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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Disneyland Traveler Wraps Up August

While I am certainly bound by no rules in this blog, this will probably be my last post for the month of August. Things to do today. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I get to go see the elegant song stylings of Mr. Neil Diamond tonight. Back to work (yes, I do have a job) tomorrow.

Speaking of Neil Diamond, the tickets were generously given to us by a couple who left town and could not use them. Face value of the tickets is $82 each and these are not even the high end seats. So about $165 for two hours or so of entertainment for me and Mrs. DLT. Maybe Disneyland admission prices are a "value" as Disney claims.

This has been about the slowest month in Disneyland News that I can remember for quite some time. With the opening of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, Disney seemed perfectly willing to sit back and let the summer season play out. There are only two construction projects currently going on of note - the erecting of the new Fantasy Faire Village out in front of the castle and makeover of the Fantasyland Theater which will be put back to its original use of live stage performances.

Of course there are rumors aplenty. With the lack of hard Disney news, websites and forums love to speculate - changes for Tomorrowland, expansion of Frontierland, Marvel attractions and characters coming to Disneyland. Everything written about these topics is just that - rumor - until Disney says otherwise. There will be major announcements about park changes coming I am sure. They have to have something to show off at next Augusts' D23 Expo (but you can get your tickets now so Disney can make better use of the money rather than you).

Of course, Disney is regularly posting updates about its Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Fantasyland expansion for which I care not a lick. I can't get too excited about anything that goes on in Fantasyland either in WDW or Disneyland. You have to have small children or be a totally head over heals Disney fanatic to get excited about Fantasyland. The Boy has grown up and my days of pondering fairy tales are over I'm afraid. Now I go to Fantasyland to take pictures because its nice and every few years, Mrs. DLT will do the Fantasyland rides just to remember these really aren't that great (except Peter Pan's Flight and it's a small world). As for WDW Fantasyland? I'll have more interest when the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train coaster is done which won't be for awhile.

So what's in store for the Disneyland Traveler in September? Well there's the transitioning into Halloweentime at the Disneyland Resort. More on the fall ride closures including extensive refurbishment time for Indiana Jones Adventure, Alice in Wonderland, Storybookland Canal Boats, and Casey Jr. Circus Train. Three Fantasyland rides closed at the same time? Cancel my trip! Well that's not likely but many with long planned trips aren't too happy about Indiana Jones closure and why Disney couldn't have given more warning about one of its major Attractions going down for 3 months.

Since this is The Disneyland Traveler I think I am going to do a couple of posts on what we pack for a trip to Disneyland. And of course, whatever else pops into my head or news that Disney throws our way.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Disney's Wreck-It Ralph Trailer

I can't say I look forward to the release of too many animated feature films. Maybe I did when Toy Story 3 came out. I certainly look forward to the next release of the Despicable Me Minion's movie but that still is over a year away I think. But I do look forward to the release of Disney's Wreck-It Ralph set to come out November 2 if I'm not mistaken. Ever since I saw the trailer below with the previews shown before The Avengers, a mental note has been made to see Wreck-It Ralph in the theaters, in 3D, and maybe even IMAX if that is available. This looks like a lot of fun as Disney Animation takes a big step to make a movie Pixar probably should have made instead of their last two. Ralph has all the makings of being a major hit for Disney.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Poised For The Return Of Jack Skellington

Come Monday, Disneyland's classic Haunted Mansion attraction will be shut down for about 3 weeks for its annual right of passage - the transformation to the Haunted Mansion Holidays which will take over from about mid-September until just after the first of the year. I explained my preference for the overlay version over the traditional HM in a previous post - Haunted Mansion Holidays - The Argument Ensues. Basically, it comes down to this, I prefer the color and clever whimsy of the Tim Burton holiday version over the drab grey traditional version (even though I am no fan whatsoever of The Nightmare Before Christmas movie on which the overlay is based). 

But today its a remembrance of what the 3 week closure of the Haunted Mansion is all about. It brings to a close of Disneyland's summer season and the transition into fall and Halloween immediately followed by Christmas. Gone are the long warm days and nights as we move into the ever so gradual transition to shorter days (and shorter park hours) and welcomed cooler temperatures. Especially in the evenings, the ever present shorts and t-shirts are replaced by pants and sweatshirts or jackets.

Yeah... I look forward to Haunted Mansion Holidays because the air conditioning in my house will no longer need to run 24x7, stepping outside will actually be comfortable, and there is always return of college and NFL football.

I like it when Jack Skellington makes his return because I know I will no longer have to sweat like a pig. I like it right up to the point I will inevitably utter the phrase "man its cold outside, I can't wait till it gets warmer".

The Disneyland Turkey Leg - Channeling The Inner Fred Flintstone

There are certainly some iconic foods around Disneyland, legends in their own time. There is the infamous churro of course, the Monte Cristo sandwich, the Little Red Wagon's corn dog, Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, but none of them probably stand up to legendary status of the Disneyland turkey leg. It's hard to explain but there seems to be kind of an addiction to these things. I once had a seat on a bench near the turkey leg cart at the Disneyland Hub and listened to the cast member attendant tell guest after disappointed guest that he was currently out of turkey legs and was expecting a delivery of more shortly.

I have to say, when it comes to turkey, I am not a leg man. Like most sane people, I go for the turkey breast. In fact, come Thanksgiving, I would have to say that the first turkey meat that goes into the day-after turkey soup is what comes off the legs. Once in a while, the Boy may gnaw on leg but I think its mostly for showing off.

That I recall, I have had a Disneyland turkey leg one time and it was wisely split among 3 people I think. Yes, it was juicy, smokey, salty, and quite good but still, I felt guilty about eating it. Never mind the nutritional facts. Turkey is healthy, right? Well, I think I read somewhere that the Disney parks legs have close to 1200 calories, a days worth of fat intake, and enough salt from the brine the legs are soaked in to last the normal human a few days. That should scare a few people off. My reservation about the turkey legs is that it makes me see an image of myself as some dark ages carnivore glutton or perhaps some sort of neanderthal man chomping down on a massive piece of meat with one hand tied behind my back. To me, there is just something that seems kind of primitive about eating a turkey leg. Maybe its from watching too many Fred Flintstone cartoons as a kid or seeing countless caricatures of King Henry VIII which almost always show him with a large turkey leg in hand.

I don't hold anything against anyone eating a turkey leg at Disneyland. They seem to enjoy themselves thoroughly as they gobble down (pun intended) the juicy legs. But if I were to eat one, my self-conscious self would be thinking that every one that passed by me would muttering to themselves "look at that pig eating that big ol' turkey leg". No, that's no good. I'll go get a corn dog instead. Handheld food on a stick trumps handheld food on a bone in the civility department.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Trick or .... Wait A Minute. It's Still August, Isn't It?

Halloween Merchandise Hits Disney Parks
A Disney Parks Blog Photo
Never being one to be late at ringing up seasonal merchandise sales, Disney is now stuffing their park souvenir stores to the brim with Halloween merchandise. In the meantime, back here at home, the temperature remains a pretty consistent 95 to 105 degrees for seemingly weeks on end. The cool respite that October brings still seems like a long way off.

Never let August heat be a deterrent to making some money off a "holiday" that is still over two months away. If you want to check out what's new - here's a link to a preview of Halloween merchandise from Disney Parks Blog

Poor Luigi - Flying Tires Struggle To Have Fun

Luigi's Flying Tires - Cars Land - DCA
Beach Balls Now Removed
As predicted by many, the Luigi's Flying Tires ride in the new Cars Land is experiencing growing pains. Over the last week or so, the colorful beach balls that were added to the ride when it opened in June were gradually removed. Now the beach balls are gone entirely.

The beach ball element was added as means in inject some energy into the slow moving and slow loading ride. Kids loved the beach balls but as kids have a tendency to do, tracking down a colorful ball of their very own became job one when boarding the ride. Strapping in and taking off were secondary so what was slow to begin with just got slower with the beach balls distracting attention from keeping the ride moving.

Luigi's Flying Tires with Beach Balls
The balls have now been removed from the ride.

And of course with people madly tossing large plastic balls around there were a few "incidents" according to Disney as getting unexpectedly whacked in the head led to some minor injuries and complaints here and there.

So the balls are now gone. Disney is looking at alternate ways in bring energy to the attraction starting with removal of some weight from the underside of the tires for a joy stick controller that was never implemented which, in theory, should make the ride move a little faster. Other things are being discussed as well. No one yet has said this ride is a complete failure but that certainly remains a possibility.

MiceChat's Dateline Disney (link here) posted this video this morning. Keep in mind before this ride ever takes off, guests will likely have been waiting 60 minutes or more to get on. And this is what you get:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Disneyland Bucket List - Item #6

I don't know what happened to it. Many years ago, I had a Disney silhouette cut-out made by one of the very nice artists that work in Disneyland's Silhouette Studio. I never had the silhouette framed or otherwise prominently displayed but over the years I'd see it in assorted boxes or in a closet somewhere around one of the several residences I have lived in. Haven't seen it in years though so I'm sure it is permanently lost.

Every once in awhile, as Mrs. DisneylandTraveler made our walks down Main St., I'd take a quick peek into the Silhouette Studio to watch the ladies proudly show their craft work. But I never stopped to have a silhouette actually done. Why not? It's a lovely souvenir and quite inexpensive by Disneyland standards. Why haven't Mrs. DLT and I had a silhouette done of us - together? The only thing I can think off is that we always seem to be in a hurry to run off and do something else.

Well it's time to stop - stop and have a silhouette done. I'm adding this to my Disneyland bucket list. It's official. And when we come home, it will go on a wall.

The Orange County Register did a nice little video of the Silhouetted Studio and a couple of the cast members who work there. Yep, it's on the bucket list.

What Are You Doing May 1, 2015? The Avengers 2

The Mayans don't think we are going to make it to New Years Eve. There are some economists out there trying to sell books saying we are on the verge of a global economic collapse of biblical proportions. But that hasn't stopped Disney and Marvel from announcing a May 1, 2015 as the release date for The Avengers 2, the sequel to this year's 1.5 billion dollar juggernaut The Avengers. I'd circle it on my calendar (if I could find a calendar that actually has the year 2015).

May 3, 2013 seems like a date more within reason of an old guy like me. That is the release date for Iron Man 3 providing Robert Downey Jr. can recover from the foot injury he sustained while filming the movie and has forced a temporary shutdown. 

Still footage from the filming of Iron Man 3

Suppose Disney Released A Movie And Nobody Came

No, we're not talking about Disney's movie albatross John Carter again. The problem with John Carter is people came but just not enough of them to justify its enormous cost. A couple of days ago, Disney released the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green with almost no publicity or fanfare. I don't even know what it is about other than it is some sort of live action fantasy / fable. There is absolutely no buzz about this movie anywhere really. Kind of un-Disney like. I would imagine this movie may be in and out of the theaters within a couple of weeks time with Disney hoping that it has some life in home video and rental fees. Hoping. On the the plus side, it only cost about 40 million dollars which is chump change in today's movie market (less that 5 times the John Carter budget from Disney). Again, this movie was made under a previous regime at Disney Studios. Things will definitely change.

Next up is Disney and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, another movie I have no desire to see. Salvation comes at the end of the year with Wreck-It Ralph which looks like a sure winner.

The Ups and Downs of Being a Disneyland Insider

The Disneyland Traveler is not a Disneyland insider or prognosticator nor do I claim to be in any way, shape, or form. I live far too away to from the park to have any sort inside knowledge from word on the street. But I do follow those that are considered park insiders and prognosticators with my main source being MiceAge's Al Lutz, an insider that even other media sources go to when they want the Disneyland inside scoop. Al is more often right than wrong with his crystal ball but over the last month or so, he has missed a few.

So Al did say (and I posted about it) that Thunder Mountain Railroad would close next month for a year long refurbishment (give or take). That does not turn out to be the case as reported by David Koenig who frequently contributes to the much smaller Disney website MousePlanet when compared to Al's MiceAge/MiceChat. Koenig appears to have the correct information when he reported that BTMRR will close down just after the first of the year for its lengthy refurbishment with Indiana Jones closing this fall for a major overhaul - something that Al missed completely.

Then there is that rampant Tomorrrowland speculation. Oh yes, something will be done. Al reported that Disney was eyeing the area that included Red Rocket's Pizza Port, the Innoventions building, Autopia, the remnants of the People Movier, and even Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage as targets of demolition / renovation in a Tomorrowland makeover. Things are coming out now (with comments made by Tony Baxter and others) that this isn't really going to be the case - with the likely targets just being just the Innoventions building and the adjacent Pizza Port and Autopia queue line along with taking down what's left of the deteriorating People Mover.

What happens in Tomorroland is shear speculation at this point but something will definitely be known over the next year or so. They have to have something to talk about at next year's D23 Expo. But Al's prediction of ripping out the subs seems to be really Blue Sky territory, especially with a Pixar Finding Nemo sequel movie now in the pre-pre-production stage.

So Al may have missed a few. He has been very quiet this week in his comments, seemingly keeping a low profile. But Al Lutz is always Disneyland "must" reading because he really does have the pulse of the place. I'm sure his sources are giving him their version of the inside scoop but as always, Disney has a right to change their collective minds.

Indiana Jones: An Opened and Closed Adventure

Disney has not made a huge effort to make this known yet but apparently it is official that the massively popular Indiana Jones Adventure ride in Disneyland will close next month for a much needed refurbishment. The dates of the closure are Sept. 4 through Dec. 7 - down 3 months give or take a few days. Of course, those who have booked trips range from the mildly disappointed to the very upset about this news. For many, IJA is tops on their list of favorite attractions including Mrs. DisneylandTraveler. But it is needed. You wouldn't know it by me but there are several elements within the attraction that either aren't working or aren't working they way they used to. Regular riders know this, occasional riders may not see the difference from one ride to the next. The ride is also subject to frequent temporary breakdowns. Supposedly, during this refurbishment, not only will the ride get fixed up but a new thrill element may be added (a loop? no, just kidding about that).

So no Indiana Jones in Disneyland beginning in early September. But not to worry Indy fans. For one week only George Lucas plans to bring his thrill seeking archaeologist back to the big screen - the really big screen - as for the first time ever, Raiders of the Lost Ark will be shown in 70mm IMAX. This limited release is just ahead of planned re-release of the classic film in a blu-ray edition. It's a great, great movie, though made in 1981, stands up to the test of time. Director Steven Spielberg has said it is one of the few films in his large body of impressive work he can sit down and enjoy without thinking about all the things he might have done differently if he had the chance. My closest IMAX will be showing the film. I'm there.

How popular is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (now the official title of the film)? I was watching a rerun of the TV show The Big Bang Theory (which is on about 50 times a week) where the gang of geeks is huddled around their TV watching a Raiders tape. At the end of the movie they head down to their local movie theater to get in line for a special Raiders big screen showing that has 21 seconds of added footage (only to find out that the line was longer than the number of theater seats). 

For those refusing to believe in the closing of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride - here it is - right from Disneyland's attraction web page - IJA Link

Disneyland's Candlelight Processional: From 2 To 20

Disneyland's Candlelight Processional
A Disney Parks Blog Photo

One of the highlights of the Christmas season at Disneyland has been the traditional Candlelight Processional. Since the event has only taken place over one weekend per year during the holiday season I have never seen it myself but those who have report that its a wonderful experience during the Christmas activities. Of course WDW's EPCOT has their own Candlelight Processional which performs twice nightly to overflowing crowds for about a month or more. Now Disneyland is going to a swing at bringing their intimate Candlelight Processional to the big time expanding the 2 night affair to 20 nights for an audience of Annual Passholders and those who purchase.....wait for it.... expensive dining packages. Disney gave preliminary details, sketchy as they may be, in a posting in their Disney Parks Blog this past week.

That's how the do it in EPCOT - tie the traditional Christian Christmas story to moderate to high priced dining packages and there are no shortage of takers. When Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I were making plans for a Christmas trip to WDW a few years ago, a booking for the Candlelight Processional was tops on our list of things to do and we succeeded with a lunch reservation at Le Cellier then over to the CP stage with our celebrity narrator being Brad Garrett from Everybody Love's Raymond and 'Til Death fame. Of course, that trip never happened due to unexpected surgery but that was the plan....

Now Disneyland will try to duplicate the massive success of the WDW event and of course, pocket some profits along the way. Traditionally, Disneyland's Processional is held in the Town Square with the stage set up in front of the railroad station and as of now, there is no indication that this will change but it does lead to some logistic questions. That space is small and right at the park entrance, how will CP event attendees and regular park visitors co-exist without creating massive gridlock type of conditions? That area is also right on the parade route and what about the nightly running of the VERY popular Christmas Fantasy Parade? Will they leave up permanent seating for the event in place during the day detracting from the beautifully decorated Town Square area and home of the Disneyland Christmas tree?

Some have speculated that the now unused Fantasyland Theater, now vacant, would be a better choice and it certainly makes sense to me. Time will tell as the details are released. And let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blue Sky Questions & Comments For Disney

So while I have a few minutes, here are a few questions and comments for Disney (while I'm thinking about them).

  • Your parks are great. You know it. Your fans know it. Can we please get a break from price increases for awhile?
  • I'd love to get an Annual Pass again but its gotten really expensive. Can you at least make the meal & merchandise discounts permanent? It's really an important factor in the consideration process
  • I love staying in Disney owned hotels but $$$$. Can we get some discounts? I mean real discounts.
  • Note to California Adventure. It's summer. You need more shade.
  • Can you please stop beating me over the head trying to sell me something by passing it off as something that I really need to have? No... I don't need a glow in show hat, vinylmation dolls, Duffy the Bear, or even pins for that matter. I can make my own decisions. Thank you.
  • Can you please post scheduled ride refurbishments when you have the dates set and not when you feel we have a right to know? Because of the cost of major refurbishments, closure dates are known for months if not years in advance.
  • Here's an idea, add two more entree items to every table service and counter service dining facility. 
  • Disneyland is a spectacle at night. Stop selling things that light up and annoy people trying to enjoy the view.
  • Do something with Tomorrowland - tomorrow!
  • It's getting better but can you have Disneyland and DCA keep the exact same hours? 
  • I'm old school. No more garish outdoor street parties like Mad T Party. DCA does have some unused buildings you can stick them in, granted you would have to seek out the spots selling outrageously priced alcoholic cocktails rather that having them planted in plain view for everyone.
  • Captain EO has got to go. Bug's Life and Muppet's 3D just need some new state of the art films.
  • Speaking of films, can we get a new one for Soarin' Over (and it doesn't just have to be California)?
  • Toy Story Mania really does need a fast pass distribution machine.
  • No more balloons! Sorry kids.
  • A couple of specialty food vendor trucks is actually a good idea in select locations.

Well, Disney has gotten back to me with my thoughts and questions. They pretty much said NO.

The Dog Days of a Disneyland Summer

August is one of the two months of the year that I have never been to Disneyland as I recall (the other being January). There's something unappealing about August. As a kid I remember hitting August was the start of  a countdown for going back to school as summer vacation came to an end. Nothing new happens in August. It defines the old expression of "the dog days of summer". It's flippin' hot outside and laziness hits a high note, at least for me.

Yes, when I got out of the movie theater yesterday, the Disneyland Traveler's gas sucking SUV said it was 106 degrees outside. Today is supposed to be 107. Good day to lay low. It's suppose to be 94 degrees today in Disneyland. Ninety-Four degrees probably feels like a 107 if you are inside Disneyland itself with the crowds and the smog filled moisture laden air of coastal Southern California. At least Disneyland has trees and shade. DCA's got almost nothing of the sort. So they build Cars Land, an area perfectly themed to the desert Southwest and now its hot. Nice. 

I wrote about ways to beat the heat in Disneyland last year. I won't repeat it again but you can read about it here - The Heat Is On

Disneyland slows down this time of year as well. Not a lot of news, what there is isn't very exciting. This is the end of the summer blackout period. In another week or so, the Southern California annual pass holders will once again hit the parks as the summer vacationers move out. Disneyland will begin the transformation into the Halloween season which has become big business. I don't like Halloween but at least things change in the park. 

And there will be refurbishments aplenty, small ones (Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion overlays) and big ones (the rumored Thunder Mountain Railroad and Alice in Wonderland - both closed for several months). 

And what big new announcement is out there waiting for Disney to get the word out and spike new interests in the parks going into the end of this year and into next year? Disney does a good job of keeping the fans interest running in high gear waiting for the next great thing. 

For me, I'm here to ride out the summer, lay low, and try and keep cool.

In The Battle Of Superhero Movies - The Avengers Still Wins

My personal summer superhero trilogy is now complete. I wasn't going to do it but in the interest of an excuse to get out of the house for a family outing, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, the Boy, and me headed off to the multiplex to see The Dark Knight Rises. It was 107 degrees here at home yesterday, let's use someone else's air-conditioning for awhile (and with a running time of close to 3 hours, a very long while).

The Dark Knight Rises caps off the Warner Bros. and DC Comics latest Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. The quick review - The Dark Knight Rises is long, plodding, dark, and violent. Not that it isn't interesting or have it's moments but in the end, there is something unappealing about its bleakness. Glad I saw it. I will probably rent it when it comes to home video, but after that, I will quickly put it to rest and forget about it. No plans to go out and buy the movie when it becomes available which is always the truest measure of how much I like a movie.

So over the summer, we have seen Disney / Marvel's The Avengers, Sony / Marvel's The Amazing Spiderman, and now Warner Bros. / DC Comics The Dark Knight Rises. Guess what? The Avengers wins - easily. Am I prejudiced because The Avengers is a Disney produced movie and this is a Disney blog? Nope - The Avengers is flat out better than the other two and by a pretty large margin.

The Amazing Spiderman was somewhat surprisingly entertaining but brought nothing new to the party from the original 2002 Spiderman movie. It was basically the same movie - entertaining but pretty much forgettable. On the other hand, The Avengers advanced and grandly topped off the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Phase One series of films that began with the original Iron Man (and continued with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America - The First Avenger). 

The Avengers delivered the goods - highly entertaining, sharply written and directed by Joss Whedon, and had nice performances from a cast of fine actors. Most of all, The Avengers was a fun movie, something that could not be said about the other two films.

Mrs. DLT is already chomping at the bit for when The Avengers hits the home video market (Sept 25, I believe is the day). The only question is whether to buy the blu-ray Avengers package or shell out the 140 bucks (an Amazon pre-order price now - about $220 closer to the release date) 10 disc set that contains the other four prequel movies and tons of special features loaded into its special briefcase packaging. Tempting.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pirates Running Amuck In The Court of Angels

The photo above found on the internet is of the Court of Angels, a lovely semi-secluded area tucked into New Orleans Square in Disneyland. On a busy day, people seek a respite here where generally it is more tranquil and serene, away from the pulsating throng of the crowds. People have been known to propose marriage in this spot. If I had it to do all over again, its a thought worth considering.

So Disney, in its never ending quest to use every square foot of its Disneyland park as an opportunity sell you something, now has a better idea for the Court of Angels. Fill it full of kids sitting in chairs getting made up as pirates. It's called Pirate League and has been very successful with its run in Walt Disney World. Think of it as the pirate companion of the Bibbidi-Bobbidy-Boutique where young girls get made up as princesses. Now young boys (or even young girls) can get a pirate makeover at about $30 - $35 a pop.

From what I gather, this is mostly a test run as Disney tries to determine the popularity of kids wanting to get made up as pirates (duh!) and perhaps find which of the little shops in New Orleans Square might have just the right amount of space should Pirates League go permanent (duh!). 

So another piece of Disneyland charm gets lost in the never ending pursuit of Disney sucking every available dollar from one's bank account or added to one's credit card bill. Charm out - Profits in.

Disneyland And A Study In Characters

Just a note before we begin. This is only one person's perception (mine) fully recognizing that I am in the minority.

A few years ago, we booked a family to Disneyland through Walt Disney Travel. Part of the package is kids get a call at home from a Disney character (usually Mickey) that tells them how much the Disney characters look forward to their visit and meeting them. Nice touch and certainly my great nephew Joseph was excited when he got his call from Mickey. Kids love the Disney characters. I am not a kid anymore.

I'm not and never was much of a Disney character guy. I'm not even a fan of most of what can be considered the classic Disney movies. I vaguely remember the Mickey Mouse Club when I was a kid but it hardly left any kind of lasting impression on me. I remember seeing Walt's TV show on Sunday nights from time to time but it wasn't one of those things I had circled in TV Guide as "must see TV". 

So the characters that run around Disneyland don't have a whole lot of interest for me. I'm not even really much of a parade person. No don't get me wrong. The Disney characters in the park do add tremendous value to the overall atmosphere. And I get a bit of kick seeing the expression on kids faces when they do meet their favorite Disney characters but for me, I can take or leave them.

The pictures posted in this blog entry are of the "Fab Five" as they are collectively known by Disney fans. The five are Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto, all original creations of Walt Disney himself. Other than maybe Mickey, I'm not even sure these are the most popular characters in the park with the recent additions of Disney princesses and Pixar characters gaining most of the attention now days.

Everyone likes Mickey. He's "The Man" or rather "The Mouse" in the Disney realm. He's never far away from a picture or statue of Walt Disney who once said "it all started with a mouse". Mickey is cool, an expression that I guess is still used. 

Back in the 1930's, Donald Duck came along to steal some of Mickey's popularity. Donald is perhaps the most interesting of the five who with his ill-tempered attitude always seems to be a step away from launching into an expletive laden tirade at something or someone. He also doesn't wear pants. He wears a shirt or some other top, but no pants. Who, outside of Randy Travis, runs around in public without pants?

I guess my favorite character of the fab five is Goofy. Goofy tries hard. He tries to fix things, build things, learn new things. He is the good intentions of Mr. Everyman. I see a lot of myself in Goofy for where there are good intentions to be found, Goofy is basically an idiot. Yep, as I look back and see some of my past failures of well intentioned efforts I can only look at myself as "what an idiot".

Then there's Minnie and Pluto. Mickey and Minnie seem to lead separate lives infinitely linked in love. In Toon Town, they have separate houses. Somehow they have a son named Max. Not sure how that works. Mickey and Minnie also have a pet dog named Pluto. A mouse with a pet dog. How does that work?

Anyway, I may not be a character guy but it's nice to have legacy and tradition. And in the Disney parks world, while Buzz and Woody, Belle and Ariel, may get the most of the buzz these days, the tradition and legacy of five of Walt's original creations still has and will always have a place.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Disney Profits - Just Whistling A Happy Tune

To no ones surprise, when Bob Iger announced Disney's 3rd quarter profits last week he was forced to deliver the typically boring numbers data with a smile that would rival the best day of any of his cast of Disney characters. Yes, Bob is a happy man these days as Disney profits set records and looks off into a very bright future.

Of course Bob, in the last quarter had The Avengers, a Disney released movie that pulled in somewhere around 1.4 billion dollars in box office receipts at last look. He also had a moderate success with Pixar's Brave - not the usual Pixar box office powerhouse but still a film that will turn over a profit. And both of these movies shape up well for their second lives when home video versions are released in various packages over the next few months. Home video sales is sagging badly as a national trend. Not when it comes these two movies. 

And all the investment into Disney Parks and Resorts is paying off. Attendance at the Disneyland Resort has been record setting this summer with the opening of Cars Land. A new cruise ship recently launched increasing Disney's fleet to four and the ships are booked to 94% capacity through the rest of this year. And with an improving economy, people are flocking to Disney parks and hotels without having to go the route of discounting which has been prevalent the last few years as Disney tried to keep the parks and hotels buzzing in a floundering economy.

For Disney fans there was a note of fear delivered by Iger as he made his rounds in the financial news media circles. Things are going so good that he made the remark (paraphrasing) "we believe there is room for some additional price elasticity". Basically, Disney believes there is room to implement additional price increases across the board without affecting the demand for the Disney products he delivers. He's probably right.

Bob can point to a bright future. Now that DCA is pulling in people, you can expect Disney to turn its attention to Disneyland itself with new attractions and minor improvements. Walt Disney World is finally starting to get some much needed buzz and attention as it prepares to open its new and improved Fantasyland with Animal Kingdom's Pandora (Avatarland) standing next in line. Iger's decision to purchase Marvel has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving with a full slate of powerhouse movies in production scheduled to be released ahead of the return of Joss Whedon and his direction of Avengers 2 in 2015. Whedon will also develop a Marvel TV series for ABC in his spare time.

So its a great time to be Bob Iger as he closes out his tenure as Chairman and CEO at The Walt Disney Company. One can only hope that the next guy is taking good notes. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

What Would You Be Doing If You Were In Disneyland Right Now?

"What would you be doing if you were in Disneyland right now?" It's an intriguing and fun question that was posted on the MiceChat forum over the weekend and amazing to see how many of the responders posted the time they were making their response and knew exactly where they would be and what they would be doing if they were in Disneyland even though they were all sitting at home reading a forum.

Responses like this -

11:02 am:  On Jungle Cruise in Adventureland waiting for Indiana Jones fastpass window to open up.

or here was my response from yesterday

12:40 pm. Temperature heading towards 80 degrees. I'm looking for a table in the shade on the upper level of the Hungry Bear Restaurant (just got off Splash Mtn). Time to enjoy a fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries and a large diet coke. Does anyone want to split an order of onion rings?

You see, most fans of Disneyland have a pre-programmed agenda built into their heads. Spontaneity exists only if the internal plans get side-tracked. Wandering around aimlessly is for amateurs, the Disneyland professionals know pretty much exactly what they are going to do. So predictable. 

Unless you get into one of circle discussions me and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler find ourselves in from time to time. 

"What do you want to do now?"

"I don't know, what do you want to do?"

"I don't know, you pick."

"I picked last time, it's your turn to pick.' 

"I'm up for anything."

"Me to, you pick."

"Let's go to the Haunted Mansion."

"Nah, we've already been on it twice, I'm getting hungry."

"OK, let's go find someplace to eat then, where do you want to go?"

"I don't know, you decide."

"You said you were hungry so you must have something in mind?"

"Not really, you pick....."

No Big Thunder In The Mountain For Awhile

MiceAge / MiceChat's Al Lutz is reporting that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is about to go down this fall for a lengthy refurbishment. How lengthy? According to Al, try the end of this year and most of the 2013 calendar year so the track can get replaced, a new loading platform built, and new interactive elements are added to the queue line.

I'm going to miss Thunder Mountain Railroad. Even though I think of it as a favorite of mine, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler, after years of going on, regressed from participating in the thrills of the "wildest ride in the wilderness" that Disney uses as a tagline for the ride. It has become one of the series of "messes with my head" rides for her. On our last visit to Disneyland I tried to sneak on over to ride the beast myself but but twice I got the "closed down right now - not sure when we'll open back up" spiel from a cast member. I should have been more diligent about trying to get on but in the back of your mind there is always the "maybe next time by" thought. What if there is no next time?

Fantasy Faire Village or Intrusion on Main Street

Model of the Fantasy Faire Village - Opens Summer 2013
A Disney Parks Blog Photo

I don't know how I missed it but Disney Parks Blog did post an entry last week that contained the first models of the Fantasy Faire Village, the new home for Disney princesses that is now scheduled to open next summer (link here). I probably missed it because I don't actively go out and look for information about Disney princesses, Fantasy Faire, or anything like that. I'm a guy and I'm preoccupied with the impending start of football season. But enough stereotyping....

I must say, the models do look much nicer than the conceptual artwork Disney has previously released. The place is very detailed and ornate. But here would be my issue (and the issue of many fans of Disneyland Park). The new Fantasy Faire Village sits in front and off to the left side of the Sleeping Beauty's Castle as you walk down Main Street towards the Hub area. Most consider the Hub area still a part of Main Street so now you have a replica of a 500 year old village with an entrance facing Main Street - the Partners statue, Plaza Inn Restaurant, Jolly Holiday Bakery, etc. It doesn't quite fit the theming.

Disney Imagineers and Show Producers Work with FFV Model
A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Or did Disneyland just find an excuse to extend the boarders of Fantasyland. Granted, Disneyland boarders inside the park tend to be more guidelines than rules - witneess Nemo in Tomorrowland along with other examples if you think and question hard enough. One would hope the Disney recognizes this as well and finds a way to somewhat conceal the area from Main Street views. Disney can be very creative this way. Pixie Hollow, the area and the entrance, can barely be seen though it too infringes on Tomorrowland. But Fantasy Faire Village is a larger area. I'm sure it will be nice. The question is whether "nice area" or "questionable intrusion" win out with the final product.

Fantasy Faire Village Model - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Slow Death of Disneyland's Abraham Lincoln

Every American school child should know the story by age 10 or so, or at least they should. Abraham Lincoln, viewed by most as America's greatest President, was tragically assassinated in Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. April 1865, while watching a play from his private box. The assassin was an actor named John Wilkes Boothe, a Southern sympathizer who maddeningly put a gun to Lincoln's head and pulled the trigger to both avenge, and perhaps resurrect the South's defeat and surrender in the Civil War at the hand of Lincoln's Northern armies. Lincoln died in a boarding house room across the street from the theater a few hours after being shot, never regaining consciousness. Boothe was killed while on the run by soldiers several days later with many of those who participated in Boothe's assassination plot subsequently hanged. 

Lincoln was America's first President to be assassinated in office. Over the years, his story left an impression on countless people including Walt Disney. Walt Disney admired Lincoln greatly, so much so that when Walt was asked to develop attractions for the New York World's Fair in 1964, he created the first animatronic Lincoln to deliver inspiring words to the throngs of people who came to see it. When the fair ended it's run, Lincoln was taken to Disneyland and set up in the Opera House to continue to deliver words everyone should hear but few take the time bother.

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln has been playing at the Opera House since July 1965. It's one of those attractions that as a young boy, I remember seeing with my parents in the lovely little theater. Lincoln hasn't exactly played continuously since it was installed. Like most Disneyland attractions, it has been updated and refurbished over the years. Back in 2005, Lincoln was removed for almost 2 years as a special film commemorating Disneyland's 50th Anniversary was shown in the theater instead. But Lincoln did return thanks to Tony Baxter and those at Disney who want to preserve the legacy of Walt Disney and the Disneyland he created and not the corporate decision makers that run the place today.

But the hand writing has been on the wall. The last time Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I saw Lincoln in the Opera House we were in an audience of about 30 people. The theater holds 400 people. That's sadly typical. I've used this analogy before in this blog - Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln is the attraction people run by on their way to get to Indiana Jones or Space Mountain (only to find out those rides will have probably broken down by the time they get there). Crowds in Disneyland can swell to about 50,000 people on many days, the number who take the time see Lincoln is a fraction of that.

So Al Lutz reported this week that beginning in late August, Disney will use the theater at least part of the time to show Annual Passholders special screenings of classic Disney films. The question is why would you want to go to Disneyland to spend an hour and a half watching a movie that most Annual Passholders probably already have in their home video collections? That's my question anyway, at least one of my questions. Of course the answer lies in the fact that most Disneyland Annual Passholders are local and many are within a short distance who find little effort in driving over to the park for a few hours. For them, the opportunity to see a classic Disney movie inside the classic Disney Opera House is something special. Of course for Disney, the theater will once again fill and hopefully those movie viewers will take the time to maybe have a nice (expensive) dinner before or after the showing.

Right now Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln is a labor of love of a few people trying to preserve the legacy of Walt Disney and the park he created. While the incredible animatronic Lincoln is a technical wonder (with a cost in excess of a million dollars), Disney doesn't make a dime off the attraction. No one pays park admission to specifically see Lincoln. There isn't a gift shop attached to the attraction that sells Lincoln dolls or even stove pipe hats. It sadly plays to small groups of people who probably go in more as a curiosity than anything else. 

Oh, but if Disney announced the permanent removal of the attraction, the complaint line would be long and vocal as many would look at is as the continuing erosion of the park that Walt built into the money sucking corporate revenue stream of a theme park that they see it as now. So the answer is somewhere in the middle I suppose. I really don't have a problem with the classic Disney film screenings. Not a bad idea at all - to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and then walk over and get on the ride itself. From what I have read, the theater has a movie screen that electronically drops from a place in the ceiling then can quickly be retracted without affecting the Lincoln attraction behind it at all. I wouldn't even mind removing Lincoln for longer periods of time like they did for the 50th Anniversary but always, always, Lincoln must be able to return to delivering inspiring words to new groups of park visitors from time to time. Lincoln was tragically assassinated. Let's not hope his namesake attraction in Disneyland isn't.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Disneyland Sticks a Fiddle Bow Up Its Nose

So there it is, the standout moment of any performance by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, the moment when Billy gets a fiddle bow stuck up his nose. "I feel bad for the little kids who have to see something like this on their trip to Disneyland" or words to that effect Billy says as he tries to figure out how to get the bow out of his nose.

I've seen Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform probably two dozen times at Frontierland's Golden Horseshoe over the years and the bow up the nose bit never gets old. Most of the shows are just a variation of each other (the exception being the "Christmas spectacular") with a slight change in song selection and each performance greatly dependent on audience reaction and participation. It's a lot of fun. And inside the small but wonderfully ornate Golden Horseshoe, Billy Hill feels at home, both the band playing and the audience watching, clapping hands and stomping feet.

So this summer Disney had grand plans of massive amounts of people hitting their Disneyland parks with the relaunch of Disney California Adventure, Cars Land, and the like. And it's true, the bustling crowd levels have had Disney people wearing big smiles on their faces. There was only one slight miscalculation apparently. Large crowds have been turning up on a daily basis at DCA and surprisingly, the park has been able to withstand high crowd volumes much easier than expected. The crowd levels over at Disneyland on the other hand, with only the re-opening of the Matterhorn to boast about, have been quite manageable for a change. Some have used the word "flat" to describe Disneyland crowd levels this summer. Disney had visions over overflowing guests at both parks so in preparation they made the decision to take the popular Billy Hill and the Hillbillies show and move it outdoors and into the cavernous, mostly unused, Fesival Arena where more people could be seated compared to the cramped quarters of The Golden Horseshoe. The only problem is, the people and fans of Billy didn't follow.

The foot traffic around the Festival Arena area is off the beaten path as they say. The only reason to go back there is if you plan to eat at the Big Thunder Bar-B-Que (where reservations are almost never necessary) or use that back pathway to get from Thunder Mountain Railroad to Fantasyland as a shortcut. (There is also a spot back there that is one of Disneyland's last remaining designated smoking areas). So here is where they stuck Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Below, MiceChat took a picture of the common result:

Billy Hill & the Hillbillies perform to a sparse crowd at the Festival Arena
A MiceChat In The Parks Photo

Now that's sad. The spirited packed house of a Billy Hill performance inside The Golden Horseshoe is reduced to a shadow of what it normally is playing to small crowds in a large area. It's been such a disaster that Disney, in an effort to attract a crowd, any crowd, put up a hastily constructed pin trading stand. Hopefully when summer draws to a close, this incredibly bad decision, is forever filed away.

The Haunted Mansion and a Picture of 3 Hitch-Hiking Ghosts

Annie Leibovitz's photograph of 3 ghostly residents of the Haunted Mansion

Annie Leibovitz's photographs have been gracing magazine covers & spreads along with museum walls for close to 50 years now. She is the pop generations most iconic photographer with some of her most memorable work being celebrity layouts in Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair magazines.

In recent years, Annie has worked with Disney in capturing classic memorable scenes with a pretty impressive list of models. Like this one - the 3 hitch-hiking ghosts of the Haunted Mansion featuring the popular actors Jack Black, Will Farrell, and Jason Segel.

Annie Leibovitz at work with Jack Black, Will Farrell, and Jason Segel
A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Disney Parks Blog posted two articles related to the photo-shoot this past week.  You can view the posts linked here and here.  For me, it's just fun to watch an extraordinary artist at work with something that must be incredibly fun.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz sets a shot - A Disney Park Blog Photo

Disney also produced this little video during the photo-shoot:

Disneyland Can Be Yours - For $87 Down and $32 a Month

With Mrs. DisneylandTraveler returning to the ranks of the gainfully employed, the Boy bringing home a paycheck from a local taco establishment, and me forever hanging in there in whatever it is I do for my real job, things are clicking on all cylinders again at the Disneyland Traveler household. We'll skip over the fact that the band the Boy plays in is one of the opening acts for Marilyn Manson at the Sunset Strip Music Festival in Hollywood this month.  So as things move forward, the scheming begins as Mrs. DLT and I look towards just when we can make our next escape to the Disneyland Resort for some much needed fun and excitement (tempered by the moments of utter frustration that also occur with any visit to Disneyland). 

That last admission price hike was a bitter pill to swallow.  The annual pass that we normally get is up to $469, almost double from what we paid not too many years ago with our first go-around as annual pass holders.  I said I wasn't going to do it.  But here I am, thinking, "an annual pass, maybe not such a bad idea after all".  Yes, in this blog I think I've said that I was going with park-hoppers from now on, but I reserve the right to change my mind which I somehow seem to be doing.

Although we live 434 miles away from the Disneyland front gates (Disneyland fans keep track of things like that) we still have a California zip code.  And bless those people at Disney, they somehow conveniently offer California residents an opportunity to buy annual passes with a monthly payment option.  For our annual pass, right now (barring another price increase this year) the price is $87 down and about $32 a month per pass.  In my head, somehow that just seems a little more tolerable than shelling out close to a grand for two of them. 

Years ago, my sister and her husband were into boating.  Over many years, they bought 3 boats I think, making payments on all of them.  So in the middle of January, when boating is the furthest thing one would be thinking about, you are still making a monthly payment.  It's like that for 6 or 7 months out of the year when you have a boat, making payments on something you can't use at all. Disneyland isn't like that.  I can go to Disneyland in January with my annual pass in hand.  I might be cold, wet, miserable, irritated that half the rides in the place are closed for refurbishment, but at least I'm there.  Monthly payments for a Disneyland annual pass - better than a boat payment at least.

Jungle Cruise Changes - Mr. Safety Strikes Again

Disneyland seems to be all about guest safety these days and that's probably a good thing. The Matterhorn sleds were changed to make the vehicles more secure. We can disregard the fact that it also made them more uncomfortable and difficult to get in and out of. Safety first. Or another way to put it "what can we do to keep sue-happy guests with sue-happy lawyers off our back?"

Which brings us to changes made on the Jungle Cruise boats after a brief refurbishment last week. If you check out the picture above that I found on the internet, you can see the new mesh screens around the seating area designed to keep hands and arms (and small people) inside the boat. Of course, if you are 4 years old and taking your first Jungle Cruise, well, you really don't need to see anything that you won't remember when you are 40 anyway. And then there's mom and dad. Disney probably got sick and tired about hearing of dropped cell phones and cameras into the water.

The other change is that little rubber bumper that runs along the side of the boat. Actually, this is one of Disney's better safety ideas. The bumper is meant to stabilize the boat against the dock as passenger get on and get off the boat. For those advancing on in years and not quite as nimble as they used to be, the stabilizing bumpers along with the guiding arms of cast members should eliminate some of the unsteadiness of the process. Yeah, they are a bit of an eyesore but I can live with it. I'm the one who is advancing in years and not as nimble as I used to be.

Taking The Hammer To Innoventions

Hmm......I went through my Disneyland photo collection this morning looking for an exterior shot of the massive Innoventions building in Tomorrowland. Guess what? Ten years of digital of photos and not one exterior shot of the Innoventions building. That should tell you something. In all of the Disneyland trips that we've made over ten years (which adds up to about 15 trips with each trip being several days long), can you guess how many times Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have been in Innoventions? Twice - that's it. Our last visit to Innoventions was in December 2008. On that day, there was an all-day driving rainstorm. It doesn't rain in Innoventions. So that's what the place is reduced to - a refuge to get out of the rain.

Disneyland insider/watchdog Al Lutz from MiceAge/MiceChat again writes last week that Innoventions days may be numbered. With Disneyland's 60th anniversary coming up, it would be nice to have a brand spanking new big-time attraction to feature in the celebration. Once again, the massive but poorly attended Innoventions is a prime target for real estate.  Al has further speculated that the adjoining Autopia and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage might close with it creating a substantial piece of real estate for big-time development. 

Now the internet rumors are running wild with this. Level Innoventions to the ground and start from scratch or gut the thing and make use of the cavernous space that is inside. I don't know which is true, if anything (there are other places that can be developed in Disneyland beginning with the Festival Arena area in Frontierland) but I, for one wouldn't mind seeing the waste of space that is Innoventions get brought to the ground.

At one time, several years ago, on a Disney forum that no longer exists, I proposed the idea that the loathsome Innoventions could be assisted in its demise by Disneyland providing a couple of swings of a heavy mallet on one of Innoventions walls by fans who want to see the place leveled. They could charge $10 for 3 swings and after you take your whack, you could walk over and pick up a T-Shirt with a picture of Mickey swinging a mallet with some cleaver saying about giving you credit for participating in the destruction. T-Shirt, about $23.95.  It's the Disney way.

That's all a joke up there but Innoventions itself is a joke, an effort in shameless self-promotion by Yamaha, Microsoft, Honda, and HP who pay Disney handsomely for showing off some of their efforts. The only thing, and I mean the only thing, in Innoventions that adds any real value to Disneyland, is the short program that shows off the considerable talents of ASIMO, Honda's amazing robot with a creepy child-like voice.

I don't know if anyone will shed a tear if Innoventions is removed and promptly.  The tears were shed when the Carousel of Progress and America Sings attractions were taken out of the building years ago.