Monday, October 31, 2011

Merry Halloween

Ah yes, today is Halloween. Hope everyone has a fun and safe one. And while Disneyland gets ready for one more night of Halloween festivities, the Disney fan websites have been having a field day with their park updates over the collision of the Halloween and Christmas seasons at the resort (frequently mentioning the Haunted Mansion Holidays theme of "when two holidays collide"). You see, even though pumpkins are still plentiful around the park, for the last week or ten days the Christmas decorations have been going up inside the park as well leading to the odd juxtaposition of theming (well, maybe not so odd anymore because your local Wal-Mart has Halloween and Christmas decorations sitting side by side also).

So with Halloween in full swing, the castle is being transformed into its winter spectacle, Christmas decorations have begun to go up in New Orleans Square, ToonTown, DCA's A Bug's Land, and the truest indication of the changing of the season - the shutdown of it's a small world to install the holiday overlay. 

When the park opens tomorrow, I'm willing to bet there won't be a carved pumpkin in sight. In the blink of an eye, Halloween will be gone and it becomes time for Disney to really start showing off holiday magic.

Merry Halloween!

Captain America - The Blu-Ray Release

Officially, the movie is called Captain America - The First Avenger. We'll just call it Captain America for our purposes. The First Avenger part was added for film goers in other countries who are put off by anything with America in the title. In certain countries, the Captain America was dropped and the film became The First Avenger. I'll give you a moment to ponder that.

The summer blockbuster (a success, but not a huge one) made it to DVD and blu-ray last week so I retrieved a copy from a near-by RedBox machine for viewing at home. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler was asleep for the first showing so I actually got to see the film twice in my 24 hour rental period. That's a lot of Captain America. But I didn't mind. It's a good film as are most of the efforts now coming out of the Disney owned Marvel Studios. If nothing else, they are entertaining.

Captain America succeeds as a movie because it tells a straightforward story that is pretty easy to follow along. This is comic book stuff. The movie is not here to trick you or pass itself off as a work of art. Captain America simply tells a story of how a 98 pound weakling, a "good guy", with a great and relentless heart gets to kick some butts on the bad guys (some variation of Nazis - always a good target). Watching the film, I thought of it more as an Indiana Jones type movie rather than a superhero movie. A good story that is well paced and a great cast make Captain America a winner (as someone who is nicknamed Captain America should be).

The Marvel Universe is complete. Beginning with the first Iron Man and followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and now Captain America, the stage is set for when all our superhero friends will get together under the direction of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D to save the world in next summer's The Avengers - the first of the Marvel Studios films that will be distributed by Disney. In the works is also Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 so the Disney/Marvel deal is about to begin pay off huge dividends. 

Now if we could only get the Marvel superheroes to take up residence inside Tomorrowland's Innoventions building.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Feral Cats of Disneyland

Fantasyland Skyway station stairs - Spot of a fereal cat sighting

It's a little sad around the Disneyland Traveler's house this morning. One of our 3 cats, Herbie, sometime most likely last evening got outside. We keep our cats indoors because we live in a very busy neighborhood traffic wise and its just safer for them.

Herbie has snuck out before but its probably been a few years now. He always makes his way back home after a few days though we usually have to coax him back into the house through bribery. We got Herbie about 4 years ago. He was what is known as a feral cat. He lived around our son's school and rather than seeing kids feed the cat left over bologna sandwiches, our son decided to bring him home. A quick visit to the vet turned up that Herbie was shot with a BB gun at one point and the BB is still lodged under his skin. Other than that, he was neutered and in good health. We had a new member of the family.  Herbie is laid back and mellow for the most part never meaning to cause a ruckus of any kind.  He's a good guy and hopefully he comes back soon.

Which brings me to the feral cats of Disneyland. Have you ever seen one of Disneylands many feline residents? By some estimates there are around 200 feral cats that patrol Disneyland. Rather than get rid of them, cast members that work at Disneyland's Circle D ranch have partnered with the cats for one important purpose. Cats being cats, they go on patrol at night to take care of any potential unwanted rodents. In return, Circle D spays and neuters the cats that live at the park and make sure any kittens are sent to local animal centers for adoption. Circle D also provides 5 cat feeding stations around both Disneyland and DCA. 

Though the shy cats are seldom seen by the massive crowds during the day, every once in awhile, you get lucky and get a chance to see one just passing by.  I have seen a Disneyland feral cat 3 times - once just wandering by the Monsters Inc. ride in DCA, once over behind the Hungry Bear restaurant, and once on the closed off stairway that leads up to the old Skyway station in Fantasyland (pictured above). It is kind of an amusing startling sight when you see one. The feral cats of Disneyland are a resourceful bunch. Let's hope Herbie is too.

Trick Or Treat In One Week

So the one week to go countdown begins for Halloween next Monday. Disneyland began counting down over a month ago as Halloween now is by estimates the third busiest "season" of the year at the park behind the Christmas and Summer vacation seasons. Disney scores big for decking out the park in every way imaginable for Halloween. As mentioned in other posts to this blog I'm not really big on pumpkins but when you see Disney carving up and utilizing pumpkins hundreds of different way, you can't help but be impressed.

One of my best trips to Disneyland was October 2002. There was a large group of us that went on that trip. We had our first chance to stay at the luxurious Grand Californian. It was terrific fun and you know what, there barely was a pumpkin to be found. Somewhere along the way, it all changed. Other Southern California theme parks did special Halloween promotions so I guess Disney just decided that they could do it too. The first Halloween Trick or Treat nights started over at California Adventure, probably as a way to prop that park up in the days prior to its current expansion and makeover. Once DCA was slated for massive construction, Disney's Halloween party moved over to Disneyland where it continues to grow year by year.

I'm still not a Halloween guy but admire Disney's efforts and people have responded. I'm still trying figure out what to do next Monday night. There aren't a lot of children in our neighborhood so the idea of putting out decorations and passing out candy hardly seems worth the effort. We've done this in past years and got on or two knocks on the door. I think last year, we just locked up our front gate and watched TV in the dark. There's always getting out for dinner and a movie I suppose.

For me, there is only one enduring wonderful image that center's around Halloween and it was shown many  years ago. Sometime this week, the DVD will be pulled out of the cabinet and watched and my Halloween will be complete.

"I gotta rock..."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Disney Pin Trading Dilemma

Disney pin trading. The buying and trading of the thousands of Disney pins really is a phenomena - a hobby enjoyed by thousands really all over the world. Now admittedly, I'm not much of a collector of Disney stuff. This was explored a little in a previous post back in July titled - The Disney Collectible Curmudgeon but Disney pins do hold some interest for me. First of all, let's take the trading aspect of pins off the table. I have no interest whatsoever in getting Disney pins and going out and trading with someone else. Seems counter-productive on some level. You buy a pin because you like it then turn around and trade it. I don't understand. Granted, pin trading is world I don't tread in so there is a lot I don't understand. My interest in pins would be based solely on the fact that some of them look pretty cool.

As mentioned in that previous post, my interest in pins would be pretty selective out of the thousands that are available. I have no interest in Disney classic characters - maybe Mickey just a bit, but a Donald or Goofy pin, no thanks. I don't think I would be into pins from Disney or Pixar films. I do have have pins of Wall-E and Eve because that is my favorite Pixar movie, but I think that's it. I have a few Pirates of the Caribbean pins but I'm not sure if they are based on the ride or the movie. Doesn't really matter, pirate pins are some of the coolest looking. 

I think if I were to pick up an interest in pins, it would be based on some of my favorite rides and attractions in Disneyland. Besides POTC, there would be Jungle Cruise pins, Haunted Mansion pins, Matterhorn pins. I could also see collecting pins based on some of my favorite lands - Adventureland pins, New Orleans Square pins. That may be a good way to go.

If I did collect pins, what would I with them? The few I have that are still in their original packaging I have tacked on to a bulletin board that I rarely look at. I have a few pins in my cubicle back at the office that I use to tack up bulletins and emails that someone tells me might be important. If I collected a few pins, I really would need to work on some kind of display. PS - I would never wear a pin on a lanyard or anything like that. It's just not me.

Then there is a ultimate pin dilemma. Disney pins are made in China for literally pennies. They are sold in the parks for I guess somewhere between $7 - $12. If you buy pin sets, start whipping out the twenty dollar bills. This can be one expensive collectible that generously pads Disney's pockets. It boils down to if I am going to pay that kind of money for a little decorative piece of metal, it better well look really, really nice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler Disneyland

I'll preface my remarks with a little story. Even though Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and myself are not Southern California residents, my father-in-law lives in Torrance where it borders Redondo Beach - a really area. One Sunday afternoon, we had arranged to meet some acquaintances at a city park on the coast near Torrance. My father-in-law was driving and pulled up to a curbside parking spot right in front of the park and was about to back in. As he was about to back in, someone with car full of people nose dived right into the spot basically stealing if from him. Mrs. DLT was livid and ready to jump out of the car. My father-in-law, an ornery old guy who was a one time Navy seaman and someone who looks like he has been in a bar fight or two, told Mrs. DLT to calm down and let it go then drove off to find another parking spot. "You need to be careful living down here. You don't know what some people are capable of."

His cautionary words may be a bit extreme but wise none the less. Some things are best left alone. It's safer that way. Which leads to me Disneyland and what I read often in forums and discussion boards that the park crowds now tend to be ruder, cruder, more obnoxious, self-centered, and not at all respectful of others trying to enjoy their Disney day. Same park regulars remember a Disneyland of yesteryear where "sharing in the magic" beat out "every man for himself". Could this be an idealized view of what never was? Perhaps, but the Disneyland of today mirrors the society we live in especially the diverse society of Southern California. I have never witnessed a fist-fight or any kind of violence at Disneyland. Security at the park is first rate. But I have seen plenty of arguments and generally bad behavior by people of all ages and all ethnicities. It sometimes makes me cringe that grown people can flat out be that rude.

If park behavior has deteriorated, Disney needs to take some of the responsibility. There are close to a million annual passholders for Disneyland and a great majority of them are Southern California locals. There is a huge percentage of local passholders who are true Disney fans and have a great deal of respect for the park and its legacy. Some of these people go out of there way to help someone who may be visiting Disneyland for the very first time. But there is also a large population of passholders who do not share in the respect for the park or other park guests and treat it more like a visit to a local shopping mall. People like this are usually easy to spot and in some cases, I almost feel sorry for them because they have no sense of where they really are. On top of passholders, Disney also makes discount tickets available to Southern California residents to bolster the attendance. It makes visiting Disney quite affordable to people you may not even want in your house.

I have no control over anyone else or their behavior. Respect for others has been on the decline for quite some time. You could probably write a book about when and how all this went down hill. So while I have no control over the behavior of others, I can only look at myself. By nature, I am not a very social person. I tend to be suspicious of other's motives. Mrs. DLT says I look at the negative (in anything) far too much. But I've never gotten into an argument at Disneyland with another guest. I try not to let the bad behavior of others not affect me. But there is something missing in this "ignore it and turn the other way" approach. Am I really helping Disneyland be a better place. At any given time, there are thousands of very nice people in that park. I tend not to say anything until someone says something to me first. Why can't I just reach out with a comment or friendly 'hello' that makes someones park visit just a bit better? The better, kinder, gentler Disneyland does not begin with fixing everybody else's bad attitudes. It starts with you and me, with a smile, with a "where are your from?", with a "are you enjoying your day?". The kinder, gentler Disneyland is not seeking self-centered enjoyment for yourself. It's doing everything possible to share the magic with everyone around you. Next visit, I'm going to try a make Disneyland a better place by being nicer.

"But Doesn't Mickey Look a Little Small?"

You have to admit Disney has done a pretty good job its makeover of its Paradise Pier section of Disney California. Yes, there is still room for improvement. The retail shops near the old Maliboomer site need to be re-themed to more closely fit in with the predominantly Victorian themed architecture. Everyone is still waiting for a real "Disney" worthy queue line for California Screamin'. There's not much that can be done with King Triton's Carousel. It is what it is. 

Perhaps the biggest single improvement to the pier was the peeling and discarding of that ghastly looking giant orange covering that housed the swing ride - once named The Orange Stinger. Man it was ugly. The ride itself - swings spinning on a spindle - is sadly an off-the-shelf carnival ride that is featured at most non-Disney theme parks and even state fairs. These are rides that are bought, not "imagineered" in the true Disney sense. Disney owned it so the ride wasn't going anywhere but it did have to be re-themed to fit in with the new vision of Paradise Pier and now spins wildly to the music of the William Tell Overture as Silly Symphony Swings based on an early Mickey Mouse cartoon - The Band Concert. Up on top of the ride, conducting the mayhem, stands bandleader Mickey. It is the only ride/attraction in either park that features its most prominent resident (not counting Fantasmic here).

But I noticed it right away and everybody I am with pretty much says the same thing when coming near the ride  - "isn't Mickey a little small?" Yes. Yes. Double-yes. Supposedly the figure of Mickey that tops the ride is about 6 feet tall. On a ride that tall, he does really look mouse-like. To do justice to the ride and Mickey, he should have been taller and more prominent. He should have been made to where his silhouette could stand out from hundreds of feet away. It's a bad ride but at least it could been a more pronounced focal point if we had been given a bigger Mickey. Maybe there was a ride engineering / balance problem with a bigger Mickey but with the small Mickey, you've taken the park's biggest star and made him into cake topper.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just Desserts In Disneyland

So I'm sitting here this morning having a cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast with some jelly on it. I'm also reading a MousePlanet discussion board thread about best desserts in Disneyland. Great topic! I want to contribute something but I can't. Darn it. You see, by the time Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have finished our Disney meals, there seldom is any room in our tummies for dessert. We see the assorted pastries, cupcakes, and sweet treats around the park but rarely do we go out of our way for them. Usually by the time we have digested our meals after a couple of hours of fun in the parks, its right back time for another meal minus the dessert once again.

To be fair, we have gone for the WOC dining package meals at Ariel's Grotto and Wine Country Trattoria where a plate of mini desserts in included with the meal but these, while pleasing to the eye, aren't all that great in my humble opinion. Some of the little offerings may be better than others but none of them are particularly memorable. And there is that ever present churro cart where we do stop from time to time but again, not really a true drop to your knees kind of dessert. The lowly churro can be quite tasty when its fresh and hot but it is also one of those things where when its 40 seconds past its prime shelf life, can go down hill incredibly fast in taste.

I think last year we got a couple desserts from the Plaza Inn Restaurant to eat while watching the fireworks but to tell you the truth, you get so wrapped up in the fireworks and other people watching fireworks that the dessert became quite secondary.

When it comes to dessert at Disneyland for Mrs. DLT and I, our sweet tooth's are satisfied from two sources, the pineapple ice cream treats from the Tiki Room (another post) and from fresh made candy from any number of the parks delectable candy display cases - Ummm fudge. Oh, I would be remiss if I didn't mention once again Mrs. DLT's love for the pumpkin muffins in the fall. They don't float my boat all that much because when it comes to fall desserts, I'm not a big fan of nutmeg which seems to be in just about everything, but count Mrs. DLT in as a fan of the muffin. 

Worst Queue Line Ever - California Screamin'

Think about getting in a queue line for some of Disneyland / Disney California Adventure big D and E ticket attractions. Some them are excellent in theming (Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin, Indiana Jones). Some of them are pretty good (Buzz Lightyear, Haunted Mansion). Some of them are just OK (Space Mountain, Soarin' Over California). And then there is California Screamin', arguably DCA's biggest and best E ticket attraction and an attraction with a queue line that has no theming whatsoever just a series of switchbacks that are semi covered to keep you out of the sun. Wait times can be long for some of these rides and Disney is to be given a lot of credit for providing in line guests at least a little bit of entertainment and amusement while they wait their turn to get on. But California Screamin' provides absolutely nothing for the guests as they meander their way to the front boarding area. Yeah, you could make a stretch and say that views of Paradise Pier are the guests entertainment but even Toy Story Mania provides Mr. Potato Head and some posters to read. Screamin' has nothing.

People have complained about Screamin's queue line in forums and discussion boards for years and even in a billion dollar renovation, Disney still hasn't addressed the weak California Screamin' queue line. The ride opened yesterday after about a 6 week refurbishment. It got a fresh coat of paint and a rebuilt loop but the queue, its the same dull thing it ever was. Maybe some day Disney will take a look at it. Maybe Tom Staggs (Disney Parks Chairman) should take his sons and go stand in line and experience some serious boredom.

"Hi-yo, Silver" The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Hollywood insider website is reporting that Disney has once again given the green light to resume production of The Lone Ranger movie after the principals (The Pirates of the Caribbean team of star Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckhemer) agreed to trim the budget of their movie which had soared to in excess of 250 million dollars. Disney, in a sense of cold feet and fiscal responsibility, had cancelled production a few months back and demanded concessions be made. The principal participants involved did take pay cuts (don't feel sorry for them though, they'll get millions) and certain "supernatural elements" (i.e. expensive special effects) have been cut out or cut back. Yes, the movie supposedly was to feature some werewolves (in a western?). Anyway, the movie is due out May 2013.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Conversion Of A Halloween Hater

Regular readers of this blog know I am a Halloween hater from way back. Just never cared for what people try to pass off as some kind of 'holiday'. It's not. And if you really want to get me going, start talking about Disneyland's separate admission Mickey's Halloween Party that takes place every Tuesday and Friday nights starting last week up through Halloween. And by separate admission I'm talking about the $50 or $60 it takes to get into the park outside regular admission. 'Highway robbery' they used to say.

But you know, I've never been to a Mickey's Halloween Party. I don't know what goes on in there. Thanks to some outstanding photograph's in the this week's edition of MiceAge/MiceChat's In The Parks feature, I may be able to change my tune about Mickey's party. It looks like loads of fun. Worth the extra 60 bucks? Well, just maybe it is. Enjoy the pictures from the link below.

What's New in Disney News - Vol 3

Steve Jobs - Apple Co-Founder - 1955 - 2011
It's been an eventful week on the Disney news front on the corporate side of things. First up.

Steve Jobs - Apple Co-Founder, twice CEO, and chief visionary passed away this past week after a long bout with pancreatic cancer and its aftermath. He was 56. Jobs is an Apple guy, credited with inventing or co-inventing Mac computers, iPods, iPhones, and most recently, the iPad. What does this have to do with Disney news? Most Disney fans know the story. Once upon a time, Steve Jobs, with money made from Apple, bought a small computer graphics company from George Lucas's LucasFilms. That little computer graphics company, now headquartered in Emeryville, CA, became Pixar. Pixar produced movies but needed a movie studio to distribute them. Pixar partnered with the Walt Disney Studios to distribute their films beginning with the original Toy Story. Once the contractual arrangement with Disney was up, Steve Jobs and Pixar were open to the highest bidder to distribute their now massively popular films. 

Of course, Disney and CEO Bob Iger, could not let Pixar get away. Disney made a massive offer to buy Pixar from Jobs. Of course, Jobs didn't need the cash as he was now actively involved in Apple's resurgence as the technical innovator on a global scale. He sold Pixar to Disney for Disney stock, a lot of Disney stock. Steve Jobs became Disney's single largest individual stockholder owning a little over 7% of the company by himself. He was also on the Disney Board of Directors. Though you didn't see a huge thumbprint from Jobs in the Disney company, there were subtle things. Jobs was a masterful retailer of his Apple products through the Apple stores, hugely innovative and profitable. In a bad economy, where most retail stores needed sales and gimmicks to get people in, Jobs had people lining up to get inside the tech savvy austere Apple stores. Much of the clean-up of Disney retail stores making them simpler, more spartan, and better displayed, is attributed to Jobs success with Apple retailers. 

Steve Jobs was only 56 when he died. With all the money in the world, sometimes you can't buy what is most precious - time on earth.

Bob Iger - One of the few people who spoke with Steve Jobs before he passed away was Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Bob brought Steve into Disney through the Pixar acquisition so I am sure the titans of industry had plenty to talk about. This passed week, Iger signed what was announced as his final contract to be the CEO of Disney. That contract will run to March 31, 2015, at which time Iger will step down as CEO and just become Board Chairman for a year while all the affairs and transition is put in order. 

I (along with other Disney fans) take jabs at Iger once in awhile because Disney is an easy target sometimes. Being one of the biggest, most profitable, most successful entertainment and media communications companies in the world, its easy to take a swipe at one of their occasional missteps. Iger, a onetime TV weatherman, came from the TV background. He was president of ABC when Disney acquired ABC/Cap Cities (which also included ESPN). Somehow in a 5 year span, he moved himself into the CEO role after Roy Disney forced the ouster of Michael Eisner.

But for most Disney fans, especially in California, Iger has made many good moves. Ultimately, it was Iger who signed off on the Disney California Adventure expansion and installed Pixar's John Lasseter as Chief Creative Consultant over many aspects of the Disney business including parks and animated films. Iger orchestrated the job switch between Jay Rasulo and Tom Staggs which brought the affable Staggs to the pivotal position as Chairman of Disney Parks moving the less popular with fans Rasulo into the corporate background as Chief Financial Officer (Staggs old position). Of course, Disney fans still ask why bean-counters like Rasulo and U.S and Europe parks president Meg Crofton still have their jobs in the company.

Anyway, the next few years should be interesting as to who becomes Iger's successor. It is pretty much thought that Staggs is being groomed for the position. Iger and Staggs have appeared together at many grand openings over the last couple of years and seem to work well together. At around 60 years of age, Iger looks much younger than his years and the same can be said for Staggs. Rasulo is the wild card in all this since he is a company man through and through. It should be interesting the next few years.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where The Corn Dog Is King

My friend Mike sent me this picture after he returned from his trip to Disneyland a few weeks back. It caught my eye. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because after a lengthy closure during the construction of the adjacent Little Mermaid and Goofy's Sky School attractions, it's good to see the Corn Dog Castle back in action once again. The original Paradise Pier missed the boat on so many things in its original construction but not on the enormously popular Corn Dog Castle. The huge dogs, thickly battered, and deep fried to oily perfection became almost legendary. Arguments ensued over who made the better corn dog - Disneyland's Little Red Wagon or Disney California Adventure's Castle. I'd take either of them over any other corn dog I have ever eaten. I haven't been back to the Corn Dog Castle since it re-opened at the beginning of summer but seeing this picture reminds me that a visit to CCC has to be on my 'must-do' list the next time I make it down to the park.

Of course there is always a bit of a snag. The corn dogs from CCC are big enough to split. In fact, it is probably a wise thing to do considering what must be the enormous calorie, cholesterol, and sodium counts found their goodness. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have split corn dogs from the Castle on a number of occasions. But the time has come to step out on the edge. You see, CCC also batters up and deep fries a hot link. I'm a hot link kind of guy unfortunately, Mrs. DLT doesn't step out on edge all that often (if at all). I got to have a plan. I've got to make a scheme, to get the link when she is not around. I've got time to work out the details of my master plan I suppose.

My friend Mike also sent me a picture of his dog before he went down the evil path of going against every doctor's orders of not to consume anything of this nature. He also ordered the apples instead of the bag of chips. As I've mentioned before - how good it is for Disney to offer a healthy alternative to accompany a thousand or more calories of heart seizing deliciousness. After eating one of those corn dogs, I somehow feel that eating bag of chips just isn't going to matter. The advantage of the sliced apples is that they somehow cut the pool full of grease that resides in your stomach after eating the corn dog.

Sometimes A Young Person's Heart Is In The Right Place

Young people, teenagers, etc. wandering in and around Disneyland sometimes get a bad rap. I read a post in a Disney forum a week or so ago that made the contention that teenagers (with Annual Passports) treat the park more like a shopping mall to hang out in rather giving the park the respect it deserves. There is some truth to this as sometimes the rudeness and selfishness of the young can rear its unpleasant head (there are plenty of people way old enough to know better than to behave badly as well to be fair). But every once in awhile you see the sweetness and joy of young people enjoying life. The video (below) has been making its way around YouTube for the last 10 days or so and shows a young man proposing to his long time girlfriend through a flash mob in Downtown Disney. The video is such an enormous hit on YouTube that Disney invited to couple to be into Disneyland for some very special pictures to commemorate their engagement posted an entry into Disney Parks Blog making sure not to miss out on some very nice publicity. It's all very sweet.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fantasmic Vs. World of Color

As far the epic battles are concerned, the war of words that center on the question "Which is a better show - Fantasmic or World of Color?" doesn't amount to a hill of beans. But Disneyland fans, not short on having opinions, definitely do line up on one side or another. Now many of them will say both shows are great (they are) but if you pushed their backs up against the wall, they would give you in detail why they prefer one of the night time shows over the other. The Disneyland Traveler is no different.

I'm a Fantasmic guy pure and simple. I've probably seen the show more than a dozen times over the years and I have to say I admire its creativity and imagination each and every time. This is some of Disney imagineer's best work. What Fantasmic does that World of Color fails to do is tell a story that builds to a climatic finish. Twenty-five minutes of pure Disney magic. And for all his prominence throughout Disneyland, this is a Mickey attraction. Although he has a house in ToonTown, there are no Mickey Mouse rides or attractions in Disneyland itself minus his appearances in parades or on the screens at the Main St. Cinema. Yes, Fantasmic is Mickey's chance to triumphantly shine in his own park by slaying the villains that creep into his imagination. It's a great story and one that bares watching over and over again.

Now watching the ever popular Fantasmic is a bit of a challenge but most Disneyland regulars have their own ways of spectating the event whether its staking out a perfect viewing spot for hours or just dropping in shortly before the show is about to begin. An evening of Fantasmic is what you make of it.

World of Color in Disney California Adventure is spectacular as I mentioned in my previous post World of Color or My Aching Feet blog post back in August. My feelings about the show are pretty much summed up in there. In the end, as impressive as the water display is, it just doesn't scream out Disney and seems more of a Las Vegas type of show - big, impressive, but somewhat shallow. And the idea of having to get a show pass to see the show seems rather intrusive (necessary, but intrusive). Hopefully in the future, as California Adventure completes all its expansion, the viewing of World of Color at least in the off seasons (what few of them are left) is a walk up affair and not something you have to plan a day around.

If I were to ask Mrs. DisneylandTraveler "On our next trip to Disneyland, do you want to do a World of Color dining package?"  (the thought of waiting in the GRR fast pass line isn't appealing at all)  I'm pretty sure the dining part of it would be appealing to her but the thought of the World of Color standing and waiting ordeal would not be appealing. All the water in the world being sprayed hundreds of feet in the air just isn't worth standing around and waiting for a couple of hours for the show to start. Now that we've seen WOC a few times (4 for me), I think we're good for a few years.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why I'm Not A Fan Of The Lion King - Sorry

As mentioned in my What's New In Disney News - Vol 2 post a couple of weeks ago, Disney's animated classic The Lion King is having something of a rebirth.  Now remastered in 3D, Disney re-released the 17 year old film in theaters for what was supposed to be a two week limited engagement before the new 3D version hits retail stores with all the special packaging sometime here in October.  Well that limited engagement has been 3 weeks now as The Lion King remains on top, or close to the top of the weekly box office reports.  My post a few weeks back ended with "Three cheers for The Lion King" as I can only tip my hat to the magic of Disney taking down all comers with a 17 year old movie.


I am not a big fan of The Lion King.  You can admire its brilliant animation qualities, its triumphant story line, its wonderful musical score, and I certainly do but for me, The Lion King possesses one key element that I find horribly unsettling and is present in many Disney animated features going back to the time of Walt Disney. And that is the need to tragically, and often quite sadly, kill off a featured character.  Does death belong in an animated movie that is primarily targeted for children?  I come up on the 'No' side of that argument and I find the Mufasa death scene absolutely heartbreaking in a movie I really want to enjoy.  The Circle of Life doesn't always trump death.

And for the life of me, I cannot explain why Disney imagineers would want to include the Mufasa death scene in World of Color.  It almost seems like an over the top grab at an audience's emotional heart strings rather than letting a story naturally play out.  For me, this almost cheap grasping at sentimintality keeps the show from being all it could be.  Three cheers for The Lion King but in the theaters or buying the new version in the store, I'll pass.

A Non-Disney Perspective - Real Pirates

So in my last post A Look At Pirate's Lair On Tom Sawyer's Island we took a look at kids running around a pirate themed island, enjoying themselves as they imagine themselves as swashbucklers of old.  Way back in June, I posted an entry (A Pirate's Life For Me) that sang my praises for the Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, easily my favorite ride in either park. Yep, Disneyland and its legions of fans owe a lot to the bygone era of pirating.

But it needs to always be remembered that the view of pirates that Disneyland presents is very much romanticized and not historical at all.  Trust me, NOT meeting the likes of Blackbeard or Captain Morgan would be a very good thing.  The glory days of pirating and privateering ran from about 1600 to the early 1700's.  It essentially ended because it was outlawed in all countries and with the growth of Naval powers, pirates didn't stand a chance. But let's not forget that pirates really were murderers, thieves, cut-throats, and drunkards, and if they weren't killed in some kind of pirate raid, the ravages of some disease probably cut their lives well short of normal lifespans for that day and time.  If you take the old pirate expression to "draw and quarter" and apply its real meaning, well the detail wouldn't be for the squeamish. A pirate really didn't care about what stood between him and his treasure, even if it meant women and children.

So Disney's view of "Pirates" needs to have a certain degree of perspective.  It certainly was an exciting and colorful time in history but the color was often blood red and no amount of political correctness will ever escape that.

A Look At Pirate's Lair On Tom Sawyer's Island

I don't remember much about the old Tom Sawyer's Island.  Haven't been there since I was a kid and that was a very long time ago (and seemingly in a galaxy far, far, away).  If I recall, it was a place where kids could run along the trails, dart into caves, and do what kids do - go nuts.  It probably gave their parents a few moments of some peace and quiet while their kids ran amok.

A few years ago (like maybe 5 years now?), with the huge popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, Disney remade the island of Tom and Huck into Pirate's Lair. Just for the heck of it, and it's been a couple of years ago now, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I along with our son (who was a teenager at the time) hopped aboard one of the rafts and checked out Pirate's Lair On Tom Sawyer's Island as it is officially known.  This was back when they actually had live performers doing sword fighting shows and of course, the guy below.

I have to say, in my visit, I was kind of impressed with the level of detail as we walked around the island, actually catching a glimpse of being on the inside of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  There were some nice photo opportunities and a fair share of interactive fun.  I didn't mind my time at all over at the Lair but it's also true, I have never been back since.  No desire.  Seen it once, kind of neat, check it off your Disneyland list, but not ever necessary to go back.

But now its time to take another look.  Granted, Pirate's Lair is for kids and an old kid like me has very little reason to be there, but at some time or other Disney has to wonder, how many others out there are like me - regular park visitors that never take the time or effort to visit one of their attractions.  And if attendance is falling off, and it is for Pirates Lair as evidenced by the withdrawal of all live character performers, is it time to think about morphing Pirate's Lair into some new theming opportunity?  Just like Pirates themselves, the Lair may have run it's course.

The Tiki Room Is Not An Excuse To Eat Ice Cream

So, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I are at Disneyland.  It's getting mid-afternoon, lunch was a few hours ago, the temperature is warming up, the feet are getting tired and then one of us will say 'Do you want to go to the Tiki Room?".  "Sure!" the other one of us that didn't ask the question will say.  There seems to be a lot of code words that float around Disneyland. Say "Tiki Room" first thing in the morning might not mean anything at all.  It probably doesn't even get said.  Say "Tiki Room" in late afternoon and it can mean only one thing for me and Mrs. DLT:  let's go get some pineapple ice cream - a whip for Mrs. DLT and a float for me.  

I don't believe Mrs. DLT and I have ever gone to the Dole pineapple stand without going in to see the show in the Enchanted Tiki Room.  I don't believe we have ever gone to the Tiki Room show without getting ice cream.  The two seem to go together so well.  It's tradition. On our trips, we usually end up seeing the animatronic bird show two, sometimes three times.  "Don't you ever get tired of seeing that show?" one might ask.  "Nope, doesn't matter, I got my float and I'll finish it off while seeing the birds perform and all will be right with my Disney world".  This is what Disneyland is all about.

But there's another reason for my love for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room and it has nothing to do with ice cream at all.  My parents passed away long ago as did an older sister and brother.  The places we lived and shared our lives together are a distant past.  But there is a room a little over 400 hundred miles away from where I write this where we went in together to see birds that could talk and sing.  It is the same now as it was many, many years ago.  Sitting in the Enchanted Tiki Room now connects me with a place I sat with my parents and my brother well over 40 years ago and with my sister 10 years ago.  They are no longer around, but my Disneyland memories with them have not faded.  It's so special, magical, and powerful.  We all have Walt Disney to thank for that.  He knew these things.

Walt Disney and Jose at the Tiki Room - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Pooh & Friends - Disneyland's Best Meet & Greet

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh dark ride in Disneyland's Critter Country is a favorite target of Disneyland regulars who contribute to forums and discussion boards.  The ride seems to be loathed for a number of reasons but here are the main ones.  1) It replaced the legacy attraction Country Bear Jamboree (which no one seemed to go to anymore by the time it closed).  2) It's a dark ride that comes up short on a high impact wow factor for something being relatively new.  3) As characters go, Pooh and friends do not seem to be in the same category as the some of the other classic Disney characters - a second tier so to speak, as Pooh was acquired by Disney rather than created by Disney and 4) There is a version of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Japan that puts this one to shame.

All that being said, as I've blogged about before, I like the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  I enjoy it's color.  It's a feast of the eyes.  And I like it because there is usually very little wait to get on which is always a good thing.  A nice ride, stress free, and no wait, it all adds up to a winner for me.  The ride wouldn't be nearly as controversial if it sat somewhere in Fantasyland where it belongs, but it's not Pooh's fault for being in the wrong spot, off by itself, and next to the powerhouse Splash Mountain attraction.

But sitting in the middle of the Pooh ride, Splash Mountain, and the Pooh Corner retail and candy store is something that should not be overlooked or taken for granted - the Winnie the Pooh & Friends Meet and Greet.  Now I'm not really a M&G kind of guy.  Only on occasion am I in the park with small children but the Pooh meet & greet, anytime, with or without kids, is a reason to smile as Pooh, Tigger, Eyore, and the rest of the pals from the hundred acre wood interact with kids (of all ages).  The line can be a little long but doesn't come anywhere close to princess or Mickey lines for waiting.  And I have to say of all the photos I have of children in my family getting pictures with characters, the Pooh meet & greet pictures are easily the best.  So if the lines for meet & greet's frustrate you, take a walk over to Critter Country and visit a bear, a tiger, and a sad-sack donkey, they'll be glad to see you.  They really will.

Autumn In The Air

What's that old Phil Collins song? Oh yeah, "I can feel it - Coming in the air tonight - Hold on....".  What's coming?  Fall, Autumn, whatever you prefer to call it.  It's coming.  Like Phil, I can feel it.  Back here at the old homestead it was well in the 90's two days ago, dropped into the low 80's by yesterday, and by Monday, a mere two days from now, it will be raining and in the 60's.  Sounds like good Disneyland park weather to me.

Before we move on to October, Autumn, and our Disneyland march to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, let's take a quick look back.  October marks the start of month 5 of The Disney Lands.  Last month shattered records in the number of people who took the time to look at this blog.  In August there were 802 readers of The Disneyland Traveler.  In September, there were 1399 people who viewed this blog for some reason or another.  Again, I don't have the slightest idea of who reads this thing but I am grateful for everyone who does.  Maybe its the common bond of enjoying one of our favorite places and all things Disney or maybe you just fell in here by accident.  I do hope you enjoy at least some of the things you see.  In the end, hopefully there is some entertainment value.

On a couple of topics I covered last week, here are some follow-ups.

Regarding the carpet malfunction at Aladdin, performances of the show did continue albeit without the Whole New World flying carpet above the the audience.  Easily, the highlight of the show, but the show did go on even without the 'oooh's' and 'ahhh's' of the flying carpet.

Regarding Avatar theming coming to Disney parks.  More and more people in the know seem to think that Disney in Florida is making a big move to combat the popularity of Universal's Harry Potter park.  Disney 's Animal Kingdom needed something big (similar to Carsland in DCA) and having a land based on the biggest movie of all time seemed like a safe bet, albeit an odd choice to be sure.  The future of Avatar in Disney parks beyond Animal Kingdom will probably extend to the parks of China and possibly Japan.  No one seems to see anything remotely connected with Avatar showing up in California or Paris anytime soon.

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