Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's a Nice Thought

There was a Mega Lottery Drawing last night worth an estimated 640 million dollars. I didn't win of course. 3 people in 3 states will share in the multi-million dollar prize. The chance of winning something like that is mathematically an infinite fraction of Zero so while all my co-workers had lotto fever yesterday, I didn't give it a lot of thought.

I did think about it a bit more this morning.  What would I do if I did win something like that?  Why not set up a program where underprivileged or special needs children whose parents cannot afford to take them to Disneyland can apply for an opportunity to visit the park and experience the magic in a first class kind of way with all expenses paid? Sounds reasonable. Sounds noble. Yeah, I could do something like that - if I had the least I would like to think I would do something like that.

My Disneyland Bucket List - Item #3

I have to admit, I'm happy to stand in line for a brew or two over at the Karl Strauss Beer Wagon in DCA (Red Trolley Ale - outstanding). Look forward to visiting the latest beer stand over in Paradise Pier that serves the equally tasty Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA. And I enjoy a nice glass of (way overpriced) wine with my meal at Wine Country Trattoria.  But I have yet to spend a little time on a warm afternoon or evening enjoying a cold, refreshing, fruity cocktail at the Cover Bar overlooking the water at Paradise Pier. There are a couple of reasons for this of course, 1) Mrs. DisneylandTraveler doesn't drink at all (but I know I could sell her on the idea of an icy virgin strawberry daiquiri which she really does enjoy especially if its warm outside) and 2) A couple of cocktails at the Cove Bar is going dent the wallet and Mrs. DLT would be thinking to herself if not outright saying "I could be spending this money in a store buying souvenirs".  So because of this, I really haven't pushed the issue just yet.  I think of this currently because the Cove Bar is under refurbishment wraps until I believe June but as of today, I'm not going to longingly stare into but pass by the place on my next visit.  I'm going in.  Enjoying a beverage at the Cove Bar is officially on My Disneyland Bucket list with or without Mrs. DLT.

Pondering Disneyland Questions

I loved the Pinky and the Brain cartoons from Steven Spielberg a few years back. There is something to be admired about a lab mouse whose singular purpose in life in episode after episode was to try and take over the world. And the Brain would constantly pose the question to his dim-witted friend when a brilliant scheme popped into his head "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?". So here are some Disneyland questions I'm pondering on a Saturday morning as a storm is brewing outside.

(Note: some of these questions have appeared before in this blog, just haven't got really good answers for them).

Does anyone really "get" Mr. Toad's Wild ride and its appeal, a ride that eventually takes its passengers on a maniacal trip to hell?

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler loves Indiana Jones.  More than once we headed over there when the park opened up to avoid the long line and not having to bother a fast pass. More than once, the park opened with the ride closed due to mechanical problems.  How does a featured attraction have technical difficulties before a single person rides on it?

I wouldn't ride it of course but I look at the Gadget Go-Coaster then I look at the line to get on. How long would you stand in line for a 30 second ride?

Speaking of, is Peter Pan's Flight worth the wait?

What is the worst job in Disneyland? (I'm voting for that poor cast member who has to keep numb skulls who probably know better away from standing in front and sitting on top of the wall by the River Belle Terrace before a performance of Fantasmic).

How can counter service dining facilities operate so slowly when essentially they are serving food that has already been prepared?

Does Disneyland really need all those survey takers?

Don't you wish The Jungle Cruise boats had a better sound system? ("What did he just say???")

Does Disneyland need a petting zoo where 90% of the residents are goats?

Why is that Fantasyland Skyway station still standing 20 years after the ride shut down and there isn't a chance it will come back?

Finally, it was a poor idea to bring it back to begin with, can we now permanently retire Captain EO and spare us all of the silliness?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Radiator Springs Racers: 30 Seconds of a Cool Ride

They keep teasing us, and teasing us but last week Disney posted a short video to YouTube of a ride on their new Radiator Springs Racers. The video is only 30 seconds long but this is promising to be one cool ride and sure to bring people into Disney California Adventure by truckloads for a long time to come.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Much Is That Picture In The Window?

Pieces of Eight Store Window 2008 - Pirates of the Caribbean - Disneyland
I may have written about this before...I don't know...I've written about so many things in this blog over the last 10 months that it is hard to remember or keep track.  Anyway, I saw this picture in my collection again this morning and reminded me of the story and an incredibly good idea that I have yet to follow up on.

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I had just gotten off Pirates of the Caribbean and glanced in the window of the conveniently placed Pieces of Eight souvenir store at the exit of the ride. This picture immediately caught Mrs. DLT's attention as a souvenir artwork to put up on if not one of our walls then The Boy would love it on his. She immediately ran inside to ask about it. "Where is that framed Pirates picture that you have in the window?" she asked the cast member. The CM looked at her like she was speaking Greek.  "We don't have any framed Pirates pictures in here" he answered back with a confused look on his face.

"Yes.... the picture, like the one that is in the display window" Mrs. DLT shot back. So the CM, Mrs. DLT, and I all headed back outside to look at the picture in the window. "That picture!" she said pointing to the window.  The CM kind of chuckled and said that wasn't really for sale, "It's a window decoration, the decorators take one our T-shirts, stretch it on a canvas backing, that put a frame around it. It's really just a framed T-shirt". Well, for Mrs. DLT and I, our jaws dropped. Sure enough, when we went back inside the store, we found the very same T-shirt. 

We thought a lot about that picture/T-shirt throughout the day. We even thought about buying shirts ourselves, mounting them, framing them, and selling them on eBay. That was years ago now, and we've yet to do one for ourselves let alone sell them on eBay and there are plenty of Disneyland T-Shirts around here that aren't worn and would be put to better use displayed on wall rather than hanging in the back of a closet. It's still a great idea. Maybe someday. Famous last words.

Accidental ASIMO

Like a lot of Disneyland fans, I think Innoventions is a zit on the pristine face of America's best and greatest theme parks. Over the last dozen years or so and countless days in the park, I think I have gone into Innoventions twice - the last time being 2008 and the only reason was that it was pouring down rain and Disneyland was doing what Disneyland does in the rain, close things down and force people indoors. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and me got forced into Innoventions to retreat from the rather harsh elements that day.

I had heard a bit about ASIMO, the Honda robot, through the years but again, with him (it?) actually being inside Innoventions, I never felt compelled to go in and check him (it?) out knowing the surrounding gaming and computer geekfest had little interest for me thinking I could see most of this stuff elsewhere where time isn't as valuable as it is in Disneyland. But that day in 2008 was different, Mrs. DLT and I trudged into Innovention soaking wet and put up with nonsense from the likes of Yamaha, HP, and Microsoft. And we grabbed a couple of tickets to go see ASIMO.

The little robot blew me away in a funky kind of way with the little show / demonstration they put on.  He (it?) was amazing. So while I have little good to say about Innoventions other than with the corporate underwriting and funding it does bring extra income into the park where the money is put to better use, I can heartily recommend seeing ASIMO at least once just skip everything else in there and try and get our as quick as you can.  The ASIMO show is only about 15 or 20 minutes - well worth it. As for the him/it thing  - well it is an 'it' but that little boy voice kind of throws you. 

The Muppets: Music, Mayhem, Laughter, and Friendship

I really wanted to see The Muppets when it came out last Thanksgiving but for one reason or another, I just didn't get around to it.  It was released to DVD and Blu-Ray last Tuesday and after watching it here at home last night I now know that not seeing it in a theater was my loss.  It's a nice movie.  It's a kind movie.  It's happy movie.  You just can't say that very much about the movies anymore.  In a sense, The Muppets is an old-fashioned movie kind of like the Muppets themselves and they are the first to admit it.

You can tell The Muppets movie was made by people who care, especially Jason Segel who co-wrote the script with Nicholas Zoller. Segel (of TV's How I Met Your Mother) is also is the main star of the movie who isn't a muppet. What Segel and Zoller give is a wonderful opportunity to bring The Muppets (now owned by Disney) into the present while respecting and paying tribute to The Muppets created by the late Jim Henson more than 40 years ago. The movie serves as a bridge to see more of the Muppets in the future. Along the way, we remember, we laugh, we feel the warmth of getting the old gang back together once again. As for caring, I don't know of any character who cares more about everyone than a little green frog.

The movie isn't perfect. I wish the Chris Cooper (as the bad guy) and Jack Black characters were a little better written (which is a little ironic since Jack Black played himself) and Rashida Jones seemed a little our of place as a TV executive but most of the rest of the movie is a joy to watch complete with singing, dancing, and a lot of people seemingly enjoying what they do. A tip of the hat to Amy Adams (of Enchanted) who once again lights up the screen of a Disney movie reminiscent of the actresses of decades ago who could really sing and dance and put on a show. 

As you can tell, I really liked The Muppets. As you exit Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Disneyland Opera House there is a wall of paintings and photographs that show people who provided a lasting vision that should always be remembered.  One of the largest pictures is that of Jim Henson and a groups of his friends who happened to be made from scraps of fabric. It's nice to know that Henson's Rainbow Connection continues to live on.

Jim Henson and friends at the Disneyland Opera House

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let's Not Forget About the Chocolate

Disney conceptual artwork for the Girardelli soda fountain and chocolate shop

With so much attention being paid to the Grand Opening of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and the debut of Mad T Party, let's not lose sight of the fact that there is another building under construction in Disney California Adventure - The Girardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. Taking up the space that formerly was home to the Mission Tortilla Factory, the new Girardelli building promises to be a delight for all sweet treats and chocolate lovers (who isn't?).  Maybe after a stressful day of fighting crowds and frustration, a cold old fashioned chocolate soda is just what the doctor ordered to relieve what ails you. It might work for me.

The Madness Starts June 15

Mad T Party logo - Artwork from Disney Parks Blog

Nothing like having a party and inviting the world - Disney Parks Blog (link) announced this past week that along with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, June 15th will also be the date for the premier of Mad T Party, the DCA street party replacement for ElecTRONica (and before that - Glowfest). The blog entry features some artwork for the Mad T Party costuming which can be described as interesting to say the least.

When did they start make male Bratz dolls?

Mad T Party costuming artwork - Disney Parks Blog

Mad T Party costuming artwork - Disney Parks Blog 

In the Works: Epic Mickey 2

Promotional artwork for Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

This past Wednesday Disney announced that a sequel to its hit video game Epic Mickey was in production. The new game, again under the direction of gaming master Warren Spector, is titled Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and co-stars Oswald the Rabbit along with the Mick.  Two players will now be able to control each charter as they once again wander through a bizarro Disneyland.  According to the press releases, Spector is correcting some of the shortcomings of the original Epic Mickey game from 2010 by having the characters actually speak (in the original game all Mickey could do was give us his high pitched grunt) and provide a better camera view so people like me who aren't in any way professional gamers constantly having Mickey jump into oblivion. The new game is also being made for all major gaming systems: Nintendo Wii, XBOX 360, and Playstation 3. The original Epic Mickey was only available for the Wii system.

To promote the game, Disney pulled out of its archive a 1928 drawing of Oswald the Rabbit that supposedly hasn't been seen in 40 years. 

1928 drawing of Oswald the Rabbit from the animated film "Sky Scrapper" - Disney Archives 


Monday, March 19, 2012

At Last, A Disney T-Shirt I Would Actually Wear

The Churro and Dole Whip T-Shirts - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Despite her best efforts to change me, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler cannot get me to wear anything Disney related outside of the parks other than baseball hats.  I just don't like Disney clothing in my everyday life.  Well today, Disney Parks Blog posted an entry that showed off some new T-Shirts available for sale (link) at the parks this summer.  Forget about the one on the left, the infamous churro, but the one on the right, the one that features the Dole Whip, sign me up for that one (even though I prefer the Floats).

Ranking Pixar Films - 2012

There are probably a couple of thousand of the lists like this one on the Internet in various blogs and web pages.  With Cars Land set to open and Pixar characters firmly entrenched in Disney California Adventure (along with Buzz and Nemo over in Disneyland), here are my rankings for the 12 Pixar films that have been made over the years.  It should be noted that all Pixar movies are successful and have made money (lots of money) but not all of them have exactly been works of art as the very best of them are.  So here is my list from worse to first.

12) A Bug's Life:  I saw the movie - on video - I don't remember a thing about it.  Not the movie's fault it came in last, more my fault (memo for the To-Do List - see A Bug's Life again).

11) Cars 2:  Visually stunning but one of the most lazy disappointing efforts I have ever witnessed from a group of people who should know better.  I am on a personal quest to rid Larry the Cable Guy and his buffoonery from show business.

10) Finding Nemo:  Along with Toy Story 3, Nemo is Pixar's most profitable movie. Never has the Pixar formula of cute little misfit in peril put more prominently displayed. I just didn't like it.  Ellen Degeneres voice annoys me (but not as much as Larry the Cable Guy).

9) Monsters Inc.:  My opinion of Monsters Inc. seems to waver.  I saw it in a theater and liked it a lot.  I remember being sick at the time so the movie was much better than I was.  When I saw it on video the first time, I didn't like it.  Then I watched it again last year and enjoyed it thoroughly.  I guess it depends how I feel.

8) Cars:  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler drug me to the theater to see Cars - she had already taken The Boy to see it and loved it - she thought I would too.  I was kicking and screaming all the way.  But guess what, I enjoyed the original Cars movie though I did think it was a little too long.  Cars had more Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, and Holly Hunter and less Larry the Cable Guy - a very wise choice.

7) Ratatouille:  This one may have been one of Pixar's best efforts with an Oscar to show for it and I did like Ratatouille.  Its just not a movie I can watch over and over again. Maybe its too good.

6) Toy Story 2:  Even the weakest effort of the Toy Story trilogy is a very, very good movie just not quite as good as the other two.

5) Up:  I kink of put Up in the same category as Ratatouille.  Excellent movies, great stories, and a visually stunning.  But like Ratatouille, I just can't watch Up over and over again.  It is a bit too emotionally fetching and yes, maybe too good.

4) The Incredibles:  Now you're talking.  A Pixar super-hero story.  A Pixar movie that doesn't intentionally try to make you cry.  Just good, fun, entertainment.

3) Toy Story:  I saw Toy Story in a movie theater and walked out in amazement at what I had just seen.  Pixar set the bar high right from the get go and created a truly American film experience with its Toy Story Franchise.  Having Tom Hanks in the lead doesn't hurt.

2) Toy Story 3:  Supposedly the TS trilogy ends here and if it did, it went out in grand style.  The ending of Toy Story 3 is about the most beautiful ending for a movie I have ever seen.

1) Wall-E:  If Toy Story 3 soared off into the sunset at the end, Wall-E blew me away from the beginning.  The love story of Wall-E and Eve is one of the greatest in movie history.  This movie did not need any of the humans that showed late in the movie.  The hearts of Wall-E and Eve, two robots, are greater than 99% of everyone on this planet. This movie did not need a spoken word to convey the richness of all emotions. Wall-E is one of the greatest movies of all time.

Mary Poppins Creeps Me Out

I posted an entry to this blog week or so ago acknowledging the passing away of Disney legendary classic songwriter Robert Sherman (link).  Along with his more visible in Disney circles brother Robert, the two songwriters crafted the music for Mary Poppins. The music of Mary Poppins is not exactly my cup of tea but its undeniable that the music of that movie is memorable and first rate.

I also went on to write that the movie Mary Poppins kind of gave me the creeps.  I caught a little flack for that from a couple of readers of this blog but let me explain.  I saw Mary Poppins in an actual movie theater as an impressionable young boy.  The immediate impression was it gave me nightmares.  For a young boy, there is something unsettling about seeing a nice lady flying around on an umbrella.  I saw it my dreams.  I don't remember dreams very well.  Here we are decades later and I still remember that one.

But I also confess, that I had the same reaction to the Wizard of Oz and the garish display of flying monkeys.  It too gave me nightmares probably worse than the Mary Poppins nightmares.  I didn't see the Wizard of Oz in a theater.  I'm not that old.  When I was a kid, before the days of cable and satellite TV, some network annually broadcast The Wizard of Oz on television.  Apparently it was "must see TV" for the time.  I did see The Wizard of Oz on TV - once - it gave me the creeps, gave me nightmares - that was it.  I never watched it again.  

Did I have something against people or animals flying?  I don't think so.  As a kid, I religiously watched The Adventures of Superman on TV and I was good with that. There was just something about a woman with dress and an umbrella and hideous flying monkeys that would wake me up in fear in the dead of night.

I can't understand why Mary Poppins (and Bert) are paraded around Disneyland the way they are.  Walk around characters are primarily aimed at kids, probably of the under age 7 demographic.  I wonder how many kids under the age of 7 have actually seen the movie Mary Poppins?  And if they did see it, how many did it actually creep out?  Then again, it could be just me.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Look Back and Ahead to the Carthay Circle Theater

Disney Conceptual Model for the Carthay Circle Theater at DCA

Well they couldn't build another castle. When Disney announced their 1.1 billion dollar expansion of Disney California Adventure they knew they needed a signature structure, a park focal point, something sorely lacking in the original DCA. What to do, what to do... The new theme for the entrance of DCA was early Hollywood in the 1920s and 30's when a young Walt first came to town and made his mark. I'm sure imagineers pouring over black and white photos didn't have to look too far before they came up with the striking Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood. And the theater had a history with Disney because this where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt's first feature length animated film, made its stunning premier in 1937.

Well now that the imagineers had a structure they had to give it a purpose. This is were it got kind of murky for awhile. The early stories had the building becoming a kind of tribute to Walt Disney, part museum, part exhibition hall for treasures of the Disney archives. A sort of west coast version of Walt Disney World's One Man's Dream. Disney wasn't saying. They let people believe what the wanted to believe, their only commitment was to build the structure.

And then the story began to change. It wasn't going to be a museum at all. It was going to be a restaurant. And I think all but the ardent traditionalists were OK with that. Goodness knows...the Disneyland parks need good restaurants. Besides, when Disney digs down deep, despite the rich history and legacy, few people care about museums. One Man's Dream in WDW is sparsely attended. I remember looking intently and fascinated by the actual office of Walt Disney when it was set up behind glass inside the Disneyland's Opera House but as I recall, I looked at it pretty much alone most of the time as the other people milling around stared into the piece of Disney history for all of 5 seconds then moved on.

And then there is the other side of the coin so to speak. Disney has to actually pay of the DCA expansion. There is no money in people wandering around a museum once they have paid their way through the turnstiles. There is money to be made if the structure actually housed a restaurant. Then things became more clearer. This wasn't going to be just a restaurant, this was going to a high end restaurant, a sort of Napa Rose inside the park. And you know what you need with a high end restaurant? That's right, a cocktail lounge avoiding the use of the word 'bar' for now.

Finally, the DCA revenue stream that is the Carthay Circle Theater (Restaurant and Bar) came to complete fruition. Not one bar but two with one being reserved for Club 33 members at the premium level. There you have it - a high-end, high dollar restaurant, two high price lounges with one tied to Club 33 membership, the money was going to roll in huge on a daily basis.  Ooops, Disney always looking to squeeze every last dollar bill out of your bank account, took a look at the Carthay Theater structure and said to themselves "We've got a second floor, we've room for an outside patio or two. we got a parade that is going to run right out front - let's go for the moon with dining and parade packages. Ca-Ching!!!!"

Sarcastic as I may sound, I don't have a problem with any of this. Most of Disneyland and DCA is for kids. Giving adults a chance to pamper themselves with a wonderful (albeit expensive) meal with wine and perhaps a before dinner and after dinner drink inside a Disney park sounds absolutely wonderful. I'll just have to make sure I get that loan approved before I make the reservation.

The real Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More of Oswald the Rabbit in the New DCA?

Most fans of Disney history know that before there was a Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney had a character an animated character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (who actually has something of a resemblance to Mickey Mouse).  Back in the early Hollywood days, Walt and Oswald had two pretty good years together before they went their separate ways - Walt off to create Mickey and Oswald became property of another studio where he languished in obscurity and trivia for decades.  Before Disney reacquired the rights to Oswald a few years back (more on that later), Oswald's last owners were NBC-Universal (and whoever their parent company was at the time).

For the last few years, Disney has been trying to market an Oswald presence in their parks. Oswald hasn't been marketed in the over-the-top sledgehammer way they have been trying to market Duffy the Bear for instance. Oswald's marketing has been more subtle with a more limited selection of clothing and other merchandise made available in selected gift and retail shops. Oswald's marketing also seems to be based of the more chic, trendy, vintage type rather based on a mass appeal. I actually saw one of celebrity chef and Food Network star Bobby Flay's female sidekicks wear a distressed looking Oswald T-Shirt on one of his Throwdown shows - again, trendy and chic. Indeed, Oswald may be a character that's just not for everybody. He isn't so much cute and cuddly as much as he appears to be a bit of a wise guy with a mischievous look of "here comes trouble" in his eye.

Come this June, beyond the turnstiles of Disney California Adventure, we are supposed to enter Buena Vista Street, the Carthay Circle Theater hub, and Hollywoodland of the early 1920's. This is supposedly the world Walt stepped into when he got off that first train ride west with a suitcase fully of dreams and ideas. And Oswald was one of his first. Will Disney and DCA play it that way? I tend to doubt it other that maybe a bigger selection of Oswald merchandise in the Buena Vista Street retail stores.  You see, whether Disneyland or DCA, the Mouse is still king.  A new statue of a young Walt Disney will grace the entrance of the new DCA.  It will not be Oswald at his side but an early incarnation of Mickey Mouse.  It's all about the ears and there's money in those ears.

The Trade:

I love this story.  I'm a football fan as well as a Disney fan.  Legendary play by play man Al Michaels was the major voice for big sporting events for ABC television including Monday Night Football.  As they have a tendency to do, Disney acquired both ABC and the ESPN sports network in an effort to expand their media empire (especially for ESPN, the advertising revenue is almost like gold).  Al wanted continue to do Monday Night Football when Disney decided to move it from ABC over to the more revenue lucrative ESPN.  He signed a brand new contract with Disney to continue on with MNF.

Enter NBC and the NFL.  When the NFL wanted to expand their NFL coverage even more on Sundays now going well into the night, NBC happily volunteered and came up with the large the sum of money needed for the rights to broadcast what is now Sunday Night Football.  NBC also had a couple of aces up their sleeve with the signing another sports legend in coach John Madden to be the color analyst on their signature football game. They also had another old pro in Bob Costas to do the pregame, lead-in, and half time shows for SNF.  But NBC also wanted a world class play by play man and the man they wanted was Al Michaels even with his brand new Disney/ESPN contract. Even though the Monday Night Football was moving to ESPN, Al enjoyed his long standing relationship with Disney and ABC and now ESPN all now one and the same. But even Al began to have his doubts and began thinking about Sunday Night Football with John Madden and Bob Costas.  Talk about high profile.

So Al, through his people I'm sure, let Disney know he wanted out of his brand new contract with ESPN.  With a girth of sports personalities available to ESPN, Disney really didn't have an issue with Al leaving but with a contract, the question was "What can we get from NBC in exchange of Al Michaels?"  The answer of course was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who was property of NBC-Universal.  So in a world of football trades, and baseball trades, and basketball trades where athlete is exchanged for athelete, Al Michaels was traded for a cartoon rabbit who was long ago created by Walt Disney.

I heard Al Michaels on a radio interview a year or two after he started his Sunday Night Football gig bristle at the question about being essentially traded for a cartoon rabbit. I'm sure his ego is a large one.  He was quick to point out that there were other properties and considerations between Disney and NBC in brokering the deal that brought him to his new network but all that is conveniently forgotten.  It is much more fun to think about how a sports play by play guy got traded for an cartoon rabbit. The bizarre world of Hollywood.

Mickey St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day Commemorative Ears - A Disney Parks Blog Phot
I'm not Irish.  I'm pretty much Norwegian by heritage (insert Norwegian joke here). Anyway, I can't let St. Patrick's Day pass without giving a tip of the hat to all my Irish buddies. Which allows me to dust off my lone Irish joke I heard years ago from a disc jockey in San Francisco. "What's a 7 course Irish dinner? Answer - a six pack and a baked potato."

Corned beef and cabbiage for me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler today? Nah, I can't stand the stuff.  Boiled food - whose idea was that? As for the commemorative Mickey Mouse ears on sale in the park today?  Nice....looks like around 30 bucks.

A Moment of Silence for the Passing of ElecTRONica

ElecTRONica Dancer - A Disney Parks Blog Photo
I just read in Disney Parks Blog (link to story) that ElecTRONica will shut down the portal permanently April 15th.  Pardon me while I have a moment of silence for its passing followed by a short prayer of thanksgiving.  Good riddance to the tons of Audio/Video equipment that ruined a perfectly nice walk through the Backlots area.  Laseman - nice to see you....once....that was quite enough....and to the obnoxious emcee and all the DJs....don't let the exit gate hit you in the rear on your way out of the park. As for the neon cocktails -I'm sure we'll meet again.  There's no way something that should have had a 6 months lifespan - tops - made it close to a year and a half.  And lets hear no more nonsense talk of a permanent TRON attraction in Tomorrowland.  The movie was no John Carter in the bombing category but its success was marginal at best and nothing to hang your hat as an attraction for decades extending into the future. Good-bye ElecTRONica - you milked a pretty good ride even though I was done with you a year ago...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Latest DCA Promotional Video

A Look Down the Cars Land Main Drag - From Disney Parks Blog

Unlike their counterparts over at Walt Disney Studios, the Disney Parks people know a thing or two about marketing.  They even know how to wonderfully market something that needs very little marketing at all.  Take look at Disney's latest YouTube video promoting the relaunch of Disney California Adventure now officially dated as June 15, 2012.  Outstanding.

Here We Go Again - The D23 Expo - In 2013?

Here we go again.  Disney last week made a large press announcement for their D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center with dates August 9 - 11, 2013.  That's right - August 2013- book it.  Oh, and by the way, you can't even buy tickets for the Expo until August of this year. Now granted there are people who come from long distances to attend the Expo and this does require planning so the more time you can have in advance of the dates of the event, the more people can make actual plans.  But a year and a half?  Is there something else at work here?

The Disney D23 "exclusive" fan club started in March 2009.  D23 requires an annual membership.  For many, D23 hasn't exactly delivered the goods and may be sitting on the fence as to whether they want to renew.  Nothing like putting out a press release of the the organization's signature event to remind peole to renew membership (not once but probably twice) in preparation of something that is still along way off.  D23 Expo - Be there or be square...

The Marketing of John Carter - Cost Meets Failure

Like showing up for a NASCAR race and waiting for the big wreck, Disney's John Carter made its debut yesterday and is promptly ready to take it on the chin.  It's not that John Carter is a bad movie, it isn't, it's just that it's a movie that isn't good enough to go out of your way to see.  As they say, wait to see it on video when you can get it out of your local Redbox vending machine for a buck.  That's not what Disney wants to here when the estimated cost to make the movie was $250,000,000.  Disney is going to lose and lose big on this one.  It's a write-off

Why?  Like I said, it's a movie that isn't movie that mass audiences want to pay their hard earned money to see right now.  The movie could of sucked big time and still be a financial success had it been marketed better but the trailers and TV advertising consistently made this movie seem ridiculously silly and a movie that had all the makings of a movie that seemed like a dozen other movies that have already been made.  Disney fired their head of movie marketing last year.  Maybe the new one gets the axe now.  Disney fired Dick Cook, the man who green-lighted John Carter when he was head of Walt Disney Studios a few years ago.  Maybe the new guy, Richard Ross, has to go now.  Disney had to take a huge write off on Mars Needs Moms last year, well over $100,000,000.  It dropped the quarterly profits of the entire company.  John Carter is poised to be even a bigger financial albatross. 

This Tuesday, March 13, in Kansas City, CEO Bob Iger will address his shareholders in their annual meeting.  He will have some explaining to do about his movie business.  He will have to explain where John Carter missed the boat right on the heels of Mars Needs Moms and just before that was the incredibly poor performance of Prince of Persia:Sands of Time and the Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Though not necessarily failures, expensive movies like of Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and TRON 2 Legacy, were not exactly box office smashes. Over the last few years it's been Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Toy Story 3 that have been big money makers for Disney. Just not good enough for a company steeped in movie tradition.  No wonder everyone is looking to The Avengers this summer.  Disney Studios is in need of a super-hero.

As for John Carter.  It's time to move on.  Lesson learned.  Make a movie people actually might want to see and show some creativity and imagination when it actually comes time to market it.

Windows On Main St. & Remembering Robert Sherman

A week or so ago I was railing in a MousePlanet discussion board against Disneyland Annual Passholders mostly to be something of a contrarian and to push some buttons. Its all in good fun. What do I care that Disney has almost a million APers?  Good for them.  Anyway, one of my points about APers is a lot of them are good time Charlies heading to the park for the rides & attractions while ignoring the history, legacy, and detail of the park.  I made the statement that many of these APers probably probably don't even realize that the decorated windows on Main St (and a few other places) honor the men and women who played a significant role in the creating of the park and contributors to the magic of Disney.  Many of the people honored with windows were closely linked personally to Walt Disney himself.

Take two.  It may be sacrilege but I hated the movie Mary Poppins and I am old enough to remember seeing it in a theater as a child.  The lady flying around with an umbrella kind of gave me the creeps.  I loved the Dick Van Dyke Show growing up but couldn't stand Dick in Mary Poppins with maybe the worst cockney accent ever to grace a motion picture.  But you can't say the music of Mary Poppins wasn't memorable.  A week or so ago I wrote an entry in this blog about it's a small world (link).  I wrote about THAT SONG.  Love it or hate it, you can't say its something that isn't easily recognizable and will stay filed somewhere in your memory banks for your entire life.

Two men wrote the music for Mary Poppins, it's a small world, along with Disney music for countless rides, attractions, and movies.  They were Walt's favorite songwriters - Robert Sherman and his brother Richard Sherman.  Last week, Robert Sherman died in London after a long illness.  He was well in his 80's.  Richard on the other hand still shows up for major Disney events and continuous to be an ambassador for the history and legacy of Disney. Richard was present when Disney honored the songwriting brothers with a window on the facade of the little music store on Main St. and even sung one of his classic songs.  Today the Disneyland Traveler honors the contributions of the Sherman Brothers and tips his hat to the passing of Richard.  God bless.

Richard (left) and Robert Sherman - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Richard performs Feed the Birds at the Disneyland dedication ceremony for their window March 2010.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Aborted Trip To Walt Disney World

Back in the spring of 2010, with some good fortune and an influx of cash, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, the Boy, and me decided to take the plunge a book a trip to Walt Disney World.  Being that a trip to WDW requires a lot of planning, we decided to make the trip over the Christmas holidays some 8 months away from when we started to put this all together.

From reading WDW websites, I already had a lot of information but now it came down to making choices which is far different than planning.  Making a choice becomes a commitment and the one thing you don't want to do when making a trip to WDW, which is some 3000 miles from where we live, is make a wrong choice. A wrong choice is an expensive mistake.

It all starts off with where to stay.  Mrs. DLT and I can plan a weeks vacation to Disneyland at the drop of a hat.  WDW is a different beast with so many choices available beginning with your hotel.  I was good with one of the Port Orleans hotels but Mrs. DLT wanted to stay on the monorail line which limits the choices down to 3. The Contemporary? Too bland. The Polynesian? Too tropical especially at Christmas. So now we are down to the granddaddy of them all - the Grand Floridian.  A stay at the Grand Floridian over the Christmas holidays makes a stay at the Grand Californian seem like a Disney steal. When it came down to it, we were looking at over $900 a night. Going to sleep at  night I was breaking into cold sweats over the thought. It seems that when Mrs. DLT and I have to make a vote and the vote spits - she wins. Its easier that way. It took us a good two or three weeks to make a hotel decision.

Next up, reservations. I knew there were some restaurants that were "must-do's" on my list of things to do. To get a reservation at some of them (Le Cellier for example) you had to make a reservation 180 days in advance. Not 179 days - 180 exactly. And we wanted a Fantasmic dining package and we wanted to see the fireworks from one of the boats and we wanted to see the Candlelight Processional with a dining package and on and on... It got to be overwhelming. It got to be STRESSFULl. The fun was gone. This was work, hard work.

Mrs. DLT finally figured out we needed help and began the process of contacting travel agents. I highly, highly, recommend this to anyone who is a newbie at planning a trip to WDW. Travel agents in general aren't required so much anymore in the days of the internet. People are under the assumption that using a travel agent is expensive. It probably is - for Disney. Disney pays the travel agent fees based on the booking not the traveler. What you do find out however is travel agents like to feel people out to see how serious they are about booking a trip. They do not want to invest a lot of time on someone is kinda, sorta, thinking about making a trip. Mrs. DLT went through a couple of travel agents before she found one she was comfortable working with. We had an awful lot of questions and the agent we finally went with answered all our questions patiently before we committed to anything.

With the travel agent at work, we got all our reservations made as the Christmas season dates opened up. We had quite an agenda, one that would make any WDW Traveler jump for much anticipated joy. But as they say.... the best laid plans......

As a precursor to our WDW, Mrs. DLT and I went down to Disneyland in late September 2010 for a nice week's stay. Had a great trip as I recall (they usually are). But something happened immediately after we returned home. I had a blockage. Tried for weeks to treat with antibiotics and other medications but to no avail. It wouldn't clear and I was staring at surgery. 

On December 22, 2010 the very same day were to land in FLA for our WDW trip of a lifetime, I was on a operating table and a little South African urologist was working over my prostate. For various reasons, a trip to WDW is now off the table for Mrs. DLT and me. That trip we planned in 2010 was actually our third attempt to plan a trip to WDW in the years we have been married. Something has come up each time to derail our plans. 

Any you know what? I'm now good with not making a trip to WDW. The more you study about the place the more you realize that it has more in common with Disneyland than differences. Inside the parks, many of the rides and attractions are much the same just spread out over 4 parks instead of 2. True - WDW is much, much, bigger than the Disneyland Resort and has much more to offer in terms of places to stay and excellent dining but I'm just fine with Disneyland.

And by saving about $15000, bad prostate and all, I was able to sleep much better at night.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Closer Look At - it's a small world

When I write a story for this blog I often have to go a through multitude of digital photos to find one or two to accompany the story. Just a guess but I would suspect I have the most photos taken of the Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle followed by the front entrance and the train station. In third place for the number of photos in my collection would probably come from Disneyland's iconic it's a small world attraction. Why so many pictures? Easy, the Mary Blair facade is a work of art and a work of art that is made even more special when it lights up with its holiday overlay. In every way, from the outside looking in, it's a small world is a shining example of why Disneyland stands head and shoulders above every other theme park. But what about the inside, what about the ride itself? Line 'em up - most people either love it or hate it.

Awww...... why the hate? It all starts with THAT SONG. Walt blessed us with something that is no longer done in modern theme parks - build a ride that approaches 15 minutes long. 15 minutes and 1 song. One song, over, and over, and over again to the point of being mind-numbing. Granted, it gets changed up for Christmas and is much more appealing and festive but that's only for two months out of the year. And what else about iasw (for short)? Well, for most there just isn't a deep emotional attachment to the ride. It's a collection of dolls and cutouts inside of a series of rooms in a show building. In Pirates of the Caribbean, the park guest doesn't see anything but the scenes in front of your eyes. In small world you see the ceiling, the corners, the lighting, even wires if you look hard enough. Its almost like they took their level of detail for the attraction to a certain point and called it quits.

But on every trip to Disneyland Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I will get on small world at lease once and sometimes two or three times. Why? Tradition mostly and it doesn't hurt that there is generally a short line and a small wait to get on. It also helps that in the course of an exhausting Disneyland day you can get in a small world boat and get off your feet for awhile. If you don't let the song get to you, the ride can be quite relaxing with you feet saying 'thank you'. Not listening to the small world song, it's one of the reasons the iPod was invented.

Beer and Pepperspray In DCA

The story went viral on Disney forums and message boards a week or so back. An older gentleman, obviously intoxicated, had to be forcefully subdued over by the entrance to the Tower of Terror by Disney security and some park guests. Yes, they ended up pepperspraying him. And this being 2012, the whole ugly scene was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube. Of course there were the stories that it took too long for Disney security to respond, those that did didn't seemed to be adequately trained to handle the situation, and the fact that some park guests had to step in a give a hand. 

Of course this whole mess gave some Disney park fans the chance to vent against the selling of alcoholic beverages in Disney California Adventure, never mind the fact that chance for such a state of intoxication would most likely be caused by the person bring the alcohol in the park with him some way. Some park writers have said that this happens more often than people realize. I tend to believe that is true but here is my but....

In the last 10 years or so Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have spent probably 60 - 70 days at Disneyland and DCA. In those 10 years, I have yet to see anyone in a Disney park inebriated to the point of being a spectacle or a distraction to my visit. I went to a SF Giants baseball game last year and there were at least a dozen people in my immediate section that hopefully didn't have to get behind the wheel of a car to get home.

I think Disney and Disney security needs to be commended for keeping some of the unsavory sites caused by public drunkenness to really a minimum all things considered. There are some things that help out with this of course. The cost of excessive drinking at DCA is probably price prohibitive for most people's budget. There is a strong presence of Disney security and an in the back of your mind the feeling that everything and everyone is being watched to a certain extent. I remember a few years back a small group of rather loud youths making their way through DCA - 20 feet behind following them step for step was 4 Disney security cast members waiting for one wrong move. Good for them. Invasion of privacy? Screw that... their park, their rules, and just making it a nicer place for everyone.

For those that say alcohol sales should be removed completely from DCA, that ship has sailed and DCA is well tied in to alcohol sales with the park forever. There is never a shortage of people standing in line at the Karl Strauss beer wagon waiting to get 2 on a warm summer day. A nice glass of at wine with your lovely meal at Wine Country Trattoria? Absolutely even though the pouring is pretty small and a decent glass is at least 10 bucks. That new Carthay Circle Theater (which is actually a high end restaurant) will have not 1 but 2 cocktail lounges. A fruity cocktail at the Cover Lounge at sunset is really a nice to spend a little time. ElecTRONica has its End of the Line Bar serving up neon adult beverages at a huge markup and when ElecTRONica goes away in a few months, A Mad Tea Party will have a well thought up themed replacement for adult beverage consumption. The revenue stream here for Disney is lucrative. Somewhere there are accountants who will argue that "if Walt were alive today, he'd want alcohol sales in Disneyland". They won't win that argument but I'm sure they try. 

As for the DisneylandTraveler. On one of our first trips to see World of Color, on advice from a friend, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I put aside the fastpass and dining package options to see WOC from open area in front of the railing by Ariel's Grotto. To get a good spot, you have to get there a couple of hours early. Mrs. DLT is one of life's great waiters. Like a shark, she likes to keep moving. So I held the spot. Now Mrs. DLT also does not drink alcoholic beverages at all. She begrudgingly leaves that to me but on this night waiting for WOC she asked if she could go and get me something while she kept moving and I kept waiting. Sure "go over to the Karl Strauss beer wagon and bring me back a Red Trolley Ale". She didn't mind one bit and there is something nice about a long wait in DCA enjoying a beer to pass the time.

A Day In The Life....

Feb, 29, 2012. One More Disney Day. A Disney Parks Blog Photo
So there you have it. Leap Day - February 29. Disneyland celebrated the occasion that rolls around once every 4 years by staying open 24 hours from 6:00 am on the 29th until 6:00 am on March 1st. Brilliant idea as they say. But....  There's always a but with every brilliant idea.

Oh, the day started well park fans hitting the gates right at opening in high spirits and ready for a good time. And then the people came, and came, and came some more. So many people came that the gates had to be closed for a time due to capacity being reached. As the stories go, when night fell, some of SoCal's more unruly crowd started to hit the park. Belligerent party goers meeting up with some very tired Disney fans don't always mix. So there were enough scuffles breaking out to keep security busy.

And what else do all those people create? Lines. Long lines. Very long lines. Oh yeah...I think the 2 hour wait to ride Space Mountain or Indiana Jones was expected but how about a two hour wait to get into the Jolly Holly Bakery to get something to eat? What a about a 40 minute wait to get a cup of coffee from the Market House? MiceAge reported that Disneyland staffed the event for about 44,000 people to attend. The estimates of the number of people who actually showed up was somewhere between 65,000 and 100,000. As Mrs. DisneylandTraveler says - ooops and stuff.

So the park closed at 6:00 am to prepare for the regular opening a 10:00 am. A lot of people left the park at 6:00 am. A lot of people left the park at 6:00 am at the same time as a lot of Anaheim folks were hitting the streets and heading off to their real jobs. Anaheim gridlock. More ooops and stuff.

At the company I work for when we plan for something big and it doesn't go off quite as we planned the head honchos get together and hold a "post-mortem" where they can point fingers and figure out how not to let this mess happen again. They call it "lessons learned". I can see the Disneyland park planners getting together this past week after One More Disney Day commiserating on what worked and a lot of things that didn't work so well. I can can also see that somewhere in the middle of their head-scratching, soul-searching meeting an email gets sent over from the Accounting Dept congratulating them on a job well done. You see... all those people, all those lines, lines for park admission, lines for food, lines for merchandise all lead to a nice deposit for the Disney Day in the old bank account. Disney wins.

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