This is another Disney Blog by a Disney fan who wants to talk about whatever he wants. Disney related, of course.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Can you find me?

Many people pass through New Orleans Square on any given day. All make sure to visit Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Many will eat at the Blue Bayou, French Market, or Cafe Orleans. How many of these thousands of people stop to visit my one of my favorite food stands in any Disney park in the world.

The Mint Julep Bar has been ingrained in my memory since I was a child as a fun place to stop for a treat. My parents would make a point at least once a trip to buy fritters from this little stand. In the years that have passed since it has remained a family tradition and is now a tradition with my own family.

Mint Juleps are a favorite of mine. You can get them at other locations in New Orleans Square but they just seem to taste better when they come from the Mint Julep Bar. The Cinnamon Crisp is another excellent choice. Funnel cakes are another popular item from this bar. You will find many that say there isn't a good cup of coffee in Disneyland but I have always liked the espresso here.

The menu may be limited but that is part of the charm. This little out of the way stand on the backside of the French Market is a special find for anybody that finds themselves next to the New Orleans Square Train Station and thirst for a unique beverage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

DCA vs. A Parking Lot

If you spend any time at all checking Disney message boards, and if you are reading this you do, you have seen threads started by Disney Fundamentalists announcing they would rather have a parking lot than Disney's California Adventure. Do these people truly wish that DCA had never been built? I think we should try to find some reasons why they would believe this.

The parking lot was closer than the current parking garage. It was cheaper to park your car for the day in the parking lot than it is for a one day admission to DCA. You never ever saw a Pixar character in the parking lot. They had the great segment in the Monorail spiel about finding your car as you passed by the parking lot. Those are about all the pro's I can think of for leaving the parking lot in place. (I am not saying I agree with any of them I was just trying to look at this from the view of a DCA hater.)

I tend to view California Adventure more as an undiscovered gem in the Disney universe. I am not saying that this park compares on any level with the masterpiece across the esplanade, but it still a special place. If the Animation Building did not contain any of the shows that it currently hosts I would still visit. The lobby is spectacular. All the classic movies and songs make this a great place to sit and dream.

Even if it isn't as good as the older version at Disney MGM Studios, Oops, Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a wonderfully themed attraction that provides an engaging story and thrills that make you scream. The best part of this attraction is that in Florida you always have a line and in DCA you can almost always walk on. I have only once had a line over 30 minutes staring at me when I walked through the gates.

Soarin' Over California is amazing! I don't think that I have to provide any further explanation to support that statement. If I must I will say that Disney built a very unique attraction that almost, but not quite, makes up for the removal of the CircleVision 360 from Tomorrowland. On both coasts this attraction packs them in.

If you want detailed theming, a thrill, and a little soak, Grizzly River Run is just past Soarin'. It is safe to say that this is the best river rapids ride I have ever seen. It is fun to ride and it is fun to watch. This was a great addition to the Disneyland Resort.

I have only touched on four small areas/attractions in DCA and I already feel that the pro's for DCA far outweigh the pro's for the parking lot. I think the fan community can give it a rest. DCA is here to stay and will be improving for the better. It may not be the perfect theme park but, come on, it is better than a parking lot.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Walt Disney World: The Countdown Begins

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be both exciting and frustrating. There are so many attractions, shows, and restaurants to visit and experience that you can have a hard time prioritizing. You can find something new every time you visit. I just found out about a snack bar in Adventureland today that I had never noticed in any of my prior visits. I can't wait to get out there again and try an Citrus Swirl.

Walt Disney World doesn't make it easy on vacation planners either. With 19 resorts to pick from just narrowing down the hotel can be quite challenging. Don't even get me started on the restaurants. Every trip you leave wishing you had tried just one more place.

We are currently planning the next trip and we are doing our best to keep the families of authors of Walt Disney travel books well fed. As we purchase more and more I am finding myself more and more confused. Do we take a longer trip and stay at a value or moderate resort or shorter trip and a deluxe resort? Where do we make our ADR's? Do we get the standard dining plan or the deluxe? When do the questions stop?

The closer we get to booking a vacation the more questions and little must "do's" we have added to our list. We haven't been to Walt Disney World since our honeymoon in 2003. We just kind of threw that trip together at the last minute. This is a very different story this time around. By the time we take the trip I am sure that we will have down to the minute itineraries that have potty breaks scheduled. Maybe that is a little extreme. This is absolutely going to be the best planned trip we have ever taken though.

Our trip is still pretty far away but we are excited for the time to come and confused on where to stay, eat, and play.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Reimagineering Disney's California Adventure: Movie Tie-Ins

Two of the big new rumors circulating on the web about the upcoming changes to Disney's California Adventure are new attractions based on movies. Why should this be? Have the imagineers run out of original ideas? Why does every new attraction need to have a movie tie-in?

Florida can still get the occasional attraction without a movie tie-in. Expedition Everest and Mission: Space were both original stories. When was the last time that the Disneyland Resort received an attraction with an original story? Soarin' would probably have to be the winner and it doesn't really have a story. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Mike and Sulley to the Rescue are just the latest in this trend.

If DCA receives a Little Mermaid attraction and a Ratatouille themed roller coaster they could very easily change the name of the park. Not to the rumored Walt Disney's California Adventure but to Disney's Shameless Self Promotional Adventure. DSSPA doesn't quite have the same ring as DCA but it would be a closer representation of the truth. Having a roller coaster themed to Ratatouille won't draw people to the park. Having a great coaster will. California Screamin' has a line everyday. It is a fun coaster to ride. They don't need to put a rat on a ride to try and dress it up they just need to make the ride so that it would be great on its own.

The Little Mermaid attraction is a little different story. Ariel has been waiting almost 20 years for a chance to get her own attraction. So, while I think there should be a Little Mermaid ride I think it should be in Fantasyland not in the San Francisco section of DCA.

Pirates of the Caribbean was a great attraction before the blockbuster movies were ever even thought about. The Haunted Mansion is still an all time favorite in spite of the horrible movie that was made based on it. Why is this? How can these attractions stand the test of time and be as popular today as they were when they opened 40 years ago? The simple answer is story and depth. Both of these attractions overload you with details. You can't ride them once and even dream about seeing them all. You also have an original experience that doesn't try to cram a story down your throat as much as it lets you experience the story for yourself.

Has this line of thinking forever disappeared at WDI? As new imagineers are hired are they led into a little room where they are brainwashed and tattooed with the words corporate synergy? I believe that there is still free thought and creativity in Glendale. I just hope that they are allowed to show it. Oh, and they should leave the rats in the sewer where they belong.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Frontierland: Update

Ask and ye shall receive. Not even 24 hours after I posted about the neglect that Frontierland has received for the past two decades Honor Hunter has reported a Frontierland rumor.

Tony Baxter and Walt Disney Imagineering are working on a Wild West show that would tie in with the Lone Ranger move that could see theaters in 2010. While I would be happy for anything that made a little better use of the space I am hoping that this is not going to be a wild west stunt show like Universal Studios Hollywood has had for years. Disneyland has hosted some very impressive stage performances over the years and it would be a shame if they hosted a show in Frontierland that doesn't live up to the reputation that Aladdin has set for theme park shows.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Disney's Ghost Town

When you enter Frontierland who doesn't feel like a cowboy? You pass through the fort entrance and visit another time and place. Too bad there isn't a little more to it.

Big Thunder Mountain, Mark Twain Steamboat and what? The Frontierland Shootin' Exposition? Why are there constant rumors about Tomorrowland and needing to add attractions when Frontierland hasn't had an addition since 1979? It is hard to count the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island as an update to Frontierland when it makes the island more a part of New Orleans Square than anything else.

It is not like there isn't plenty of room to place a new attraction. Festival of Fools arena hasn't been used in years for anything but private events. Big Thunder Ranch will be open again next month for HalloweenTime and then it will go back into hiding. Why not use this space for something that can be open all year and give people a reason to use the trail between Frontierland and Fantasyland for something other than a place to puff a cigarette.

Disneyland is in a great place for a Frontierland attraction with Tony Baxter as the head Imagineer over the park. As the person most responsible for both Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain he has proven that he can design great attractions that fit well into Frontierland. He should cement his status as a future Disney Legend and give us an attraction or two in Frontierland.

What would you like to see in Frontierland? Would you prefer a thrill ride, a dark ride, a movie tie in, an original story, or a grand pageant like Pirates of the Caribbean? I don't think a Disney park will ever see the Western River Expedition but it would be great to get something similar to that. I would hope for a water based attraction loaded with animatronics. Something that tells the history of the west or like Pirates just moves you from scene to scene depicting life in the old west. Another ride capable of eating 3000 people per hour would make the busy days of summer a lot more bearable.

While rumors continue to swirl about a new E-ticket for Tomorrowland I will continue to hope for a west side addition. Maybe someday the dreams will become reality and Frontierland will finally get the attention it deserves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Earthquake? Are we at Universal Studios?

Have you ever been in Disneyland during an earthquake? After Sunday I can answer yes to that question. From the time of the quake, 10:29 AM, and the fact that we were in line for Small World at 10:45 AM I know I could have felt it. I just didn't.

We exited Small World and headed down to the rest of Fantasyland and noticed that Matterhorn was closed. Since the crowds were out of control on the Fantasyland dark rides we headed straight on through and around the Big Thunder Trail. At the end of the trail we noticed that Big Thunder was closed too. Our next choice was Pirates. This was also closed.

Sine there was no escaping the heat at Disneyland we were going to head over to Disney's California Adventure and our lunch reservation at the Wine Country Trattoria. We stopped at the Main Street Wait Time kiosk and this was when we were told that there had been an earthquake. It was good to know that Disney takes safety seriously and closed the attractions to make sure that everything was working properly. I would have never had a clue that there was an earthquake if I had not been told. I would have just found it very odd that every attraction that we tried to ride was closed.

Here is a link to the LA Times article on the earthquake.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Reimagineering Disney's California Adventure: Part Deux

Recently, as more and more information becomes available I have decided that there are some good and some bad rumors circulating the web. I still look forward to improvements that are coming to Disney's California Adventure, but I am not sure that all of these will make it off the drawing board.

Al Lutz at posted an article yesterday outlining some of the rumors he is hearing. Most of his report details some very exciting changes that could be coming to the park. One of these seems almost silly. The Route 66 section of Paradise Pier will be ripped out. Mulholland Madness will be making an exit from the park along with the McDonalds, and Pizza Oom Mow Mow. Replacing the food in the area would be a Victorian Beer Garden. This would be a very nice change. Replacing Mulholland Madness will be a Ratatouille themed roller coaster. Everything I have seen about Crush's Coaster from the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Resort Paris makes me think that they can do a very good Pixar themed coaster I just don't know if Ratatouille is the right movie. Are you going to board little rat cars and race through the sewers of France? How does that fit in California? Is there a large French population in Bakersfield that I am unaware of? As with all other projects that could potentially be included in the DCA overhaul I will reserve final judgment until it is announced and WDI shares some details of the attraction.

Another rumored attraction that I am having a small problem with is the Little Mermaid Omnimover. Don't get me wrong, I am all for a Little Mermaid attraction. A major presence in the park is at least 15 years overdue for Ariel. I just don't know how this will fit into the San Francisco section of the California park. If the exit will be the the Dome from Golden Dreams how does that fit with the Little Mermaid? On second thought I should probably forget everything I just said about the Little Mermaid and be happy that they are going to include Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle in the parks. I am also excited for another omnimover. The Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster are both great uses of this ride system. Hopefully the Little Mermaid will be too.

Early 90's model of Discovery Bay

There are a couple items mentioned in the article that have me very excited. A preview center would be built in the San Francisco row houses that currently house nothing or almost nothing as there are some bathrooms on one side. This would be a showcase for all the additions and changes coming to the Disneyland Resort. How great will it be to see models and concept art of the next great E-ticket coming to the parks? I remember seeing models for Discovery Bay and WestCOT when I was younger and these models never came to be. How excited are we all be when they are displaying models for projects that we know will be coming in the near future?

Another change for the better is the enclosure of the Hyperion Theater waiting area. I haven't been to see the Aladdin musical in a couple years because I hate waiting out in the heat. With a refresh of the exterior of this theater it will become a more special venue than it already is. When I heard about the enclosed waiting area it gave me an idea for a new location for the Disney Gallery. The Hyperion Theater is a very tall building. The waiting area would not even come half way up the building when it is enclosed. You could put a second story on the waiting area to become the new Disney Gallery. I don't know if this would actually work or not but I think that having the great art above the great theater would add something to this section of the park.

Once the rehab is complete on the Hollywood Pictures Backlot it will look like 1930's Hollywood. I don't remember Monsters Inc. in 1930's Hollywood. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were around in the 1930's. Mickey's Philharmagic is another rumored addition to the park and I will be waiting in line for it. It is one of my very favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. I think it is an excellent 3D show. The only problem is that it would replace another great 3D experience, Muppetvision. It would go down the drain and disappear from the west coast. If only Muppetvision didn't have Waldo it would be absolutely classic. Now I will only be partially sad to see it go and look forward to Philharmagic.

There are still so many rumors floating about Disney's California Adventure that this post could continue indefinitely. For now we will stop right here and pick up again soon. The next few years are going to be very exciting for DCA and the Disneyland Resort.

If you would like to read Al's article in its entirety please click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Top 4: Eateries of Disneyland Resort

This is a little bit of a cop out I know, but here are my top four restaurants at Disneyland Resort.

Number 4 - Redd Rocket's Pizza Port - Even during peak times you can quickly get in and out with your food. There are lots of tables and they turn over fast so seating isn't an issue here either. They serve pizza, pasta, and salads. All three are very good. Their pizza slices are quite large and better than your average theme park serves. My personal favorite is the Count Down Chicken Fusilli with a garlic and Parmesan cheese sauce.

Number 3 - Wine Country Trattoria - Full service restaurants are few and far between at the Disneyland Resort. The Trattoria is located along the performance corridor in Disney's California Adventure and has a prime viewing spot for parades. During the day you can sit on their patio and just people watch. The Pizzeta salad, Meatball sandwich, and Chicken panini are all family favorites here. The lasagna is very good but the pieces are so small they are not worth the price.

Number 2 - Goofy's Kitchen - You knew there would be at least one character meal on the list, right? Goofy's is a fun interactive environment for kids. They invite children down to bang on pots and pans and dance every half hour or so. The food is good but not great. It is a great place to have a wide variety of characters visit your table. Plus, they have Peanut Butter & Jelly pizza for breakfast.

Number 1 - Cafe Orleans - This wouldn't have been a top 10 a year ago. I have been very impressed with the remodel. Since this is now the second home of the Monte Cristo and outdoor seating it has become a must visit on almost every trip. Their pommes frites are the best fries in the Disneyland Resort. I love the beignets too. It might just be because they are shaped like Mickey heads.

Short and sweet. Post a comment with your favorites. It is great to hear what other think.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Can you pick just one?

How do you pick one favorite Disney attraction? John Frost of The Disney Blog posed this question to his readers and it has me stumped. I have had so many favorites over the years it is hard to narrow it down to just one.

When I first visited Disneyland in the early eighties I couldn't get enough of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. To this day it is my favorite dark ride. I knew it was on a track but I was five and I wanted to feel like I was driving. My two favorite parts of this were driving through the fireplace (I swear there used to be steam so it looked like you went through smoke) and visiting hell. I still make sure I ride this every trip.

During the early nineties I was very into Star Wars and this translated to riding Star Tours non stop. I would get off walk through the store and back around into the queue. For fifteen years I have been hoping for a new Star Tours movie so I hope the rumors of Star Tours 2.0 are true.

I waited in a three and a half hour line in 1995 to ride the Indiana Jones Adventure for the first time. We got in line in Frontierland, went out onto Main Street, down into Adventureland, all through the outside queue and finally to the temple. Little did we know that this was only the beginning. They made the wait fun with ancient writings on the temple walls and decoders so you could translate. When we finally rode for the first time this blew me away. I could not believe how impressive this attraction was. There was so much to see that I know I missed a lot that first ride. Thankfully I have been able to ride it many, many more times to take it all in.

In 1998 I visited Walt Disney World for the first time. I had never been on an attraction like Tower of Terror. I did not know many people that had been to Walt Disney World so I did not know what to expect. When the elevator left the shaft for the first time I was in awe. That was amazing then and it is amazing now. I very much wish that Tower of Terror in Disney's California Adventure was built the same way but I love it anyway.

During that first visit to Walt Disney World I was also able to experience the Carousel of Progress for the fist time. I hadn't been in a show like that since America Sings closed more than ten years earlier. I had forgotten how fun they were. This show was one that my dad remembered from his first visit to Disneyland so that made it a little more special to me.

If you put me on the spot now I would probably respond with the stock answer of Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion. They are both classic and make New Orleans Square my favorite "land" in Disneyland. I don't know that either of them are my absolute favorite though. I miss the Peoplemover and I would jump for joy if they brought it back, but I don't think that would be my favorite either. There are many shows and attractions that I love and yet I have to pick one favorite. Then it came to me.

At Disneyland I love that the monorail gives an aerial tour of Tomorrowland that you used to get on the Peoplemover then you wrap around the Matterhorn and take a peek at Fantasyland before you reach the station. When you are at Walt Disney World it may be viewed more as transportation than an attraction but it is still amazing. The Magic Kingdom monorail takes you around Seven Seas Lagoon and through three of the hotels. The Epcot line runs through the park and around Spaceship Earth before they drop you off giving a wonderful view of Future World and offering a small preview of the World Showcase. The trains themselves are sleek, beautiful works of art. Futuristic looking yet they are here today for your use. You are able to sit down and relax and enjoy the views. The monorail is my favorite Disney attraction.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Stop at this Dining Intersection

Often when friends are planning trips to Disneyland Resort they will ask me for recommendations on everything from hotels to tickets to restaurants. The restaurants are always my favorite to discuss. Disneyland and the resort as a whole offer a great variety and while the prices are higher than you would pay at a local eatery you are at Disney and that is worth a premium to me. Many of my favorite restaurants are located at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World.

When at Disneyland there is a concentration of great food right where New Orleans Square, Frontierland, and Adventureland meet. River Belle Terrace, Bengal BBQ, Royal Street Veranda, Cafe Orleans, and Blue Bayou make up the fab 5 of west side Disneyland dining. With the exception of Cafe Orleans and Blue Bayou they all have pretty distinct menus and all of them are special for different reasons.

When I think of breakfast at Disneyland I think of Mickey Mouse pancakes at the River Belle Terrace. I grew up eating on the patio overlooking the Rivers of America whenever the park opened early enough for us to eat breakfast there. Due to the great location right between Adventureland and the Rivers of America, dining there had a great soundtrack of Mark Twain's whistle and the Swiskapolka coming from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The soundtrack has changed a little over the years but the food is still some of my favorite and breakfast is still a must. I have graduated from the Mickey Mouse pancakes but it still gives me a smile every time I see one on the griddle.

Bengal Barbeque is a restaurant that has not been among my favorites for long. It was only a year ago that I finally ate there. Now I can't get enough. There is often a line and the service isn't that quick but they are well worth the wait. The skewers are excellent and I love a tiger tail. This is a very unique eatery for a theme park.

Tucked away, under the balcony of the former Disney Gallery, is a small counter serving Gumbo and Clam Chowder. At the Royal Street Veranda you can usually walk up and grab a bite to eat unless you wait until Fantasmic is about to start. Both the Gumbo and the Chowder are served in bread bowls and the service is very quick. I find myself eating here more during the cooler months but every time I walk past I think about the Steak Gumbo.

I have always enjoyed Cafe Orleans. Since their makeover into a full service restaurant a little over a year ago I enjoy it all the more. This is the location of my favorite appetizer and dessert in the resort. The Pommes Frites are are french fries with parmasean cheese and garlic. Every time we sit down here we order them. The Mickey Beignets make this restaurant worthy of a visit every trip. On top of all this they are now the second home of the Monte Cristo sandwich. How do you improve a ham and cheese sandwich? You batter it and deep fry it of course. The Cafe Orleans, like the River Belle Terrace, has a great patio looking out to the Rivers of America.

The Blue Bayou is probably the most unique dining experience in a Disney park. How many restaurants are located inside an attraction? This was the original Disneyland home of the Monte Cristo and you can get them to this day. During the Pirates of the Caribbean rehab last year they made several changes to the menu. They are trying to go a little more upscale while still offering a menu that your average person will love. After you enter the restaurant and are seated you may be indoors but it sure feels like you are sitting on the back patio of a southern plantation house. Every few seconds a boat will slip into the darkness. It has been copied in Tokyo and Paris and the Mexican pavilion at Epcot tries to imitate but there can be only one Blue Bayou.

While the original intention when writing this was not a restaurant review I can't help but run on about some of my favorites in the Disney universe. If this was expanded to cover all of Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Adventureland I could probably go on even longer. When you find yourself hungry on the west side of Disneyland you know that good food can't be far away.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Disneyland Hotel and Beyond!

All the debate between Disney, SunCal, & Anaheim regarding the trailer park on Haster and Katella lately has had me thinking about the best use for the land. Not just that land, but also some of the parking that Disney has around their hotels. I am by no means an expert but that hasn't stopped me from spouting off about anything else.

Disneyland Hotel - Disneyland Resort
Image (C) Larry Pieniazek

When you visit Walt Disney World you have so many hotels choose from it can be difficult to pick just one. Often you will see people switch hotels mid-trip just to experience another of their excellent offerings. Disneyland Resort doesn't offer the same experience.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel - Disneyland Resort
Image (C) Ellen Levy Finch

Disneyland Resort currently offers three hotels, Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian, and Paradise Pier. Of these three only the Grand Californian was built from the ground up by Disney and their Imagineers. Disneyland Hotel has a very rich history starting with a friendship between Walt Disney and Jack Wrather and the hotel has evolved over the years taking on more and more of the Disney persona. Paradise Pier was bought by Disney in 1995 from Pan Pacific and they slapped a coat of paint on it, changed the names of the restaurants, and called it good. While both of these hotels are very nice and I enjoy staying at them neither of them has the same feel as the Grand Californian or the richly themed hotels of the Walt Disney World Resort.
(C) Walt Disney Company

I would like to see Disney offer more hotels designed and build by Walt Disney Imagineering. They have demonstrated that they know how to build magnificent hotels at many price levels. In Florida they have everything from the Grand Floridian with a starting room rate around $300 per night to the All Star Resorts with starting rates under $100 per night. You feel like a part of the magic no matter how much you can afford for your vacation.

If they are going to continue the California theme why not build a hotel themed to San Francisco? If they would like more hotels in the area for more tourists couldn't they build a hotel similar in price to the All Star and Pop Century resorts from Walt Disney World? They don't have the room in Anaheim to build the spread out, sprawling resorts that they have in Florida but it should be possible to build a more affordable hotel in one of the parking lots surrounding Paradise Pier Hotel.

Disney's Hollywood Hotel - Hong Kong Disneyland
Image (C) Walt Disney Company

At Hong Kong Disneyland they have Disney's Hollywood Hotel and at Disneyland Resort Paris they have Disney's Hotel New York. If they offered a hotel like one of these or Hotel San Francisco they could convert the Paradise Pier to their value resort. I would prefer to stay in a Disney hotel when I visit Disneyland and having a value hotel would allow me to do that every time instead of just for special occasions like I do now.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

To Fastpass or Not to Fastpass, That is the Title

Fastpass. This one word can cause a lot of emotion in the Disney Park fan community. When I first learned of this system I thought it was the greatest idea I had ever heard. You would only have to wait for 10-15 minutes and then the E-ticket of your dreams is all yours. There have also been a few downsides to skipping the wait.

When it comes to Space Mountain I can't imagine that I would like to wait outside during the hot summer months. It would be crazy to stand in line for an hour or two when you can grab a fastpass then sit down, have some lunch, and cool off. After an hour or three you come back, walk up the ramp and into the building.

At the same time that Space Mountain is a great time saver the fastpass has ruined half the fun of Indiana Jones Adventure. You miss out on most of the greatest queue in a US Disney park. When you run to the safety movie room you don't really take in all the little details that are packed in this queue. The decoder card that used to be passed out to you made the time a lot easier to deal with. Now you wouldn't even have a chance to look at the glyphs let alone translate them.

Big Thunder Mountain is still a different situation. The standby line could have a 20 minute wait and people are still getting fastpasses. There is no real reason to have fastpass here. So maybe there would be a 20 to 30 minute wait. Who can't wait that long?

I have heard people moaning about both the fastpass system in general and the lack of fastpass on certain attractions. You often hear Matterhorn, Peter Pan, and Dumbo mentioned as attractions that should be fastpass enabled. I have even seen posts mentioning Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Tours as possible attractions.

I laugh every time I see Star Tours since it used to have fastpass but they took all the machines out when it didn't prove worthwhile. Pirates of the Caribbean is probably the fastest moving line in the park. If you had to deal with taking fastpasses and separating the queue would only slow the entire attraction down.

Peter Pan and Dumbo have issues that can't be solved by fastpass. They need to increase capacity for those attractions before they could even consider an option like this.

I think that Disneyland would be just fine without fastpass and you would still enjoy yourself. As long as it is still there I am going to continue using it though.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Disney vs. SunCal, Part 3

Image ©

As many people have already heard the referendum proposed by Disney, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, and Save Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR) has been approved to be put to the voters on June 3rd. This is the California state primary election and will cost the city $250,000. In an earlier post I was upset that Disney was wasting Anaheim's money on the referendum and after doing a lot of thinking I changed my mind.

Now when I look at the fact that the Anaheim City council could have reversed their previous decision, that went against the resort district, and ended this mess once and for all I am disgusted by their actions. Disney is not wasting the city's money. They are. The Disneyland Resort is going to continue to grow. Whether that means a third gate or just increased attendance at Disney's California Adventure, but sooner or later they will need hotels and there will be a perfect piece of property devoted to low-income housing and condos. How affordable would the housing be? Your guess is as good as mine since they won't release any of those numbers. Why can't SunCal find property elsewhere to develop? I believe that this was the whole purpose of the Platinum Triangle project.

On another interesting note...Anaheim City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway held a meeting to attempt to reach a compromise and then repeal her previous vote. Her request to Disney was to lead a fund-raising drive to contribute $25 million to low-income housing over the next five years (extortion). She also wanted Disney to negotiate with three developers to remove their properties from the Resort District so they could build housing (This is what Disney was trying to avoid). Her only request for SunCal was fewer homes on the property (more campaign contributions). All in all this sounds like a very good compromise. I can't see why Disney didn't jump all over the offer (Can anyone tell me how to express extreme sarcasm in writing?).

The Anaheim City council has the chance to right their wrongs and instead chose to drag out the process and keep bowing to SunCal who will be in and out of the city in the amount of time that it takes to complete the project. Why can't they show Disney, who has been and will be in Anaheim for the long haul, some loyalty? So this will be out of the news and the casual observers minds for the next several months but Disney and SOAR will be hard at work convincing the people of Anaheim that this will be in their best interest.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Individually themed lands...Not for merchandise

I spent a lot of time in Disneyland during the 80's and 90's. Almost every family vacation was spent visiting Mickey and friends. On our one big trip every year my parents would give my brothers and I an allowance of $100 to shop for souvenirs. Each trip I would buy a plush, a hat, a shirt, and a gun. Not much of it was spent on Main Street. The Pioneer Mercantile received a lot of money from my parents back then. Now they don't receive much from me. The only reason for this is because they don't have anything that I can't get at the Emporium.

I still can't figure out why anybody would buy a plush that they sell at the Emporium or World of Disney anywhere else in the park. I would rather not carry around a stuffed Pooh Bear all day if I don't have to. You used to buy frontier themed merchandise in Frontierland. You would make purchases earlier in the day because you didn't know if you would be back by this store and you knew that you wouldn't be able to get this item anywhere else.

The Pioneer Mercantile that I remember sold western themed clothing and toys, coonskin hats, wooden toy guns, and had a shooting arcade on the southern wall. You didn't have anything with pirates or princesses.

The South Seas Traders in Adventureland used to have exotic themed merchandise. Pieces of Eight in New Orleans Square was the only store in the park that sold pirate merchandise. Can you guess what the One-of-a-Kind shop next door sold? The Disney Gallery was lost just this month. The Villains Shop in Fantasyland was where I got my first Jack Skellington hat. This was before the goth craze that has made Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise available in its very own store in Disneyland and at ever Hot Topic in the country. If you wanted a hat you visited the Mad Hatter in Fantasyland or Main Street or Hatmosphere in Tomorrowland. Now every store in the park has a hat selection and it is the same at every store.

This is not to say that I don’t still enjoy the shopping in the park. Disneyana is still a unique shopping experience. While there is too much Pirate merchandise in the parks, Pieces of Eight is still a fun store with the courtyard between the original store and the recent expansion. For the fanboy in me I love the Star Wars portion of the Star Trader as you exit Star Tours.

On the other side of the esplanade at Disney’s California Adventure I love taking my son to Engine Ears Toys. My wife and I could spend hours in the Animation Building and upon exiting, Off the Page. This is similar to Disneyana but different enough to make it worth visiting every trip. I am also a sucker for Rushin’ River Outfitters. They are getting more and more generic but it might just be the environment that they offer you the same generic merchandise that I find appealing. My other favorite from DCA is Tower Hotel Gifts. Many people hate when attractions exit to a gift shop but in this case I love it. It gives you an air conditioned waiting place while we swap kids and it may be a little corny but I love all the Hollywood Tower Hotel merchandise.

Obviously we all want the Disneyland merchandise. That is why it is sold in so many stores. I am not a purist that thinks that everything should remain untouched. I would just like a little individuality as well. Make some stuffed critters only available in Critter Country and keep the Princesses in Fantasyland. Now that the Pirate craze seems to be dying some maybe they can move back to New Orleans Square.

If Disney gave me a unique place to shop in every land they would get more money from me. Every time you turned the corner you would have a chance to find something new. I don’t know if everybody agrees with me on this, but I think that some merchandise diversity would make for more fun at the parks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

O, CircleVision where art thou?

I was reading a press release today from the Canadian Tourism Commission regarding the updates to the CircleVision movie for the Canada Pavilion at Epcot and it made me sad to realize something. There are no longer any CircleVision movies in Disneyland. Not just in that one park but in the entire resort. It is true that they are dwindling at Walt Disney World too, but they still have two.

Tomorrowland used to be home to two fantastic CircleVision movies. You could visit the Wonders of China and American Journeys. You were able to see one movie in the morning and one in the evening. As a child one of my personal favorite features of this attraction was going to the row that had the translation telephones and listening to the narration in different languages. Too bad none of it stuck.

In the waiting room to enter the theater you rarely found a crowd. There was usually a seat available and you could watch the preshow video in a nice air conditioned room. Every few seconds if you looked up and behind the Peoplemover would pass by. This was an appropriate waiting area for the show you were about to see.

As you entered the CircleVision 360 theater you were surrounded by screens. When the movies would start you would be focused on one screen in the front of the theater then as the screens filled in you were immersed in the environment. It felt like you were riding a wagon over a covered bridge in America or floating down the Yangtze River in China. On more than one occasion I had to reach out and grab the lean rail to keep my balance since my senses had been fooled.

Both American Journeys and Wonders of China gave you a broad overview of the scenery of the two countries. They found some of the most beautiful and special places that either country had to offer. There is nothing quite like the experience of watching 360 degrees of beautiful scenery to make you feel like you are there.

In 1997 the CircleVision 360 theater was closed to make way for the Rocket Rod queue. The Rocket Rods opened on May 22, 1998 and closed permanently in September of 2000. This attraction never lived up to expectations with frequent break downs and the fact that you had to slow down at every corner due to lack of banking. It was disturbing that one of the truly unique experiences in the parks was downgraded to a queue. At least this would give Imagineers another chance at righting the wrong that was the Rocket Rods.

Buzz Lightyear Asto Blasters opened in the building on March 17, 2005. While this interactive attraction is fun and I enjoy competing with friends and family for the best score, it has never had that special feeling of a great attraction to me.

Now for anyone wanting to have the CircleVision experience you will have to trek across the country to Walt Disney World and visit Epcot. There you will find two CircleVision movies playing daily. In the China Pavilion you can see Reflections of China and in the Canada Pavilion you will get to see O, Canada. O, Canada has recently had 65% of the film updated and added narration by Martin Short. This update will be debuting soon at Epcot.

I for one can not wait to visit Epcot again and take in the whole experience of these two beautiful countries in CircleVision 360. Seeing these countries in a CircleVision theater is something that all should experience. It embodies the edutainment that Disney and Epcot are famous for.

Disney's California Adventure is about to undergo a major transformation. This would be a great time to bring back the CircleVision 360 theater to California. I think Soarin' is already offers incredible visuals of the varied landscape of California so a new CircleVision movie could explore the details of the Golden State. I personally would love to see American Journeys or Reflections of China back in Disneyland's neighbor across the esplanade. I know that CircleVision is not a new concept, but it would be great to see it in DCA. If it is even on a drawing board in Glendale consider this my vote for the inclusion of a new 360 theater somewhere in the Disneyland Resort.

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” - Walt Disney