My iPhone has been a buzz over the possibility of “soft openings” for Star Tours – The Adventures Continue and Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Given Disneyland’s history with soft openings, it is a good possibility that it may occur.
Already the attractions are operating, for Cast Members, Team Disney Anaheim, Walt Disney Immagineering and others, not to show off the new ride but to work all the bugs and kinks out of them. Disney has a long history of doing “Cast Member Previews” and more recently “Annual Passholder Previews” on new attractions in an attempted to get them working smoothly and efficiently before they debut to the general public. Once WDI is happy with the general aspects of the attraction, either it be the ride system, pre-show features or even testing the flow through the queue, then the attraction could “soft open”.
What Is a Soft Open?
Basically a soft open is when the attraction suddenly opens to the general guests. Anyone who just happens to be walking by can enter the queue and ride the attraction. Think of this as a final testing phase before the attraction has it’s big unveiling. The goal remains the same, work the kinks out and train the cast members in real situations. But because of this the attraction can open and close at any time without warning. This can happen multiple times a day, or not at all. It is completely unpredictable and at the discretion of WDI and the needs of the cast member training.
Which One Will Soft Open First?
In the past we have learned to expect soft openings in the few weeks leading up to the grand opening, and in the case of some attractions they can actually stay open for the entire day. The first of the two attractions to soft open will most likely be Star Tours. Star Tours is already having Cast Member previews and is scheduled for AP previews next week. Most importantly, the walls are down around the attraction. Disney has stationed cast members in front of the attraction with only three temporary barricades around the entrance. And yesterday, the queue pre-show was running. C3PO and R2D2 were seen though the glass in operation.
In terms of Little Mermaid, the attraction doesn’t apear to be ready for a spontaneous soft open. The walls around the east side of the building came down yesterday, but the majority of the attraction is still behind walls. (The cast members previewing the attraction are entering though a back door.)
How Will I Know When They Soft Open?
The majority of it is luck. But in today’s world of smart phones, Twitter and Facebook, news travels very quickly. A very cool site has been set up and dedicated to watching Star Tours. StarTours2Live.com has a reporter camping out in front of the Star Tours attraction at Disney Hollywood Studios. They have been tweeting live updates and even have iPhone, Android and WebOS apps for each park ready to go with push notifications for soft openings and wait times. But remember, Disney keeps a watchful eye on the Twitter and blog community, they know when the ‘heat is on’, and I’ve seen this effect the testing of new technology first hand!