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

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reimagineering Disney's California Adventure

Is there anything that is more exciting to a Disney Park nut than new construction in the parks. construction walls? You have the excitement of new attractions that nobody has ever experienced. The first construction walls that I really remember were for Splash Mountain. Over the course of a couple years as we would visit and watch the progress they made I couldn't wait to get on that ride.

For the last year every time I would visit I would look at the wall around the lagoon and wonder what it was going to be like to ride the submarines again. I think the expectations may have got the better of me since I was not that thrilled with the new ride. Maybe I will love it when the line is under an hour.

Now when you visit Disney's California Adventure they have a big section of Paradise Pier walled off for construction of the Toy Story Mania attraction. I hear this 3-D shooter attraction will be similar to Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters only more interactive. Since this has been under construction I find it harder to enjoy California Screamin' because I spend so much of the ride just trying to get a glimpse of the construction. I truly can't wait until this opens so we can see what the imagineers were able to come up with this time.

This is going to be a very exciting time for everyone, like me, that likes to see construction walls. As DCA prepares for a major rehab, refresh, and re-theming the walls will start going up sometime in October and they will be up in one area or another for the next several years. I have heard estimates anywhere from five to ten years. In my book that means several years of anticipation.

I would go into detail on all of the rumored changes to DCA but if you are reading this then you probably know them already. If you are in need of more details I would suggest reading Al Lutz's article on or one of the posts by Honor Hunter on his Blue Sky Disney blog. Needless to say there are rumors of the whole park being changed and rethemed and several E-ticket attractions being added to the roster. There is so much unconfirmed information out there right now that if even half of the reported changes come true it will make DCA a special place. I am not among the masses of people that hate DCA. I really like it so this makes me a little odd as a Disney fan. I have always felt that DCA is small and could use some growth and that the western side of Paradise Pier needed serious work. I am sure that both of these issues will be addressed behind construction walls during the years to come.

If Disney is absolutely committed to fixing DCA then who knows what we may end up with? There isn't the space for a grand overhaul of the entire park and turning it into Epcot West or Tokyo DisneySea East, but they will surprise most, delight many, and disappoint a few. I believe that I will be surprised and delighted. Take DCA, throw a billion dollars at it and see what you end up with.

If you would like to keep updated on all of the latest rumor and rumblings regarding DCA I recommend the following sites:

Blue Sky Disney
Jim Hill Media
Mouse Planet

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Disney's Hollywood Studios

In 1989 as I watched Disney Channel specials on the new Disney MGM Studios that had just opened at Walt Disney World I was jealous. I had never been to the vacation capital of the world. By 1989 I was an old pro at Disneyland and I could not believe all the lucky people that got to go to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and Disney MGM Studios.

It wasn't until 1998 that I made my first trip to Walt Disney World. My parents took us there as a high school graduation present to me. I remember the first time I entered the Magic Kingdom I was awestruck by the castle. My first visit to Epcot had me running from pavilion to pavilion wishing I had got there a few years earlier to see the World of Motion and the original Universe of Energy. When I approached the turnstiles at Disney MGM the first time I just kept wondering why they had the MGM name on there at all.

Disney has been a major player in the movie industry since the 1930's. At the time Disney MGM Studios opened MGM was just a shadow of their former might and glory. Why did they bring the name of an aging, almost out of business studio on to open their new theme park? I have always felt that they should have just name it Disney Studios or Walt Disney Studios. Now, had they not brought in MGM there probably would be a very different Great Movie Ride if it existed at all. I love the Great Movie Ride but I think they could have used Disney movies and licensed other movies to be included without bringing the MGM name into the picture.

I will probably be in the minority but I say good riddance to the MGM name. I am also glad they did not change the name to Disney-Pixar Studios too. I like the name Disney's Hollywood Studios. I would still prefer Walt Disney Studios for the name like they have in Paris. Hollywood Studios will work just fine though. I just never felt right saying, "I'll meet you at MGM."

Now that MGM is out of the way I say bring on Lucasland and Pixar Place. I can't wait to see what changes are in store for Disney's Hollywood Studios besides the name change. I think that this could be an exciting time for this park. It wouldn't take much to turn this park around. I don't even mind the hat. It is out of place but it isn't that bad.

Big Thunder Mesa

One of my earliest memories of Disneyland is being bribed to ride Big Thunder Mountain with my mom. I was four and scared out of my mind. My parents bought me a leather vest with a sheriff star and matching chaps. I know I didn't want to get on that day even after they had bribed me but now you can't keep me away.

Big Thunder is the first roller coaster that I ever rode. I believe for that reason it hold a special place with me. I can't help but think I missed out on though. I grew up watching old Disneyland specials on the Disney Channel and I always wished I could have ridden a donkey or taken the Mine Train through Natures Wonderland. When you hear that the Big Thunder concept came from a runaway train that was going to be housed on the show building for Western River Expedition you have to wonder what might have been. Yet this attraction will always be a classic.

Big Thunder takes you to another time. At Disneyland while you are in the queue you can hear the town in the buildings above you. Having the train wrap around the queue only serves to help make you feel separated from the rest of the park. I would like to know who doesn't smile when they are told to hang on to their hats and glasses. You whisk around goats, under waterfalls, and through collapsing caverns. You do all of this under a spectacular mountain and in an area in the middle of the park.

Frontierland doesn't have many attractions. At this time I think it may be down to just Big Thunder and the Mark Twain (I don't count the Shooting Arcade). It is still one of my very favorite areas of Disneyland. You can escape the crowds of Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Adventureland right here. And while you are visiting the old west what could be better than a train ride through a mountain?

If everything I have learned researching Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition are true then I would have loved to see this attraction come to life. I can hold out hope that they will bring back the huge experience rides like Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. If they ever decide to use the Big Thunder Ranch for something other than private parties I would love to see a grand attraction there. The old west has so many stories and tall tales you could have blast visiting the old cowboys.

I have heard rumors of an E-ticket attraction being planned for Disney's California Adventure that would be similar to the Western River Expedition. I don't really believe them but that can't stop me from dreaming. I don't know if I am the only person that would be thrilled with more animatronics, but I think they are a huge part of what sets Disney apart from other theme parks. I believe this would make a great addition to Disney's California Adventure. Other than Hopper in It's Tough to Be a Bug, they don't really have any animatronics in the whole park. It would be great to see more over there. I would hope that $1,000,000,000 will buy a couple in the next few years. With a little luck we will get to board a boat and take a river ride through western mining towns. With a lot of luck we will get to board a boat and take a long river ride through western mining towns.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

As the Subs Turn

Today was my first day at Disneyland since May 2. I haven't seen Pirates Lair yet and I had not seen Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I have been looking forward to the subs since I knew that they were being brought back. When I was younger I used to look forward to that ride more than any other and at one time I thought you really were diving under water. The Submarine Voyage may not have been futuristic but they fit Tomorrowland like a glove.

While I waited in the queue today I watched the subs circle the lagoon and really got a kick out of the seagulls on the buoy. We moved our way up closer and closer to the front of the line and we were getting more and more excited. Finally it was our turn to be boarded. I made my way down the spiral staircase for the first time in 10 years. I sat down in the seat that used to feel a lot bigger. Then we waited. Finally we pulled out into the lagoon and I remembered why I loved the attraction so many years ago. It was just fun to be able to feel like you were in a submarine below the surface.

Then we entered the show building. I wasn't disappointed but it sure didn't live up to my expectations. The animations were exceptional. The effects did leave quite a bit to be desired. I would have thought there would have been more for the kind of money that you hear went into this.

In a perfect world there would have been a better blend of the animated effects and the physical props. When the angler fish attacks them it would have been much more impressive if it would have moved. No wonder the two little fish can get away. He just sits there and sits there and sits there. I can only wish that the jellyfish in the ocean were engineered by Disney. If they all had poles coming out of the top of them then we would probably see them before they stung us and I wouldn't have had to endure the ridiculous questions that I did when I was stung by a jellyfish (i.e. Did you have somebody pee on you? NO!).

It also could be made a little more clear that a whale is swallowing you. I knew it was happening but it wasn't very easy to follow. I know that my son didn't catch that particular point in the story and he would be in the target audience.

I am happy that the subs are back and I love to the kinetic energy that having them run again brings to Tomorrowland. I will visit them again when the line dies back down to a reasonable amount of time too. I was just left wanting more. Here is hoping that Tony Baxter, Bob Weiss, and all the Imagineers responsible for Disneyland Resort will really be able to go full force into their upcoming projects.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Disney vs. SunCal, Take II

I have previously posted about the ongoing debate between Disney and SunCal. I have always been a supporter of property owners rights. I will always have a problem being told what I can or can't build on something I own. At the same time I can see the reasons for zoning laws and I can understand why Disney is upset. After a little more research I think it is time for me to flip-flop. Thank god I'm not running for president.

When Anaheim created the Resort District they made a deal. They are now backing out of the deal most likely for campaign contributions. Disney isn't the only company upset by this. They are just the biggest and most vocal. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce is also supporting the Save Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR) campaign. So many business owners in Anaheim are against this development being built in Anaheim.

The fact that SOAR was able to collect so many signatures should prove that most of the citizens of Anaheim are against the project. Maybe the city council should wake up and respect the wishes of the people who elected them.

Disney has been cast as a villain for seemingly wanting to squash low income housing. Has anybody heard SunCal's definition of low income? If the condo units they are building sell for $800,000 to $1,000,000, I don't know if these numbers are realistic or not, what would they be able to call low income? A unit for half price would be $400,000 to $500,000. Do you think your average Disney cast member could afford that? I can't afford that and I know that I make more than the average cast member.

If SunCal would put in writing their definition of low income housing and it truly was an amount that cast members and others working in the resort district could afford I might be flip-flopping again. Until they prove that people that live and work in Anaheim could afford the housing I think they should back off throwing around the words low and income.

I have seen numbers thrown around stating that Anaheim won't need more hotel rooms until 2020 or somewhere around there. At the same time I keep hearing that Disney's Anaheim hotels are running somewhere in the 90% to 95% occupancy range. So while hotel rooms in general may not have immediate need for expansion Disney could build more hotels. If they build a value resort similar to the All-Stars or Pop Century in Walt Disney World I would guess that they would fill many, many more rooms on a nightly basis.

Disney does not own the land that is being proposed for the SunCal project so they won't be building any hotels on it right away. If they are serious about opening a third park in Anaheim I think they should purchase the land and when they start building the third park build a hotel right across the street. I don't know if this is an option for Disney but it would stop the headlines and, as much as I hate to say this, the trailer park could stay until they get serious about the third park and a new hotel.

I do think that SunCal could be more open in this, but I also think that Disney may be headed down a slippery slope if/when the council sends their measure to a ballot. There is also a proposal to have all zoning decisions put before a public vote. I know that I am not educated enough to make zoning decisions so I would say that most of the general public isn't either. Maybe it won't matter. Most decisions in politics are swayed by the person with the most money so now instead of giving the money to politicians the money can be given to ad agencies and TV stations to sway the general public. I would prefer that Disney control the zoning of Disney parks though so I hope this other measure does not come to be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Weekend Plans

Today I am noticing the excitement that comes with a looming trip to Disneyland. We are leaving on Thursday and the first thing when I woke up I was making a list in my mind of everything that I need to get done before we leave. Laundry is done, DVD player is charged, camera is ready. Tonight we'll be getting together all of our toiletries and other miscellaneous junk and arranging them. Tomorrow we get out the suitcase and pack.

We are only going for a long weekend but it still has be excited. We will be taking our eight week old baby to Disneyland for the first time. He won't remember this but some day when he is jealous of something that his older brother got that he didn't I can tell him that he went to Disneyland for the first time at eight weeks old and his brother was eleven months old.

We will also be able to ride the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage for the first time. My son is very excited to see the seagulls. He has been telling us about them since I showed him a video in June. Every time that he has been to Disneyland he has only been able to see the construction wall. It will be nice to crawl down into the subs again.

I am undecided on just how big of a geek I will be this weekend. I love to collect and trade Disney pins. Friday night they are having a Pin Trading Night at the Paradise Pier hotel and Sunday morning they are releasing four limited edition pins and having the artists sign them. I know I will be getting one of the four pins. I just don't know if I will go to the pin trading night.

On Saturday we will be going to Angel Stadium to watch the Twins beat up on the Angels. I am very excited for this weekend. Could there possibly be a better way to spend a weekend in the summer than Disneyland and baseball?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Podcast Review - Window to the Magic

I am a huge fan of podcasts, especially Disney podcasts. I listen to many of them and I choose to avoid a few. From time to time I'll be giving my opinion and review of a Disney podcast.

For my first review I am going to be discussing Paul Barrie's Window to the Magic. Window to the Magic just celebrated their two year anniversary. Every (most) Sunday nights they put out a new show and invite you to use your ears to surround yourself with the magic. Although Paul starts all of his shows introducing himself and saying, "as always I will be your guide through the wonderful world of Disney sound experiences," once a month Patrick Hurd hosts the show. Paul's son Calvin contributes a semi-regular segment called the Distest, and his girlfriend Tairy has hosted a show or two as well.

Three weeks a month Paul takes his listeners on a voyage through ambient sound in the Disney Parks. His "Where in the Park" games have always been a personal favorite. He will walk silently through the parks speaking again only when he reaches his final destination and you use your ears to track him. It is always fun to listen and even funner when you can tell which side of the Matterhorn he is walking on. On one show he spent the entire day on Main Street moving up and down the street listening to the Dapper Dans, the Corner Piano, Mickey climbing the Matterhorn, etc. It was great to hear all the various live music and events you can experience just from Main Street. Paul's shows are truly masterpieces of Disney Park sound.

One out of every four weeks Window to the Magic is hosted by Patrick Hurd. He uses his technical know-how and production skills to take you inside an attraction, parade, or show. He manages to find clips of the most obscure bits of Disney history. I remember visiting the Dick Tracy stage show at the Videopolis stage back in 1990. I only remember this now because of a show Patrick did a few months ago covering the 35th Anniversary of Disneyland that contained clips from the production. His ability to inject humor into his very detailed shows continually deliver the "best show ever."

Window to the Magic also offers a VidCast. Here Paul and friends combine their exceptional audio with the visuals to complete some very great shows. Mouseketeer Greg contributes to the VidCast with a series called "A Perfect Day at Disneyland." His countdown show is a must for anybody, like me, that has to travel to Disneyland. It takes you through everything he does to get ready for a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

TJ is another regular contributer to the VidCast. Once a month he will send in a video update of the parks. He documents the parks so that fans that aren't able to make it to Disneyland regularly are able to see holiday decorations and changes to attractions. TJ's show on Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer Island was probably the best I saw documenting the changes to the Island.

Paul also contributes to the VidCast with videos of everything from special events and parades to previews of upcoming DVD releases from the Window to the Magic Store. More recently fans of the show have been sending in their own videos for the VidCast and it just goes to show you what talented people there are in the WTTM world.

This is the first podcast that I listened to and it has been my favorite from day one. They don't trade in rumors or news. They focus on what they do best and deliver quality every time. I would highly recommend this podcast for any Disney fan. While they do focus on the Disneyland Resort they do bring in audio from Walt Disney World whenever possible making this one of the most well rounded Disney podcasts available. Every Sunday night I look forward to the new show.

For more information on the Window to the Magic Podcast you can visit their website below.

You can also join their discussion forums at

Friday, August 3, 2007

Suite Dreams, Disney Gallery

New Orleans Square is, in my opinion, the most detailed and richly themed land in all of the US parks. The meandering streets and hidden alcoves working with the amazing architecture are a sight to be seen. You have two of the greatest attractions in theme park history, great food, and a hidden club. With so much detail jammed into such a small space it is very easy to find something new every time you visit. All of this adds up to a very magical experience.

I am sad to say that New Orleans Square is soon to be losing one of the great treasures of the park. The Disney Gallery will be closing on August 7 for a refurbishment and rumored conversion to a suite that will be given as a daily prize in the Year of a Million Dreams promotion. When I was first visiting the Disney Gallery I didn't always want to go but when you got up there you could tell it was a special place. Some of my earliest memories of the Gallery were viewing a model for Discovery Bay. When I saw this and thought that some day this might be at Disneyland I was amazed. It was beautiful. The walls surrounding the model were covered in concept art that had my family calling each other across the room to see our newest "find."

In the years since the gallery has always had great exhibits, Disney art for sale, and played host to some very special events. For $60 you could get a dessert buffet and an incredible seat for Fantasmic! It will be missed by all those who have walked up the curved staircases.

At the same time I am mourning the loss of an old friend I am excited by the birth of a new experience. I personally will probably never get to visit the Dream Suite with the 1 in 50,000 odds. Someday, it may come to hold the same allure as Club 33 to me. I can't say right now. I can just walk under, look up, and wonder what it would be like to spend the night in Walt's apartment.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Theming. This topic has been debated so many times, especially in regards to Tomorrowland, I don't even know what I am doing bringing it up. I think it is just something that I feel strongly about.

Tomorrowland in Disneyland has always been one of my favorite areas in the park. They had Star Tours, Space Mountain, and the Peoplemover. What else do you need? When Disney revamped Tomorrowland in 1998 they tried to find a theme that would not need constant updating. How can you possibly ever know what the fantasy future would look like? Everybody knows there will angled rocks in the future, right? So besides the given that there would be angled rocks they were free to design however they pleased. There was no more need to appear futuristic. They could look to the writings of Jules Verne. They could turn to sci-fi comics. They had released themselves from the confines of the true future and they had room to play.

Imagineers took to replacing the whites and silvers of Tomorrowland with coppers and browns. Peoplemover moved out. The subs dove and didn't resurface for years. Tomorrowland Terrace disappeared. On the bright side we had a spinning carousel building again, even if it is full of computer games. They also gave the paying public a two hour line for a poor man's test track. At least they were trying. After the Rocket Rods broke down for the last time the queue area, former home to Circlevision, was converted to Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.

Ever since the 1998 makeover it seems that people have had a problem with the theming. Nobody liked the coppery brown future. People moaned when Buzz moved into the neighborhood. Now Star Tours doesn't fit either since it takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I don't recall anybody having a problem with the fact that America Sings didn't fit into Tomorrowland's theme.

There have been posts flying on message boards about the fact that Nemo doesn't fit the Tomorowland theme. I don't understand why you wouldn't be happy just to have the subs back and running. Would you have been happier if they would have moved the loading dock around the lagoon and over by Matterhorn? Tomorrowland is a place for the future and for forward thinking attractions but cut them some slack. I don't now, nor will I ever, have a problem with Buzz and Nemo in Tomorrowland. A good attraction is a good attraction.

I do like the changes that have been happening in the past couple years. Space Mountain is a top notch attraction again. The Tomorrowland Terrace has returned along with the much better looking stage. The whites are returning. You can tell that Imagineering and the park management really want to make the space special. When you look at Meet the Robinsons the brief moment you see Todayland doesn't look at all out of place in their vision of the future. I really think the whites and silvers will always look futuristic. Who would want to live in a world like that for real? It would get old fast. I am more than happy to visit whenever I can though.

If it hasn't already happened and it isn't happening now it fits in Tomorrowland. Who knows what tomorrow holds? I can't tell you, in 100% certainty, that toys will not save the galaxy, fish can't talk, or the Death Star isn't looming in the next galaxy over waiting for us to drop our guard. Tomorrow any of these could happen. That is why I love Tomorrowland.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why I travel to Disney

I make a 10 hour drive every time I visit Disneyland. That is just one way. I try and do this once a month. Many people that I talk to just don't understand. They see Disneyland as a child's playground.

When I met my wife she shared that opinion. She had only been to Walt Disney World once in 1986. She did did not enjoy the trip. She had just gotten out of school for the summer and did not know that going to Epcot meant that she would have to learn some more. The crowds at the Magic Kingdom were more than her and her family could take. Now skip ahead 15 years and there was one trip that changed her attitude.

I was living in Atlanta, GA and if my family was going to come all the way across the country to see me then they were going to just pick me up and head to Walt Disney World. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, and I booked a room at the Wilderness Lodge. We had priority seating at all of my favorite restaurants and a park hopper pass. She was resistant at first and she didn't understand why we would get up early on vacation to be the first people to the park or why we would retreat to the hotel in the hottest part of the day for a little relaxation. She wanted to sleep in and then get to the parks and stay. After this trip she started to realize there was a science to Disney. When we were married two years later we honeymooned at Walt Disney World.

Now back to the people that think I am crazy. I have been to Disneyland more than anybody I know personally. Through online forums I have met some people that, in essence, live at Disneyland. To many this would seem insane. Why spend so much time and money at one place? Why go on the same vacation all the time? I have to ask these people why they spend so much time fishing, hunting, laying on the beach, snowmobiling, or whatever their interest may be. Sometimes it seems people can't see that everyone has a hobby or some kind of recreational activity that they use as a means for relaxation. To some a day at Disneyland can be as stressful or more than a day at work. They wouldn't want to deal with the crowds and the lines and the $2.75 bottle of water. None of this bothers me. Send as many people as you want to Disney. Close the gates and I will still be happy.

My wife was one of those people. She would have thought it nuts to drive 20 hours total to go to Disneyland for four or five days. Now we look forward to our breaks from reality. We can spend the day looking at our son as he gets to ride into the movies that he loves. Disney theme parks give me an escape from everyday stress and provide a sanctuary where the outside world just doesn't matter. I may be a Disney nut but I will proudly put on my pin lanyard and walk into the park and just float away.