Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Muppets

I was asked to make 2 sets of golf clubs for
2 of my favorites, Statler and Waldorf!
These were a ball to make because of the scale!
It even had a working umbrella...
The zipper pocket opened and it had plastic golf balls inside
Here's Statler and Gonzo in Palm Springs on the golf course!
next up a fan for Miss Piggy
the lase and trim is the same that is used in her dress...

this is a corn cob pipe I had to make for a fish...
I had about 10 min. to make it...
here's a screen grab ...

More Muppets Props

It seemed like I was always making something
for Rizzo and his Rat Pals
Here was a cheese dinner
Here a Cool Drum Set...
The bass drum had blinking lights in it...
Your standard drum set ...
And even one set for the Rastafarian Rat!
Little weapons!
these were fun to carve!
and they shot smoke.
Things falling on someones head was always funny!
These are plastic frying pans !
Always funny to drop Bowling balls on someone!!!
Foam rubber of course !
Big Weight... Big Laugh!
But my Favorites was for Rowlf the Dog!
I had make a Baby Grand out of foam...
just like Rowlf's piano, to drop on someones head!
Here they are... Mines on top!
My last week, I gathered up my Favorite Muppets and got a picture with them!
Somethings you just look back on and are glad you took the time to do...
This photo is the best thing I did!
Working for the Muppets, was like
working at the park in the late 70's and early 80's....
Pure FUN!
You just knew that the job you were doing
was making a lot of people HAPPY!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Disneyland Traveler Becomes Mr. Positive

So the question comment was made "if you like Disneyland so much, why do you nit-pick and have so many negative things to say? Even when you write good things there always seems to be tinge of negativity"

Fair point. Maybe I'm just a glass half empty kind of person but I will change that with this post - I will say nothing negative at all (hopefully) and explain with all the positive thoughts I can muster why I like Disneyland.

There simply isn't a better theme park experience out there than what Disneyland provides. The theming, the exquisite detail, the rich textured layers that exist within the confines of the park cannot be topped anywhere.

Age has no boundaries. Whether your 3 or 83, Disneyland offers fun for all ages and much of it is can be shared by young and old together.

Once through the gates, everyday problems seem to magically go away. It's all Disney, all the time.

Special moments that will last a lifetime.

Great rides. Everyone has their favorites. Mine is Pirates of the Caribbean but you could line up Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Jungle Cruise and several others right behind it.

You want entertainment and big time attractions? Try Fantasmic, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Billy Hill & the Hillbillies, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, along with parades and fireworks.

You couldn't give your family a better Christmas gift than a trip to Disneyland during the holiday season.

I like Disneyland Park food - there I said it. Now its taken years to sort it all out and Disney has definitely made great strides in recent years to improve their food offerings, but I can always get a good meal in Disneyland.

Hotels are minutes away. Whether I stay at a Disney hotel or a neighboring establishment, I know I am never more than a half hour away from walking through the park gates

Walt Disney was here and almost 60 years after he first welcomed guests into his park, you can still feel his presence.

I made trips to Disneyland with my mom and dad, sister and brother over the years - they have all passed away now. Inside Disneyland, I still see the places where we were once together. It touches the heart.

I can still get goosebumps (and sometimes misty eyed).

So there you go. All positive things to say about Disneyland. I'll go back and nit-picking sometime very soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Disneyland Traveler Starts to Worry About Christmas

By nature, I am a worrier. Now I certainly have far bigger worries than Christmas at Disneyland, many in fact, but still... I have a fear that they are taking my favorite time of the year at the park in a direction that I'm not very happy about.

Of course Al Lutz chronicled in great detail last week in his MiceAge column (link) how Disney finally made the move and did away with cast member after hour Christmas parties at the park, instead passing out cast members some extra passes for themselves and their families to enjoy Disneyland at Christmas - with the regular park guests. Disney's excuse was the parks are now so popular that they can't afford to take extra hours away from paying guests by closing down early for cast member parties. There are all kinds of holes with this reasoning but you can start with they closed the place down early a week or so ago for a private event. Anyway, instead of cast members filled with holiday spirit Disney is taking one more step into turning cast member's overall outlook towards "it's just another job".

And then there is this half baked idea of 20 nights of the Candlelight Processional instead of the traditional weekend event. Stripping the away festive aspect, it comes down to this (as always) - $$$$$. Disney is hoping that pairing Candlelight Processional event seating with expensive dining options (as they do at WDW) then a new holiday revenue stream gets created. But those in the know kind of feel that this may be first step towards having separate admission Christmas events similar to the very nice but very expensive Mickey's Merry Christmas Parties at WDW. Disneyland has done it for Halloween, Christmas is right around the corner and the thought of paying guests coming up with an additional $60 - $70 each to enjoy special Christmas events is an idea ripe with potential profits. Sleazy.

The last concern has to do with something I previously mentioned - turning the experience of wondering around Main St. at Christmas and making an eyesore with visible Processional seating areas and making foot traffic at the park entrance during the 20 nights of the Candlelight Processional virtual gridlock. Not something I'm looking forward to.

Where's Charlie Brown when you need him to call it for what it is - a commercial sham.

A Disney Salute to Space Shuttle Endeavor

Space Shuttle Endeavor Flies Over Disney Studios - Burbank

Last Friday we here in California were given a treat as the now retired space shuttle Endeavor flew over some of our most scenic cities and landmarks on its way to its final home of the California Science Museum in Los Angeles. Disney wasn't forgotten as the massive jumbo jet carrying its historic passenger made its way over both Disneyland and the Disney Studios in Burbank.

Endeavor was the last of the 5 space shuttles constructed (as a replacement for the Challenger which tragically exploded during lift-off) and made its first flight in 1992 and the last of its 5 flights in May 2011. In all, the orbiting space craft spent 299 days in space and traveled over 122,000,000 miles.

Below is a Disney video of the Endeavor and its flight over Disneyland that was posted to YouTube. What a treat for the park visitors that day.

Here are a couple of more photos from last Friday's flight taken over the Golden Gate Bridge in my hometown of San Francisco and flying over the State Capitol at where I currently live near Sacramento.

A Movie About Making Mary Poppins the Movie

I'm old enough to remember sitting in a movie theater as a small child and seeing Mary Poppins. I remember the movie kind of gave me the creeps - a lady with a funny accent flying around on an umbrella. As a kid, I put Mary Poppins in the same category as the Wizard of Oz with the flying monkeys that also gave me the creeps - not to mention more than a few nightmares. So I wasn't a big fan of Mary Poppins. PS. I read somewhere fairly recently that there was some kind of poll that said Dick Van Dyke gave the worst performance of any actor or actress presenting a fake British accent. I have seen clips of his role as Bert over the years and you know what.... the findings in that poll are right. It really was bad.

Anyway, flash forward to 2012 and Walt Disney Studios is just starting to film another Mary Poppins movie according to The Disney Post Blog (not Disney Parks Blog) but this time its a movie about the making of Mary Poppins which took more than 20 years to bring to the big screen as Walt Disney and Mary Poppin's author P.L. Travers wrestled over who would get control of the characters. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson plays Travers. Why do I get the feeling I'm going to enjoy a movie about the making of more than the movie itself? Oh yeah, Hanks and Thompson are great actors in a movie that sounds more my speed than people flying around on umbrellas.

Walt Disney's Mary Poppins (starring Julie Andrews)

Monday, September 17, 2012

More On Handling Disneyland Heat

It was one of my earliest posts in this blog, back in June 2011, and titled The Heat Is On. It talked about ways of beating the heat around Disneyland when temperatures start hitting the 90's or so. Sound, common sense advice in there alright but what if the temperatures begin to crack the century mark like they did for 3 days last week. I've never been to Disneyland on a 100 degree day but I can only imagine that it would be a miserable experience. How miserable? Well, all the scheduled parades were cancelled.

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have never been ones for leaving the park, going back to the hotel, then returning later in the day - just seems like too much work and wasted time unless you are staying at the Grand Californian. But it is a popular thing to do for many families, especially those with young children. No, Mrs. DLT and I are Disney gamers and once we are in the turnstiles, we tend to be there until it is time to leave for the day. Even I would have to admit that this practice may come up short when the temperature is sitting at 105. Yes, getting to the park right when it opens, doing as much as you can do until the heat says you can do more more, then getting out of there before heat stroke sets in seems like a wiser choice of action. In my previous post, I concentrated on going to the places where air-conditioning is present during the heat of the day. Of course, these places do not sit right next to each other (for the most part) so you have to endure the sun to get from one air-conditioned spot to the next. Trekking around Disneyland in the heat looking for something/anything that can bring relief from the heat does not seem like much fun at all.

The Tiki Room may have the best air conditioning in the park but they do kick you out after about 15 minutes. At least back at the hotel, with cool air blowing, the show isn't over and the ride doesn't end.

The one advantage for cruelly hot weather? Just like a good soaking rain, it keeps the locals out so crowd levels are kept down. It's small piece of solace when the sweat is is just rolling off you the the best of attraction of the day is going to be a nice shower.

Resurrecting Nemo - In 3D Of Course

If I'm not mistaken, Finding Nemo is Pixar's second most profitable movie release behind Toy Story 3 (and allowing for inflation, the two are pretty much equal). When I did my ranking of Pixar films (link here) from least favorite to favorite, I had Finding Nemo near the bottom with only Cars 2 being more insufferable along with A Bug's Life simply because I can't remember that movie even though I know that I have seen it. The reasons for my disliking Nemo are simple. Pixar, through many of the films, uses the some premise - a lovable misfit in peril. None of their movies embodies that formula more than Finding Nemo. It seems more formula and less creative originality than many of their other films. That and Ellen Degeneres's incessant chattering voice just plain annoys me.

But I am in the minority and plenty of people will be out in droves to see Finding Nemo in 3D for the next couple of weeks out ahead of its 3D home video release. Good for them. Considering most of the garbage movies that are out right now, a revisit with Nemo may be an improvement, maybe even for a curmudgeon like me.

I follow Albert Brooks, who voiced Nemo's dad in the movie, on Twitter. He is a bright and funny guy along with being a fine actor (like Steve Martin, Brooks was an inventive comedian long before he to took acting). Albert Brooks tweeted last week that the Nemo 3D looked so good at its premiere that he thought that he needed a wet suit. High praise indeed. Enjoy Finding Nemo 3D but I think I'll pass.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Now You Can Have A Beer In WDW's Magic Kingdom

The Dining Room at Be Our Guest in WDW

The soon-to-be opened lavish Be Our Guest restaurant within the confines of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Fantasyland expansion is set to open pretty soon. The restaurant will be a counter service operation by day but at night for dinner it transforms into a lovely sit-down table service dinner setting. Don't bother to try and get a reservation for the rest of this year, the place is booked up.

But with the dinner table service menu a door has been ever so slightly cracked open. For the first time ever, a domestic Disney signature park (which is Disneyland in CA and Magic Kingdom in FLA) will offer the sale of beer or wine to the general public. Disneyland does serve alcohol in its exclusive Club 33 but that restaurant is restricted to members and invited guests. No alcoholic beverages have been sold in either Disneyland or Magic Kingdom up until now.

Now this little announcement is not earth shattering. Be Our Guest (kind of a dumb name for a restaurant if you ask me) will only offer beer and wine during its dinner service and alcoholic beverages will still not be available in other MK park locations and Disneyland still remains alcohol free to the public but you have to admit, the door has been opened even if it is just a tiny bit.

It would be one of my predictions that alcohol sales will be commonplace with Disneyland and Magic Kingdom within 10 years or so. Disney tends to look less on past traditions these days and more towards the future in ways to generate the revenue shareholders demand. The profits made on alcoholic beverages, espcecially at Disney prices, is enormous. One of the primary purposes of the ElecTRONica and Mad T street parities in DCA is to serve high priced adult beverages. It's a revenue stream that I believe Disney will not turn its back. Instead, though it might be slow and subtle, the presences of alcohol in Disney parks will continue to grow. Just too much money to be made,

Riding The Rails On The Disneyland Railroad

The Disneyland Railroad isn't my most favorite ride in the park but it is the most indispensable. In fact, if Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I were planning a trip to Disneyland and knew the railroad would be closed, we'd probably be looking for a different set of dates to make the trip. It's that important. For us the Disneyland Railroad serves multiple purposes. When we first arrive in Disneyland, we often jump on the railroad first thing to kind of get the lay of the land and our Disney juices flowing. Toward the end of the day the railroad provides some much needed assistance getting around for people with tired and sore feet. Perhaps during the day and we need a break to plan what to do next, a ride around the park may be just the ticket to relax and work on our plan for the rest of the day. In a full day at Disneyland, we are probably on the thing at least twice and maybe 3 or 4 times.

Walt Disney & Mickey on the E.L. Ripley
A Disney Photo

The Disneyland Railroad is cool, it's historic, a special gift from Walt Disney himself. And I remember as a kid thinking how cool it would be to be a conductor on the Disneyland Railroad (if I couldn't be an engineer). The conductors got to ride around all day hanging off the side of the train on one of those little platforms waving to the guests as the train passed by. Although today I think the conductors spend half their time telling people to sit down, keep your kids away from the exit space, and stop taking flash pictures.

But you know what, another little piece of vintage Disneyland legacy is in the process of being tossed aside in the name of safety once again. You see, those little platforms the conductors stand on while the train is making its Grand Circle Tour just quite aren't up to snuff when it comes to cast member safety or so "they" say. Has a conductor ever fallen off a moving train in almost 60 years of operation? Not that I'm aware of. But the little platforms have got to go and Disney is in the process of building little safety compartments for the conductors to ride in while train is in motion. I haven't seen a picture yet of these compartments but they are being installed, one train at a time, over the next few months. A cool job just got a little lamer.

What's next? Seat belts for the horse drawn carriage on Main St.?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Disneyland and a Most Disturbing Trend

It may be small but there is a disturbing trend that is beginning to surface around Disneyland and DCA (and other Disney parks) - a trend so disturbing that this week's park updates in both MiceAge/MiceChat (Andy Castro) and MousePlanet (Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix) felt compelled to write about it. When Buena Vista Street opened in June, it was hailed a masterpiece in imagineering and design projecting the bygone era of Hollywood in the 1920's and 30's. Great detail went in to making the architecture and the storefronts really look like something Walt Disney may have seen when he first stepped off the train in southern California. Great care was used installing the window displays for each of the shops on Buena Vista Street. Disney went so far as to post YouTube videos on just how much effort went into finding just the right period pieces for the windows that came from that era. The windows on BVS were works of art.

That is until now.

For Disney, there was a problem. The storefronts and windows on Buena Vista Street have so much detail that they really don't look like Disney retail stores whose primary goal is to sell you things. The window displays looked so good that it possibly couldn't reduced to something like "shopping" for casual park visitors. It doesn't help that Disney wants the doors to the stores closed for a green initiative aimed at energy conservation and costly air conditioning doesn't collide with summertime heat. For casual park visitors, the storefronts look like the fake facades that have existed over in the neighboring Hollywood Backlots area for the last decade. Of course, most people only give a cursory look at Buena Vista Street as the race by on their way to Cars Land. You see, the stores on Buena Vista Street just haven't been raking in the dough that Disney had hoped. So what does Disney do?

They have now taken the artistic windows and began stuffing them with Disney merchandise and not necessarily the good unique collectible type of Disney merchandise but stuff they peddle around a dozen other places in the parks. Beautiful period props have been removed and replaced by displays or shirts, hats, kitchen utensils, and other dreck. 

The windows still look nice because care is taken to display the merchandise creatively but again, the object here is to get you to walk into the store and buy something rather than present the detail that Disney parks are noted for. The same type of thing is going on over in Disneyland where the fun Holloween decorations in the Main St Store windows is being deluded with an ever growing display of retail items.

But it gets worse as being reported by MiceAge/MiceChat's Dateline Disneyland.

You see those soft drink cups at the top of this page - they are cups from Disneyland's 50th Anniversary celebration. What currently is happening is "Disney" logo cups used for soft drinks are in the process of being replaced by the generic red and white Coca-Cola cups that are served up at thousands of other places that don't serve their drinks in Pepsi cups. The new cups don't say Disneyland or Disney Parks or have any references to Disney whatsoever. Things like Disney vended turkey legs and hot dogs are now served in something labeled as a "Hot Food Bag" And to take it a step further, after that $12 Disneyland lunch you may have just enjoyed you now get to wipe off your  face with a plain brown napkin - yep, napkins with Disney Parks printed on them also appears to be a thing of the past. 

So why is the question. Generic cups and napkins are just plain cheaper in the quantities that Disney deals with. Cheaper dispensing items leads to higher profit margins and that seems to be what it is all about these days. Admission and pass holder prices have gone up enormously over the last few years and Disney seems compelled to give less even if the less that is being given is just minor details. Details are what separate a Disney park from the rest of what's out there. The gap may be closing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Simple Life of Casey Jr. and Storybookland

Life can get pretty complicated on occasion. There are ups. There are downs. Sometimes it seems like a thrill a minute as the saying goes. When things seem on the verge of going out of control, sometimes quiet is a gentle place of respite. Such is my story about two Disneyland classic rides that date back to 1955 - the Casey Jr. Circus Train and the Storybookland Canal Boats.

The two rides basically occupy the same area toward the back of Disneyland's Fantasyland. This past week they both closed down for refurbishment until sometime towards the middle of November. Apparently someone thought it was a wise idea to add some pathways around the Casey Jr. train track for maintenance workers and guest evacuation. Safety is big in Disneyland these days or so the state of California keeps telling them. So the two rides quietly close down with barely a whimper in Disney fandom. Oh, but Indiana Jones Adventure closed down at the same time and there's plenty of fist shaking out there even though the huge ride badly needs attention and repair. The IJA thrill is gone while the quiet of two legacy attractions falls by the wayside.

Last year I wrote about how members of my own family thought the Storybookland Canal Boats was the most boring ride in the park. I'll remove the word boring and insert quiet. There are no thrills in the gentle boat ride through the world of storybook miniatures and well manicured topiary. Both these rides came from Walt Disney himself and for that reason alone they are keepers. But there is something to be said for simple rides in a lovely setting that many people just find nice and relaxing. No, everything doesn't have to provide a thrill. Quiet is its own reward.

Nobody is counting down the days until these rides re-open again. Their closure is not causing anyone to second guess their trip plans. Not being able to take a ride on either of these attraction is a "deal breaker".

But with their closure, a little piece of Disneyland's heart is missing. Even if you never went on the rides they certainly were pleasant to look at - a lush oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy Fantasyland. No, these are not major attractions by any stretch of the imagination but Disneyland certainly is a nice place for having them.

Before Casey Jr. closed last week, MiceChat's Andy Castro took a final video look at the train ride from the back end of the caboose. Nice. (fun fact: Walt Disney wanted only horses for his carousel ride. Most older carousels have fixed stationary pieces where people could just sit while going round and round instead of going up and down on some kind of animal. So King Arthur's carousel is made of up from a few different carousels purchased by Walt Disney. Walt used the horses and constructed the Casey Jr. train cars from unneeded odds and ends from the carousel collection)

Here is Andy's video

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Things We Pack For A Disneyland Trip

We may take the 1 hour flight to Disneyland again some day but as for now, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I drive the 434 miles from our home outside of Sacramento to the Disneyland front gates. While the plane flight is short and convenient, driving has spoiled us. Sound backwards? Maybe, but the one thing we have found out through the years is driving allows us to bring "stuff" all kinds of "stuff" we could never take on a plane.

Of course there are the essentials when packing for a Disneyland know....layers of clothes, comfortable shoes, a camera, toothpaste, deodorant, the usual suspects. Here are some of the more items we take that are a bit out of ordinary.

Those little 4 cup coffee makers they put in hotel rooms are pretty much a joke. 4 cups? Maybe in the world of the seven dwarfs you could get 4 cups out of one of those things - 2 cups max. Forget that, we bring a coffee pot - good ol' 12 cup Mr. Coffee. Of course we now have to pack sugar, splenda, and creamer. "Wait a minute" you interject "Don't you need to keep creamer refrigerated?" Unless its the powdered kind - yes you do. So into the back of the Disneyland Traveler Disney-mobile (a Ford Explorer currently) goes the ice chest - 48 quarts worth. "That's a little large for creamer" - well, add soda, water, beer, and anything else that needs to be kept cold and a large cooler comes in handy.

We live in a digital age, an age of cell phones, laptops, iPods, digital cameras,and video recorders. Everything has a battery that needs to be charged (kind of like people, that's what the beer is for). Well, most hotel rooms have like 2 visible outlets that aren't being used by something. Nothing that a large multi-outlet power strip couldn't fix and which we now always pack.

Speaking of plugging in.... most Disneyland area hotel rooms have working air conditioning that sufficiently keep rooms cool. But no, that's not quite good enough. Mrs. DLT needs a fan, an oscillating fan to blow a breeze on her when she sleeps. It also helps drown out noises from outside the room. Of course, every hotel room has a slightly different layout so just in case, we also pack an extension cord for the fan - about 20 ft. should do it.

Now this is the one that drives me crazy. Mrs. DLT can't seem to pack for a 5 day to Disneyland even though she appears to have enough clothes that will get her through any natural disaster. She has to make one trip to the hotel laundry room to wash clothes. She makes me go with her. So here we are at the Happiest Place On Earth separating lights from darks. Of course whatever detergent the hotel sells out of a vending machine isn't going to work so now we''re packing containers of liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener. Don't forget to pack some extra quarters for the machine.

Speaking of liquids. I'm pretty much good with hotel soap, shampoo, and conditioner. It works for me. Not for Mrs. DLT on the other hand as she brings bottles and bottles of stuff - not just shampoo and conditioner but assorted lotions and cremes. There isn't a square inch of flat space in that bathroom that doesn't have a bottle of something on it (and I'm not talking small bottles).

Some people are napkin people, Mrs. DLT and I tend to be more paper towel people. We go through a lot of paper towels. Better pack a roll or two along with plastic knives, forks, and spoons just in case. Then throw in some plastic garbage bags for dirty clothes and such. 

I mentioned a laptop computer earlier. Now, traveling with a laptop is commonplace these days. Maybe a trip to Disneyland is the one place you should be able to get away from computers for awhile. For us, a laptop is pretty much mandatory as I use it download huge amounts of pictures and videos on a daily basis so everyday we start with a clean memory card. The laptop also becomes essential to watch Disney suck the life out of our bank account on a daily basis. It's quite entertaining really in a perverted kind of way.

So that's pretty much our out of the ordinary packing items. I'm sure there are more. Pictures in this blog entry are of the Candy Cane Inn, our favorite place to stay outside of the Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian. It's very nice and a third of the price of a Disney hotel which leaves us more money to spend inside the park where we take a look each night and review how Disney has just sucked the life again out of our bank account.

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