Monday, September 26, 2011

Aldaddin - A Magical Musical Spectacular

Yesterday at the 4:45 pm performance of Aladdin A Musical Spectacular (that is performed 5 days a week at DCA's Hyperion Theater) the magic carpet that soars above the theater with Aladdin and Jasmine riding it while performing A Whole New World, flipped upside down leaving the two performers hanging in the air by their safety harnesses. The audience was quickly removed and the performers were brought down safely.  Thankfully, no one was hurt. Here is a short YouTube video of the performers dangling from the magic carpet as the audience evacuates:

All Disney accidents are investigated. Sometimes internally. Sometimes by safety officials (OSHA). In either case, I would suspect at least a temporary interruption in the performances of the 50 minute stage show that has a large cast and entertains guests by the thousands each day. Another story has come out that performances would continue but without the flying carpet sequence (the highlight of the show).

Aladdin is one of the jewels of Disney California Adventure and is easily one of the top ten attractions in either park.  This is a true Broadway musical in an abbreviated form but at 50 minutes it still packs music, adventure, comedy, and stunning stage visuals by the score as the story, based on the animated Aladdin film, is told.  I have to say I have probably seen Aladdin 8 to 10 times and enjoyed every single minute of it with the only drawback being having to stand in that miserable queue line outside, as they don't let the guests in until right before show time. 

The Whole New World segment is one of my Disneyland (DCA in this case) goosebump moments.  To see Aladdin and Jasmine soaring above you (or below you if you are well up in the balcony) with that beautiful song being sung is just one of those pure Disney magic moments.

A year or so ago, Disney tried to remove Aladdin. They floated out the rumor of a new stage show (Toy Story The Musical) coming to replace Aladdin and it was immediately met with a chorus of "NO, DON'T DO IT" from the throng of fans of the show. The rumor quickly faded away however, the idea of a new show coming on board once all of the construction/expansion is complete is still strong.

If you go to Disneyland and haven't seen Aladdin.....put it on your must-do list. Yes, it does take a chunk of time both in the performance and the wait to get in but it is well worth it. It's a delight for guests of all ages.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Amazing Toy Story Zoetrope

I can't help myself. I have probably seen it a dozen times before but on every trip to the Disneyland Resort I have to stop by the Disney Animation Building in DCA to check out the amazing Toy Story Zoetrope. I can't explain my fascination with seeing this thing but it's there. Maybe it's seeing what the human brain is capable of doing when models spinning on a platter hit the magical speed, but it never ceases to amaze me. The Toy Story Zoetrope, built by Pixar, is just one of the things that make visiting a Disney park so special - how a small little attraction adds so much to the detail and intricacies of the parks. Check out the Toy Story Zoetrope below in a video I found on YouTube and you can be amazed too.

The Donald Duck Question

While trying to find some pictures to go along with my ToonTown post I came across this photo and it triggered the burning question - why doesn't this duck wear pants? Ever. He wears tops, shirts, jackets, but never wears pants. It bothers me. Mickey wears pants or shorts. Goofy wears pants. Why is Donald the only character who is always half dressed? There are characters who don't wear clothes at all - Pluto, Chip and Dale, etc. Donald seems to be the only character who leaves the house in morning leaving his pants behind. I have no answer. There is no answer. Just the question - why doesn't Donald Duck wear pants?

ToonTown - To Be or Not To Be

If you were someone who was making their first visit to Disneyland and had the time to see it all, at some point you would enter Mickey's ToonTown to check it out. So you pass under the railroad tracks and up the the little hill that puts you in ToonTown and you take a look around. Wow! Visually, ToonTown is stunning with color and whimsy coming at you from everywhere. There isn't a straight line anywhere in the place. But start to really take a look around and beyond the colorful facades, there just isn't much there.

Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin is the featured attraction. I think it is the best dark ride in both parks (if you don't count Pirates and Haunted Mansion as dark rides, which I don't). It's the only dark ride that actually provides a fast pass return. The queue line, which is quite long but you wouldn't know it from the outside, is one of the best in Disneyland loaded with humor taken from the Who Framed Roger Rabbit movie. The ride itself is fairly long and entertaining. You are actually able to spin your ride vehicle around, but I usually don't because spinning detracts from the visuals of the ride itself. At least it does for me. So, ToonTown's Roger Rabbit ride is great - where to next?

Well that's where the problem starts. If you are an adult without children, there just isn't much to do. The only other ride is the Gadget-Go-Coaster which is a children's mini roller coaster. There's Mickey's house that is definitely worth checking out whether you are young or old because Disney has really done an excellent job with the interior. And who doesn't want their picture taken with Mickey no matter what your age?

There is a little food court that offers up regular hot dogs and really bad pizza slices from the window counters.  Everything else in there is aimed at entertaining children and even then, it might be a stretch as Donald's Boat and Chip and Dale's Tree House provide minimal amusement. The fore-mentioned Gadget-Go-Coaster usually has a long line for a ride that lasts about 30 seconds.

So where are we at with ToonTown? If you have children, young children, it is worth spending an hour or two there. Go to Mickey's House (and Minnie's though it's not quite as elaborate as the Mick's), have your children play with the interactive elements of ToonTown's "industrial" area with shocking doorknobs and other playful activities, and there's the coaster, the tree house, the boat, etc.

If you're an adult without kids, other than the Roger Rabbit ride and a quick walk around to take some fun photos, there just isn't much reason to even be in there.  You may enjoy the Five and Dime/Gag Factory store.  I think it's one of Disneyland's better retail souvenir shacks, but other than that, you'll probably beat it out of there rather quickly.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler makes it into ToonTown every few trips or so to do exactly what is mentioned above.  If we happen to take a trip with a family member who has kids, we may spend a bit more time hanging around the place.

Over the years ToonTown has deteriorated because of safety concerns and is becoming a shell of its former self. Goofy's Bounce House (pictured above) is now closed. The Jolly Trolley (pictured below) is now stationary.  The up and down motion while the little train was running was judged to be, depending what story you believe, a safety issue because of the lack of a restraining apparatus.  It also required so much mechanical upkeep because of the hydraulics, not to mention train operators required to run them, that the manpower involved was not cost effective for a ride vehicle that only moved about 100 feet or so.

ToonTown is often a subject of hot debate on Disney forums and discussion boards. Many people would like to see it ripped out completely (maybe with the exception of Roger Rabbit) and replaced with attractions more appealing to all ages. Others think it's just fine the way it is because their kids love the place. Again, it gets back to having kids. It's a kid's land - kind of like Disney California Adventure's A Bug's Land but with less rides and more theming. One of the more interesting thoughts I had heard, and the one that gave me second thoughts to my personal opinion to have the place demolished, was to have a real nice counter service restaurant serving interesting menu options built in there and that is certainly doable. Who doesn't want a good place to get something to eat?

One final word about ToonTown, whether you have kids or you don't, it's worth taking a walk around there at Christmas time. Mickey and friends sure know how to decorate the place up and put their town in the holiday spirit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avatarland - A Visionary Plan Or A Half-Baked Idea

A Disney Parks Blog Image
OK, a show of hands out there - who saw this coming?  Announced today by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs, Disney is entering into a licensing agreement with James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox to bring Cameron's blockbuster film Avatar as a fully conceptualized "land" in Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom park.  This announcement stunned the Disney community and now some 12 hours later, discussion forums are still buzzing with most of the die-hard Disney fans finding it hard to explain this move.  Of course there are the usual Disney apologists ("please Disney, don't take away my press credentials") backing the company as something big that needed to be done for AK.  These would also be the same people that if this were suggested by some forum poster they would turn around crucify him or her for being some kind of lunatic.

No, Disney had to do something big in Florida after getting kicked in the behind all summer by that snot nosed Harry Potter character over at Universal.  "Tom, what can we do to beat down that punk Harry Potter?"  "How about Avatar, boss?  That movie was huge at the box office and they have more of them in the pipeline."  "Excellent idea, get that pain in the rear egomaniac Cameron on the phone and let's see what we can do."

Real Disney fans who do not go the apologist route are a bit smarter than the smartest guys in the room give them credit for.  Avatar has nothing to do with Disney, it's history or it's legacy.  Avatar isn't even an established franchise as Star Wars and Indiana Jones were when Disney brought them aboard.  This is a chance at a money grab, to capitalize and market on what they are expecting to be huge opportunities.

The complaint line formed hours ago.  Maybe Disney will listen.  I can only be happy that this half-baked idea is going down in Florida. I phoned my wife this afternoon and told her that they were building an Avatarland in Animal Kingdom.  Her response?  "Avatar! The movie? That isn't Disney. How bizarre".  That pretty much sums it up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's New in Disney News - Vol 2

Return of the Lion King
Maybe it's surprising, maybe it isn't, but 17 years after it's theatrical premiere, Disney has released a 3D version of it's animated classic The Lion King to theaters and to everyone's surprise, the movie was number 1 at the box office this past weekend. The Lion King 3D was only to have a two week run in theaters ahead of it's new Blu-Ray/3D/DVD package available in stores next month but the 30 million dollars raked in by Disney this past weekend may convince them to extend the two-week limited engagement a bit. Cheers for return of The Lion King.

WDW Fined by OSHA for Accidental Death of Maintenance Worker
The government's workplace health and safety watchdog OSHA has levied a $69,000 fine against Disney in the accidental death of a maintenance castmember working on Animal Kingdom's Primeval Whirl wild mouse coaster.  OSHA found 4 violations in worker safety while investigating the accident. Primeval Whirl has been closed since last January but opened one of its two tracks this past weekend.

Speaking of OSHA, New Guardrails Added to Golden Horseshoe
While no one has said it was OSHA, Disney has quietly installed additional guardrails on top of the decorative railing on the second story of the Golden Horseshoe.  No one has ever fallen from the upper level but in these times, they aren't going to allow someone to tragically be the first.  Guardrails are also being installed on the upper level balcony of the Hyperion Theater in DCA.  No one has been allowed to sit in the first row of the balcony for quite some time as a safety precaution.

Rumor: World of Color Holiday Show
This would be something everyone would enthusiastically look forward to - Blue Sky Disney Blog is reporting that Disney testing a special World of Color show for the Christmas holiday season.  This is unconfirmed but makes a whole lot of sense and gives hope that the WOC spectacular can be seasonally changed and modified.

Trader Sam's Chinese Long Bean Recipe

Trader Sam's Chinese Long Beans - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

I was one of those who lamented the closing of the Lost Bar at the Disneyland Hotel last year.  In the current Disneyland Hotel renovation, the Lost Bar was demolished and replaced with a new casual meeting spot - Trader Sam's.  Now I haven't been to Trader Sam's yet but do look forward to making it over there someday hopefully soon.  In the meantime, the reports of the great atmosphere, dynamite tropical drinks, and a tasty appetizer menu that make up Trader Sam's offerings are regularly posted on Disney discussion boards. Disney Parks Blog recently posted the recipe for the fried Chinese long beans served at Trader Sam's.  I'll include it in my Disney recipe collection on this blog because it looks simple to make but also reminds me of something I need to try on my next trip.

Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Serves 4
Sriracha Mayonnaise
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha (Asian chili sauce)
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon cleaned and thinly sliced green onion, green part only
1/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Panko-crusted Long Beans
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon seafood spice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 pound Chinese long beans*, cut into 4-inch-long pieces
2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
4 cup canola oil, for frying
Coarse salt, to taste
For sriracha mayonnaise:
Combine mayonnaise, sriracha, vinegar, salt, green onions, lime juice, garlic and pepper in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For panko-crusted long beans:
  1. Combine flour, seafood spice, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  2. Line a baking sheet with paper towels; set aside.
  3. Pour oil in a deep pot to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat to 350°F.
  4. Moisten long beans; dredge in flour mixture. Dip in beaten eggs, then roll in panko.
  5. Working in batches, gently place in hot oil until golden brown about 2 to 3 minutes, using tongs or a slotted spoon to gently turn beans every 45 seconds.
  6. Transfer fried beans to prepared baking sheet and season lightly with salt.
  7. Serve with Sriracha Mayonnaise.

Haunted Mansion Holidays - The Argument Ensues

A few weeks back I posted an entry on MiceChat about how I preferred the overlayed Haunted Mansion Holidays attraction over the traditional Haunted Mansion.  MiceChat has tons of readers and a good amount of people who post regularly.  A few people agreed with my assessment of the attraction.  Most disagreed.  A few, as has a tendency to happen on MiceChat, jumped all over my case forcefully stating that to go with anything other than the traditional Haunted Mansion ride was somewhere in between blasphemy, heresy, and the opinion of a boob.  Hello, I'm boob.

One of the MiceChat moderators tacked on a survey poll to my post and I think, the last time I looked, those that preferred the traditional HM over the holiday version was a little over 2 to 1 favoring the traditional with about a hundred people casting votes.  Actually, the holiday version fared better than I thought with the voting the way the discussion started off.

I gave my reasons for enjoying the Haunted Mansion Holidays a little bit in a previous post on this blog.  The main reason is I really enjoy the color and life that is brought to the attraction that is mostly shrouded in various shades of gray most of the year.  Of course the MiceChat HM traditionalists jumped all over that comment with (paraphrasing) "It's a Haunted Mansion.  It's supposed to be dark and gray you boob".  Point well taken but I will stand by my reasoning.  In another thread on MousePlanet about the HM I made the contention that when I get on the traditional HM, my mind tends to wander.  I think about what me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler might want to do next, where we might go to eat, how my dog and cats are doing back home without me.  I've been on the ride so much that it just becomes something to do rather than enjoying it for what it is.  That feeling is on me I freely admit but it's fair.  You get on the HM because most of the year, it's pretty much a walk-on, it's long, and if it's hot outside, it's nice and cool in there.

But the holiday version makes me pay attention to the surroundings, what's around the next bend, enjoying the soundtrack.  Instead of resting my eyes as I might want to do in the traditional version, the holiday version dazzles my eyes.  I'm not a fan of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas movie - didn't care for it at all from what I can recall.  I'm not a fan of Jack Skellington and feel his presence in the park and especially the merchandise shops is a bit of an intrusion.  But I like the ride - really like the ride.

And as I mentioned before, while I'm not big on Jack Skellington, I do like his portrayal of Sandy Claus, a delightful Christmas twist.  Where does the Haunted Mansion rank as one of your "must-do" Disneyland / DCA attractions in it's traditional form?  For me it's pretty well down the list.  But when the holidays roll around, a viewing of Haunted Mansion Holidays becomes an essential.  That's the power of the holiday overlay.

Thor - Saturday Night with the God of Thunder

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have an interesting relationship between ourselves and going to the movies.  Some years, we go a lot, see just about everything of note especially in the comedy, action-adventure, and whatever Disney has to offer categories at our local megla-plex.  Some years we may only go a couple of times.  This year, we haven't been to a movie theater at all.  I suppose there are various reasons for this absence with this year having me recovering from surgery for a few months at the beginning of year, our investment late last year in a large screen HDTV and blue ray player with new surround sound equipment, and going to the movies has gotten just so darned expensive especially if you go the 3D / IMAX route.  One of the local theater chains has started $5.00 Tuesdays where every seat for every showing is 5 bucks with a bit more tacked on for 3D and IMAX showings (but I've got a regular job, I work on Tuesdays).

All that being said, I really wanted to get to the theaters to see the two major Marvel releases distributed by Paramount this year - Thor and Captain America, but just never got around to it. I'm not really a huge fan of Marvel's X-Men series which are made by Fox.  I'm not a big fan of Fox period other the The Simpsons and their sports coverage.  So anyway, for those not in the know, anytime you see anything by Marvel, that is now the Walt Disney Company which owns Marvel after their 4 billion acquisition.  Paramount, Fox, and Sony remain partners in making Marvel Studios movies, but that is only until their existing production contracts are completed, then Disney gets it all starting with next year's Avengers movie.

So after a couple of days of trying to get a blu-ray copy of the very much in demand Thor out of a Redbox machine, we finally succeeded on Saturday and spent the evening with the god of thunder.  "Uh-Oh" I thought to myself as the beginning of the movie abruptly changed from an out of a control Winnebego in the New Mexico desert to frost giants in a distant galaxy - "Mrs DLT, isn't going to like this" as I glanced over at her and knowing her preference for straight-forward story telling.  But two hours later I think we both agreed that Thor was probably one of the best movies we have watched all year.  "We should buy that" she said as she got up to leave the room.  It's not worth spending a lot of time describing the movie but in the end, the performances were good, the story was complicated but you were able to follow along for the most part (unlike TRON:Legacy), the graphics were stunning, and it held our attention beginning to end without once making us feel like we were wasting our time.  Thor is a really good movie and as the summer blockbusters begin making their way on to video, they will be hard-pressed to top Thor.

Give it three and a half Mickeys out of four.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Here - Halloweentime At Disneyland

Well it's finally here.  For the next 6 weeks, hoards of people will descend on Disneyland to enjoy the festivities of what Disneyland officially calls Halloweentime.  For me, I'll sit this one out.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I did make it to Halloweentime last year not because of the decorations or other goings on but because the time and opportunity were there for us to make a trip.  Halloweentime was just incidental.

To put it mildly, I'm just not a Halloween guy . Never have been.  Not even as a child.  I think my last trick or treating expedition took place when I was about 7 years old.  There was something about trick or treating which I always attributed, even at a young age, to begging for food.  That's silly of course but that is genuinely how I felt and still feel to this day years later.  Mrs. DLT has always loved Halloween so there you have it, polar opposites again.

First of all, Halloween, no matter how you shake it, is not a holiday.  Nobody is given the day off because it's October 31st.  Besides, Halloween isn't even a "day".  It's a night, a few hours really.  Millions and millions of dollars are spent for a few hours of darkness activities one night a year.

All that being said, Disney knows how to do Halloween up right, especially when they realize there is money to be made.  From the front of the park and all the way up Main Street, Disneyland is colored in a sea of orange and if I had a dollar for every pumpkin they put on display, well, I could afford a real nice trip to Disneyland with plenty of extras and amenities.

The Mick finally gets an excuse to put on his purple suit.  Pretty snazzy costume although I thought I saw a movie a few years back where a New York City pimp was wearing the same get-up.

Space Mountain opens with its Ghost Galaxy overlay.  A nice touch with enhanced projections, lighting, and sound effects but unless something has changed, most Disneyland regulars think "Is a that all there is?  With a little more time, effort, (and money), this could really be a Ghost Galaxy to remember."

And the big attraction is the reopening of the Haunted Mansion Holidays.  I love HMH but not so much for the Halloween stuff.  I like Sandy Claus and Zero.  I also really enjoy the color that is brought to the venerable attraction for the holiday season when it is traditionally draped in shades of gray for much of the year.

So this is where the Halloween portion of this blog begins.  I've got 6 more weeks to write about this stuff and it all leads to a couple of hours on one night.  Is is all worth it?

Let's Have Lunch - Club 33 Perhaps?

I mentioned in a previous post that my friend from work, Mike, had his birthday lunch at Club 33 last week in Disneyland.  No, he is not a Club 33 member.  Yes, he does have connections.  He's probably eaten there at least a half dozen times or so from the time I began working with him about 12 years ago.  He always brings back pictures for me to ogle over.  A dastardly deed to be sure.

Last week's lunch for Mike and his wife began with a trip to the salad bar where he promptly had a plate of lobster tails, crab claws, chilled shrimp, cheese, and oh yeah, some green leafy stuff.

He proceeded on ordering up some mighty fine looking lamb chops served over creamy polenta while his wife ordered a delectable sable fish which is similar to cod.  Both had high marks for their entrees enjoying them completely.

And it doesn't stop there.  On Mike's dessert plate he showed off the obligatory macaroon with mickey ears, a delicious looking chocolate eclair, and one of my all time favorite desserts, creme brulee.

Can it get any better than this?  This lunch set Mike back about 200 bucks after a cocktail, tax, and tip were added but as an invited guest of a Club 33 member, they also got free admission to the park.  It's actually a pretty good deal.  Mike and I live several hundred miles away from Disneyland but someday, just maybe, we may find ourselves both in Anaheim at the same time.  He'll hook me up.  I think a trip to Club 33 is on my bucket list.

Enchanted - The Movie, Not My State of Mind

Alright, it's Friday night, the long work week is over and all the Disneyland Traveler is looking forward to is getting a good night's sleep and hopefully a refreshed start to the weekend.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, on the other hand, wants to rent a movie.  I tell her to check for Thor (a Marvel film - owned by Disney) so she scours the Redbox kiosks searching for the popular movie that was just released a few days ago.  No luck.  As soon as the movie becomes available, it gets reserved by someone using Redbox's online reservation system. It's appearing that a good night's sleep is going to come pretty early since getting the movie is proving to be a difficult proposition.

"What about watching one of our movies?" Mrs. DLT asks as I'm thinking it's only about an hour till I hit the sack. My reaction - what does a pirate say? - oh, yeah - "Arrrrrrr.....". "What about Enchanted?" asks Mrs. DLT.  Grumble, grumble, "Alright" as I give in to watching the movie a little after 8pm.  I'm thinking to myself, "It's not a bad movie and it's not long." Enchanted was the first Blu-Ray movie that was added to our collection.  The generous people at Disney (the movie club) gave it to Mrs. DLT free for her birthday a few years ago (plus shipping and handling).

So the movie starts.  I think this is my third or fourth time seeing the movie since we've owned a copy.  It was released in 2007.  And do you know what?  Even dead tired, I really enjoyed the movie all over again.  Clever, engaging, warm, and in the end, a movie with a lot of heart - a very enjoyable watch.  Did I mention it also isn't very long?

So I'm watching Enchanted but in the back of my mind I'm wondering what's the score of the Boise St football game over on ESPN (which is also owned by Disney)?  I couldn't remember the name of the featured actor in Enchanted.  I knew it was Patrick Something-or-Other (Dempsey) but it was bothering me because I know he is also on the TV show Grey's Anatomy on ABC (also owned by Disney) and I've seen him in a bunch of other movies through the years.  He kind of reminds me of the kind of movie actor Jon Cryer was before that Two and a Half Men thing fell in his lap.  Cryer, by the way, gets a featured voice over role in an upcoming Pixar movie (also owned by Disney).  As for the actress, well, while the movie was playing, I couldn't remember her name either (it is true what they say, as you get older, the memory is the first thing to go).  The credits at the end said Amy Adams.  Amy Adams, Amy Adams, where have I heard that name before?  I had a hunch.  After the movie finished up on the Blu-Ray player I had the machine log into YouTube (isn't technology wonderful).  I typed in the Search box "Muppets 2011 Trailer" hit play and there she was.  Amy Adams is the female lead, if you don't count Miss Piggy, in the new upcoming Muppets movie (also owned by Disney).

Also during the movie, the ball scene features the very nice ballad So Close.  I heard that song before. Where?  Where have I heard that song before?  I quickly tour through Wikipedia and it turns up that the song So Close is featured in World of Color at Disney California Adventure.  Yep.  That's where I've heard it before.

Anyway, so what did we learn from the evening?  Enchanted really is a good movie no matter how tired you are when you watch it and Disney really does own almost everything.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alone in Disneyland

I'll preface my comments by saying, by definition, I've never made a trip to Disneyland by myself.  I guess that's a good thing because it proves I have family, friends, and loved ones who think enough about me to want to spend time with me because I'm not really that much of a curmudgeon or ogre.  But as things work out, I have found myself spending large amounts of time in Disneyland by myself leaving me the challenge of keeping myself entertained.  As mentioned in previous posts, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and myself do not keep the same morning hours.  I generally get up at the crack of dawn and like to get to the park when it first opens.  She likes to sleep in and take her time getting ready.  So often there is 2 or 3 hours in the morning where I'm in the park by myself while she is off doing whatever it is she needs to do.  I also took a trip to Disneyland with my sister where, unfortunately, she became sick and had to spend a large amount of time back at the room while I wandered around the parks and lands.

So what about being by yourself in Disneyland?  Is it fun?  Can you really enjoy yourself without being around family and friends?  Like most things in life, that probably is left for individual personal preference but in my case, I know I can enjoy being in Disneyland without knowing a sole.

When I'm alone, all pressure is off because there is no agenda or schedule based on the endless answer to the question "what next?".  Alone, there is no compromise, there are no suggestions, or demands.  You set the schedule.  You set the agenda.  And it may all depend on how you feel on that particular day. Sometimes I like to grab some coffee, find a nice spot on Main St. and just enjoy the atmosphere by watching Disneyland unfold before my eyes with the sights and sounds.  Sometimes I get on the train and make a couple of trips on the "grand circle tour".  Sometimes I like to wander around shooting pictures maybe having the chance to look at a ride, or an attraction, or piece of scenery from a different angle or perspective.  Sometimes I hit the rides I know Mrs. DisneylandTraveler wants no part of (hello, Space Mountain).  There was one morning, where I hit Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain one right after the other and tossed in the Haunted Mansion to boot.  It took about 90 minutes and when I was done, patted myself on the back.  Now that's an agenda.  When I'm alone I can also pick out my own choice in dining and explore menus.  Alone, I also stay out of the stores which is a particular favorite pastime of Mrs. DLT.

But there are some things I also wouldn't do if I'm alone.  No, I probably wouldn't dine at a Disneyland table service restaurant by myself.  I probably wouldn't see a sit down show like Billy Hill or Aladdin (I have seen Fantasmic and the Fireworks display by myself, that's a bit different because basically, you just stand there).  I don't think I would go on any Fantasyland ride by myself outside of the Matterhorn because they are so small and intimate that being by yourself makes you look like some kind of loser.  But all in all, there is plenty to do to keep yourself remarkably entertained.

I've written before that when Mrs. DLT and I take our trips, they are usually for about 5 days in the parks.  I don't think 5 days alone in Disneyland would work out because without being able to share, boredom would set in.  I could see 3 days alone though.

In the end, while this post is about being in Disneyland alone, the preference is to be able to share the magic with someone you love and care about.  That's what takes a memory and makes it into an experience. So I'm grateful for all the trips that me and Mrs. DLT have been able to take, just the two of us, with our son, and with family and friends.  I've said it before that the magic begins when you see the smile on someone else's face and not just your own.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Get Ready, the Return of the Pumpkins

I know it's only September 10th but that's never going to stop Disneyland from getting the drop on a celebration and pulling people into the park. September and October used to be such lovely times to go to Disneyland.  Sure there was some post summer ride closures and the park days are a little shorter but with the kids back in school, the summer vacationers back at work, September and October became the best of the off-season visiting time back in the day with the light crowds and good weather still prevailing. And then Halloween happened and Disney park people began to see that people really go for this Halloween stuff and there is money to be made out there. So at Disneyland, Halloween starts pretty much right after Labor Day. So with that in mind, here is the first in what I am sure are many, many, pictures of Disney pumpkins between now and Oct 31. Trick or Treat.

Can Someone Explain Mr. Toad...

There's a lot of things in life I don't understand.  There's a lot of things in Disneyland I don't understand. Maybe I'm some kind of simpleton.  Anyway, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a Disneyland original dating back to 1955.  It's got a lot of history behind it, but few will remember the movie or stories that are behind its being there in the first place. So yes on history, but where is the charm?  A wild ride?  No, this is the adventure of a maniac so there's running from the cops, a dynamite explosion, a bartender juggling mugs of beers, assorted crashing, and finally ending up in hell (literally) as the ride ends.  Walt and his imagineers must have had a few when they came up with this idea.  Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom pulled the plug on it's Mr. Toad 10 or 12 years ago but the Disneyland version continues on.  Granted, the ride is really short at about 2 minutes so and there is little you can do with the space but still, try explaining Mr. Toad to your 5 year old.

Oh well, I think I get on old Toady about every 5 years or so then think to myself, "what did I do that for?"  At least its a ride, small it may be, and there is seldom a long wait so that is always a good thing.  But really, Mr Toad?

Turtle Talk (with Video)

Turtle Talk with Crush in the Disney Animation Building in the Hollywood Backlots (soon to be Hollywoodland) area of DCA is for kids.  Well, kids of all ages, but mostly kids.  It allows them to interact in real time with the super cool Crush from the Finding Nemo Pixar film.  It can be hysterically funny but can also fall a bit flat.  Like most "live" performances, Turtle Talk is dependent to a certain degree of the level of audience participation, the questions being asked, and what is being said.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I are Crush fans but I have to say, the last couple of times we have been in there, the performance has been a bit on the flat side.  With Crush, you never go in there quite knowing what you'll get.  You may get a fall down funny jewel or a "why did we go in there?" when all is said and done.  That being said, if you have kids, Turtle Talk with Crush is a must-do.  All others, eh, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

It may be taken for granted at this point but you do have to marvel at the technology that allows a live audience to interact dynamically with an animated character.  Something tells me computers and "blue screens" are behind the magic.

Here is a video Mrs. DisneylandTraveler took of one the more cuter interactions between the audience and the talking turtle.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Astro Blaster - I Suck, Mike Doesn't

My friend Mike sent this intergalactic transmission to me here at work a few hours ago. Yeah, I'm at work, he's at Disneyland.  Sometimes life isn't fair.  It says his score is 628,100. His wife was a just little short of that with 31,100.  Actually, her score is something I can relate to, you see, as I have never broken the 100,000 mark in Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.  In fact, I have never beaten Mrs. DisneylandTraveler.  I suck at the game.  Sure, I've looked online, read all the cheat sheets, know where all the tips and tricks are to pile up points but I can't hit the broad side of a barn with any kind of gun.  If I chose a career in bank robbing, I probably would have lasted about 8 minutes. I  have never fired a real gun in my life but I'm sure all the shooting ranges have gotten word and have a picture of me in their lobby that says not to let this man on their property under any circumstances.  My shooting prowess is a black mark on the male species.

But I have a date with Astro Blasters.  I'll be back.  I'll keep trying.  But I'll still suck.

Mickey Mouse Must Sure Love Football

I just marvel at the size of the Disney California Adventure Expansion project.  That mountain range towering above Carsland is huge.  Radiator Springs Racers is the largest ride/attraction ever built in a Disney park. Buena Vista Street will rejuvenate the park entrance and bring it some sorely needed atmosphere and charm. The changes made to Paradise Pier have at least given that area of the park some measure have cohesion in its theming.  Yep, you can see 1.1 billion dollars hard at work.

And then yesterday, it is all put in perspective.  The Disney owned ESPN network added 8 years on to its contract with the NFL for the broadcasting rights to Monday Night Football when the current contract expires in 2014  The new contract will run to the year 2021. The cost to Disney/ESPN for its MNF contract - try 15.2 billion dollars.  That's $15,200,000,000. Disney fans are passionate about their devotion to their favorite theme park but follow the money.  Apparently when Mickey Mouse is done with his work day on Mondays during the fall and winter, he goes back to his house, puts on his favorite football jersey, grabs the remote for his TV, pops open a cold one, and watches some football.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another Recipe - The Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I sang the praises of Disneyland's Carnation Cafe Loaded Baked Potato Soup almost literally in an earlier post titled In Praise of a Bowl of Soup.  Tried the recipe and the family loved every last mouth watering calorie and there are plenty of them.  While I was posting the pumpkin muffin recipe in my previous blog entry, I thought it best to capture the soup recipe as well so I can keep these handy on this blog rather than having to go search for them.  So here is the Baked Potato Soup recipe.

Note: 32 oz. of half and half may work out better than the heavy cream and save a calorie or two. The heavy cream version is very rich.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Yield: six 8-oz portions

4 large Russet Potatoes (peeled and small diced)
4 medium Red Potatoes (small diced)
6 oz (2 large stalks) Celery (small diced)
6 oz (1 large or 2 small) Carrots (peeled and small diced)
I medium yellow Onion (small diced)
2 oz unsalted Butter
1 lb. bacon (rough chopped) (*tip: place slices of bacon in the freezer to make it easier to cut. Will slip less)
16 oz Chicken stock or vegetable stock
32 oz Heavy Whipping Cream
2 oz Flour
1 oz vegetable oil
Salt/pepper to taste
*Small dice is ¼ In. x ¼ In.

Garnish with these items if desired:
Chives (chopped)
Bacon Bits
Sour Cream
Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheese (shredded)


1. Place stock pot, (6-8 quart pot) over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil, butter and bacon. Start rendering the bacon (process of releasing the fat through cooking). The bacon will start to release its fat. Do not allow it to burn.

2. Cook bacon until crispy, remove and set aside on a paper towel; leaving the fat from the bacon in the pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Traditionally these 3 items are called the MIREPOIX. Sweat the mirepoix until the onions turn translucent. Add potatoes and cook for 4 minutes. Add the flour to make roux. Cook roux until blond in color, (about 5 to 7 minutes), while stirring constantly. Add chicken stock and half of the bacon back into the pan. (Reserve the rest of the bacon for garnish.) Season with salt and pepper.

3. Turn the heat to medium high, bring the soup up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and tender. Mash some of the potatoes for thicker, creamier texture. Add whipping cream and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. You can adjust the thickness by adding water or stock for a thinner soup. It should have a creamy consistency. Adjust your seasonings.

5. Garnish with your desired toppings.

Sign of Autumn - The Return of the Pumpkin Muffin

Well, it's official. Disneyland has officially rolled into the Autumn season when the Pumpkin Muffin made its first appearance at the Blue Ribbon Bakery yesterday. Somewhere Mrs. DisneylandTraveler is doing a happy dance because she loves these things. We're probably not going to make it down there this HalloweenTime but depriving Mrs. DLT of the beloved muffin is not an option. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, here is the Disney parks pumpkin muffin recipe:

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Muffins:
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well blended.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just blended. Overmixing may result in less tender muffins.

Fold in the raisins until consistently distributed.
Portion mixture into muffin pans and bake at 325 F for 25 minutes.
Insert a toothpick into center of muffin and remove. If toothpick is clean, the muffins are ready. If not, allow muffins to cook an additional 1-2 minutes or until toothpick is clean. Allow muffins to cool for 30-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing:
1 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Allow cream cheese and butter to soften at room temperature for about an hour.

Mix cream cheese and butter together until smooth.

Add vanilla extract, powdered sugar and cinnamon, and mix until well blended.

Remove from mixer, and cover and refrigerate until needed.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with icing.

Poke a hole into the center of each cooled muffin and squeeze icing directly into the middle of the muffin, finishing with a rosette on the top.

Muppets On The Rise

I guess there are two kinds of people in this world.  Those that like the Muppets and those that don't.  Count me as a fan.  The Muppets 3D attraction in Disney California Adventure presents a bit of a challenge.  I like it.  I like the humor, the whimsy, the understated jokes, the characters.  I like the queue area and I even like the Muppets 3D film itself, but there lies the problem.  Like a lot of the 3D efforts Disney has put in their parks, after so many viewings, the films get rather tiresome and in the case of the Muppets in DCA, even the exploding theater is now predictable.

On our last trip to Disneyland and DCA in March, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I had just gotten out of Aladdin or off Monters Inc. when I asked her if she wanted to go in and see the Muppets.  This had worked countless times before.  The Muppets 3D is a no effort attraction - never a long wait, never very crowded, and they get people in and out quickly.  But on this particular visit, Mrs. DLT said she had seen the Muppets enough and didn't really want to go in.  I can't blame her I suppose but it probably did break my streak of seeing the Muppets at least once on every single one of our trips.  It has gotten a bit long in the tooth but these are THE MUPPETS, personal friends.

There is hope.  Rumor has it that a new digital Muppets 3D movie is on the way.  Whether they'll update the old one or have a brand new film I don't know, but any update to the attraction would be appreciated by its scores of fans.  And coming to save America when America really needs it - on November 23rd, Disney releases a brand new Muppet movie to the theaters.  Here are a couple of trailers.

So Disney is resurrecting the Muppet franchise.  Disney bought the Muppets (the Kermit Muppets not the Muppets of Sesame Street) back in 2004 from the heirs of Jim Henson after many years of negotiation.  Let's hope Disney does these wonderful characters proud and gives them their proper due.

In 2011, Disney gave Muppet creator Jim Henson the honor of Disney Legend even though none of Jim's Muppet work was done under the Disney label.  The honor was presented to the family of Jim Henson who Disney well compensated when they sold the rights to the Muppets to the Walt Disney Company.  In reality, before he died unexpectedly in 1990 of a bacterial lung infection, Henson was trying to negotiate the Muppets distribution rights to Disney.  He wanted Disney to handle the business end while he could concentrate his efforts on the creative side.  The condition that caused Jim Henson's death was sadly treatable.  He avoided going to the hospital before it got to be too late because, as the story goes, "he didn't want to bother anyone." A family of Muppets lost their creator.  A generation of people lost a friend.  The picture below is from the "dreamers" collection that graces the Disneyland Opera House.

A Long Forgotten DCA Photograph

Superstar Limo Attraction in DCA - Oct 2002
I'm shocked I tell you, shocked!  So there I was rummaging through my collection of Disney pictures looking for photos of Muppets 3D in DCA, which will be featured in my next post, when there in the middle of the 2002 photos was this picture of the infamous SuperStar Limo attraction.  I had no idea I even had a picture of SSL.  By the time Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I first visited Disney's California Adventure, the ride had already been shut down.  If it lasted a year, I'd be surprised.  I have another blog entry called Monsters Inc and the Creepy Superstar Limo from back in August that features a video ride through of the attraction that is out on YouTube.  Creepy is the right word alright. Anyway, I guess I just took this picture because it sat next to the Muppets 3D attraction. I'm surprised I had it at all.

Some Disneyland Dining Tips & Tricks

During our trips to Disneyland, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have to budget our Disney spending pretty closely.  Some trips are a little more tightly funded than others.  Over the years we have come to learn a few things.  First of all, once we are in Disneyland or DCA, we generally do not like to leave the park to eat somewhere cheaper off property.  If we do leave the park during the course of a day to eat, we generally go to Downtown Disney.  Now this doesn't include running over to McDonald's for breakfast before we start our day or leaving the park early once or twice and going back to a room and ordering in a pizza. But generally once we are in Disney, we eat Disney.  Here are some lessons learned (mostly by trial and error).

Never order a burger at DL or DCA.  They tend to be overcooked and dry and this probably has more to do with health and safety than anything else. A juicy medium rare burger in Disneyland is non-existent. Now Disney has tried to cover this in recent years by topping their burgers - chili and bacon at the Hungry Bear, and pastrami of all things at the Village Haus.  Many people have said that adding additional toppings to the burgers have improved them.  I haven't had the desire to try one and find out after several disappointments.

Most of the dining places that offer burgers also offer a chicken sandwich. Go with the chicken, they generally are better.

Disney has been trying to upscale and diversify their menu options.  A lot of research goes into adding something new and different to a menu.  If you go to a dining facility that offers something new on their menu, try it.  At least Disney thinks they have hit on something people might like - fried green tomato sandwich at the Hungry Bear, flat bread pizza at the Village Haus, stuffed baked potatoes at the Troupador Tavern.

Large portions served at the French Market and Plaza Inn may be worth splitting.  Generally these two places serve up very good quick service food.

Just because it's a table service restaurant does not mean the price is outrageous.  You can have a reasonably priced meal at the Carnation Cafe, Cafe Orleans, and the Wine Country Trattoria over in DCA.  The overall price would not be that much more than one of the better quick service dining places.

The Big Thunder BBQ is expensive running 20 bucks for lunch and 25 for dinner - fixed menu at a fixed price.  The thing about Big Thunder is the food is quite good and it is "all you can eat."

The Blue Bayou is expensive but dinner runs about 5 bucks more than lunch so you can save a bit by going during the lunch time hours.  If you have never been to the Blue Bayou - go, at least once.  It's about as much about the dining experience as it is about the food.  Both deliver.  I have heard of people going to the Blue Bayou just for desserts.  Don't think I would do this. You can also split a plate, but it is costly.

The Riverbelle Terrace serves up great carved sandwiches but they are very expensive at about $13 each.  If we go there Mrs. DLT and I will generally split a sandwich.

For quick meals, there is the infamous corn dog - greasy and good and big enough to split. There is also the skewers at the Bengal BBQ - I love the bacon wrapped asparagus.  There are hot dogs around but they tend to be overpriced, same with slices of pizza.  There are better options.  We also avoid the grab and go turkey legs and chimichangas.

We tend to avoid the greasy deep fried food served at the Golden Horseshoe and adjoining Stage Door Cafe. You mostly end up tasting grease.

Both DL and DCA have Mexican dining places - I think the DCA place is better as long as you stay away from the beef which again, tends to be overcooked and dry.  I like the chicken tamales myself.

Soup in bread bowls is a popular choice because it is filling and fairly reasonably priced.  My issue has always been that the soups are kind of mediocre in taste and generally not served hot enough.  The Boudin bread though is very good.  Over at the Pacific Wharf in DCA, they serve salads in a bread bowl.  My sister loves these, especially the bay shrimp salad.

Disney bakers make some excellent baked goods and treats, same with the candy makers. Some of these goodies are pretty reasonably priced, some are not.  Always worth taking a look though.

If you are a coffee drinker, get a cup at the Market House.  Free refills all day with receipt.

Meals in Downtown Disney can be pricey as well but several of the restaurants have adjoining walk-up dining service for reasonable prices.  This is a pretty nice option.

Well, that's a few thoughts on food.  Make a dining plan when you go on a trip.  A website like has all the menus online.  With a little planning, your dining at Disneyland can be an enjoyable experience and not a "rip-off" as some people tend to believe.

Disneyland Time Lapse Video

As you may have seen from my previous blog entries, I am a huge fan of the Disneyland videos that were shot by Asianjma123 and uploaded to YouTube.  Visually and artistically, these are excellent and are the very thing I  wish I were able to take on my trips to Disneyland.  A few days ago he uploaded a very well produced time lapse video which I am re-posting here.  Definitely worth checking out.

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