Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scenes From Pirates of the Caribbean - Ooops

Yeah, yeah, yeah..... you hear it every time the boat leaves the dock. It goes something like this "keep your arms and legs inside the boat at all times and please no flash photography or video lighting". Well, I for one, tend to heed Disneyland's warnings. After all I'm a guest in their house (albeit at a steep price) and willing to play by their rules. That's just the way I was brought up. Of course, we all know there are people who try bend if not outright break the rules of Disneyland everywhere.

Which brings me to this YouTube video by Asianjma123, shots of inside Pirates of the Caribbean with full video lighting. Yes, this would be a no-no but I'm kind of glad to see a video of Pirates in all its glory when most non-lit videos fail to do it justice. This is not a full ride through but what can be seen looks great. Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite ride in Disneyland, even after all these years.

A Time Lapse Tour Through Disney California Adventure

Often mentioned in this blog is the Disneyland/DCA video work of Asianjma123 available on YouTube. This past week he posted an excellent time-lapse video of the sights of Disney California Adventure Park - mostly the nighttime scene. This is a really nice piece. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Day Mickey Mouse Burst My Bubble

Mickey Mouse's House - ToonTown - DIsneyland
I may have brought this up before in this blog, can't really recall, but since today is my birthday and I'm getting older, repeating myself sort of comes with the territory. Anyway, this little tidbit is about a trip I made to Disneyland back in 2006. I flew down with my sister and two of my nieces along two of their small children for a weekend get-away. Even though it was a very quick trip, flying down early Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening, it was something we needed to do after a particularly hard month for the extended family. 

And we had a great time during our short visit. You can get a lot done in Disneyland in a short amount of time if you really put your mind to it. And one of the things we did was take the kids to Mickey's House in ToonTown. Even if you are an adult, its something everyone should do simply because the place is whimsical, delightful, and quite charming. Its also much larger than you think. 

Getting Mickey's Autograph

I'm sure I've mentioned this before as well, but I am not really a "Disney character" kind of guy but then again, I'm XX years old and not 6 years old. And I will admit that Disney characters walking or standing around really add to the overall atmosphere of the park, but down deep, I can kind of take or leave them. I remember one year where it seems that every time I turned around, I was looking at the Mad Hatter. He was everywhere. Ever since that day I associate the Mad Hatter with the word "annoying".

Anyway, Mickey Mouse is the king character of the place so you have to give him his due, at least I thought he was king. So there we all were in Mickey's house, meandering through the various rooms, waiting for the kids to meet up with Mickey himself. My great niece had her official Disneyland autograph book along with one of those giant pencils and the tuxedo clad Mickey was only too happy to sign it along with allowing us a chance to take a few photos (or have an official Disney $$$ photo taken).

After all was said and done and we were on our out, I looked at Mickey's autograph and was immediately somewhat stunned at the lovely flowing cursive penmanship of the great mouse. "Wait a minute" I thought. "No guy writes like that - ever" "Mickey Mouse underneath was really a girl". Wow! For an old Disneyland guy like me, that was quite a discovery. Another bubble just got burst. So came the realization that in order to play the role of Micky Mouse (or Donald or Goofy or Chip or xxxx) in Disneyland, you don't necessarily need to be of the same gender. The most important job requirement is apparently - whoever you are - you just need to fit the costume.

Another picture from Mickey's House - Nothing to do with Mickey
I just like it because I often wear the same expression in Disneyland

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ugly Alice Will Get Her Face Lift

Ugly Alice in Wonderland
Hideous upper railing with tarps draped to cover additional additional unsightliness

Once upon a time a classic Disneyland Fantasyland attraction benevolently ran for more than 40 years without incident. Then an ogre (and we are not quite sure who the ogre is) said "that won't do at all". Such is the story of Disneyland's Alice In Wonderland.

About 2 years ago, either Disney voluntarily or through strong prodding by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, came to the conclusion that the raised outdoor "vine" section of the ride was unsafe for maintenance workers who could conceivably fall from the exposed concrete platform to the ground below. The decision came almost overnight. The ride was shutdown and over about a 3 week period, a hastily constructed railing was put in place with ugly plastic tarps draped to cover the fastening points. Following what amounted to a patch job, the ride resumed operation just a bit uglier than originally conceived.

Fans have been waiting both patiently and impatiently for quite some time waiting for when Disney was going to make its move and restore the ride to its charming glory. Well the date has been set if you can believe MiceAge's Al Lutz. Alice in Wonderland will be shutdown right after Labor Day on September 4 to begin its transformation. The rumor is that it will take a few months of refurbishment. Alice will get her face lift after all.

The original Alice in Wonderland
No railing, no tarps

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What If In-N-Out Burger Met Disneyland?

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler comes up with good ones sometimes. We're walking around Disneyland or DCA and she'll get a moment of frustration that usually ends with "Why couldn't they (meaning Disney) just - _________ (fill in the blank)". We're all probably guilty of the same thing I'm sure. Every fan of Disneyland thinks they have a better idea. Like -

We're in our 5th hour of camping out a spot waiting for Fantasmic when Mrs. DLT says "I don't know why they just couldn't build seating like they do when there is a movie premier in the park?" It's a good question. Of course the answer is Disneyland is space challenged and there is no room for any kind of permanent Fantasmic seating. To which Mrs. DLT may respond "Well this is Disney, they can do anything, why not just have the seats raise out of the ground before showtime?" Well, this is Disney, almost anything can be done but it all cost $$$$ - lots of it.

She'll apply same question when waiting for World of Color over in DCA. Since the viewing area of WOC is new she'll ask the question again "Why didn't they just build some seating?" The same answers apply not to mention that empty seats during the day are pretty much of an eye-sore. But I understand her point. You wait to get into your section. You show up early so you can get the best viewing spot. After waiting there, you are ushered into your section where you begin waiting again. Many hit the ground and sit on the concrete. Been there, done that. At this point of our lives, Mrs. DLT and I have retired from sitting on concrete. It's for the younger and more nimble.

So you've had hours upon hours of park activity culminating in watching World of Color in DCA. You are dog tired and ready to get back to your hotel. World of Color sits at the back of DCA and so begins that slow march to the exits with the dispersing throng. So Mrs. DLT comes up with "Why didn't they build an around park transportation system like the Disneyland Railroad?" I really don't have an answer for that one because an around DCA transportation system would be welcomed and probably needed. Probably because nothing seems more boring in a theme than a slow moving transportation system. You could hardly build a summer marketing campaign around something like that. Besides, DCA still has a bit more room to expand if they wanted to. The boundaries are not set in stone.

Here's the big one. After so many trips to Disneyland and so many meals, Mrs. DLT and I pretty much know what to eat, where to eat, and what to stay away from. Chances of getting a really good burger at Disneyland is rare because they cook the living daylights out of the things for health and sanitary reasons. A breakout of e-coli would not look good. So what you end up with is a burger that is something approaching the consistency of shoe leather. Disney has gotten wise over the years covering their horrible burgers with chili (Hungry Bear), pastrami (Village Haus), and blue cheese (Taste Pilot's Grill) and for some people that has helped out. But Mrs. DLT asks the question "Why couldn't Disney just put an In-N-Out Burger in here, after all, they now have a Starbucks and they used to have a McDonalds in the park?". For those who don't know, In-N-Our Burger is a Southern California legend making perhaps the best fast food cheeseburger you will ever have at a price that is actually below affordable. And that's all they serve - burgers and fries (though you can get them to make you a grilled cheese that is not on the menu). And don't ask for bacon or avocado or any of that - not an option at In-N-Out. If you ask someone who grew up in Southern California but has moved on to other parts of the country "What's the first thing you want to do when you get off a plane?" 9 out of 10 will tell you "I need to go to In-N-Out".

Which gets back to Mrs. DLT's question why not put an In-N-Out in Disneyland? Well people would be taken aback when that double-double (double meet, double cheese) that is less than $4.00 outside the park is now about $9.00. The other reason I tell her - if you think that 2 or 3 hour wait to get on Radiator Springs Racers is bad, how would you like to have the same wait for a burger. "Where's the end of the In-N-Out line?"  

"It's a couple of hundred yards down that way."

The Razor's Edge Of Disneyland's Admission Pricing

Tilly at the Main St. Cinema Ticket Booth

Two feature articles came out this week on the two Disneyland websites I most often follow that seem to be such complete opposites of one another that it is hard to reconcile the two.

Author, Disneyland insider, and MousePlanet contributor David Koenig writes that Disney, delighted with the crowds this summer at the resort, are quickly formulating plans to increase admission prices to capitalize on the great reception of their recent park enhancements. They are possibly pointing to another increase by Christmas this year and another one before next summer's prime vacation season. You can read David's article here.

Yesterday's weekly In The Parks feature on MiceChat spent some time discussing that while Cars Land in Disney California Adventure continues to pull in huge amounts of guests, the crowd levels throughout the rest of DCA and especially over at Disneyland are quite manageable and seem to be a little flat. The comments seem to be based mostly on observation but since they are in Disneyland on a weekly basis, who am I to argue? MiceChat went further by putting up a poll as to the reason why the attendance would appear to be lackluster. The overwhelming majority point to high prices.

So which is it? "We're doing fine, let's raise prices" or "Uh-oh, maybe that last hefty price jump has bitten us in the rear". The one thing that is for certain is that Disney has a pretty good idea. All the data collected from survey takers, online surveys, and even in depth surveys taken of guests in the park in special rooms is not done just for the heck of it. Disney also has their hotel capacity and bookings well mapped as well as keeping tabs on the area hotels and motels (they are called "Good Neighbor" hotels for a reason). Disney also tracks the buying habits of various pass holders - those food and merchandise discounts are not given out to be nice. Disney wants to know how much you are spending along with where and what.

If I were a betting person (and I'm usually not) I would tend to go on the side of David Koenig. He is not someone prone to wild speculation or rumor in his Disneyland writings. On the MiceChat side pointing to flat attendance and manageable crowds, I think back to the trip my family made in July 2005 during Disneyland's 50th Anniversary celebration. You would have thought the place would have been packed during that time but it really wasn't. The blocking out of Southern California pass holders during several weeks of the summer just makes the crowd levels more bearable. We were certainly surprised.

One thing is for sure - the prices on annual passes will not go down. If there are additional price increases coming, I suspect the jump on AP's will be in smaller increments going forward. Same with daily admission price (does anyone take their family to Disneyland for one day anymore?) and the popular multi-day tickets. And I would guess that if things do slow down because of over-pricing, Disney is really good at various discounts on admission tickets as well as accommodations in their hotels.

I also know that if there is another increase before Christmas, the screams will be long and loud. Go out and read the Disney website message boards if you don't think so.

A Little Late But - Happy Birthday Disneyland

The Disneyland Traveler is a few days late on this. Believe it or not, I have a real job that extends beyond writing about Disney and it sometimes keeps me busy (or wears me down). Anyway, The Disney Lands wishes Disneyland a belated but very Happy Birthday.

Disneyland threw open its gates to an eager public on July 17, 1955. On that day, Walt Disney spoke his now famous opening dedication -

To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
-Walt Disney

At 2:30 last Tuesday, a crowd of well wishers and costumed Disney characters gathered around the flagpole at the Main St. town square while the speech by Walt was played over the Disneyland loudspeakers. 57 isn't a milestone year for Disneyland but it certainly could not pass by unnoticed either. It only took a few moments to a remember the very special gift Walt gave to us all those years ago.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight (Tragically) Rises

This is a Disney blog. The Dark Knight Rises is not a Disney, Marvel, or Pixar movie or in any way connected with Disney or Disney movies. What occurred last night in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises is nothing short of an utterly senseless tragedy, the worst shooting spree in American history.

The Dark Knight Rises as a movie is not responsible for a gunman, who identified himself as The Joker to authorities, to go on a a shooting spree which to this point has killed 12 people and injured 58 others. The tragic act of violence belongs squarely with the killer.


I haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises. After last night's tragedy I don't plan to - in a theater anyway. It has nothing to do with being afraid of being in a captive movie theater audience. I just wouldn't feel right about seeing The Dark Knight Rises knowing the suffering and sadness of countless people who are left reeling in the wake of a random act of violence, all for just seeing a movie


I did see The Dark Knight film from a few years ago, the second in this trilogy series of Batman films. It was a riveting, well crafted film. It was also quite dark and disturbing. It was also unrelentingly violent. Why it didn't get an 'R' rating, I don't know. There was nothing "nice" about The Dark Knight. It was a film consumed by one violent act after another.

When I was a boy, I read comic books. They were escapist entertainment for youth who wanted to see good conquer bad. Comic books were read - at arms length. Watching The Avengers and The Amazing Spiderman movies this year, I thought that these were movie adventures that could be safely watched from a distance, never once taking them seriously. There was a sense of fun about them and a bit of humor in both of them. The current Batman / Dark Knight series doesn't do that at all. It pulls you into a world that no one would want to be part of - gritty, dirty, and depressing. Out of this world, warped thinking could fester. It just did.

The Disneyland Traveler sends thoughts and prayers to the many victims of this tragedy, the dead, the injured, and all of the families and friends of those who had to be part of this sad, sad, event. Kind of makes you sick.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Raining On The Radiator Springs Racers Parade

Radiator Springs Racers - An L.A. Times Photo
Imagine, if you will, that you planned a couple of days at the Disneyland Resort - say last Thursday and Friday for instance. Suppose your planned trip down there was primarily to experience the highly publicized Cars Land and all it has to offer. Suppose you are not a Southern California local and your trip involved the cost of an airplane flight and the booking of a hotel room. A little trip like that would not be inexpensive.

Now suppose you get over to Cars Land and found out that Radiators Springs Racers had just shut down and they don't know when the giant attraction will reopen (though you could be getting different information depending the case member you spoke with). Suppose it never reopens in the 2 days you are at the park. It just happened. For the most part, Radiator Springs Racers was down for the count last Thursday and Friday. A freak Southern California summer rain storm didn't help and as a sudden power outage shut down several attractions in Disney California Adventure. But the Racers was the one ride that wouldn't come back up to normal operation the way it should.

Outages on Radiator Springs Racers have been common since the ride opened less than a month ago with some outages being relatively short and others being several hours. But an outage of almost two days? Not good.

The Disneyland veterans and frequent visitors to the park over on MiceAge cut the ride some slack the first couple of weeks saying that new rides frequently have break downs while thay get dialed into regular operation. They point to the problems Indiana Jones had when it first began taking on passengers. But now you begin to sense the forgiveness sentiment is turning as problems with the Racers continue on a fairly regular basis. They forum posters are starting to let their frustration and displeasure come out. Was the ride really ready for prime time summer operation? Some still are in the forgiving mode saying the ride is new and give Disney a chance to continue to work out the bugs but Disney veterans question why should there even be bugs at this point since the ride is base on existing technology (EPCOT's Test Track attraction) that has been in operation for years.

One thing is for sure, Disney does not make any guarantees when it comes to ride operation. They have a way out when a big ride shuts down unexpectedly. But what about the guests who had their lofty plans to come down and enjoy the wonders of Cars Lands at Disney's invitation through its massive media campaign? Well....sorry about that, there's plenty more to do Disney will say. For some people, they are not going to feel any better.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Does Disneyland Need A Petting Zoo?

Name Me - A Disney Parks Blog Photo
Disney Parks Blog posted a photo of its newest edition to its petting zoo located at Big Thunder Ranch in Disneyland's Frontierland. This weekend they are holding a contest to name the cute little critter. A petting zoo in Disneyland? What's that all about?

The Big Thunder petting zoo is hardly a must do on anyone's check-off list with a trip to Disneyland. Its small and the animals contained in the pen are primarily comprised of docile goats and sheep. But they are cute and exhibit a bit personality as they look for a quiet spot to chill out only to be pursued by children with little outstretched hands who want to touch them. Sometimes they get into a bit of  mischief but always under the careful watch of their Circle D Ranch handlers. Circle D Ranch is Disneyland's backstage location used for the care of all park animals.

My encounter with the animals is pretty much limited to when Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have a bit of wait to get into the Big Thunder Ranch Bar-B-Que (which is seldom a long wait). Of course, we don't actually go in the pen as it really is pretty much an activity geared to small children but its a very pleasant little diversion to watch the kids have fun with the animals and I kinda think down deep, the animals don't mind getting the attention as well.

Does Disneyland need a petting zoo? Of course not but it is one of those things that gives the park such a pleasant atmosphere - literally something for everyone. It brings a bit of joy and diversion to kids that are probably having the time of their lives. Chasing a goat just adds to the list.

Note: During Christmas, the petting zoo in converted into the Reindeer Round-up complete with Santa Claus. Reindeer - they're a bit larger than the goats.

More photos from the Big Thunder petting zoo (while waiting for lunch).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Pretty Good Spider-Man - A Movie Review

Technically, the title is The Amazing Spider-Man. When I came out of the theater yesterday after seeing the film, I thought it was The Pretty Good Spider-Man. Since it was a 100 degrees outside yesterday, a couple of hours in a cool theater was welcome relief and the film did not disappoint in that regard. 

Going back a few years now, I thought the last Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man 3) from director Sam Raimi and with Toby Maquire in the title role was one of the worst superhero movies I had ever seen. I wasn't alone as the movie was pretty much torched by critics and fans. Something had to be done. When Sony and and Raimi could not work out their differences for Spider-Man 4 Sony made the call to reboot the series a concept which had proved to be successful with the transition for Batman to The Dark Knight. Basically, The Amazing Spider-Man is a do-over from the Spider-Man made back in 2002 and achieved huge success at the box office.

The two movies are quite similar in plot but with different actors, a different director, and a decidedly different tone, The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds in rebooting the character with different look and feel. The new Spider-Man is darker and edgier. His movements and gestures along with the taunting sarcasm behind the mask are far truer to the original Spider-Man of the comic book series. This is where new actor Andrew Garfield gets a plus over Toby Maguire's Spider-Man.

The main problem I had with the movie is that neither Garfield or especially his love interest Emma Stone looked like high school students. They are easily in their mid to late 20's I would imagine. The movie is also bit too long and the movie is half over before we see a fully costumed Spider-Man.

I liked Martin Sheen and Sally Field and Uncle Ben and Aunt May. They are the ones who give Parker/Spider-Man his sense of purpose and belonging after being abandoned as a child. These are fine actors giving excellent performances in supporting roles. Same with Denis Leary.

So overall, I liked the movie but it has just enough flaws for me to make it an D-Ticket attraction rather than a E-Ticket like The Avengers. The Avengers was rollicking good fun that threw everything at you but the kitchen sink and most things were a direct hit. The Amazing Spider-Man is slower, darker, and quirkier which succeeds on many levels but comes up a bit short on a few others. On a hot day in July, you could do a lot worse than going to spend some time with The Amazing Spider-Man even if he isn't quite that amazing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"It's All About the Kids"

As promised - as my friend Bill says about his trips to Disneyland - "it's all about the kids". It got to be a reoccurring joke between us when his kind were younger (ages 4 - 6 let's say). "You mean you didn't ride on California Screamin'" - "nah, the trip was all about the kids". 

"You mean you went all the way to Disneyland and didn't ride Space Mountain?" "Nah, the trip was all about the kids". 

"You mean you didn't go in and see It's Tough To Be A Bug? That's for kids." Nah, a little too scary, it's all about the kids".

You get the picture here.

I remember bits and pieces of Disneyland when I was a kid. I vividly remember being on Pirates of the Caribbean with my parents and making the first drop. I remember sitting in the Tiki Room with mom and dad. I remember standing in line for the Matterhorn with my older brother, my first roller coaster ride. I treasure those memories. Disneyland is for kids. 

Or is it?

Certainly Walt Disney didn't envision a park just for kids. His whole deal was creating a park that parents and their children could enjoy together. He succeeded grandly. But there is that awkward age when children just aren't quite old enough or big enough for the larger rides. Does the parent just skip those like my friend Bill did on a couple of his trips?

Some rides do have something called ride swapping where one waiting parent stays with the child who cannot ride at the loading platform while the other parent rides, then they switch. Parents can also use single rider options. Then you can do what my friend Bill eventually did - bring grandma along.

Disneyland is mostly about kids, but its about the kid in all of us. For families its about compromise, good planning, and a balance of activities (no coloring though). Fun for all can be found. And I think about my friend Bill when he is able to take his kids to Disneyland, now that they are old enough, get in line for Space Mountain as a family. "You kids, you know when you were younger there were times we came down here and we couldn't go on this ride". 

Hopefully they are thinking "yeah, but we can go on together now, all of us". Disneyland is the building of memories from one trip to the next, each one a new adventure, a new experience. What is taken for granted at the time will become a special memory. Kids grow up and become adults who eventually remember what it was like to be a kid again, a kid in Disneyland. It's all about the kids.

Coloring Disneyland

I may have written about this before. I forget. It's kind of a head scratching subject for me. In today's MiceChat's In The Parks weekly feature they talk about the setting up of the Big Thunder Jamboree area for summer entertainment including outdoor performances of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Since the area is kind of out of the way not often used outside of corporate events (it is the normally fenced off area behind the Big Thunder Bar-B-Que restaurant and petting zoo, Disney has to promote a little bit of what's going on in there including the Hillbillies, character performances, and a children's coloring area to get people to stop by. Huh? Another one?

A few years ago one of my co-workers took his family to Disneyland. He recounted the story about how his young kids wanted to take time out of their Disney day to stop by the Princess Fantasy Fair. To meet princesses (one of his kids is a boy)? No, his kids wanted to sit down at one of the tables that were set up for coloring. You know.... crayons, paper, that kind of thing. My mouth dropped wide open as I listened. "Are you kidding?" 

"You mean to tell me that at the ridiculously high admission price it takes to get a family of four to get in the place, you are going to take the time to sit down and do something that could easily be done back at the hotel or home for that matter. It's Disneyland, time is money. Once you walk in, you're on the clock." Those may not have been my exact words to him but pretty close.

He would have his standard reply ready for me (and the subject of the next entry in this blog) when he talks about his trips to Disneyland - "It's all about the kids."

Hmmmm..... I could only think about the times when The Boy was young enough and Mrs. DisneyandTraveler and I would have him along. If he would have asked me if he could sit down and color I would have dragged his little behind all the way to railroad station and made him go around the park in circles rather than take the time to "color". I exaggerate because fortunately, that subject never came up. The Boy was always the true Disneyland trooper - "what ride do we go on next?"

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Disney Releases First Oz Posters

Disney's Oz - The Great and Powerful
Official Disney Artwork

Trending now on Twitter are the first images of the promotional posters for the upcoming Disney film Oz - The Great and Powerful (release: March 2013) directed by Sam Raimi, the director of the original Spiderman trilogy and starring Spiderman veteran James Franco as Oz himself. The story is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz and shows Oz's rise to prominence and power. 

Now I'm having a rough time associating Oz with Disney after all those years of the original Wizard of Oz classic being the standard bearer for MGM (do they still exist?) but Raimi is a quality director and producer. Keep an open mind....keep an open mind....

A Couple more Disney images of Oz.

Original poster artwork from Disney for the film Oz - The Great and Powerful

Original poster artwork from Disney for the film Oz - The Great and Powerful

A Disneyland Fourth of July

Daily Flag Retreat Ceremony
An O.C. Register photo

Ah yes, the 4th of July at Disneyland. It's a big day. One of the biggest days of the year in fact. By this afternoon, Disneyland proper will be busting at the seams with people and everyone is there for one event - the annual July 4th fireworks display. But before you grab your spot to see the fireworks, do one thing first. Around 4:30 this afternoon there will be a flag retreat ceremony. Stop by and check it out. It happens everyday at the Disneyland when the flag flies. Walt Disney insisted on it.

Its a little sad. I stop by the flag retreat ceremony now occasionally on my visits to Disneyland to witness the event. Sometimes it seems like there are only 20 or 30 people on hand to see the flag solemnly brought down while the band plays the Star Spangled Banner and half of them look like they are there by accident. Walt Disney's daughter said the ceremony would sometimes bring tears to her dad's face. And Walt said the ceremony is one thing that would always need to continue on in his park.

So stop by today or any afternoon sometime to watch and listen. It takes very little time, about 10 minutes or so, maybe a bit longer today because of the holiday but its well worth a few minutes of your time. Splash Mountain can wait a bit. The flag retreat ceremony is just a wonderful part of Disneyland tradition and history and a connection with Walt Disney himself.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Expedition Everest, A Broken Yeti, and Be Careful What You Wish For.

My wife's new boss came back from a trip to Walt Disney World with his family a week or so ago. He had a great time and he singled out Expedition Everest, the massively themed coaster in WDW Animal Kingdom as a ride he went on multiple times because its just simply great.

Fast forward about a week where MiceChat's behind the scenes feature blog The 626 (link here) gives the story of Expedition Everest's fearsome Yeti animatronic which suffered structural failure shortly after the ride opened and hasn't been fixed since. As The 626 points out, WDI probably overshot themselves by creating such a massive animtronic (the ride and mountain had to be built around it) that the stand-alone supporting structure did not have the ability to sustain support for the multi-ton creature that physically moved out over the the track. Instead of motion, imagineers now flash strobe lights at the fixed non-moving creature which gives a bit of an illusion of motion that just isn't there. WDW regulars ask why can't Disney fix the thing now years later from when the problem was first discovered. The scores of people who visit WDW occasionally could care less. The ride is a true thrill just the way it is.

There's a lesson here for us Disneyland people. Park fans in forums are constantly railing about the various parts of both Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain which do not work at all or extremely slow to get fixed. They continue to shake a fist at the tarp covered Alice in Wonderland ride with its tacky railing that Cal-OSHA insisted was necessary for worker safety or safety of passengers in case of evacuation. That little event occurred over a year ago now and Ugly Alice still hasn't been fixed.

Here's the rub. Of course everyone wants a ride to be exactly as brilliant imagineers designed it to be fully functional in every detail. But over time, things tend to break down (even me). Now some things can be fixed up relatively quickly. Other things take a very long time and require budget considerations because fixing these things doesn't come cheap. So what would you prefer? A running ride performing at 80 or 90% of how it was designed or shut the ride down for months of refurbishment. Its easy for those who live within short driving distance to Disneyland to choose the refurbishment. They've been on these attractions so many times that they can easily wait out months of repair. For those who plan Disneyland trips for next year or even two years from now, having an attraction like Indiana Jones or Splash Mountain down for refurbishment can be extremely disappointing, maybe even a trip deal breaker. Disney is in a tough position here but ultimately they like to keep their major attractions running especially, during peak periods, and only take them down for extended periods when its absolutely necessary (Indiana Jones Adventure is rumored to be coming up for an extended refurbishment). 

I'm good with this approach. Why would I really care if a few items stopped working as they should as long as I can get on the ride to begin with?  Half a ride is better than none as they say.

For west coasters who haven't experienced Expedition Everest, here is one of the better videos from MouseSteps. Yes, the coaster does roll backwards for a few heart pounding seconds. The strobe effect Yeti shows up at just before the 3 minute mark. Pretty weak.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Waking Sleeping Beauty - A Review

Disney has always tended to be a private and secretive company operating in the very public world of show business, entertainment, and media. Much has been written about the behind the scenes world of Disney (check out the great book Disney Wars). Sometimes the behind the scenes stuff is better and more interesting than the movies they made (the most recent example is the John Carter debacle). Maybe for the first time ever in a movie released by Disney, they allow little bit of their dirty laundry to be made public with the wonderful documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty directed by Don Hahn who produced  the great Disney films - Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King now many years ago. Waking Sleeping Beauty was not a movie that was widely distributed so you will have to seek it out. I had to stream it.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is fascinating story of how Disney animation, the cornerstone of the company Walt Disney built, almost came to complete ruins by the early 1980's only to be resurrected by four executives who wouldn't let it die - Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Frank Wells. Under their leadership and with a talented group of tireless animators, performers, and artists, Disney animation came back from the dead over a 10 year period that started a simple movie called The Great Mouse Detective and culminated in a succession of Disney animated classics that will probably never be duplicated - The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and finishing off with The Lion King. Ultimately the dynamic tension and friction of the egos of the men in charge brought the second golden age of Disney animation to its end. Waking Sleeping Beauty honestly describes how Roy Disney, Eisner, and Katzenberg all wanted primary credit and be visible front men for the 4 mega-hit movies but in reality it was a group of talented men and women who were the real heroes in the resurgence of Disney animation. This is as much their story as it is the executives who drove them.   

Just a great documentary. There's a lot people involved so its hard to keep them straight as to who does what but by the end of the movie, you will have gotten a pretty good overview on this period of time in Disney animation. It's a movie well worth seeking out.   

How's That Starbucks Working Out In Disney California Adventure?

I've got the MouseWaits app on my phone. It gives you the current wait times for rides, attractions, and several food & beverage establishments where lines tend to build. I look at it every once in a while when I've got nothing better to do. The current wait for a Starbucks beverage in Disney California Adventure is 14 minutes. Not bad for a Sunday. It's been worse, much worse, as now Disney people can get their park fix and Starbucks coffee fix in the same location.

There used to be a Starbucks about a block from my house in a supermarket. Sometimes I would stop by there for a mocha or latte on my way to work. I would cringe when I would see 3 people standing in line in front of me. That Starbucks closed down but I would say it was more the fault of the struggling supermarket than Starbucks. So now the closest Starbucks is a standard strip mall establishment about 2 blocks from my house. If I stop by there in the morning, there are usually 5 or 6 people standing in line. Since I'm usually in a hurry, I pretty much skip Starbucks in the morning now. 5 or 10 minutes is far too long to wait.

So now I have seen pictures from the DCA Starbucks found inside the Fidler, Fifer, & Practical Cafe (still a dumb name) on Buena Vista Street. From some of the pictures I have seen, there must of have been at least 30 people standing in that line. But that's different. It's one thing to be standing in line for a Starbucks before going to work were time is everything and quite another to be standing in any line in a Disney park where line standing approaches something of an art form as to keep yourself amused and entertained while doing nothing.

As for the Starbucks itself, from what I have read, they can whip out the basic menu pretty well but if you are one of those "snobs" who rattle off a single beverage that takes two minutes to explain, well then, chances are you may be headed for disappointment. This is a Disney park, keep your special orders for the real professionals and stick to the basics.

Disneyland In July - Better Than You Think

I see by the little date thing in corner of my computer that the calendar has rolled over and it is now July. Which gets me to thinking - if you ask the man (or woman) on the street, not the Disneyland veteran but just an everyday person who plans a summer vacation, how about spending your summer vacation in Disneyland - you are many times going to get an answer like this - "Too crowded, too hot....". I'm here to say "not so fast partner".

Now I'm not here to give a money back guarantee but Disneyland in July, the peak of summer, doesn't necessarily mean a hot, miserable, crowded trip because quite the opposite can be true. Granted, Mrs DisneylandTraveler and I tend to stay away from Disneyland in the summer but it has more to do with probably being able to get a better deal, especially with hotel rooms, during a different part of year. Our summer avoidance of the place has nothing to do with crowds and maybe only a little bit about the weather.

The pictures in this post were shot near the end of July 2005, Disneyland's 50th Anniversary year. A whole group of us went down and split the cost of a 3 bedroom suite at the Disneyland Hotel (plus another room). I think the count was 16 people including about a half dozen or so kids. It was awhile ago now. Maybe there were more. 

We really had a great trip, a fun time for all. It lasted 6 days with one day going to Universal Studios (why?). And one of the things I remember most about that trip was that the crowd level was quite comfortable and manageable. Yes, don't get me wrong, it was busy but a Disneyland veteran knows the ins and outs of dealing with crowds. With an early start and some good planning, a lot can be accomplished on the busiest of Disneyland days. One thing the summer months do for the average vacationer is block out a huge population of Southern California annual pass holders. Generally, this group is blocked from the park from about mid-June until mid-August. If you don't think it makes a big difference, guess again. We were there for a June trip a few years ago that crossed over the days when the SoCal pass holder block out went into effect. The day we arrived, we were greeted with a 60 minute wait for Pirates of the Caribbean. The next day, after the block out went into effect, the wait was down to about 15 minutes. Night and day. The only pass holders that the month of July is completely open to is the premium pass holders (who are now paying $649 a year for that privilege). The Deluxe pass holders can get into the park mostly during the week days after the 4th of July holiday. Socal pass holders - see you at the end of August. Note: I repeat, it is still busy in July so if you want that special dinner at the Blue Bayou - make a reservation. Also note that the Fourth of July holiday is extremely busy at Disneyland due to special patriotic firework shows that Disney puts on. It's not uncommon for Disneyland to be filled to the max on the Fourth of July.

Which brings us to the weather. "It's hot in Southern California in the summertime." Yes, it can be quite warm with weather sometimes approaching close to 90 degrees. But trust me on this, that is more the exception rather than the rule. Since Disneyland is near the coast, coastal breezes generally provide some much needed air conditioning. It works generally like this - at night as the sun begins to set, the gentle winds (hardly noticeable) cool things down significantly. It is not uncommon to need a sweat shirt in Disneyland once darkness arrives even in July. It will remain cool overnight and into the next morning when the park day begins. Get there early. Once it gets to about 11 a.m., things will begin to heat up until nightfall once again. Knowledgeable Disney veterans often use this time to go back to their hotels and use the pool or take a nap. Me? I find a nice place in the shade to sit and people watch or use the heat of the day to head to the rides and attractions that feature man-made air conditioning for long periods of time. Long rides like Pirates, Haunted Mansion, or small world are excellent choices to beat the heat a bit. A ride on the Mark Twain steamship can also provide relief. Shows like the Tiki Room and Lincoln are also excellent choices. (But I'd rather burn to a crisp in the mid-day sun than see Captain EO again). If you want to get something to eat, think about the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland - supposedly the best air conditioning of any Disneyland dining facility (though I haven't made a scientific study of this).

It should be noted that the heat index kind of builds in Anaheim through the summer. August will tend to be hotter than July and the beginning of September can be hotter than both of them as this is the time of year of the infamous Santa Ana winds that blow in from the desert. Now you are talking some heat because the coastal breeze stops and it just stays hot, night and day.

So, while it wouldn't be my first month of choice to go to Disneyland, if the circumstances and opportunities presented themselves, I wouldn't hesitate about going to Disneyland in July. Wouldn't mind it a bit.

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