History of the Disneyland Rivers of America Redesign of 2017: Disney Parks History

Disney Parks History

Sailing Ship Columbia Rivers of America Disneyland

In preparation for Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, Disneyland would have to change forever. This would cause the removal of several areas, and a massive redesign of the Rivers of America.

The Rivers of America, with the exception of a few minor changes over the years, remained relatively constant since the days where Walt Disney himself had had a hand in designing this section of the park. But in order to fit in the new land, Disney would need to redesign the entire area, but they also did not want to sacrifice any of the attractions.

Native American Village Rivers of America Disneyland

Disneyland is a landlocked park without any major areas to expand left after sixty-plus years of being open. But they managed to completely change an entire section of the park permanently without losing a single attraction.

The original Rivers of America and all of its attractions would close for a multi-year redo in January of 2016. Over the next year and a half, there would be a massive number of changes to the attractions and shows in this area, with Disney taking the opportunity to upgrade them in the addition to shortening the river.

Tom Sawyer Island would return first on July 16th with no major changes, continuing the Pirate's Lair overlay that had existed prior to the closure. A few details would be changed on the back half of the island due to the river being shortened, including updating details like the cabin and Huck and Tom's treehouse.

Fantasmic would reopen a day later on the 17th with several major updates. It would incorporate projection mapping throughout the show and multiple new scenes, most notably incorporating a Pirates of the Caribbean scene, and changing the princess scene to incorporating two new princesses in the princess montage, Rapunzel and Jasmine.

Rivers of America Iconic Attractions Return This Summer Disneyland Sign

The entire rest of the Rivers of America would reopen on July 29th.

Mark Twain Riverboat Soft Opening Decorations Disneyland

But on July 28th, there would be a large media preview followed by a soft opening themed as the Return of the Disneyland Classics. The Disneyland Railroad train stations, as well as the boats of Rivers of America, would receive special one day only decorations.

This would reveal all of the massive changes to the preexisting scenes along the Rivers of America.

The entire area would be radically changed to include the Disneyland Railroad's first left turn aboard a new series of bridges over a waterfall filled ridge that hid both the newly created Fantasmic storage building and Star Wars Galaxy's Edge.

Native American Boy and Dog Fishing Rivers of America Disneyland

The preexisting Native American village was vastly improved, given a new mountainside setting.

Native American Shaman Rivers of America Disneyland

The Shaman was given a place where he is visible both from the river and the Disneyland Railroad, as he chants.

Native American Chief Rivers of America Disneyland

The Cheif was also given a place of honor on horseback on the top of the ridge.

New scenes along the riverbank were also created, notably an animatronic beaver attempting to destroy the bridge.

To go along with the reopening, a special free series of trading cards of the reopening attractions were given out at various merchandise locations throughout the park.

Tom Sawyer Island From New Orleans Square Disneyland

The Rivers of America got an unneeded but wonderful update that will continue to entertain guests for decades to come. They managed to fit in a new land with two world-class attractions and still keep all the magic and charm of the original Disneyland intact.