Saturday, July 30, 2011

Even a Pastor Needs a Disney History Lesson

I attend a church where the pastor uses real life examples to demonstrate a point. I'm not going to say he embellishes his examples, never mind, I will say it - he embellishes his examples from time to time. Now even a pastor can stand to learn a lesson here and there and in this pastor's case the lesson is never use Walt Disney or Disneyland as an example for anything unless you have your facts straight.

So I'm sitting there one Sunday and the pastor starts talking about a biography he is reading about the life of Walt Disney. His story went something like this..... Walt Disney would come home from work at night greet his young daughters with a kiss, eat dinner with them, read to them, and tuck them into bed - traditional American values of pretty much a bygone era. He didn't talk to them about his work or what he did. His time with them was their time. And all of this may be perfectly true but here is where the pastor's story takes a turn. He went on the stay, the next day his daughters would go off to school (using kindergarten in the story) where they would proceed to tell to tell their school friends about how their dad would read to them and tuck them into bed. The school friends of the Disney daughters would exclaim to them "we don't want to hear about that, tell us about Disneyland, your dad built Disneyland, tell us about the park and what's new". Well, as the story goes, the Disney daughters didn't really know how to react to their friends remarks because the dad they saw at night didn't talk about Disneyland or cartoon characters. He was a warm, kind, loving father who made his daughters feel like they were the special ones, not parks and cartoons. The Disney home may have been all of that. From what I know, the Disney daughters (only one of which is living) speak glowingly of life with their father (interestingly enough, Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew, seemed to tell a little a different story).

But at the end of the pastor's story, my ears perked up and I began doing the math. Diane Disney Miller, Walt's daughter, is now in her later 70's. As of this writing, Disneyland is 56 years old which would make Diane in her early 20's at the time the park was built. So the pastor's example was an embellishment. It's a huge church (about 9000 people a week attend services) so the idea of me shaking the pastor's hand at the end of the service and gently correcting him on his facts wasn't going to happen. I thought about sending him an email, but someone in the staff probably would have intercepted it. But in a church that large there are probably hundreds of Disney fans and  I can only think that somewhere along the line, one of those fans pulled the pastor aside and told him that just maybe, you might have been a little off in your facts.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nemo's Submarine Voyage or Missing the Boat

When it comes to taking pictures in Disneyland, few vistas offer better opportunities for memorable shots than Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage. Bright yellow subs, blue water, Matterhorn in the background - yep, I have picture after picture of Nemo's subs making their trek around the lagoon. Everybody who goes to Disneyland has a bunch of Nemo pictures.

But the time comes when you actually "ride the ride" and here is where, for me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler anyway, the submarine voyage misses the boat. Now granted, when the original sub ride closed down in the early 90's, it had seen its better days. The gray diesel subs had a look of "official Navy" about them but the water features had shown the years wear and neglect. It took years for Disney to figure out what to do with the prime park real estate but the massive success of Pixar's Finding Nemo movie gave Disney just the inspiration of what it needed to do to bring the subs back to life. Nemo is the second highest grossing Pixar film in terms of dollars of all their releases. For the life of me, I don't know why because it is my least favorite. Anyway, back to the ride.

First of all, get ready to wait and wait to get on. No fastpass here and the line is always long, usually 30 to 60 minutes even on slow days at the park. Then there is the sub seating. I think each sub holds about 40 people and the seats are small so you do feel crammed in unless there are a lot of small kids that take up less space. Me and Mrs. DLT hit the jackpot in a driving December rainstorm at the park, a 7 minute wait and a sub that was maybe only 2/3's full. It was the last time we bothered with the ride.

As for the ride itself, well the sub never really goes under the water, just the portholes. It starts off kind of cool in the lagoon but once the ride passes through the waterfall and you are in the actual show building, that porthole you have your face pressed up against seems more like a tv screen or computer monitor - kind of like watching the infamous aquarium screensaver. It follows the basic Nemo story of being lost and finding his way back with all the familiar characters, but it lacks charm. At one point in the ride when the underwater volcano explodes, the ride goes black for a few seconds which has been known to frighten the bejeezes out of some small children. Eventually Nemo and you find your way back home. Not a bad ride mind you but not a great one either in a setting that should have been great.

The original subs were definitely part of Tomorrowland. Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage has nothing "tomorrow" about it. It's kind of cartoony and probably fits better now in the neighboring Fantasyland. Like other Disneyland and DCA attractions, I'll go on Nemo again someday but I won't go out of my way to do it and certainly won't wait an hour. My best chance of getting back in one of those subs is if someone asks, the line is fairly short, and I'm in a pretty good mood.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Man to the Pirates Party

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I saw an extended sneak peak of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last March at a special preview that was shown weekends in Disneyland before the film was released Memorial Day weekend. It was about a 15 minute segment of the movie that was previewed and with all the other Pirate festivities that went on, the whole thing lasted about 25 minutes or so. Disney castmembers would heard waiting guests every 30 minutes into the cavernous Festival Arena area adjacent to Big Thunder Mountain. I remember the night well because I had to hold Mrs. DLT back from slapping a castmember silly because he told her everyone needed to sit down on the concrete to watch the proceedings. Turns out, there were some benches toward the rear that worked out fine. If there were no benches, I'm sure Mrs. DLT would have been down at Guest Relations giving someone the business because in the 45 minutes we waited for our turn, nobody ever said anything about having to sit on the ground.

Anyway, I guess we had intended to POTC: On Stranger Tides when it first came out and it was available in IMAX and 3D versions but for one excuse or another, we just never got around to it. Until today. It was my birthday and I took the day off so me and Mrs. DLT decided get a nice lunch and go see the movie before it completely leaves the theaters. It gets released on DVD and Blu-Ray in October. I thought we would be the only ones in the theater because by now, two months after its release, everybody had probably seen the movie. I was wrong. It wasn't playing in one of the huge theaters in the meglaplex but in our showing, the theater was relatively full. I guess the movie still has some legs.

What about the movie you ask? I think Mrs DLT and I both enjoyed it and I certainly thought it was better than the last installment which I didn't like at all. It was entertaining and if you had to nit-pick, I guess you could say the movie dragged in some places and was probably about 30 minutes too long. Just because you have the budget to make a long movie doesn't mean going that route is the wisest thing to do. Keep the movie focused and moving and people would be much happier.

Anyway, as mentioned in a previous post, Disney and Johnny Depp are negotiating for a fifth POTC movie mostly because they keep the fans happy and everyone makes money. Not a bad deal.

Pirates of the Caribbean - the ride - in Disneyland closes from Labor Day until Thanksgiving Day for refurbishment. Time to give this Pirate stuff a rest for awhile.

A fake Captain Jack - Disneyland - March 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Story of a Mean Ol' Castmember

The little boy in the picture above is my great nephew at the Hungry Bear restaurant taken back in 2007. I think he had just turned 3 or 4 years old at the time. At some point during the trip, we stopped off at a bench near the hub to rest a bit. My great nephew asked if he could get some popcorn from the popcorn cart about 20 ft away from the bench we were sitting. The bench and the popcorn cart were in direct site of each other.

So I gave my great nephew some money and had my son walk over with him to get his box of popcorn. My great nephew gave the popcorn guy his money, got his popcorn and his change. They proceeded to walk back to the bench where we were sitting. Being a little on the short side at 3 or 4 years old, my great nephew had to hop up a bit to get on the bench. In process of hopping on the bench, his popcorn spilled. I told my son to take my great nephew back to the popcorn cart and see if the popcorn guy would refill it. The popcorn guy could plainly see the spilled box of popcorn all over the ground. They came back a minute later and said the popcorn guy told them "I'm not allowed to do that".

Now I have heard about Disneyland popcorn scammers, people who will buy popcorn, get out of view and eat it very quickly or dump it in another container only to go back and tell the popcorn castmember that they just bought it and dropped and ask for a refill. I have had people personally tell me this works. So in my case, I can see the point of the popcorn guy saying "I'm not all allowed to do that (refill a box)". He's a kid, probably his job, and just doing what he's told. But for the love a god, a little boy drops a box of popcorn in plain site and you won't give him a refill. As I said before, Disneyland castmembers are some the nicest friendliest employees anywhere. But not all of them. They took a bit of hit that day.

The Disney Collectible Curmudgeon

If you have read much of this blog, you know I am not much of shopper let alone a Disney shopper. I'm certainly no collector as a lot of Disney fans are. Now Mrs. DisneylandTravel has about 4 Lenox ceramic pieces of Mickey and Minnie together. We have a couple of Disney snow globes. All these are in the curio cabinet. Nice pieces yes, but hardly a collection.

Disney loves collectors. Collectors are a revenue stream. And I'm certainly not here to bash Disney collectors of anything because they do what they want with their money that makes them happy. All Disney collecting starts with those pins. There are thousands of them, some common, some rare, all driven by a market that is kind of controlled by Disney. I think I have collected about 7 pins over the years. That's it. I keep thinking maybe I might want to collect pins from my favorite ride or favorite land (no characters) but every time I walk into a pin shop, I usually walk out scratching my head. My collection of 7 is just fine.

A couple of years ago, Disney started Vinylmation, assorted grotesque Mickeys costumed up or can be decorated by hand apparently. The thing about Vinylmation from what I understand is that you don't know the Mickey you are getting in the little box. It's a mystery. In a previous post I called Vinylmation an abomination. I'll stick by that statement. Pins I get. Vinylmation I don't.

I guess you could say I collect Disney baseball caps. I think I have about 5 or 6 of those. I have to buy these fairly regularly because I tend to lose them on rides. If anyone found a Pirates: Let the Beatings Begin hat in or near Grizzly River Run, it's probably mine. You're welcome. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler keeps dragging me into stores and wanting buy to buy this T-Shirt or that T-Shirt. The problem is I seldom wear Disney clothes outside my visits to the park. I have a Grumpy sweatshirt that's really pretty nice but I won't wear it outside my trips to DL unless it is cold - it is a sweatshirt and a warm one.

Maybe the closest thing we have to a Disney collectible are prints for the walls of our home. You know the ones that are primarily sold in the bigger gift stores and at the Disney Gallery. They run about $35 bucks each. Below is a picture of an original artwork by Disney Imagineer Larry Nicolai that was shown at the Disney Gallery and I think it had a price tag of about $6000. We have the print - $35 and it's even signed by Larry.

Maybe I'll get into this Disney collecting thing some day but not now. I pretty much collect memories.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Rides of Paradise Pier

According to Disney, the Paradise Pier area of the Disney California Adventure wants to recreate a seaside amusement park from a bygone era. In the current DCA expansion plans, Paradise Pier is almost complete. There are a few souvenir shops that need to be refurbished to blend in with the pleasant Victorian theme. There is also a rumor of a ride to replace the defunct Maliboomer that was replaced by a temporary "park" area. A "Green Army Men Parachute Drop" was shown in a model in Blue Sky Cellars. The new Paradise Pier looks nice for the most part. The hideous "Giant Orange" overlay to the swings is gone. The Maliboomer never belonged in a Disney Park. The garish Mulholland Madness at least looks better as Goofy's Sky School.

But for me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, the rides of Paradise Pier pretty much miss the mark for our demographic. First of all, Toy Story Mania is great and the best addition to PP. It's probably in our top 5 rides for both parks. I'm sure we'll enjoy the Little Mermaid once we get on but its probably going to be lumped in as the equivalent of Monster Inc. or Winnie the Pooh in Disneyland. Nice rides, certainly not great ones (but the Mermaid building looks spectacular). The rest of the PP rides throw off big question marks for me and Mrs. DLT.  After TSM and the Little Mermaid, Mrs DLT is done, through with Paradise Pier rides.

Me? I really like California Screamin' but as me and my wife take more trips by ourselves and not with extended family, riding as a single ride is only an occasional thing. I really like the view from Mickey's Fun Wheel on the non-swing side but the Mrs. DLT won't go near it. She goes to the souvenir shops across the way while I make my rotations.

Neither of will go near Silly Symphony Swings. The thought flying around like that suspended by a "chain" seems the like the definition of insanity. Now I would go on the slower moving Zephyr which is also suspended by a chain but Mrs. DLT claims it messes with her head so we give it a pass. King Triton's Carousel and Jumpin's Jellyfish are for small children and thankfully so. So that leaves Goofy's Sky School. Again, I'll go on it once I'm down there, but as a single rider, once I've been on it and have the experience in my pocket, I probably won't go back unless I am asked. In the years of Mulholland Madness, I think I was only on it twice that I can recall.

So Toy Story Mania and the Little Mermaid are the only "must-do" rides for us in Paradise Pier (excluding the World of Color altogether in this post). Good thing the new restaurants are getting great reviews. It's the only reason to walk over to that side of the pier other than taking pictures.

Please note there is a wonderful video on YouTube spreading around various internet sites the last couple of days show Paradise Pier at night. It's called Bella Notte - Paradise Pier at Night by G74Vlogs. Hauntingly enchanted.  I'm embedding it below.

Trips to Disneyland and Animal Anxiety

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I are I guess what you people. Since we've been married, we've always had cats, a dog, even a rabbit named Thumper. They can be a handful sometimes, but they are part of the family. Currently, we have three cats, George, Kona, and Herbie (sleeping on the left on the above picture). We also have a fairly recent addition to our family, Jasmine, an American Eskimo dog that just recently turned a year old. What does all this have to do with Disneyland?

On our last trip back in March, about half way through our week's stay, we got a call from The Boy back at home saying that George, the oldest cat (not sure how old - older than 10, probably less than 15), stopped eating wasn't looking good. A bit of panic started to set in with us knowing when a cat stops eating and taking care of itself, they can go downhill rapidly. We've gone through this before. This call came at night. Gathering to compose ourselves, we tell The Boy to keep the cat with him at all times - bring his food and water to him and to just pet him and keep contact with him. We would check back in the morning. The cat responded well to the instructions but still wasn't really moving around a whole let and wasn't really steady on his feet. We gave further instructions that unless The Boy was going to work, he needed to have George constantly with him at home and keep us posted. We would be home in about 3 days at this point.

George was suffering from separation anxiety. Even though The Boy was around, he was mostly attached to me. George is rather a demanding cat usually wanting his can of breakfast around 2:00 a.m. in the morning. As long as we have had him, that has always been the case. So I feed him. He appreciates it. As long he's fed, petted, and has a nice place to sleep, he's a fine old guy. Apparently on this trip, he couldn't handle the disruption.

But this episode with George got me thinking about the timing of some of our other trips to Disneyland. When we went last September, we returned, and order seemed to be restored in the household in a few days. But a about a week later, Sasha our lab mix (also in the picture above) suddenly over a weekend took a sudden turn for the worst. Now granted, she was 13 years old, a large dog, and nearing the end of her life anyway but she just couldn't recover and had to be put down. This all could have been coincidence but with us gone, could separation anxiety contributed to her quick failing?

And then there was Bud, another cat. Although she was 17, I seem to recall her failing health came shortly after we returned from Disneyland. And Thumper the rabbit, he was around 7 (about the normal lifespan of a rabbit), I'm thinking he passed away shortly after we returned from a trip.

Now I'm not sure about some of the dates, our trips to Disneyland, and how they corresponded with the passing of a pet. It seems like they were relatively close. Now all the pets we have had that have passed away were at the end of their lifespans. We had one cat, Brownie, that passed away at 13, which is kind of young, but the rest were all "typical" in terms of how long they were supposed to live. But its disturbing just enough to think about this pet separation anxiety thing. Maybe we just need to make shorter trips. I don't know.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Virtual Disneyland Trip - Part 7 - The End

I'm making this all up at home and I'm still getting tired. When last we left off, I just did a marathon session of 16 hours in the parks. As the new day comes, our last day to go back into Disneyland, I know I have paid a price. I'm still up at 7 a.m. but after a quick visit to the restroom I open the hotel room door, look at the beautiful morning, and slide the Do Not Disturb tag into the key slot. I'm heading back to bed for just a little more sleep. I'm still up making coffee by 8:30 and bringing Mrs. DisneylandTraveler to life even though she probably got 3 or 4 more hours of sleep than I did.

Stiff, sore, beaten, and tired, we make to Disneyland by 11, perfect for an 11:40 lunch reservation at the Carnation Cafe, and perfect for Mrs. DLT to wander around the Emporium for a half hour while I sit outside pondering how I really need to get on the treadmill more before making these trips.

We have our lunch, of course it had to include a cup of the potato soup. Then we hop back on the train for another grand circle tour. We like grand circle tours though Mrs. DLT has a problem with the Grand Canyon / Primeval World dioramas. If you've made as many grand circle tours as we have, the dinosaurs tend to get rather tiresome. After the grand circle tour we continue on to New Orleans Square. We get an Indiana Jones fastpass, and make our last trips on Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and the Mark Twain. Mrs. DLT stops off at store in Frontierland for some more browsing. We make one more trip to the Tiki room mostly for an excuse to eat pineapple ice cream. Another trip on the Jungle Cruise and we're ready for Indy. We're ready to call it quits.

We have a dinner reservation at the Cafe Orleans at 5:30. We're discussing whether we just want to blow it off but I just can't leave without having some Pommes Frites, a Disneyland food item not to be missed. We wonder around the little shops in New Orleans Square waiting for our dinner time then check in.

After dinner, we know we're through. Its been a great trip, and even though this one was imaginary, it was pretty typical though we did dine at table service restaurants a few more times than we normally would. So in the early evening we bid farewell to the "Happiest Place on Earth" but we are both to the point of exhaustion and being "happy" doesn't quite fit into the equation.

We make it back to the hotel. One final beer out of the little refrigerator and a very welcoming bed. Tomorrow, Saturday, we pack up and head for home.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Virtual Disneyland Trip - Part 6 - Marathon Man

I already know this is going to be a long day. We've got today and tomorrow in the parks then we're heading back home. Tomorrow, I know I'll want to get a good nights rest before making the long drive home. So its all about today. I'm in it for as long as I possibly can. As the sun rises, I'm already preparing. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler may have her agenda for today, but I have one too and its going to be a long day.

We went to bed reasonably early last night even after doing laundry. The laundry facility closes at 10 so we had to get on the ball. I was sound asleep by 10:30. Today after a shower and coffee, I'm off to the races catching the shuttle at 7:30 a.m. and the Disneyland front gates by the 8:00 opening. This morning I hopped right on that train for a grand circle tour and came right back to the Main St. Station. Mrs DLT is already on her way over so I tell her to meet me at the Blue Ribbon Bakery. This morning we opted for mochas along with our baked treats. We take them over to the tables by the Coca Cola Corner and plan our day.

We're off toward Splash Mountain to get a fastpass. In July we're good with Splash Mountain. In December, we might be singing a different tune about the possibility of getting wet. It's there, no line, so we go on Winnie the Pooh, a simple colorful ride we both rather enjoy. And then its backtrack city, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean for a third time each, a second trip on the Jungle Cruise and the Mark Twain. After 5 rides, we're right on schedule to hit Splash Mountain then lunch at the Blue Bayou. The day is clicking off like clockwork.

The Blue Bayou is one of the great classic dining experiences. The food is the best in either park (overpriced as it may be) but at the BB, its all about the setting. You can try to extend your wait for a waterside table but we opt just to be seated at our reservation time. Its dark in there so the menu can be a bit of a tough read but we pretty much know what we want to order. The Blue Bayou makes the best cajun salmon I have ever had while Mrs. DLT does what she normally does and plays it safe with the chicken. Other than breaded, deep fried, and served with chips, I have never seen Mrs. DLT eat a piece of fish in the 13 years we've been married.

Lunch for 2 at the Blue Bayou will knock you back about 80 bucks after the tip. To me, its worth every penny of it. After lunch we head over to the Golden Horseshoe for another go around with Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Its almost the same show we saw on Sunday but with a different day and a different audience, its a different experience - a very enjoyable 25 minutes or so. In the heat of the afternoon, we head over to the Enchanted Tiki Room to steal some of their air conditioning. After the birds do their thing, the crowd has already gathered on Main St. for the afternoon Mickey's Soundsational  Parade. We're not the type who needs to see a Disneyland Parade front and center so we watch it from the entrance of Adventureland.

After the parade, we head back over to Buzz Lightyear. Guess what, I lose again. Some day, just maybe some day, I might win. But not today. We slowly make our way toward the front gates but on the way out, we again go indoors to see Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Its cool in there too. The day has been a busy but productive one but we're wearing down. I ask Mrs. DLT what she wants to do for dinner but after a big lunch, we're not super hungry. I ask her if she's up for a walk over to DCA and Paradise Pier and another ka-bob at Paradise Garden Grill. She cringes a bit at the thought of the hike but suprisingly says she's up for it. We've made it this far so after dinner I ask Mrs. DLT about Toy Story Mania even though its a 45 minute wait. She says she's OK with that but is going to call it quits after our final spin on TSM.

I lose again making it 0 for 4 for me in head to head battles. We say our farewells, she heads for the shuttle and an early bed time. I'm heading for California Screamin'. Screamin' is a great coaster, the Cadillac of a smooth coaster ride, and I keep trying to convince Mrs. DLT of that but she isn't listening to any of it. She looks at that loop and thinks about "how its going to mess with my head". After Screamin' I think about how I'm going to spend the rest of my night alone in Disneyland. Might as well stop by the Karl Strauss beer truck at Pacific Wharf and ponder this over a Red Trolley Ale. I head back to toward the front stopping at Soarin's Over California for a single rider flight. Wish they would put in a new movie some day, but its still fun.

I have no plans for Disneyland other than waiting for the fireworks and the last show of Fantasmic. The rest of the time its all about sitting around, enjoying the sights, and people watching. Its been a long day but a relaxing evening (with a bit of standing here and there).  When all is said and done, its midnight before I get back to the hotel room one tired boy here.

Marvel And The Mouse

I'm sure this won't be the last time the relationship with Disney and Marvel will be discussed in the life of this blog. As they say, "it's complicated". Disney bought Marvel and its catalog of some 5000 comic characters for $4,000,000,000 a year and a half or so ago - that's 4 billion. Disney knew about Marvel's contractual arrangements with various movie studios to produce Marvel superhero movies for the next few years - assorted Spidermans, Iron Mans, Avengers, etc.. Disney was OK with taking Marvel's cut of the movie profits without producing the actual movies themselves. And Disney knew that Marvel had a contract with Universal that gave exclusive rights to Marvel characters to Universal east of the Mississippi River so we have Islands Of Adventure at Universal Orlando. This arrangement is to go on for the next several years.

But apparently there is nothing from preventing Disney from dropping Captain America right smack in the middle of Disneyland tomorrow if they wanted. So the debate now rages as to how, when, and where Disney introduces Marvel characters into their California theme parks. It's a moved that is either loved or loathed on the Disney fan front. The younger, predominantly male, Disney fans of the video game generation can't wait. The older, more traditional, Disney fans hopes it never happens. From what I have read, there isn't a lot of middle ground here.

I don't know what will happen. I do know that Disney stockholders want a return on a 4 billion dollar investment and if it takes introduction of Marvel characters into their parks to generate theme park ticket sales, they will do it. But it must be done cautiously and creatively. The internet has been consumed with bringing something to the equivalent of Iron Man 2's Stark Expo (based on the 1964 World's Fair) to Disneyland's Innoventions. Not sure where that rumor started but a lot of people who find no use for Innoventions applaud a move like that.

It is hoped that some announcement about plans for Marvel and Disney will be made at this year's D23 Expo. We have about a month to go before we find out. In the meantime, forums light up and rumors fly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Virtual Disneyland Trip - Part 5 - Tired

I've slept in till almost 7 this morning on the Wednesday of this trip, the midway point of our scheduled 5 full days in the park. Today I feel father time giving a nice kick in the behind. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler is still dead to the world. I need coffee and the need to get to the Disneyland gates before opening doesn't seem so important after all. Even the walk over to the free CCI breakfast doesn't interest me. I'll grab something at the park. Tired and miserable, I'm still on the 8:30 shuttle and in the gates by 9. Mrs. DLT? Who knows?

I head for Star Tours. The line is reasonable so no fastpass. While standing in line Mrs. DLT texts me that she is getting ready. Star Tours is great - new life in a tired old attraction. Disney (and George Lucas) couldn't have done much better than this. After Star Tours, still no word from Mrs. DLT. I decide to go on Thunder Mountain Railroad. I would have gone to the Matterhorn but in the middle of July, it is closed for refurbishment.

Mrs. DLT is on her way and I tell her to meet me at the Blue Ribbon Bakery where there is always something good though Mrs. DLT prefers the fall when they have pumpkin muffins available. I'm sure we'll get by. We take our goodies and walk over to the Market House for coffee. Hard to have coffee anywhere else in the park other than the Market House. While drinking coffee and eating our baked goods we both know we are not going to make it as the day progresses. We have no dining reservations today so the plan is to go around and do some rides, get a light lunch, then head over to Downtown Disney for some store browsing (her) and concrete bench sitting (me), then go somewhere for dinner and head back to the room. With any luck at all, we'll be in by 7 p.m.

First up Space Rangers, we're off to Buzz Lightyear. Like Toy Story Mania, I lost to Mrs. DLT, but unlike TSM, it wasn't even close. I've read the cheat sheets on the internet and it still doesn't make any difference. Mrs. DLT sends our picture and scores back to her email address so she can gloat at some point. Guys I work with have their pictures and scores tacked by their nameplates on their cubicles. I hope to never see the picture or score again. After Buzz, we get on the train and head to the ToonTown station. We grab a fastpass for Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, take a short little trip around ToonTown to take some pictures then move over to small world. Again, with the weather starting to warm up, the cool small world show building, along with drifting along the water way, is welcome relief. Even the song doesn't annoy me. After the ride, we just sit down and take it easy for awhile waiting for our fastpass time to hit. We hit Roger Rabbit right at the return time. I love the ride. I often find too much effort is put into the car spinning. Take your hands off the wheel, relax. and enjoy the ride. We head back to Fantasyland to get lunch at the Village Haus which we haven't been to since its remodel last year.

Mrs. DLT is not impressed with menu but opts for a cheeseburger which is decent but nothing to write about. I try the BLT flatbread pizza which I really enjoy. Mrs. DLT is envious of my choice. Makes up for the beat down I took at Buzz Lightyear. After lunch, we do a couple of dark rides with short lines - Pinocchio and Snow White. The wait for Alice is longer but we do it anyway. "When are the going to fix up the outside of this thing" was my thinking. Well, ugly as it is, they kept Alice running. Its about 3 p.m. Mrs. DLT and I decide to head to the monorail and off to Downtown Disney. Once there we walk over the World of Disney Store. I last about 5 minutes and head for a bench outside. The cement benches with any kind of shade at all have a body on them. Oh well, at least I'm not in the store. Well that didn't last long, Mrs DLT calls and once again, wants to "show me something".  Just get it and let's figure out where we are going to have dinner. I pick Naples. "You just had pizza for lunch" was her response to my suggestion. "Where do you want to go?" I already know where. She wants to backtrack and go back to the Rainforest Cafe. She's in some kind of Rainforest Cafe Dining Club so she has a coupon for something. Too tired to make this a test of wills, we opt for the Rainforest even if it is going backwards from the sweet shuttle back to the hotel. We put our names in. Its early enough so where they can seat us in about 30 minutes.

One thing about eating in Downtown Disney compared to Disneyland and DCA, the menu is readable and actually has some choices. Mrs. DLT gets a a half rotisserie chicken and I opt for cajun pasta. The food was pretty good (as was the ice cold margarita) but really, the Rainforest Cafe is mostly for tourists. You can do better in Downtown Disney. No dessert but Mrs. DLT and I agree to split a crepe on the way out of Downtown Disney.

Yep. Back in the hotel by 7 and ready to relax. "Do you want to walk over to the laundromat with me?" I knew it was coming. There's still beer in the little refrigerator.

My Goosebump Moment

I forget the exact title but there was a thread going around the discussion board on MousePlanet talking about memorable moments at Disneyland. Everybody has memorable moments but I thought about the times when the rush of emotion brought my skin to the goosebump stage, when the eyes began to well up with know. "Are you crying?"  Sniffle, sniffle, "No".

For recent goosebump moments, I seem to recall the first time seeing Aladdin and Jasmine on that flying carpet, seeing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln again after his several year disappearing act, seeing the Up and Wall-E segments in World of Color. They were all goosebump moments and I'm sure there are others.

But probably my all time, hands down, goosebump moment was hearing the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking "Baby Mine" while looking into the night sky and seeing a flying elaphant. The first time I saw Dumbo in Magical, I was alone. I don't know where Mrs. DisneylandTraveler was but I'm sure it had to do with being tired and back at the hotel. So I was fortunate, in a way, there was no one to ask "Are you crying?"  I don't think I would have gotten away with saying "No".

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Virtual Disneyland Trip - Part 4 - DCA

Yesterday I mentioned that there were few reasons to start a day in Disney California Adventure. Well on the third day of this imaginary trip, we came up with a few reasons. Yes, we did want to catch an early show of Aladdin, if you call 12:40 pm early. And we did want to get on one of our favorite rides, Toy Story Mania, before the lines got too long. And this is would be a first chance to get on the new Little Mermaid ride. And we did want to get over and try out the new DCA Paradise Pier restaurants that opened up a couple of weeks ago. Yes there are reasons for starting a day in DCA. But in our 5+ day stay here, this will be the only day that opens with us being in DCA. It used to be a "half day park". Well at least now, it's pretty much a full day.

The morning is a bit different. Since DCA opens 2 hours later than Disneyland, I take my time and begin downloading some pictures off the camera and on to the laptop while Mrs. DisneylandTraveler gives several feeble attempts at waking up. Today, we'll make it over to the park together. We have the time. Again, breakfast consists of bagels, cream cheese, and bananas from the CCI free breakfast spread. Two days in a row, it works, but it will hard to go back for a 3rd tomorrow.

We catch the shuttle over to the parks at 9:30 ahead of the 10 a.m. opening time. DCA opening just doesn't have the festive magic as the Disneyland park opening countdown. But the new gates do look kind of spiffy even if the do have that Disney Hollywood Studios look about them. We don't need to stop for a World of Color fastpass because we have reservations for the Ariel's Grotto WOC dining package. We had done this before and it is a winner both with the dinner and the seating they provide for the show. So immediately we head for Toy Story Mania, a favorite of both me and Mrs. DLT. Something we both agree on? That doesn't happen very much.

We ride TSM and naturally, she wins again. I can get closer in TSM to her winning score than I can in Buzz but I will lose. I suck. Actually, I was born with a benign familial tremor - my hands shake. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Kind of like Barney Fife if you remember your TV history. After Toy Story Mania we head over for our first crack at the Little Mermaid. Its a nice ride, not great, but a welcome addition to the park. The wait time is short and it loads people fast. It's early but if we're going to make the first Aladdin show we better think about an early lunch at one of the new Paradise Pier counter service restaurants. On the way over to the dining facilities, we pass by the Golden Zephyr. I have never ridden this thing. It just never seemed important enough. Of course Mrs. DLT has ridden it (with my sister) but "it just messes with my head". End of Story. We pass by Goofy's Sky School. It looks kind of cute but its still Muholland Madness no matter what color it is. Its a carnival coaster.

We choose the ka-bobs at the Paradise Garden Grill, I chose the steak with Moroccan chili sauce while Mrs. DLT opts for the chicken with chimichurri. We are both pleasantly surprised with the food and the surroundings and say we'll be back and maybe soon. While were there, we watch the Silly Symphony Swings go round and round. Even I'll be so bold as to say that the ride will mess with my head. Never been on it. Never will. The Mickey on top should have been bigger. We head back on our long trip over the the Hyperion Theater and Aladdin. With any luck at all we'll get there about 20 minutes before the doors open minimizing the wait on a summer day that is getting warmer by the minute.

Aladdin was great. It always is. At a running time of 50 minutes it's a great way to get out of the heat for awhile. While we are over there we also take in Monsters Inc and Muppets 3D simply because there are no lines. We head over to Turtle Talk with Crush because we usually enjoy the show but it really depends on the audience more than the talking turtle. We also go over to check out the Toy Story Zoetrope simply because it amazes me every single time I see it. We stop off in my favorite gift shop in either park, Off The Page. It's just different from the rest and doesn't seem to be a collection of junk.


Before going over to It's A Bug's Life, we stop over by Grizzly River Run to grab a fastpass. After Bug's Life, we pass through A Bug's Land. I think its cute and serves a purpose even if there are no attractions for adults without kids. The Tower of Terror is standing right there but me and Mrs. DLT may have come to the conclusion that this is a ride for the younger thrill seeker. If I die of a heart attack, it won't be on the TOT. We start making our way towards Ariel's Grotto for a 5 p.m. dinner time. On the way over there is just enough time to stop by and check out Blue Sky Cellars.

The dinner is at Ariel's Grotto is really good with an appetizers, choice of entrees, and a dessert plate. I went for the ciopino while Mrs. DTL goes for the tri-tip with mashed potatoes. The food at Ariel's Grotto is much improved over what it was 5 years ago or so when it was extremely disappointing on a couple of visits. But with the WOC package tacked on, dinner for two will run close to a hundred bucks without alcohol which is available. We won't do this package on every trip but since it's imaginary - what the heck, let's go all out.

After dinner, we are getting close to our GRR fastpass window and head down towards the ride. It's a great night for it. Grizzly River Run is a great raft ride IN THE SUMMER. In mid November as the sun is setting, not so much. I've never been so wet or so cold. Get the shivers just thinking about. We store assorted cameras, purses, etc. in one of the available lockers. Do this! We hit the ride and I lose my hat in the process. This is hat #3 lost on GRR.

After GRR, we head back and wait and wait for the start of the World of Color. It takes about fifteen minutes before Mrs. DLT comes back with "why couldn't they put in seating". It's a long story and as a long day comes to a close, its just not worth getting into. We watch the spectacular but flawed WOC and drag ourselves back to the shuttle. This day ends the same way the rest of the days end, a beer or two, Advil, and blessed sleep.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Blog Post About Disney Parks Blog

When I first heard that Disney was going to start its own "blog" I got kind of put off by it. After all there are many Disney fan web sites, forums, discussion boards. etc. Was Disney trying to go out and steal their fan base, their sense of Disney "community"? I was suspicious. I tend to be a bit cynical by corporate decisions because they are seldom (if ever) driven by fans or community. They are driven by a payoff to the company bottom line profit margin.

And so Disney Parks Blog began. But you know, the Disney fan websites didn't have a real problem with it. Instead of a rival or adversary, Disney Parks Blog became a partner providing valuable information and media to the fan websites. Now, if you want honest discussion of Disney, DPB isn't your place. It is entirely self-serving filled with shameless self promotion giving out every conceivable way to spend your money on something tied back to Disney. But it also gives great information, wonderful photos both current and historical, and produce some of the best Disney videos you will see. I'm a regular DPB visitor. Just enjoy and consider the source.

Virtual Disneyland Trip - Part 3 - 1st Real Day

Monday, this will be our first full day in Disneyland. This is a day that matters. But it's first thing in the morning and me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler have already hit a snag. You see, I'm an early riser, not a very good sleeper at all. I'm generally awake by 6 a.m. every day, 7 at the latest. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler is not a morning person. She's a sleep-in kind of person. We've accepted that. It used to annoy me when we weren't standing in line at the gates before the park opened. Now, generally, I go when I'm ready. She will catch up with me an hour or two later.

Getting ready in summer is a breeze - put the coffee on, shower, shorts, shirt, shoes and I'm ready. Head over to the breakfast buffet at the CCI clubhouse, grab a couple of bagels and bananas for me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and back to the room to decide today's plan of attack (which was already pretty well thought out) and a light breakfast. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler may or may not be conscious at this point.

First of all there is NO reason to ever start a day in Disney California Adventure unless this the day you plan to see an early Aladdin performance, you have a lunch reservation, or you want to get to Toy Story Mania before the long wait times hit. DCA will wait another day, today is for Disneyland and its going to be a long day (for me anyway, it will be a little shorter for Mrs. DisneylandTraveler who is still snoozing). I tell Mrs. DisneylandTraveler 'I love you' and I'm out the door. Hoping to conserve some strength, I'm opting to take the CCI shuttle. From the shuttle to drop-off point to the front gates is still a couple of hundred yards, but every step you can save in the morning will be in reserve as the day wears on.

I'm standing in line before the Disneyland 8:00 a.m. opening just the way I like it. Once inside the gates and the decision needs to made, enjoy the morning with another cup of coffee from the Market House, walk around and start taking pictures, or hit a ride. I'm opting for the ride and today I'm going to make it count with Space Mountain knowing full well that Mrs. DisneylandTraveler will not go near the place with a cattle prod. The new Star Tours is another possibility. Me and Mrs DLT haven't discussed it yet, but she didn't care for the old version, maybe the new and improved version will be more to her liking. But this is the first time when her phrase 'it just messes with my head' creeps into the equation when thinking about rides.

Some pictures of Tomorrowland and I'm heading back to Main St. and the Market House because Mrs. DisneylandTravel has texted me that's where we should meet me up for coffee. They have great coffee at the Market House.

It's around 9:30 and me and Mrs. DLT talk about our plans for today. We need to get to work before it starts to get hot. Just like when we arrived at Disneyland yesterday, we head to Adventureland and New Orleans Square, this time walking instead of taking the train. She talks me into getting a fastpass for her favorite ride, Indiana Jones (whether we use it of not remains to be seen), then for the second time in two days, hit Pirates and Haunted Mansion both with short waits in the morning hours. We backtrack to hit the Jungle Cruise and a journey to the backside-of-water. By this time it is getting close to our 11:40 reservation time at our favorite place to eat - The Carnation Cafe. So simple, reasonably priced, delightful outdoor surroundings, and always very good, this won't be the last time we show up at the Carnation Cafe on this trip. We both order a cup of the delicious baked potato soup, I opt for the Chicken Pot Pie while Mrs. DLT opts for the Chicken Sandwich for our entrees. We leave full and delighted once again.

What to do next? Well we are on Main St. Mrs. DLT starts to browse through the stores, me? - not so much. I just had a nice meal, give me a nice bench down by the flagpole and I'm good to just enjoy the scenery. She calls me on my cell phone and tells me to come in the store she wants "show me something". Her come the dollar signs. I tell her "fine go ahead and get it but lets wait till later so we don't have to carry the bag around". Maybe she will forget. Never happens.

We're in our fastpass window for Indian Jones. She tries to convince me to on while I plead that the ride is hard on my back. Somehow 'it messes with my back' is not as strong an argument as 'it messes with my head'. We go on the ride. While my spine thinks about its condition after IJA, we head down the Enchanted Tiki Room to visit some old feathered friends. Before going in I go for the pineapple float at the Dole Pineapple stand while Mrs. DLT opts for the whip. It won't be the last time we will be having these delicious treats on this trip. 

It's after 3 p.m. by now and Mrs. DLT and I have to make that crucial decision. It's summer. There will be a Fantasmic shown tonight. Mrs. DLT gets an evil look in her eyes when she thinks about the Fantasmic wait. "Why couldn't they build seating". I've heard phrase uttered many a time (and it won't be the last time I hear it on this trip). We're not not that young anymore. Sitting on the concrete in the middle of summer isn't going to cut it. We refuse to play that game again. In 2002, I sat on the concrete for almost 3 hours, my body says never again. So the decision that needs to be made, that 6 hours before showtime, will Mrs. DLT and me will hold a table by the railing at the Riverbelle Terrace? We decide to do it.

We've been spent 22 days at Disneyland since Murphy the Dragon was scheduled to make his debut. In those 22 days, we probably saw Fantasmic 4 or 5 times. We've yet to see the dragon for one mechanical reason or another. Tonight will be the night. And so the wait begins. Mrs. DLT wanders off for awhile and I hold the table. I wander off, and Mrs. DLT holds the table. In my wanders, I bring back my dinner, a corn dog from the wagon on Main St. and a Safari Skewer from the Bengal Bar-B-Q. There's protein and vegetables somewhere in there. Mrs. DLT grabs an overpriced sandwich from the Riverbelle Terrace after all, we are using one of their tables for 6 hours. Seems only right. We scatter the food, napkins, purses, drinks, cameras all over the table to make it look like we're a party of 5 because sooner are later someone is going ask 1) are you leaving soon? 2) mind if we join you? 3) can we take a couple of these chairs if no one is using them? Answers - 1) no we're staying 2) yes if they look like nice people and especially if they have a small child or two and 3) if no one has taken the chairs from answer 2, then help yourself but we're not moving an inch from our spots.

So we agonizingly wait for the show and finally see the dragon. The only entertainment is seeing the castmembers who work Fantasmic crowd control try to make people do something they do want want to do. Some are cooperative. Some are not. The dragon makes a big impression in a short amount of time. After Fantasmic I ask "Do you want to go on Thunder Mountain Railroad?" The reply, "It messes with my head. Let's just get to the shuttle and back to our room". On the way out, we stop in 4 stores and pick up whatever she wanted to show me earlier in the day. We also stop by the Disney Gallery to see the latest exhibition and prints.

Back at the hotel, Mrs DLT takes a shower while I grab a beer and a couple of Advil. Yep, it was a really good day.

Downtown Disney Dining - Naples Ristorante

I'm going way out on a limb here but it's a personal opinion - the pizza I have had at Naples Ristorante in Downtown Disney is the best I pizza I have ever had in my life. Now, I have never been to New York to have their legendary pizza and I'm not a fan of the deep dish variety Chicago is famous for serving up, but I have had really pretty good pizza in the San Francisco and the Bay Area through the years.

No, what Naples serves isn't Papa Murphy's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, or Round Table. What they serve takes pizza to a whole new level. It starts with the crust, fresh out of a really roaring hot pizza oven, the crust is nicely blackened, crispy, but with just enough chew to know this is a bread dough and not a cracker. The sauce excellent not tasting anything like typical pizza/marinara/spaghetti sauce you normally get. And the pizza isn't drowned in an acidic sauce, it comes off as flavorful and just right. I believe I saw cans of real Italian San Marzano tomatoes back by where the pizza is made. Add some real mozzarella cheese (not the stuff you pick up at the grocery store), some herbs, and olive oil and your off to a real good foundation.

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler likes the sausage and peppers (below) as her toppings while I, being the more adventurous of the two of us, love the prosciutto and arugula (above). Hers - excellent. Mine - to die for. Please note that the pizzas shown in the pictures are individual servings. You get plenty for your money - an individual pizza will run around seventeen bucks. Maybe add a salad and a glass a wine and you will be good to go. When the weather is nice, the outside tables are preferable.

Naples also has a walk-up section for quick service pizza, sandwiches, salads, and drinks called Napolini. The pizza is still very good, available by the slice at a little under 5 bucks, but you're limited to just cheese or pepperoni as your choices. This also is a go to option for Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and myself outside the park.

Naples Ristorante - if you want great pizza and a nice dining experience. Napolini - if you just want to get a really good slice of pizza and drink when you are in a hurry. You can't go wrong with either. Just wish that statue out in front wasn't so creepy looking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Main St. Cinema

Do any regular Disneyland park visitors actually go into the Main St. Cinema? I'm thinking not many. Vintage black and white Disney cartoons playing on six 'screens' simultaneously, it's not the most exciting to in the park to check out. Kids will wonder where's the color. Most will think "these are old".  I've seen people walk in and about 5 seconds later, walk out. Too bad. This is history. This is where it all began. Now I don't go into the Main St. Cinema on every one of my trips but every couple of years or so, I'll go in and spend a few minutes with a Mickey that most people don't remember. Attractions like this is what makes Disneyland special, remembering its history and reflecting on the past.

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