Trip Report 16th - 21st Sep - aka Friar Tuck is stalking us!
Just got back from a 5 night/6 day trip and seeing as this was my first trip to DLPR as a smarter fan it was a trip with a lot of new Disney experiences for us (many of which suggested by threads or members from the board so thanks for all the advice). I won't go into too muuch detail about all the normal things, I'll mainly concentrate on the new things, either that Disney is offering or that we never did before so I could never comment.
First things first we stayed in the New York hotel which was a first for us; lovely place. I don't know if it was random, normal or a reflection of how much we pre-booked but there was a gift mug and sweets waiting for us in the room. Probably because it's now off season, but the hotel did seem to be mostly filled with corporate events and was quite deserted (especially compared to our visits to Sequoia Lodge which was packed with families), most unfortunately one of the events was being held by a lingerie company but not once did I bump into any scantily clad models. Anyway, I thought the hotel was very nice, and it's evening entertainment of "Come dance with Mickey" was fantastic. I was expecting Mickey to come out, swing his arms a little with the kiddies and then pose, it turned out to be a 20min choreographed show using 70's and 80's hits and Mickey running on the spot at the start of Maniac (from Flashdance) was hysterical.
This trip also saw me visit the Disneyland Hotel and Newport Bay Club for the first times; both looked very nice, we only saw the reception of NBC because that's where the meet and greets are. Our mornings (when we weren't at Cafe Mickey) pretty much went with me getting up early and visiting Sequoia to see which characters would be appearing there, we would then hit the 8am character in New York, get breakfast, get the end of the 8.30 meet in NY, then head over to Sequoia for the 9 and 9.30 meets there before getting to the park for 10am opening. The one day they didn't have anyone new at Sequoia we went over to NBC on a whim and it turned out to be a godsend, we got Pluto and Goofy together, then got Hook and Donald Duck in the car park, then got Mickey and Minnie together on the half our change over. We had actually met everyone by this point already, but we've never had the chance to get a family pic with Mickey and Minnie together so we were over the moon with this opportunity.
Which brings me to one of my very few complaints, why doesn't DLRP have PhotoPass yet????? As will be pretty obvious if not already, we do a lot of character meets and getting the pics of them at DLRP is not cheap, especially when you're being given 10 picture slips a day. Sure, there's always a second cast member who will take pics with your own camera as well, but sometimes the official ones do come out amazingly nice and you just have to have them. With Photopass I just get the CD of all the pics that have been taken and its pricey but worth it, I probably paid as much on individual photo prints on this trip if not more and only got a handful to show for it rather than the hundreds that would be on the CD. The sooner DLRP has Photopass the better.
On to the parks
The castle looks great decked out with the candles and bling; but then I loved the WDW castle last year with all the glitter as well. Main Street in general looked very nice though with the 15th banners, I'm not sure how it will mix with the Halloween fixtures which were starting to pop up over night while we were there. They were also taking the opportunity in the quiet weeks to repaint a lot of the Main Street fixtures so it should look great for the winter season.
I enjoyed the new parade a lot, I thought it was very nice and it's good to see so many animatronics on the floats rather than just big plastic models. Unfortunately (and this may be because of my positioning where the floats turned a corner soon after passing me) you tend to see the back halves of the floats for a fraction of the time you see the front. It was enjoyable though, we got stop sections for Alice in Wonderland and Jungle Book (the vulture was great). I do find the choice of representation to be a little odd sometimes, why in a new parade is a float still dedicated to Mary Poppins when it's always Mary and Bert on a merry go round singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, how many times has this been done before??? and isn't it almost identical to the Poppins float in the Studios next door? Where's hunchback or Emperors New Groove or Incredibles all of which would make better floats. That aside I thought it was a very nice parade and certainly an improvement on the old one.
The Candelabration show I thought was very fun. We got a spot right at the gate in front of the stage so had a great view, the only shame being our latest park closure was 8pm so it wasn't really dark enough for the candles to really shine, but we enjoyed it all the same. I would have liked to see them use this short show as a chance to debut and test the moving mouth characters in the park.
The character express is GREAT!!! it brings a little magic and excitement to Main Street those few times a day, the song is catchy as hell and I just thought it was fantastic; I hope they find a way to keep this going after the 15th. The only possible complaint would be that the same people have a habit of appearing and I would have loved them to use this to bring out more variety of character. That said, it did bring out Buzz Lightyear who was very important for our son to meet (and seeing as it was on almost our last day that he turned up on there we were getting very worried we weren't going to get the chance to meet him) as well as Genie and Timon who are very important to my wife. In one very funny moment, we were following the train down Main Street with Eeyore on the back doing the dance when suddenly he pulls his leg behind his back holding it there and starts doing the dance moves from Kid'n Play to which my wife and I applauded and he responded by giving us the robot. Words cannot describe the sight of Eeyore doing the robot; sheer classic.
The Alphabet parade is cute and because you know the tune, the words seemed to get stuck in your head very quickly as well. It's nothing too special but again it's one of those little things that brings some excitement to Main Street.
This was the first time we had been to the park since the opening of Buzz Lightyear's Lazer Blast and much of our trip was spent on that ride; to the point where the staff must have started recognizing us. We rode it a few times in WDW last year and in the end had to start walking the long way around the park to avoid walking past it so our son wouldn't throw a wobbly that we weren't riding it; we really didn't have that excuse this time so in the end we rode it 13 times as a family and then he was taken on at other times to allow adult alternation on Space Mountain. Luckily, the longest wait time we had for it was 10mins and often we walked all the way to the Buzz animatronic if not further. Speaking of which, that is by far the best animatronic in the park, it's fluid, its detail of movement is stunning and it just couldn't be more realistic in movement ability. My wife is trying to claim the top score on one of her trips round with our son while I made use of the Videopolis bathrooms where she got 630,000, I later managed to get it out of her that they broke down (which it seems to do a lot) right in front of the knock over batteries where she had a clean view at the target behind the others and was able to just keep hitting it; therefore I have poo poo'd her claims and my 368,000 with no break downs will stand as the official highest score of our trip (how you get the super high figures is beyond me). Do bare in mind when bragging that you got more, I often had either a 4 year old or a woman driving so even the stationary targets where often moving from my perspective.
Frontierland is becoming Halloweenified already, there was more added each day we were there. Also, I got some ok shots of Critter Coral through the boarding and from the train; it's obviously not being used for the Pumpkin this year but at the same time I was told that the huge pumpkin is out backstage and ready to go in, but they didn't know where.
Onto the Studios, I thought the Toon Studios section was a huge improvement of the concrete jungle that the studios used to be; the only shame is that there still seems to be a huge gap of concrete and unthemeing between the Toon Studios entrance statue and the start of Cars, something needs to be plonked in between Art of Animation and Animagique to complete the theming of the area as a whole and not just in the far side where Cars, Crush, Alladin and the character meet really add so much life to the whole area. The Monsters Inc section is cool, more little things like that would be good, I know they've got a Nemo one because it was out in 2005, put that there with other toon settings that people can pose with.
The Crush coaster is a lot of fun and we actually only had to wait about 10mins for it so that was good too. Unfortunately it was a 1.07m height and not 1.04 as we had thought in advance so Gage couldn't ride it, and thus we only got the opportunity to the one time each; definitely something we will do quite a few times on the next trip. I can't comment on the queue because I was on the Cars Race Rally while my wife lined up and then I went straight through the back door. The Cars Race Rally is surprisingly fun and the themeing of the ride area is great. And because the ride was walk on (we actually rode it before the park officially opened) they let us all get the kid pics with Lightening and Mater. If I were having to compare the enjoyment of the "kiddie" rides, I would definitely rate this over the Dumbo or Tea Cups. The backdrop for the Character meets is nice, with the Ratatouille hype there's a lovely Paris scene hung up for meeting Remy and when he wasn't there we got to pose in front of it and pretend like we were in Paris.
The Tower of Terror is looking awesome, they actually had more of the Hollywood Blvd uncovered at the end of the week than at the start so will post the later pics. I'm still not 100% sure how much of this will work with the perspective etc but it does look very detailed and will definitely be a huge improvement of the area. What is quite cool is that because it's not finished, it's not lit up at night, so as you walk past the park in the morning you can see the Ear Tower and the huge Tower behind it, but at night its like it's not even there (apart from the tiny airplane safety light at the top). Its amazing how something so HUGE is totally invisible at night. That said I'm sure it's going to look awesome once it is lit for the evenings. I've inlcluded pics of the building to the right which was unscaffolded mid week, my first pics from Tuesday it was covered up, but it was totally uncovered by Thursday.
The High School musical parade is cool, they do a good job of having it in two languages and understandable.
The Tink Float was missing from the parade!! What's up with that?? Did someone tip them off as to my plans to kidnap Tink to have for myself?
All in all, I think the difference between the Studios now and the last time I was at the park in 2005 is huge, and after the Tower is complete and Stitch is open the park really should be a decent days worth of entertainment. My only problem with the Studios is that it feels small, especially when Disneyland next door is so spacious.
More firsts for this trip, I finally did the PanoraMagique balloon and wow what a view. Each time I look at the photos I'm able to pick out another feature or ride building and obviously the Tower of Terror features heavy in my snaps. I could have stayed up there for twice the amount of time and next time will try and do the trip in the evening. We also did the Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and while Blue Moon didn't win, it was a very fun night.
This was also the first trip to the park where I knew about Hidden Mickeys, so there was hunting going on and we managed to find a few not on Steve Barrett's site including a couple in Buzz, one on Orbitron and one in the Village; so I'll be sending them in.
The final firsts for this trip were all eating based. In the past our trips have been short so with time rushed, eating never took importance and ended up being hotdogs and burgers most the time with a character meal at Cafe Mickey on the last day. This time with so much time we went all out and ended up having lunch at Cafe Mickeys, breakfast at Cafe Mickeys twice, lunch at Lucky Nugget, dinner at the Hunters Lodge, Annette’s and Innoventions, and the tea party at Plaza Gardens. I love Cafe Mickeys, if I could have my kitchen look like that place I would. Lucky Nugget was very good, food was very nice and there was a good selection. I think with the number of people in the restaurant they could have done with more characters out but it was a good experience. The same with the tea party, it was just chaos with the characters coming out at the same time as the people being let in so they weren't at tables already, again more characters were needed because they didn't get to spend any time with the each table but it was fun and it wasn’t very expensive. Despite having stayed at the Sequoia lodge twice in the past, we never ate there but we found ourselves needing food and I thought the Hunters Grill would be better for our son than the New York restaurants. As it turns out, Gage as asleep in his chair before we had finished our starters, but we enjoyed the food and there was a decent selection on the buffet. Innoventions was amazing; being in the Disneyland Hotel for the first time was awe inspiring, but what a buffet. Expensive but worth it, we got a family shot with Mickey, Chip and Dale, and I had two plates of prawns and crab claws before moving onto the proper food. There were plenty of characters out, they were all A listers and they all spent a decent amount of time with us so we had a lot of fun. We also found ourselves sitting at the table next to a cast member from reservations who we got talking to and she gave me lots of little tidbits of information. It was obvious very early on that she knew all the performers and could tell who was who but kayfabe wasn't broken between them even though they were quite obviously communicating through gestures; she later told us that she used to be a character performer herself as well as letting us know that Dale and Goofy in the restaurant that night were a couple and gave us her blog URL (which I will read as soon as I find a decent language converter for Dutch). All in all a terrific night.
2008 postcards and Tshirts are starting to pop up in the shops
Which brings me to Friar Tuck. Day one we see the Character Express pull up and on it is Friar Tuck and we think "We've never met Tuck before"; what a mistake of thought that was. Day two and we're at Cafe Mickey, who should walk out? Tuck. We then go out to the Character Express and here he comes again. Day three we were in the Studios and managed to elude the Tuck. Day four and we're at the Lucky Nugget and here he comes again, again back out to the Character Express and now we're starting to wonder if he is actually following us, especially as he seems to be diving into pics with my wife. Day 5 and he's sneaked his way onto the Express again. Day 6 and we're back at Cafe Mickey for breakfast and who should come out again, it's the fat man and he's all over my wife again. We get done there and head over to the Disneyland Hotel where we get in the line for Minnie, the half hour point comes and should replace Minnie in front of the 15th cake display? Mickey? Donald? Goofy? No, of course not, it's the Tuck and we're really starting to think he's stalking us. Tea Party that afternoon and we're already joking "anyone but Tuck", but of course, the door opens and here he comes. That Badger is stalking us!! I'm having nightmares about him!!
I'm not a nit picker so I'm not going to rant about the little things that weren't perfect, I don't see any of them as a holiday breaker, however I must comment on something that came up in a trip report a couple of months ago; the Italians. What is up with these people? Has it been a good year for pasta or something because they seem to think they own the place or have some level of importance in the world, and they always travel in groups too to add number to their influence. Whenever there was a problem or an annoyance it was the Italians at the heart of it. At the character meets at the express and around the parks they seemed to think they shouldn't have to wait like everyone else. I sat in position for the parade for over an hour to get the spot I wanted, just before the parade started an Italian family tried to fit 5 people in a space for about 3 squeezing us sideways, same with the Studios parade where they tried to squeeze in by my side at the last minute which would have ruined my camera view if I had let them, and again same with the High School Musical, where a mother tried to sit her 2 kids right in front of me when I was already sitting on the line (again because I had been bothered to be there early enough to wait for the front). In the restaurants where the characters are very good at going from table to table to meet everyone, guess which nationality kids were constantly trailing the characters around the place while at other people’s tables while their mothers encouraged; thankfully the characters completely ignored them apart from gesturing them to go away, but you just want to go up to these families and say “Sit the F%$k down!”. And finally in the Lucky Nugget where our waiter and a supervisor had to spend 15mins with one Italian mother who was ranting about something which seemed to be the drinks order. What is there to rant about? It’s a buffet, all you have to do is tell the guy how many cokes you want and then help yourself to the food. If you want it the way mama makes it, stay at home! They were just out of control.
And you’re all probably bored by now so I'll leave it there with a few of the 3,500 pictures we took.