After a year-long refurbishment the Molly Brown (named for the famous survivor of the Titanic who was also known as the “unsinkable Molly Brown”) has returned to the Rivers of the Far West at Disneyland Paris today. The elegant steamboat had been taken out of service last year to undergo a complete rehab – which was the second major rehab for the Molly Brown. The first major rehab was actually conducted from September 2005 till April 2007 (this first rehab included a partial reconstruction after the ship’s engine had overheated on May 16, 2005, caused some fire damage and forced an evacuation of the guests on board). However, during the current rehab the ship was nearly completely rebuilt from its shell.
The Molly Brown moved out of the dock area behind the Chaparral Stage on Thursday already and could be spotted all lit up prior to park closure. However, it only returned to service today, Friday March 25th 2011. In the day light it became obvious that the Molly Brown looked better than ever. Already from a distance guests can see that the elegent side wheeler (which is the only side wheeler in any of Disney’s Magic Kingdom parks around the world) features a new color scheme. Gone are the turquoise and green accents. Instead various golden brown colors and black are now setting accents on the certainly still white body of the steamboat.
Gone is the title “Queen of the River” that adorned the cover of the side-wheel. Instead the new title “Western River Line” has replaced it (no word so far whether the Mark Twain will also sport the “Western River Line” anytime soon). Interestingly the railroad circling the “Rivers of America” in Tokyo Disneyland’s Westernland is named “Western River Railroad” (even so it departs in Adventureland). However, more likely the name “Western River Line” is (another) subtle tribute to the never built attraction “Western River Expedition”, which master Imagineer Marc Davis thought up for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Disneyland Paris already features tributes to the Western River Expedition with Thunder Mesa (the town of Frontierland named after the Thunder Mesa Mountain around and inside of which the Western River Expedition would have been placed) and the Phantom Canyon scene of Phantom Manor (which is supposed to be inspired by scenes from the Western River Expedition).
Before returning to regular service today the Molly Brown was re-dedicated in a small ceremony at 11:00 am at the Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing. The ceremony was conducted by the two current Disneyland Paris ambassadors Régis Alart and Osvaldo del Misterotwo in best wild west costume. They introduced the guests on-hand (in French) to the side-wheeler and explained the reason for the re-dedication (the complete rehab) before calling upon the services of Buffalo Bill (from “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” in the Disney Village) who then welcomed Mickey and Minnie (both in their best dress / suit for an exclusive evening in a gold rush town). Buffalo Bill gave another – short but festive – speech (in English) before actually cuting the ribbon and allowing the first guests back on board.
As added bonus guests on the cruises this morning were also entertained by a small live combo of three cowboy who had taken up a spot at the bow of the steamboat. While entertained by the live country music guests on board could relax as they were gliding past the shores of Frontierland which are already in full bloom thanks to the warm spring temperatures and the sun. Or they could further explore the side-wheeler which once again shines brightly on the outside as well as on the inside and offers unique luxury for a river cruise.
For those who would like to enjoy the re-dedication ceremony the fan-site DisneyMagicInteractive is presenting the complete event as video: