studios Hollywood with Transformers and finally end with a dip into SeaWorld for more Manta construction progress. It's a really big update again this week, and a great way to start your weekend (early we hope).

Before we begin, there is a HUGE MiceChat announcement we'd like to make!

One of the most famous Disney fan events is back! The MiceChat Gumball Rally is a race to find out who can ride the most attractions at Disneyland in a single day. Sounds fun, right? Well, it is! It's one event that folks of any age or fan level can compete in and have a great time in the process. Whether you win or lose, you are always a winner when the race takes place on your favorite rides at your favorite place on earth.

When: May 19st, 2012
Where: Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
COST: $24.99 per person (through March 31st, prices will go up to $29.99 per person beginning April 1st).
How Do I sign up?: MiceChat Events Store Gumball Rally Sign Up
How Does the Rally Work?: Rally Information Page

But that's just a little piece of the puzzle. We'll also offer a pre-Rally pasta party on May 18th and a MiceChat Mega Meet on Sunday the 20th (save the date). T-Shirts are available for this year's event as well. If you've never heard of the Gumball Rally before, please visit the Rally Information Page HERE for more information and FAQ. A discussion thread has been created in the forums as well: MiceChat Gumball Rally Discussion.

Last year's event sold out quickly, so don't delay, get your teams together and sign up today!

It was a sad week for Disney fans. Robert Sherman, half of the musical duo responsible for countless songs and melodies for the Disney Parks, passed away on Tuesday at his home in London. In Disneyland alone, you can hear his work played in The Many adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and of course it's a small world among many other places and playlists.

But Disneyland is a happy place and a great way to lift your spirits. Let's see what else was going on in the park this week.

The Matterhorn's 6 month refurbishment is about half way done and progress is evident from as far away as the 5 freeway outside the park. The scaffolding is subsiding down the shell of the mountain, revealing a new, improved paint and texture job. As the work has made its way down the mountain, it became necessary to shut down the Monorail as well, since the scaffolding had to be installed within a few feet of the Monorail track that hugs the west side of the mountain. This will also allow for more thorough refurbishment work to be accomplished on the troubled fleet of Monorails that have been hobbling through the past months often with only one monorail in operation at a time.

Sadly, on the eastern wall of the Matterhorn, facing the subs, the climbing foliage is now completely dead due to the renovations. They will probably need to remove the dead vines and resurface that wall as well.

Work walls have popped up at the old Motorboat cruise dock. Nothing is really hidden and it appears that it may be simple refurbishments.

The weather last Tuesday in Anaheim was cool, overcast, with the occasional blustery wind that recalled a story from the hundred acre wood. Disney quietly, without ceremony, placed a memorial wreath at the doorstep on Main Street that hosts the Sherman Brothers window.

A lovely tribute to a man who created so much of the Disney magic.

it's a small world:
The sky was an appropriately mournful gray as we came to pay tribute to Robert Sherman, the co writer of the most infectious ear worm in theme park history - the theme to it's a small world.

Cracks in the smile betrayed a hint of sadness.

Inside, the theme song thundered to life and the children of the world happily sang the cheerful tune.

Bright colorful sets by Mary Blair play along with the accompaniment of the Sherman Brothers musical message.

It's a world of laughter, a world or tears
It's a world of hopes, it's a world of fear
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It's a small small world

It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small, small world

Farewell Mr. Sherman. We will be forever grateful for your talents and for the messages of hope, optimism, peace and happiness you have delivered in your creative music. You will be deeply missed and long remembered.

Before we get to DCA, let's take a quick detour to Paris. We are so proud to be working with the author of one of the most collectible Disney theme park books of all time, Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, to bring you some very special news. The book has been out of print for years and selling for over $1,000, but we've arranged to bring it back for a limited time at the original price.

Here's a quick video about the book. . .

The book has gone to print this week and there are just a few more copies at the special pre-order price remaining. You can learn more about this amazing book here: Rare Disneyland Paris book set to return!

Okay, now then, Disney California Adventure is just 4 months and one week away from the official relaunch as confirmed by Disney this past week. June 15th is the day all will open to the public and we could not be more excited. Here are the later pics from the park.

Obscuring construction screens have been removed and the buildings facing the front of Buena Vista Street have been revealed. This really gives you an idea of the scale of the entrance with its intimate setting. It is certainly a far cry from the impersonal, gaudy tile mural that nobody understood was to be a postcard. Looking good so far.

The Monorail being down has also allowed a more focused effort to be made on the track that guests enter the park under. It will soon resemble the Glendale Hyperion Bridge.

Elias and Company finally gets a marquee.

Clarabelle's Ice Cream shop looks great!

The marquee has been revealed at the Carthay Circle Theater.

Still not finished, but the wrought iron looks good.


The Soda Fountain will be a wonderful addition to the park


The bridge has returned to service following a brief refurbishment and repainting.

The finer details are really becoming apparent in Cars Land. The sets are being dressed with hubcaps, trinkets and other oddities to give it a real Route 66 feel. Neon signs will highlight the land's buildings and be a beautiful feature in the evenings.

Radiator Springs sign.

Ramone's Body shop.

A peek between the buildings allows us to see the flying tires.

Which way did they go?

Note the full size trees throughout the land (that's an expensive detail)

Both corners facing the entrance to the Hyperion Theatre are now behind construction masking as part of Project Sparkle (the park wide initiative to plus existing areas of the park).

Grizzly is finishing up the long refurbishment needed to get rid of the tacky X-Games bits of theme in favor of a more classic 1950's National Park vibe. It is scheduled to be reopened this weekend (Sunday, March 11th).

Rushin River outfitters remains behind the sheets at the moment.

Welcome to the Discovery Science Center, home of the exhibit STAR WARS: Where Science Meets Imagination. The exhibit, which has been running since November and will finish its run on April 15th, is everything a Star Wars fan could possibly want, along with some nerdy, educational fun. MiceChat was invited to take a look at the exhibit and share with our readers.

We are also happy to announce that the Science Center is allowing MiceChat to give away two family-of-four ticket sets. We've got a trivia question for you to answer and we'll randomly select two winners before next week's column. Read on and may the force be with you!

The Science Center is just off of the 5 Freeway
a few minutes south of Disneyland

Admission into the Star Wars Exhibit is an additional price.

However, Discount tickets are available from
the Science Center Website here

The Star Wars exhibit has a separate entrance inside the center.

Upon entering, you are confronted with an impressive collection mixing Star Wars models from all six films, theoretical science, and real world applications of the technology principals from the films.
And now, for the theoretical and applied sciences. There are currently prototypes being developed, based on the scientific theories embellished upon in the films. For instance,

You can even try to build your own Land Speeder using Magnets, then test it on a track.

More geeky goodness we have. Yoda puppet from Episode V (1980) it is.

And the actual Jedi Training Remote from Episode IV (1977)

A figure from Episode I

Guests have the chance to interact with real robots like C3PO

The Costume for C3PO from Episode III

Princess Leah and R2D2 from Episode IV (1977) with C3PO from Episode III

You can even program your own R2 Unit to go
through an obstacle course.

Or you can try to program a pair of robotic legs to walk.

In another real life application, this sphere was used to do outer space repairs on the International Space Station and satellites

The Wampa from Episode V Special Edition (1997)

The Darth Vader costume from Episode IV (1977)

The actual stop-motion animation model from Episode V (1980)

The robot that repairs Luke Skywalker's severed hand in Episode V (1980) transitions into the medical applications of the technologies.

Then the Interrogator Droid form Episode IV (1977) is revealed to simply be made from leftover R2D2 domes.

The exhibit was so large that one of the coolest features had to be constructed outside in a separate tent. The Millennium Falcon Experience located just outside, is a multi-sensory 4 and a half minute journey through the existing solar system and known galaxies from the cockpit of the falcon. While this is not a motion simulator, guests do sit in chairs equipped with Bose speakers and are looking out into a domed screen. For this Star Wars Geek, there was something magical about pretending to fly through the galaxy in the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

The up-charge is $5.00 for the experience. While it is impressive, it may underwhelm those expecting something more along the lines of Star Tours. Still, I'd consider it a must-do for Star Wars Geeks.

We've just scratched the surface on this exhibit. It's the perfect little family friendly getaway. And don't miss the rest of the Science Center while you're there.

What actual country on Earth served as the planet
Tattoine in Episode IV: A New Hope?

Good luck!

Knott's Berry Farm, where the old west meets Billboard top 40 hits. While the management at Knott's continues their efforts to beautify the park, with some wonderful results . . . we still have the bizarre musical accompaniment throughout Ghost Town to report on. We understand that many of you have made your thoughts known in letters to Knott's and we hope you'll continue that effort. Let them know what you like and don't like about recent changes in the park.

The annoying Catalina Getaway folks have been given a place in the park to flag down suckers guests. Yuck!

The good news is that the lovely "Old Betsy" has
returned to Main Street.

Its carts are filled to overflowing with fecund foliage that
seems to have grown wildly.

We are happy to see that another street in Ghost Town is getting the resurfacing treatment.

The view from the Indian Dance Stage

Perhaps they'll strike oil!

The view from Calico Square.

The Ghost Town Playlist:
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, this week's anachronistic song selections from the music loop in Ghost Town. Let us know if you think the following fit the theme:
  1. Billy Jean - Michael Jackson
  2. Fame - David Bowie
  3. Hole Hearted - Extreme
  4. Talking in your Sleep - The Romantics
  5. He's the Greatest Dancer - Sister Sledge
We don't want you to think that we are down on Knott's, because we are actually really pleased with the major refurbishment going on all over the place . . . but theme is one of the most important ingredients in a "Theme" park. Knott's is proud to call themselves "America's First Theme Park," time for them to make the right decision on this issue and live up to that creedo.

Hopefully, we won't have to be back with another playlist next week.

Work continues in the queue area for the world famous Studio Tour.

A Jimmy Fallon photo op now block the entrance to the former smoking area in the tram unload area.

The rebuilding of the boathouse in Jaws Lake/Cabot Cove is done - complete with fake seagull.

Palm trees have been planted on both sides of the street

Work walls have shifted. The Lower Lot refurb project is scheduled to wrap up in a couple of weeks.

Be careful when you exit Revenge of the Mummy. You never know who (or what) might be lurking about.

The explosion mural looks great with the huge Transformers cutouts in front of it.

Transformers: The Ride 3D is now shown on the park maps as "Coming Soon"

The outdoor extended queue has been covered. You can bet that this attraction will have epic waits when it opens.

The cutouts of Megatron and Optimus Prime duke it out on the building facade

Just in front of the work walls, there is employees in the Transformers attraction costume answering questions and recruiting guests to the online Transformers game

A video was 'leaked' of guests sneaking into the Transformers show building and exploring before getting chased out by security. It is obviously a publicity stunt (The USH copyright notice at the end of the video is a good clue), but the video does give a great view of the queue, the 3D glasses (the same as ST2) and some of the physical sets. You be the judge - is it real or marketing?

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The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy's Condor Cam (www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam) is giving the public the first-ever opportunity to see a California condor hatch live - happening anytime now! This momentous event is being marked with a naming challenge to encourage people around the world to get inspired to protect the endangered California condors.

The egg began to pip - this is the process of the chick breaking through the egg shell from the inside - early Thursday morning. The pipping period can take 48 to 72 hours until the chick hatches, so keep an eye on Condor Cam. Viewers may see the chick's beak protruding through the egg shell or the parents gently removing broken eggshell fragments to help the chick emerge.

Watch for inspiration and then suggest a name, in the Chumash language, for the chick by posting it on the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy's Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/sdzglobal or by tweeting it to www.twitter.com/sdzglobal and using the hashtag #CondorName. Suggestions will be accepted through March 15. Condor keepers will pick their favorite suggestions and the people who suggested these will receive a special prize. The public will get to vote for their favorite name later this month.

The Manta car exhibit is still at the park entrance, tempting guests with what is yet to come.


The other show building is done on the outside.

Work is being done of the rock structure at the entrance of the attraction.

The fencing is mostly complete.

The fence only goes around the back end of the attraction.

This week, the last piece of the track was installed. Testing should begin next month.

Another look at the show buildings.

Another look at the entrance and bridge.


The SkyRide is now under refurbishment and will reopen on March 23rdth Anniversary coming up.

When you exit the attraction, you run into the South American penguins.


And don't forget to take in the latest from the MiceTube. A brand new Communicore weekly!

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We'd like to extend a huge thanks to today's contributors: JP, F!AN, Sir Clinksalot, CaptPhoebus, Monorail Man, Fishbulb and Dustysage. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you too! Contact Dusty today

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