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Monday, May 30, 2011


I hate lines. Who doesn't? But if you're a frequent traveler to Disneyland Resort, you know all about lines. They're everywhere especially certain times of the year. With the new Star Tours scheduled to officially open this Friday (6/3), the prediction is the wait times can run as high as 2 or 3 hours and if you want a fastpass, plan on getting one early before they run out.  I try not to play the "waiting in line" game for a ride or attraction as much as possible. Not as young as I used to be. My general rule of thumb is that if the wait in the stand-by line is over 30 minutes or so to get on, I'll do the fastpass option if that option is available. Now fastpasses are not available for all attractions so sometimes you just have to wait it out or try back again at a later time and hope for the best. Here are some rides that do not have fastpass options but often attract long lines.

  • Toy Story Mania:  I have waited as long as an hour to get on this one. It's the one ride without a fastpass that's worth the wait but not more than an hour.
  • Peter Pan's Flight: Unless you get there when the park first opens, the wait is always over 30 minutes. And it loads incredibly slow (about 600 guests an hour).  It's probably the quintessential Disney dark ride with the charm of being suspended in the air in the ride vehicle as opposed to scooting along the ground on a track but with an actual running time of about two and a half minutes, I'll pass on the wait. Do what my wife and I did - wait for a driving rain storm to drive all the people away then walk right on (of course the wind blew an emergency door open which immediately shut down the ride, turned on the lights, and left us literally hanging in the air for about 20 minutes while everything was checked out and reset).
  • Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage: Maybe the most photogenic ride in the park. The subs are cool looking especially passing through the waterfall. The ride? Not so much. Sitting in that cramped submarine bent over with your head press against the glass is not my idea of a good time. If the wait is less than 30 minutes, maybe, just maybe I'll want to get on. Better yet, wait for the driving rain storm that drives all the people away and wait time drops to about 7 minutes and the 40 person sub is only about three quarters full.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Because the ride can load an incredible 3300 guests per hour, the wait is seldom over 30 minutes but it certainly can be during certain times of the year. I think my longest wait was about 50 minutes in mid June. It's worth the wait. It's the best ride in the park. 
  • Haunted Mansion: While POTC is worth a wait of over 30 minutes, the Haunted Mansion just isn't. Fortunately, it rarely gets above the 30 minute mark and that's usually when the Holiday overlay is installed (mid September through early January). Again, the omni-loading ride system can push through almost 3000guests  per hour.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds: 30 minutes is about right for the bobsleds - the first steel tubed coaster ever built. It's a nostalgic ride down the mountain but not much of a memorable one anymore. A long wait just isn't worth it especially if its hot.
  • Gadget Go-Coaster: It's a kids ride. I've never been on it but for the life of me, I can't see why people wait 30 minutes or sometimes more for what essentially is a 30 second ride

Memorial Day

So here we are - Memorial Day 2011 - the official kickoff for summer fun. Yep, our friends at Disneyland have big plans for us in their parks over the next few months. But before we get to all that - let's stop a moment and remember this day.

One of the pastors in church yesterday made the comment that Memorial Day is the most solemn of all American holidays - a day which began after the Civil War where Union Soldiers gathered to honor and remember their fallen comrades in arms and has been extended to remember all those who have given their lives in service to their country in battles for freedom around the world.

I have to give Disneyland credit here. For all its sometimes crass commercialism, Disneyland does take time out to give proper honor and respect to country, flag, and the spirit of American patriotism.  This has been the tradition started by Walt Disney himself. Though I am hundreds of miles away from Disneyland today, I know all the red, white, and blue bunting is out in full force on Main Street. The Disneyland Band will have their full compliment of patriotic anthems added to their repertoire to perform throughout the day and at 4:30 this afternoon, just like its done every day, they will gather around the flagpole, generally in front of a fairly small group of people, and do their duty in the flag retreat ceremony.

Too many people miss this time honored Disneyland event in their never ending quest for fun and thrills just like they do by walking by Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Disneyland Opera House in a rush to get to Space Mountain. Just stop a minute people and take a look around, you just may find a little bit of patriotic spirit in the midst of theme park nirvana.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Now There's A Parade

The new Mickey's Soundsational Parade made its debut on Main St. this past Thursday and early reports have this parade being a more in line with the tradition of great Disneyland parades. The MousePlanet Video posted here gives a generous flavor of the music and color of this classic character filled extravaganza. The parade in its entirety looks like it runs about 15 minutes in length from the full videos posted on YouTube.

I look forward to seeing Mickey's Soundsational Parade down the road sometime. The Disneyland parades usually have about a 2 year lifespan and this one looks like a great improvement of its predecessor whose name escapes at the moment since its been gone about 6 months. How disappointing was the last Main St. Disneyland Parade?  Like I said, I can't recall its name and its not even worth the 30 second effort it would take me to find out.  It was so bad, I'd rather be in a Main St. gift shop rather than outside looking at a parade that was more insufferable than memorable.

Strike up the band Mickey and get ready for a great summer.

"One Popcorn, Please"..."That'll Be $15.50"

There is an old episode of The Simpsons where Homer, trying to save the admission price" hops the wall at what appears to be Disney World's Magic Kingdom.  With only the wall visible, the next voice you hear is Homer, proud that he beat the cost of getting in, walking up to a churro cart and saying, "One churro please."  Without a beat, the response from the vendor is "That'll be 14 dollars". And so out comes the "D'oh!!!".

As my wife and I walk around Disneyland Resort, and money somehow seems to magically fly out of our pockets, we chuckle about Homer's despair over the price of a churro (note: they are not $14). So now comes the grand opening of Star Tours at Disney World's Hollywood Studios and in another week, Disneyland. And what do have here - a souvenir popcorn bucket that sells for..... $15.50.  So, I figure it's about 8 cents for the popcorn.  Maybe another buck or so for the plastic.  That leaves the rest for Disney and George Lucas to pad their already well padded pockets. Nice looking bucket though.....

Product Marketing vs. the Creative Process

Whether the World of Color at Disney California Adventure is a great show or not is a subject up for debate but nobody can deny it is a grand spectacle of monumental scope and shows some of the best of Disney imagineer creativity in recent years. The show provides about 25 minutes of "oohs" and "ahhs" as it was conceptually designed with some of the scenes working better than others. In the end, you can't walk a way from a performance without being impressed (even if you have been standing on your feet for a couple of hours by the time the show ends).

And now comes the premiere of the 2011 summer blockbuster movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, almost a certain guarantee to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. I'm willing to bet that 95% of the people who stand to marvel at World of Color already have it their minds to make it over to their local multiplex to see the film first hand. So the question is, does Disney really need to extend World of Color 4 minutes to insert a WOC promotion for the movie in front of a group of people who already have seen or will see the movie? The YouTube video posted here that shows the extended Pirates segment from its original 30 seconds is impressive but is it necessary? I'll be in the minority here for sure but I'm saying no. If you want to change World of Color to improve the pacing, the flow, the building to a breathtaking climax, then go for it.  If you want change World of Color to shamelessly promote a movie that really needs no promotion, then that seems to be undermining the creative process that went in to producing the show to begin with.

Introduction to Disney - From All SIdes

I love going to Disneyland.  My wife and I have made the trek down to Anaheim from our home near Sacramento 2 or 3 times a year, for the last several years, usually for about a week at a time. Occasionally we go down with the extended family and make it a big event (I forget, one year we had somewhere between 16 and 23 people in a 3 bedroom suite at the Disneyland Hotel). We enjoy seeing most Disney (or Pixar) movies by either going out to a local theater or at home with our collection of Disney DVD's and Blu-Ray discs. We have Disney collectible figurines in our china cabinet.  Disney posters adorn the walls of our home.  We have ears, hats, t-shirts, books, purses, pins, magnets, mugs, blankets, and a whole lot of other trinkets and memorabilia (aka: crap) that celebrate our sometimes irrational fan-dom of all things Disney.

Now, by nature, I do not consider myself a complainer.  My wife does a far better job of that than I do when push comes to shove.  To paraphrase from an episode of the "King of Queens" TV show - her family crest seems to be a picture of a shaking fist followed by the motto  "I want to speak to a manager!".  I'm not like that.  What she considers me to be is a generally to be a nice guy who but sometimes treads in the waters of negativity - looking for the bad even in the best surroundings .  I don't completely agree with that but I also know I'm standing on shaky ground if I try to convince her otherwise. What I am is an occasional cranky person, someone has who lived long enough and been beaten down by life enough times to know when someone (or a giant corporation like Disney) is trying to get the best of me.

Yeah......I love Disney but a lot of this blog will take a slightly different view, a view where the dreams, creativity, imagination, and genius of the company founded by Walt Disney intercedes with its current role as corporate media empire.