Monday, August 29, 2011

And With That....Sunshine Plaza Is Officially Closed

The Greetings From California and Engine Ears Toys stores closed for the last time yesterday and with that, the entrance way to DCA and its Sunshine Plaza are now gone to be replaced next summer by Buena Vista St. and all its wonderful new architecture and features.  A temporary entrance now directs you on a path behind the Soarin' Over California building avoiding the construction zone.

Gone are the tiled murals, the faux Golden Gate Bridge, the "postcard" facades to the stores, the Zephyr train, the Sun Fountain. Before it all gets moved to yesteryear, here are some pictures from the past and a place that will never be again.

Many people have walked under the span of the bridge over the last 10 years.  Most of them can't wait to see what's coming next.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sorry - A Video Look At KBF's Windseeker Ride

I know, I know, this Blog is supposed to be about Disneyland but I couldn't resist.  Last week the Disneyland Resort's neighbor, Knott's Berry Farm, opened its highly anticipated new attraction - Windseeker.  Kind of like Silly Symphony Swings on steroids and HGH.  It's not a Disney type ride, nor would I want it in a Disney park but for what it is, Windseeker is definitely impressive, which is why I am posting it here.  The video comes from the ride's media day and features MiceAge/MiceChat's very fine reporter and and photographer - Fishbulb.

Disneyland Dining - The Hungry Bear

Since this blog started a few months back, I have had to rethink my approach to certain topics a couple of different times.  That is what I am doing with the park restaurant reviews.  Over on the DCA side of things I've posted blog entries about Quick Service Dining and Table Service Dining where I compare one eating establishment with another. Well, I've come to see the limitations to that approach especially when it comes to Disneyland where there are just more dining options.  Disneyland has been changing and upgrading their  food offerings for the last couple of years but I have to admit, there are a few dining establishments in Disneyland I haven't been to in several years and in the case of one - the Pizza Port - never been to at all (kind of tucked out of the way I guess).  So with that in mind, I'll take a look at the restaurants individually rather than lump them together.

I'll start with the Hungry Bear Restaurant where we did enjoy a nice lunch on a trip a few months back.  This is one of the dining places in Disneyland that did undergo a brief refurbishment and came back with a new menu.  On trips to Disneyland in prior years our memories of the Hungry Bear have been OK - they served roast beef or turkey sandwiches on croissants which were really pretty good.  They also served up the standard Disney park burger which seemed to always be a poor choice in years past.  I also have a memory of dropping a tray of food on the ground - embarrassing.

On our most recent trip to the Hungry Bear, I tried out their new signature item which is the new fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries (below), while Mrs. DisneylandTraveler went the safe route (again) and had the crispy chicken sandwich.  We decided to split an order of onion rings (can also be seen in the picture below).

I enjoyed the fried green tomato sandwich even though it seemed a bit skimpy on the fried green tomato part and a little heavy on the cole slaw topping. It would have been better if the two fried green tomato slices on the sandwich where a bit bigger and thicker. I do enjoy sweet potato fries, but it seems like after a few of them, the novelty seems to wear off.  I seldom finish all of them.  The Hungry Bear may be the only place in the park where you can get onion rings and while the order consisted of only four rings, they are absolutely huge.  If only the fried green tomatoes on the sandwich were this big.  As for Mrs. DLT, Disneyland chicken sandwiches of almost any kind are a good safe bet.  They are always pretty good even if you can't describe them as memorable.  The Hungry Bear also serves up a signature chili burger on their new menu but since chili is not one of those things I typically order in a restaurant, don't expect any future posts about my views on their chili burger - not happening.

The Hungry Bear has a large two story outdoor eating area and is tucked away up in Critter Country along the Rivers of America.  The setting is special.  Unless you are there during peak dining times, you can enjoy the peace and quiet of a very nice view of the water. There is also plenty of shade if you are looking for somewhere to eat and get out of the sun. The Hungry Bear also has one of the better bathroom facilities in the park, very large, clean, and well attended to.  In all, the Hungry Bear is one of my favorite dining places in Disneyland but it is tucked all the way to the rear of the park and not convenient unless you are heading to Splash Mountain or Winnie the Pooh.  Sometimes just the quietness (usually) of the place makes it worth the hike.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage - A Video Look

Back in July, I posted a commentary with some pictures called - Nemo's Submarine Voyage Or Missing The Boat about my general dislike with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction at Disneyland.  While scenic from the outside, it fails to deliver very much inside the cramped little sub.

So here we go again, while going through my photos and videos looking for something completely unrelated, I was drawn to the Nemo photos and videos once again and decided to put together this quick little YouTube video for historical purposes I guess. So now we have two blog entries on a ride I really don't like.  It does take a pretty good picture though. Anyway, once on YouTube, this video is about a minute longer than it needs to be but it will do.  The magic comes at about the 1:40 mark when Monorail Orange passes over the submarine lagoon.  One of those visually magic moments that only Disneyland can deliver.

Traveling to Disneyland With Groups

DLT's 2005 Traveling Group - I even think a few are missing
The hope is always to share Disneyland's magic, joy, and fun with family and friends. What better way than to get a group of Disneyland travelers together and make it one big party? The more the merrier, right?  Well not so fast.  Yes, traveling to Disneyland in a group can be huge fun, but I'm here to give just a few words of caution.

Watch out for high expectations.  I'm amazed at seeing groups of people standing in line for attractions with matching T-Shirts saying something like "Jim Bob's Family Reunion 2011." My question is - how did you get all those people to the same line at the same time?  From my experience, moving a group in unison is something akin to moving a boulder from one place in the park to another.  There's dragging, rolling, and a fair amount of resistance.  Oh the noble goal is to have everybody moving at the same time to the same place, but man is it hard.  And yes, getting people in your party to move as a group can lead to a great deal of frustration.

You see, once at Disneyland, everyone has a different agenda and a lot of people, especially park veterans think their agenda is, of course, the best agenda because they are experts and know what's best.  Some are thrill seekers, some aren't.  Some like shows like Lincoln, the Tiki Room, or Muppets, for others the shows are inconsequential to the rides.  Some defer to the fun for their kids while others in the group may be thinking "what about me?" Even getting people to the front gate in the morning is a challenge as some are early risers and others have a tough time getting going.  Sometimes being in Disneyland with a group is the equivalent of beating your head against the wall.

Here are some things I have learned.  Allow time for yourself.  If you constantly try to stay on the schedule set by others, you will find yourself getting upset.  Next lesson, you probably will get upset at some point traveling with a group, accept it.  You may find yourself in the "middle" from time to time where one person wants to pull you this way, while another may want to pull you that way.  Maybe that's the time you need to give yourself a time out and tell both to go on without you.  If you are with your significant other, be prepared to have at least one "knock-down, drag-out" fight.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have kind of grown to expect this.  It seems to go along with the territory.  And do not try to do everything as a group - the best thing to do is have meet-ups - meet up at certain times, certain places, for dining, rides, or shows.  If you meet up as a group at a certain time or place, they tend to gain some momentum for staying together but sooner or later, parties in the group will want to go their own way.  That's just the way it is.

Also get plenty of rest.  A tired Disneyland traveler is a cranky Disneyland traveler, so don't let your getting tired affect others in your group.  And maybe at the end of a day, allow time to decompress.  Some of my most memorable experiences traveling with groups have come at the end of the day when those in the group  can meet up at someplace like the old Lost Bar (now Trader Sams) at the Disneyland Hotel and remember the fun you have had during the day.

Looking back, I have had a great time in each of my trips to Disneyland when I traveled with a group, but inside of those great times were moments when all did not seem like it was going very well at all.  Just don't sweat the small stuff and remember the fun of the big picture.

The 2012 Matterhorn Bobsled

The next generation of the Matterhorn Bobsleds

Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction is entering its final week of a summer refurbishment.  It will reopen after Labor Day and stay open until after the first of the year at which time it will undergo a six month major refurbishment which includes (allegedly) repainting the mountain and finally the permanent installation of the next generation of the bobsled ride vehicle.  MiceChat posted this picture (above) of the new bobsled yesterday. The sled has been in testing at various times for over a year.

Finally gone is the Matterhorn Boblseds rather unique two-up seating where 2 passengers could occupy the same seat with a seat belt for each passenger.  Many people loved this arrangement.  Parents could take good hold of their children sitting in front of them and give them their first real coaster experience safely in their arms.  It was the ultimate togetherness for boyfriends and girlfriends as they grappled on to each other flaying away down the mountain.  But for many people, the two-up seating was kind of needless and inefficient.

The new sleds provide three individual seats per vehicle and restraint is still provided by a good old fashioned seat belt rather than a lap bar arrangement (from my understanding). And finally, the new vehicles kind of look like sleds rather that projectiles recycled from Space Mountain (picture below).  The 2012 Matterhorn Bobsleds hit the mountain sometime around summer 2012.

Current Matterhorn Bobsleds

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ugly Alice

Alice in Wonderland is one of the better "dark ride" attractions in Disneyland.  It's the only dark ride that has a change in elevation (much of it runs above Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) and has an exterior portion of the ride.  Alice isn't a Disneyland original, but pretty darn close entertaining guests since about 1959 I believe.  As far as I know, no one has ever been hurt or killed on the Alice in Wonderland ride in all these years.

Enter Cal-OSHA, the occupational health and safety police.  In 2010, depending on who you believe, OSHA either forced Disney into shutting down Alice for safety reasons or Disney volunteered to shut down the ride at OSHA's recommendation.   Apparently, the upper exterior "vine" portion of the ride presented a safety hazard either in ride maintenance for the workers or if there were to be some kind of emergency ride evacuation, there was nothing preventing people from falling off the exterior track platform.  Disney needed some kind of railing.

Disney complied and after a quick 3 week refurbishment, Alice came back complete with a temporary railing along with hideous looking plastic tarps covering the railing support structures.  So now we have ugly Alice, and it's been that way for over a year.  One of the compelling reasons that people give as to why Disney was forced to shut down the ride for safety is that Disney isn't big on temporary fixes.  When it comes to refurbishing a ride, there's a plan.  There is also money in the budget to take care of the refurbishment which apparently isn't the case for poor ol' Alice.

The rumor is that Disney has budgeted money to "imagineer" Alice's exterior in 2012 and do the job right.  We'll see since Alice's neighbor the Matterhorn is scheduled to be down for a six month refurbishment at the start of 2012.  Having side by side rides both down for maintenance is not the Disney way, but not beyond the realm of possibility either.

You do have to give Disney park management some credit though.  As ugly as Alice is as it stands right now, it is running and entertaining several thousand people a day.  You might have to cringe a little bit looking at it though.

A Little Visit to A Bug's Land

I've never been on any of the four rides that make up A Bug's Land in Disney California Adventure Park.  I'm a little too old for them.  The Bug's Land target audience is the age 3, 4, 5 demographic (and their parents of course).  Because the target age is so limited, people are forever wanting Disney to remove A Bug's Land and "put in something better."  Not so fast.  When people say "put in something better" they usually mean "put in something I might like, something I can go on."  Their interests are sometimes pretty self serving.

Now granted, the Bug's Land rides are basic off the shelf carnival rides that true Disney people seem to loathe.  They want everything "imagineered" and built from scratch.  Sounds expensive to me.  When DCA first threw open its doors. one the (many) complaints was there was very little in the park for little kids to do.   Almost immediately, Disney constructed A Bug's Land as a companion to the It's Tough To Be A Bug 3D show (which terrifies many small children interestingly enough).

The little rides of A Bug's Land serve their purpose and graciously entertain their little guests.  What small child wouldn't want to take a spin in a box of animal crackers or a box of Chinese take-out, or spin around in a lady bug, or drive a bumper car, or take a ride on a caterpillar train that has a funny voice?  A Bug's Land is fine, leave it alone.

I always like to pass through because I find it charming and it has such a small footprint in the park.  I enjoy it better than ToonTown in Disneyland because it actually delivers rides instead of stylized facades.  The space in A Bug's Land is not wasted, it's put to use with wonderful whimsy. And at Christmas, Disney adds to the charm of the area with some wonderful decorations.  So give the 3 year old his space.  If you are A Bug's Land hater remember that the Disney parks aren't exclusively about YOU.  Sometimes sharing the fun is part of the joy.

Dumbo Appears in Magical - Video

I wrote a blog post back in July called My Goosebump Moment where I took a look at Dumbo's flight during the Magical fireworks display that Disney is once again presenting this summer. This week the excellent Disneyland (among other things) videographer Asianjma123 posted a beautiful video of the Magical fireworks show to YouTube which includes Dumbo's appearance.  Magical is not one of Disney's best firework shows beginning to end (its actually kind of boring) but the appearance of Dumbo is what makes the whole thing well, "magical".  The song Baby Mine (from the Dumbo movie) starts at about the 7:40 mark with the flying elephant appearing at about 8 minutes into the video.  It's definitely worth checking out.  Maybe you can have a little goosebump moment of your own.

What's New in Disney News - Vol 1

Steve Jobs and his iPad
Apple's CEO Resigns
Steve Jobs resigned his post as Apple CEO earlier this week.  The visionary behind the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the Mac computer has had health problems in recent years stemming from pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant last year.  What has this to do with Disney?  Well, Steve Jobs is Disney's largest individual stockholder owning about 7% of the company.  He also sits on Disney's Board of Directors.   How did Steve get to be such an key figure in the Disney corporate realm?  He owned Pixar Studios and when Disney bought Pixar in 2004, they paid Steve off in Disney stock.  His direct influence on Disney operations is probably minimal in the scope of things.  Perhaps his biggest influence can be seen in the way Disney has "tidied up" its retail stores.  This is a direct result of the highly successful but spartan looking Apple Stores . We wish Mr. Jobs the best going forward into the future as he continues to contribute products of vision for people to use in their everyday lives.

The Help Surprises
Last weeks surprising hit at the movie box office was the The Help, a reasonably budgeted (25 million) film about white socialites in Mississippi and their African-American "help" set in the early 1960's.  In a week's time, the drama/comedy is approaching the 100 million dollar range at the box office.  The Help is one of the first films Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks Pictures is distributing through Disney's Touchstone Pictures in their 30 pictures partnership.  Looks like that pairing is off to a pretty good and profitable start.

D23 Fallout
Disney web based forums, discussion boards, blogs, and podcasts continue to relive the highs and lows of last week's D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. While there were some definite high points to the Expo because overall the panel discussions and and displays put on by Disney were high quality, the complaints ran from disappointing to down right bitter. The biggest complaints were Disney's poor job at estimating the crowd levels which led to long lines and utter frustration when people who paid big bucks to get into the Convention Center could not see half of what they wanted to see. One thing is clear, Disney has got to get better at this kind of thing.  This is the second Expo, the object is to get better at these things, not worse.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yeah.....I Can See a Bakery Here

Plaza Pavilion - A Disney Parks Blog Photo
The last time I set foot in this building it had something to do with an annual pass.  Well, the annual pass centers have been booted out of both parks and into the regular ticket booths out front.  The Plaza Pavilion is now boarded up and stands ready to be converted into a Mary Poppins themed bakery set to open winter 2012.  The popular Blue Ribbon Bakery down on Main St. will close up shop early next year at which time it will make room for a new indoor seating section of the popular Carnation Cafe.  All this shuffling around really does make a lot of sense.

The Blue Ribbon Bakery wasn't all that big to begin with so you got your muffin and coffee and hit the road looking a place to enjoy you breakfast or snack. There is no seating in the Blue Ribbon Bakery. For many people, you just took your muffin and coffee and walked up to the Plaza Pavilion which had plenty of outdoor seating with tables and chairs but was being used as an annual pass center. So the bakery switcherroo makes perfect sense all the way around. Mary Poppin's theming? Why not, it kind of fits in with the neighborhood.

To be fair, I think you need to use the term bakery rather loosely. I do think Blue Ribbon baked their sweet rolls on the premises but much of Disney baking for all dining establishments is done in a large scale facility just off property.

Now Back To This Fantasy Faire Thing....

Disney Conceptual Art for the Fantasy Faire
A few posts back I talked about the rumor that the Princess Fantasy Faire would be moving from its current location in the cavernous Fantasyland Theater, to a new location in the underutilized Carnation Plaza which is just off to the left side of the Castle when entering. This rumor was indeed confirmed at the D23 Expo and in fact, may have been the only newsworthy item concerning Disneyland itself.  Anyway, a week ago I applauded the move so the huge theater space could be put to better use.

Now comes the Disney forum posters with a slightly different take which I didn't consider. Tom Staggs said in his presentation about the new Fantasy Faire (the word Princess seems to have been dropped) that it allowed Disneyland imagineers the opportunity to "expand the boundaries of Fantasyland".  So now the question for many is, "is that a good thing?"  For the traditionalists, the Carnation Plaza, underutilized as it is, seems to be just an extension of Main St.  To move Fantasyland theming in front of the Castle intrudes on good ol' Disneyland Main St.  Not only that, the current Carnation Plaza butts right up against Frontierland and there is space to transition.  If they extend Fantasyland to butt right up against Frontierland, there may be no room for transitioning space.  The change from land to land would be abrupt rather than subtle.

Those are valid points but in the end, Disney will do what Disney now plans to do.  All you can do is trust that they are on top of their game and it all works out for the best.

D23 Expo Day 3 - Random Takes From A Distance

By 9:00 last night the booths and exhibits of the 2011 D23 had pretty much been broken down and ready to be moved on, the Expo was over...... From what I gathered yesterday, there were still long lines to deal with but by Day 3, long wait times were to be expected and people had learned to deal with it or had grown numb to it to a certain extent.......Marvel did their spiel about the history of their company, but if you read Disney websites you hear very little about the Marvel panel.  To them, for the most part, Marvel is still Disney's ill-legitimate step child......Mention bringing a Marvel character into a Disney park and those are pretty close to fighting words.

Probably the highlight of the day was once again John Lasseter and crew showing up to give more details about Carsland......I think it's going to be a special place......I think it is going to be a very, very, crowded place for quite awhile once it opens next year......At over 6 acres, Radiator Springs Racers is the largest attraction that Disney has every built......Testing on the 3 ride attractions featured in Carsland should begin over the next month or so....

There was also a presentation by Tony Baxter giving a behind the scenes look at vintage imagineering at both Disneyland and WDW.......He mentioned that the Peoplemover was going to get "fixed" - whatever that means.

But again, the dominating story was the amount of frustrated people there were talking about how poorly organized the event was.  Disney reduced the amount of floor space and may have ended up with more people than in 2009.  The two didn't mesh very well......One MiceChat poster's biggest complaint was having to listen to all the people complaining, which I thought was an interesting take.......And now you are beginning to hear that many attendees got tickets through Disney employees who had tickets made available to them for $10 (general admission was $47 per day with a 3 day package option - D23 members paid $37 per day with a 3 day package option).....But somehow I get the feeling that even many of these complainers will show up again in 2013 when Disney has said that the third D23 Expo will go on......when push comes to shove and it's time to renew their D23 memberships, many of these people will pay the money just so they can be part of the "event".......Next time they claim they will be wiser and know better.......We'll see.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

D23 Expo Day 2 - Random Takes From A Distance

More bits & pieces from the D23 Expo gathered from around the web..... The presentation from Walt Disney Studios was easily the highlight of Day 2 at the Expo......No electronic devices were allowed inside the Disney Studios panel......god forbid, clips of their upcoming movies make it onto YouTube.....Anyway, John Lasseter head honcho at Pixar (as well as Walt Disney Animation and few other hats that Disney hung on his head) announced 2 new Pixar projects - untitled films about dinosaurs and a trip through the human brain.....He also gave updates on the 3 Pixar films that are in various stages of production.....Brave, Monsters University (with Billy Crystal), and Planes (kind of like Cars only about, well.... planes).

Got a preview from Disney Animation's Wreck-It-Ralph which is a horrible title for a movie but the crowd loved the clip that was shown......Walt Disney Studios showed clips from John Carter on Mars and brought out the cast.......They also talked about Tim Burton's latest Disney project., an update of his short film Frankenweenie - in black and white and 3D.......sounds weird.....consider the source.

Last but not least was the chance to roll out the red carpet for Marvel Studios.  The Avengers is expected to be one of next year's biggest movies and the first Marvel production that is 100% Disney owned....Many of the cast members appeared., but the standing ovation was reserved for Robert Downey Jr. and the huge success he has had through Iron Man.....Most of the throngs of people attending the Expo are Disney people, not necesssarily Marvel fans but the Marvel segment got a very positive reception.

The other big highlight of Day 2 was the panel discussing the details of Buena Vista Street, the new walkway the enters you in to DCA.....The lessons have been learned from DCA's hideous entrance and BVS looks to give a more immersive experience similar to Main St. Disneyland.....Main focal points of BVS, the Carthay Circle Theater, a new fountain, and a small park that will be home to a new Partners statue that are offset in such a way so the grand park across the esplanade will not be seen....nice idea.....

They announced the new parade route that will start at the Tower of Terror, go down Hollywoodland around the Carthay Circle Theater (actually a high end restaurant with parade viewing dining packages), then head up towards Paradise announcement about what parade will be coming.

While many have enjoyed the Expo, you are beginning to hear about how much Disney has scaled back from the 2009 Expo with reduced seating leading to long waits in line - sometimes 2 hours or more.....and you are beginning to hear more about how the lack of new information has given way to much more mass merchandising of Disney goods.......Again, we're back to the same old D23 pay to join, pay to get into the Expo, then pay for all kinds of D23 exclusives once you are in........ $$$$$$

Model for the new DCA Partner's statue

Saturday, August 20, 2011

D23 Expo Day 1 - Random Takes From A Distance

I'm not at the D23 Expo being several hundred miles away, but thanks to the miracles of the internet and twitter, I was pretty much able to follow the goings on from the convention floor from the various Disney websites and their reporters giving all the details complete with pictures.  I'm not a D23 fan but I kind of wish I were there because, while there was a lot of reporting of disappointment compared to the previous Expo in 2009, overall it seems like a fun event (if you like to stand in long lines).

No Bob Iger.  The CEO of Disney gave his opening remarks by video as he decided this was a perfect time to take his family on a vacation (i.e."I'm an important guy and something like a convention for Disney fans just doesn't fit my schedule").....Tom Staggs, Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, was there and looked quite comfortable in his presentations.....And yes, he was introduced by the talking Mickey just as he was when WOC premiered.....People like Tom.....they weren't really sure if they liked the things he and others talked about when they gave the overview of the Parks and Resorts.

There was no groundbreaking news.....just updates to projects in the works or in progress.....all of them were well known......For Disneyland, they are expanding Fantasyland into the Carnation Pavillions area and setting up a new Fantasy Faire (by day - at night, it will be continue to be used by private groups) you get a little extra theming in kind of a dead announcements about new Tomorrowland or Frontierland projects were made to great disappointment......nothing even remotely resembling the line of stormtroopers that came out to announce the new Star Tours in 2009.....more updates on the WDW MK Fantasyland expansion, the Aulani Resort in Hawaii, and Shanghai Disneyland.....who cares, not me......And more updates on Carsland but nothing new.....

They had the presentation of this year's class of Disney Legends......when Regis Philbin is the most recognizable name (living), not a very good year......except for the Disney Legend designation for the late Jim Henson with his family on hand and Kermit to sing Rainbow Connection......Now there's a legend.

Apparently everything under the sun was up for sale and what was a convention has partially morphed into shopping mall - the part of D23 I loathe.....I would have liked to have seen the Disney archives collection as there is something special about seeing a costume or prop you remember from a movie being a few inches in front of you......

Anyway, apparently today's D23 Event is sold out as the highlight of the day will be what Hollywood celebrity types come out to show their faces to the crowd as part of the Walt Disney Films presentation.....I'm betting Robert Downy Jr. will be today's biggest if he would only show up in a full Iron Man suit.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Monsters Inc. and the Creepy Superstar Limo

I subscripe to the Disneyland Twitter feed that sends tweets to my smartphone. The wonders of technology. So Disneyland probably sends out a dozen tweets a day most of them I delete within two seconds of reading them because they are so trivial. Yesterday morning, they sent out a tweet asking (paraphrased because I deleted it) "What's your favorite thing about Monster Inc. in Disney California Adventure?", It took me about four seconds to delete this one because I had to pause and smile for a second or two because the answer is "Because there's no line". If you have to wait more than 5 minutes to get on Monsters Inc then well, the park must be packed that day because you can mostly just walk on. Heck, if you want a car to yourself, they'd probably give it to you. A Disney ride with no line - that's the best thing about Monsters Inc.

Now to be fair, I've probably ridden the thing a dozen times and sometimes I find it quite enjoyable, other times it seems like a time killer waiting to something better. Sometimes you ride it just because its there. Now for a dark ride, its huge compared to Disneyland counterparts in Fantasyland and Pooh - big show building, nice length but whether I really enjoy it or not may just come down to what kind of mood I am in at the time the car takes off. For better or worse, its just something to do.

Oddly enough, I have the same reaction to Monsters Inc. the Movie. I've seen it about four times and sometimes I like it better than others. It all comes down to the mood I am in. But to be fair, the Monsters Inc. ride has to be a hundred better than the buildings previous tennant the ill-fated, much hated, Superstar Limo. I never rode Superstar Limo in Disney California Adventure because, Disney park management pulled the plug on it very quickly after all the negative things that were being said and written about a mad dash from the L.A. Airport to Hollywood. It opened in February 2001 and by the time I made my first trip to Disney California Adventure in October 2002, the ride had already been shut down several months. Luckily, for those who want to experience the shear creepiness of Superstar Limo, there are ride-throughs on YouTube like the one below. Have fun....sweet dreams....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brian Wilson's Disney Album

According to the USA Today, Brian Wilson (the founder and mastermind of the Beach Boys - not the bearded baseball pitcher) will release a new album (? do they make those anymore) in October of 11 classic Disney songs in both vocal and instrumental arrangements. At 69, Wilson best year's of recording are well behind him but according to the article, he wanted to leave his grandchildren something to remember. A couple of interesting Disney related comments from Wilson were that Pinocchio's When You Wish Upon a Star was the inspiration for the 60's Beach Boy classic Surfer Girl and that in 1965, the Beach Boys did a cover of a 50's song Graduation Day which was written by longtime Disney songwriter Richard Sherman. I've been a fan of Brian Wilson for almost 50 years through the highs and lows, the one thing you could always say about him was his total dedication to the music he produced through the years. It should be a very interesting.

Is He Coming Back? The Talking Mickey

Several Disney websites have reported the possibility of the Talking Mickey returning to action at the D23 Expo. Talking Mickey is head scratching amazing as a character who has been signing autographs for decades (he sometimes writes signs his name with very feminine handwriting) in total silence suddenly has the real Mickey voice. The talking Mickey has made a couple of appearances at his house in ToonTown both inside in the photo room and out on the front porch but these were just test runs. He also served as Master of Ceremonies at last year's World of Color Opening introducing a couple of big Mickeys named Bob and Tom. Anyway, if you haven't seen the talking Mickey check out this little video and a couple of others that are out on YouTube. Disney Parks Blog also posted a talkiing Mickey video once the testing got leaked. Some love the talking Mickey and I've heard others say its kind of weird. See what you think

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Muckraker Journalism Disney Style - Al Lutz

Back at the turn of the century, and I'm talking about the 20th century not the 21st century of 10 years ago or so, there was a style of writing called muckraker journalism. The heyday of the muckrakers lasted until after the first world war. These journalist moved against the grain - they reported what they saw, what they felt, what was told to them by their inside sources that might have gone against the grain of more mainstream journalists, They reported their stories with a point of view, exposing truth as it really was and not what was being fed from the all powerful institutions. Muckrakers are still with us today and I'm not talking about the sleezy Fox News reporting but reporters who are willing to take on a challenge in pursuit of the truth.

The Walt Disney Company is a very secretive and tight lipped organization. For over 10 years now, one man has tried to bring us the stories of backstage Disney, both the good and the bad, and his name is Al Lutz. Ask any Disney regular who frequents forums and discussion boards and they know all about Al. Even the mainstream print and TV media go to Al for inside Disney story leads. When reporters look for a source, a true Disney watchdog, they go to Al.

While Al's writings on may not be prolific, his writings are detailed, thorough and give a point of view. He is not a rumor monger though some of his inside stories never do materialize, his predictions often hit the Disney nail on the head. And Al always has a point of view. Some may not like it, but it absolutely cannot be ignored if you are a Disney fan.

As I write this blog, I think about Al. Writing isn't always about truth. Writing is sometimes about writing and stating you thoughts, ideas, and opinions that for the reader is both thought provoking and enjoyable. That's Al's hope I'm sure and mine too.

I don't know Al Lutz. He could have been one of the many people who have kicked me in the back of the foot while they are trying to get around me as I walk around the park. I do know that Al's writings are a must read. Here is his latest from today MiceAge - Al Lutz

Monday, August 15, 2011

Evicted! Giving the Boot to the Princess Fantasy Faire

I don't have anything against Disney princesses (well, maybe just a little bit) but I never quite got the Princess Fantasy Faire. Meet and greets are fine but the princesses were squatting on a huge piece of very valuable real estate that could be put to better  use. Use the space as it was intended as a theater or take the whole thing out and put in some kind of ride, anything but "and what is your name?". Heck, they even set up tables where kids could color. Now I don't have any small kids but the idea of taking kids to Disneyland so they could 'color' was something I never quite understood. Admission prices are steep and once in the park, we are 'on the clock'. Taking time to 'color' seemed like a poor use of resources. But that's just me.

I'll have to admit the Princess Fantasy Faire is hugely popular. A quick check on MouseWait shows the current wait time for the princess meet and greet at 48 minutes and it gets even longer than that, much longer. But not to worry, Disney is simply relocating the princesses to the seldom used Plaza Gardens area that is primarily used for social events - the area just off to the left as you walk across the Castle bridge. That seems like a fine place, a really good idea actually. Having the princesses in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty's Castle seem like the right thing to do. This is a move that I can applaud with enthusiasm even if I'm not a princess kind of guy. (The internet is filled with grown men getting their pictures take Disney princesses - it may be just me once again, but I find it kind of weird).

Anyway, the rumor is that Disney will once again put in some kind of show at the huge Fantasy Faire Theater. We may get some sort of official confirmation later this week at the D23 Expo. With everyone getting excited about Carsland next year, a few things may need to be done to prop up Disneyland as well.

Below is a picture of a view from about where the new princess meet and greet will be located if the rumor pans out. Very nice.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lord Vader, Disney, & Other Short Takes

This Short Takes edition starts off with the great Blue Sky Disney Blog speculating that if George Lucas is finished making Star Wars movies, would he sell the characters to Disney? What I fabulous idea. Star Tours is now easily the most popular attraction in Disneyland and will be for some time to come. It seems like the time would be right.....but it's going to cost......

As usual, Disney did well when it announced its quarterly profits last week. Its greatest strength, once again is ESPN......the shakiest part of the company - films......The Disney Channel always does well with profits but I have yet to see Phineas  & Ferb (or Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, or High School Musical).....I have no interest in any of it.....sorry.

The best announcement that could come out of this year's D23 Expo? - confirming the rampant rumor that Innoventions would be turned into the Stark Expo.....if I were to attend this year's Expo, where would I like to be? - maybe the first aid station after traditional die-hard Disney fans find out just how big Marvel is going to be going forward.

Did I read somewhere that next year's John Carter on Mars is approaching the 300 million dollar mark with its budget?.....Wow! about sticking your corporate neck we know one of the reasons the 250 million dollar Lone Ranger got canned by Disney.

Back to the parks, I wrote about Food On A Stick back in early July, I neglected to mention the best food on a stick to walk around with on a hot day - the chocolate covered might even be just a little bit good for you.....never quite got the appeal of the Mickey ice cream bar, then again, I tend to be lactose intolerant.....the new entrance to DCA will now direct you to the backside of the Soarin' Over California show building.....welcome to the Magic......speaking of show buildings, I never gave it much thought but the show building for the Finding Nemo subs is beneath a portion of the Autopia......also, I had know idea that there was a live cockatoo in a cage above the entrance to the Jungle Cruise....the things you learn.....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Remembering The Virtual Magic Kingdom

In 2008, almost overnight, Disney shut down its free online multi-player game Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK for short) which took game participants through various, lands, rooms, and quests that were based on Disney Parks. There were thousands of players who invested countless hours into playing the game in its three year existence and it was gone in the course of a weekend. Disney's official reason was the game was never intended to be permanent and was only a promotional feature celebrating Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in 2005. From the beginning, the game was only intended to have a limited lifespan.

Tell that to many fans of the game. It was met with cries of outrage that in the end meant little to the giant Walt Disney Company. The game required high powered servers and paid moderators who kept control of the game content. It took money to run VMK and the return on investment of a free game was well.....nothing. Corporations always want a return on investment and good will sometimes just doesn't cut it.

But here's where Disney missed the boat. Not every person lives in close proximity to a Disney Park. Not every person (and their families) can afford to go to a Disney Park. And not everybody who played Virtual Magic Kingdom had the physical abilities to enjoy a Disney Park. Yes, there were countless people, disenfranchised from the Disney masses because of wealth, location, or physical disabilities who were able to enjoy just a bit of the magic displayed in the Virtual Magic Kingdom. The people who could not walk, or run, or dance in real life magically had these abilities in VMK. And it brought fun and joy to downtrodden lives.

In my life as a casual park goer to somewhat of a Disney enthusiast, it was the single worst move I have seen Disney make because it truly showed its corporate colors. In the end, it all came down to money. Weeks, maybe months later, it was leaked out that the off-shore developers of VMK wanted a bigger share of games popularity. The developers and programmers wanted more money and it was money Disney was unwilling to pay. I don't know if this is true or not. Like most other things, Disney is very secrative about their corporate decisions but at the base of everything, the decision to shut down VMK was based on the bottom line and not about people at all.

The Lone Ranger Not Riding Off Into The Sunset

As reported by numerous sources today, Disney has shut down production of the Johnny Depp-Jerry Bruckheimer led production of The Lone Ranger that was to begin filming in October. Rumor has it that Disney, fresh off some huge flops (as well as successes) was getting cold feet with a budget that was approaching the 250 million dollar mark. Internally, Disney has decided to go a more cautious route with their films and this film was beginning to show some marketing risk.

Table Service Dining - DCA

Back in early July, I wrote about Quick Service Dining in Disney California Adventure.  Several choices available there thankfully now that the new Paradise Pier quick service restaurants are up and running (and getting really good reviews). When it comes to Table Service dining in DCA, your choice gets narrowed down to 2 - Wine Country Trattoria and Ariels's Grotto. Rumor has it that there will be a 3rd choice available in 2012 when the Carthay Circle Theater opens.

Wine Country Trattoria:  I think Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have eaten at the Wine Country Trattoria 3 times in our travels to Disneyland. I have never been disappointed with any of the meals I have eaten there and while Mrs. DLT has enjoyed WCT, I don't think her enthusiasm runs quite as deep as mine. I tried the home made soups, adventurous salads, and tasty pasta dishes and enjoyed them all. Mrs. DLT sticks with a staple - lasagna which she liked but from the look on her face, I know she has had better even if it comes out of a box and has the name Stouffer's on it. I had her try the dessert tiarmasu for the first time at WCT. It's decadently rich flavor was a bit much for her but I enjoyed it. We've always eaten out on the patio and one year made a reservation that would coincide with the Pixar Play Parade that marched right along side of us while we were dining. Great idea, great fun. Of course there is wine available at the Wine Country and the selection is very good but this being Disney, the price was a little high and the pour is what you would call far from being generous. Prices are in the reasonable range for Disney with World of Color dining packages available. Wine Country Trattoria gets an enthusiastic recommendation from the Disneyland Traveler.

Ariel's Grotto: Controversy. I first ate at Ariel's Grotto back in 2004. We had children in our dining party and since AG is character dining, it seemed like a fun thing to do. Characters great - food bad, really bad. I think I had meatloaf. How do screw up a meatloaf? They found a way by saturating it with a really gross tomato based gravy. I think it was the single worst dining experience I have ever had in one of the Disney parks. We went back in 2007 when my niece wanted her daughter to get the "princess" treatment for her daughter on her birthday. All the princesses came out, and there are some great pictures from the birthday party. Recalling my horrible experience in 2004, I really played it safe and went with a chicken caesar salad. Hard to get that wrong and it was fine. But there were about 15 of us their that day and almost to a person, everyone complained about the quality of the food especially those that had what Disney tried to pass off as a "chicken pot pie". "Jack nasty" was one of the quotes. But the menu changed a few years back with more of a Mediterranean spin to it. When World of Color premiered last year, Mrs DLT took the plunge and opted with a WOC Ariel's Grotto Dinner Dining Package. And somehow all the past bad experiences were removed from our memory with a truly fine a memorable dining experiences. The price fixed meal with appetizer tower, entree, and dessert plate set up back close to $40 each but with a WOC fast pass at a prime viewing location, it was all well worth it and we would be more than willing to try it again on a future trip. Still wish I could get the taste of that meatloaf out of my mouth though.

D23 Expo 2011: Where's the Buzz?

So we're a week away from the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of Disney D23 fan club for a whole list of reasons but I don't have anything against anyone who wants to be a D23er. It's your money. But I do follow D23 from a distance and keep track of what is being written about the Expo on various Disney websites, blogs, and forums. Compared to the 2009 D23 Expo, the one thing that is most noticeable is the incredible lack of "buzz" about this year's Expo. In 2009, excitement was everywhere and rumors were running wild. In the end, Disney ended up losing money on the deal even with all the excitement.

This year everything about the Expo seems to be manufactured, attempts to generate some grassroots enthusiasm that doesn't seem to be there. The website owners and reporters will be there in full force trying to be the "first" with a D23 exclusive through Twitter. They promote their own meet-ups and lounges at the Expo but their readers seem to have taken the build up with a great big "Yawn". (Note: If you follow D23 reporters via Twitter, make sure you set your Twitter account to not except tweets during your normal sleeping hours. Nothing like getting a text tweet at 12:30 in the morning with some D23 reporter saying he just got on Matterhorn).

Now I'm sure the Expo will be great. Disney excels at delivering great shows but the question will be "does anyone really care enough the invest in the cost of attending the Expo and what is available for purchase inside?". In a brutal economy where almost everyone is effected, Disney is pricing out a large segment of its base from D23 and the Expo. The Expo will be well attended I am sure but there is no way of telling of how many people will be there with discount ticket provided by Disney to prop up the crowd numbers. Disney never, ever, announces numbers. And what is the future of D23? I have my theories but it comes down to unless the D23 model changes, it is not sustainable in the long term.

Disneyland and the Lucky Ducks

Disneyland has hundreds of duck residents, maybe thousands. You see them everywhere. They really like it down on the Rivers of America and the Hungry Bear Restaurant. What's not to like? - water, shade, and abundant food scraps. You see ducks in the moat around the castle and the ponds that separate the entrances to Adventureland and Frontierland. Sometimes you just see them wandering the streets.

A duck in Disneyland? Not a bad life. They probably enjoy their stay in the park as much as any guest and they don't need hundred dollar bills and credit cards to get in. Of course the can't get into any of the indoor shows but I'm sure their parade views are spectacular. They can't get on rides but you're a duck, you can fly. If you can fly, do really need to get on a ride for a thrill? It's gotta be a pretty good life for a Disneyland duck. There is some competition for food, but I doubt that any of them starve. And you do have to make a run for it once in awhile trying to escape the clutching arms of a 3 year old.

One of the memorable sights of my last trip to the park was early morning in Fantasyland by the Tea Cups. A mother duck was walking around with 3 baby ducklings that were probably out walking around for the first time. They were really, really little. Rather than seeing the baby ducks get trampled under foot, 3 Disney cast members circled around the mother duck and her family and protected them in their early morning stroll. Eventually, I think they made it of the The Storybookland Canal where they probably call home. I'm sure 3 Disney cast members had better things to do but on this morning, nothing was more important to them than to see a family of ducks have a good time too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Looking Ahead to Carsland

Every week, I look at the various Disney California Adventure Expansion Project Trackers with photos of the epic scale Carsland construction (BTW, after Carsland is finished and the guests are wandering through, will anyone ever go back and look at the thousands of construction photos? - just asking). Anyway, the mountains are going up; the rides are being installed; it's truly an impressive Disney achievement. We're still about 10 months away from the opening of Carland and without a doubt, it's going to be 10 months of hype, hype from the park fans, hype from Disney, even hype from the non-Disney media. Carsland, Carsland, Carsland, it will dominate the west coast Disney park discussion.

Of course everyone will want to go, everyone will want to see, everyone will want to get on Radiator Springs Racers, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, and Luigi's Flying Tires. Well, maybe everyone but the DisneylandTraveler. Sure I want to see the sites, ride the rides, try out the new cafe, but I have no, absolutely no desire to be first in line or be there the first day, first week, first month. If you read through this blog, you can probably get a sense that I am not a fan of crowds. To me, crowds take enjoyment and turn it into frustration. So I can wait to get into Carsland, maybe in the fall, maybe even wait until the winter. I can wait. I want enjoy Carsland, not get crushed by it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"The Most Boring Ride in the Park"

Let's take a more up-close look at the Storybookland Canal Boats. Let's see, it's a 1955 original - there since the park opened. It was imagineered by Walt himself and his love for miniatures and topiary. It's pleasant enough, kind of cute, but as my one of my nieces once said, "it's the most boring ride in the park" to which another niece replied, "they should take it out and put in something good".  An interesting point is these remarks were made in the darkness of night. Someone said, well, you really ought to go on the ride at night. We did. It was the same - just dark.

So in my family, the Storybookland Canal Boats get beat up pretty good. I'm sure others feel the same way. But will Disney have the guts "get rid of the Storybookland Canal boats and put in something good". I doubt it. This would have to be considered a legacy attraction tied to Disneyland history and Walt Disney himself. For the multitude of people who would like to see "something better" in its place, you would find an even more vocal community protesting its removal and these are people who probably haven't been on the ride in years but know its history. As long as imagineers like Tony Baxter have their imprint in the park, the legacy of Disneyland will be safe but that sense of history also has to be passed down to imagineers of the future.

No matter how boring some things in Disneyland just need to be left alone because it just wouldn't be the same without them. And if nothing else, I wish my yard looked that good.

For those who haven't been on the Storybookland Canal Boats in years, here's a YouTube video by Dolbyman that will help you remember just how boring,, I mean..... how nice the ride is.

Disneyland Magic for Everyone

When I think about a visit to Disneyland, I think about the fun, the enjoyment, the pleasure, and yes, the magic of it all. It's a special place. But do you know what gives my sometimes cynical old heart its greatest warmth while walking around the park? It's seeing young children (and really people of all ages) confined to wheel chairs with life crippling disabilities like Muscular Dystrophy, ALS, Down's Syndrome and othe genetic conditions also taking in the magic of Disneyland Park. I'm not talking about the people in wheel chairs with sprained ankles, twisted knees, or broken limbs. They will all recover. I'm talking about the people for whom life has dealt a very cruel blow and will never recover. To them, the wheel chair or having to constantly and forever hold the hand of another is their world and their life. To see them in Walt's park just being able take in a part of what you and I can enjoy, well, I just want to break down and cry - tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of compassion.

And then their are the people who must take care of them, parents, brothers, sisters, other family members and caregivers, how much respect I have for them and what they do is immeasurable. What they have to give and sacrifice of themselves to help another - well there is always the "out of love" part of it, but its a love that seems so much greater than the word "love" the rest of toss around. When I see a caregiver attending to a disabled person, my thoughts always turn to "God bless this person and those who care for them",

Seeing a child who will never be able to walk, or run, or swim, or dance, sitting in a wheel chair waiting to see a parade with Mickey and friends on Main St. may be one of the most magical sites in all of Disneyland. Sometimes the magic comes from seeing others enjoy the magic as well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Reflecting On Delectable Pillows of Goodness

It's breakfast time. I'm getting hungry. I'm rummaging through piles of Disney photos and I come across this one, the two characters that stand outside Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. And when I think about Ralph Brennan's, fine restaurant as it may be, I think about the delicious beignets they serve from their express dining area. Forget about Disney snacks, these little pillows of fried dough covered in powdered sugar are simply a breakfast (or snack treat anytime) that you will be sure to remember. Served piping hot and in a paper sack, the grease from beignets mixing with the powdered sugar create the perfect bite-size snack treat. Add a cup of good coffee you will be set with a smile on your face and a buzz from the sugar and caffeine.

Disneyland makes beignets over in New Orleans Square (I think they call them fritters at the Royal Street Veranda). Don't even try to compare those with what Ralph Brennan's serves. There isn't any comparison. I was fortunate enough to have had beignets at the legendary New Orleans French Quarter eatery Cafe Du Monde, world famous for their beignets. You know, I don't remember those. I do remember Ralph Brennan's though and I'm getting more hungry just thinking about it.

What If Disney Built Universal Studios Jurassic Park (the ride)?

In July 2005, a large contingent of my family went down for a 6 day stay at Disneyland, splitting up the cost of a 3 bedroom suite at the Disneyland Hotel. We were going to make this a trip of the ages and it was Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. We didn't have annual passes at the time so we got 5 day parkhoppers and decided to take a 1 day trip to Universal Studios Hollywood at the mid point of our trip.

This was my first and only trip to Universal Studios. I'm glad I went but I never plan to go back again. The historic tram ride was fun. At the time there was Backdraft, The Mummy, the Waterworld stunt show, Back to the Future, and other rides and attractions. Easily the best ride in the park (if you can call it a park - it's really built kind of weird) is Jurassic Park based on the Steven Spielberg films. It's a rafting water ride, that meanders through the Jurassic world of dinosaurs that caps off with an heart pounding plunge that I think is right up there with Disney's Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run. Yes, this was Universal Studios at its best. But as I recall going through the ride, something seemed be missing. I was looking at the sets and scenery but didn't feel connected to it. It felt assembled, set up, rather than drawing you into the ride for a heightened experience. What was missing? It was the details.

Details are what Disney excels at. Think about the Jungle Cruise, cheesy as it may be. From the loading dock, to the rustic boats, to the trip around the river with your skipper, you feel part of the ride and not just a passenger. There's a connection there. Disney tries to make their park guests "connect" with some kind of emotion to most of their rides and attractions and its what makes Disneyland more than just a theme or amusement park.

What if Disney built Jurassic Park The Ride? Think about how much more detailed (and greater) it would have been. We've made numerous trips to Disneyland since 2005 and from what I can recall, other than a trip to Knott's Berry Farm to get the chicken dinner, we have never left the Disneyland Resort. It just isn't worth it. The imitators just come up too far short.

Bad Mood Rising

I woke up this morning kind of in an irritable mood - work stuff from yesterday, family stuff from last night, none of it has led to a start of a great weekend. Mrs. DisineylandTraveler made me watch the movie Despicable Me last night. No, it's not a Disney movie but it should have been. Disney could have made a fortune off The Minions and Fluffy Unicorns. Anyway, if you're in a bad mood, watching Despicable Me helps. But it doesn't cure a bad mood so on this Saturday morning, I'm still pretty irritable but its also my "quiet" time where I can work on this blog for a little while or until the dog gets out of bed. So here I sit in a little bit of a bad mood vs. writing about Disneyland - the self proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth".

What's the perfect way to kick off the blog for today than to write about the things while visiting Disneyland that can put me in a bad mood in the "Happiest Place on Earth". I explored this topic in a previous blog entry The Happiest Place on Earth??? (Part 1). This is kind of a continuation of that topic - Part 2 as they say. What can put you in a bad mood while visiting Disneyland?

Sun and Heat:  This time of year, walking around the park being beaten down by the sun and the heat (not to mention the poor air quality) is rough. You start off like gangbusters in the morning but once the heat begins to take its toll, a good mood can deteriorate quickly.

Agendas: The more people that are in your group (visiting Disneyland in groups is a topic for a future blog entry) the more people have their own agendas of where they want to go and what the want to do. Sometimes agendas collide when strong willed personalities each feel they have the best of idea of what to do next and neither idea is anywhere close to the other. You get irritated, they get irritated. Adult people begin to stomp and pout like 7 year olds.

Rudeness:  This gets brought up a lot in Disney forums and discussion boards but if you are someone who is easily offended by rudeness in others, then Disneyland may not be your place because you see it everywhere. If you let rudeness in other contribute to your own attitude, then a bad attitude is just around the bend.

Getting Tired:  A very wise minister once said "Never make any major decisions when you are too hungry, too lonely, or too tired".  There's a lot of wisdom there. Getting tired at Disneyland contributes to a bad mood probably quicker than anything and it also leads to bad decisions - picking the wrong place to eat just because its the closest or buying something "just so we can get it and get out of here". Rest, rest is important to keeping a clear mind and away from a bad attitude.

Aches & Pains:  When the body begins to break down, so does the mind. I keep trying to tell Mrs. DLT that every time she forces me on Indiana Jones when I don't feel like it. It's hard on my back and when the back starts to hurt, enjoyment is gone and your park visit becomes a painful grind. Then there is the sore feet, the aching knees, and the sense that we're not as young as we used to be - painful and a little sad.

Well that's enough about getting in a bad mood at Disneyland for now. I need to go get that little dog up and out of bed so she can annoy the crap out of me (then sit on my lap and rub her soft fur against my soulless heart).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fly or Drive to Disneyland?

As the crow flies, we live 434 miles away from the Disneyland front gates. I've checked. Many times. Driving, it takes me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler about 6 and a half hours with minimal stops for the basics - food, bathroom, gas. In the air, its a little over an hour flying time but when you factor in getting to the airport, getting there early, and getting from the John Wayne airport to Disneyland (by shuttle), that 1 hour easily becomes 3. We've done it both ways but for the last half dozen trips or so we've driven it.

The Pro's of Driving:
No restrictions on what you can bring. Bring all the clothes you want. If you run out of room in the suitcase, toss them in a plastic Wal-Mart bag. No matter how many clothes Mrs. DLT brings, she'll always have to do laundry at the hotel so we bring the laundry detergent and fabric softener as well. Bring all the food and drinks you want. We also bring coffee, sweetenter, cream, and a real coffee maker. The standard room in our favorite little hotel does not have a microwave. We don't bring a microwave but we certainly could. We do bring a table fan. No restrictions. Lesson learned: if you bring a lot of stuff, be sure to request a ground floor room with a minimum walk from where you park to the front door of your room. Also with driving out go time constraints, leave early, arrive late, whatever - it's your schedule not the airlines.

The Con's of Driving:
Since we live in California's central valley, we are primarily drive Interstate 5 from Sacramento to Anaheim and back again. It is the most god-awful boring drive this side of west Texas (which is way worse). There's nothing worth seeing 80% of the trip. Then there is the Grapevine, the mountain you climb over to get into the L.A. basin - it snows up there. And then there is the L.A. traffic - it's the nightmare everyone has heard about but only worse. Somewhere on an L.A freeway, day or night, you WILL coming to a complete stop. If you're lucky, it only happens once or twice.  It's horrible (until you get to Anaheim where everything seems to improve). Yes, its only 6 and a half hours but between boredom and anxiety by the time you get to your hotel room, you're pretty much spent.

The Pro's of Flying:
It's hard to get in a car accident in the air. It's just plain easier on the nerves and the flight we usually take gets us to our hotel and then into Disneyland by 10:00am. Not a bad deal. Other than making flight times, a lot of stress is taken out because the transportation work is pretty much left to professionals. Show up to the right place at the right time and let everyone else take care of the work. Doesn't happen as much anymore but you use to be able to get some pretty good discount air faires from time to time. Now the expense of flying is probably just a bit more than than the driving.

The Con's of Flying:
Well you are limited to what and how much you can bring and it gets more limiting (and costly) all the time. Packing takes more time and consideration. And then there's Mrs. DLT, not one of the world's great fliers. Once you are on the ground in Anaheim, your are at the mercy of the infamous airport shuttle. They're pretty reliable but some of the shuttle operations seem to "run by the seat of their pants".

Well after thinking about it, if I was going down to Disneyland for a short or weekend type trip, I think I would opt for flying. Did that a few years ago where we flew down on a Saturday morning then came back on Monday evening. It worked out well. But if me and Mrs. DLT are going down to Disneyland, we are usually in it  for the long haul - at least 5 or 6 days. In that case we drive because we can take everything but the kitchen sink and set up camp.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The World of Color or My Aching Feet

Disney California Adventure's World of Color water show has pretty much run non-stop for over a year now (except when my sister went to see it and it shut down after about 2 minutes because of "technical difficulties").  Everything you have seen or read about the show is true - it is spectacular and a must-see for any visitor to the Disneyland Resort.  At 25 minutes long, the large grid of fountains, fire, and digital animation projections bring you the world of Disney as it's never been seen before.  Walt would have been proud of this one because of the creativity and technical achievements of the show.


Here is where the Disneyland Traveler may run into some trouble.  There is no real story in World of Color so it doesn't build to anything in particular.  The film clips show classic Disney (and Pixar) scenes but they look assembled rather than flowing cohesively.  World of Color meanders with some segments too long, others too short, and in some cases, a segment which should have been left out entirely (the Mufasa death scene from the Lion King). These are quibbles.  It's a great show, but it really could be better.


So you've just spent all day at the park and you're dead tired.  Now it comes to time to line up for the World of Color show and then be escorted into your viewing area where you stand and wait and wait.  Some people hit the ground and sit on the concrete but at our age, me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler know that sitting for any length of time on the concrete ground is a risky proposition.  So you continue to stand and wait and wait while it gets more crowded, and more crowded.  But then, the misery in waiting quickly dissipates once the show begins and the fountains of color show their stuff.

Once I get back to my hotel room, the shoes come off in world record time and I am stretched out on the bed.  I tell my feet "it'll be ok, you'll feel better in the morning."  My feet tell me "shut up and get some Advil and don't do that to us again."  The feet have a strong argument for awhile but they'll be back waiting for the World of Color again some day.  The eyes insist on it.

One of the best YouTube video's ever is Disney Park's World of Color Aerial View.  Enjoy WOC from this spectacular perspective.

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