Monday, November 28, 2011

Remembering Roller Coaster Tycoon

Do you remember the computer game Roller Coaster Tycoon that was quite popular a few years back?  It was a game that gave everyone a chance to be a Walt Disney Imgineer and build their own theme parks.  Of course if you were a Disneyland fan, you always wanted to build your park with Disneyland as your template and try to outdo what Walt did even though the game was built more with the generic "Six Flags" theming rather than the copyrighted and patented (i.e. expensive) Disney theming.  Anyway, the first two versions of Roller Coaster Tycoon where quite fun and charming.  By the time they got to the the more complex and graphics intensive third version of the game, it seemed to have lost much of its charm. Funny how that happens.

Anyway, I bring the game up because there was a thread on the MousePlanet discussion board about just how terror inducing was Mickey's Fun Wheel, in particular the swing cars. It got me to think about my first trip on MFW a few years ago.  I avoided the ride for years because I do have a fear of heights and carnival type ferris wheels.  My sister finally talked me into going on it - just stay away from the swing cars and get on the fixed car side of the ride.  I did and surprisingly, really enjoyed my 3 spins around.  But while standing in line for the ride on a subsequent trip I glanced over at the car loading area and saw a custodial cast member apparently doing some clean up on the bottom of one of the non-swinging cars (pictured above).  Word was quickly passed through the line of guests waiting to get on that someone had deposited a rather large "mess" (i.e barfed) on the bottom of the car.  Even more surprising was the CM was in the car cleaning the residual so fast, the ride barely skipped a beat.  One can only assume that this happens quite often and someone from the custodial staff is always near the ride.

So what does this have to do with the Roller Coaster Tycoon computer game?  Anyone who ever played the games knew that you needed a small army of custodial workers built up as soon as you could afford to pay them.  Without them, the walkways became littered with little puddles of vomit near terror inducing rides.  As the number of puddles grew, the guests would begin complaining and your park rating would go down.

Now neither Disneyland or DCA have a plethora of vomit inducing coasters or thrill rides fortunately.  Mickey's Fun Wheel, though neither a coaster or a true "thrill" ride, may come the closest though some people have issues with the Tower of Terror, Californial Sceamin', Space Mountain, and the Tea Cups of all things.  But fortunately, Disneyland does have an army of custodial workers scouring the premises for any "deposits" one may accidently heave up.

The Return of the Disneyland Hotel

It's taken a few years but the construction walls have been taken down, the assorted bulldozers and cranes have been removed, and finally the new and improved Disneyland Hotel is back in full operation (almost).  Well there is that sticking point of an on premises laundry facility not quite ready just yet - a deal breaker for Mrs. DisneylandTraveler - but other than that, the venerable DLH is back in business and updated for the 21st century.

Gone are sliding doors and the mini-balconies, the romantic waterfalls, the koi pond, the remote control boats, the Lost Bar, the Peter Pan pool, the giant Mickey Mouse statue to greet you, and the remnants of Dancing Waters.  In their places come all new rooms and lobbies, new expanses of lawns and tropical landscaping, an E-Ticket pool with an adjoining monorail themed water-slide, Trader Sam's, and a host of new details and touches.  Is all this change for the good?  Probably.  Something needed to be done with the old hotel which started construction back in the 1950's.  It needed to be brought up-to-date and modernized for a new generation of high-rolling park vacationers.  But at the same time, many people had a special bond with the old Disneyland Hotel.  Me, Mrs. DLT, and other family members spend many fine days (and nights) at the old DLH.  My claim is that the DLH felt like much more of the magic of Disneyland itself rather than just a hotel.  It had much more Disney charm than even the more costlier, grander, and convenient Grand Californian.  If you could fit it your Disneyland budget, a stay at the DLH was something quite special.

Will the new DLH be the same?  Will it have the same charm and magic?  I think so far the reports are quite good about the changes to the rooms, restaurants, and grounds but it remains to be seen if the new and improved version of the DLH can match what made the old DLH so special for me and Mrs. DLT.  Hopefully we will get back there sometime.

Andrienne Vincent-Phoenix gives a tour of the the hotel in her latest Disneyland Resort Update on MousePlanet.  You can read what she has to say and pictures of the hotel here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Merry Muppets Weekend

Disney released its first Muppets movie a few days ago (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and so far the response both from critics and audiences have been enthusiastically positive.  The Rottentomoes movie website gave The Muppets a 98% positive response from the critics and 92% positive response from the audiences.  It is projected to do well in the box office over the next few weeks during the Christmas holidays - not blockbuster, jaw-dropping type numbers but a very solid effort.  Compared to the upcoming Disney releases of John Carter on Mars and The Lone Ranger movies where the budgets have tipped over the $200,000,000 mark, the relatively mild $50 million spent on The Muppets seems like a bargain.

And what does 50 million get you?  Well for the majority of people who will go see the movie, its a chance to spend some time with some very old and dear friends born out of the creative imagination of the late Jim Henson and reintroduced to a new audience by longtime Muppet fan Jason Segel who co-wrote and and stars in the film.  I haven't seen the movie, hopefully I will get the chance in a few days but it is really something I look forward to.  In a world of high tech, special effect laden, CGI movies, the Muppets gives a chance to visit with very personable puppets - an art form that is almost forgotten in the modern world.  Whether drawn by hand or computers, the movies put out for children by Disney, Pixar, and other studios are animated whereas Muppet puppets are actual characters living in their own real world.  When it comes down to it, who wouldn't want to sit down have have a nice conversation with a friendly green frog?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sailor Mickey At The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Disney Parks Blog posted this photo of Sailor Mickey at the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning - a subtle or not so subtle attempt at promoting the Disney Cruise Line.  Speaking of Disney cruises, the Disneyland Traveler's pal Mike is sailing the waters off Mexico this week on a Disney cruise.  We should have tales of his seafaring exploits in about a week or so.  Stand-by.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We take a momentary break in celebrating Christmastime at Disneyland to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Enjoy your day and remember to take a moment to actually say "Thanks".

Monday, November 21, 2011

The $72 (A Person) Thanksgiving Dinner

I'm sure the annual Thanksgiving Day buffet dinner served at the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel is quite nice - first rate and something to remember to be sure. The cost of this opulence? A mind-numbing $71.99 (plus tax and tip) for anyone over the age of 10. If your in the 3 - 9 years of age range, it will only run $20.99 and if your 2 and under, congratulations, chow down all your want because it's free. A $72 turkey dinner with all the trimmings? Are you kidding? Even with rising food prices, turkey is still one of the cheapest protein sources you can get. The local Black Angus Steakhouse is offering their traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimmings for $15.99. Whew! Now that's more like it.

Now granted, the Disneyland Hotel will lay our food choices for as far as they eye can see and even offer a prime rib carving station but the thought of whipping out around 3 large bills for a family of four borders on the unfathomable. And I'm also sure there will be no shortage of people lined up ready to get theirs come Thursday. And I'm also sure there will be many others this year who are saying "it's difficult out there, we are struggling to make ends meet and we might be better off forgoing the expense of our usual Thanksgiving dinner".

You know, if I hit the Lotto some day (and it might increase my chances if I actually played) I would love to go to the one of these high priced Disney Holiday buffet meals. And I would give an all expenses paid trip to Joey Chestnut to come along with me and tell him to have at it.

How To Keep Your Belly Full For About 25 Bucks

Now doubt about it - eating at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure can be an expensive proposition. Trying to keep the food costs down while remaining in the parks is a bit of a challenge. Here are the Disneyland Traveler's choices for filling food that will last you while remaining on a tight budget. If you are on some kind of diet and watching calories, carbs, or cholesterol, you might as well stop reading now because none of this would probably be looked up as good dietary choices by your family physician. Also keep in my I'm leaving off drinks and taxes. Your on your own for adding that in.

In the morning, try a giant cinnamon roll, sticky bun, or a muffin from the Blue Ribbon (soon to be Jolly Holiday) Bakery. Some of these items may also be available at one of the more adventurous coffee kiosk stands as well. It will run you around 4 bucks give or take a bit.

For lunch, go for the gut busting corn dog from the Little Red Wagon on Main St. or Corn Dog Castle in DCA. At around 6 bucks, you might not even be able to finish the thing before the grease kicks in. It comes with either potato chips or apples. Get the apples if you want to cut the grease a little bit. Get the potato chips if you just don't care and have a cast iron stomach.

Dinner? Nothing fills you up like soup in a bread bowl especially if you can finish it off. Clam Chowder and Gumbo are the popular choices though the Pacific Wharf Cafe changes it up a bit with Corn Cowder or Broccoli and Cheese for some variety. The Boudin sourdough bread vessel is sometimes better than the soup itself. The bread bowl soups run around 9 bucks

A nice filling snack to eat on the run? - try a Mickey Mouse pretzel from one of the numerous locations it is available. I like the one stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeno and runs around $3.50.

The four items mentioned above should last you for the day and keep you on the move (providing they also don't induce the sudden need for taking a nap following consumption). Some other good choices for cheap filling food would be stuffed potatoes served at the Troubadour Tavern in Fantasyland (around $7) and pastas that come from the Pizza Port in Tomrrowland or Boardwalk Pasta and Pizza over in DCA (closer to $10). The ones ladened with cream sauces are especially filling (can anyone picture the episode from The Office where Michael Scott feels the need to load up on carbs before a 5K fun run so he poishes off a large order of fettuccine Alfredo? - hysterical).

There you have it. Far easier on the wallet than a Monte Cristo sandwich from the Blue Bayou which runs almost $25 by itself.

Iger And The Apple

Forget to mention that last week Disney CEO Bob Iger was given a seat on the Apple Board of Directors. The Steve Job's passing opened the position of Chairman of the Board which was given to a sitting board member opening up a new seat. Iger moved right in. Kind of surprising that Iger wasn't already on Apple's Board given that Steve Jobs was Disney's largest individual stockholder and a member of the Disney Board of Directors all of which he got when Disney acquired the Job's owned Pixar empire.

What does all this mean? I don't know except probably more apps for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Disney is just tapping the download app market which is quick, easy, and highly profitable.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Before Thanksgiving

Christmas at Disneyland officially began last Monday. it's a small world re-opened with its stunning holiday overlay. A Christmas Fantasy Parade began its annual march down Main St. There is the goosebump inducing holiday winter castle lighting and of course there is that giant Christmas tree at the Town Square. Christmas decorations are everywhere to be found.

Disneyland websites are falling all over themselves trying to get out the latest Christmas at Disneyland photos and videos. I'm trying my best to refrain from blogging about Christmas just yet because WE HAVEN"T HAD THANKSGIVING!  Give me a week to get the turkey in the oven and watch Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving then I'll blog about Christmas Disney to no end. 

The Disneyland Things You Learn

I write a blog about Disneyland but I am no Disneyland expert. There are people who are. I might think I know a lot about Disneyland but meet up with one of these real Disneyland trivia experts and you'll find out how quickly you can come up short on Disneyland facts and details. I don't know how many days I've spent in Disneyland over the years. Over a hundred? - probably. I've been on The Jungle Cruise countless times. It's a classic and one of my favorites. For the life of me, I never knew the bird in the cage above the ride entrance was real until a month or two ago. 

"It Messes With My Head"

Going back to the previous post about Mrs. DisneylandTraveler not going on California Screamin' for fear the inversion will "mess with my head" - the following are rides that Mrs. DLT has gone on but will probably never do so again because "it messes with my head.

The Zephyr

Soarin' Over California

The Hollywood Tower of Terror

Thunder Mountain Railroad

Star Tours

Space Mountain

I could be a wise-guy and say we ride the train, and Buzz, and the Mark Twain a lot (we actually do) because rides like this do not mess with Mrs. DLT's head but she does like some big attractions that don't mess with her head like, Indiana Jones, the Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, and Grizzly River Run but for the most part, she plays it safe and knows what she enjoys and what to stay away from. In a way, we're all like that.

The Day California Screamin' Crashed

My post from last week about The Worst Disneyland 50th Anniversary Souvenir got me thinking about another notable event from our trip down to Disneyland in 2005. In my cubicle at work I have a collection of unused fastpasses. Why I have them is anyone's guess - it's probably just because I usually have a few stuck in my wallet when we return from a trip and I just keep adding to the pile.  One of the old fastpasses is dated July 29, 2005 for California Screamin' in DCA with a return time of somewhere in the 3 to 4 o'clock range. The boy and I were both set to ride Sceamin' that afternoon. Mrs DisneylandTraveler? No way. She believes the inversion will "mess with my head" no matter how much I try to convince her to just close her eyes and the loop is over and done with in a split second. The rest of Screamin' is smooth as glass for a big coaster. My reasoning doesn't work. She's never been on it - never will.

How do I remember the July 29th date so vividly? Well, it was Disneyland's 50th Anniversary and the previous day, July 28th, I turned 50 as well. Disneyland and I have grown up together so to speak. Anyway, there were a group of us down at Disneyland that late July. Circumstances prevented me from having dinner with my immediate family on my birthday so as the 3 of us were wondering around California Adventure on the 29th waiting for the fastpass return time, we got a call from my sister and nieces saying that if we got down to Ralph Brennan's in Downtown Disney, they would treat me to a belated birthday dinner, an early dinner.

So after a minor debate we needed to figure out if we were going to wait for the Screamin' fastpass return time or just head on down to Downtown Disney to meet up with the gang. We opted for the latter. It was a six day trip so there were ample opportunities for a ride on Screamin' or so the boy and I thought.

That afternoon as we were wandering around Downtown Disney waiting to meet up with our dinner party  the unmistakable buzz of helicopters began filling sky - for the most part, news helicopters. We got to our large table in the restaurant still hearing the commotion outside. Then the word began to spread through Ralph Brennan's - California Screamin' had crashed, there were rescues going on and injuries reported.

There was a catastrophic brake failure near the end of the ride causing two trains to collide with one train to rear end another. The ride immediately shut down while other trains not in the accident were still at some very high places stuck on the track. Fire departments had to get people down. Fortunately, while some were taken to local hospitals, I believe most of the injuries were fairly minor mostly of the sprains, strains,  and whiplash variety.

The boy and I could have been on one of those trains or at least waiting to get on the ride had we chose to stay. It would be hard to say. Instead, I had a great birthday dinner and as for California Screamin'? I believe it shut down for about 3 months to investigate and correct the cause of the crash. We never did ride Sreamin' on that trip.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do The Right Thing

Earlier this week, the Walt Disney Company announced its 4th quarter profits which were solidly up pointing to increases in resort bookings and theme park attendance along with huge profits generated from Disney's biggest (by far) money maker - ad revenue coming out of Disney's broadcast networks, in particular ESPN and the Disney Channels.

Also earlier this week, well in fact all week, ESPN had sports fans riveted to their TVs documenting the downfall of the Penn State University football program and its legendary coach along with other senior university officials.  The events that caused the upheaval are hideous and vile and certainly do not need to be discussed in this blog other than in one particular context.

Bob Iger, in his annual address to Disney stockholders, was asked once again about making Disney's classic "Song of the South" live action / animated film from the 1940's available to viewers at home through DVD and blu-ray packages.  He is asked the same question every year.  Because of the time when the film was made and that the main character in film is not given any time context, the film is charged with unflattering racial stereotyping that is regarded as "politically incorrect" by today's standards.  In answering the question as to why the film would not be distributed, Iger (paraphrasing here) said that while the film would generate some profit revenues for Disney if it was distributed through retail, he believed that it is necessary to forgo the profits in order to "do the right thing" and keep the sensitive film out of distribution.  Even though those particular words (Do The Right Thing) come from director Spike Lee's first major film, the sentiment is something that I think about often in these times.

Our institutions have failed of us in so many ways in recent years through this continual economic downturn.  The government, banks, insurance companies, other major industries did so many wrong things and it came down to the pursuit of profit exceeded the concept of doing the right thing.  And now we have a major university being ridiculed because it seemed to value the institution of the university and its huge revenue generating football program more than the health and safety of sadly victimized young boys.

For Disney fans, I hope Iger is right in the decisions he has left in his CEO tenure. Ultimately, his responsibility is to generate a profit for his stockholders but in doing this he also has to make countless decisions in what constitutes doing the right thing for the legions of Disney fans.  Making money does matter.  So does doing the right thing.

The Worst Disneyland 50th Anniversary Souvenir

Disneyland celebrated its 50th anniversary back in July 2005. The official park opening date was July 17, 1955.  We didn't make it down for the official anniversary day but my family and I were fortunate enough to spend a week down at the Disneyland Resort in late July of 2005 getting the opportunity celebrate Disneyland's "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" an event which went on to last for almost 2 years.  There was a large group of us on this particular trip so we booked a 3 bedroom suite (plus an extra room) at the Disneyland Hotel. We had a great time all the way around.

A few days ago, I was going through a box of old DVD's we had stored in a box in the garage, preparing to get rid of a great many of them as we have now moved on to the blu-ray disc generation.  And there it was - Disneyland's "official commemorative edition" DVD celebrating the aforementioned "Happiest Homecoming on Earth".  I hadn't seen this "souvenir" since I played it when we returned from our 2005 trip.  Yes, the must have souvenir from a great trip had only one showing in the Disneyland Traveler household and for good reason.  The commemorative video is awful.  I would sell this thing on eBay but I wouldn't want to rip someone else off the way Disney ripped me (and countless others) off by buying this wretched production.

You see, underneath it all, the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" commemorative DVD is nothing more that a Disneyland Resort vacation planning video no better than the DVD's Disney Travel will send you free of charge.  In fact, it is worse than many of the free promotional DVD's that we have received from Disney Travel over the years.  

Back in 2005, Disney was showing a fine film in the Opera House starring Steve Martin (and Donald Duck) that lovingly traced some of the 50 year history of Walt's park.  That film still plays today on a small video screen in the lobby of the Opera House in a continual loop as part of the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln pre-show.  That's the kind of film I was hoping to get with my $25 or $30 DVD purchase back in 2005.  In fact, if they sold a copy of the Steve Martin film, I would bought that one.  Instead, I bought a travel video, a promotional video, really just a half hour infomercial selling the Disneyland Resort.  Nothing about Walt, nothing about the 50 year history (other than some pop-up park facts), in the end, dreadful.

Yes, we had a great time back in 2005 but this DVD kind of left a bad taste in my mouth when thinking about all the great things about that trip.  Just to make sure it was as bad as I remembered, I played again this morning.  Yes, it is very bad.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Downtown Disney Dining - The Rainforest Cafe

When staying at the Disneyland Resort, dining at the Rainforest Cafe is a popular thing to do - a very popular thing to do if you ever had to wait for a table.  It is easily the most popular restaurant in Downtown Disney.  But the Rainforest Cafe is a chain restaurant with locations across the country and from what I understand, all pretty much themed the same way.

It's the theming that draws people by the droves into the Rainforest, especially if you have children. With animatronic gorillas and simulated thunder and lightning storms starting up every 15 minutes or so, you can't help but be mildly amused and entertained. Unless you have seen this act a dozen times before as Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have, then the noise and distraction becomes a bit of an irritant while you are trying to enjoy your meal.

Dining outside Disneyland Park what the Rainforest Cafe does offer you is a large and varied menu with all the standards - appetizers, soups & salads, pastas & pizzas, burgers & sandwiches, and an assortment of seafood, chicken, meat entrees.  Also add a large dessert menu and the typical chain restaurant cocktail menu into the mix of choices.  Virtually everyone will find some menu item of interest.  None of these dishes will be particularly memorable but I'm willing to bet most everyone will find them in the pretty good to very good categories.  I have sampled various appetizers, pasta, seafood, and the ribs from their menu and never been disappointed though once you get back home after a trip to the resort, that Rainforest meal probably won't be at the top of your great memories list.  But the restaurant is fine for what it is.  They also offer a breakfast menu but I'm usually in too much of a hurry to get into the park rather than stop for leisurely breakfast.

If you never been to the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney - go and check it out (make sure you ask for a second floor table to really see the show).  If you been there a few times, there are better choices for dining in Downtown Disney and the hotels.  Oh, and don't forget to stop by the gift shop on the way out.  Restaurants with gift shops - I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

My Christmas Season Just Got Longer

Writing a blog like this tends to be a voyage of discovery, of re-discovery, of self discovery. You learn things about yourself and how you look at them.  I love Christmastime - it's my favorite time of the year for the most part (minus all the commercialism).  Please note there is nothing in this blog about Xmas or generic Happy Holidays.  Its Christmas pure and simple.

So here it is on November 5th and I've been posting in this blog about Christmas at Disneyland for a week.  I have had a chance to watch from afar how Disneyland is putting up their decorations.  I have had a chance to look at photographs and videos from my own trips to Disneyland during the Christmas season.  For me now, Christmas is no longer become that time of year after Thanksgiving.  By writing this blog my Christmas season is now two months long and what is wrong with that?  What is wrong with extended a time of year you love to celebrate?  Absolutely nothing as far as I am concerned.

A week ago I watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".  It is all I can do keep myself from putting in my DVD of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Heck, if I had any ambition at all, I would start decorating the house.

The Mark Twain Steamboat - A View From The Top

A ride on the Mark Twain Steamboat is one of my favorite things to do in Disneyland without a doubt.  During the course of one of our 5 or 6 day trips to Disneyland, I'll probably get on it 3 or 4 times to take a nice relaxing trip around the Rivers of America. A ride on the Mark Twain is a no stress ride. Most of the time you can just walk on and go, a chance to take in the lovely Disneyland vistas the boat ride has to offer while enjoying the quite familiar soundtrack that sounds like an old friend.

Disney Parks Blog this week offered a new YouTube video that shows off the classic ride with a view from its wheelhouse at the top of the boat.  I've added it to the bottom of this post. But seeing it got me to think - for as many times I have been on the Mark Twain in recent years, I just don't bother to go up on the second or third decks anymore.  It's probably been at least 5 years since I walked up the stairs to check out the views from a higher perspective.  I'm not quite sure why that is.  Lazy?  Maybe a little bit.  I think it probably just comes down to the bottom deck offers more opportunities for enjoying your trip from a seat.  As long as the sun isn't blazing hot and beating down on you, the movable chairs on the front of the bottom deck allow a nice spot from which to sight see.  The long benches near the engine compartment aren't bad either and they are completely shaded.  With a nice seat and a relaxing voyage, I don't even give the second or third decks much thought. Maybe its time to rethink that on my next trip.  Need to put that on my list.

I haven't posted too much about the Mark Twain in this blog to this point but it will most definitely stop by for repeat visits - just like an old friend.

Gridlock - Taping the Disneyland Christmas Parade

Without any knowledge or forethought, Mrs DisneylandTraveler and I along with our traveling parties twice booked November trips to Disneyland the same weekend film crews were taping the Disneyland segment of Disney's annual Christmas Parade television special shown on ABC. I guess there are plenty of people interested in these type of Disney events and show up early to the park with hopes to get a good spot on Main Street to check out the action and maybe have an encounter with some kind of celebrity that is performing or making an appearance in the annual event. Who knows - maybe you might just get a chance to see yourself on network TV. Anyway, today is the day they are doing the taping at Disneyland

But then there is the other side of what seems like something that may be fun and exciting. Today is November 5th and we are a long way from Christmas but for the last week, Disneyland overnight crews have been frantically decorating Main St. for Christmas so the taping can gather in the full Christmas atmosphere. Once the taping of the Disneyland and WDW segments complete, several weeks are needed to get the editing and post production work completed in time for the Christmas Day showing. Along with Christmas decorations, various lighting towers, fixtures centered around cameras, and large stages are also set up around Main St. and the castle hub. For you classic Disneyland picture takers out there, these fixtures large and obtrusive, and another reason to get this filming completed before the official start of the Disneyland Christmas season. They are an eyesore.

Once the filming begins today, Main St. is blocked off to foot traffic for long periods of time. It is virtually impossible to get from the front of the park to the Lands because everything is gridlocked. There are some pathways opened up behind the Main St stores for foot traffic but these are rather narrow and get congested. On the other hand, it may be your only chance to see some of the Jungle Cruise maintenance areas. 

Mrs. DLT and I really had no interest in any of this. On one trip, we got to the park early and headed for the back then stayed out of the way of the television fray. I think on another trip, we just stayed in DCA until everything was done and the Hollywood people packed up and headed for home.

One person in our traveling party on one these trips did get to cross paths with Ryan Seacrest though. Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Matterhorn Refurbishment Revisited

Disney watchdog, Al Lutz in his MiceAge column yesterday, as usual, gave a ton of Disneyland inside information. You can read Al's informational rambling here. Al is wrong about his inside information once in awhile but more often than not, he is right on the money (and beneath it all, money is what Disney is all about). Yesterday, he revisited the upcoming 6 month refurbishment of the Matterhorn beginning January 2012. He talked about imagineers coming up with paint schemes and details that will put the Matterhorn in the same impressive realm as the new Cadillac mountain range over in DCA's Carsland. I'm not worried about that, the new Matterhorn will look great when it officially re-opens next summer. The venerable mountain is far too big and too much of a Disneyland focal point for imagineers to do a shoddy job in its refurbishment. But Al did make an off handed comment about the Matterhorn refurbishment, and more specifically the new bobsleds that will finally be put into commission after more than a year of testing that I had not given a whole lot of consideration to. Al's comment "Those new three-passenger bobsleds will debut with this rehab, satisfying the lawyers and state inspectors, but making it difficult for anyone over six feet tall to ever be comfortable on that ride again" opened my eyes just a bit.

I haven't had a problem getting in Disneyland ride vehicles, more specifically the coasters, but being on the larger side of things, it sometimes is a squeeze. The worst is Space Mountain were the lack of legroom, the lap bar, and my knees fight an uncomfortable battle that sometimes leads to bruising (especially when wearing shorts). The exception to cramped quarters on coasters was the good ol' Matterhorn. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I are far beyond the riding the old sleds tandem style. We would go "1 and 1" with her taking the front seat and me in the rear. Getting in the sled you immediately think "Wow - space at last".  Just strap the seat belt on and off you go with with legs outstretched as far as they will go in any direction. I've got 4 cars here at home. One of them is a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis. When I take it to work and the guys and I would want to head out for lunch, we always took the Merc. We take it because it just doesn't matter front seat or back seat, driver or passenger, there is room to spare for everyone. The current bobsleds are the equivalent of the Grand Marquis of ride vehicles. I look forward to the new and improved Matterhorn but I sure will miss all that space.

Carefree Disney Days

I don't remember quite when it happened now. I think it was 2008, maybe 2009, but for many people, their world turned upside down when the economy crashed. The details don't need to be rehashed here but many people lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, their retirements. Even if the economy didn't directly affect you, chances are you know someone that was affected in a very hard way. Sad.

It's all very depressing. Even though Mrs. DisneylandTraveler have been affected in several ways, we also have been able to make a half dozen trips or so down to Disneyland over last few years after things went belly-up. Multi-day trips to Disneyland are expensive, that's a given, and Mrs. DLT would have probably been better served to have left some of that money in a bank somewhere (even though banks are a primary cause to the economic undoing of America), but we didn't. We took our trips and enjoyed ourselves immensely for the most part.

Do you know why? It's because once you pass through the entrance tunnels beneath the railroad tracks and out on to Main Street Disneyland, the problems, troubles, and struggles of everyday life seem to disappear. It may be only temporary, a few hours, a few days, but being in Disneyland puts you into a different universe where reality slips and away and if you allow it, magic and fun can move right in. This is why we go. We chase the magic and more often than not, we find it because Disneyland can deliver on its promises, the promises that Walt made when he opened the park. Yes, in the midst of life's turmoil, Disney can deliver on carefree days even if its only a temporary respite.

In the midst of hardships, there is always something to be thankful for and during November, that is likely to be a theme of The DisneylandTraveler Blog as we push toward Thanksgiving Day. Today I remember entering times entering Disneyland, and no matter what problems or struggles are left back home, I can whistle a happy tune and say thanks.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Changing Of The Seasons

So here on November 1st, I'm thinking about 80% of the Halloween decorations have been removed from Disneyland (virtually overnight). Space Mountain is closed to remove the Ghost Galaxy overlay. Yes, the Disneyland seasons are changing as Halloween goes out and Christmas comes up. By the end of this week, a sixty foot fully decorated Christmas tree will appear in the plaza on Main Street.

But now not only does the Disneyland holiday season change, this is really the point where you really begin to see the weather change as well. Not that Southern California has pronounced weather changes, but you very definitely can feel a change in the Disney weather. So now we have moved from months of dry weather into at least chances of days of rain or showers. From warm summer nights, we move to make sure you have a sweatshirt or jacket with you as once nightfall comes, the temperature drops in a hurry. The change of seasons also makes the sometimes ridiculously long lines for water rides Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run that appear in summer actually not so bad (or if the weather is cold enough, no line at all). The 75 to 95 degree days of summer have now given way to temperatures that more are likely in the range of the low 60s to high 70s. Not that you can't have a warm 80 or 90 degree day or two in November and December but that is more the exception rather than the rule.

There is a lot to like about warm summer days (and nights) in Disneyland but the crowds that warm weather attracts from locals to days were warm becomes insufferably hot are not on the "like" list for me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler. A nice 70 degree day with a night time drop to the high 50s or low 60s suits us just fine. We can wear pants (as opposed to shorts). We can put on light jackets and sweatshirts. We can even endure a little (or even a lot) or rain. 

Yes, the weather is cooling down as the days grow shorter but now, entering the Christmas season, Disneyland will just keep getting better and better.

Frontierland And A Circle Of Rocks

This is, more or less, a continuation of my post last month The Tiki Room Is Not An Excuse To Eat Ice Cream. Disneyland is more than a theme park of rides and attractions. It is also a collection of memories. Just inside the main entrance to Frontierland from the hub, on the left had side, is a flagpole. Around the flagpole, forming a planter box for a tree as well as the pole, is a circle of rocks. Though not very high, maybe a foot to eighteen inches, the rocks provide a place to sit some tired behinds once in awhile while waiting for someone to come out of the nearby Mercantile store or restrooms. In Disneyland, sometimes its the little things that provide the fondest memories and so while it really is just a circle of rocks, for me it is a very special piece of ground. Why else would someone take a picture of it it like the one shown above?

In 2002, a group of family members made the trip down to Disneyland, a five or six day trip as I recall. We stayed at the Grand Californian in a series of 3 adjoining rooms plus a fourth room on the same floor. It was all very nice. It is also the first and only trip I got to make to Disneyland with my older sister. She would pass away about 4 years later at far too young of an age. There should have been more trips. 

My sister was all about family. While it is difficult for groups to stay together in Disneyland because of different agendas (see my post on Traveling To Disneyland In Groups) my sister was all about family togetherness, something to keep in mind as we approach Thanksgiving. As much as possible she kept the family together on this trip, even to the point of treating a group of about 12 of us to lunch at the Blue Bayou and dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. She was kindhearted and generous to a fault. Our family has not been the same since her passing. Sadly, while the cause of her death was complications due to a massive stroke, she really died of a broken heart.

So back to the rocks. I guess the female contingent of our group, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, my two sisters, and my two nieces, went shopping at the Frontierland Mercantile Store. Once done we all huddled up around the rocks beneath the flagpole to decide what to do next. It was in the afternoon so Disneyland was starting to get crowded. Somehow my sister, who was 10 years older than me, got separated from the rest of the group and when found a short time later, was sobbing. Crying? Unless you are under 7, there's no crying in Disneyland. But that was my sister, without her family, she was all alone and it made her sad.

Today, when I pass by that circle of rocks, I remember my sister; I remember her sitting there with her family; I remember her getting lost; I remember her crying; I remember her love for all of us. It's still a circle of rocks but they tell a very special Disneyland story - one I will never forget. I have pockets full of these memories to cherish and only hope the many others do the same by collecting their own special memories.

The Frontierland Circle of Rocks - October 2002. Joyce 3rd from the left

Total Pageviews