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Saturday, December 10, 2011

it's a small world at Christmas

What is your favorite thing to see and enjoy at Disneyland during the Christmas season? It is the giant Christmas tree on Main St. with all the accompanying Main St. decorations? Is it the lighting of the winter castle and seeing it "snow"? Is it seeing A Christmas Fantasy Parade"? Perhaps it is taking your child to see Santa at Disneyland within the confines of the Reindeer Roundup. How about the charm and detail of the exquisitely decorated New Orleans Square? You need to see all of them during a holiday visit of course but for me, tops on the list, is standing in amazement before the dazzling light display of it's a small world in the cool of a December evening then making my way down to the boats for journey of wonderful holiday cheer.

They shut down iasw for 3 weeks to install the holiday overlay, usually the last week or so of October and the first part of November. The time the ride is down is a small price to pay for what can be seen and marveled at once it returns in all its festive Christmas glory. Disney Parks Blog posted a video of cast members working on the overlay installation and you can see their attention to detail

For most of the year, it's a small world, sits as a majestic iconic Disneyland attraction - important but just not enough there to make it into anyone's top 5 or maybe even top 10 favorite Disneyland attractions. Some people avoid the thing altogether because the insipid song that plays for all 13 minutes of the ride can be beat head against the wall time when the ride is through.  But it all changes during the holidays when it's a small world transform into wondrous holiday magic not to be missed or experienced.

A Vicarious DCA Moment Through Texting

Remember when (and I'm talking only about 10 or 15 years ago) you couldn't wait to get back home from a trip to Disneyland to share your fun, memories, and experiences with your friends and family members. You brought back pictures (once they were developed), maybe some home videos, and assorted park souvenirs to share your adventures in Disneyland with others.

I'm sitting here at home last Sunday night watching The Simpsons and my cell phone makes its little sound when it gets text message. It was from my niece and her daughter "We're just got in line for the Tower of Terror and were just thinking of you". It was my niece who first got me to go on the TOT several years ago when every instinct in me said "No way man....". We had a great fall down the elevator shaft, screaming and laughing all the way. Anyway, I checked MouseWaits on my phone told her the wait time was 38 minutes and to "have a nice scream". So here I am, 434 miles away, and living my normal life when I get to share vicariously a Disneyland moment with my niece and her daughter. Nice.

Heck, when my friend Mike went to Disneyland back in September, he would text me back pictures at work of him just standing in line. I told him to. I haven't figured out if asking to text you back pictures of you standing in line for a ride is some kind of sickness or not.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are You Sure About This Cars Land Thing?

Disney has got several hundred million bucks invested in this Cars Land expansion and without a doubt the pictures that are still coming out of the soon to be opened land (June 2012) show a level of detail that is second to none. A reasonably close rendition of Radiator Springs will spring to life but is Disney sure about hitching something that is supposed to last generations to the Cars movie franchise?

I watched Cars 2 on blu-ray last night. Without a doubt, it is the worst thing from Pixar that I have seen (my previous Pixar low water mark was Finding Nemo). Now to be fair, the computer generated graphics and especially the use of color, light, and reflection are eye popping but there is a movie behind dazzling colors and that movie isn't very good. I could go on and on about why I didn't like it but it comes down to too much Larry the Cable Guy and taking the simple charm of the original Cars on a globe trotting spy chase almost seems like something that would come out of an old copy of Mad Magazine.

It was fun to see the Radiator Springs on the screen (what little of it there was) and compare it to what is being built in Southern California but building a land on the movie franchise where its last effort was horrid seems a bit of a head scratcher. The original concept of Cars land wasn't based on the movie at all but the original Route 66 that wound its way half way across this country once upon a time. But Disney in their never ending quest to tie their brands and franchises together in profitable packages moved into the Pixar Cars realm. Hopefully Cars Land comes together better than Cars 2 the movie.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Bug's Land Christmas

I've said it before in this blog and I'll say it again - it irks me to no end when a read in Disneyland discussion boards, forums, and blogs how they need to get rid of A Bug's Land and put in something better. When people post things like this what they usually mean is "I'm too old for anything in A Bug's Land to interest me - put in something that I might actually want to go on". Me, me, me.... it's the same old story. Stop it. A Bug's Land is fine for what it is and now that it's Christmas time the little land for small fries becomes even more charming as everyone gets reduced to "bug size" with all the oversized Christmas decorations. So forget about yourselves and for a few minutes to walk through A Bug's Land this Christmas season and look at the smiles and the joy of those who are just becoming familiar with the world around them. It's a land of sweetness and charm and occupies such a small space that it shouldn't cause anyone any grief and might actually bring some joy.

The Christmas Spirit - Disneyland Style

I think it was 2008 - Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I made the trip down to Disneyland the week before Thanksgiving. I think it may have been one of our best trips ever. We love November at Disneyland - after the decorations go up but before the holiday crowds arrive. And maybe we have been lucky, the November weather at Disneyland for our trips that time of year has been very cooperative with warm days and cool nights, just as it should be. Anyway, we usually made our November trips with other family members but in 2008, it was just me and Mrs. DLT. It was perfect, we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and headed over to Disneyland just before 3:00pm. We walked in right before the start of A Christmas Fantasy Parade and we were able to grap a great spot on the upper level of the train station. Could there be a better way to kick off your holiday season than to see A Christmas Fantasy Parade right when entering the park?

The whole trip was great that way and even though it was before Thanksgiving, everything was filled with the holiday spirit and so were we. I don't even remember us having the usual knock-down-drag-out argument over something stupid like we do on most of our Disneyland trips. The Christmas spirit abounded in so many ways that week.

We had such a good time that when we returned home, settled back, and took a look around at the situation we decided we had the time, the opportunity, and the finances to go back in December as well. We had annual passes, a very great rate was available from one of our favorite places to stay, and everything just seemed to point to going back and continuing our Disney Christmas journey. And so we did - we went back around mid-December before the start of Christmas week.

But we made one fatal error in our Disneyland Christmas Spirit thinking. In November, we went down early, with no real expectations, and the magic of Disneyland at Christmas just overtook in wondrous ways. When we went down a few weeks later in December, we carried the ill-advised plan of "why don't we do our Christmas shopping while down at Disneyland?". Most everyone is our family is some kind of Disney nut so picking up some gifts should be no problem, right? Here is my cautionary tale.

Disneyland is a great way to enhance the Christmas experience and if you let its magical arms wrap around you and carry you way Christmas nirvana. If you walk in there with a list of names, and a Christmas budget, and trudge from store to store looking at everything from top to bottom and checking price tags on everything, a lot of that magic is taken away by the shear commercialism of it all. It became a little unsettling for me. Not that we didn't have a good time but the fact that one of the reasons I was there was to shop, took away a bit from my Christmas Spirit. 

Did I also mention that the weather from the November trip a few week earlier and December trip took a 180 degree turn and turned rainy, cold, and miserable? Well, we could put up with that to a certain extent but its holding up some item in a store and debating for 10 minutes as to whether this would be a good gift for so and so proved be the trips downing moments. 

As it turned out, everyone loved their gifts. Mrs DLT and I had got so frustrated that at the end of the trip we ended up getting all kid's toys on our list at the now defunct Engine-Ears-Toys in DCA in about 30 minutes after spending hours on previous days trying to pick out the elusive perfect gift but it all worked out in the end. One of my new rules for Disneyland at Christmas is if you see something someone may like on a trip through a store - get it but do not make the purpose of a trip to Disneyland to Christmas shop - you'll be sorry. I was.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Remembering Roller Coaster Tycoon

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

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

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

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

The Return of the Disneyland Hotel

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Merry Muppets Weekend

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sailor Mickey At The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

The $72 (A Person) Thanksgiving Dinner

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

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

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

How To Keep Your Belly Full For About 25 Bucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iger And The Apple

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Before Thanksgiving

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

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

The Disneyland Things You Learn

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

"It Messes With My Head"

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

The Zephyr

Soarin' Over California

The Hollywood Tower of Terror

Thunder Mountain Railroad

Star Tours

Space Mountain

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

The Day California Screamin' Crashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do The Right Thing

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

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

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

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

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

The Worst Disneyland 50th Anniversary Souvenir

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Downtown Disney Dining - The Rainforest Cafe

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

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

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

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

My Christmas Season Just Got Longer

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

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

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

The Mark Twain Steamboat - A View From The Top

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

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

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

Gridlock - Taping the Disneyland Christmas Parade

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Matterhorn Refurbishment Revisited

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

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

Carefree Disney Days

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Changing Of The Seasons

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

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

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

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

Frontierland And A Circle Of Rocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Merry Halloween

Ah yes, today is Halloween. Hope everyone has a fun and safe one. And while Disneyland gets ready for one more night of Halloween festivities, the Disney fan websites have been having a field day with their park updates over the collision of the Halloween and Christmas seasons at the resort (frequently mentioning the Haunted Mansion Holidays theme of "when two holidays collide"). You see, even though pumpkins are still plentiful around the park, for the last week or ten days the Christmas decorations have been going up inside the park as well leading to the odd juxtaposition of theming (well, maybe not so odd anymore because your local Wal-Mart has Halloween and Christmas decorations sitting side by side also).

So with Halloween in full swing, the castle is being transformed into its winter spectacle, Christmas decorations have begun to go up in New Orleans Square, ToonTown, DCA's A Bug's Land, and the truest indication of the changing of the season - the shutdown of it's a small world to install the holiday overlay. 

When the park opens tomorrow, I'm willing to bet there won't be a carved pumpkin in sight. In the blink of an eye, Halloween will be gone and it becomes time for Disney to really start showing off holiday magic.

Merry Halloween!

Captain America - The Blu-Ray Release

Officially, the movie is called Captain America - The First Avenger. We'll just call it Captain America for our purposes. The First Avenger part was added for film goers in other countries who are put off by anything with America in the title. In certain countries, the Captain America was dropped and the film became The First Avenger. I'll give you a moment to ponder that.

The summer blockbuster (a success, but not a huge one) made it to DVD and blu-ray last week so I retrieved a copy from a near-by RedBox machine for viewing at home. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler was asleep for the first showing so I actually got to see the film twice in my 24 hour rental period. That's a lot of Captain America. But I didn't mind. It's a good film as are most of the efforts now coming out of the Disney owned Marvel Studios. If nothing else, they are entertaining.

Captain America succeeds as a movie because it tells a straightforward story that is pretty easy to follow along. This is comic book stuff. The movie is not here to trick you or pass itself off as a work of art. Captain America simply tells a story of how a 98 pound weakling, a "good guy", with a great and relentless heart gets to kick some butts on the bad guys (some variation of Nazis - always a good target). Watching the film, I thought of it more as an Indiana Jones type movie rather than a superhero movie. A good story that is well paced and a great cast make Captain America a winner (as someone who is nicknamed Captain America should be).

The Marvel Universe is complete. Beginning with the first Iron Man and followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and now Captain America, the stage is set for when all our superhero friends will get together under the direction of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D to save the world in next summer's The Avengers - the first of the Marvel Studios films that will be distributed by Disney. In the works is also Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 so the Disney/Marvel deal is about to begin pay off huge dividends. 

Now if we could only get the Marvel superheroes to take up residence inside Tomorrowland's Innoventions building.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Feral Cats of Disneyland

Fantasyland Skyway station stairs - Spot of a fereal cat sighting

It's a little sad around the Disneyland Traveler's house this morning. One of our 3 cats, Herbie, sometime most likely last evening got outside. We keep our cats indoors because we live in a very busy neighborhood traffic wise and its just safer for them.

Herbie has snuck out before but its probably been a few years now. He always makes his way back home after a few days though we usually have to coax him back into the house through bribery. We got Herbie about 4 years ago. He was what is known as a feral cat. He lived around our son's school and rather than seeing kids feed the cat left over bologna sandwiches, our son decided to bring him home. A quick visit to the vet turned up that Herbie was shot with a BB gun at one point and the BB is still lodged under his skin. Other than that, he was neutered and in good health. We had a new member of the family.  Herbie is laid back and mellow for the most part never meaning to cause a ruckus of any kind.  He's a good guy and hopefully he comes back soon.

Which brings me to the feral cats of Disneyland. Have you ever seen one of Disneylands many feline residents? By some estimates there are around 200 feral cats that patrol Disneyland. Rather than get rid of them, cast members that work at Disneyland's Circle D ranch have partnered with the cats for one important purpose. Cats being cats, they go on patrol at night to take care of any potential unwanted rodents. In return, Circle D spays and neuters the cats that live at the park and make sure any kittens are sent to local animal centers for adoption. Circle D also provides 5 cat feeding stations around both Disneyland and DCA. 

Though the shy cats are seldom seen by the massive crowds during the day, every once in awhile, you get lucky and get a chance to see one just passing by.  I have seen a Disneyland feral cat 3 times - once just wandering by the Monsters Inc. ride in DCA, once over behind the Hungry Bear restaurant, and once on the closed off stairway that leads up to the old Skyway station in Fantasyland (pictured above). It is kind of an amusing startling sight when you see one. The feral cats of Disneyland are a resourceful bunch. Let's hope Herbie is too.

Trick Or Treat In One Week

So the one week to go countdown begins for Halloween next Monday. Disneyland began counting down over a month ago as Halloween now is by estimates the third busiest "season" of the year at the park behind the Christmas and Summer vacation seasons. Disney scores big for decking out the park in every way imaginable for Halloween. As mentioned in other posts to this blog I'm not really big on pumpkins but when you see Disney carving up and utilizing pumpkins hundreds of different way, you can't help but be impressed.

One of my best trips to Disneyland was October 2002. There was a large group of us that went on that trip. We had our first chance to stay at the luxurious Grand Californian. It was terrific fun and you know what, there barely was a pumpkin to be found. Somewhere along the way, it all changed. Other Southern California theme parks did special Halloween promotions so I guess Disney just decided that they could do it too. The first Halloween Trick or Treat nights started over at California Adventure, probably as a way to prop that park up in the days prior to its current expansion and makeover. Once DCA was slated for massive construction, Disney's Halloween party moved over to Disneyland where it continues to grow year by year.

I'm still not a Halloween guy but admire Disney's efforts and people have responded. I'm still trying figure out what to do next Monday night. There aren't a lot of children in our neighborhood so the idea of putting out decorations and passing out candy hardly seems worth the effort. We've done this in past years and got on or two knocks on the door. I think last year, we just locked up our front gate and watched TV in the dark. There's always getting out for dinner and a movie I suppose.

For me, there is only one enduring wonderful image that center's around Halloween and it was shown many  years ago. Sometime this week, the DVD will be pulled out of the cabinet and watched and my Halloween will be complete.

"I gotta rock..."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Disney Pin Trading Dilemma

Disney pin trading. The buying and trading of the thousands of Disney pins really is a phenomena - a hobby enjoyed by thousands really all over the world. Now admittedly, I'm not much of a collector of Disney stuff. This was explored a little in a previous post back in July titled - The Disney Collectible Curmudgeon but Disney pins do hold some interest for me. First of all, let's take the trading aspect of pins off the table. I have no interest whatsoever in getting Disney pins and going out and trading with someone else. Seems counter-productive on some level. You buy a pin because you like it then turn around and trade it. I don't understand. Granted, pin trading is world I don't tread in so there is a lot I don't understand. My interest in pins would be based solely on the fact that some of them look pretty cool.

As mentioned in that previous post, my interest in pins would be pretty selective out of the thousands that are available. I have no interest in Disney classic characters - maybe Mickey just a bit, but a Donald or Goofy pin, no thanks. I don't think I would be into pins from Disney or Pixar films. I do have have pins of Wall-E and Eve because that is my favorite Pixar movie, but I think that's it. I have a few Pirates of the Caribbean pins but I'm not sure if they are based on the ride or the movie. Doesn't really matter, pirate pins are some of the coolest looking. 

I think if I were to pick up an interest in pins, it would be based on some of my favorite rides and attractions in Disneyland. Besides POTC, there would be Jungle Cruise pins, Haunted Mansion pins, Matterhorn pins. I could also see collecting pins based on some of my favorite lands - Adventureland pins, New Orleans Square pins. That may be a good way to go.

If I did collect pins, what would I with them? The few I have that are still in their original packaging I have tacked on to a bulletin board that I rarely look at. I have a few pins in my cubicle back at the office that I use to tack up bulletins and emails that someone tells me might be important. If I collected a few pins, I really would need to work on some kind of display. PS - I would never wear a pin on a lanyard or anything like that. It's just not me.

Then there is a ultimate pin dilemma. Disney pins are made in China for literally pennies. They are sold in the parks for I guess somewhere between $7 - $12. If you buy pin sets, start whipping out the twenty dollar bills. This can be one expensive collectible that generously pads Disney's pockets. It boils down to if I am going to pay that kind of money for a little decorative piece of metal, it better well look really, really nice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler Disneyland

I'll preface my remarks with a little story. Even though Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and myself are not Southern California residents, my father-in-law lives in Torrance where it borders Redondo Beach - a really area. One Sunday afternoon, we had arranged to meet some acquaintances at a city park on the coast near Torrance. My father-in-law was driving and pulled up to a curbside parking spot right in front of the park and was about to back in. As he was about to back in, someone with car full of people nose dived right into the spot basically stealing if from him. Mrs. DLT was livid and ready to jump out of the car. My father-in-law, an ornery old guy who was a one time Navy seaman and someone who looks like he has been in a bar fight or two, told Mrs. DLT to calm down and let it go then drove off to find another parking spot. "You need to be careful living down here. You don't know what some people are capable of."

His cautionary words may be a bit extreme but wise none the less. Some things are best left alone. It's safer that way. Which leads to me Disneyland and what I read often in forums and discussion boards that the park crowds now tend to be ruder, cruder, more obnoxious, self-centered, and not at all respectful of others trying to enjoy their Disney day. Same park regulars remember a Disneyland of yesteryear where "sharing in the magic" beat out "every man for himself". Could this be an idealized view of what never was? Perhaps, but the Disneyland of today mirrors the society we live in especially the diverse society of Southern California. I have never witnessed a fist-fight or any kind of violence at Disneyland. Security at the park is first rate. But I have seen plenty of arguments and generally bad behavior by people of all ages and all ethnicities. It sometimes makes me cringe that grown people can flat out be that rude.

If park behavior has deteriorated, Disney needs to take some of the responsibility. There are close to a million annual passholders for Disneyland and a great majority of them are Southern California locals. There is a huge percentage of local passholders who are true Disney fans and have a great deal of respect for the park and its legacy. Some of these people go out of there way to help someone who may be visiting Disneyland for the very first time. But there is also a large population of passholders who do not share in the respect for the park or other park guests and treat it more like a visit to a local shopping mall. People like this are usually easy to spot and in some cases, I almost feel sorry for them because they have no sense of where they really are. On top of passholders, Disney also makes discount tickets available to Southern California residents to bolster the attendance. It makes visiting Disney quite affordable to people you may not even want in your house.

I have no control over anyone else or their behavior. Respect for others has been on the decline for quite some time. You could probably write a book about when and how all this went down hill. So while I have no control over the behavior of others, I can only look at myself. By nature, I am not a very social person. I tend to be suspicious of other's motives. Mrs. DLT says I look at the negative (in anything) far too much. But I've never gotten into an argument at Disneyland with another guest. I try not to let the bad behavior of others not affect me. But there is something missing in this "ignore it and turn the other way" approach. Am I really helping Disneyland be a better place. At any given time, there are thousands of very nice people in that park. I tend not to say anything until someone says something to me first. Why can't I just reach out with a comment or friendly 'hello' that makes someones park visit just a bit better? The better, kinder, gentler Disneyland does not begin with fixing everybody else's bad attitudes. It starts with you and me, with a smile, with a "where are your from?", with a "are you enjoying your day?". The kinder, gentler Disneyland is not seeking self-centered enjoyment for yourself. It's doing everything possible to share the magic with everyone around you. Next visit, I'm going to try a make Disneyland a better place by being nicer.

"But Doesn't Mickey Look a Little Small?"

You have to admit Disney has done a pretty good job its makeover of its Paradise Pier section of Disney California. Yes, there is still room for improvement. The retail shops near the old Maliboomer site need to be re-themed to more closely fit in with the predominantly Victorian themed architecture. Everyone is still waiting for a real "Disney" worthy queue line for California Screamin'. There's not much that can be done with King Triton's Carousel. It is what it is. 

Perhaps the biggest single improvement to the pier was the peeling and discarding of that ghastly looking giant orange covering that housed the swing ride - once named The Orange Stinger. Man it was ugly. The ride itself - swings spinning on a spindle - is sadly an off-the-shelf carnival ride that is featured at most non-Disney theme parks and even state fairs. These are rides that are bought, not "imagineered" in the true Disney sense. Disney owned it so the ride wasn't going anywhere but it did have to be re-themed to fit in with the new vision of Paradise Pier and now spins wildly to the music of the William Tell Overture as Silly Symphony Swings based on an early Mickey Mouse cartoon - The Band Concert. Up on top of the ride, conducting the mayhem, stands bandleader Mickey. It is the only ride/attraction in either park that features its most prominent resident (not counting Fantasmic here).

But I noticed it right away and everybody I am with pretty much says the same thing when coming near the ride  - "isn't Mickey a little small?" Yes. Yes. Double-yes. Supposedly the figure of Mickey that tops the ride is about 6 feet tall. On a ride that tall, he does really look mouse-like. To do justice to the ride and Mickey, he should have been taller and more prominent. He should have been made to where his silhouette could stand out from hundreds of feet away. It's a bad ride but at least it could been a more pronounced focal point if we had been given a bigger Mickey. Maybe there was a ride engineering / balance problem with a bigger Mickey but with the small Mickey, you've taken the park's biggest star and made him into cake topper.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just Desserts In Disneyland

So I'm sitting here this morning having a cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast with some jelly on it. I'm also reading a MousePlanet discussion board thread about best desserts in Disneyland. Great topic! I want to contribute something but I can't. Darn it. You see, by the time Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have finished our Disney meals, there seldom is any room in our tummies for dessert. We see the assorted pastries, cupcakes, and sweet treats around the park but rarely do we go out of our way for them. Usually by the time we have digested our meals after a couple of hours of fun in the parks, its right back time for another meal minus the dessert once again.

To be fair, we have gone for the WOC dining package meals at Ariel's Grotto and Wine Country Trattoria where a plate of mini desserts in included with the meal but these, while pleasing to the eye, aren't all that great in my humble opinion. Some of the little offerings may be better than others but none of them are particularly memorable. And there is that ever present churro cart where we do stop from time to time but again, not really a true drop to your knees kind of dessert. The lowly churro can be quite tasty when its fresh and hot but it is also one of those things where when its 40 seconds past its prime shelf life, can go down hill incredibly fast in taste.

I think last year we got a couple desserts from the Plaza Inn Restaurant to eat while watching the fireworks but to tell you the truth, you get so wrapped up in the fireworks and other people watching fireworks that the dessert became quite secondary.

When it comes to dessert at Disneyland for Mrs. DLT and I, our sweet tooth's are satisfied from two sources, the pineapple ice cream treats from the Tiki Room (another post) and from fresh made candy from any number of the parks delectable candy display cases - Ummm fudge. Oh, I would be remiss if I didn't mention once again Mrs. DLT's love for the pumpkin muffins in the fall. They don't float my boat all that much because when it comes to fall desserts, I'm not a big fan of nutmeg which seems to be in just about everything, but count Mrs. DLT in as a fan of the muffin.