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Monday, February 27, 2012

One More Disney Day? ... I'd Go For the Food

Cafe Orleans Special - Lump Crabmeat Quiche - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

To commemorate Leap Year, Disneyland will stay open 24 hours beginning at 6:00am on Wednesday, February 29.  Does the thought of being able to ride Splash Mountain at 4am in the morning sound like bring a happy dance to your head?  Screw all that and check out what is on the special late night/early morning menu(s) for the One More Disney Day party as given to by Disney Parks Blog >>>  Late Night Dining For One More Disney Day.  I wish some of these things would make it to the permanent menus.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Sunday...Saved By A One Eyed Monster

It's Oscar Sunday the day Hollywood types get together in some degree of formality and give themselves little trophies.  Of course, most people will have never seen or plan to see the big winners of tonight's Awards.  Most (but not all) years its like that.  This year, with a lack of blockbuster movies up for trophies, the Academy brings back its' best host for the show - Billy Crystal.  Charming, witty, and an incredible gift for coming up with fall of the chair funny ab libs makes Billy the best thing to watch over the hours of tedium.  Billy has been in several movies himself of course but none bigger his voice over role as Mike Wazowski in Monsters Inc. (and the upcoming Monsters University).

Maybe there is a low level technical award that a Disney movie has a nomination for - I'm not sure.  This hasn't been a banner year for Disney movies.  I believe The Muppets will have a token offering with a best song nomination and it gives Kermit and Miss Piggy their chance to make an always welcome appearance to the festivities.  It's only fair since ABC is the home network for the Oscars and ABC is owned by Disney who also own The Muppets.

Pixar will finally lose their stranglehold on the Oscar for Best Animated Feature after years of success.  Their Cars 2 offering in 2011 wasn't even nominated and rightly so.  Cars 2 was so bad that John Lasseter and his Pixar pals should actually be ashamed of themselves.

Disney's biggest contribution to a highly nominated well received film that goes up for Awards tonight comes from The Help, a Dreamworks produced movie but is distributed by Disney.

I don't know if I'll be watching tonight.  Like I said earlier, I will if Mrs. DisneylandTraveler makes me (which is a good possibility).  Besides, there's nothing else on TV worth watching. I'm hoping for an Academy Award to go Woody Allen and his wonderful Midnight in Paris movie.  Of course, Woody won't be there.  The NBA All-Star game is also on tonight and Woody will be at home watching that instead.  He has his priorities.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Tiny Disneyland Tradition

People have all kinds of Disneyland traditions (even superstitions) when they make a trip to the park.  These are things one feels they must absolutely have to do each and every time they visit Disneyland.  It's a topic certainly worth exploring in this blog.  For now I'll mention my tiny Disneyland tradition.  Every time we travel down to Disneyland, I'll always stop by the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner to get a real cherry coke.  This isn't that concoction that Coke sells already mixed for you.  This is the old school stuff where a coke dispensed from a fountain gets significantly enhanced by a pump of cherry syrup (additional charge of course). Just plain old fashion good stuff.  It's the only place in either park that serves it.

Which brings me to a trip a few years back where I showed up a the Refreshment Corner counter and asked for a cherry coke.  "We're out of cherry syrup.  Would you like raspberry or vanilla?"  Huh?  I tried the raspberry but it's just not the same.  Not even close.  So I went back to the Refreshment Corner the next day and asked for my cherry coke. New cast member - same response - "We're all out of cherry flavoring".  I think I stopped by the Refreshment Corner 4 or 5 times that trip and got the same "Sorry, we're out" each time.  Are you kidding me?  This is Disneyland.  This is a place that produces bushels full of umbrellas and panchos in sunny California if two drops of water fall from the sky.  How can Disneyland be out of anything, ever?  

This is all kind of a backdrop because the Coca Cola Refreshment Corner is do to open up here any day after being closed several weeks for a refurbishment and people will be lining up once again for the Disneyland tradition of an old fashioned cherry coke and maybe listen to a little ragtime piano that plays on the patio right outside.  I'm sure they will be plenty of cherry syrup available. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Disneyland Bucket List - Item #2

This is at the almost opposite end of the dining spectrum from having dinner at the Napa Rose restaurant.  Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have eaten at almost every table service and counter service restaurant in Disneyland except one.  We have never eaten a meal at the Plaza Inn restaurant.  Now to be fair, we have gone there and had dessert (while watching fireworks), we just haven't had a meal there.

And having a meal at the Plaza Inn really only means one thing (though they do have a few selections).  The Plaza Inn is noted for their "broasted" fried chicken.  People I know personally, people on the internet, they all rave about the chicken served up in a portion so big its easy enough to share.  Why haven't we gotten to the Plaza Inn?  The only thing I can really think of is that in recent years, we've become such big fans of the Carnation Cafe and its only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Plaza Inn.

Mark it down, a broasted chicken lunch or dinner from the Plaza Inn is now officially #2 on my Disneyland bucket list.

My Disneyland Bucket List - Item #1

It's a quiet Sunday around the Disneyland Traveler's house.  I've just been surfing around YouTube looking at assorted Disney videos, nothing in particular.  Just so you know I haven't completely wasted my day, I did get the lawn mowed and did a load of laundry.  Anyway, while perusing the videos, I was struck by a couple of items that just made me think to myself  "I just haven't gotten around to that yet".   You just never know when that last trip to Disneyland is going to come (or if it has already come).  Hopefully I got some time left, time to get around to a few things I just haven't gotten around to yet.

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have been fortunate enough to stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel - we just didn't eat there during our stay.  I'm not sure why but probably we just had more important things to think about like hitting the parks.  By all accounts, the Napa Rose restaurant inside the Grand Californian is one of the great restaurants in Southern California and provides a truly luxurious and memorable dining experience to its guests.  For me to eat a dinner at the Napa Rose is now officially on my Disneyland bucket list.  Now convincing Mrs. DLT to do the same is another story.

You see, I have a pretty broad palette when it comes to trying new experiences in dining. I'm open to almost anything new and different.  The same can't be said for Mrs. DLT who has a much more narrower view of dining.  Meat, potatoes, a few vegetables, and a basic salad. Don't get to creative and for god's sake, don't put a mushroom on her plate or she'll end up running outside screaming into the night.

Some months ago in a discussion forum about Napa Rose dining, I posed my dilemma.  I got some very nice responses from people who know the restaurant well and it comes down to this.  The Napa Rose staff wants everyone that comes into their restaurant to have a personal dining experience.  If you want you basic steak or chop void of exotic sauces or creative side dishes, just ask, and they will be more than happy to accommodate anyone's preference or taste.  Sound like problem solved.

Dinner at the Napa Rose is #1 on my Disneyland bucket list.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Slow Down, You Move Too Fast...."

"Slow down you move too fast. You got to make the morning last" so begins Paul Simon's 59th Street Bridge Song, a simple song of joy that reminds everyone to just stop a minute, take it easy a bit, and take a look around you where there are things to enjoy, things to look at.

A few years ago in Disneyland, and I remember it like it was yesterday, I was standing out in front of the Opera House when 2 teenagers came racing by me in full sprint with one saying to the other "We've got to get to Space Mountain".  I really felt kind of sad because between the Opera House and Space Mountain there are a multitude of things to enjoy, things to look at.  There is the old saying "the devil is in the details".  In Disneyland, the glory is in the details.  Those two kids are just missing out.  And besides, by the time they get to Space Mountain chances are the blasted thing will have broken down.  Planter boxes of flowers don't break down.

Earlier this week, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler was trying to bring together a plan (or hatch a scheme) that would get us to Disneyland for one day at the end of March.  One day.  We've been married almost 14 years and we have never been to Disneyland for a one day visit. Most of our visits a 4 days, 5 days, even 6 days. Plenty of time for us to take our time and enjoy the magical surroundings.  One day?  I have a friend that makes down to Disneyland about once a year for one day - I get exhausted just listening to him talk about how he and his wife make mad dashes from one place to the next.

I can't do that anymore.

Disneyland is not about rides or attractions.  It's about finding a way where I can become one with a park that has brought me so much joy.  Joy takes a bit of time, time to stop, time to take a look around, time to think.  One day.  I don't think so.  

Maybe its just me.

And The Mickey Goes To.... (2012)

We are smack in the middle of award season culminating with the Academy Awards sometime in March (not sure when, I seldom watch the show and if I do, it's probably because Mrs DisneylandTraveler made me).  I think Woody Allen used a variation of the following line many years ago in his great film Annie Hall "I can't believe it, they give an award for everything....".  The Disneyland Traveler is no different as I pass out my Mickey awards for 2012 that looks back at The Disneyland Resort in 2011 (note: in my world, you can win the award over and over again). So here we go with some fun.

Best Disneyland Resort Table Service Restaurant (inside the park)....and the Mickey goes to ... The Blue Bayou.  Yeah... the meal is expensive, especially at dinner, and the food may not justify the price, but the Blue Bayou is all about the setting.

Best Multi-Media Show ... and the Mickey goes to .... Fantasmic (beating out World of Color and A Christmas Fantasy Parade)

Best Cup of Coffee in park....  and the Mickey goes to .... The Market House (there isn't even a close second).

Best Dark Ride.... and the Mickey goes to.... Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin.

Best Interactive Ride Where Points Are Awarded .... and the Mickey goes to.... Toy Story Mania (too bad the wait is so long that you can't really play over and over again)

Best Sweet Treat ... and the Mickey goes to...  Dole Pineapple Whip (or Float)

Best Food That Comes Out Of A Cart... and the Mickey goes to... The Chocolate Covered Banana

Best Food Item Less Than 5 bucks... and the Mickey goes to... Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus) from Bengal BBQ

Best Animatronic.... and the Mickey goes to... Abraham Lincoln (watch the hand movements amazing).

Best Cast Member Uniform (Outfit The Disneyland Traveler Would Be Least Embarrassed to Wear.... and the Mickey goes to.... the Soarin' Over California jumpsuit

Best Show with Live Performers.... and the Mickey goes to.... Billy Hill and the Hillbillies

Best Beer Served in DCA... and the Mickey Goes to.... Karl Straus Red Trolley Ale

Best Counter Service Restaurant (Cafeteria Style).... and the Mickey goes to... The French Market

Best Counter Service Restaurant (Walk Up Window Style).... and the Mickey goes to... Cocina Cucamonga... (tough vote in this category but the chicken tamales are really good and you can get a beer to wash them down with....)

Best Counter Service Restaurant That Only Serves One Food Item....  and the Mickey goes to.... Corn Dog from The Red Wagon... ( I had to sneak a Disneyland corn dog in here somewhere)

Best World of Color Dining Package... and the Mickey goes to... Ariel's Grotto - dinner package

The Kurt Russsell Achievement Award for an Actor Who Shows Up In Disney Movies Over and Over Again.....and the special award goes to.... Johnny Depp.

Best In Park Retail Store.... and the Mickey goes to...  Off The Page

Best New Attraction Opened in 2011.... and the Mickey goes to.... Star Tours.... (yeah, a remake of an existing attraction but its changed enough to consider it all new.... I haven't been on it but all those people who rave about it can't be wrong).

Best Ride That's a 1955 Park Opening Original.... and the Mickey goes to....  The Jungle Cruise

Best Ride That Represents the Creative Genius of Walt Disney... and the Mickey goes to... Pirates of the Caribbean

Special Disneyland Lifetime Achievement Award....a tip of the scorcer's hat and the special award goes to Chef Oscar at the Carnation Cafe... 56 years and still going strong (and still doesn't know when he's going to retire).

Best TV Show On A Disney Owned Network... and the Mickey goes to.... PTI (Pardon the Interruption) ESPN (thanks Tony and Mike for all the entertainment)

Best Restaurant Downtown Disney... and the Mickey goes to... Naples (pizza to die for).

Best Downtown Disney Quick Snack Food... and the Mickey goes to.... Beignets - Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express

Best Disney Movie of 2011... and the Mickey goes to... Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (slim pickings in 2011 and I haven't seen The Muppets.  I reserve the right to change my vote later).

Best Themed Ride (Disneyland)... and the Mickey goes to...  The Haunted Mansion

Best Themed Ride (DCA)... and the Mickey goes to.... The Hollywood Tower of Terror

Best Ride in Either Park (Ride of the Year)... and the Mickey goes to... Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Park Character.... and the Mickey goes to.... Mickey Mouse, of course

Check back on Monday when I post my 2012 Irate Donald Awards for the worst of the Disneyland Resort in 2011.  I would have posted those awards first but then I would be accused of being negative and a curmudgeon (both of which are true).

The Business of Disney

I haven't written about the business side of Disney for awhile.  Let's get caught up.  Disney reported their quarterly earning a couple of weeks back.  Yes the Mouse Company did turn a profit but as they say on Wall Street "the profits fell short of street expectations".  Reasons cited?  The most profitable part of the Walt Disney Company is the selling of ad revenue on their cable flagships ESPN and The Disney Channel.  Ad earnings were "flat".  Disney also didn't have a major movie release during the busy holiday season.  Their featured release was The Muppets, a nice movie that made money but not of the huge blockbuster variety, and it wasn't expected to.

On the other hand, with help of an improving (but we still got a ways to go) economy, the theme parks and resorts division is returning to a nice profitability after some down years. I got to believe a lot of the financial improvement of the parks and resorts segment of the company is due to the steady guidance of its leader Tom Staggs.  Is Staggs being groomed for CEO Bob Iger's job when he steps out of that role in a few years?  All appearance say it is a good possibility.  Tom Staggs has already been Chief Financial Officer and now as president of the important Parks and Resorts Division, he is developing quite a resume within the company.  Now if he can gracefully back away from Avatar idea in WDW.

Does Staggs know anything about running a movie company?  That part of Disney still needs help with a major bomb in 2011 - Mars Needs Moms and what the company is fearing will be an even bigger bomb in 2012 - John Carter (and its huge quarter of a billion dollar budget). Granted, those 2 movies were carryovers from the Dick Cook regime who was kicked to the curb almost 2 years ago or so.  But the marketing of the expensive egg-layers fall on the current management and the marketing campaigns by most insider accounts have been poor.

Disney will hold their annual shareholders meeting March 13 at the Crown Westin in Kansas City.  Iger has already his crafted his answer to the annual question "Will Disney be releasing The Song of the South" to American home video?".  The answer is NO.

For the first time in years, the Disney Board of Directors is without the incredible presence of Steve Jobs who passed away last year.  Jobs was Disney's biggest single shareholder owning stock worth an approximate estimate of 5.3 billion dollars (shares Disney gave Jobs in the acquisition of a Job's company called Pixar Animation Studios).  The 5.3 billion dollars of Disney stock has been transferred over to something called The Steve Jobs Trust run by jobs wife and I'm sure a gaggle full of lawyers.  Job's wife or representation of The Steve Jobs Trust no longer sits on the board of Disney.  However, I'm sure Bob Iger regularly travels up to Silicon Valley to fill Mrs. Jobs in on the company business.  For 5 billion dollars he probably makes her a pot of coffee before he gives his spiel and cleans out her rain gutters before he leaves.

PS....  Bob Iger now sits on the Apple Board of Directors. I'm sure he has an iPhone and iPad.

We can't feel too sorry for Bob Iger if he has to do a little manual work now and then.  His annual compensation, benefit, and retirement package went up 13% last year.  He now makes about 33 million per...  And you wonder why it costs a minimum of a hundred bucks to set foot in a Disney park?

It all started with a mouse, but Disney has moved on.  It's big business and high finance.

Friday, February 17, 2012


While we're on the topic of "staying connected", if your a Disneyland fan, a must have app for your iPhone, Android phone, and I think even a BlackBerry is MouseWaits.  With a couple of presses on my phone's touch screen I can have the wait time of any Disneyland or DCA ride or attraction (there is a WDW version of the app also) instantly.  It even has fast pass return times. So I'm sitting in my cubicle at lunch and I need a break from the ongoing mind-numbing monotany of it all, off too MouseWaits and I can in an instantly see there is a 50 minute wait time at this very moment to get on Star Tours and a fast pass return time of 3:40. You can even find out how long the wait is for a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon or a Dole Pineapple Whip. In a strange, bizarre, fun way, MouseWaits puts you in Disneyland no matter where you are.

There are other Disney apps that feature wait times but MouseWaits by all appearances in the undisputed king. Check it out your smartphone or smart device app store.  It's free.

Minnie's Fly Girls Debuts Today at DCA

Minnie's Fly Girls Song & Dance Show at DCA - Disney Parks Blog Photo
Disney Parks Blog just posted that today is the opening of the Minnie's Fly Girl song and dances show at Disney California Adventure park in the Condor Flats area (across of Soarin'). Great, another DCA pop up show I can see once then move on.

That sounds a bit sarcastic. Actually, a small show that provides entertainment from one of Disney's classic characters would be a welcomed addition and I believe would be far better received by the Disney public than the song and dance shows based on Disney Channel shows that have limited popularity and are often the subject of ridicule (i.e. High School Musical). A mini-Minnie show might just hit a welcomed spot.

Who's the lucky guy that gets to appear in the Fly Girls show?

Minnie's Fly Girls - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

My Morning Disneyland Greeting

My neighborhood is now pretty much suburbanized but 40 or 50 years ago, it was strictly rural.  And there are still pockets in my area where rural property still exists.  I don't have to go too far to find horses and sheep and goats and chickens and roosters. That's right - roosters. Every morning about a half before sunrise I am awakened by the sound of a crowing rooster telling everyone within ear shot that it is time to get up. I don't need an alarm clock to get up and get ready for work but the stupid rooster doesn't take a day off so I hear the same crowing on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, he doesn't even care if its raining.

Fast forward to 7:00am. While I find some aspects of social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) troubling and I'm a very distant social media participant mainly because I do not understand all the ins and outs of them, I do subscribe to a few Twitter feeds.  I have my Twitter feeds (text message to my cell phone) silent between the hours 11:00pm and 7am.  I learned my lesson about silencing texts very early on when I was getting text messages from Twitter at 1am in the morning from some dufus standing in line for the Matterhorn. So my first Twitter text of the day, just like a rooster crowing, arrives at 7:00am and it is always from the Disneyland Resort, a feed I subscribe to. The message is always the same - "Good morning from the Disneyland Resort - Today's hours........".  So my first message of the day from the outside world of Twitter is always a greeting from Disneyland with the day's park hours.  I start my day with at least a bit of a connection at the park even though I'm hundreds of miles away.

You can get pretty quick with the delete finger Twitter, a lot of what I get is just nonsense. But there is something about special about that Disneyland message. On any given day, I always know when the park opens and closes. There is something reassuring about that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cars Land Gets Its Opening Day

Cars Land Enhanced Publicity Artwork - Disney Parks Blog
According to MiceAge's Al Lutz, Disney has its target opening day for Cars Land and the relaunch of the much improved Disney California Adventure as June 15 (with a media day scheduled for June 14). This should also include most of Buena Vista Street though it seems completion of that area of the park by June 15th is a little more problematical.  Helped by a dry California winter and unseasonably warm temperatures, DCA construction projects have been motoring on at a very high rate of speed.

This summer is going to be absolutely huge for the Disneyland Resort - perhaps record breaking. The economy seems to be picking up, the publicity machine for DCA and Cars Land is most impressive, and it seems that most Disney fans can't wait.  Well, this one can for a bit.  So beginning June 15 I can begin to work on my dream of having a nickel for every time a variation of the following line is uttered within the confines the Disneyland Resort - "Man, it's crowded in here".

So the cynical side of me is also beginning to think about a basic law of economics - supply and demand.  For the DCA relaunch the demand to get into the place will probably exceed the physical space available for quite awhile.  Ka-Ching!  Around April or May seems to be about a perfect time to up the admission and annual passholder prices.  Not fair you say? Sure it is, it's the corporate America way.

Back to that Radiator Springs Racers poster at the top of this post - I still prefer my cars not to have faces on them.  I'm still trying the get the stench of wasting two hours of my life watching Cars 2.  The movie was so bad (except the visual aspects of it) that Pixar should probably be ashamed of itself for releasing a piece of garbage like that.  This is the same company that has given up Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 (all academy award winners) the last 3 years.  Cars 2 couldn't sniff an academy award if it tried.  So now Disney has a land dedicated to the Cars franchise.  Oh, it will be successful, but can it be sustainable 5, 10, 15 years into the future?  Fortunately (strange choice of words here), one of the downfalls of the movie Cars 2 was its lack of time actually spent in the charming desert town of Radiator Springs.  Now, Disney has built a remarkable replica of Radiator Springs the town right inside of DCA.  The rest of the Cars 2 mess - too much of a silly hick named Larry the Cable Guy, not enough Owen Wilson and the rest of characters, and Paul Newman died.

Paul Newman was the heart and soul of the first Cars movie.  My hope for the new Cars Land midst its slick commercialism and mass merchandising is Disney somehow honors the memory of Doc Hudson (the Paul Newman character).  DCA, Cars Land, is going to be a zoo this summer, hopefully there is a little bit of heart.