Monday, April 30, 2012

My Anniversary and Disneyland

It occurred to me when I woke up this morning that today is April 30th, my wedding anniversary. Yes, with everything going on around the old homestead, I almost forgot. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I were married 14 years ago. In Disney terms, we've made it to the park at least once, sometimes twice a year almost every year we have been married. I think there was even one year where we made it three times. So we've been to Disneyland probably between 15 - 18 times over the years we've been together and since most of our trips are around 5 or 6 days, well, that's a lot of walking around our favorite place to go together.

But the fun we have had. We're not in for the thrills so much anymore. A "grand-circle" tour on the train suits us just fine, even though Mrs. DLT thinks the Grand Canyon/Primeval World Diorama is rather "old". We love a ride on the Mark Twain especially on a warm day where the gentle breeze against your face is much appreciated. We love Pirates of the Caribbean, it's my favorite ride while Mrs. DLT says the beast next door that is Indiana Jones Adventure is hers. Before we go on Indy or pull a fast pass from the machine I'll tell her that it's hard on my back, she'll tell me to suck it up because we're going.

Over the years we've gotten a bit competitive so we always make Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters one of our first stops. I have yet to beat her. The competition has carried over to Toy Story Mania in California Adventure but the results are the same. But I'll keep trying to beat her God willing. 

We always go to the Enchanted Tiki Room. I maintain it's one of the special places that connects me to the Disneyland of my youth where I sat with my parents watching singing birds but maybe it is just a nice place for us to eat pineapple ice cream. She gets the whip. I get the float.

I can't tell you how many times we have made journeys to the "backside-of-water", taken rides with ghosts, floated along looking at dolls listening "that song", or watched Billy Hill stick in those teeth. A trip around on the monorail is considered mandatory. Every few trips or so we cruise through the rides of Fantasyland remembering what it was like to be a kid again.

It took awhile but I finally got Mrs. DLT on the Tower of Terror but I think she has officially "retired" from taking another plunge. Without her, I may have too. It's just not one of those things that people tend to go on by themselves. What's the fun of fear when there is no one to share it with?

We've come to learn that Christmastime is our favorite time of the year at Disneyland though anytime of the year suits us just fine. The bar on Disneyland's magic just gets raised to a higher level during the Christmas holidays.

The Carnation Cafe has become our favorite place for a sit-down table service meal. We enjoy talking to Chef Oscar while devouring the scrumptious loaded baked potato soup before our entree. We go still go to Blue Bayou every so often, enough times to make our meals in there special, but not enough time that allows us to take the intimate setting for granted.

We enjoy getting a cup of coffee from the Market House in the morning, then make our plan of attack. Sometimes the plan works to perfection, often times it does not. Of course we have had our share of arguments and disagreements at "The Happiest Place on Earth". This is usually a result of getting too tired or too hot. It also happens when you are not willing to compromise on hidden agendas.

I've come to accept that Mrs. DLT is a shopper. Me? Not so much. I am well acquainted with every bench outside nearest the major shopping establishments. I don't mind at all.

We've pampered ourselves with stays at the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel but in the end our favorite place to stay may just be The Candy Cane Inn.

Yes, there are so many memories, wonderful memories, enough that I can continue to write this blog for years. But at the same time, we are both in our 50's now and it makes you wonder how many trips to we have left in us. How many trips do we have that we can still pretty much enjoy all the park has to offer? We have been fortunate and blessed many times over in our trips and one can only hope that it will continue well into the future.

Happy Anniversary Sweetheart

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Countdown To The Avengers Opening

Let's see. Today is Sunday. The Avengers opens on Friday. I think that means we're down to 5 days for the eagerly anticipated return of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk and a few others. I'm spending my weekend doing homework by catching up on The Avengers prequels. I've already made it through Iron Man 1 and Thor with Iron Man 2 and Captain America still to go. I need to track down a copy of the Incredible Hulk but that movie isn't as readily available since The Avengers went a different direction and brought in a new actor to play Bruce Banner (sorry, unlike the old days, I think the big green fighting machine is probably computer generated). Maybe the last remaining Blockbuster by my house has a copy.

Whether its Marvel's idea or Disney's idea, some bright people thought some momentum could be generated by opening the picture overseas. This past weekend, The Avengers has racked up $178.4 dollars in foreign ticket sales. Add the $100 million plus that corporate partners have already put into their product placements in the movie and you can see why this promises to be a box office monster. How much will it make? Hard to tell but it all starts with how good the movie actually is. If it delivers then figures in the upwards of $600 million dollar range would not be out of the question. If the movie is great, plan on a billion.

I have no plans to see The Avengers next weekend but will study the film from a distance reading the reviews and the financial write-ups that will go along with the movie. I have no desire to see a movie theater that is packed wall to wall with people. I'll give it a few days, maybe a week then head to a theater. It's always easier for me to enjoy a movie when I can actually breathe.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Do We Really Need a Mr. Toad Movie?

Disney is dead on determined to movies based on their classic theme park attractions hoping to catch lightning in a bottle like they did with their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which has made over two billion dollars for the company. So in the works are movies based on The Haunted Mansion and The Jungle Cruise.  Yep, they made a Haunted Mansion movie before with Eddie Murphy in the lead but I guess they are promising to do it right this time. Anyway, reported last week that Disney is in the initial stages of putting together a movie based on the Disneyland legacy attraction dating back to 1955 - Mr. Toad's Wild Ride which in itself was a part of another Disney movie (and book) The Wind in the Willows. Are you kidding me? Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Now this ride does have its legions of fans, fans to the point that when they removed the Walt Disney World version of the ride they organized formal protests, but really, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride a movie? The ride isn't even 2 minutes long.

It's a ride that is based on everything that is counter to automobile safety. So you get to crash your motorcar through Toad Hall, run amok in the countryside terrorizing a farmer and his sheep, piss off the cops, run through a warehouse full of dynamite down at the docks, stop off to have a few beers along the way from your friendly neighborhood pub, and finally get sentenced for the mayhem you have caused by a nice warm trip to.... hell, that's right, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride ends in hell. Great family entertainment, should make a wonderful kids movie. The only saving grace in all this is the ride is so short with so much going on so fast that most people don't even know what the "hell", excuse the expression, just went on.

Pretty tough to video a dark ride, especially a dark ride as dark as Mr. Toad but Disneyland videographer asianjma123 posted this video recently to YouTube. Enjoy a trip on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Get back to me later on why this is a classic (and movie worthy material).

The Cars Land Picture Is Getting Clearer

Cars Land Entrance to Radiator Springs Racers - A Disney Parks Blog Photo
It's been a long time coming but Disneyland Resort is finally publishing photos of Cars Land without the intrusion of construction workers, dirt, and cement mixers.  The work is nearing completion and the photos have every Disney fan salivating for a chance to visit the place first hand.  

Most of these photographs are the work of Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort's chief photographer.  I don't know Paul but I did see him once over by the the ToonTown railroad station with camera in hand.  Do you think Paul wakes up every morning, drops to his knees, and thanks the Lord that he may have the greatest job in the world?  Chief photographer for Disneyland - not one of the photographers that stand in front of the castle to snap pictures for purchase, but a photographer who takes pictures for press releases, promotional information, and things of that nature.  What a great job. Anyway, Paul Hiffmeyer posts some of his pictures to Disney Parks Blog every so often. Here a few of his latest photos of Cars Land

A look down Cars Land main drag at night - A Disney Parks Blog photo
Radiator Springs Racers at night - A Disney Parks Blog photo
Radiator Springs Mountain Range - A Disney Parks Blog photo

Entrance to Luigi's Flying Tires - A Disney Parks Blog photo
Another look at the Radiator Springs track - A Disney Parks Blog phot

The Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe - What???

Model of the FF&P Cafe from the L.A. Times
I've never eaten at the new Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe located on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure park so this isn't a restaurant review.  No one has eaten at the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe because the place is still about 7 weeks or so from its grand opening.  But the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe made Disneyland Resort news this past week because this quick service dining establishment will serve as DCA's home for Starbucks - the coffee giant.  I've already posted about Starbucks, I'm all for it because they whip up some fine products.  My point in this post is what genius came up with the name Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe?

I didn't have a clue what or who Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical was about but I new it had to do something to do with Walt Disney.  Thanks to the good people at Google, I could slap the words Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical into their search engine and immediately get an answer.  FF&P (for short because typing Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical just simply is too much work) are the names of the 3 Little Pigs.  Who new?  I didn't or at least long forgot.  And who new Walt Disney made a Silly Symphony cartoon of The 3 Little Pigs back in the early 1930's?  Come on, let's be honest.  I've never associated Disney with The 3 Little Pigs but I also have to admit I never tried either.

Now, no one is going to say to their Disneyland traveling party "let's meet at the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe to get something too eat".  Takes too much effort.  Since there is a Starbucks kiosk in there my first inclination is to say "let's meet at Starbucks". I'm just lazy that way.  Al Lutz in his MiceAge column posted what the Disneyland insiders call the place - The Pig Cafe.  Nice and short but really not very nice though I'm sure they are going to serve something with bacon on it for a quick breakfast (like most Starbucks).  Maybe I will call it FF&P but even that doesn't roll off the tongue.  Since most people really are generally lazy when it comes to naming things, some forum poster suggested calling it Fiddlers for short ignoring the 2 other pigs.  I tend to think that's what will happen.  "I'll meet you at Fiddlers for a Starbucks".

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Majestic Horses of Disneyland's Main St.

Take One:  Many years ago, I used to carpool with someone who kept a horse on a rural piece of property a few minutes off our carpool route.  A few times she asked me if I would mind if we could stop on the way home to see the horse who was getting up in years and actually no longer rideable.  Now I'm an inner city kid who moved to suburbs as a teenager.  Horses were kind of foreign to me.  I really hadn't seen very many up close and personal.  Man that horse was big but it was also quite friendly and loved visitors. But it was the eyes, those big soulful eyes that had my heart melting.  So hard to describe, I'll never forget it.

Take Two:  Again many years ago, the Rolling Stones, Mick and Keith, wrote a song called Beast of Burden.  Of course, the song was written about people in a relationship of sorts but its one of those songs that just kind of sticks in your head and surfaces every once in awhile.

Take Three:  Arriving at Disneyland first thing in the morning right after opening, you can see the cast member attendant and driver of the horse drawn streetcars that parade up and down Main Street pull one of the majestic horses out from behind a gate by the firehouse to begin the morning's service.  What a beautiful animal.  As an adult, I kind of made a vow to myself that I wasn't going to let one of these glorious creatures drag my sorry behind around Disneyland.  That horse was not going to be my "beast of burden".

Someone I work with now is a horse person.  She owns 7 of them and rides competitively in endurance events.  We don't specifically talk about horses because, even now, it is subject that I'm not really familiar with but over the last few years I've gained enough information from her to know that horses really kinda of like having something to do.  They can get bored.  So the horses that go up and down Main St. might actually like it.  

I actually think the Disneyland horses (I don't know the breed, sorry) have a pretty good life.  Main St. vehicles (all of 'em) only run up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  They are done when people start getting lined up to watch the afternoon parade.  And if you watch closely, the horses get rotated fairly regularly so its not the same horse doing the streetcar pulling for hours on end.  They get to go back to their comfy home at Disneyland's Circle D Ranch, a first rate animal facility just outside the park where I am sure they are well, well taken care of.  One day I was partaking in one of my favorite Disneyland pastimes - a cruise around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain.  I know the recorded schpiel by heart.  So I glanced over at the Indian village and almost shockingly I saw a horse doing a little running in pen tucked up behind the village.  It took me by surprise at first, was it an advanced animatronic?  No, it was just one of the Main St. horses out having a nice time for himself.

I'm still not going to get in a Main St. horse drawn streetcar.  No, I'm sticking with my conviction of not letting that animal drag my rear end up Main St.  He's not going to be a beast of burden to me but the reality of it is - he's probably got a pretty good life with a lot less stress, worries, and fears than my own


Coming To Disney Parks - Yes, Starbucks!

Within a mile in each direction of where I write this in my home, there are at least a half dozen Starbuck's Coffee places.  They're everywhere though in recent years with families struggling to pay grocery bills one of the Starbuck's coffee stops in my area did close. Unfortunately, it was the one closest to my house and located inside a supermarket.  So much for convenience, picking up a loaf of bread and a latte.

For years there have been rumors about a Starbucks going into Disneyland, possibly taking over our beloved Market House coffee stop.  The deal was never brought to fruition with the rumor that Starbuck's really has a pretty demanding training program for the people that serve up their beverages.  If there is was going a Starbucks in Disneyland, the baristas had to go either through a Startbucks training program or if Disney was going to provide the training, it had to be up to Starbucks high standards. Disney doesn't liked to be pushed around and told what to do so no deal - until today. Differences apparently have been resolved.

For a few weeks now, Disneyland websites have reported on the rumor that there would be a Starbuck's Coffee station in the revamped Disney California Adventure located in the new Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe (yeah, the name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue) on Buena Vista Street.  Like most of the best Disneyland Resort rumors, it came from MiceAge's Al Lutz whose track record on things coming true is pretty darn good.  Al went on his reporting that Disney CEO Bob Iger himself requested (well, probably more insisted) that a large tree in front of the new cafe be moved so the Starbuck's logo could be seen more prominently.  So yes, we new a Starbucks was coming to DCA but what Disney announced this morning went far, far, beyond that.  Not only is there going to be a Starbucks in DCA but also in Disneyland as well and for the heck of it, why not stick a Starbucks in the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks.  Oh yes, the iced mocha's will be flowing and the cash registers ringing.

Now I like Starbucks.  I like a Starbucks mocha or latte hot or served over ice.  Starbucks produces a fine product.  But regular readers of this blog know that I have a certain fondness for starting my Disney day with a good old fashioned cup of coffee from the Market House.  This is old school stuff, this is tradition.  I don't know where the Starbucks is going to be located in Disneyland, in the Market House? The Jolly Holiday Bakery?  Somewhere new?  All I know that if it isn't in the Market House my simple start to a Disneyland day may have to begin with a tough decision.  Crap.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Pause to Remember Levon Helm

I promise not to stop the endless Disney babble that comes out of this blog very often but every once in awhile, I need to pause and remember something/someone that isn't about Disney.  A few days ago legendary drummer and principal vocalist for The Band passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Though 4 of the members of The Band were from Canada, Levon Helm was from Arkansas and his scratchy voice with a southern twang can only be described as uniquely American. No one was able to present a sense of place and beat down emotion through the sound of a voice above the music like Levon Helm.

I actually can make a Disneyland connection if I do make a bit of a stretch.  As readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of Great Moments of Mr. Lincoln.  Before the appearance of the great president himself there is a stirring pre-show highlighting the countryman vs. countryman, brother vs. brother tragedy that was a huge part of the Civil War.  If the pre-show takes a slightly pro Union bias  the counter to that would be Levon singing The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down.  That song is never far from my mind after a viewing of Lincoln.

As I wander up Main St. on one of those rare quiet mornings in Disneyland, grabbing a cup of coffee  at the Market House, I may head over to a nearby bench to grab a seat to enjoy the morning.  If I had already been at Disneyland for a few days, the bench is a welcome site to take a load off for awhile.  A load off?  Not far from memory I'll hear Levon's voice wearily singing The Weight (below).

The people I grew up watching, listening to are dying off.  Dick Clark died this past week.  Most people think of him as the guy who brought in New Years Eve on TV.  I remember when he was a game show host and before that, bringing music into the homes of American teenagers through his American Bandstand.  What does it all mean? Life grows shorter each day, for some of us, its a little bit shorter than the rest.

Rest in Peace Levon Helm and thanks.

Goofy and The Art of Vacationing

Some think he is slow, dim-witted, well, goofy but indeed Goofy is my favorite of the Disney Fab Five (for the uninitiated that's Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto).  He works, he struggles, he fails, but always seems to keep a pretty good attitude, a quality we can all benefit from.  A little while back the Disney Parks YouTube channel posted a video of our friend Goofy making the most of his Disneyland vacation.  Needless to a our slow, dim-witted, well, goofy friend seems to be doing a lot better than I am these days. Enjoy The Art of Vacationing.

Missing Out on Expedition Everest

I wrote a post to this blog last month called My Aborted Trip to Walt Disney World (link is here) that basically ends with my being good when surgery ended my 8 month journey planning a trip to Walt Disney World.  In 2012, other than its massive size and scale along with a true resort experience, WDW and Disneyland have more similarities than differences these days.  But you know what, I think the one thing I regret most about not making that trip, other than staying at the Grand Floridian and enjoying far more adventurous dining options, I miss not being able to go on Expedition Everest.  I think a ride on this thing was tops on my to-do lists for the parks even though I know Mrs. DisneylandTraveler would not go near it.

This may be Disney's most impressive ride attraction built over the last 10 years or so only to be outdone (probably) by the firing up of the new Radiator Springs Racers in about 2 months.  Yes, Expedition Everest is a manufactured roller coaster, and even though it does have the novelty of going backwards for a short segment Indiana Jones Adventure had that feature first, and yes, it is a variation of Disneyland's venerable Matterhorn, Expedition Everest looks spectacular and by all accounts provides thrills for its passenger.  There have been the oft mentioned complaints about the Yeti features inside the ride not working for years on end but all of that didn't matter to me, I really wanted to go EE to experience the attraction first hand.  I don't know if I will ever get the chance.  I'm good with not having made to WDW in 2010 but there is the lingering doubt on missing out with Expedition Everest.

Enjoy a ride on Expedition Everest courtesy of TheCoasterViews on YouTube.

More on John Carter and Rich Ross's Demise

Has the final word been spoken on John Carter after Rich Ross exited as Chairman of Walt Disney Studios yesterday?  Not quite but we are probably getting closer.  Bob Iger will still have to spell out the financial details of the Carter losses in his quarterly report and there is the release to video which will most likely be done quietly.  Disney needs to distance itself from John Carter.  It has already admitted mistakes in the cost for the movie and Ross's removal is the biggest change made to date to correct the mistake and appease the investor community. 

There has been some buzz on the Disney discussion boards and forums about Ross and invariably they point back to John Carter's failure but there is more to the story.  John Carter was already in production when Ross came aboard as Disney Studios Chairman two and a half years ago.  He wasn't the one who made the decision to make the movie but he was the one who watched the cost of the production soar to the point where it may be the most expensive movie ever made (it's in the Avatar ballpark) and Ross was the one who didn't know what to do to market the movie once he had it.  My take is that the movie was marginally marketable to begin with and simply had to be spectacular on the big screen to gain any kind of box office momentum.  It wasn't spectacular, just a pretty good entertaining movie with flaws though there are those who outright hated it.  A movie that cost a quarter of a billion dollars needed to something more, something better and it just wasn't.  Carter came almost exactly a year after another huge expensive flop - Mars Needs Moms again, a movie that was already in production before Ross came aboard but failed under his watch.

Give Ross some credit though.  He did pull the plug on Robert Zemeckis Disney deal after the Moms flop.  The agreement had already been made but he did enter into the partnership for Disney's Touchstone Pictures to distribute the live action Dreamworks films which to this point has been marginally successful with Real Steel and War Horse but had a huge hit with The Help.  And Ross may have been the person behind the bringing of Chinese investment into the large scale Disney produced films that begins with Iron Man 3 when it starts filming later this year.  And Ross was also the person who stopped pre-production of The Lone Ranger when the projected costs began to run into the John Carter sphere.  Only when cuts were made by the Bruckheimer gang was the move put back on Disney's schedule.

Still, there were those failures, huge failures, and a price had to be paid.  There is also the back story that what is in the Disney Studios pipeline for the future is not very strong.  Iger (probably with the advice of John Lasseter) knew something had to be done to get the company's oldest foundational entity (film production) back on the right track.  Movies are not the biggest source of Disney's profits anymore.  Far from it.  But they are very important as movies tie into the theme park promotions and attractions along with the huge money made in merchandising.  Disney studios needs to at least match the success of its Pixar and Marvel subsidiaries.

As I've said it a few times elsewhere, the story of John Carter is more interesting than the movie itself.  It would make a terrific book and would even translate into a pretty good move, a kind of Moneyball in reverse where excess spending leads to the downfall of some high ranking people or used to be anyway.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stealing Cars Land's Thunder - Transformers 3D

While all of us anxiously await the grand reopening of Disney California Adventure v2.0 with its highly anticipated Radiator Springs Racers, the good folks up the road at Universal Studios Hollywood may have stolen a bit of Disney's thunder by giving previews of its new and highly anticipated Transformers The Ride 3D.  Some press previews were given yesterday with soft openings occuring throughout the next month ahead of its May 25 grand opening and the reports are the attraction is nothing short of spectacular on every level, imagination, thrills, detail, and everything else.  It is jaw-dropping according to everyone who has had the opportunity to experience it.  While Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and everything else will be classic Disney though and through, and Radiator Springs Racers will be a great ride experience, Universal it appears has delivered something that Disney hasn't given us for years - a bad-ass ride that is part 3D motion simulator and part dark ride.

The great videographer asianjma123 took a ride on Transformers 3D and while the effects cannot be truly appreciated, his video walk through the attraction does give a great glimpse of how stunning this ride is.  Enjoy.

Walt Disney Studios Chief Rich Ross - Whacked

Well, who out there didn't see this coming?  Disney announced today that its Walt Disney Studios Chief Rich Ross is stepping down effective immediately.  Rich believed he was no longer the "correct fit" for the job he wrote in a statement announcing his resignation.  More likely Disney CEO Bob Iger and Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo told ol' Rich that he really didn't "fit" in with their plans after he was the main guy responsible for the debacle now known as John Carter.  You might even throw in John Lasseter in the mix as a co-conspirator in Ross's ousting.

Something had to be done.  Someone had to fall.  Bob and Jay will hold a conference call in a few weeks that will spill out Disney's huge loss on Carter.  Investors don't take big losses lightly.  They want answers.  They want solutions.  That ususally starts with the main guy in charge of the problem getting whacked at the knees and drug to the door.  So ends the career of Rich Ross at Disney.  Bob wished Rich well in his future endeavors (which is probably true as long as his future endeavors take him far, far, away from Disney).

The way studio chiefs have fallen at Disney the last few years, its not hard to imagine Bob Iger as a Darth Vader clutching the throat of his current guy while making a bunch of nervous executives tugging at their collars wet themselves wondering if they are going to get that tap on the shoulder that may make them the next victim.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's New in Disney News - Vol 4

A couple of things of note from Disney Parks Blog this past week.   It has been confirmed that June 15 will mark the resumption of the Pixar Play Parade at Disney California Adventure.  I gotta tell you that June 15 is shaping up to be one very memorable day in Disney parks history.  Almost makes me wish that somehow, Disney finds a way to broadcast the events around DCA's grand re-opening (like Walt did when Disneyland first opened).  Maybe with the internet, they will.  I could guarantee that they would have an audience.  Anyway, the parade has been on hiatus for quite awhile because of various DCA construction projects blocking the parade route.  Speaking of parade routes, DCA may now have the longest parade route of any theme park anywhere as the new route runs all the way from the Hollywood Tower of Terror to Silly Symphony Swings.  It would probably take me 20 minutes to walk that far myself.... Anyway, as I've said before, the Pixar Play Parade is a good one for young and old.  It's, as they say, "a crowd pleaser" with classic Pixar characters and a catchy musical soundtrack that I still get stuck in my head from time to time.  Some modifications have needed to be made on a couple of the floats to reduce their height.  The phony street car cables for the Red Car Trolley got in the way. 

It has also been announced that on April 30, the Plaza Gardens will be closed down to make way for the new Princess meet and greet.  The Plaza Gardens stage played host to big band performances from a bygone era from the likes of Count Bassie and Benny Goodman.  A lot of history went on in there.  Today, there are weekly swing dances and organized events for schools and groups but basically, the area is very much under-utilized. Disneyland real estate is valuable so something really had to done with the space.  The stage will remain with new Princess Fantasy Faire constructed around it. The plan is to use the space for the elaborate meet and greet during the day while allowing organized events and dancing to return at night.  We shall see.

Also announced this week is that June 14 will be the last day for Ariel's Grotto to offer World of Color Dinner Dining Packages.  The restaurant is currently used for Princess character dining for breakfast and lunch with the WOC dining packages for dinner. Apparently, the demand for princesses has now exceeded the demand for premium WOC dining which is kind of too bad.  On our trips to DCA, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have laid down the big buck for WOC dining packages including a very nice dinner at Ariel's Grotto (after several bad experiences there in the pre-WOC days).  We will pay for dining packages from time to time.  We just don't pay equally high dollars for character meals unless it to celebrate an occasion with a family member.  Right now, I no longer see us making it to back to Ariel's Grotto, at least not in the foreseeable future.  Now the new and improved Cove Bar upstairs and adjacent to Ariel's Grotto, that's a different story.  Some final memories of our dining experience at AG.

Appetizer Tower

Cioppino (my entree)

Tri-Tip with Mash for Mrs. DLT

Dessert Sampler

Iron Man 3 Goes (Far) East

Iron Man 3 is set to begin filming later this year.  Today, Disney announced that they have brought in DMG Entertainment to co-produce the latest episode in the Iron Man franchise.  Disney has also announced that there will be Chinese elements to the casting and story line of the movie.  Why?  Because DMG Entertainment is a Chinese film company.  Not one to overlook a growing market that has barely been tapped, Disney (along with other movie studios and production companies) has set its sights on the potential of a huge new population of ticket buyers that live in China and other countries in the Far East.  While the American movie box receipts have dropped the last two years, China's has significantly increased and Disney like any smart business company wants a piece of the action.  No word on whether Iron Man 3 will actually shoot scenes in China but don't be surprised to see the human weapon of mass destruction fly through the skylines of Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong.

The construction of Shanghai Disneyland was announced 2 years ago.  Disney's partnership with that vast and now quite wealthy country continues to grow.  Robert Downey Jr., Gwyenth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle are all returning for the third installment.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Avengers - Preparing Myself To Be Avenged

So The Avengers had its Hollywood premiere a few days ago at the Disney owned El Capitan Theater.  The entire cast showed up for the red carpet treatment.  You can see a lot of the cast interviews and such on Marvel's YouTube page if that kind of thing interests you.  Seeing celebrities being gawked at while patting themselves on the back is not my thing really.

What I did see on YouTube this morning was the entire library of official Avengers videos from Marvel. I've seen bits and pieces over the last few months but Marvel has posted all 16 official Avengers videos that play one right after another.  Some are pretty short so you can see them all in about 15 minutes.  Go to the link by clicking HERE

Here are some random thoughts as I prepare for The Avengers which opens May 4th. Other than Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Samuel L. Jackson who isn't one of the superheros at all as Nick Fury, most of these actors who portray superheros are pretty small in size.  Ah, the wonders of the movies which years ago took a 5'7" Sylvester Stallone and turned him into a heavyweight boxer named Rocky.

I watched the first Iron Man last week including the DVD bonus.  In an interview Robert Downey Jr. said he believed he had a 5 -7 year run as Iron Man with him being 41 at the time the original Iron Man was made.  Seeing him interviewed on the red carpet at The Avengers premiere, he really looked like someone in their mid to late 40's.  He is signed on to do Iron Man 3 but you have to wonder beyond on that.  Will he just be too old for the part?  He said that after his 5 - 7 year run, his appearance may depend on advanced CGI technology.  So much for aging gracefully as an actor.

I wrote somewhere that it was hard for me to imagine a "sensitive" type actor like Mark Ruffalo portraying the big green fighting machine known as The Hulk.  Of course, I need to remember that Ruffalo plays Dr. Bruce Banner and that the Hulk is all computer graphics.  The Hulk was on TV many years ago and Bruce Banner was played by the late Bill Bixby - someone who embodied the word 'sensitive" in his acting.  Prior to The Hulk, Bixby's previous TV roles were in The Courtship of Eddie's Father and My Favorite Martian.  For TV's Hulk, Bixby needed the muscle bound body builder Lou Ferrigno to turn into the green monster with torn purple pants.

Even after seeing all the trailers and clips this morning, I can't say I was blown away but what I saw from The Avengers.  I believe it will deliver what it promises - rousing entertainment wrapped in special effects.  So why is an old guy like me excited to see The Avengers?  Though I wasn't a huge comic book fan as a kid, I probably went through a year or two where I religiously read about the adventures of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk (also Spiderman and The Fantasitic Four but those are different Marvel properties not accounted for in The Avengers).  I knew the characters well, their heroics as well as their frailties, so the Marvel characters are a chance for me to revisit my youth as advancing years catch me from behind.  As a kid, you can imagine growing up , becoming a superhero, and saving the world.  As an adult you learn that the greatest villain of all that cannot be defeated by anyone is Father Time.  We all need superheros even if they come off pages of comic books or computer special effects.  We all need a chance to be young again. 

End of Line Club

I posted the following to MousePlanet Forum a little while ago.  It bears repeating here I suppose.  ElecTRONica is over, my life can now move on.


OK... I may be in the minority, or maybe the majority (but in the end my vote doesn't count) but tonight brings a merciful end to ElecTRONica, a spectacle that should have had a shelf life of 6 months tops but somehow managed to live close to a year and a half. I guess there are some dance-off finals going on but in my world, I'm just doing a quiet happy dance because the production is being shown the exit door, don't let it hit you in the rear on the way out. Imagine, no more tweets from Disney to my cell phone announcing who tonight's DJ is going to be. I can't hit the DELETE button fast enough for these.

And so ElecTRONica is gone only to be replaced by something that seems to be even more savagely attacked by bloggers and forum posters - this Mad T Party, which only saving grace may be that it promises to be less obtrusive and occupy a smaller footprint in the new Hollywood Land than its predecessor. Disney missed the boat. This would have been the perfect time to bring in an Avengers audio-visual spectacle with the anticipated blockbuster hitting the movie screens in a few weeks. Kids would have ate it up as would their parents unless they are part of the "KEEP MARVEL OUT" contingent. Then again, with all thats going on with DCA this summer, did Disney really need to bring in something that would have brought even more people into a park that may present opportunities for grid-lock?

Sort of an Homage to the Humble Churro

Ah yes, the humble churro, a legend in its own time, possibly Disneyland's favorite snack food sold from churro carts which sometimes seem to be every 20 feet from one to the next.  Its a strange simple concoction, the Mexican equivalent of an American donut.  A churro is basically fried dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. 

Whenever the topic of Disneyland food comes up in a forum or discussion board, people will begin to sing the praises of getting a churro and enjoying its sweet goodness while strolling around the park.  Unlike other food items, the churro is good walking around food. You will have to stop to buy one but you don't have to stop to eat one. Its food subsistence that doesn't drag your Disney day to a grinding stop. 

I enjoy a good churro from time to time in my journeys around Disneyland.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I usually split one.  Its a nice compromise when you just want a little something sweet.  I like a churro but I'm not in love with a churro as many seem to be. You see, I used the qualifier earlier of "a good" churro.  When the churro is fresh and warm it can be delectable goodness, a little crunchy on the outside, nice and chewy on the inside.  But these things can from fresh and warm to stale and hard at the drop of a hat.  Once they are ready to go, the churro is immediately on the clock as far as its shelf life goes.  A churro that has reached its point where it crosses over into the realm of passed its prime can, as they say, "poke your eye out with that thing".

There is the old episode of The Simpsons where Homer jumps the fence, by all appearances, of Disney World to save the price of admission. In his joy of beating the high cost of a Disney parks admission you can hear Homer holler out "Woo-Hoo!!!" then from the other side of the fence you hear Homer walking up to a churro cart vendor and say "One churro, please" to which the vendor replies, "That'll be fourteen dollars" to which Homer invariably exclaims "D'oh!".  So much for beating Disney prices.  Now a churro does not cost fourteen dollars.  It will set you back 3 bucks and some change last I looked.  Is it worth it? All things considered it probably is but is it worth its status as a great Disneyland food?  Not even close.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Changing the Landscape - Removing Stuff from DCA

The X-1 in front of Taste Pilot's Grill - it has now been removed

As Buena Vista Street motors toward its June completion, the decision was made to remove a couple very large decorative pieces that have been in place since Disney California Adventure opened. The first item of note that was removed last week was the replica X-1 plane that came blasting out of the front of Taste Pilot's Grill over by Soarin' Over California.  It appears the rather large plane was rather an eyesore to the Buena Vista St. site lines so John Lasseter himself wanted it removed. I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I rather liked looking up seeing the X-1 and if you don't know its history, it is a replica of the jet plane that Chuck Yeager flew that first broke the sound barrier.  If you have an extra 3 hours, go rent the great movie The Right Stuff and see the X-1 in action.  Sorry to see it go but they could be right about the site lines.  A plane from the early 1950s in view from an area to was built to recreate Hollywood of the 20's and 30's - probably not cool.

The other two items of note removed were the two large elephants that sat on pedestools at the entrance to Hollywood Pictures Backlots (now known as Hollywood Land).  Been looking at these things for years.  Good riddance.  They were actually kind of silly looking.  I'm sure there is a story of what they were supposed to represent but I don't care enough to want to go find out why they were there in the first place.

Disneyland Dining - Cafe Orleans

Walt himself enjoying a cup of coffee at the Cafe Orleans - A Disney Parks Blog Photo
Its surprising that when I talk about Disneyland's Cafe Orleans I often get the response "I've heard of it and know where it is but I just haven't bothered to go in there yet". Yes, the Cafe Orleans is the New Orleans Square table service restaurant people kind of conveniently forget about as they make their plans to go to the neighboring Blue Bayou. Often times, when the Blue Bayou is booked up for the day, a trip over to the Cafe Orleans will allow you to get a table in a relatively short amount of time as a walk-up guest (though, as with all Disneyland table service restaurants, its always a good idea to call ahead for dining time).

I've had some people tell me that the didn't even know where the Cafe Orleans was. Really?  While the entrance (which has recently been moved) may be small, unassuming, and a bit out of the way, the restaurant itself  has quite a presence with the dozens of tables and chairs that sit on an outside dining patio with a wonderful view overlooking the Rivers of America from New Orleans Square.  (Oh, that place.....) The Cafe Orleans also has an inside dining section but from a quick view, the larger dining section is what you see outside.

For Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I, it took many trips before we actually made it into the Cafe Orleans.  If we were going to splurge on table service dining in New Orleans Square, it was the Blue Bayou or nothing.  That and the fact, the cajun inspired menu of the Cafe Orleans didn't really match Mrs DLT's sometimes rather bland palette.  Then one day a few years ago, we just decided we wanted to eat lunch at the Blue Bayou.  This was one of those times we didn't call ahead and so we were politely told the restaurant was booked up for the day.  Darn it!  And then we made the choice, let's just go try the Cafe Orleans.  We were seated in about 30 minutes, maybe less.  I waited while Mrs. DLT marched her way through the New Orleans Square shopping establishments.

Old entrance to Cafe Orleans across from the Blue Bayou
Once we were seated, we were greeted with one of Disneyland's best food offerings. We ordered Pommes Frites as our appetizer.  You can call them Pommes Frites if you want but for us Americans, these are garlic fries and for me anyway, they may be the best I ever had which is saying something for Disneyland food.  Served nice and hot, the fries are liberally coated with a delicious mixture of garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and a little olive oil.  They are also served with a cajun dipping sauce but I have always enjoyed them better without the accompanying sauce.  While you are enjoying your fries take a good look at the neighboring tables around you.  At least half of them will have a basket of these fries.  Many Disneylandphiles know a really good thing.

Since Mrs. DLT isn't a fan of spicy foods, she usually opts for the legendary Monte Cristo sandwich.  Cafe Orleans delivers this popular favorite for several dollars cheaper than the neighboring Blue Bayou.  If you never had one, try it here and save a few bucks.  They aren't for everybody mostly because these things are so rich and decadent, I think its kind of hard for one person to eat a whole one.  What is a monte cristo?  Think of it as ham, turkey, and swiss cheese served between two pieces of french toast, then deep fried, covered in powdered sugar, and served with some kind of jelly.  Wow!  Who came up with this concoction?  But it is good in a perverted kind of way and you can see why they are a favorite and have been on Disneyland menus for years and years.  If you eat one, you just kind of have to put the number of calories and fat content out of your mind.  When Mrs. DLT go the monte cristo route invariably, a chunk of it is bagged and taken to go.

The Cafe Orleans Monte Cristo sandwich.  Good luck trying to finish it.
I'm a crepe guy.  What the Cafe Orleans serves that you cannot get any place else in either park are crepe dishes.  I've had both Seafood Crepe and Chicken Gumbo Crepe and have enjoyed them both.  Both are quite filling with the cream sauce on the Seafood Crepe being, to me anyway, the little richer dining experience of the two.  You can't go wrong with either.

Seafood Crepe - Cafe Orleans Disneyland

I haven't tried it yet but I'm told the French Onion Soup is also very good so that is on my list of things to try next time I am at the Cafe Orleans.  French Onion Soup and Pommes Frites, that'll work.  At the top of this post is a picture of Walt Standing in front of a copper coffee pot.  The pot is still in the Cafe Orleans taking a prime spot in the inside dining portion of the restaurant.  Look at this  photo, go to the Cafe Orleans and look at the actual pot.  Make the connection.  You will be glad you did.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Closer Look At - Mickey's Fun Wheel

Mickey's Fun Wheel is a Ferris Wheel in Disney California Adventure's Paradise Pier section. As most people know its huge, dominates the landscape, and looks spectacular at night when its all lit up.  I never went on the ride in its previous incarnation as the Sun Wheel but since the makeover to Mickey's Fun Wheel a few years ago I've been on it two or three times.  For the longest time, I avoided the thing.  You see, I'm afraid of heights, I'm afraid of Ferris Wheels, I'm a afraid of things that have you dangling in the air where escape can only be achieved through help by firemen.  Not for me.

Others in my family have braver souls than I as even the 4 year-old family members would venture on the swinging buckets of the Sun Wheel / Fun Wheel.  After years trying, my sister finally got me on the non-swinging side of the ride and you know what? I kind of liked it.  For every two swinging cages, there is a fixed non-swinging cage and as long as I remember to get into the right line and in the non-swinging side, I think I'm good to go - even if its by myself.

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler has not conquered her fear of heights, Ferris Wheels, and rides that move slowly at dizzying heights so when we make our trips to Disneyland just ourselves, I now have to make the quiet, breezy trip around and above DCA alone while she whips out her charge card in the souvenir shops conveniently located across from Mickey's Fun Wheel entrance.  She hates Mickey's Fun Wheel, I dislike shopping in souvenir stores.  We have fun.

Below is a quick little video of Mickey's Fun Wheel, no barf bag required 

A New Champion On Broadway - The Lion King

A group that collects box office data for New York's Broadway Theater productions has released numbers that show that The Lion King, produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (a show of hands out there as to who knew that division of Disney existed), has become all time box office champion for the Broadway theater. The Lion King has now swooped ahead of the previous champ (and also still running) The Phantom of the Opera.  Since 1997 when the play opened it has taken in - get this - $853,846,062 (not included drinks, popcorn, and souvenirs).  Close to a billion dollars.  As Mel Brooks once said "It's good to be the king".  It's also good to be Disney....

Countdown To... A Price Increase

Oh, it's coming.  It might not be today, or this week, or this month, but it's coming - a Disneyland admission price increase.  The Disney forums and bulletin boards have been full of dreaded speculation.  How much will it be?  Who will take the biggest hit? Casual park visitors and vacationers? Annual pass holders?  Or just hit everyone right across their wallets and purses. 

The last Disneyland price increase was June last year so the time is right to take another whack at it. Attendance at Disneyland has been up over the last year.  There is that huge (and expensive) make-over and expansion in Disney California Adventure that people are lining up all ga-ga to see.  Price increase or not, Disneyland will be one busy place the rest of this year and probably all of next year with many new things to enjoy. So yes, Disney will take advantage of a public willing to pay.

But who is paying?  Walt Disney wanted to build a park that families could enjoy together.  He succeeded grandly except now those families also need very deep bank accounts or the ability to beg, borrow, or steal their way in.  Disney is basically pricing out the middle-class population.  They're not alone as many big, powerful, wealthy corporations do the same thing.  And while you can take a broad brush and say the middle class is being priced out of Disney parks I will continue to take a more personal look and think of the countless kids who see advertisements on TV saying to come, come enjoy the magic of Disney.  And they ask their moms, their dads, "can we go to Disneyland?" while the parents sit down to piece together the funds to pay this month's food bill.  There is magic in Disney.  There is also a cold, dark, business side.  Maybe enough people can make a statement that says "do not feed the crocodiles".

The WDW Avengers Skinned Monorail...That's OK, Keep It.

As they did to promote the release of the movie TRON: Legacy, our friends over at Walt Disney World (well, the U.S. Disney parks are all run by same cast of characters) has taken one of their monorails and put a skin on it to promote the upcoming Disney/Marvel movie The Avengers.  Here is a YouTube video produced by Disney of the monorail zipping around the WDW resort.

Now no one is looking forward to The Avengers more than I am.  I just watched Iron Man 1 last night and it is my plan to watch all the Avengers predecessor movies over the next month just to refresh my memory and be current with the story by the time the new movie hits the screen on May 4th.  Just for the record - Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America the First Avenger are the prequels to the The Avengers.  So having an Avengers themed monorail scoot around Walt Disney World this spring is a nice tie-in.

So as much as I am an Marvel / Avengers fan, Walt Disney World can keep the monorail with the cool skin job.  For as cool as the skin job is, the Walt Disney World's monorails are a generation  behind the monorails that run at Disneyland.  The Disneyland monorails are Mark VII's while Disney World still operates the Mark VI version.  The SoCal trains just look better just they are and really don't need any theming or "skinning" to improve their looks.  So thumbs up from the Disneyland Traveler to The Avengers themed monorail, just keep it in Florida.  We like our monorails just as the are in Blue, and Red, and Orange.

A couple of quick looks at the Monorail Red around Disneyland. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Closer Look At - Peter Pan's Flight

The throng gather in front of Peter Pan's Flight
Peter Pan's Flight is not my favorite ride at Disneyland but if someone were to ask me which ride best represents the spirit of what Disneyland is all about, Peter Pan's Flight is the one I would pick.

PPF is a dark ride based on one of Walt Disney's classic films made long before the ride or the park were ever built. And PPF is one of the dozen or so rides that are still in existence from when the park opened in July 1955. So there is a certain timelessness about Peter Pan's Flight with its history intertwined with the Disney legacy for decades upon decades.

But there are other dark rides in Fantasyland that date back to 1955, what makes Peter Pan so special? Well, you really do fly. Rather than scoot a long the ground in some sort of vehicle that has you peering into brightly colored scenes around each turn, PPF takes you above it all in a ride vehicle suspended from the ceiling and has you looking down on the story below. Its really a unique ride experience. The scenes of the ride are classic taken right out of the movie as is the music that plays during the 2 minute and 30 second flight. Its a ride experience that most Disney fans will remember and cherish.

But here's the rub as they say. Peter Pan's Flight is popular, very popular. And PPF is what is known as a slow loader only able to handle about 600 guests per hour (compared to about 3000 guests per hour that Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion can move through) so PPF always, I mean always, has a line. If you think you are going to get a jump on the line by getting to the ride first thing in the morning, guess again, because by the time you arrive, the line will most likely have already started to form. Sometimes it seems that when Disneyland rides open in the morning, about half the people there are heading for Peter Pan. They already know that if you don't get there early, the wait time will normally be 30 - 45 minutes and this is any day, slow days, busy days, it doesn't seem to matter. People will always be waiting to get on Peter Pan.

I've been on Peter Pan's Flight plenty of times in my life. I can picture the flight right now. So I really don't count PPF as one of my must do attractions when I go to Disneyland though I completely understand those that do. Again, the long wait wait in a slow moving line for a ride that is only a couple brief minutes long doesn't fit into time budget. But every few years, there is an opportunity. I haven't been on Peter Pan's Flight since December 2008. There was a driving rainstorm in Disneyland. Guess what? The wait for PPF on that day was only about 15 or 20 minutes. I had my opportunity to experience the timeless magic of Peter Pan's Flight once again.

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