Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Disneyland Traveler Blog started a little over a month ago. To this point, some 5 weeks later, there have 391 views of this blog. My sincere thanks to all who have taken time to take a look. Many years ago Karen Carpenter sang "We've Only Just Begun". How true.
Dave - The Disneyland Traveler
Lisa - Mrs. Disneyland Traveler
Tim - The Boy
And the rest, Jasmine, our dog. George, Kona, and Herbie, the cats
Don't feel like going through the hassle of making a public comment? You can always email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
When I arrived at work this morning, there was an email from a former co-worker and friend of mine that another co-worker and acquaintance of ours had passed away over the weekend from cancer. In the photos that accompanied the announcement of his passing, I saw the man I remembered from years ago - he was kind; he was decent; he was. in a sadly missing term from this generation, a gentleman. A few months ago, a man I was working with currently in my present occupation passed away from a sudden heart attack, many years before his time.
So what does all this have to do with some clown like me who writes about trivial Disneyland related stuff.? Well, on the surface, absolutely nothing. Down deep, it means everything. Disneyland is not a trip to Six Flags. It's not a trip to the county or state fair. A trip to Disneyland is a collection of memories and these moments in time are something that can be treasured for a lifetime.
So whether you are currently at the park, or plan one in the near future, parents, I encourage you to take pictures of your kids, have them get the character autographs, ride the rides, enjoy the attractions, hug them, high five them, give them moments to remember for a lifetime. Many may forget, but many will remember years and years from now.
If you are with your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or anyone else who is an important part of your life, hold hands when walking around the park, give a warm embrace just because, kiss at an opportune moment. These are the Disneyland memories that will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime - until life finally passes.
Monday, June 27, 2011
You know a ride has to be pretty bad when you have to go back to 2002 to find a half way decent picture of it. The photo above was taken with my first digital camera, a Fuji 3mp job that actually worked pretty well until Mrs. DisneylandTraveler decided to take it in a swimming pool with her.
Anyway, I recall some forum a few years back asking the question of what was the worst ride in Disneyland and DCA. Certainly there are candidates because not everything can be winner but after thinking about it for awhile I came back with what supposed to be a big time E-ticket ride in DCA - the Mulholland Madness roller coaster. What it really was poster child of everything negatively said or written about DCA upon its opening in 2001. It was symbol of a slashed budget, uninspired imagination, and just plain laziness on the part of Disney.
Mulholland Madness was an off the shelf wild mouse coaster worthy of some state fair in the middle of summer or a theme park that offers $20 discount tickets at the supermarket. What it wasn't was Disney. In fact, it was the complete opposite of Disney's reputation for creativity and imagination giving us a cheap ride fronted by tacky looking billboards. But it was a roller coaster so people rode and rode over the last decade until the ride closed up shop last year.
The same off the shelf, out of a catalog, wild mouse coaster is back this week as the re-themed Goofy's Sky School. At least it shows a bit of effort on Disney's part trying put some magic into something that had absolutely none. But somehow, in my age demographic, I get the feeling I'll ride it once and call it good without any compelling need to go back and do it again. It's still the same coaster.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I look forward to my first viewing of the new Little Mermaid ride in Disney California Adventure. I don't know if the "dark ride" concept was created by Disney but they certainly are its greatest practitioners of what really is an art form. Now not all dark rides in Disneyland and DCA are created equal. Some are better than others and when it comes down to it, the age of the ride or its technology doesn't seem to matter. So here are my takes on the classic dark rides from first to worst.
Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin - Hard to touch this one. It is a maniacally wonderful look at the colorful characters of the Roger Rabbit movie. This is a dark ride that is longer than most (show building is "outside the berm" for more space), has the advantage of a ride vehicle that the guest can maneuver to a certain extent, and it has one of the best queue lines in the park. Loads of fun and the only dark ride that offers a fastpass.
Peter Pan's Flight - PPF is the quintessential Disney dark ride and a Disneyland original. It's a classic story, a classic movie, a great soundtrack and has the advantage of being the only dark ride where "you can fly, you can fly" in its ride vehicle. Slow loading, long wait times, and its short length considering the wait are on its negative side.
Winnie the Pooh - I'm in the minority here because this little dark ride has few fans. I marvel at its intense color and whimsy. I think if this dark ride were in Fantasyland, people would like it more. But it sits by itself across from the Splash Mtn powerhouse ride and occupies the same building as the fondly remembered Country Bear Jamboree. Hey, its not Pooh's fault.
Snow White's Scary Adventure - Well its not all that scary and the ride has recently been enhanced with some new lighting and show elements that has brought it up a notch. And who doesn't like the seven dwarfs?
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - Bizarre. Have a couple of brews, mouth off to a cop, and take a car trip to hell. Huh? What's going on here? It is a wild ride - simple but crazy.
Monster's Inc (DCA) - A big improvement over the incredibly stupid Superstar Limo ride that first occupied the space and was quickly removed; Monster Inc. is fun, has memorable characters, is a little longer than most of the Disneyland dark rides, but after all that, I still find something missing in it. Leaves me with kind of an empty feeling like they had a chance to do something great but missed the mark a bit. Always a short wait to get on.
Alice in Wonderland - This ride would be up a notch or two were it not for the good people at Cal-OSHA who forced Disney to quickly add railings to the ride's short trip in the open air exterior. This is the only dark ride that has an elevation change (most of the ride runs right above Toad) which is its unique feature. The ride has some hideous tarps to cover up some of the work that was required to put in the railings but they kept the ride running. It's going to need a rather lengthy refurbishment at some point to get some of its magic back.
Pinocchio's Daring Journey - Again, classic story, classic characters, a memorable song but the ride is so short its hard to develop any kind of emotional attachment to it. There's just nothing there.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Disney Parks Blog published the recepe for the Cole Slaw served at the Big Thunder Bar B Queue this week. It's the best cole slaw I ever had and I don't even like cole slaw. The chicken looks good too. It's late June, the start of summer. Maybe it's time to fire up the Weber and recreate a Big Thunder experience.
Continuing our tour on what Disneyland has to offer, it's time to give a special shout out, nod of the head for my favorite ride, attraction, or whatever you want to call it - Pirates of the Caribbean. A creation of Walt Disney himself, POTC shows the best of Disney imagination, creativity, and attention to detail. It is quintessential Disneyland ride. After 40 some-odd years of operation, every time I take a ride on one of those boats, I am sure to see something I have never seen or noticed before.
It was many years ago but I can recall as a small child, the first time going down that unexpected drop, the darkness, the bit of a thrill, the getting a little wet!. It's a memory I will never forget. And then the ride begins! Can you imagine building a ride that lasts over 13 minutes in 2011? It's something that will never be done again. The Little Mermaid in DCA just opened up clocking in at a whopping 2 minutes and 30 seconds or so. Goofy's Sky School? Another 2 or 3 minute ride. Even the great (and I mean great) Toy Story Mania is probably less than 5 minutes (although I am far too busy on the ride itself to actually time it). An effort like POTC (or Haunted Mansion for the matter) will never be duplicated. Even the WDW Magic Kingdom POTC is much shorter than the original. The cost to build a ride like the original POTC would be staggering not to mention the space requirements. At full capacity, the ride can load 3300 guests an hour. It's still tops in both parks for the number of guests that it can handle.
And even though it's been tweaked over the years with the last major refurbishment bringing the new "politically correctness" and the inclusion of the Captain Jack/Barbosa animontronics, the ride has always remained true to its story line. As for the Pirates theme itself, well, you can argue the point. The real pirates romanticized in the ride (and the movies) really were cut-throats, murderers, thieves, drunkards and generally led a debaucherous life that would appeal to few with modern sensibilites and the glory days of pirating was relatively short running from the late 1600's to the early 1700's.
But history aside, what Disney has done with the POTC franchise is marketing genius. They took Walt's original concept and for almost 50 years, ran with it. The rumor is out there that POTC will close from Labor Day to Thanksgiving Day this year for refurbishment. It's amazing to read about how many people would consider postponing their trip with the ride closed. It is that good.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I'm a pretty fortunate guy. If you are of the religious persuasion, you might consider me blessed. In this day and age, I certainly I do. I have a pretty good job and make a pretty good income. I get to write things on our intranet sites (not internet - that's a bit different) and write technical documentation. I get to tell our employees about the future for which I am looked at as something approaching the grim reaper because in the end, I tell them they have to do more work with less people. And I do all this working in about a 7 foot by 7 foot cubicle, working 10 or 11 hours a day 4 days a week. The thing about cubicle life, there are no beams above to throw a noose over and there are no doors to slam when you want to walk out and quit.
In a previous job I had it kind of lucky, I had an a two person office, but company standards had the square footage below the standard two person office so they gave me a one and a half person office all to myself. But I digress.
So today, sitting in my cubicle purgatory, I think about what I want to write for my next Disneyland blog. Hey, I'm here hours on end in a cubicle, what would be my dream Disneyland job (excluding boss of the whole place)?
Certainly food service is out. Hereditary gave me what is called a benign familial tremor - my hands shake. Granted food service preparation in Disneyland isn't a very high calling unless you are a waiter or waitress at the Blue Bayou who probably rack in some pretty good tips. But getting the food to the guests without dumping plates of food in their lap would be problematical in my case. I inherited the tremor from my mother. She was a waitress all her life. How she did it, I have no clue.
I thought about working some of the great rides, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, IJA, Splash Mtn, or Space Mtn but somehow the words "How many in your party.....Row 3," didn't seem all that thrilling.
A monorail driver, that doesn't seem to0 bad but a lot of these castmembers with pretty good gigs usually end up running crowd control for fireworks or parades.
How about one of the guys dressed in black that set up Fantasmic. Some seem to work hard, others seem to hardly work at all. That doesn't seem to be too bad as long as heights weren't involved. Afraid of heights.
I thought about working Great Moments with Mr, Lincoln at the Disneyland Opera House. They are respectful for the duty they carry out with presenting the show. They seldom have to deal with rowdiness. They seldem have to deal with large crowds at all. Sometimes they stand out front and beg people to come in. The castmembers that are in Lincoln seem to really want to be there and are respectful of their surroundings and the Disney tradition. Their major edict to guests would probably be in the words "Please, don't touch that."
So what next? I don't think I have any musical talent but down deep, we all feel like Bruce Springsteen. It doesn't seem so bad to be playing in the Disneyland band. Again, the people that watch the band perform are usually around because they appreciate the tradition. Musicians probably make a pretty good living and generally don't have to take any flack form anyone. The uniforms do seem to be a bit hot in the summer though.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Disney's D23 Expo is coming up pretty soon, either August or September, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Not sure of the dates - I am not a D23 member. Or care to be. Somewhere at the top of this blog it says I'm a Disney fan - TRUE - a fan of D23? - not at all. D23 was launched in March 2009 and was reported to be an "exclusive" Disney fan club with inside tracks to exclusive events, merchandise, and assorted other privileges that came with D23 membership. This is a real opportunity. This is what Walt would have wanted. This is all well an good but I was turned off by this concept from the get-go.
I don't know anything about the inner workings of the Walt Disney Company but after working for 2 large publicly held corporations for almost 30 years, I've learned that little is done for the public or "fans" unless it affects the company's bottom line profit margin. The company's only obligation is to offer quality products or services at a price people are willing to pay. In the corporate world it's all about the stockholders and the return on their investment. If D23 makes money - great. If D23 loses money - then a lot of the expenses can probably be written off when it comes to taxes.
When thinking about D23 and the corporate decisions that brought it to life, do you think that any Disney executive dressed in business casual (they seldom wear suits anymore) was thinking, "we need to give back to our fan base. We need to make our real fans and supporters more inclusive in our company."? No, I'm willing to bet it didn't happen this way. It's more a question to executives that asks what can we do to extend our revenue streams and marketing. Someone comes up with the idea, let's set up an "exclusive" club that charges $75 for annual membership then proceeds to charge for events and merchandise under the auspices that says you're some kind of privileged insider.
In 2009, people jumped on like gangbusters but the business model really isn't sustainable, especially in this economy. The people that wanted to be D23 members were there at the beginning with Disney offering specials for those who signed up in the first year. But what about the second year, the third, the fourth. Well we leaned in the second year, the trick was to offer a membership tier at half the cost of the inaugural year (without the magazine). Going forward, I'm not sure what you can do to get new members - you just have to keep the old members renewing which currently seems problematical. People are getting wise. People are leaving.
What's the incentive for someone in Austin, TX to join D23? Most of the events are held in in Southern California, home of Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios, and Disney corporate offices or at WDW, Disney's largest theme park property. Sure, there have been D23 events in New York, Seattle, San Francisco (home of the Disney Family Museum) and other cities but these events are minor in comparison to what can be offered in the proximity of their parks. And even at that, more D23 events can be offered in Southern California because that is where the Disney firepower lives. So as knowledge becomes more evident, the potential membership base increasingly shrinks.
Now I brought my D23 issues up in assorted Disney forums from its inception and immediately got pummeled like I was some sort of communist trying to overthrow the USA but usually these were from the true Disney die-hards who have no problem whatsoever with D23 and what it has to offer. I can accept that. My prediction was that D23 couldn't last 5 years with its original business model. I'll stand by that and we'll see how it goes.
The original D23 Expo was supposed to be annual, it isn't. The original D23 Expo was 4 days, now down to 3. The original D23 Expo had to have Disneyland castmembers brought over to the convention center to fill vacant seats for Bob Iger's opening address. The original D23 Expo had to offer severely discounted tickets (or free tickets) to Disney employees to pad the attendance numbers over the weekend.
The fallacy in all this, as CNN reported back in 2009, is the reliance that there are people willing to pay money for the opportunity to pay more money for the idea that they are some kind of Disney insider. There are people like this still out there but in 2011, probably fewer of them.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
That didn't take long. I saw the first review for Car 2 today. Came from that gossipy rag known as the Associated Press (AP). The two words they used were "a clunker". Now to be fair they didn't have some very kind words to say about the original Cars either but they clearly put this installment at the bottom of the Pixar list of films (I wouldn't go that far but the original Cars was probably in the bottom third of the 11 or so films Pixar has made - I have Finding Nemo at the bottom).
And what surprised the AP critic was that Cars 2 came from none other than the Pixar grand master himself - John Lasseter famed for his Toy Stories and the mastermind behind the creative makeover of Disney California Adventure. So why the bad review? The movie looks great, especially in 3D but the story it tried to tell was literally all over the map. What makes Pixar movies so great is they always tell a simple but express it with warmth and humor, apparently these thematic elements are lacking in Cars 2.
Disney/Pixar will make a fortune off Cars 2 not because they have a great story to tell, but they have a great product to merchandise and a new "land" to fill beginning summer 2012. Dollar signs win - art loses on this one. Sad.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
The bar has been set pretty high. The last three films from Pixar Animation Studios have been masterpieces - not just in computer generated animation, but masterpieces in film making. Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 were among the best films of any kind in the years they were released.
I didn't want to see the original Cars movie when it first came out. I thought it looked too much like a little kids movie. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler saw it first and convinced me otherwise. I reluctantly went but glad a did. It was colorful, charming, and had nice sense of humor. Everyone involved seemed to be having fun with the movie and it showed through on the screen.
Cars 2 comes out later this week. Once again, the previews on TV have left me underwhelmed. But this time, the benefit of a doubt has already been given and I'm sure I'll be in line to see it within the next few weeks. Disney has a lot invested in the future of Cars. I need to get with the program.
Today is Father's Day. Sitting here at home and thinking about it, I was trying come up with a way to tie Father's Day with Disneyland. I didn't have to try very hard. Sure, Disney all this week has been sending me messages via Twitter about their special Father's Day offering for dads at the Blue Bayou - a bone-in rib-eye steak for $43.99 but I think we can move beyond something like that.
My dad passed away many years ago. I was still a young teenager (13 to be exact). It was so long ago that many of the memories I had of him have now been lost. But I do know he worked hard for his family and on two occasions that I recall, he took his family to Disneyland. Now, I don't have real specific memories of our visits but I know we were there. I remember the Skyway; I remember the People Mover; I remember the subs back when they were still gray; I remember the train ride. But here is what I remember most - sitting with my mom and dad inside the Enchanted Tiki Room and in the Disneyland Opera House to see Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. That is why these two places are so important to me now. They tie me back to a specific time and place I sat with my parents and had a good time.
It's sad to walk into the Tiki Room sometimes now and see it less than half full. The only time it seems to get a close to a full house is when it's really hot or really crowded. Most of the people are there for the pineapple ice cream. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is worse than that as people virtually ignore the place while they race right by it to get to Space Mountain. I sat in there with my mom and dad. When thinking of the legacy of Walt Disney, those are the kind of things he wanted passed down - families spending time together enjoying the memories of his park.
I never had a son of my own but I was privileged to get one through marriage. That's him in the tea cup at the top of this posting in a picture taken in 2002. He's a young man now ready to start a life of his own. We haven't been to Disneyland together for a number of years now but looking back on it, I think we made 4 or 5 trips down there since he and his mother came into my life in 1998. I'm sure he doesn't think about those trips a whole lot these days but my hope would be that in 10, or 20, or 30 years from now and he, hopefully, is able to take his family to Disneyland, that he remembers the times we spent together there as a family. This is what Disneyland is all about.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
I like that Disney is providing healthier options with your meals like sliced apples instead of potato chips with your corn dog. Somehow I get the feeling that by the time you ingest that corn dog, a small bag of chips just isn't going to matter anymore. The apples do help cut through the grease though......Which is the better corn dog, the Little Red Wagon on Main St. or Corn Dog Castle (newly re-opened) in DCA? I know people who swear by one or the other and that's the only corn dog place they will go to when they're at the park - corn dog snobs......
Speaking of food, when its warm, freshly made and all nice and toasty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, the infamous churro is a wonderful walk-around snack. But if you get one that's been sitting around awhile, well, they tend to go down hill fast......Disney castmembers are some of the finest workers and people you will ever encounter - but not all of them......Best bathroom in Disneyland? I'm leaning towards the ones at the Hungry Bear - spacious, clean, and well cared for by park custodians......The worst? New Orleans Square Railroad station runs neck and neck with the bathrooms at the Adventureland entrance.......Does any walk around park character make more appearance time than the Mad Hatter? That guy is everywhere all the time.
Is there any reason why the Fantasyland Skyway to Tomorrowland boarding station still exists? The ride has been gone for almost 20 years and its not coming back (unlike the People Mover, which I predict will come back some day)......Everyone told me I just had to go on the Jungle Cruise at night. I did. It's dark out there......The words 'Vinylmation' and 'abomination' are very similar.....I think I own 7 pins.
I need to take a shot at DCA before I close this post but it gets harder all the time - ElecTRONica, that's all I got.
Summer is here and things are warming up. It's in the 90's here at home today. We tend not to go to Disneyland in the heat of summer but if the opportunity arises, we show up no matter what time of year. I think I have been to Disneyland every month of the year except January. We've been there when it's been 75 degrees at the end of July and 90 in early November, you just never know.
But when things warm up, you need some built in escapes to get out of the heat. Here are some of our favorites.
Enchanted Tiki Room - Great air conditioning in there (a requirement for electronic devices) very cool and dark which makes it seem even cooler. Plus its a great show no matter how many times you see it.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln - Again, they keep it very cool and since so few people actually show up to watch the wonderful show and impressive animatronic President, there is very little built in body heat that crowds can generate.
Golden Horseshoe with Billy Hill & the Hillbillies - It's a little warmer in here since they keep the front doors open and by showtime, the place is packed. Still the A/C is on and you are out of the sun.
Mark Twain Steamer - Once the boat takes off from the dock, you can usually get a bit of a cool breeze coming off the water even on hot days. You may have to follow the shade as you make your way around the Rivers of America.
Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and it's a small world - The length of these rides (10 to 15 minutes) inside their air conditioned show buildings is really a good way to get out of the sun. And the outdoor queue lines tend to move very quickly so the time waiting to get on the rides tends to be fairly short unless the park is really crowded.
If you want a cool place to eat counter service style, go to the Hungry Bear. The seating is outdoors but you are right on the water and the two tiered dining areas are covered in heat relieving shade. Indoors, it's all about the Blue Bayou but you better have called ahead for a dining time and be prepared to pay for that very cool setting.
It may be cool in there but Captain EO and Innoventions are two places we avoid at all costs They actually make a better alternative when its pouring down rain and other rides and attractions begin to shut down.
You can make case for Splash Mountain but there's a difference between getting out of the heat and getting soaking wet. The two are not interchangeable.
Over in DCA, shade was never their strong suit but it is slowly improving. Aladdin, coming in at around 50 minutes, is a great way to stay cool but to get the best seats you need to get there a bit early and the queue line has you standing right in the sun waiting to get in. The lacy trees they have planted just don't cut it.
The Disney Animation Building is a fun way to spend time with Turtle Talk with Crush and staring into the Toy Story Zoetrope. The adjacent Off the Page retail store may be my favorite in either park. If you have kids, head down the street to Playhouse Disney. For those not inclined to sit on the ground (me) there are cushioned benches along the side and back.
I enjoy the two 3D shows in DCA - Tough to Be A Bug and Muppets 3D. They are nice and cool with indoor gathering areas prior to the shows starting. Some people have gotten rather tired of them though. '
Grizzly River Run is in the same category as Splash Mtn. only you will get even wetter. The line gets long for GRR when the heat is on.
And DCA may have the best solution when you're just plain hot and miserable - they serve beer.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Everyone has their favorite ride at Disneyland. I'm old school - my favorite is Pirates of the Caribbean (subject of future posts to this blog for sure). Mrs. DisneylandTraveler's favorite (also subject of future posts to this blog chances are) is Indiana Jones Adventure. So me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler disagree on our favorites and probably just about everything else except.....
When we sit down to plan dates for a future trip, we tend to look at the refurbishment schedule if its posted. If we see our favorite rides (or shows like Aladdin) down for the dates of our trip, we tend to be a bit disappointed. We've been to Disneyland when there was no POTC or IJA but there's still plenty to do. But the one ride that pretty much is a trip deal breaker (i.e. find different dates) if it down for refurbishment is the venerable Disneyland Railroad. We use the trains all the time.
We generally drive down on Sundays, arriving at the hotel we are staying a bit before the usual 3pm check in time. Normally, we can get into a room and quickly unpack then get over to the park. One of our favorite ways to start each trip is to immediately jump on the train and take the "grand circle tour". Heck, sometimes we take 2 tours - it's a great way to enjoy the park. Now I should make it known that as much as we love the Disneyland Railroad, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler equates the trip through the Grand Canyon / Primeval World diorama something to the equivalent of fingernails being etched across a chalkboard but she toughs it out for the minute or so it takes to go through there. "This is something from Walt Disney himself" I tell her. "It's old and boring" would probably be the answer I would get back.
If the Disneyland Railroad was just a ride, we wouldn't care if it was running or not during a visit but it's not just a ride. It's transportation. You see, we admit to being not as young as we used to be and when you're tired and your feet are killing you from all the walking (or Mrs. DisneylandTraveler wearing the wrong shoes again), the train becomes essential transportation. The thought of being able to get from Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin to the front gate without having to walk it is a god-send. With all the improvements being made at Disney California Adventure the one thing that will still be lacking is a way to get from the front of the park to the back of the park without having to hike it perhaps multiple times during the day.
So a sincere thank you is given to Walt's train, the engineers, and the conductors of the Disneyland Railroad. You make our enjoyment of the park so much better.
I love mornings this time of year. Instead of getting out of bed to check the thermostat, turn up the heat, jump in a really hot shower, and grab the warmest sweat clothes I can find, it's all about shorts, t-shirts, and really comfortable footwear (maybe no footwear at all). I especially love being at Disneyland on warm quiet mornings right when the park opens. Whether I'm staying at the Disneyland Hotel or some bargain inn out on Harbor Blvd., I love making that stroll to the park well before the countdown begins and the turnstiles start pumping the guests through. Please note: I usually make this before park opening walk by myself as Mrs. DisneylandTraveler is still back in the room sound asleep and sawing logs).
Everybody has their own favorite way of starting their Disney day. I have a couple. When I'm in a quiet reflective type mood, I will continue that walk right up Main St. and head over to the Market House to get a cup of what is the best coffee available in the park. It never disappoints and they always have a flavored blend of coffee along with the excellent standard blend. Good stuff here. Save the receipt - bring it back to get a free refill throughout the day (though really, who goes to Disneyland to drink coffee). I'll put in the cream and sugar (my mother would roll over in her grave at the thought of her Norwegian son drinking anything but straight up black coffee) then head right outside to that little alley way where the lockers are and grab a table. And there the day begins - enjoying the fresh brew, maybe checking out the current park brochure and showtime schedule, just planning the day ahead.
Little sound vignettes play every so often while sitting in this alley way. My favorite comes out of the facade of the Marceline Hotel where you hear a guest (I think its supposed to be Goofy) get up for his morning bathroom ritual. Really funny the first time you hear it and still pretty funny if you've heard it dozens of times.
And so with the last gulp of coffee, now wired with caffene, it is time to hit the park and run amok forgetting about all your best laid plans. First, better call Mrs. DisneylandTraveler back at the hotel though to see if she finally figured out what she's going to wear for the day.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Here at home, it is supposed to get up to 90 degrees today, 94 tomorrow. Oh, what I wouldn't give for one of these...... the Dole Pineapple Float from the Enchanted Tiki Room. On a hot day at Disneyland, people line up at the stand for sometimes close to an hour to get a pineapple something or other but the float? It's the best of both worlds - semi tart pineapple juice topped with sweet whipped pineapple ice cream. Its the single best sweet treat at the Disneyland Resort.
For many, the announced price increases to Disney theme parks is yes, a bit earlier than usual, and yes expected, and yes we'll pay it because it's Disney and we love everything Disney. These are the Disney apologists (and the Disney apologists websites), In their eyes, Disney can do no wrong until revisionist history proves them wrong.
But there websites, good websites, that give a Disney perspective from all sides - MousePlanet and MiceChat are the two that immediately come to mind - even if it doesn't swing with the company line. The price increase sucks. It hurts consumers in an economy that has already hurt people in a very big way. At least be honest about it.
Hey, Disney apologists (and you know who you are), the line starts over there. The rest are trying to save, scrimp, plot, and scheme ways to come up with the money to get into the park we love.
Still trying to come to grips with Disney's decision to keep ElecTRONICA going for another year (till summer 2012). I posted on a forum yesterday that with all the construction going on in DCA, the keeping of the ElecTRONica spectacle was Disney's way of saying "We're too busy, tired, cash-strapped, and lazy to try and come up with something else."
I come hear today to lament the passing over of the the Food & Festival this year (and some say the festival is gone for good) for ElecTRONica. The same building that houses Flynn's Arcade and its host of retro video games only a little over a year ago served up some decicious food offerings for the defunct festival. Instead of seared ahi tuna, pork sliders, cheddar cheese beer soup, and chocolate profiteroles, we get Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Centipede. What a waste of space. At least I have memories....
Every Disneyland fan thinks of themselves as an imagineer in waiting. "Man, if I had that job, I would really have that park fixed up and then it would be really something special." Of course the real world of corporations exists in an environment based on profits, losses, and budgets. Disney does better than most when it comes to reinvesting in their park's infrastructure, a tradition started by Walt Disney himself who always thought of Disneyland as a work in progress that would never be completed. The man was a genius.
Other than Star Tours, general refurbishments, and what seems like never ending repaving and painting projects, all the real imagineering at the Disneyland Resort has been taking place across the way in DCA. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was the last major attraction installed in Disneyland and even that was a remake of a previous ride. You could also count the re-opening of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (thank you Tony Baxter). When the DCA makeover completes in 2012 (and supposedly this is just phase one) the attention will once again return with what can be done in Disneyland to add some new sparkle to the park. So with that in mind, it's a great park, but Disneyland needs a -
- Tomorrowland makeover with a new featured attraction, a possible return of the People Mover (most of the track is still in place), the kicking to the curb of the completely silly Captain EO, and a replacement of the completely boring Innoventions (a place most regulars only go to when its raining). The Jules Verne type refurbishment of the 80's didn't cut it. The Rocket Rods were a dismal failure. The current Tomorrowland lacks any cohesive theming as its been tinkered with at patched up the last couple of decades. Tomorrowland needs some attention and work.
- A new featured attraction in Frontierland. Little can be done with the landlocked space of New Orleans Square and Adventureland but Frontierland does have possibilities. I'm not sure how much money the Big Thunder BBQ is generating. We like it there but its a table service restaurant (an all you can eat type thing) that we never bother to do the call ahead dining reservation. There's always room after what seems like a short wait, sometimes no wait at all. So that space along with the adjacent petting zoo occupies a pretty good hunk of land and that doesn't include the cavernous Festival Arena. That whole area back there is a huge chunk of real estate inside the berm begging for imagineers to go to work. Now granted, anything "western" seems to have fallen out of favor with today's techno-pop culture but if anyone can bring it back, its Disney.
- A ToonTown replacement. This is the most controversial call. ToonTown on a bright sunny day looks incredibly fun and whimsical. But behind the colorful building facades there is little there. Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin, Mickey's House, and the Gag Factory store are probably the keepers. The Gadget Go-Coaster would be a better fit in A Bug's Land in DCA, the rest of ToonTown can go. If you add the real estate of the adjacent Princess Fantasy Fair Theater (you don't need that much space for a meet and greet), then ToonTown has great potential for new attractions, restaurants and such.
I figure about 800 million bucks or so should be a good start to cover the work.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
If you asked any Disneyland regular (the kind that actually eat in the park as opposed to bringing in a backpack full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) and mentioned Pommes Frites to them, you may begin to see drool start to seep from the side of their mouths. They know. Pommes Frites are the garlic fries served at the Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square. Well prepared french fries doused with vampire repelling garlic, parsley, parmesian cheese, and probably a bit of olive oil, this appetizer meets all the essentials of something memorable to eat - great tasting, wonderful aroma, visually appealing, and fattening as all get out. It is served with something like a cajun mayonnaise dipping sauce but these things are so good on their own, they don't need anything else. An order of pommes frites is sizable so splitting an order would be recommended. It is one of the great food treats in the park.
As mentioned, it is listed as an appetizer on the menu so you may feel compelled to order an entree at the table service Cafe Orleans. If you want to continue down the path toward artery clogging indulgence, try the rich and decadent seafood crepe or completely bizarre monte cristo sandwich. The Cafe Orleans doesn't get its due sitting right across from the Blue Bayou but its a fine place to eat and much cheaper than its more high profiled neighbor. The food is good, the pommes frites are memorable.
Tomorrow, the price of admission to Disneyland goes up. The single day adult park-hopper is up $4.00 to a staggering $105.00. The annual pass I have in my wallet goes up 50 bucks to $379.00. Seems like only yesterday it was 269 - oh wait a minute, that was 2008, only 3 years ago.
But Disney raises admission prices every year regardless of the economy, sometimes I think they do it twice a year. The summer price increase usually happens in August I believe. June is a bit early and a bit surprising. The suits at Disney are pretty sharp with the bean counting. If the high cost of admission starts keeping people away, they are really good at coming with a myriad of discount programs to keep the turnstiles humming and bank accounts flushed with cash.
But when I read about the price increases yesterday, I thought about kids - kids who see the countless commercials on TV that say "Come and enjoy a Disney park". So they asked their parents "Can we go to Disneyland?" And the parents, countless parents, who are dealing job loss, home foreclosures, dwindling bank accounts, depleted 401k's, saying "No we can't afford to go to Disneyland this year" and in the back of their minds the real thought is "maybe not ever".
We love in a great country - the good ol' USA. It's a forgiving country. It's a country that loves to give second chances. General Motors is getting its second chance now. Every time an athlete gets released from prison for doing something completely moronic and stupid someone is out there ready to give them a 2nd chance (provided they still run like they've been shot out of a cannon). Call it a do-over. We all need do-overs in some aspect of our lives.
Disney flopped all over itself when California Adventure opened 10 years. Despite Michael Eisner's ear to ear grin, nobody had a lot of good things to say about his park. The biggest problems? There was nothing much for small kids to do. It was top heavy with exclusive high priced restaurants that theme park travelers had little interest in (lets see - pay through the nose to get in, then pay through the nose again to eat at some place that has the Wolfgang Puck or Robert Mondavi name attached to it)' The park had extremely muddled theming, the off the shelf carnival rides that were better suited for a county fair, and where was Mickey.
Now to be fair, DCA had a few great rides - California Sreamin' is a great coaster, Grizzly River Run is a great water ride, Soarin' Over California is a sensational experience, and A Bug's Life is a totally enjoyable show (as long as you aren't under 5 or deathly afraid of bugs), and Muppets anywhere are never a bad thing. But after you did all those rides and attractions in about a half day there was little else to do except head over to Disneyland where you always got more bang for your buck.
The current 1.1 billion dollar make over is said to have started with the great Toy Story Mania. I really think it began long before that. The DCA makeover began right after the gates opened and Disney knew they had some major shortcomings with their new park. My impression is that almost everything that has been done with DCA over the 7 or 8 years has been an improvement with a few forgivable missteps along the way.
A Bug's Land gets regularly lampooned for its cheap county fair type rides. But if your under 5 what do you care if the rides are less than a minute long and lack the over the top Disney magic. The little rides are simple and fun. I've never been on Heimlich the train but I always enjoy watching it make its little journey. It's completely charming. And who wouldn't enjoy flying round and round in a box of Chinese take-out as you do in Flick's Flyers. The place looks wonderful at Christmastime. Yes, Disney was in a mad rush to put A Bug's Land in place so there would be something for kids to do but it was a needed improvement.
And improvement was the name of the game with the spectacular Aladdin stage show, the Hollywood Tower of Terror thrill ride, Turtle Talk with Crush, the Pixar Play Parade (not the forgettable Block Party Bash), the exhibit of the Toy Story Zoetrope, and the swapping out of Superstar Limo with Monsters Inc. These were all improvements that were made prior to the official makeover. They were also able to run Disney's wonderful Electrical Parade for a time (when the park wasn't filled with construction walls, cranes, and bulldozers).
As for the makeover itself, Toy Story Mania is Disney's best fun for all ride in a long, long time. The World of Color is nothing short of breathtaking despite the pacing that doesn't seem to build the way it should and some of segments are too long, too short, or just not needed (Mustafa death scene). I would never ride on something like Silly Symphony Swings but it is visually much better to look at than its hideous looking Orange Stinger predecessor (the Mickey bandleader on top is still about 3 feet too small though). The carny like Maliboomer needed to come down. Goofy's Sky School will be a much more welcomed theme to Mulholland Madness. Though not open yet, the new Paradise Pier restaurants should be a marked improvement over the previous dining facilities which were awful. You can criticize the Boardwalk Games as being ridiculously overpriced but if nothing else, they fit well the new Paradise Pier theming and a whole lot better than shooting basketballs into a hoop. It has its critics but the Little Mermaid dark ride was much needed in the park and show building looks fabulous. And this all continues with the opening of Buena Vista St. and Carsland in 2012.
Yep DCA - you've come a long, long, way and people like John Lassater, Larry Nicolai, Kathy Mangum, Steve Davison, along with countless others deserve an awful lot of credit for taking an eyesore and making it eye popping. Thank you.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Dictionary.com defines peeve as “a source of annoyance or irritation”. No day in the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place On Earth” would be complete without getting annoyed or irritated about something (a little or a lot). Doesn’t matter if you’re 2 years old or 82, something or someone is going to get under your skin in the course of your day at the park. If you’re staying at the resort for several days, start multiplying…. Here are some of mine. I’m sure I’ll think of more hence the “Part 1” in the title.
Survey Takers – “Excuse me sir, may I ask you a few questions about your visit to the park?” If you’re park hopping, you may have to deal with this question more than once in a day. Here are the only two things Disney needs to know. Their park experience is second to none. The price of that experience is way too expensive.
No Flash Photography – It’s posted on signs, it’s announced over loudspeakers, reminders are given by castmembers and then no sooner has a ride or show started, off go the flashes. Most of the time it’s not done by a lot people, just a select few. Now they could have missed the announcement by accident, there may be a language barrier, they may just forget to turn a flash off, but most of the time I’m convinced the “no flash photography” instructions are ignored because some people just don’t care.
Let’s Just Something Quick to Eat – It never ceases to amaze me how the walk up counter service dining facilities in the 2 parks are so slow about getting your food order ready when the food is essentially pre-made. I think I’ve wait at a window (after paying) 10 minutes for my order and I was the 2nd guy in line. It’s probably faster to eat at a table service dining facility because they tend to turn over guests quicker to make the constant stream of reservations available.
This Looks Like a Nice Place to Watch – so you arrive early, maybe hours early, to watch fireworks, Fantasmic, or a parade, and you’re feeling pretty good about your spot then 10 minutes before show time a family of 27 tries to elbow their way right in front of you.
Complainers – Hey, this whole post is based on complaining but what I’m talking about here is having to watch people who lividly complain to castmembers about some action or instruction the castmember does or requests is done because 1) it is part of the castmember job (i.e. the moving of strollers) or 2) the castmember is trying to protect the safety of the park guests. No castmember is working to make your day at the park miserable. They are there to ensure everyone’s day is not only an enjoyable and memorable one but also safe one.
Gridlock – This mostly comes when throngs gather to watch an attraction or event or when the same throng tries to leave the same attraction or event at the same time and you find yourself getting nowhere very fast. The inevitable question “Why did they let so many people in here?” The answer is they paid their money and the fire marshal says it’s OK.
SoCal Annual Passholder Attitudes – Some AP’s, especially local Southern California AP’s, walk around with the attitude that says the park is theirs – their AP brings special privileges above and beyond the “common” park guest. These are the same people who eat outside the park or bring in their backpacks full of food and don’t buy anything because they’re in the park every other week. Wait a minute jack. Disney loves AP’s because the keep a constant cash flow going with renewals. The person Disney really loves is someone who takes his family on a 5 day vacation to the Disneyland Resort every other year, stays at one of the Disney hotels, eats meals in the park or at the hotel, and leaves with a boatload of souvenirs. That person is going to drop more cash on his family’s vacation than some local AP’s spend in 5 years (or more). Everyone needs to remember their place. We’re all just paying pawns.
Unannounced or Unplanned Closures of Rides and Attractions (this is for the day, not the temporary closures of a few minutes to a few hours that may occur in the course of a day) - Sometimes it can't be helped but I still don't like it. And there always seems to be a sense of mystery of why the ride or attraction is closed off schedule.
I’m sure I’ll remember more of my gripes but this seems like a pretty good start.
Microsoft this week announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in L.A. the upcoming release of a new game for their XBOX 360 Kinect game console that allows the player to take a complete virtual tour of Disneyland - only this time instead of walking, you can fly through the park (and my poor tired feet say "if it could only be true"). I have a Playstation 3 and a Nintendo Wii so if I want the enjoy this Disney experience, I need a 3rd gaming console. Blasted!!!!
Monday, June 6, 2011
OK we're now heading into the second week of June and the Disneyland Resort is hitting its summer stride with "Soundsational Summer". Here's the summer rundown.
The refurbished Splash Mountain (closed for about 6 months). Supposedly faster loading and unloading of the logs. We'll see,
Mickey's SoundSational Parade is getting great reviews and marked improvement over the previous forgettable parade effort.
Star Tours - again, the reviews are beyond fantastic but get a fastpass early or be prepared to wait (hours).
Well everything is open but the Matterhorn Boblsleds will be down a significant amount of time over the summer. The biggest block of dates is July 11 - Sept 1. Maybe the new sleds are going to be installed.
In Disney California Adventure:
The Little Mermaid dark ride. Reviews are mixed. A step above the typical dark ride but not a huge step. Some complain that its a little bright in there to get the true effect of being in an underwater adventure. Wait time is running about 1 hour. No fastpass available.
Two gift shops and and the return of the Corn Dog Castle near the Little Mermaid show building have also opened.
Goofy's Sky School - the re-themed Mulholland Madness is set to fly July 1.
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and The Garden Grill restaurants are also set to open July 1 as Paradise Pier completes its transformation. A new beer garden will also be part of this expanded dining area.
The new DCA Front Entrance - no date given for getting the turnstiles re-opened but July 1 seems to be reasonable.
Still to come in 2012: Carsland, Carthay Circle Theater (restaurant and lounge), Buena Vista St.,and Red Car Trolleys.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
|Darth Vader at the Jedi Training Academy|
With great fanfare and long (and I mean very long) lines, Star Tours relaunched yesterday with its all new 3D technology and voyages to multiple destinations. Following the opening ceremonies with Disney Parks President Tom Staggs on hand, the ride opened with wait times in the 3 to 5 hour range for much of the day. This Disney promotional video is hilarious. The first Star Tours traveler seems only appropriate.
Alas, another remnant of the beginnings of Disney California Adventure has fallen by the wayside this past week when the Mission Tortilla Factory closed its doors for good. For the frugal minded, it was one of the few places in the resort where you could actually get something for nothing (samples of freshly made flour tortillas). Not to worry though, a replacement is on the way with the strong rumor being San Francisco's own Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
Don't get me wrong. Mrs. DisneyTraverler and I love to go the Blue Bayou when we make our trips to Disneyland. The ambiance and experience of eating in that magical setting is second to none. But the expense and limited menu selections (almost none of it appealing to the aforementioned Mrs. Disneyland Traveler) make our visits to the Blue Bayou only an occasional event. Save a couple of bucks and walk over across the way from the Blue Bayou and go to the Cafe Orleans - pretty good food and the Pommes Frites (that's garlic fries in English) are to die for. Strangely enough, we also enjoy the other table service restaurant in Disneyland as well - the Big Thunder Bar-B-Que once Disney got wise and figured out it was over-charging everyone when the all-you-can fixed menu outdoor restaurant first opened and people chose to stay away in droves.
And that leads us to the last of the table service restaurants (excluding the members only Club 33), the Carnation Cafe, a Main St. fixture thats been around almost as long as the park has been opened. It features a pretty standard breakfast and lunch menu that is limited but is always good. And the price is extremely reasonable, right in line with the better counter service dining facilities in the park. And you'll have a pretty good chance to meet "Chef" Oscar who probably doesn't do a whole of cheffing but greets everyone with warmth and charm. He is the longest serving castmember in the park going on 55 years now. We always visit the Carnation Cafe on our trips.
As mentioned, the food is quite good and the service is excellent. We usually go for lunch having made the reservation in advance. The actual hours of operation seems to fluctuate with the season - generally opened for breakfast when the park opens a closes when it starts to get dark. Great sandwiches, nice big featured salad, excellent pot pies, and a very generous helping of meatloaf are all present on the menu. But it all starts with a bowl of soup, loaded baked potato soup to be exact, the best soup I have ever had anywhere, anytime. Mrs. DisneylandTravel probably agrees and we generally don't agree on anything. Yeah, the amount of calories contained in that delectable bowl of goodness would throw your family doctor into fit if he/she found out, buts worth it. So good. We have several must do's when we hit Disneyland but enjoying that bowl of soup is somewhere near the top.
Duffy the Bear - Duffy is the Tokyo Disney mega hit character that Disney here in the states has been trying to ram down our throats for a year of so now. Maybe its time to give it up. Notice something missing in the picture above? Cute bear - no people, no line of eager fans for the photo op with good ol' Duffy. Across the way, the Mickey photo booth has kids of all ages lined up 20 deep.
Mrs. DisneyTraveler and I walked into adjacent merchandise store and there they were, a wall full of naked Duffy's and countless outfits available for additional cost to dress him in. My wife was tempted because he is kind of cute and then the math started. We wouldn't be able to walk out of there for less than a $50 Duffy. Nope - can't do it. And there's the rub. There is the cock and bull story that Disney gives that Duffy is Mickey & Minnie's personal stuffed teddy bear and you can have one for your very own. But when it comes down to it, the purpose of Duffy is to sell Duffy's and little else. He is kind of cute. Maybe there will be a 75% off clearance sale some day.
I got a Netflix movie in the mail yesterday - TRON blu-ray edition. Not the recent TRON:Legacy movie, the family watched that one a few weeks ago. The movie I received yesterday was the original 1982 TRON also enhanced with blu-ray HD technology.
Now, I'm old enough to semi-remember seeing the original TRON when it came out in the early 80's. As I recall, it was heavily promoted by Disney but not particularly well received by movie patrons. Interesting concept, technically advanced for the time, but in the end, a confusing muddled mess.
With all the hype surrounding TRON: Legacy last December when it was released, my plan was to see it in the theater probably in IMAX 3D. Unfortunately, my urologist thought it would be a better idea to remove part of my prostrate around that time so TRON:Legacy had to wait for the video release. My impression - same as the original TRON - Interesting concept, technically advanced, but in the end, a confusing muddled mess.
I'm not sure what the final bookkeeping will be for TRON:Legacy the movie. It is estimated that the movie cost about 165 million to make. I think the box office receipts went well above that world wide but when you take in the accounting for what it costs to promote a film, profitability gets a little questionable.
In our trip to the Disneyland Resort in March, my wife and I experienced ElecTRONica that takes place each weekend Disney California Adventure. Disney said I had to see it, just had to, since they send about 45 Twitter tweets a week saying if you want to be "with it", ElecTRONica was the place to be. It's something of a techno-street party with music, video, dancing, and, well the rest is kind hard to explain. My ultimate impression of ElecTRONica? - Interesting concept, technically advanced, but in the end, a confusing muddled mess.
Had TRON:Legacy been a huge success, the rumors were swirling that it could be imagineered into a featured attraction in Tomorrowland. Not sure if that is on the drawing board still or not. If it does make it let's hope it doesn't end up as an- Interesting concept, technically advanced, but in the end, a confusing muddled mess.
As for me, I'll watch the original TRON again tonight but I already know what my impression will be. I've had enough of being sledgehammered over the head with TRON for the last 6 or 8 months. Just wish Disneyland would quit sending messages to my phone saying who this week's ElecTRONica DJ will be because I really don't care. Can't delete these tweets fast enough...
Oh, and before this blog segment ends I give you (well, actually, Mrs. Disneyland Traveler shot the video) - Laserman.