I recently had the privilege of flying out to California for a few days to work with Disney Legend Rolly Crump on our forth-coming book about his life, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story. While there, I obviously was going to visit Disneyland.
But, I was a bit apprehensive. I hadn’t been to Disneyland in over 20 years. How would it compare to Walt Disney World, which I had been to numerous times since then. Would I enjoy it?
Short answer, yes, I absolutely did. I know I’m one of the MiceChat columnist that tends to write about Walt Disney World stuff (because that’s my home turf), but I wanted to post this so you Disneylanders can see I’m totally on your side, too.
While reading this, please keep in mind that my visit was LAST summer, so many of the changes that have since taken place at Disney Parks worldwide did not occur yet (the new Matterhorn ride vehicles, WDW bringing back the original Tiki Room show, etc). But I think you’ll enjoy my initial thoughts and feelings from this trip.
Suffice it to say, I fell in love.
It started off like one of those typical, romantic stories. We first met when we were both younger. I was only about 5 at the time. We had a few fleeting moments together, but I wasn’t old enough to remember any of it. Of course, that didn’t make our time together any less special. In fact, after being reunited after so long, those long forgotten memories began to flood back, and it was like love at first sight all over again. It was like we were destined to have our paths cross again, and I’m happy they did.
I’m an East Coast guy, so my home turf has always been Walt Disney World. I grew up with the place, visiting at least once a year since I was very young. I’ve always had a loyalty to it, and it’s all I’ve ever known (despite those few fleeting memories of my singular visit to the West Coast).
Growing up, I’ve always heard Disneyland was inferior to the gigantic empire Disney created in Florida. “Disneyland can fit in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot” is a popular phrase amongst people I know. “It’s quaint and a much smaller version of what you’re used to,” others told me. So, leaving for Disneyland, I was nervous, and afraid that I’d be disappointed.
My fears were unjustified. Despite my years of Walt Disney World experience, it took only minutes for Disneyland to win me over as my favorite park. I know Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland has been an ongoing debate for years in the Disney blogger community, but I have defected to the Disneyland side.
Allow me to explain why…
Size Doesn’t Matter
Or, in this case, it does. Walt Disney World is huge. Like, super huge. It’s bigger than some Third World countries. Of course, this allows it to have more attractions, more resorts, more everything. But is bigger always better? Well, in this case… no.
It hugs you.
Those are the three words that Rolly Crump used to describe Disneyland to me. The first thing that struck me was how small everything was. Walking through the main gate, and seeing the Main Street Train Station for the first time, was almost a cultural shock. But I felt as if it was more at home with a small town setting than the monster at Walt Disney World. Even Main Street itself was much smaller. The buildings, while still making use of forced perspective, don’t tower over you as much. The street isn’t as wide, so Rolly was right – the park begins to ‘hug’ you the second you walk in. And it fits perfectly!
In Disney World, Cinderella Castle can be seen towering in the distance; Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland cannot. It’s much, MUCH smaller. But again, it fits in better. It looks more like a quaint castle in the countryside, and it’s more suitable for Fantasyland, than the massive building on the East Coast.
The entire park is much smaller, without a doubt. I can take a few laps around Disneyland and still feel fine, while a single lap around the Magic Kingdom might make me feel like I just ran a 13K Race! But to me, this makes it nicer. No longer was I completely exhausted at the end of the day after walking (what feels like) 500 miles of the Magic Kingdom.
Even the queues were smaller. I’m used to traversing an entire fort before getting on Pirates. Here, it was a few simple pathways, and suddenly I’m on the boat. It was amazing to me how small the lines were – perhaps in peak season, they are a little longer and maybe even extended. But here, I was on the rides before I even knew it.
The smaller size of the park fits right into its theme.
Disney has always went the extra mile with theming. But Disneyland makes Walt Disney World look like a red-headed step-child. Every square inch of the place was COVERED with theming. Everything.
Sure, you’re thinking, so is Florida.
No. No it’s not. I can’t even begin to tell you how much more is at Disneyland. They truly do make use of of every square foot of the park. Because of its size, they need to get their point across much faster than they do at Disney World. While it may be a smack in the face at first, you come to find it’s richer in detail.
Toontown was a great example. While the Magic Kingdom’s version was a half-assed, re-done version of a temporary birthday celebration, this Toontown made you feel like you stepped right into something straight out of Roger Rabbit. The many buildings and facades, with local businesses such as the Clock Repair or Glass Factory, made it seem like this was a living, breathing community filled to the brim with toons.
On top of that, everything had a gag! See that big button that says DO NOT PRESS on it? Go ahead and press it. Or that door that says DANGER in blocky cartoon letters? Try to open it. Everything was interactive, and waiting for you to come explore. It was amazing.
In fact, all of the lands looked lived in.
They were places that you felt like a resident of each could appear at any moment, and in some cases, they did. I was walking past the Golden Horseshoe Revue in Frontierland when a cowboy and the Mayor came walking out of the building in the midst of a conversation, just like we really were in the middle of the Wild West. Once they noticed me staring, they stopped and included me in their chattering as well. We had a conversation that lasted about 10 minutes over how the cowboy was due to marry the Mayor’s daughter, and he wanted to make sure he would treat her right. What’s amazing is that they didn’t do this in front of a large crowd – it was just the three of us. It was a great little experience and a nice magical moment for me.
I definitely have to mention the Small World facade here, as well. I’m so used to a covered building without much else to see. Having the entire facade, with working clock face, outside adds a whole new layer to the attraction. Having seen the original model just days before at Rolly’s, and then to see the real thing in action, was a truly wonderful experience. It’s a gorgeous show building, and something that is needed in Florida.
To me, the only place where Walt Disney World won in this category was Tomorrowland at night. While it was still very nice looking, it was kind of crowded in there. Walt Disney World is more aesthetically pleasing at night, with more vibrant colors and a better representation of a thriving metropolis of the tomorrow that never was.
Much like the rest of the park, I found the original attractions to be far superior in every way to their East Coast counterparts. The easiest way for me to go through this is a (kind of) short list!
Haunted Mansion If you’re a regular reader of my column, you know that I’m a huge Haunted Mansion fan. I didn’t think I could become an even bigger one, but Disneyland proved me wrong. Going through the original attraction was like seeing it again for the first time. While much shorter than the one I’m used to, it was definitely superior. It just flowed better. I enjoyed hearing the individual components of Grim Grinning Ghosts in the graveyard when passing a certain set of ghosts. At Walt Disney World, it seems like everything is thrown in at once, making it one big mess of a song. Here, I could actually hear each ghost reciting the song in their own unique way, and it was wonderful. I found something new on every one of my 10+ (no, I’m not joking) ride throughs. And yes, I spotted the infamous spider web gunshot in the Ballroom!
Pirates of the Caribbean Also fantastic. The extended cavern sequences and a more coherent storyline seemed to help the flow here. The burning town scene also seemed much more realistic. The pirate’s torches seemed to contain REAL fire in them. These simple effects are still astounding today, many years after they were originally introduced.
Jungle Cruise I love the corniness of this ride overall, so how could I hate it here? I enjoyed hearing some new jokes (“Guys! You’re in the wrong line! The Jungle Cruise is over HERE!”), and a slightly different layout (hello Piranhas – you scared the hell out of me). Magic Kingdom has a sliiiight edge over this one, though. Just a slight.
Indiana Jones Truly amazing. I went on it at least 5 times. This is a MUCH better use of the same ride system used in DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some of the effects are amazingly simple, but they still look great. Not really a ride for kids, I thought, as it can be a little frightening. But it is a great addition to the park.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room I am an avid fan of the original version, and seeing it here was an absolute delight for me, especially after hearing so many of Rolly’s stories about it. The first time I sat down in the theater, the wave of nostalgia came over me. As soon as it was over, all these memories also came back, prompting me to call my grandmother and reminisce how she used to sing “Let’s All Sing Like The Birdies Sing” to me as a child.
Tom Sawyer Island I enjoyed it, but the caves were also the cause of a panic attack, which created the chain of events that led me to meet Miley Cyrus. But that’s a story for another time.
Star Tours I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but I really enjoyed this ride. You’ve all read the massive amounts of coverage on it, so no need to go into more detail. I will say it was lots of fun, even though my first ride went 101 within minutes of its opening for the day. But they made good by giving us all FastPasses to come back later. My second ride through went off without a hitch, and I was even the Rebel Spy!
Captain EO I remember watching it as a kid and loving it, and nothing has changed. It was a great show then and still is now. The audience broke out into applause when it was over, and it was great to re-live it all over again.
Matterhorn I made a point to go on each side of this ride to see the difference – and what a difference it was! The right side was much more intense, but both were incredibly enjoyable. A great, old school coaster ride!
Space Mountain Much, much better than WDW’s version. The music, the track layout, the intensity – absolutely amazing. Imagineering out-did themselves with their redesign a few years ago.
Small World This original version far exceeds any other version. It was incredible. I felt more like I was in displays with the the dolls than ever before. I also had no issue with the Disney character additions to the ride. I barely even noticed them my first time through!
Fantasyland Dark Rides Some were the same as their WDW counterparts, but it was fun to experience some new ones like Alice and Pinocchio. Mr. Toad was, of course, my favorite. I miss that ride dearly. Where else can you get hit by a train, die, and go to hell at Disney?!
Roger Rabbit Car-Toon Spin Silly me didn’t realize you could actually SPIN your car until halfway through the ride. It was very enjoyable, and definitely worth all the good things I’ve read about it.
Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye…
I could go on and on talking about how wonderful Disneyland was, but I’m sure you have other things to do (and I’m sure I do, too!).
All in all though, in case you couldn’t tell already, I absolutely loved every minute of it. I cannot wait to go back. I’m converted, and need another fix again soon.
I’d love to hear from you guys about this. How many of you have been to both parks? Which do you prefer? What do you like the best and the worst? Which is better for you the awe inspiring hugeness of the Magic Kingdom or the tightly packed and hyper-themed Disneyland?
Tickets are now on sale for the
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!
Come celebrate EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat’s Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat’s Dusty Sage, Kevin Yee, and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.
Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT’s World Showcase for this one of a kind event!
Your ticket includes:
- Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
- Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
- Decadent dessert reception!
- Short scavenger hunt hosted by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
- Prizes, giveaways and more!
- The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
- Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
- Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!
For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit MiceChat.com/store!
by Jeff Heimbuch
If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!
Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.
Jeff also writes another column called From The Mouth Of The Mouse. We invite you to check it out.
Jeff co-hosts the weekly VidCast Communicore Weekly as well!